Ajana minoet a’lan
Aunee min ajana
Unja idi anju idu
(ch)ulaba idi lana
[Sudden emerges the sun (or light)
Sudden arrives the dark
A beat here, a moment there
A song between the two.]
When I was growing up in Iowa, my farmer grandpa would walk the beans. On occasion he would let me tag along. Walking beans entails getting up before dawn, putting on overalls, and walking up and down rows upon rows of little soybean or corn plants, scouting for interlopers like milkweed that needed to pulled out by hand (Before the ubiquity of massively sprayed chemicals).
Half-asleep I would hear strange words emerge from my grandpa….Ajana minoet a’lan…
As if he were intoning a spell conjuring the plants from the dark earth. And perhaps he was.
He’d let his hands glide over the sapling plants as he walked at a steady clip….Aunee min ajana.…
I later discovered that the words were from a song handed down through a long lineage, a song of the old tongue. My grandma told me that their grandparents, indeed everybody’s grandparents, used to sing it around the fire ‘in the olden days’.
The national language of my grandpa was Dutch, a language he knew but a little, but it was one of the lifelong language spoken by his parents–he arrived from the Netherlands to the heartland at age two. But this song/spell in the fields of Iowa was in the old language, Aduana–before Dutch, before there was such a thing as nations, what my grandma called ‘the language of the earth’.
It’s been a long time since I walked beans, but I’ve learned a lot about Aduana since then. A rich and endlessly versatile language, with deep roots in the land and flowing water, I’ve been inspired to excavate and resurrect it.
The above is the result of the first dig, with my best attempt at translation and transliteration.
Whenever I’m around a campfire, whether alone under the stars or with a group of friends, I feel the urge to sing it in the original language. What matters is not some ‘right way that it used to be sung’ but that it is sung. And when it arises suddenly (ajana), I let my body and voice be carried by it, until it sings itself.