“Cicadas” thought Many Paths, her eyelids heavy in the sultry afternoon. “Cawing crows.” She had thought she was well, but the simple walk to see Tu-Swift and the walk back up to her own cabin had exhausted Many Paths again. After helping the old shaman drink the tea, she saw She Who Saves Many Lives drift off again. This made Many Paths herself tired. She lay down just to rest for a moment and tried to still her racing mind. Maybe it was crazy to try to bring six tribes together. How could she be sure the other tribes would not simply use the occasion to lie, cheat, and steal — or even try to attack the Veritas? How can one trust those who steal children, she wondered. She turned the problem over and over, but she kept thinking in circles.
Many Paths at last gave in to the waves of sleep that lapped over her. In her dream, she lay on the shore of a giant lake that smelled of salt. She sat near, but apart from a circle on the beach. Here sat seven of her grandmother’s grandmother’s grandmothers. Each wore a silver gown and each sat on a log which had apparently been arranged for the purpose of their council circle. In the middle of the seven of them a campfire burned. But were they grandmothers she wondered? For now, they looked like the Seven Rings of Empathy, but with human faces.
They were speaking much like the manner of the Veritas when engaged in serious dialogue. That is to say, each one spoke clearly, slowly, calmly, but with emphasis. Their voices were clear but rang as though each ring had now grown to a large chime. They sang to her and to each other. Not in Veritas, did they speak. Nor did they speak in any human language she had ever heard. A kind of music swelled — harmonious, unhurried, and yet, she knew what they were saying. She knew not the names of the seven grandmothers. She had never seen them. Yet they spoke to her as old friends, one by one, in a circle, turn by turn.
“The time has come to put war behind us forever,” said First Grandmother.
“The branches must sway together in the wind,” sang Second Grandmother.
“Our animal cousins eat to live. Our plant cousins take nourishment from the earth, the sky, the sun, the rain.” Thus sang Third Grandmother.
“Our animal cousins do not kill all day. They mostly love and play,” sang Fourth Grandmother.
“Our cousin Ant becomes one of a Colony, yet the Colonies fight each other,” sang Fifth Grandmother.
“Our cousin Wolf becomes one of a Pack, yet Packs may fight each other,” sang Sixth Grandmother.
“What may Ant learn from Wolf? What may Wolf learn from Ant?” Asked Seventh Grandmother.
“While the Hare is running from Wolf, he does not think how Wolf is his cousin. Nor does Wolf think how Hare is also his cousin,” sang First Grandmother.
“Yet, when the forest is afire, both run for their lives without regard for stopping to feast,” sang Second Grandmother.
“We Veritas have come to know and work with many of our cousins that move and many cousins that are rooted to the ground. We work with trees. We work with wolves. We work with bees. We work with eagles. We work with the corn,” sang Third Grandmother.
“It takes patience to work with our cousins. We have to see how they are and what they need. We learn a bit of their tongue and they learn a bit of ours. We give them something they need and they give us something we need,” sang Fourth Grandmother.
“Now, the earth herself ails. The Tree of Life herself ails. It is time for Colony not to fight Colony,” sang Fifth Grandmother.
“It is time for Wolf Pack to work with Wolf Pack,” sang Sixth Grandmother.
“The Great Tree of Life herself must be calm; must remind all her children that they are all her children. These are dangerous times. These are times wherein fear may cause cousin Rabbit to run into fire. These are times wherein panic may cause cousin Buffalo to run off a cliff. These are times when cousin Monkey may try a jump too great and fall from high branches to death,” sang Seventh Grandmother.
Suddenly, the Seven Grandmothers rose as one. Each turned to her left and walked a few paces before sitting back down. The sweet singing continued.
“The flower opens to the bee. The grass bends in the breeze but holds tightly to the ground with its roots. The tree who falls does not resent her chance to nourish the beetles. It is time. It is time to sing together now,” sang First Grandmother.
“We must learn each other’s dances. We must learn each other’s songs. We must learn each other’s ways. It is time. It is time to sing together now,” sang Second Grandmother.
“We must learn each other’s crops. We must ensure that everyone has enough so that none feel they must kill human cousins to survive,” sang Third Grandmother. “It is time. It is time to sing together now.”
“We have enough. We must spend our time learning from each other; dancing with each other; singing with each other; playing with each other; exploring with each other. It is time. It is time to sing together now,” sang Fourth Grandmother.
“We have enough time now that we may be patient as a tree. It is quicker to understand those whose tongue is the same. It is easier to play the games we already know. It is more comfortable to wear the clothes we wear. And, yet, if we do not try a new tongue; if we do not play a new game; if we do not try new clothes, how will we really know which suits us more properly? It is time. It is time to sing together now,” sang Fifth Grandmother.
“All the human children of earth now; all the human branches of The Great Tree of Life; all the Tribes and all the Peoples — we call upon you now. It is time. It is time to sing together now,” sang Sixth Grandmother.
“The Great Tree of Life does not desire to shed more tears for her human children. The Great Earth does not desire to destroy her human children. The Great Bear of the Sky does not wish to send Rocks like Rain to destroy her human children. Enough is enough. It is time. It is time to sing together now,” sang Seventh Grandmother.
The Seven Grandmothers arose as one, turned, and moved one seat to the left. They sat and sang again and again until each of the Seven Ancient Grandmothers returned to the seat she had occupied at first.
They rose one last time and sang together standing — a long and haunting song full of sadness and joy; full of disappointment and hope; so full of love that tiny flashes of fear or anger only amplified the love. As they sang, they began to shimmer and enlarge. Then, they joined together as a great luminous ring and rose high into the sky. In her dream, Many Paths watched them sail high into the dark sky until at last they became seven stars sparkling together as a kind of misty dipper.
When Many Paths awoke, she felt at last as though she had finally and completely defeated the illness that had struck her. She glanced over at She Who Saves Many Lives. The old shaman’s breathing was slow but steady. Many Paths felt the shaman’s head with her left hand and found it only slightly warm. As she did so, Many Paths noticed that she had slipped four of The Seven Rings of Empathy onto her left hand. Then, she looked at her right hand and saw the other three rings. In a flash, she remembered her dream. She swung her legs over the edge of the cot, arose and searched for Tu-Swift. She found him down by the stream. He had harvested more yellow dock, elder flowers, and rose hips. He had quite a pile in a small basket beside him but he stared hard into the middle of the river. He stared so intently that he did not hear Many Paths approaching and when she touched him gently on the arm he started violently. Many Paths embraced her brother and she sent her love to him silently. At last, he pulled away and looked in her face, his eyes brimming with tears.
She gently touched his cheek and said, “I miss her too, Tu-Swift. I miss her too.” She paused and stared at the middle of the creek with him. They sat shoulder to shoulder for a time.
At last, Many Paths turned and said, “Tu-Swift. I know what we must do. I need your help. Will you help me?”
Tu-Swift set his jaw and looked into the eyes of his sister. “Yes, Many Paths. Yes, I will.”