, , , , , , ,


The day after the Prophesy Dream of She-Who-Saves-Many-Lives dawned clear and clean. The air smelled as sweet as ever and sweeter still to the shaman who had dreamt of a world of dirty air. The clear morning sun rainbowed on raindrops on every bush. Trees sported their first leaves of spring which are as various in colors as those of autumn but because the leaves are yet babies, She-Who-Saves-Many-Lives could see much more deeply into the land about her. It filled her heart with gladness even more deeply on this spring morn. She decided that she would share her dream with all of the Veritas, but only after she took the time to craft the telling so that each would receive the gift as she had — the gift of great gratitude. For she well knew that experiencing that dead white world as she had made her redouble her appreciation for the real world but that simply telling others about her dream would not be enough to gift them the same great gratitude. It would take time to decide how best to share her gift. 

Meanwhile, She-Who-Saves-Many-Lives walked to the main village to see who among “The Six Who See Through Animal Eyes” was already at work on their various tasks. The eyes of the shaman, though old, remained clear and her mind remained retentive so that as she passed through the village greeting this person and that person from among the Veritas, she observed many things both small and large. And, among the small things she noticed were a number of crushed ants. She looked around for Pond Mud but he was nowhere near. On a hunch, she decided to visit the place where she had shown Pond Mud the strength of ants. As always among the Veritas, and as she had been trained all her life, her footsteps were as silent as those of bobcat. Before she reached the clearing with the broken cabin, she could hear the angry voice of Pond Mud. And though the eyes of She-Who-Saves-Many-Lives were as clear as ever, she well knew that her hearing was not so good as that of a youth such as Pond Mud. As she approached, she could hear the tone of voice of Pond Mud become sweet and she greatly suspected that he had heard her coming despite her silent way of walking. 

He met her at the entrance to the clearing and spoke first, “Ah, She-Who-Saves-Many-Lives, it is good to see you. I am headed back to the village. I was just trying to learn more about ants though I well understand that I am no longer in contention for another ring of empathy. Such learning is still a good thing. Anyone can see that.” 

“I am glad to hear you say that. The statement is correct. Anyone can see that. Though some choose not to see. I hear that you have become still better friends with Alt-R. Is this so?” 

“Yes, She-Who-Saves-Many-Lives, we have been training together to become still better hunters. And, that skill, as you well know, also requires seeing through the eyes of animals. May I accompany you back to the village and I will tell you something of what I have learned?”

She-Who-Saves-Many-Lives wished to examine the clearing but decided it could be better done later while Pond Mud busied himself with other tasks. So, she returned to the village still feeling great gratitude for the fullness of the life around her. 

During this day, she observed the Six-Who-See-With-Animal-Eyes at their various tasks as well as much more. When Alt-R and Pond Mud, along with several other hunters, went to practice spear throwing, she returned to the clearing. Alas, her hunch had been correct. Pond Mud had not simply been observing ants; he had been systematically killing them. Even more disturbing, many had been tortured. And, even more disturbing than those actions, had been the dissembling of Pond Mud. He had known what she would like to have heard — that he had taken her lessons to heart. Her mood soured for this was the sort of deception that could destroy a village or indeed an entire tribe. It would have to be curbed very soon and most likely shared with the entire tribe. She held out some hope however, that the heart of Pond Mud could yet be turned to good. For if not, he would certainly be exiled, a rare and severe punishment which invariaby lead a short and lonely life. 


As the delicate beginnings of spring gave way to the fullness of another summer, the tasks of the Six-Who-See-With-Animal-Eyes gave way from planning to building. Soon, the time came for all to recount their learning. When She-Who-Saves-Many-Lives saw that this was so, she called each of The Six to her as one. She asked each pair in turn to describe their experiences for she wanted to judge not only the maker but also the mentor as well as how they recalled events differently, as people do, and how such differences were resolved. The shaman also knew that each of The Six could learn from all these experiments in trying to use the way of how-to of another.

