The Journey of the Great Ice

The old man’s legs creaked as he sat up into the cold out from under his blankets. He half half-heartedly took a stick and tried to stir some flames up from his night gone fire. Standing and letting the blankets fall, he pulled himself into his warmest robes and stepped outside into the even colder morning sunshine. The old woman was bent over a pot cooking his morning meal. As he scanned his tribe camped along the valley floor, and as he did he saw one of the young hunters running down from the mountain to the west. He sat, and awaited what news the boy was so eager to share, good he hoped. The boy came up to the old man and dropping on the ground, gasping for air, bowed and said Elder, I beg you hear. The old man said “Speak my son.” They boy continued, “It is the White Jyn Elder, they are four mountains to the west and coming this way, killing all they come across, there is much blood and many body’s left on their trail.” The old man was startled of the boy’s account, for he had believed the White Jyn to be nothing but an old myth, one told to frighten children and entertain adults. He had heard the same stories as he himself was growing up, but had never heard of any encounters in his lifetime. “What makes you think they are the White Jyn he asked, who told you of this and them?” The old man asked. “I was hunting in the west Elder when I came upon a group of hunters from the Chiang peoples. They were running to the south-east, and would barely stop long enough to tell me this story.” The young man paused to drag in a long breathe, and continued, “They told me they had been two mountains further west when they came upon the wreckage of a village of their relatives, with all of the people dead, even the children and animals. This made them very angry, so they set out to track the evil that had done this woeful act. They tracked north for half a day, and as they were about to camp for the night they heard the sounds of a great battle. Topping the next mountaintop they spied there in the valley below them a horde of yellow haired giants slaughtering another village of people. They were very afraid, and when one of them realized it was the White Jyn they were looking on, they slipped back off the mountaintop and began running to warn their people.” “But how do you know what they were telling you was true?” asked the old man. “I worried at their truth or sanity myself Elder,” the young man said, “so I ran to where they were talking about, and carefully looked for myself. It is all true Elder, It is the White Jyn, just like in the  old stories you’ve told so many times, two heads taller than the tallest of us, as muscled as one of the great cave bears, with yellow hair upon their heads and faces, and the most horrible thing Elder is that they are moving this way. They will be here in no more than four or five days!”

The old man sat back a bit and pulled the cave bear hide he was setting on up around his shivering shoulders. “You have done well my young son, and I thank you for this gift of hope you have brought to our people. Go now, rest yourself, eat, and when you are rested and fed gather the rest of the young men in the village and bring them to me. I must think on this.” With obvious hesitation the young man said, “Yes Elder, I will do as you say and will bring them.” Nestled in his hide, head bowed, the old man began a vision to find a way to protect his people. After just a few moments he realized that there was someone standing before him. Raising his head he looked upon the old woman standing before him with a bowl of hot soup. She pushed the soup at him saying “you can’t think clearly without food you foolish old man!” The old man took the offered soup, muttered thanks, took a sip, and returned to his vision seeking. When he came back ‘to the world’ the soup and bowl were gone, and all of the young men were gathered around him in respectful silence. “Bring me tea old woman” he said first, as he looked at the anxious faces around him. With a frown the old woman handed him Tea, “Who are our fastest two runners in the village?” he asked. Two hands went up with the others only nodding their heads. “First I want you two to run as fast as you can to the south-east and warn as many villages as you can of the coming danger. Stop at the Chiang tribe also to make sure their men made it to give them warning.” “But Elder” one of two spoke out, “we will be needed here to fight and defend our own village, our wives and children!” The old man put a finger up to quiet his outburst, and said “No, for there will be no danger, we will be leaving here as you do. I have gone on vision quest for the best and safest answer for our people, and my quest was answered.” He continued, “Our people will begin a long and hard journey, we are going up to the north-east, to the very edge of the great ice, and we will be travelling ever further east until the danger to our people is forever behind us.” “You two, being the fastest and best of the best, can catch up to us when you can now that you know our route.” Another young man spoke out, “But Elder, would it not be better for us to stay and fight off these invaders, hold to our lands, to our way of life and the gifts the Great Mystery gave us here?” The old man answered calmly, “We are not, and have never been a war like people. We have always lived in peace with all of those around us, in serenity, ever walking with respect and love for all life.” “War is not of our nature, and we would not be good at it, the price too high, and the losses too great.” Another of the young men jumped up, and stomping around, waving his arms he exclaimed “I have killed the mighty Cave Bear with knife and spear! I fear no man or men!” The old man just looked at him until he had settled back down with the group. He then said “If we do not do this thing then all the tribe will die. Death, all the men, all the women, all the children, all death, a true end for our people. I have been on vision quest and have foreseen it.” The statement quieted the group for they all held a great respect for the Elder and what he had shown many times he could do.

They were now all shaking their heads in agreement. The old man said “So then, runners get what you need and go. You know where to look for us when your task is ended. The rest of you, gather all you can safely and easily carry on a long journey remembering while you do that we will be travelling right up against the edge of the great ice, so be prepared for the nightmare cold and no or few fires.” “Go, Prepare!” he finished. As they ran out across the village the old woman approached him with another bowl of soup. Taking it, this time gratefully, he carefully thanked her and took a sip. “So, how is it you are going to make this mighty journey of yours old man?” She asked. Smiling gently into his bowl, he looked up at her and said “You and I are too mean and hateful not to make it old woman, just too mean and hateful!” She made a ‘humping’ noise and moved off to do her own packing. Finishing the soup, he got himself up and went back into his tent and began to decide what he should take and what to leave. His eye fell upon the written record of his people, a record lovingly and carefully carried down and added to for thousands upon thousands of moons. He could not give them up, but how then could he ask what he asked of his people and refuse the same kind of sacrifice for himself. All the knowledge that had been gained by all the Elders and Shaman before him, the whole of the history of his people, all recorded carefully in detail on the delicate rice paper. A great sadness came over him, but he knew the truth of it. The past was now to be gone, and a new future lay stretched out before them all. He called for the old woman. When she stuck her head in his tent he said “Bring me a bit of fire.” She startled, knowing the urgency of preparations, but went quickly to comply. The old woman was back quickly and squatting down over the fire-stones, placed some fresh wood within the ashes, applying a burning branch from the fire outside, she quickly had a small fire going. Task done she stood up and moved back to the door, but didn’t leave. The old man, dragging the large bundle of paper with him, moved over to the fire. One by one, he began cutting the bindings of the bundles and then carefully placed a sheet of the fragile paper into the fire. The old woman stepped forward saying “Elder!” “It must be done.” He answered, “Hard as it is.” She stood there in silence as one by one he fed sheets into the growing fire. There was someone outside asking for entry. The old woman threw herself through the doorway and faced the young men that were there. They were all startled as her face was wet with tears, scaring them even more than they already were because they had never even dreamed this hard old woman to have tears within her. “What!” she said. One young man had the courage to answer “We need to take down the Elders tent Great One.” Taken a bit back by being called ‘Great One’ she hesitated for a moment and while she did the old man’s voice came from inside the tent saying “Never mind with my tent, it is too big to bother with. Please try to find me an extra small one.” The young men nervously moved off to comply. The old woman went back into the tent and was startled herself to find the old man’s face covered in tears as well. She avoided looking at him or what he was still doing, and moved around the tent rolling up blankets and clothes, preparing the old man’s important things for the journey. His voice took her out of her task for a second as he said “Don’t let them calling you ‘Great One’ go to your head. They call me that kind of foolishness all the time, and we both know the fallacy of that! Besides, neither one of us need to grow bigger egos.”

The old woman soon left the tent with an arm load of the old man’s’ things, leaving him to the task he had to complete. As he placed the last sheet on the fire, he stood once more and took a quick look around the tent for what it is he needed to take. There was almost nothing there, “foolish old woman,” he muttered under his breath, “How does she expect me to carry all that?” He ducked his head and went back outside. The village was alive with activity, the people hurrying to prepare as he had said. The old woman appeared in front of him with his best boots, and mammoth hide leggings held out in front of her. Holding the leggings out she said “Step in old man, don’t embarrass yourself by making me dress you.” He carefully raised one leg into the leggings, and the other. He sat down on a stump and reached up for his boots, but the old woman knelt down, pushed one on, and began lacing it up. While he sat there he spied a huge bundle of his things tied in a large pack, and a smaller one. “How do you expect me to carry such a load old woman?” He asked. “Shut up old man” was his only answer. Her task finished, he stood and she was back in front of him holding open his best mammoth hide coat. He quickly slipped his arms in and sighed as she tied it snugly shut around him. He knew he would soon be wrapped in warmth against this cold morning. She brought the smaller pack and strapped it high upon his shoulders making sure it was secure so as not to chaff. “What are going to do with that big pack old woman he asked?” “Shut up old man” was her quick snap. He stood there watching as his people got ready.

Soon they were all gathered around him, with a few of the children crying, the adults quietly awaiting his words. He took a deep breath and said “Who here are our best two hunters?” The men were looking at each other, and tentatively two young men raised their hands as the others began to point at them. “Two fine looking young men” the old man said, “Go now to the north-east and break trail for the rest of us. Try as you can to keep to the valleys rather than having us climb over the higher mountains. Try to take any game you may come upon for the tribe. When you find a good place to camp for the tribe, wait for us there.” “Who are the next two best hunters?” he asked. Many of the men raised their hands. He pointed at two and told them “Go out just a few walks ahead of the people to be guard, and be wary.” As the men ran off he turned back to his people. “I want you all to listen, and hear me well,” he said, “We start now on a great journey, one fraught with dangers no doubt, but also with wonders you have never imagined. We shall see things and lands of which none have ever dreamed. Be inspired my people, for this is a great thing you are about to do, and with the strength given us by the Great Mystery we shall all live to finish this our greatest adventure. Stories will be told of this for thousands and thousands of generations to come. I have foreseen it.” He turned to look for his walking staff and the old woman with that huge pack strapped to her back placed it in his hand. Thinking to himself, “foolish old woman,” and looking at his people once more, he stepped out at a slow pace following the hunters allowing the people to follow. They were soon on the path the hunters were leaving, and in a short time the village was far behind them.

