Read Soapstone Signs Online

Authors: Jeff Pinkney

Tags: #JUV030090, #JUV003000, #JUV013000

Soapstone Signs

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Jeff Pinkney

illustrations by

Darlene Gait

O R C A   B O O K   P U B L I S H E R S

Text copyright © 2014 Jeff Pinkney
Illustrations copyright © 2014 Darlene Gait

All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording or by any information storage and retrieval system now known or to be invented, without permission in writing from the publisher.

Library and Archives Canada Cataloguing in Publication

Pinkney, Jeffrey R. (Jeffrey Richard), 1962-, author
Soapstone signs / Jeff Pinkney ; illustrated by Darlene Gait.
(Orca echoes)

Issued in print and electronic formats.
ISBN
978-1-4598-0400-5 (pbk.).--
ISBN
978-1-4598-0401-2 (pdf).--
ISBN
978-1-4598-0402-9 (epub)

I. Gait, Darlene, 1968-, illustrator II. Title. III. Series: Orca echoes
PS
8631.
I
535
S
62 2014
j
C
813'.6
C
2014-901954-8
C
2014-901955-6

First published in the United States, 2014
Library of Congress Control Number
: 2014936071

Summary
: A young Cree boy learns about soapstone carving from a master carver.

Orca Book Publishers gratefully acknowledges the support for its publishing programs provided by the following agencies: the Government of Canada through the Canada Book Fund and the Canada Council for the Arts, and the Province of British Columbia through the BC Arts Council and the Book Publishing Tax Credit.

Cover artwork and interior illustrations by Darlene Gait
Author photo by Julie Gagné
Illustrator photo by Frances Litman

ORCA BOOK PUBLISHERS
PO
Box 5626, Stn. B
Victoria,
BC
Canada
V
8
R
6
S
4
ORCA BOOK PUBLISHERS
PO
Box 468
Custer,
WA USA
98240-0468

www.orcabook.com
Printed and bound in Canada.

17   16   15   14   •   4   3   2   1

To Mom and Dad, for sending me out in April
and calling me back in September

Contents

Soapstone Signs and Whispers: A Spring Arrival

Blueberries, Blackflies and Belugas: A Summer Encounter

Powder and Bits: A Fall Journey

River Weasels: A Winter Discovery

Acknowledgments

Soapstone Signs and Whispers:
A Spring Arrival

Lindy travels opposite to the geese. Every spring after the ice breaks up on the river, he walks in from the north along the tracks. Even though his name is Lindbergh, everyone calls him Lindy. Even me. He has a way of being polite without saying anything. He smells like campfires and the outdoors.

Lindy carries a big burlap sack of soapstone pieces. Folks ask where he's found all that soapstone. He just laughs and tells them, “Somewhere between here and there.”

Our place is one of the stops on his yearly journey to the south. We operate the lodge between the river and the train tracks. Lindy trades his carving in return for a place to sleep and food to eat. Each year, Mom puts the one he carves for us in the glass display case. Our guests sometimes ask to buy them, but Mom always says, “Not these ones—they are special to us.”

When someone asks, “Whatcha working on?” Lindy smiles and says, “Work in progress.” He leaves his finished carvings on the ground beside him, and the tourists can look and touch and buy those ones if they want. He carves bears, loons, owls, ospreys, beavers, walrus, seals and even fish.

Lindy has a place he likes to sit by the riverbank. I like to sit with him and watch him carve. Sometimes he hands me what he is working on. I look and then hand it back without saying a word. Really, that is saying a lot.

Today, when Lindy finishes a carving, I become curious. “How do you know what you will carve next?”

He pauses, looking thoughtful. “You ask the stone,” he says. “Whatever it is going to be, it is already there.”

“How does the stone answer you?”

“Sometimes, you might be given a sign, and then you will know what to carve.”

“Do you mean signs like the ones where the train stops?”

“Those are important signs too, but a sign can be any way that the world gives you a message. Signs come to you when your thoughts mix with your senses.”

I know what all the senses are. I ask Lindy, “If you mix your thoughts with your sight, can you see what is inside the stone?”

He lifts the piece he is working on, turns his hand and studies it against the clouds. “Sometimes it feels like I can see into the stone.”

“Does the stone talk to you?”

“Sometimes I feel like the stone is whispering to me.”

“Can you ever tell by the smell and the taste?”

Lindy laughs. “Sometimes the smells and tastes of the world around me give me signs about what is inside the stone.”

“Can you tell what is waiting inside by touching the stone?”

“Sometimes if I hold it just so, it's like I can feel what is inside.”

“What if the stone won't tell you?”

Lindy reaches into his burlap sack and holds a small piece out to me. “This is for you—ask for yourself.”

My very first piece of soapstone. It is dull gray and feels powdery before it is carved. I know from watching Lindy that the soapstone will look different after it is made into a carving. It will polish to a beautiful dark green with black swirls and white shimmers like the northern lights.

I am not sure my ears are sharp enough to hear the soapstone whisper. “Will you tell me what is inside, so I can try to carve it out?”

“That piece of stone has chosen you. Only the one who is to be the carver will know.”

“What if it never tells me?”

He laughs again. “Take it with you and be ready for a sign.”

I hold the soapstone to my ear all the way home, but it does not speak to me. I ask it lots of questions, but it doesn't reply. I hold it up to a lamp, but I still can't see into it. I cradle the stone until it is as warm as I am, but I still don't know what it's meant to be.

At suppertime, I show off my soapstone and tell everyone about how the carving is already inside it.

“Give it here,” my big brother says. “I'll smash it open, and then we'll see what's inside it.”

I hold it tightly. After all, it chose me, not him.

I put it under my pillow. I wonder if it will ever speak to me or give me a sign.

That night I dream of the bear cub that comes to the garbage pails out back, and I wake up very excited. I wonder if that counts as a sign.

When I join Lindy on the riverbank, I tell him about my dream. He nods, then hands me a rasp file. “You'd better carve that bear cub out of there.”

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