The smoke tree told me that before the soil was stony and covered with our narrow house and all the other houses, the land was different. It was covered with rich endless heath and scattered with trees, hazel bushes, wild plums and crab apples. It was called the barrens. Before the introduction of clover and agriculture, the hilly limestone land had its soil washed off and was disfigured with great gullies.
What were they called? I asked it.
They were called the great gullies of the barrens.
The water on the moon is called Maria, I replied.
What do you mean?
The dark plains you can see when the Moon is full are named Maria. Maria is Latin for seas, and they are found almost exclusively on the near side.
These gullies do not have a name, It told me.
Upon hearing this, I knew I needed to figure out the name of the great gullies, the ancestral seas of our land that lived now only on the maps of the oldest tree rings and in the memory of the soil. I knew they had to have a name. The tree told me one last thing about them.
The water was there before roads, before anything was planked. They were formed when Eustachian tubes transported lakes to this landscape, fraying as they approached, becoming brooks and ravines and they all ran after each other and remade themselves. The fields between were only one and one quarter of a step apart.