They came upon the hunters and where they had prepared a camp for the people. They had gathered wood for fires, as it was still plentiful, stomped down much of the deeper drifts, clearing the way for they people to set up their tents for the evening. As the men began to set up the tents, the women were digging down through the snow cover looking for grasses and whatever they might find to be et able. The old man turned to get his tent from the old woman only to find she was already attempting to set it up. Four of the young men from the tribe came running up and took her task from her, setting up both his and hers. She had looked as though she would scold when they first came up, but instead turned to making a fire and preparing something to eat. The old man sat down on the great pack resting his staff across his weary legs. He must have gone into a vision as he meditated his pain to subside, for the next thing he was aware of was the old woman leaning down in front of him and offering food. She handed him a small bowl of rice with greens mixed in it, and some dried deer. “Are you al right old man?” she asked looking concerned. “Yes” he answered, “I was lost in the vision of this journey again, a long and difficult one for our people, but with a wondrous gift of a new world awaiting those who can finish walking the path.”  “You will lead us old man, you will lead us.” She answered. Finishing, he took up snow and carefully cleaned the small bowl, handing it back to the old woman. He eased back and scanned his people across this little icy valley. Very few of the children were in sight, most likely already snugly tucked away in their tents, wrapped in the warmest of mammoth or cave bear hides. There was a good feeling to the view, a feeling that no matter what they would succeed and reach the vision end. Quietly, he began to sing. He sang a thank you to the Great Mystery for the blessings it had given and was giving to himself, and his people. He sang of his thankfulness for the strength he knew it would yet give. As he sang, he suddenly realized that the people had moved up next to him to better hear his poor songs.

He saw the need in them and so began to sing of his vision. He sang of the new animals he had seen, the one with its tusks on its nose rather than hanging from its mouth. Of the great white bear, smaller than the great cave bear, but ever ready to meet an ill prepared hunter. He sang of animals that had given up their arms and legs for a life in the seas, only coming out to rest and sleep. He sang of days and days of treacherous passage over broken ice and difficult climbs over impossibly high mountains. He sang of coming down out of the months and months on the great ice and finding the wonders of a new land stretching out before them. Of more new animals, without fear of man, almost standing there for you to come up and take them. A land that in the summer months there was no snow, and for part of the year the great sun never sat, remaining in the sky throughout the nights. And for those that choose to keep travelling, even more wonders. Lion like those of the rift valleys and the great snow cats of the far north, but much bigger with much smaller teeth. The vision began to swim within him as he sang, drifting ever further down through the coming generations. Wolves, a cousin to our mountain snow wolves, but each of them the size of a man full grown. So many things, so many new lands to explore and learn of, and all of this lay in the future of our people. For those of us that continue to travel to the south and east after crossing the great ice, we find even more. There are grasslands liken to only blowing seas, stretching out for many moons journey. Mountains that truly touch beyond the top of the world, with their tops ever untouched by the foot of man. And upon those great seas of grass another wondrous animal. Much like the oxen of the far southern lands here, but taller at the shoulder than twice the height of any man you have ever seen. Great herds of these beasts rolling across the grasslands as do the waves across the seas. All a gift from the Great Mystery for the needs of our people. He sang a song of thanks again, and the people joined in with him, ending the story as he allowed the vision to slip. He stood and said “You need rest my people, the journey has only started.”

Early the next morning the old man came crawling of out of the little tent into a world of new fallen snow. Wrapping his mammoth hide blanket tighter around himself as the cold air froze upon his cheeks even as he breathed out looking up at a cold sun. He surveyed his people and most seemed to be tending to breakfast or already readying for the days travel. He found his way over to the large pack and sat. “About time you got up old man” came the old woman’s voice, “I had thought you were going to sleep all day.” All of this as she brought him steaming tea and dried deer. She stirred the fire up a bit and turned going back to their packing. He carefully sipped the hot tea as he looked up the trail they would be taking, in a way building the strength within him for the days trek. And so it was, at just after dawn, they were on the move again, making slower progress than the day before because of the new snow, but progress none-the-less. Thus the days went, sometimes camping without fire, sometimes with, day after long day. At around mid-day on the 19th day of travel they came upon the guard hunters deep in the process of taking the hide off a mammoth they had killed. The old man couldn’t have been happier and went to each of them to thank them for their service to the tribe. Seeing an abundance of wood around the valley he quickly announced “We will camp here tonight, and maybe tomorrow too.”  He knew his people needed rest and the fresh food would do much to replenish their strength. The men fell upon the mammoth helping the hunters and the women and older children spread out gathering all of the wood they could find. Some began digging in the snow to find grasses and what-not to truly add to the coming feast. There was an overwhelming mood of happiness in the valley. He turned to the large pack to sat and was startled to find that the old woman already had a good fire going next to it and was making tea. He hobbled over and sat, thinking to himself “I guess I should have married her all those years ago, would have maybe, at least if she hadn’t been so ugly and mean.” The thought made him chuckle out loud and on hearing him the old woman stood up and turn around glaring “What do you think you are laughing at old man?” She had a good sized piece of wood in her hand and a menacing look in her eyes, but still chuckling he answered “I was just thinking about how good that fresh mammoth is going to taste old woman, how good” She made a “humping” sound and turned back to her tea making.

As he sat there and she brought him tea his mind drifted back over the thirty summers or so it had been since she had come and began taking care of him. She had been married to the meanest and biggest man in the village, a man with the temper of a cave bear and ferocity of a snow lion. He was always beating her for some imagined offence or lack, and one day she simply moved her things up next to the Elders tent. The Elder had been inside his tent sleeping when she did this and didn’t know until the next morning when he got up and found breakfast awaiting him. As he sat and ate she had gone into his tent and cleaned it as it had never been cleaned before. She had then came out with his clothes and sat on the ground using the old stump to begin rubbing and cleaning them. He remembered the sound of her husband’s scream of rage from clear across the village as he discovered what she had done. The old man remembered standing and gathering his staff as the man came charging across the village, but he never got there. The men of the village, seeing what was happening, and what the woman must have finally done, gathered together and stopped the man in his rage. Even he, great though he was, could not stand against the whole of the village men. They never did tell the Elder what was said to the man, but within the hour he was packed and on a trail to somewhere else. He remembered an increased feeling of peace in the village after that time. The Elder had made arrangements for a tent for the woman and she had been serving him ever since. The scent of cooking mammoth startled him, and he looked back her way only to find that she already had long strips cooking on the fire and even a drying rack hanging over it full of meat. The scent was truly amazing, and whatever herbs she was using were making his mouth water. They stayed in that pretty little valley for two full days, and on the morning of the third the two runners that had been sent to carry the word to the south caught up with them. The old man postponed their departure until the men could be fed and tell him of their news.

They told him that the first village they came to was already empty, with the tracks leading to the south-west. The next village was the Chiang, and it too had been empty, but with the tracks heading due east. “Elder” said one of the men, “All of the other villages seem to be readying themselves for war. I now fear I have failed them honoured one, as some of the villages we came to had already been attacked and all the people were dead in them. I tried to tell them Elder, I tried so hard.” “Rest your mind my son, you have done much for these people, but you can do no more than you have done.” Said the old man, continuing “Sit, rest, and have some so of this fresh mammoth to eat.” He turned to the old woman to tell her to bring food only to find her there handing it to the young men. Being that it was past noon now he announced that they all would be staying one more night. The announcement brought elation from the people. As he finished saying that the two men he had sent ahead to break trail strode into the camp. Coming up to the Elder the one young man said “It is good to see you well Elder, we have travelled far and the trail is clear. One day’s journey from here, just a little off the easiest trail is the village of the Meng (great mammoth hunters) and as we were travelling through the outside of their territory some of their men approach us. They shared food with us and told us that their Elder had had a vision and sent them to look for someone like us, to ask our Elder if he could lead his people to share the welcome from their people, and talk to their Elder.” The old man thought on these words. It had been a part of his vision that many other tribes would be joining in this voyage, perhaps this was to be the first. “Go, be with your families for a while, we are staying the night here. You have done well.” The old man said, turning to tell the old woman to share meat with them to find her already doing it again. As the men moved off he said to her “You do a fine service for the people old woman” She made a “Humping” sound and went back to drying the meat.

Early the next morning they were on the move again with the two young hunters leading the way. Just before sunset they topped a small ridge and there below them they got their first view of the large village of the Meng people. There were many barking dogs running everywhere. They were met with in a very friendly manner, warmly and with care, like the meeting of relatives after a long absence. Everything made it seem that they had been expected. Their people were already helping the old man’s people set up their tents, and offering them food and room by their fires. As he walked into the village he was met by an old man that he assumed was their Elder, walking toward him with a staff. “Greetings honored one,” the man said, “I offer you and your woman the comfort of my lodge and pray you will eat with me for I have many things I would discuss with you.”“I thank you for your most generous offer, and of course I will welcome your invitation.” the old man replied. The Elder led the way as the old man walked alongside him, still looking over his people to make sure they also were being taken care of. Led to a low wooden structure, the Elder held a hanging mammoth hide to the side opening a hole in the structure, and waved the old man in with the old woman following closely behind. As he entered the structure the old man was a bit taken back. There was a uniquely built fireplace made out of many stones covering one wall, wood beneath his feet as well as all around him, even above. It was warmer than he could have ever imagined, even if it had been the dead of high summer. There were things to sit on, and what looked like things to lie down on. The old woman was quickly in front of him, helping him remove his heavy clothing. When he tried to resist she snapped “Settle Elder, you will be ill in all this heat.” The Meng Elder smiled at the old man saying, “A strong woman.”The old man just chuckled and smiled back. As the old woman finished with him, the Meng   Elder bade him to sit down beside him where he sat on stacked rugs near a large flat piece of beautiful wood. Sitting, the old man said “So, tell me of your vision Elder.”

