Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Timucuans – History Rewritten in Fiction By P.C. Zick

Extinct. Such a final word we apply mostly to the animal kingdom

However, the history books also designate a tribe of Native Americans as extinct. The Timucuans lived in north Florida until the late eighteenth century and historians are quick to point out they became extinct in a mere 200 years after the Spanish arrived in Florida. The disappearance of an entire nation of people could be a story from the pages of a science fiction book. However, in the case of the Timucuans, the story leaps from the pages of history.

My new novel, Native Lands, poses the possibility that perhaps the Timucuans really didn’t disappear, but went into hiding in the Everglades until the time was right for them to reappear.

When the Spanish landed near St. Augustine, Florida, in the sixteenth century, the Timucuans occupied several hundred villages in one-third of Florida. Some estimates put the Timucuan population at 100,000 in 1500 A.D., according to Florida’s First People by Robin Brown.

However, by “1800 A.D. all aboriginal Floridians were gone,” Brown states.

Accounts show the Timucuan to be tall and sturdy. The women wore their hair straight, but the men drew their hair up into knots on the top of the head. Anderson writes, “This was considered not only attractive but also a handy place for the warriors to stick their arrows for quick access during battle.”

A striking feature of the Timucuan comes from the scratches or tattoos etched over the entire body of the male. Le Moyne’s paintings depicted a male warrior’s body covered with pricks in the skin made with a sharp point.
Despite their ability to withstand such a tortuous practice as poking holes in the body, the Timucuans could not withstand the onslaught of the European invasion and the disease it brought.

Within 200 years of the Spanish explorations into northeast Florida, the last vestige of the Timucuan strain had vanished. Some folks suspect the few remaining by 1763, the year the Spanish turned over Florida to the English, fled the state for Cuba.

When the Spanish asked about this tribe of tattooed natives, another group of Native Americans used the word Timucua, which meant “enemy” to describe the large group of people who spoke the same language but had separate tribes. A tribe of Timucuans lived near St. Augustine in the village of Seloy

The Seloy filled my dreams and imagination as I wrote Native Lands. I’ve always been bothered to think that an entire body of people could simply disappear. So as I wandered the estuaries surrounding St. Augustine last year, the characters of Locka and Mali haunted me until I told their story within the pages of Native Lands.

While mainly set in 2012 in St. Augustine and the Everglades, the story of the Seloy in 1760 is interspersed within the plot to parallel the contemporary struggle to prevent the destruction of natural Florida. It’s a triumphant story, as Locka and Mali lead a small tribe into the Everglades to escape the Spanish and English. In the present day, progeny of the Seloy join others to fight for the survival of their beloved land.

imageAuthor Bio

P.C. Zick began her writing career in 1998 as a journalist. She's won various awards for her essays,
columns, editorials, articles, and fiction. She describes herself as a "storyteller" no matter the genre.

She was born in Michigan and moved to Florida in 1980. Even though she now resides in western Pennsylvania with her husband Robert, she finds the stories of Florida and its people and environment a rich base for her storytelling platform. Florida's quirky and abundant wildlife—both human and animal—supply her fiction with tales almost too weird to be believable.

She writes two blogs, P.C. Zick and Living Lightly. She has published three nonfiction books and six novels.

Her writing contains the elements most dear to her heart, ranging from love to the environment. In her novels, she advances the cause for wildlife conservation and energy conservation. She believes in living lightly upon this earth with love, laughter, and passion.

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Excerpts from Native Lands

1760, St. Augustine, Florida

“We come here this evening to tattoo our young with the new symbol of the Seloys. They will carry this throughout their life, and with the help of their parents and the other members of this group about to leave our village, they will pass on their heritage to their own children.” He turned and bowed to the village shaman.


“This symbol represents the most sacred of animals,” the shaman said as he placed a long pole in the fire. At its tip, the pole held a sharpened shark’s tooth. “The marks for both female and male will be the head of the panther. Above the female’s symbol, a sun will shine down representing the sustaining force of the female. The male mark will show the crescent moon above the panther’s head to mark the passage of time and nature’s role in the life of our people.”


“We have chosen the panther because it represents all that is sacred to us,” the Chief said. “It is a powerful animal with grace and beauty, and with the panther as our protector, we will survive as a people. Wear its mark with pride.”


One by one, the four children came forward and turned their backs to the fire. Their mothers rubbed crushed peppermint on the spot for the tattoo as an antiseptic and to help numb and soothe the area. The shaman drew the design on each with charcoal, before making the dots with the hot shark’s tooth. Each child tried not to show pain, but by the time the final dot was placed, tears flowed steadily down each child’s face. The fathers rubbed ashes and berry juice into the still-bleeding tattoos. Later, the mothers would place a layer of salt on the wound and tie a piece of deerskin over it with the tendons from a bear that one of the warriors killed earlier in the week.


“Tomorrow, the chosen members of our tribe will set out to sustain our line of proud warriors, farmers, and hunters. May peace be with you as you go on your journey,” the Chief said as he walked down the row of those leaving. He touched each one on the head and bowed slightly as a sign of respect for the enormity of their sacrifice. “Those of us who remain will resist the white man as best we can. It is my greatest desire that we shall all be reunited.”


2012 Everglades


They sat on a bamboo swing as twilight encroached, stealing away the last of the natural light. Mike turned toward her then and put his arm around her shoulder.

