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As was their wont, the Veritas celebrated each day but celebrated especially the completion of the harvest of the fullness of the fall. She-Who-Saves-Many-Lives, She-of-Many-Paths, Eyes-of-Eagle, Shade-Walker, Pond Mud, Alt-R, and all those who sought the rings of empathy and all those who did not participated as best they could in the harvest and in the celebration, for both, all knew, proved vital to the life of the Veritas. 

The Veritas likewise celebrated the first snow, and She-Who-Saves-Many-Lives spent the winter carefully observing all among the tribe and especially the Six-Who-See-With-Animal-Eyes. She also began devising the next trial. And among the Six-Who-See-With-Animal-Eyes, all awaited the call to the next trial. One among those six, named Trunk-of-Tree, waited in stillness like the sleeping trees, silently wondering what the next test might be. One among those six, named Fleet-of-Foot, waited like a cloud letting the winds of chance and fortune shape his days and his thoughts. But four among those six, did not wait for the next words of She-Who-Saves-Many-Lives to prepare for the next test. 

She-of-Many-Paths continued to study the Wolves and as she learned more about them, she became less afraid of them and they became less afraid of her, so much so that she observed them mating. When she observed this, she somehow wished that Shade-Walker was watching with her although this wish struck her as a strange one and her cheeks grew flushed. 

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She-of-Many-Paths did not limit herself to trying to see through the eyes only of Wolf. In the long dark evenings of storytelling, she listened to the tales but tried to imagine each one through each being in the story, whether human, animal, lake, cloud, or tree. When she helped with harvests or any other task of Fall or Winter, she would try to learn from the wisdom of those who had done such tasks many times before. Some in the tribe jokingly though lovingly began to call her, She-of-Many-Questions. 

Likewise, Eyes-of-Eagle continued to observe Eagles though her real passion had become shapes and what they signified. She wondered, among many such wonderings, why Acorn had a sharp point on the bottom. She tried dropping acorns in various ways and if they were dropped from sufficient height, they always landed point down. She imagined that she was a mighty oak and that the acorns were her babies. She liked it when they landed point down. It seemed the right thing. 

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OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Eyes-of-Eagle watched also how water flowed around rocks. She looked at the legs of running animals including her tribe-mates and saw how cleverly the shapes of all such legs flowed by each other without catching on each other. She saw the ways in which every snowflake was the same and the ways in which every snowflake was different. Eyes-of-Eagle took notice as well of the changing shape of Shade-Walker whose arms and legs became adorned with larger muscles. 

Likewise, Shade-Walker became obsessed, not only with Snakes, but also with light and also with heat and how light became heat. He imagined what it was like to be light and what it was like to be heat. He noticed as well how many, but not all, animals and plants slept a long sleep when light and heat were less. He noticed how each animal and even sleeping plants made their own heat even when there was no light. He became more convinced that Snake could feel the heat of animals from a much greater distance than he himself could. In his noticing of heat and light, Shade-Walker began to notice the way that sunlight played in the hair of She-of-Many-Paths and in the hair of Eyes-of-Eagle. The sunlight in their hair brought warmth to his own body, and this he found mysterious. 

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He whom the tribe called Easy-Tears continued to observe Squirrel. He was surprised to learn that Squirrel seemed to forget many of the places he had saved acorns and hickories and butternuts though he himself recalled each such one he had seen buried. He began to wonder whether Squirrels had their own language. When eagle, hawk, or owl flew nearby, it seemed to Easy-Tears that the first Squirrel who saw such a Squirrel-eater would warn the others. But was the chattering just a general warning such as “Beware! Beware!” or did the warning say where to look as well or say how far away such a Squirrel-eater was? Easy-Tears marveled at the way Squirrel could leap from branch to branch, just catching on to a far tree and nearly but never falling. On one such marveling however, during a thaw, he saw one such unlucky Squirrel miss a very high branch and fall onto a hard rock. This was a fall that Unlucky Squirrel did not recover from. Then, Easy-Tears watched through the thick boughs of a scented cedar as all of the friends of Unlucky Squirrel came to circle around him and look upon Unlucky Squirrel in chatter-less and respectful silence. 