I would tell you first of the differences in our tribes Elder, for in talking to your two brave young men on their first visit, I came to know of your peoples long peaceful way of life,” he continued, “We have always had an enemy that comes down from the north taking our peace from us. These people are called by us the ‘Di’, a bloody and brutal men, riding into our villages on the backs of animals, killing my people, and taking our woman and children. Because of this, I have had to teach my people the ways of war instead of the ways of peace. I try to teach them in such a way as to have them know of the difference between defending your people, and one of allowing yourself to be wrapped in a dark life far from the path of the way. I say to them that I would have them listen to me carefully and hold to my words. A warrior is not a soldier, not something of glory or pride. A soldier is one who trained to fight and follow orders much as the ‘Di’ people seem to be. A warrior is trained to think for himself and fight only as a last resort, and with reluctance. A warrior is the first to begin and the last to quit. Valuing life, he laughs the hardest and loves the best, putting the whole of himself into making things better for his people. I say to them stand your ground in all things and only give ground out of kindness. A warrior is not a follower, nor is he a leader except at great need; he is one that learns from the animals, the hills, and the rivers, knowing that the Tao resides in all. I beg them to respect all things of the earth as if they were his own heart, to know with all of his being that all men and all spirits are equals. I teach that a warrior never begs or pleads, nor does he give in to hopelessness and despair. Whether the warrior is successful or tries valiantly only to have failed, he thanks the Tao for the opportunity and the lessons, for he knows he has learned. A warrior cares for the weakest and least of his people, humbling himself in their service. He seeks wisdom in all things and learns from even the dullest, for everything can be his teacher. A warrior leaves judgement of his brothers and sisters to the Tao, knowing the Tao does not judge, but does not tolerate disrespectful behaviour in his presence.” The Meng Elder pauses, “This is a part of what I try to teach them, though I would rather be teaching them the ways of peace as I know you do for your people.”

The old man had a tear in his eye seeing the pain in his new friend’s eyes as he said, “Please, continue with your vision Elder.” “So as you now know, we are a people, though reluctantly, good at war. But even though we have endured these attacks for centuries un-counted, we continue to grow and prosper. And now, a new threat, a threat that if it matches my vision will mean the end for all of my people. I have foreseen this Elder; I have seen the error of trying to fight off this new enemy, and the total defeat that will result if we try. Your brave young men shared with me their knowledge that within your own vision you had seen an answer for your people, one that though difficult, paints the way to a bright new future instead of an end. After speaking to them, and asking them to invite you and your people here, I reached within on another vision quest, and found a new answer, for Elder, I saw my people and yours joined as one on this great journey you lead. I saw a glimpse of the new lands we shall reach together, and the wonders we shall know together. I would ask you Elder, will your people allow us to join with them, becoming a part of this great journey?” The old man embracing the Elder said “Of course my new friend, be at ease, of course your people can join us. I have foreseen many, many tribes joining with us before the end of our travels; yours will be but the first.” The Meng Elder gave a great sigh of relief, and turning to the women next to the great fire said “Bring us food, and one of you go and bring all the leaders from all of the villages.” The young women began to pile great steaming steaks of mammoth in front of the two Elders along with what looked to be fresh greens and even fruits of some kind. The old man briefly wondered how they had gotten fresh fruit in the dead of winter, but pulled out his stone knife to cut into his steak. The Meng Elder laid his hand upon the old man’s and said “Wait my friend, I have a gift.” Motioning to one of the women, he called for a knife. The woman handed him something shining in the light of the torches, and he handed it to the old man. The old man hefted this heavy thing of beauty, admiring the keen edge of the thing, knowing it for a tool far beyond any he had seen before. “What is this wondrous gift Elder? Where does such a thing come from?” the old man asked with a glow in his eyes. The Meng Elder answered “It is from a special strange dirt we find in the ground at certain places. When heated is a very hot fire it changes to a red glowing, flowing liquid that lends itself to being poured into forms. After it cools, we need only sharpen it and attach the handle. We have many other uses for this dirt as well.” “I fear I cannot accept such a fine and valuable gift Elder.” Attempting to hand back the knife, but the Meng Elder pushed it back saying “I have given instructions that all the men and women in your tribe be given such, and all of the men be given the spear points we make of the same material.” “Then you have my truest thanks Elder; on behalf of myself and my people. There is much honour in your gift.” replied the old man.

There came a call from outside the lodge. The Meng Elder called back begging them to enter. About 18 men squeezed into the lodge, some with a bit of grey in their hair, all with a look of dignity and worry on their faces. They arranged themselves in a semicircle around their Elder, and after bowing their heads in respect awaited his words. He said “Hear my words and hear them well, After this the Great Elder of our newest friends shared his wisdom with me, I have decided at long last what it is we must do for our tribes to survive the coming threat. I want each of you to send runners to your villages and for them to tell your people to pack quickly everything they can safely carry for a long and dangerous journey. They must do this quickly and then meet here so we can all depart while the threat is still a safe distance away. Go now, and do this thing.” He finished. The men all bowed their heads once more and exited the lodge. The old man was surprised. He said “They are obedient Elder; I had to explain my whole vision to my people before they were ready to take my word.” The response was, “I had already shared my own vision with them, and they knew what to expect was coming” was the Elders answer. He continued “Many already have their entire villages camped right outside of this one..” Don’t worry yourself Honourable One, this will happen very quickly.” The Meng Elder indicated what the old man thought were a pile of hides and said “Here my friend, rest yourself and prepare for the next steps in your journey. The old man sat on the hides and as he lay down realized there was something different. He sat back up and pulling the hides aside saw beneath them a structure of thin wood and ropes. Dropping the hides, he lay down again, and was soon in restful slumber. When he awoke in the morning it was to find his host was already up and setting before the flat slab of wood again, the smells of breakfast filled the lodge. The old man got up and took a seat next to his host. The Meng Elder asked “Did you rest well my friend?” The old man answered indicating the place where he had rested “What is it you call that structure we rested on?” The Elder answered “We call that a bed my Honoured friend.” “And this?” the old man asked indicating the flat slab of wood the women were putting food on. The elder answered “This we call a table.” “You have many wonderful things my friend, many wonderful things.” said the old man. The Elder answered back, “They are but things Honourable One, just things.”

Early on the morning of the 2nd day the two Elders exited the lodge into the bright morning sun. The view of the large valley startled the old man, for everywhere he looked there were whole families of people. He moved over to the old woman and said “Well, what think you of this old woman?” waving his hand to indicate the valley. She started in surprise at his question, for in her memory he had never asked her such a question before. She answered “Well old man, I believe you allowing these people to join us to be one of the best and wisest things you have ever done for the people. These are a truly good people, giving and capable, an asset to ours, and they make the possible success of our journey much more likely.” He said with a smile “Goodness old woman, I fear to think that a little of my wisdom has managed to worm its way into that thick head of yours.” She made a “humping” sound and moved off to continue preparations. As she moved off one of his young hunters came up to him, bowing his head as he stood before him. Now where did he learn that thought the old man but said “Yes my son?” The young man hesitated and said “Elder, I am worried about adding all these people to our journey, I mean they are a fine people, as fine as we could ever know. They have treated my family and myself as though we were their very own, going out of their way to ensure our comfort with care, love, and openness, but Elder, how are we to feed and care for such a number as we travel on?” The old man noticed the shining new point on the young man’s spear, and the gleaming knife in his belt. Taking his own gift out of his belt, he held it gently and flat in his two hands as he said “My son, I think perhaps that we shall find these people much more an asset than a burden. As I told you all in the beginning, I have foreseen many tribes joining us in our journey, this is but the first.” The old man saw understanding bloom upon the young man’s face, and a peace settle into his soul bring him comfort. The young man said “Thank you Elder, I know now that all will be well.” Bowing his head again, he moved off to ready himself for the day. The old man wasn’t sure he could get used to the ‘bowing’ thing. He looked to the north-east of the valley and saw his four advanced hunters with a group of maybe 18 of the Meng. They all began to move off and soon all the rest of the combined tribe were following. The old man was very pleased to see that his people and the Meng were walking together in a fairly mixed fashion, knowing this to be the first sign of a true bonding for the greater good of both. The Meng Elder joined him with his own staff and together they join the trek of their people. And thus they travelled much the same for the next 38 days, though, almost magically, at each camp-site their appeared a freshly killed mammoth or an abundance of other game. Things were truly going well.

At about mid-day on the 39th day of the combined tribes travel they came upon a tribe of about 38 families waiting just over a small rise. There were two old men that came up to the Elders begging to talk. The old man bade them speak. One of them began “Elders, your advanced hunters stopped and talked of the dangers you are fleeing from, and of the visions you both share of a whole world of better lands and existence for your peoples. We discussed this among ourselves and decided to ready ourselves and come to meet with you to see if you would allow us to join with you on this great journey.” The other one spoke in “Please Elders, for the sake of our people and their futures, please allow us to join with you.” The old man glanced at the Meng Elder, and then embracing the two asked “and what is the name of your people?” “We are called the Jasu (Peace Lovers) Elder.” “Then by all means tell your people to fall in with ours, and join with us on this difficult trek. We must continue on this day until dark and the camp-site our forward men will have prepared.” He watched as they went back to their people and the mass of people around him started to move again thinking “and still it grows.” The 皮斯愛好者 proved their worth at the first camp-site that night introducing everyone to an abundance of new herbs they had brought with them, herbs that added such taste that the old man was embarrassed at the amount he ate. As evening closed into night he squatted in front of his tent, smoking his pipe, and listening to the stories the other three Elders were sharing. A true feeling of peace and tranquillity filled him as he listened. They shared the histories of their peoples with the Meng   Elder sharing horrific stories of the ‘Di’ and their raids. They shared stories of how their tribes came to be where they had been, wondering into new parts of the country from evil emperors or places of dark power. Ever there seemed the same theme, a search for peaceful existence. The old man himself offered stories of the Great mystery and of how if its wisdom was followed it could bring much peace and wisdom into the lives of the people living it. After a bit of discussion it was decided that what he referred to as the Great Mystery was what the three referred to as the Tao. A truly peaceful evening, likened to a chance meeting of lifetime friends after a long absence.