She turned toward him and their lips met and then opened.

They walked to the platform just as the rain began softly falling on the palm fronds overhead.

Later lying side by side on the straw-filled mattress and covered with only a sheet, Barbara traced the tattoo encircling Mike’s lower back.

“I love the panther tattoo,” she said. “What does it mean?”

“It’s the mark of my tribe,” he said. “The mother first makes it with henna. Later when the henna just begins to fade, the father begins the process of making it permanent. At one time, my people tattooed all parts of their body, but eventually it came down to a simpler design.”

“Why the panther?”

“Because it is a sacred animal and has survived, just as I have.”

Monday, October 13, 2014

My Long Journey to Prague

Just a week ago, on Monday October 6th I got up early in Prague to catch the first train to Kutná Hora . My friends and I wanted to see for ourselves  The Bone Church in Victoria Dougherty's phenomenal novel.

My one hour train ride that morning was with two Europeans with very different youths and perspectives of train rides in Europe. The gentle motion of the train and the even sounds as it moved made our Danish companion state that she had forgotten how relaxing these old trains and their sounds were. The images that flashed through my mind’s eye were full of many memories of my own train rides in the 70s, 80s and as late as 1993.

I was born in Mexico City, Mexico and until ten years ago I travelled under a Mexican passport. As such I chose my train trips with great care and only visiting countries that to me seemed ‘safe’; I did have my share of incidents in the ‘safe countries' including being held at knife point on one train in France, but that we can save for another story.
The ‘un-safe’ countries I regrettably chose not to visit then, were countries like Czechoslovakia, Poland and Yugoslavia; all of which I had ample opportunity to visit, in the years I lived in France and Sweden; especially Poland.

My fears and feelings of peril in the then Eastern Bloc Countries stemmed from being a bearer of a Mexican passport; as such  I felt that the country it represented would not be able to protect me if I came to any harm in foreign lands. The  other reason I chose not to visit Eastern Bloc Countries was the ingrained dread of communist evil. This was a fear well fed by my education in the U.S.A. as well as by my father. 
In 1957, my dad in a daze of admiration for the beauty of Russian Architecture managed to separate from the group he was travelling with. He was detained for a few hours by the KGB while it could be confirmed that he was just a young Mexican architect attending the UIA (Union Internationale des Architectes) meeting being hosted by Russia that year. He never really described what happened but for decades he woke up from nightmares in which he was ‘running away from the Russians’.

As the rhythmic sound of the train carried us to Kutná Hora my European companions described their experiences as young European travelers; these were all happy with the feeling of safety the passports of their native lands granted them.
I felt safe that day on that train carrying the passport of the country I have chosen as my own; a country that for all its flaws does grant me the feeling of security the country of my birth did not.

As the famous quote below expresses the scenery in the window and even The Bone Church as seen by our very different experiences in life was interpreted in such different ways.

"What we do see depends mainly on what we look for. ... In the same field the farmer will notice the crop, the geologists the fossils, botanists the flowers, artists the colouring, sportmen the cover for the game. Though we may all look at the same things, it does not all follow that we should see them."   John Lubbock


I so wish I could tell you that the fears of my youth were absolutely absurd, but as much as I tried not to watch the news during my trip which on October 3rd were
full of the sad and horrible reports of Alan Henning’s beheading.
That very day; October 6th going to Kutna Hora anyone with any ties to Mexico was surely haunted by the report of the mass grave found in the state of Guerrero that seemed to be the missing students.

I avoided the news but they danced around my mind as I visited the bones so carefully displayed as an odd collage sculpture. I looked at the bones and remembered the fabulous book that gave one set of bones a story; albeit a fictional one, and I wondered how many of those souls died in peace and naturally and how many like the Mexican students and Alan Henning died in brutal unnecessary violence.
My traveling companion Christoph Fischer had a vested and interesting family connection to the region, which he explored in fiction as well in the fantastic book The Luck of the Weissensteiners and shared with us in our journey.
That evening as Victoria Dougherty presented her novel at the English bookstore THE GLOBE ; she gave us a detailed perspective on her family history explaining how war and Russian occupation had affected her family and the psychological scars that remain.
Her eloquent manner and the choice of reading material kept me very in tune with the moment, it wasn't until later looking at the photographs we took that night with the Mexican Día de Muertos skull I brought her as a gift on the table in front of us, that I really identified how much each one of us is so shaped by so much; our parents fears and experiences, where we come from and what surrounds us.

On October 9th as I waited to board my plane back to Miami at Heathrow a man next to me was reading a Newspaper in Spanish; the large headline stated that two men had confessed to the murder of the students, I asked him in Spanish if he really thought it was simply two men. In a neutral beautiful Spanish he answered that two had confessed and stated his views; (which I won’t repeat as I have not had the heart to read enough on the sad subject, but which made me very sad). A few minutes later the man’s phone rang and he had a conversation in Perfect French, when it ended I said to him “ Vous Parlez très bien L’espagnol pour un Français.” He smiled and answered “Non, pas pour un Français, pour un Italien.”

In the past few days since I came back state side, I have not heard one person mention the student massacre in Mexico; except for my Mexican contacts in Cyberspace.  These tragic deaths should not go un-noticed.
© M.C.V. Egan