After my grandparents died many years ago, I spent a week going through the old farmhouse. Among the cast iron pots, old magazines, and toys from two generations ago, I discovered fragments of old letters that were from my grandfather’s grandmother. Her name was Atalier, and she apparently spoke neither Dutch or English. Growing up playing on the farm, I never heard anything about Atalier, but occasionally I would hear strange words emerge from my grandpa as we ‘walked the beans’ together in the early morning….Ajana minoet a’lan…(the Ulaba song) or from my grandmother when she was picking strawberries in her garden as a light rain fell…patepete arila a’lan….
It was Aduana, the language my grandmother called “language of the earth.” And even they only knew a few words here and there and some lines of songs. The letter fragments of my great-great-great grandmother, along with consulting elders from the old country and listening deeply to the land, have helped me excavate and resurrect it, this rich and endlessly versatile language, with deep roots in the earth and flowing water.
This is the beginning of the Aduana-English Translation Project, perhaps a dictionary for a new era. The translation difficulties are immense, in part because English simply has no one-word equivalencies to Aduana words. The specificity of Aduana to complex natural phenomena is astounding.
Aduana – 1)the name of an ancient earth language, 2)the force that draws things back to the earth (as in leaves falling to the ground. It is like a combination of the concepts of gravity, spirit, and longing)
A’ndula – The force that draws things in circulations through time (blood, water cycle, etc. When emphasized in an ascending-descending tone (or capitalized) refers to that at the largest scale, which has been translated as “Great Circulation”
nuomi – Season. Each season has its own word for the way something is and looks and feels. There are two words signifying rainy and dry season (iji, uti)
but then 8 further words signifying early fall, deep fall, early winter, deep winter, etc. (nuj, anuj, ota, aota, etc.)
Within those almost endless variations which can be identified by syllables inserted in the middle of the word. They are commonly used adjectively to describe someone’s mood, clothes, stage of life (and someone includes non-humans). It is extremely versatile and specific. For example, “You look deep winter with sunny sky and light mist” can be captured by one word (aotahonariki).
j’anwika – 1)The transition between seasons, 2)Turning the wheel, 3)Life changes (from root wek = change, and a’jan = turning/movement)
wooni or uni – The force that brings a group of animals together (as in when ladybugs clump, bees swarm, humans gather for council, ravens congregate)
awikry – When the weather changes in rapid succession, alternating between sun, rain, hail, etc. (from root wek, meaning change)
lotanna – The force that decays wood
owa – The force that draws things up
hihilan’lan – When worms come out after a rain
patepete – A steady, light rain. With variations: (apatete – A steady, medium rain, opatete – A steady, hard rain, patepet – An unsteady, sproradic rain, patepeni – A warm rain)
loyo-oto – The experience of time-space from a tree’s perspective. Trees experience movement of most animals as time-space jumpers
sono-oto – The experience of time-space from a rock’s perspective. Rocks experience even tree movement as rapid.
o a’lan – The in-between moments just before dawn
ish’a’ish – The sound of lichen growing. said to be heard only by the elders
arduaka – The condition of being muddy, wet, and decaying. Used to refer to seasonal condition or cultural
unche – The sipping of roots, especially by trees (with very soft, barely heard n)
unche-unche – The sound the sipping of roots makes
Apparently, there are no Aduana words for weed, fence, or lie.