Four days later that changed. Around ten or so in the morning there were cries of panic from all the women as they began running around gathering up children. The Meng men all dropped their packs and then spears in hand went running up towards the nearby mountain slope to the Northwest. The Meng Elder touched his arm and pointed up the slope at the dark form running down off of it. “The ‘Di’ come!” he said in a hoarse almost whisper. Looking, the old man saw men riding on the backs of short legged animals, with long spears in their hands, moving very fast down the mountain side. The Meng men, as well as some of his own, broke into two sections, one closer to the bottom, and one further up, and then spread out into a line guarding the base. As the ‘Di’ hit the fist line many of them were taken off of their animals by a careful dodging and thrusting manoeuvre of the warriors on the ground. The few that made it through the first line collided into the second meeting with almost total disaster. Overall, out of the two-hundred or so that had attacked, at best perhaps eight of the ‘Di’ managed to escape with their lives. It was almost over before it started. The women quickly calmed and calmed the children. Some began setting up places to treat the wounded, while the men on the hill site helped them down. About twenty or so headed up over the top of the mountain to ensure all was clear. Again the Meng showed their worth, being the best of the healers, having the perfect herbs to stop blood flow and pain, stitching up wounds in a careful but quick manner, all the while talking in a joyful manner to make their injured comrades feel better about themselves. The old man could feel the Meng Elder shaking next to him. He quickly turned and taking the man’s arm, guided him to the ground. The Elder said “I am sorry Honourable One; I had thought we had journeyed far enough that the ‘Di’ would no longer be a problem.” “Now I fear that we have brought this added danger on your people by leading our enemy right to you.” head bowed he finished. The old man squatted down beside him saying “And how would my people have fared against such as them, without any experience or training? Our two peoples being together is what keeps mine alive now.” “Let your mind be at rest my friend, for we are all one great family now, and we stand together no matter what bad or good our journey has to offer.” The old man stated as he hugged the Elder. A man came running up to report. He said “Elder, two-hundred and thirty-eight of the ‘Di’ lay dead on the mountain. Our men still follow the few that got away to ensure that no others are yet to attack.” “And what of our losses?” asked the Elder. The man responded “We have lost four Elder.” The Elder just shook his head in pain at the news. Under his breath he said “Four young men, four families without a father or husband, a hard day, a hard day.” The young man asked “What is it you want us to do Elder, do we prepare to move on now?” The old man answered him back “No, we shall rest and allow the wounded to be fully treated here for the night. We will move on in the morning.” The young man bowed his head and moved off to tell the others.

His young hunters as well as those of the Meng were soon dragging the short legged animals down off the mountain side and spreading them out across the little valley. They would provide food for the people that night. Later in the evening, sitting at the fire, the old man began to talk to the people. He said “All of us have looked up into the night sky and realized beauty as beauty, but I would have you all know there is wickedness already, even as we all realize goodness as goodness, creating it where no goodness exists already. Hence existence and nothing give birth to each other, just as difficult and easy become one another. The long and short must form one another, like the high and low incline to each other. I hear the sound by the tones blending together. Front and back follow each other. Considering this, the wise person manages without doing anything, carrying out the indescribable teaching. They give birth to wisdom that they do not have, to the knowledge they are yet to gain, knowing that the Tao will give what is needed, they do but do not depend upon the wisdom, nor do they seek to achieve success, not even to dwell in it. The simple man alone does not dwell in it and because of this he never leaves it.” As the old man spoke the people began to move up nearer to hear the better. He continued “Through the Great Mystery or what your people call the Tao, we learn how to value worthy people, those leading other people to avoid contention. We try to teach them how not to value rare goods, of how this kind of value leads people to steeling and greed. How to put out of your mind whatever fine thing may take your notice or what suits desires all leading people’s hearts to avoid confusion. The way of the Great Mystery flushes and employs the virtue of ‘less’, ever deep like the ancestor of everything. The Great Mystery subdues that sharpness, separates that confusion. It is but to soften that brightness, and to be the same as that dust of creation. Deep and clear, to us it appears to exist. We can never know of whose child it is, for it resembles the ancestor of a Supreme Being. In walking the path of the Great Mystery we encounter the spirit of the valley that never dies. This is what I refer to as the profound female, and the entrance of the profound female; this is the origin of our Universe. Continuous, in the way like it exists, in usefulness, if not diligent. Everlasting, the Universe and Earth can long endure. Because they do not give themselves life, therefore they can long continue to exist. The wise person places his life last, yet life comes first. He is outside his life, yet life lives from within. Non-conforming as well as without personal evil! Hence he is able to succeed personally.” He continues, “I would have you all know my people that the highest of good is like water, benefiting to all things, contending with none. It dwells in the hidden places the multitudes loath, therefore it is somewhat like the way of the Great Mystery. In being, good is the Earth. In intention, good is depth and benevolence. In speech, good is truth. In honesty, good is found in order. In work, good is in ability and diligence. In action, we find good is present, if he alone does not contend, therefore there is no blame in failure. Holding a plentiful surplus when others are in need is not in harmony with oneself or the Great Mystery. Continuing to carry a fighting spirit with anger and pride cannot be long maintained, doing more harm to the fighter than the enemy. Treasures may fill a large tent to the point that none would be able to keep or admire. Wealth and pride, one’s gift to one’s pride becomes but a downfall with no one else to blame. Meritorious deeds that satisfy one recede, hiding below ego and greed, hidden even from one’s self. This is the way of nature and the way of the Great Mystery. In the times of my youth, the adept student was minutely subtle, open and deep beyond knowledge. He alone could not be known; therefore his strength lay in allowing the knowledge to enter. He prepared as if to be fording a river in winter; as if like in fear of vengeful neighbours. In a solemn manner that seems to allow, finally vanquishing his fear like ice slowly melting away. Honesty that is simple yet broad as the widest of valley. A blending that is like muddy churning waters, yet tranquil liken the calmest lake at rest. A never-ending cycle, circular, without beginning or end, complete and satisfied in its existence. Know you all that this journey goes well, and I have foreseen that the brightest of new futures coming for those of us that see the journey to its end.” The Meng Elder sitting next to the old man patted him on the back gently saying “You are truly wise honourable one, truly wise.” To the crowd of listeners he said “go now, rest, for we will be continuing our trek early in the morning.” The people drifted off to their tents.

As they were preparing to leave the next morning a group of perhaps eighty people came down across the valley from the east. The sudden appearance of the group made the people uneasy and restless, but when they thought on the words of the old man the night before, they calmed and awaited the arrival of this new group. What appeared to be the Elder for their tribe came walking up to the group of Elders standing next to the old man. Bowing deeply he said “Greetings, I hope this fine morning finds you well honourable ones.” The old man nodded his head to this new Elder and said “I would offer you breakfast and the comfort of my blanket but we are soon to be on the trail Elder.” The new Elder replied “I would thank you great one, but we have travelled through the night in the hopes that you would allow our people to join with yours on this wondrous quest you travel.” The old man hesitated but a second, scanning the new group and said with a smile, “Then we welcome you and your families to our family.” “We are called the Cold Ghost (Ice Chipper) people and I thank you with my open heart for allowing us this honour.” answered the newest Elder. As they all began to move off the old woman came up beside the old man and said “You have many more friends than I knew of old man, many.” And after another ninety-four days, mostly with cold camps as there was almost no wood any longer, they at long last came to the great ice. Unanticipated until they crested a tall hill and it came into view, it was a staggering and truly awe inspiring site, the ice towered above them like the highest mountain any had ever seen. The Elders all paused around the old man, and one of them said “How is it great one that the people will be able to overcome such an obstacle as this?” The old man started to answer but as he did the Meng Elder stated quietly “Because he has foreseen it, as have I.” The other Elders seemed content and calmed by that answer, some bowing and even smiling a bit as they looked back upon the ice. The old man too stood looking up at the intimidating sight almost shocked at seeing his vision become reality. A few of the young hunters that had been breaking trail in front of the tribe came running up, and bowing their heads, stood calmly wanting to talk. “Speak my sons” said the old man. “Elder. We need to know now what it is you want us to do. We can no longer break trail to the north-east as the great ice blocks our path.”

The young man finished. “Go and gather eighteen or twenty other young men and return to me” replied the old man. They both bowed their heads and ran off down the slope. Soon they were back with a small crowd of young men. The old man said to them “I want you all to take as much of the dried meat as you can carry and take with you your warmest of clothes and blankets and set off following the edge of the ice looking for anywhere the tribe may be able to climb. When you come upon a place you think climbable, leave four at the base as the rest attempt the climb. Those climbing need to support each other closely, taking the greatest of care. If you reach the top of the ice you can signal to the four left below by using the light of the sun shining off your knives. Go now, but go carefully. We will follow.” As a group they all bowed their heads and moved back down the slope to prepare to leave. And thus the journey continued for another forty-two days. On that afternoon of the forty-second day there came charging into the tribe a very large beast. It was slightly larger than a mammoth, with two horns standing upright upon its nose, the front one curving back to a menacing point and much larger than the back. Its hair was much as a mammoth’s but longer and thicker. It was about three and a half times higher at the back than the tallest of the men. The men quickly formed a circle around it and began dancing in and out thrusting with their spears. Two were hit and thrown wide as the great beast spun and fought their attack. Finally, the battle ended as the beast fell. The old man could feel the whole of the tribe sigh with relief as the surprising crisis ended.