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She-Who-Saves-Many-Lives observed or otherwise knew how each of the Six prepared themselves, or not, for the next trial. But, this was not the limit of her knowledge and observations. She also followed with some close attention Pond Mud and Alt-R as well. Though both had failed the third test, their reactions were quite different. Pond Mud took no further interest in learning about ants. Indeed, he was often seen taking such a small person as an ant and crushing her between his fingers as though to prove his superior strength. This and his other actions indicated he was feeding the “Bad Wolf” within. He sometimes used his superior strength, not for the good of the Veritas, but to force his will upon others. Pond Mud seemed to think little of how he appeared through the eyes of Ant or indeed through the eyes of any other among the Veritas. 

Alt-R however, seemed to realize that, smart as he was, he did not know all things and set himself to learning from the best weaver how to weave and from the best stone chipper how to chip stones and from the best tree hewer how to fell trees. In this way, he gradually learned how to see more clearly through the eyes of others. The Shaman felt that perhaps she had been too hasty in her judgement of Alt-R. She would continue to watch him with careful eyes and a careful heart.

At last, the icy snows and winds of winter withdrew and the speckled red and green heads of Skunk Cabbage appeared in the swamps and likewise, the slender rods of Garlic and Onion began to welcome the spring sun though their roots lay beneath melting snows. When at last, no snow or ice remained except on mountain peaks and in shady caves, She-Who-Saves-Many-Lives called the Six-Who-See-With-Animal-Eyes to her. 

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“As you all know,” began the Shaman, “the animals of the air, and the lakes, and the forests, and the plains are all different and each has their own skills and their own ways of knowing and seeing. So too, even among the Veritas, there are many different skills and many different ways of knowing how-to. Indeed, even among you six, I have observed that you have different flavors or colors of how-to.”

{Translator’s Note:} What follows is necessarily a very loose translation. The Veritas apparently had many words to describe the quality of what was made as well as how it was made. No-one to my knowledge has determined precisely how the various mind sets relate to what happens in terms of either what is produced or the experience of the production. I am not sure, for example, whether the word for the way of how-to for Fleet-of-Foot necessarily implies a sloppy end result as well as a result achieved quickly.  

“Among you Six, Fleet-of-Foot likes to run quickly. But so too, does he do everything quickly. He has learned to gather acorns quickly. He has learned to weave quickly. His tongue is as quick as his feet as you have all no doubt noticed. 

“Trunk-of-Tree is much slower and stronger, but he also has learned the how-to of building, weaving, and spear-making to be strong against winds and winter and many throws. When, he speaks, he speaks slowly and carefully but with purpose.

“Easy-Tears wants everyone to be happy to save his own tears. He therefore has learned the how-to of making things that all or many will like immediately. So too, when he speaks, he is careful not to offend but to make everyone like what he is saying. 

“Shade-Walker has learned the how-to of making things so that the making itself is a pleasurable thing. This too is a valuable how-to as are all such ways in different circumstances. 

“Eyes-of-Eagle has been learning the how-to of making things beautiful.”

Now, Fleet-of-Foot spoke, “Which among all these many ways of how-to is the best though? Surely, it is always best to make all things as quickly as possible. Isn’t that what all should be learning?”

“Each way of how-to is best under different circumstances, Fleet-of-Foot. There is no best part of a tree. Without roots, the tree will die. Without bark, insects will eat the tree. Without leaves to welcome the sun, tree will die. Without nuts, fruits, or cones, tree can have no children. Every part is different, but each is important.” She-Who-Saves-Many-Lives looked at each of the others in turn. When, she came to She-of-Many-Paths, their eyes held and She-of-Many-Paths began to speak.

“So it is also with Wolf. Without legs, Wolf cannot run. Without eyes, Wolf cannot see. Without a mouth, Wolf cannot eat. Without ears, Wolf cannot hear. Every part is vital. I see this clearly, She-Who-Saves-Many-Lives, but I am not so sure what my how-to skill is. I think all of these ways of how-to are vital.” Then her eyes silently questioned the Shaman.

