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After some delicate and delicious love-making with Shadow Walker, Many Paths decided to check on She Who Saved Many Lives. If she seemed well enough, it might also be good to see whether her mentor had any further wisdom to share about Many Path’s plan to gather all the tribes. Her goal was to bring about peace but she realized that in trying to accomplish that, she might trigger the very things she hoped to avoid. Her tentative plan was therefore to gather as much wisdom as she might from many sources — but not to wait overlong. As the story goes, she thought to herself, if you waste the entire warm season deciding where to plant, you will starve in the season of great ice and snow.

Many Paths called out to her friend and mentor and received a surprisingly strong and cheery response. “Come in, Many Paths. Come in! I’ve been meaning to ask your advice about something. Do sit down. I will get you a cup of tea this time.” 

Not for the first time, Many Paths wondered whether it was actually possible for She Who Saved Many Lives to see into her heart and mind. After serving them both a cup of spicebush tea, ever so slightly flavored with mint, She Who Saved Many Lives went to her work area and brought over two patches of weaving. She placed one on each knee of Many Paths. The older woman smiled and said, “It never fails to amaze me how strong a weave of reeds is! It’s so wonderful. Just as I hope our community is.”

“I have had that exact same though,” Many Paths replied. Then, she laughed and added, “Likely because you pointed that out to me before I was even old enough to remember.”

The Elder Shaman tilted her head and nodded ever so slightly. “Perhaps. But you have made so many wonderful discoveries. And, not only you but the entire tribe. That’s because you have been open to learning and seeing what is there. But enough of that. I did have a question for you. Which of these two do you think is better?”

Many Paths frowned. “Better for what? What are you making?”

She Who Saved Many Lives considered, “A basket to carry things.” 

Many Paths nodded, “What things and how many? This weave has these stiffer switches to help support the weight. If you’re making a small bag to collect mint, for example, you wouldn’t have any need. If you’re making a large bag to collect apples, however, you would want the extra structuring support.”

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She Who Saved Many Lives nodded. “Yes, yes. That sounds obvious when you say it. I guess the fever must have addled my brain a bit. Anyway, thank you for reminding me. Soon, I will have to decide on what I want to use the bag for; then I will know which one is likely correct. Now, what did you want to ask my advice on?”

Many Paths took in a deep breath and slowly let it out. “I am quite sure I didn’t say anything about asking your advice.” 

She Who Saved Many Lives nodded. “I think you’re right. Sometimes I confuse us.” She laughed. “I know it sounds crazy but any way, I will get back to my weaving — or at least deciding why I’m weaving and let you go about your business — unless, of course, there was something else you wanted to talk about.” 

Many Paths chuckled. “As it turns out, I did want to ask your advice about something. You know I want to convene a  — Let me ask you another question first. Are you going to teach me how to see into another person’s mind?”

She Who Saved Many Lives laughed surprisingly long. At last, she caught her breath and said, “Many Paths! You won all seven rings of empathy! Of course, you can see into others. Of course, you can never be perfect at it. But you already do it. I knew you were busy. Yet you came to see me. You probably wanted to see whether I was dead or not, but even your footsteps and the way you called out told me you had something else on your mind. In fact, whether you knew it or not, you assumed I was alive. There was no edge of anxious worry in your voice. It was friendly — but also a bit — plaintive. I knew you wanted something from me. Now, you can see I have very few possessions. I find too many to be intolerably distracting. I am not going to help you with any arduous physical task. What is left? You want to offer me the opportunity to share my experiences; that is a great gift. For once we die, what else is left? So, naturally, I am more than willing to try to see what grows from our discussion.” 

Many Paths looked down and slowly shook her head. She realized that she could read people. She simply forgot sometimes to do it. If you really take the time to put yourself in their sandals, of course, you can make a good guess at what they’re thinking, she thought. Aloud, she said, “Yes. You’re right. So, I want to convene the tribes and I am wondering how, exactly, to go about it. How can I make sure it helps bring greater peace and doesn’t somehow spark off violence. Maybe it’s better not to try?” 