The old man had again been quite startled to see his vision come to life before him. The Meng Elder said “I must go down and explain to them how this too is a part of your vision.” He indicated to the other Elders to follow as he walked toward the now dead beast. The old woman walked up next to the old man and said “I would have you know old man; some of your vision scares me. Perhaps you should try to dream less.” He chuckled at her and she made a ‘humping’ noise as she moved off to help in the butchering of the animal. The old man thought to himself “If you only knew old woman, if you could only truly see.” The tribe fell upon the animal removing the hide and cutting the meat. Many were eating the raw meat hungrily as they worked for the warmth it had in it. Soon it was a large pile of bones laying in a red smear of bloody snow. Off to the side a group of women were busy scraping at the huge hide. The old man walked over to them and squatting down examined the hair of the animal. A good ten or twelve inches deep, and so thick it was all he could do to get his cold fingers through it. This animal was truly made for this country he thought, a fine specimen of the Great Mystery. As he squatted there a smiling young man came up beside him saying “Elder, with respect, are there any other beasts such as this we are yet to see?” The old man looked up at him and with a bit of a smile said “Yes, but not many of these small ones, most are bigger than this.” The smile left the young man’s face as he nodded taking on a more serious mood, and looking towards the east and the trail they would be following said quietly “Then we will be ready, always ready Elder.”

As they moved out the next morning the old man noticed that the men had taken a new initiative on their own, they had sent out a much larger forward group of men to break trail and the also had men over the ridge to the right of the main tribe for security and watch. The old man liked that they had begun to decide for themselves and not rely only upon the words of the Elders. The other Elders noticed also with the Ming Elder saying “I think our children are growing up and learning to think for themselves at long last my friends.” That brought sighs and smiles from all of them and one said “Yes, the Tao shares its wisdom with them, and they finally begin to listen.” They continued travelling, sometimes having to detour far to the south to pass by mountain sized pieces of the great ice that had broken and fallen before them. The landscape was completely barren, with even the dirt scraped away to rock in most places by the path of the moving ice. Just as the old man began to worry that they would have to change direction to the south in search of some kind of game, another animal was found. And what a majesty this one was. Looking much like a mammoth but standing at least four times taller that the largest mammoth any had ever seen or heard of, tusks of such length that it would take at least ten men with arms out stretched to span one. It was standing in a small depression digging at the ground for what looked to be old tubers and roots. The tribe stopped well back as the men gathered to plan their hunt. The old man could not but admire their courage for facing this challenge in such a calm, reasonable, thoughtful, and reliable manner. He watched and waited. After talking for some time, the men dropped their packs and keeping low slowly started to surround the animal. Once the circle was complete and still keeping low, they began to slowly move in. As the animal began to notice the surrounding movement about three of the men at a time from all sides began to run in and thrust with their spears, with men also charging at the front of the beast to try to distract it from the others. In and out, in and out, as fast as they could run and retreat, the beast spinning around in circles in an attempt to somehow get back at its attackers. Soon the great beast had at least a hundred spears in it and a rage startling as it screamed its anger. And then, after a seemingly never ending span of time, it was over. A few more spear thrusts as the beast lay on its side and it was dead. The tribe roared as it surged forward to fall upon the great beast, thanking the hunters, and beginning the long task of butchering the great animal. One of the Elders sat down and began singing a song of thanks for the safety of the people and for the gifts the animal was about to bestow on the tribe. The old man moved down out of the harsher wind, unrolled his blanket, and sat, relieved that his people would be provided for. He heard the old woman rustling around behind him but he quite suddenly imagined he smelled the savoury smell of cooking meat. Turning he saw the old woman squatting over a bone fire, bone she had split and carried from the last animal killed. She saw him looking and asked “Are you hungry old man?” He smiled back and said “What no greens?” She made a ‘humping’ sound and went back to her cooking.

Nineteen days later they came upon eight of the men he had sent forward standing at the base of a huge crack running up the face of the ice. He walked up to the men asking “Do you need food, we have recent kill?” The men all nodded no and one of them walked up saying “Elder, it is good to see you well. We recently killed a great bear Elder, a bear so much bigger than the great cave bear that I feared we would not succeed. And Elder, there is game up on top of the great ice. Small deer that don’t even know enough to run when you move up to them, and great fat birds that not only don’t run or fly but come walking right up to you to see what you are.” The old man looked again up though the large crack to the tops of the ice. “So, there is a way here for us to climb” he stated. The man answered “Yes Elder, it is difficult, but we are sure the tribe can make the climb here. We have all made it for we had to escape some huge terrible beasts Elder. We have been cutting steps in the days we awaited your arrival to make the climb easier for the people.” The old man looked up again and saw another eight of the men he had sent forward climbing down the crack. “You have done well my sons, you have done well indeed. We shall camp here and begin the climb tomorrow” The other men of the tribe had moved up around and behind him as he had talked to the young man. He spoke to them all now “We will camp here tonight and begin our climb tomorrow. You need to set a careful guard as there are fearsome great beasts in this land. Rest as well as you can, but be always on guard.” The men moved off to organize the camp, and the eight men that had been ahead moved to reunite with their families. The other Elders all came up around him. One of them looking of at the mountain of ice before them said “A difficult thing lay in front of us most honourable one, can the people really overcome this challenge?” The old man looked at all of them and said “If not here, then some place further along, for hear this well, I have foreseen the end of this journey and it lies far to the east across this intimidating and mighty expanse of ice.” He knew in his heart his vision was true, and that the people would prosper from it, creating a bright and promising future for them all, and for generations as yet undreamed.

As the old man slid out of his tent early the next day it was to the view of his people already climbing the ice. 6 or 7 men were with each family of women and children helping them in their climb and over the difficult spots. The old man sat back and the old woman’s voice startled him as she brought him food saying “They get up early don’t they old man?” He thanked her for the food and continued watching the climbers. As he watched he saw the men from the camp running to the south with their spears but no packs. Looking south he saw the biggest lion he had ever seen, though not having the over-sized teeth of the next big cat in his memory, it was assuredly a danger to the tribe. Moving at a slow pace toward the rest of the tribe with its nose in the air the animal was obviously on the hunt for breakfast. The men reached it and began pretty much the way they had day with the last great animal they had dealt with. The big cat proved to be much more difficult a foe as being very fast there were two men down in the first instance. The rest of the men had moved in quickly enough to hopefully minimize the damage to their downed comrades. Four solid spear hits and the animal was down squirming on the ground. A few more careful strikes and it was dead. The men moved to check on the wounded as the women, in a tentative manner, moved to begin butchering the prize. The old man walked down to take a closer look at the beast. The mouth of the great lion could have easily enclosed his whole torso, and though small as compared to the rest of the big cat, each tooth was about the size of his hands, and there were many of them. He asked one of the men “How did you know it was coming?” The man answered pointing up the crack “Elder, after your warning yesterday, we stationed men partway up the great ice to watch for such, and signal us with flashes from their knives and the sun if danger came.” “You all have done well then.” said the old man. The man bowed his head. In all, it went well that day, with no accidents, and over a quarter of the people making it to the top of the ice. All the Elders agreed that the climb should be complete by the end of the forth day.

Nearing the end of the third day of the people climbing, as the old man sat crossed legged on a small rise watching the progress of his people, there came from the south a band of perhaps two-hundred and thirty families with what appeared to be two tribal elders leading them. The old man felt a swelling of pride as he saw the way his people that were not yet on the climb welcomed and made these newly arrived travellers feel truly a part of the tribe. The old man saw one of the men talking to the new elders and then pointing up to him. They were both soon walking up the small rise to what he sat. When they reached him, the old man indicated that they sit down next to him as he offered them greetings. He misunderstood their startled looks and said “I mean no disrespect Elders; it is just that you look as though you have travelled far and are weary. Please sit, I am sorry I have no fire to share, but we do have dried meat if you are hungry.” They bowed their heads in respect and the taller one said “Thank you Great Honourable One, we truly thank you.” He finished as they sat. The taller one again spoke “We have travelled far Great Honourable One to join our families with yours, for I have foreseen this for our peoples. I would ask of you Great Honourable One if you will allow my people to join with yours on this great journey.” A bit taken back by now having yet another long name applied to him, the old man said as he leaned over and embraced the two “Our people my new friends, our people, one and together.”

They sat there together for another two hours watching their people climb the rift in the ice. At one point the old woman brought them dried meat and a bit tea made of water she had melted over a bone fire from the drifting snow. After thanking her and eating the old man stood saying “Well my newest friends, I think we should join our people in their climb.” Both of the elders had risen as he did and nodded in agreement. So together walking down the rise they joined in the treacherous climb with the great throng of people before and behind them. Just before dark and together they reached the summit and stepped out of the rift onto the flat plain of ice stretching out before them. The old man was astounded to see setting well back from the edge a sea of tents and moving people. Even as the rest of the people awaited below to begin their climb in the morning the people at the top had established a well planned out camp-site allowing them to take care of their needs and those of their families. The two elders with him turned to him and bowed saying “Please excuse us Great Honourable One, we must go see to our people.” The old man started to say they are all your people but instead said “Go my friends, go.” As they moved out of hearing the old woman said “So old man, do we stand here freezing all night or are you going to allow me to set up out tents?” The old man smiled to himself and slowly stepped off to join the people with the old woman following. As he walked through the camp the old man was highly pleased to see how well the people were mixing one tribe to another, a great step in becoming a truly united unit and family. The old woman spoke “Pick a spot already old man, I tire of walking.” He smiled to himself again and seeing the closest open area indicated it with a wave of his hand. “About time” she said as she dropped her pack to begin to set up their things. “Are you getting lazy this late in life old woman?” he replied. She made a “Humping” noise and went about her work.