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She-Who-Saves-Many-Lives smiled with her gentle eyes at She-of-Many-Paths as she answered. “Each thing we make comes from the earth; comes through the people and their work; comes to those who use such things and everything returns to the earth once again. When you take reeds from the Lake of Reeds and weave a basket, the basket is a gift from the earth and the lake and also from your own labor. Your labor is also a gift from those of our ancestors who learned how to weave. I think your own way of how-to is to make such a connection clear so that each such person who uses your basket or throws such a spear as you make is quite aware of that connection. Such a basket or spear feels good in the hand but it also feels good in the way it connects the person and therefore all of the Veritas to the earth and all of us, living and dead.” 

She-of-Many-Paths had never had such a clear vision of her how-to calling, but when she heard it, she felt her heart quiver. This, she now realized, had always been in her heart as she did things and made things. Each day she had seen more and more clearly how all things were connected and that all the people were connected. A gift, she thought, should make those connections clearer to everyone else. The image of Pond Mud and his well-muscled body came to mind and she wondered whether she could construct such a gift as to make him see how he was connected to all so that he would stop trying to bully smaller boys and stop crushing ants to no purpose. 

She-Who-Saves-Many-Lives continued, “Each of you has began exploring a different way of how-to. As you grow in experience, you will learn more about your own path. You began on your path patly because of your own nature. And partly you began on this path because of circumstance. As you learn, people will come to know you and seek you out according to your special way of how-to. Over time, you will become more and more expert at your particular way of how-to. This is good. All of these are appropriate or less so according to circumstance and task. However, it is also good that you learn at least something of the way of how-to of some other person. This has many benefits for you and for the Veritas.

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“It will be good for you in the very process of trying to do something according to someone else’s how to. It will stretch your mind. You will also be better connected to someone else for having tried to use their how-to skills. In the future, in some cases, it will be necessary to make something for the people that makes use of more than one of these skills in order that it may most benefit all the Veritas. It may also be that in such a working together you may discover a new way of how-to that none yet know. Between two paths in the forest, another path may be laid. In a storm, a river may take a new path. Therefore, listen as I tell you your next trial.

“Fleet-of-Foot, your task will be to create a hammock with the way of how-to of Trunk-of-Tree to his satisfaction and with his guidance.

“Trunk-of-Tree, your task will be to create a basket that will be as instantly popular as though it were made by Easy-Tears himself.

“Easy-Tears, your task will be to create a travois that will be as grounded and mindful as one created by She-of-Many-Paths.

“She-of-Many-Paths, you will make a hide tent to the satisfaction of Shade-Walker.

“Shade-Walker, you in turn, will devise a set of fine clay jugs that will delight the sense of beauty of Eyes-of-Eagle.

“Eyes-of-Eagle, you will make me a new dream catcher with the how-to ways of Fleet-of-Foot. 

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“Each of you will help any of the Six with any asked questions and observations. But the work itself must be made by the person assigned. I may observe you from time to time and I may not. When a task is finished, you are to show me the finished work in pairs for I want to question you both. At such time as all six tasks are done, I shall then determine how many of the six of you will pass on to the next trial. It is even possible that some may join in the next trial who did not participate in this one. 

“Do not be deceived. This is a more difficult test than you might think. You may fail by not satisfying your judge. But you may also fail by not helping sufficiently the person you are judging. And, both of your pair may fail if I feel that your judge has not been sufficiently strict in his or her critiques. Go now in peace. I look forward to seeing these artifacts designed and built with the way of the how-to of another.”

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The protégés returned to their own lodgings. They began their walk in silence but by the time they returned to their lodgings around the central fire, they were talking excitedly about their plans and all were resolved to begin at dawn. 

She-Who-Saves-Many-Lives returned to her cabin smiling. She badly needed a new dream catcher, for lately, her dreams had been disturbing indeed. Well, soon enough, that would be fixed. She drifted off wondering why it was so difficult to explain that all of the ways of how-to had their place in different circumstances. It seemed quite obvious to her, but this had not been  so obvious to the Six. Well, they are yet young. She noted too that they were becoming quite aware of the presence of particular others among the tribe. All part of life, she thought. The Shaman began to imagine a world where the ways of how-to are all one way. She-Who-Saves-Many-Lives dropped off to sleep and began dreaming of a world in which everyone made things only using the how-to way of “Fleet-of-Foot.” It was not a peaceful dream. 

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