She Who Saved Many Lives replied, “I can say that no-one has attempted to bring all the tribes we know about together — not in my lifetime or the lifetime of my mother or the lifetime of my mother’s mother. During that time, there have been many wars and other atrocities. People stealing other people’s children? Even in our own tribe, we had some who forgot they were not the Tree of Life but a small and temporary part of the Tree of Life. I judge it’s worth the attempt.”

Many Paths. “As to how…?” 

She Who Saved Many Lives said, “What comes to mind for what you are trying to do is more akin to growing things than it is to making things. I am making a basket, and I will use it for a time. I don’t ever imagine that it will live forever any more than that I will or you, my dear. But if I know your heart correctly, you don’t want to make a thing, which will at some time break or dissolve. You want to make something grow for a hundred years, like a giant oak. Ideally, it would be an oak that would seed still more oaks when old mother oak also died.” 

Many Paths nodded. She realized that her mentor had described her desires precisely even though she herself could not have articulated so succinctly. “Yes, that’s exactly right.”

She Who Saved Many Lives nodded. “Let’s suppose then that you want to plant something so that it’s likely to grow. What do you need?” 

“A seed. Fertile ground. Water. Sun. That’s it. Is there more? Love! It’s all more likely to grow with love.” 

She Who Saved Many Lives nodded. “Yes. That’s it. I would start with the love. You already have that. Then, you need to know what seed. The seed determines what will grow though not exactly how. But you will need the ground, water, and sun so it can grow at all.” 

Many Paths continued the thought stream. “If you know what the seed is, then, you know what kind of place to look for. You know whether you need to plant it in bright sunlight or in shade. You know whether it needs very fertile ground or if it can grow in dirt and rocks. And, you know whether it needs to be in very wet ground or if arid ground will do.”

“Yes,” Many Paths, “and it occurs to me, that you might choose a place with enough light first, because, you can make the ground more fertile and bring more water, if need be. But brining light is more difficult.” She Who Saved Many Paths sighed. “Once, apparently, we knew how to bring light as those which lit the tunnel that leads to the Veritas on the … on the other side of the mountain.” 

“I do wonder, Old Mother, whether such light would is strong enough to grow plants. And then, Shadow Walker used reflections of the sun, along with other captives, to escape from the City of the Z-Lotz. It seems too contrived and elaborate for growing plants, but … perhaps writing is a little like that when it comes to providing enough truth so that peace can grow. It allows you to bring the light of wisdom to places that are many days walk from where they started. More importantly, you can place the light in a different time as well. We have all learned so much from the books uncovered in the great library. But, as usual, you are right. We must determine what type of thing we want to grow. That decision will determine the type of seed. The type of seed will determine the proper material, sunshine, and water.”

Many Paths arose and began pacing around in the Old Leader’s shelter. “Of course, since the outcome could impact everyone, I need to know how everyone believes it should be. Or, at least, find out as much as they know about how they want it to be.”

“Yes.” She Who Saved Many Lives considered for a moment before answering. “I suspect some will have many ideas about that while others may not care that much. Nearly everyone wants peace. On other matters, there may be great differences.” 

Many Paths sat back down. The two sat in a comfortable silence for a time. Many Paths rose at last and said, “Thank you for sharing your wisdom. I will look for some to walk with me a bit and contemplate the plants and their nature and try to see among them what it is that the people may be seeking. I’m glad you seem so much better.” 

“As am I, Many Paths. You know, you give me much to live for.” She Who Saved Many Lives smiled and added, “But I do think I will lie down for a nap now. Though some time in the near future, I might accompany you on such a walk.”

Many Paths left and saw Shadow Walker coming toward her. From the look on his face, Many Paths judged he had some news. His smile broadened as he approached and he said, “Hello my love! Can we go for a bit of a walk?” 


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