By late afternoon of the next day, the last of the people had made it up onto the top of the ice. The old man decided to spend one more night where they were to allow the last of the climbers rest. It was bone numbing cold up on the ice, and the wind drove across almost without stop with nothing to interrupt it but the flapping sides of his tent. The old man sat and tried to pull back the ruminates of his vision, to try to get as sense of the time they had yet to travel until they climbed down from the ice. He failed. He was startled awake by the sound of the old woman’s voice from outside his tent saying “Elder, it’s morning elder, the men await you” The old man gathered himself and slid out of his tent into the early bright morning sun and glaring ice. There were around twelve men awaiting him as he stood up. He said “A fine morning” and indicated to one of the men to speak. “Honourable one, we sent eighteen men ahead to break trial for the rest of the tribe. Was this the right thing to do Honourable One?” he finished. The old man smiled as he surveyed the surrounding camp. Most of the tents were down, with many of the people that were ready already helping their neighbours prepare for the days travels. “Of course you have done well my young sons, of course. I apologize for sleeping so long this morning. I will be ready in just a few moments” he answered as he turned around to pack his tent only to find it down and rolled by the old woman. He smiled again to himself. The old woman helped him on with his small pack and then handing him a piece of dried meat reached down and swung her much larger one up and onto her shoulders. She stepped off saying “Come on old man, you’ve kept them waiting long enough.” He smiled again as he followed along joining the long column of moving people as they in their turn followed the tracks and signs left by the advanced group. Soon as he walked all of the other elders had gathered around him.

The tall elder that had joined with his people two days before said “Most Honourable One, forgive me but I have a question.” “Ask it my friend, ask it” replied the old man. “Then Most Honourable One I would beg to ask, what is it you believe? What nature of beliefs do you follow?” the tall one asked. The old man thought for a moment and began “My friend I believe in what my people call the Great Mystery. It is a source that lives in all things, the people, the animals, the plants, the dirt, the rocks, and the sun above up with the stars at night, even this cold ice beneath our feet. It existed far before time itself began, for it had no beginning, and because it had no beginning it can have no end. This source is what gives us our wisdom if we but learn to quiet our thoughts and look within ourselves to that connection, listening, always listening for the answers and strength it gives freely to us. The Great Mystery is called by many different names like The Tao our friends here call it” He finished as he indicated another of the elders standing nearby. The tall man asked again “But Most Honourable One, how do you know this to be true?” “Because my friend I have learned to open the core and soul of myself and allow The Great Mystery to impart its wisdom to me, always listening with an open mind and heart,” he paused indicating all of the surrounding elders with a sweep of his arm, “just as all here have learned to do in your own ways. You are doing it every time you enter a higher meditative state, when reaching for answers within a vision quest, or like me when you simply open yourself to the flow by quiet listening within.” The tall man asked again “then I would beg of you Most Honourable One, please will you teach me of this source?” The old man thought for a moment and answered “You have already begun to learn my son, but we will most surely talk much in the future, just wait until we get down off this cold ice and have a roaring fire to set around for formal lessons.” The old man finished with a smile.

The elders were all talking and smiling as one of them said “The Tao speaks clearly to you Honourable One.” And on they walked, sometimes having to detour far back from the edge to avoid broken ice and traps, but the journey continued at a steady pace. Nearing the end of another four hundred days and with the people on the verge of starvation, the old man began walking near to the edge looking ever down into the valleys below. At long last he saw that which he had been looking for. Calling a halt and sending runners ahead to give the word he gathered some of the men to him and said “We must find a way down of the ice near here for the people. Please do your best and as quickly as possible.” The men all bowed their heads in assent and moved off. The old man then sent runners to catch up to the lead group to bring them back with instruction for them also to watch for a safe way down. Another two days pasted as the men searched, the people near to starve and freeze. And then around mid-day of the third men came running with great excitement. One of them stepped up to the old man and bowing deeply said “Elder, we have found it. We have found a safe way down from the ice for the people.” The old man smiled widely in happiness and replied “Then you have done well my son, you have all done well for the people. Go now and prepare them and lead them to the place you found.” The young man smiling too and bowing deeply once more ran off with his companions to do as he had been told. A couple of the elders moved up closer and one of them asked “Why do we leave the ice Honourable One? Is the journey complete?” Laying his hand on the man’s arm the old man answered “No, not near the end of our travels yet, but the people must have a chance of food, rest, and heat for them to continue, and in the great valley we shall find below there will be all those things.” Then man looking back at him asked “But how do you know this Honourable One?” The old man gave him a reassuring smile and answered.

Because it is in my visions my friend, a great part of my vision.” The elder looked satisfied at this saying “Then I trust it to be as you say Honourable Ones, for I have learned to truly trust in the clarity of your vision.” Four days of careful descent and all of the people were on the valley floor. A large, great valley, majestic, and filled to the brimming with trees and plants. A place he heard the people referring to as ‘magical.’ The old man was well pleased to see the men organizing hunting parties and heading out in search of game. The children were all running around gathering firewood, and there was overall a general feeling of happiness throughout.

In what seemed only an instance of time, there were men coming back into the valley, most dragging the largest deer like creatures the old man had never imagined possible. Two of the men dragged one of the deer up next to him saying “For you elder.” He tried to protest that it was too much as they moved away, the old woman behind him already working on the carcass saying “Shut up old man.” That evening, sitting near a huge fire of wondrous warmth, his belly full to the overflowing with the tasty deer steaks, the old man sat smoking his pipe and looking at all of the fires burning across the large valley floor. He glanced at the meat drying on the racks the old woman had put up around the fire, and at the old woman herself sitting on the other side. He said to her “Old woman, that man you were married to was truly a fool. You are most assuredly the hardest working and most talented woman of our people, and there is a true light shining from your soul within, brightening all of those around you. I thank you for your kind service to this” indicating himself with his thumb, “an undeserving old man.” The old woman was truly startled at the old man’s words, for she had never heard anything like them spoken to her before. She looked at him and said “I am truly humbled elder, and I thank you for your most kind words, but I feel I am undeserving of such high praise elder, though I do thank you again.” The old man simply answered “Nonsense” and went back to smoking his pipe. The next morning as he was again sitting next to the fire enjoying a breakfast the old woman had cooked for him, one of the hunters came running up. He bowed his head and waited. The old man said “Speak my son.” The young hunter bowed his head again and said “Elder, we would like to know if there is time for us to mount another hunt before we need to be moving on?” The old man answered “We will be staying in this valley for the next twenty days, so you can hunt and the people find rest. I will need all of you hunters to also find rest while we are here also. Work it out among your selves so that the rest is possible” finished the old man. The young hunter was smiling broadly as he said “Twenty days! Yes elder, it will be as you say.” As the hunter moved off he heard the old woman saying “You know old man, there are times you surprise even me.”

The old man walked through the throngs of people, seeing the progress they were making towards health and what benefit the food and rest was giving them. As usual of late he was escorted by many of the elders, as he moved along speaking to the people, gauging their happiness, talking of their progress, and trying to determine if the twenty days he had given them was enough for what they needed. He realized quite suddenly just how annoyed he was by all the bowing and overt signs of respect he was getting from everyone now. It was as though he had no equal he could simply sit and talk with; that he could share his own doubts or concerns with, for now everyone was placing the whole of their hopes for the future on him alone. And yet, looking into the faces of the people as he walked along, hearing the laughter of the children as they played and danced, he could not but feel good, for he knew for a certainty what would have happened if they had not begun the hard journey. He decided though as enclosed within his ‘escort’ of elders, he slowly began to move back toward his own fire, that he would willingly accept this burden for nothing else than the benefit it seemed to be providing his people. As soon as he sat down at his fire again the old woman brought him yet more food. He said “Are you trying to make me fat old woman?” She quietly responded “Shut up and eat old man” as she went back to her work. Around mid-morning of their tenth day in the big valley the largest mammoth the old man had ever seen calmly walked into the camp from the west. The men all quickly responded and it was soon lying dead between some of the tents. With relief that no-one had been injured the old man strolled down to have a better look at the majestic beast. As he neared it he heard one of the men saying “The Great Honourable One now calls the game to walk right into our fires!” The old man just shook his head as he admired the animal. Again the people brought what the old man perceived as far too much of the meat up to his fire and the old woman. As he started to protest the old woman said “Just thank them elder, and let me get on with the work.”

Thinking to himself he would never, never, in the rest of his days get used to hearing the old woman call him elder, he thanked the men, and digging his pipe out sat back to think.  Very early on the morning of the twentieth day the old man came crawling out of his tent to a view of the whole of the ice rift full of slowly moving people. The old woman’s voice came from beside him “I begin to truly worry that you will not wake up old man” handing him food and finishing with “now eat while I get this stuff ready.” The old man sighed, and sat down by the fire knowing it would be the last time to enjoy such for the coming many of many moons. Around noon, with the old woman, satisfied that her work was done and all was properly packed, they joined the mass of moving people in their climb up the ice. Just before full dark and nearing the summit the old man looking down the hill behind him, began to worry for the people yet climbing in what would soon be full dark. Just as he did crest he beheld the wondrous sight of torches. Fire everywhere, with the men holding them moving down to light the way up for those yet climbing. The old man smiled to himself thinking “my children are truly growing up” making him greatly admire the loving care they had developed for each other after being thrown together against a common danger and this most difficult journey. And early the next morning, their trek resumed.