The first to report on their experience together were the hammock-builder, Fleet-of-Foot and his mentor, Trunk-of-Tree. According to Trunk-of-Tree, he first tried to show Fleet-of-Foot how he would make a hammock with great thought as to its longevity and strength so that it would last against time and some misuse. Fleet-of-Foot had resisted such advice and had immediately begin building the hammock. Six such hammocks had Fleet-of-Foot constructed over three days time and each such hammock had collapsed.

photo of hammock

Photo by Voicu Oara on Pexels.com


Fleet-of-Foot admitted that these hammocks had broken but he claimed it was because Trunk-of-Tree had given him faulty materials and bad advice. At long last, in frustration, Fleet-of-Foot had challenged Trunk-of-Tree to show him how he would build a hammock and instead, Trunk-of-Tree had spent an entire morning making tools, and laying things out, and not even starting on the hammock. Fleet-of-Foot grew impatient because obviously, Trunk-of-Tree had had no intention of showing Fleet-of-Foot how to build a hammock. When Fleet-of-Foot came back a few hours later, the hammock was finished. This they agreed upon, and as to its sturdiness, but Fleet-of-Foot was sure that Trunk-of-Tree had cheated by getting others to help him make his hammock. Otherwise, argued Fleet-of-Foot, how could slow Trunk-of-Tree make a hammock in a day when fast Fleet-of-Foot finished no hammocks in three days? 

She-Who-Saves-Many-Lives had much to say about this experiment, but she held her tongue and first asked the others from among The Six what they thought. After some long silence, Shade Walker said this, “I have known both all my life and have never known Trunk-of-Tree to cheat or lie. Fleet-of-Foot is fast; of this, there is no question. But he also sometimes rushes into things so quickly that he ends up taking more time. I have myself only made three hammocks so I am not so expert as Trunk-of-Tree and perhaps mine are not quite so sturdy but they were all finished in one day.” 

She-of-Many-Paths spoke next. “I have never made a hammock. But I have been listening to many expert craftsman in our village and every such has cautioned me to take the time to plan the work carefully. Whether it is making spears, making spearheads, making pottery, or baking bread, it is critical to ensure that you have a good plan; that you have chosen your materials well; that you have prepared and tested at each step along the way. So, I can well believe that Too-Fleet-of-Foot could charge off along the wrong path six times in three days while Trunk-of-Tree could take a more deliberate path to create a hammock in one day.” 

Easy Tears knew it was his turn to speak but did not wish to offend anyone. “I cannot really tell because I was not a witness to these recounted events. I believe that each told us of their own experiences as they now recall them. And, ultimately, both were successful because now there is a hammock that was not there before and Trunk-of-Tree served as mentor and judge.” 

She-Who-Saves-Many-Lives nodded to Eyes-of-Eagle who spoke carefully, molding the shape of her argument and the shape of each sentence and each word. “I find that trying to create something in the way of another how-to is a difficult task. So, it was with Trunk-of-Tree and Fleet-of-Foot. Fleet-of-Foot grew too quickly impatient and rather than trying to build in the way of Trunk-of-Tree instead built in his own way of how-to which was not sufficient to the task. Rather than learn another, more careful way from someone who knows and uses the careful way, he insisted on sticking with his own way though that way did not work. However, Trunk-of-Tree, though he took his time with the hammock, was likewise impatient with Fleet-of-Foot and ended up building the hammock himself which was not his assigned task.”   

{Translator’s Note}: In the original, these recountings, have apparently been preserved in great detail. Though scholars differ, I tend to believe the details are correct despite their being passed down orally because the Veritas developed many methods to ensure the accuracy of their traditional learning stories and because the details of their skills were vital to their survival. Since most modern readers have little little experience weaving baskets or making a hide tent, I omit much of those details in my summaries. Instead, I focus on the lessons learned and the decisions of She-Who-Saves-Many-Lives. 

Now, as was her way, She-Who-Saves-Many-Lives asked Fleet-of-Foot and Trunk-of-Tree whether they had found any further learning while listening to the comments of his compatriots. 

Fleet-of-Foot immediately began, “Wonderful comments. I learned much. However, the important thing is that I was asked to produce a hammock in the way of how-to of Trunk-of-Tree and such a hammock was indeed constructed. I caused that to happen by my actions so I believe I completed my task. Fast is good. But sometimes, the fastest way to accomplish something is to have someone else who is even faster do the job. Either way, faster is better.” 