Two hundred-twenty-six days and they began to see a great body of water far to the south. The journey continued, until three-hundred-four days later the old man knew it was done. He called some of the men to him and when they had gathered said “Our great journey nears its end for some of us. Again I ask you all to find us a way down off the great ice.” The men all bowed their heads and went running off. The old man walked over to the edge of the ice and looked down. There, far below him, was just what looked to be more and more flat plains of ice and snow, but he knew, true to his vision, this was the beginning of the journeys end, at least for some. It took four more days travel before the men found a safe decent point. As the old man caught up to the main body there were already many making the climb down, the old woman looked down over the edge and saying “well, we won’t be joining them today, then dropping her great pack began removing their tents and blankets in order to set up camp.” Late the next afternoon the old woman and the old man reached the bottom and stepped out onto the frozen flat plain before them. The old woman said “Tell me this isn’t the end of our travels old man; tell me there is more to your vision than this forsaken frozen place.” He answered “Well old woman, this is the place a few will choose to make their new homes, but for the most of us, we will travel on yet far to the south and east to land of which even my own visions find hard to believe.” “Well good then old man, well good. I look forward to seeing just what it is that you find hard to believe” she said back. Crawling out of his tent the next day and having the old woman start to hand him a piece of the once again running out dried meat he jumped at the look on her face as she suddenly starred off to the west of the camp. Looking he saw a large group of hunters dragging game in, some so large it was taking four of them to drag just one.

And what odd game is was, for the animals had no arms or legs, but rather some kind of fish like flippers that looked to be for swimming. The larger one had two great teeth that the men were using to drag the beasts with. The old man walked over to get a closer look as the men arrived fully into the camp. One of the men, nodding his head, said “Greetings elder, fresh game elder” finishing with a smile and “and the meat is good elder, we’ve already tried it.” The old man looked at the beasts. Both the larger and the small had a very fine coat of fur on their skins, making him think of what fine clothes they would make when properly worked. The old woman moved up past him with her knife saying “I will judge whether or not the meat is good.” She cut a deep circular chunk out the animal, and tasting it immediately handed it to the old man saying “I is good elder, eat while it is warm.” The old man muttered a thank you, and took the offered handful, then upon tasting it, found it to be very good indeed, with a high concentration of fat that he knew would provide much energy for his people. He turned to the hunter asking “Are there more of these animals? Are they close or far?” The hunter nodding his head again answered “Not far elder, and there were too many for us to count. They live on floating ice at the edge of a great sea to the west.” “Good then, give the other hunters of the tribe directions so that they may go out and hunt these great beasts themselves. You have done well for the people my son,” then raising his head and looking around to them all he finished with “you have all done well for the people.”

Being that there was no wood here they began to drift to the south, though first a bit to the west to be closer to the hunting. As they travelled the land a few trees and plants began to show through the heavy ice and snow. Then on the fourth day while climbing a particularly difficult steep and high ridge the old man found himself nearing bumping into the man in front of him. Looking up, he saw that all of the people in view had stopped climbing. The old man began snaking through the crowd with the old woman puffing behind him to see why they had stopped. Reaching the top of the ridge he gasped for breath at the view spreading out before him. There, down the ridge he now stood upon; lay the most wonderful tree filled valley he had ever seen. And the trees! Taller than anything he had ever even dreamed possible, with great wide sweeping branches covering almost the entire valley. One of the men nearby said to him “Elder, did you dream this for us?” The old man replied “Not like this my son, not like this. We should move on to allow those behind us to see.” Reaching the bottom and walking through the heavy woods the old man marvelled once more at the sheer size of these trees. Standing at the base of one he tried to bend back far enough to see the top and would have fallen if had not the old woman caught him. The peaceful silence of the woodland filled him its peace and he strode along in admiration. Finally, the old woman brought him out of his mental wondering saying “Old man, we need to settle somewhere so I can set our camp for the evening.” He had jumped at her voice, then as he ‘returned to the world’ he indicated with a sweep of his hand “Yes, yes, wherever you prefer.” She quickly began her work as he continued to stand and look all around them. Again his mind must have wondered for when he next looked in the direction of the old woman she not only had their tents and things set-up and unpacked, but a roaring fire also, his blanket right beside it. He moved over and sat and as he did she brought him a huge piece of cooked meat and greens. At the sight of the greens he looked up and said “Where did you find the greens old woman?” She cut him off with “Shut up and eat old man, you hold me from my dinner.” He shut up and ate.

Several weeks later he crawled out of his tent to the sight of all of the other elders sitting around his fire. The old woman was serving them that tea like drink made from leaves she had found somewhere and shushing them to be quiet. The old man dropped his head and smiling to himself, got up and joined the others. As he sipped the warm drink his eyes scanned the camp in the forest. A few days before he had notice that the Meng people had begun building structures much as they had left so far now behind them. There was an almost constant sound of their metal axes biting into the great trees. The Meng Elder said “I see you notice the construction my people are busy with honoured one. I met with my people and they have decided they want to stay here and make a new life. The hunting is good and this place seems as peaceful and safe as anywhere we have ever been.” The old man sipped his drink again and answered “I am happy the Meng people have found a new home here, though I will miss their company as we travel on” he finished taking another sip of his drink. The Meng Elder continued “We have decided we shall no longer be called the Meng honourable one, we shall be called the Inuit, The name Inuit simply means ‘The People’ honourable one, for in sharing your wisdom with us, and allowing us to join with you, you brought forth the strength within us we had never known. You taught us to walk with humility, love, and care, giving us the knowledge that we are truly of one family, all depending upon each other and you have given us the truest sense of belonging we shall ever know.” The old man looked at the Inuit elder and said ”You and all of your people already had all these things my friend, I gave you nothing you didn’t already have.” The old man continued “I will miss you all as the rest of us move on to the south-east, but it has been a true honor in getting to know you all.” “You could all stay here honourable one” the Inuit elder said, “All would be welcome.” The old man replied “No, though I know of your loving kindness, a group as large as ours must continue on. As we travel, one by one, tribes will drop off to start new lives together, but the journey itself is still far from over, for my vision remains clear.” The Inuit elder said “Then I understand honourable one and I thank you again honourable one, for myself and for my people, and I wish you well.”

Several weeks later as he sat by his fire he saw men coming in from the west carrying five of their party. Quickly rising he hurried over to them to be of aid. As he got to them he saw that they had been horribly mangled by some kind of animal. He turned to go back to his tent and get his medicine bag, almost running into the old woman who was standing behind him holding it. Taking it and muttering a thank you, he set about trying to help the men. Even though he was joined by elders from the other tribes that came to help, four of the men died, their wounds just too great to care for. The old man sat back in the bloody snow, and looking up at one of the men near him asked “What happened to these fine men?” The man answered “Most Honourable One, we were hunting to the west near the coast of the great sea when suddenly a great white bear came charging at us. It was not as large as the Great Cave bear elder, but it was very fast and most ferocious. We all tried to defend of course, but these men were taken before the rest of us could do anything. More of the men bring the animal here as we speak.” As the man finished talking the old man saw to the west the men spoken of arrive dragging a large white animal. He got up and moved towards them. Arriving next to where the men had dropped the animal the old man got his first view of the great beast, and great it was. At least two and a half times the height of the tallest man, heavy but well muscled, and with the obvious look of speed and power. He quickly asked the men “Are any of you injured? Do any of you need my help?” he asked looking around at the men. Several of them had deep claw marks and wounds and once again the old man turned to go back and get his medicine bag from where he had left it on the ground. The old woman was standing there with it again, and taking it the old man said “Thank you again old woman, you are truly a blessing in your service for the people.” He saw she actually blushed at his words as she replied “And I thank you elder, I only try to do as needed.” The old man went to work cleaning and sewing up the wounds of the men, joined once again by the other elders as they came to help.

A couple of moons later the old man asked the old woman to go to all the other elders and ask them to gather at his fire. As they came, bringing their blankets and arranging themselves near the fire around him, the old man loaded his pipe and began to smoke. Leading the last of them the old woman came up before him and said “That is all Elder.” and moved out behind him into the shadows. As the last of them arranged themselves a place to sit the old man scanned the faces before him. There were at least ninety or so representing all of the combined tribes. Seeing they were all settled he began to speak “My friends, the time has come for those of us that are continuing the journey to be moving on to the south and east. My vision has shown me that not far from us we will find a vast area of frozen sea taking many weeks to cross. We must cross this area before it melts away in the coming spring. The only time the people can safely cross this sea is in the coldest time of the winter moon, and now is that time. Waiting any longer will mean waiting until the middle of the next winter. I would ask you all now, are your people ready to continue the journey?” he finished. One of them spoke “Most Honourable One your vision has proven its self true and clear. It has saved all of our peoples as you’ve led us safely to this fine new land. My people will be ready.” he finished. And one by one, the others all spoke the same. The Inuit elder said “And my people will help you all prepare, for though we wish all could stay here together with us, I know your journey is incomplete, I would have you know then my people will all help yours prepare my brothers.” The old man sat smoking his pipe as they all began discussing the things needing done, what they needed to tell their peoples, how long it would all take. After what seemed to be an eternity they began to get up and thanking the old man moved off to their own fires.