She-Who-Saves-Many-Lives stared at Fleet-of-Foot and sighed. Still, she did not speak. Instead, she turned to Trunk-of-Tree. The latter’s face flushed as he said, “Fleet-of-Foot is indeed impatient, but so was I. My job was to mentor Fleet-of-Foot in the way of how-to for strength and longevity yet after three days, I gave up and made the hammock myself. I believed that if I demonstrated to him that I could make the hammock more quickly by being careful and planning each step that Fleet-of-Foot would learn the lesson. I made this judgement based on my own way of how-to. I would have learned the lesson this way. But this is not the way of learning of Fleet-of-Foot. He is too impatient to learn in this way. He left even before I finished; in fact, barely after I had made preparations for the work. He believes I encouraged or cajoled others to help me, which I did not do, because I failed to teach him the slow and methodical way of how-to. So, I too failed in my task.” 

She-Who-Saves-Many-Lives again turned to “Fleet of Foot” and prompted, “And…?” Fleet-of-Foot answered thusly, “Trunk-of-Tree may have failed but I did not. We should see who else besides me deserves the next ring of empathy.” 

She-Who-Saves-Many-Lives chuckled. “I have dreamed of such a one as you, Fleet-of-Foot, and when the time comes, I will indeed, shrink our group as is befitting, as well as sharing my dream. I would now observe, however, that Trunk-of-Tree has shared a great learning for all of us. What would have sufficed for him to have learned the lesson of patience did not work for you. On the other hand, you have shown no learning whatever. The tree of your learning has not added a single branch or leaf so far as I can see. Fleet-of-Foot, you wished to win a race; lost the race; then showed no interest in discovering how you could have won the race. This is the way of “Fast-at-First-and-Slow-at-Last.” 

So, in turn, did each of the pairs recount their experiences and learnings. 

girl s orange dried fruits

Photo by Min An on Pexels.com

Trunk-of-Tree made a basket very slowly and carefully. Yet, no-one wanted to trade very much for such a basket; not nearly enough to satisfy Trunk-of-Tree’s desire for compensation for so much time spent. Easy-Tears had been quite content to watch the strong hands of Trunk-of-Tree working the reeds over and under and through. It had been quite mesmerizing. She had said almost nothing during the making, but when Trunk-of-Tree found no-one willing to trade much for his basket, she showed Trunk-of-Tree how the addition of a some brightly colored dyes in a pleasing pattern changed such luck and how such additions made his sturdy basket much more desirable in the eyes of the clan. Trunk-of-Tree had been quite surprised at this common reaction. He had thought the purpose of a basket was to hold things and this goal he had accomplished quite well. However, Easy-Tears had shown him how just a little extra work, though not making the basket stronger or more functional, could greatly increase how badly others wanted such a useful basket. 

Shade-Walker and Eagle-Eyes recounted their adventures in jug making. At first, Shade Walker had mainly loved the feel of the wet clay spinning through his hands. With the hands of Eagle Eyes guiding his, however, he learned to enjoy the sight of the evolving shape as well. In the end, both had gone on to make a series of beautiful jugs. Eagle Eyes had ended up loving the feel of the wet clay, although what she had loved the most was the feel of Shade Walker’s fingers, she admitted. 

Eyes-of-Eagle explained that she found if very difficult to make a dream catcher under the tutelage of Fleet-of-Foot since she herself had wanted the end result to be beautiful and Fleet-of-Foot kept encouraging her to proceed more and more quickly. However, as Fleet-of-Foot at last perceived that his constant encouragement toward ever more speed made Eyes-of-Eagle both more error prone and more testy with him, he instead encouraged her by telling her that she was amazingly fast. Everyone could see that Fleet-of-Foot was again interested in speed; however, in this case, his interest had been more in speed of becoming more intimate with Eyes-of-Eagle than in the speed of making a dream catcher. 

background beautiful cloud clouds

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

She-of-Many-Paths told of how she had wanted to make a tent for Shade Walker. Shade Walker had liked watching her and had asked if she were enjoying the process of making the tent. She had blushed — and had said that she was very much enjoying herself. After they get over their awkwardness, they had talked about the various ways of how-to and had decided together that being grounded and having a satisfying process are very much akin. Though these are different ways of how-to, one helps provide the other, they had surmised. This they shared with The Six and the shaman and all had agreed. 

Upon recounting and subsequent questioning, all learned that Easy-Tears had wanted the travois to be popular and had difficulty even understanding what She-of-Many-Paths meant by constructing a travois so that it encouraged a “grounded” view of life. Easy-Tears had been watching She-of-Many-Paths and Shade-Walker for some time however, and decided that what She-of-Many-Paths really wanted was Shade-Walker. Easy-Tears suggested that if She-of-Many-Paths wanted Shade-Walker, it would be best for everyone to be done quickly with the travois project so that She-of-Many-Paths could spend more time with Shade-Walker who had lately been spending much time with Eagle-Eyes, their long fingers inter-twined with those in the wet clay which they shaped together. In return, Easy-Tears had promised to teach She-of-Many-Paths the path to popularity and thereby to further increase the interest with which Shade-Walker would view She-of-Many-Paths. 

At the end of day, after every such recounting and dialogue, She-Who-Saves-Many-Lives quietly took out a small, folded deerskin. This deerskin held a number of rings of hemp woven into a complex, repeating, yet ever-changing pattern. “The time has come,” she began, “to chose which among all the Veritas is ready to take on the next challenge. All of you have done well and should now be more of a contributor than ever to the Veritas. I have challenged you in many ways to see and feel as others do. In this, you have all shown much skill in the ways of empathy.”

“As you know, each of us is a small leaf on the very large Tree of Life, a tree that has been growing and expanding through all of earth. We are all connected: the people who are the Veritas, other people, other animals, every bird, every plant. We are all connected. With empathy, you may be able to tune in to the tree itself. As you have observed, when we sing and play music and dance, the self-same beat is in everyone and every drum vibrates. If two strings are of the same length, and one is plucked the other may also vibrate. The life in all is in all.

“Learning to tune in to the music, to the beat of another person, or to the great Tree of Life is a great gift to be greatly encouraged. However, you must understand that this is the Tree of Life itself that you are tuning into in order to understand others. When you do such tuning in, you must do so for the good of others, for this great Tree of Life. If instead, you tune in only to serve your own ends, you are using the Tree of Life in a way that destroys the tree itself. Empathy is a way to make us whole. It should never be used to divide us. 


“Fleet-of-Foot, you had some ability to understand the way of Trunk-of-Tree. This knowledge you used to subvert the task at hand. You therefore emerged from the womb of this great opportunity for you to have learned patient working instead unchanged. You also used your understanding of Eyes-of-Eagle, not to help her learn other ways, but to flatter her to try to get her to become closer to you. Ultimately, this way of using empathy always pushes others away. Some may understand quickly and some may take years. But ultimately, tuning in to the Tree of Life in order to bend it to your own purpose will fail for you. It may also, as shown in my dream, cause the Tree of Life itself to fail. 

“Easy-Tears, you were honest and helpful in your work with Trunk-of-Tree. You helped him to understand in a deep way that the surface beauty of something, while it may not be of much value to him, is nonetheless of value to others. In this, you did well. However, you tried to use your knowledge of the affection that She-of-Many-Paths has for Shade-Walker to try to get her to accept your lack of being able to understand the way of how-to of grounding every action. She-of-Many-Paths saw through this ruse and told us honestly of what happened. Yours was also a misuse of empathy. You were not primarily interested in helping She-of-Many-Paths as you claimed, but were more interested in getting your task finished. Moreover, if you really understood deeply Trunk-of-Tree and She-of-Many-Paths, you would see that a surface popularity is not what draws them together. Rather, they are being drawn together by the Tree of Life itself; e.g., their own future children.

“Please understand. Your own ways of how-to are each valuable. And you are all skilled in empathy. For now, I bestow the Fourth and Fifth Rings of Empathy on only those who tune in to the great Tree of Life to help the great Tree of Life. If I become convinced at some future time that others have also learned this great lesson, they too may receive the Fourth and Fifth Rings. For now, please come to me to receive your rings for you have earned them.”

Trunk-of-Tree, Shade-Walker, Eyes-of-Eagles, and She-of-Many-Paths each came in turn, knelt before the shaman and received their double rings. Each such person had much to think about and they walked back to their lodgings in silence.  



Author Page on Amazon