Old woman?” said the old man, “Did you hear?” Moving back up to the other side of the fire and spreading her blanket she answered “Of course I heard old man, we will be ready as well.” The old man smiled in the dark and relaxing, continued to smoke his pipe. Early on the morning of the third day the old man came crawling out of his tent to the sight of activity everywhere throughout the large valley. There were packs sitting around ready at almost every camp, most of the tents were down and already packed, and people were moving everywhere helping each other prepare. “Thought you were going to sleep all day again old man” came the old woman’s voice from beside him, as she handed him a hot drink and moved to start packing his things. As he sat by the fire sipping his drink and watching the people around him, she was suddenly in front of him holding a beautiful set of black clothing. The old man could tell they were made from the legless animals so common in this place. The old woman dropped the clothes in the old man’s lap saying “Here, try these on under your heavy clothes old man. Maybe they’ll keep the creaking sound of your old legs from being so loud and annoying.” The old man ran his hand admiringly across the clothing. The old woman had made the pants, shirt, and boots, all with the fur to the inside to aid in holding the warmth to his body. He looked closer at the boots. They were truly a marvel, and he could already imagine how comfortable they were going to be. Her voice startled him out of his thoughts as she said “Go on old man; get them on so the rest of the people don’t have to be waiting for us.” He turned his head in her direction and said “Old woman” and as she paused her movement he continued with “I thank you with all of my heart for this truly fine gift, for truly fine it is.” He saw her blush again for only the second time since he had known her as she responded with “Just get dressed old man.” The old man stood up, and stripping out of his old travel worn clothes stepped into the new pants. It was like sliding his legs into a warm cloud, luxurious and fitting perfectly. He soon had the shirt on too, and then one by one slipped his feet into the boots. As he walked around the fire a few times to get the feel of things he thought of how much easier the trek was now going to be with boots and clothes like these. He donned his over clothes of heavy mammoth hide and his over boots, ready at last to travel. As the old woman helped him on with his small pack a group of perhaps 18 men came up to them. One of them said “Elder, we are ready to lead, we but would beg direction, elder.” The old man looked at them and answered “South and east my fine sons and when you come upon a vast flat plain of ice find a place to camp for the people to allow them to rest the night before we start the long and dangerous trek across it.” The young man answered nodding “As you say elder” and they all moved off to the south. And so, with long sad goodbyes from the Inuit people and much leave taking they began once more to march south.

Three full days later they reached the edge of the vast flat plain of ice and the camp-site the men had prepared for them. In his tent that night the old man thought to himself about the troubling parts of his vision that lay ahead of his people yet. There were many dangerous trials that lie yet before them, for not all would complete their journey, and the very thought of it all saddened him, but at the same time her saw clearly again just how wonderful the end of the journey would be for so many. There was truly a wondrous new world awaiting them all. He slept fitfully that night and after breakfast moved to the lead group to talk with them. They all jumped up from their fire as he approached. One of them said “Elder? We welcome you to our fire, and we share food with you?” He waved a hand thanking them and began “No, no, I am fine, I would talk with you all about what lies ahead of us.” You will find many troubling places as we cross this vastness of forsaken ice, dangerous and life taking places where the very ice itself will rise up to try to take your lives. You must travel with as much care as though you carry your youngest child in your arms, depending on each other and lending guidance and alarm when needed. Even if you have only a vague feeling that something isn’t right, heed that feeling and find another path. At all times remember that the whole of the tribe’s safety depends upon your guidance.

The man nodded gravely and as the other men were all looking at each other and nodding too said “It will be as you say elder.” The group moved out across the ice. A for long day after long day they travelled the constantly cracking and shifting ice. At one point the ice before them suddenly broke and thrust up upon its self nearing the height of a small mountain and taking fourteen of the people’s lives as it did. Just that suddenly, without any warning, fourteen of his good people now dead and gone. They had to detour far to the east and then back to the west to regain the track the lead group was breaking for them. Twenty-seven more days, eight more dead, and they were off the frozen sea. About a week later the people were all excited to see dead grasses and even a few small bare trees sticking up through the surrounding snow. One of the women walking near him came up asking “Elder, does this means the terrible ice is behind us?” The old man smiled and said “Yes my daughter, we have made it across.” She ran off telling everyone what he had said.

One hundred and forty days further south, the landscape becoming greener and greener, game becoming more plentiful, the snow melting beneath their feet leaving a quagmire of sucking mud that made every movement a great struggle, but still they travelled. Later that week as they neared a low hill at the end of a large plain there came charging at them a great black beast. It looked much as a water buffalo, but much larger and faster. It was also very much enraged at the sight of the people moving through its territory. As it came charging through to people hitting a few and throwing them far to the side, the hunters all tried to move on it, the old man ended up just standing in the wrong place. Hit heavily by the massive head of the beast, he was thrown a good thirty yards and them as the beast continued its charge he was trampled under its feet. His world went dark. Slowly and with much effort, he fought his way back into the sunlight. The world was swimming in his vision at first, and the pain was making every breath a true effort. As his vision began to clear he became aware of a circle of elders and men standing around him as someone was painfully sewing what must be his wounds.

With great struggle he asked one of the elders “The people? Are the people safe?” The man responded “Yes honourable one, they are safe, but they fear for you honourable one, they fear.” Looking around carefully at a sudden pulling stab of pain he saw as the source of the pain the old woman kneeing over him sewing what felt to be massive and gravely torn flesh and muscle. He said “Easy there old woman, there is still feeling left in me.” She answered continuing her work “With respect elder, shut up and leave me to this!” He heard some of the men quietly chuckle at that but before he could answer again his world went dark. The old man became aware of sounds around him, a quiet voice speaking to him “Wake up old man, wake up and eat some of this soup. Are you going to sleep all day?”The old man smiled to himself realizing it was the old woman. Forcing his eyes open he saw he was in his tent and she was bent over him holding a wooden bowl. He tried to set up but failed. Seeing this the old woman quickly sat the bowl out-of-the-way and moved behind him helping to prop him up higher on his blankets. Every tiniest movement seemed to bring an agony of pain shooting through his body. Leaning back, he tried to smile at the old woman who was back in front of him with her bowl and spoon.

Sipping the first spoonful he gasped at the bitterness of the soup and said “What is this nastiness old woman? Are you trying to finish with poison what the beast started” She simply answered “Shut up old man, eat.” Between spoons he asked “How long?” She responded “How long what old man?” shoving another spoonful at him. He swallowed asking “How long have I lain here?” She answered shoving yet another spoon at him “Two weeks old man, you’ve gotten very lazy.” He said “What of the people old woman? What of the others the beast attacked?” her response as another spoon came his way “They are fine old man, they all heal well, I have checked on them every day as others watched over you.” As the bowl was at last empty she asked “Do you want more old man?” He did manage a smile at that saying “No, no thank you old woman, my belly is so full I may burst.” She pulled his medicine bag to her and began to unbind some of the wrappings on his wounds. He half-heartedly tried to push her hands away saying “No more sewing old woman.” She brushed his hand aside replying “Hush old man, I must check your wounds for healing.” About four days later the old woman came into the tent with what he was afraid was another nasty bowl of her soup, but he was happily surprised to find instead a soup made of some kind of meat. At the first spoonful he asked in surprise “What animal is this old woman, it is wonderful?” She chuckled at him saying “It is the same kind of animal as the one that ran you over old man, they are plentiful here and as you can taste, truly very good to eat. They have a fine strong hide also; many are making new tents out of it. I have asked some of the people to make new ones for us” she finished.

He sat back enjoying his meal as though he had never eaten before. A week or so later, with the old woman outside somewhere he decided it was time to get up. Carefully, for he was still direly sore, he rolled over to his knees and moved to the door flap. Slipping through the door flap he saw the old woman sitting a short distance away by her fire as he found himself once more in the bright warm sunshine of day and began to struggle to regain his feet. She saw him and sprang to her feet grabbing his staff and running over. She helped him up while saying “It’s too early for this old man. You’ll tear out my good sewing!” Still though she complained she helped him up putting his staff in his hand and holding his arm to steady him as together they moved to the fire. As they sat the two of the other elders came to their fire. One of them spoke “Elder, it is good to see you. May we sit with you?” the old man indicated the ground in front of him saying “You are always welcome my friends.” As they sat the old woman got up and upon grabbing two of their water bags said “Sit with him elders while I go to fetch water.” The one man nodded his assertion and she moved off. The man who had spoken first said “Elder, what of your vision? Is it still clear?

The people ask me if we are yet to travel and I do not know how to answer them.” The old man said “Yes my friend, my vision is still clear, and though some will leave us all along the trek to make their own way, many will continue for what will take us perhaps the next five years to complete, but I would add my friends, the end of that trek is worth every step.” The elder that hadn’t spoken yet spoke “Elder, while you were recovering I too went on a vision quest to seek answers, and my quest was answered elder, it was answered.” As he continued the old woman returned with the water. “First I was shown that you would recover, recover and travel on with us on our trek, and though I was shown challenges and death lay yet before us, the wonders, wonders I was shown elder, new land, new animals and plants, all beyond imagination. I was shown our peoples spreading out across a vast land, prospering and growing until they live in almost every part of it, living in peace, tranquillity, close to the Earth mother and all those around them. All these good things elder, and yet I was also shown far in the future of times when it isn’t so good. Times in which some of our people, that by then are living very far in the south lose their way, losing their connection with the old ways and the Great Mystery. I saw them doing terrible things to each other and anyone they came in contact with, truly terrible things elder.

And many, many thousands of years later elder, I was shown the descendants of the White Jyn arriving in this land on great sea going canoes, bringing once more war and death to the people, a war and death that spread across all these new lands driving the people before it. I could find no solution to this elder, I fear I lose hope for what our people are yet to go through” he finished. The old man paused taking an offered cup of herbal tea from the old woman and after sipping he said “Yes my brother, your vision is clear, for I have also seen all these things. We need but remember that the strength of our peoples is great as they have shown on this great journey. We must somehow hold to the knowledge that whatever may lie in the future for them will be dealt with as needed, when needed.” In the mean time we must teach those who would listen all we can about the proper caring way to live, of how to care and hold love for each other, and all of the Earth Mother’s gifts.” The old man taking another sip of the surprisingly good herbal tea continued “this will demand we all change our way of living and thinking my friends. For to make the future a brighter and more prosperous thing for our peoples we must leave the past to the past, teach our peoples new ways, and then when we die we can die knowing that the people will continue ever ready to face any challenge they may come against while still holding to their honour and family.” The man who had been speaking said “Then elder, when you are ready to teach us how to teach them, we will be ready to listen and learn“ finishing with a slight bowing motion. The old woman’s voice came from beside him “Enough for now elders let him rest while I feed him. He needs to build his strength.” Both elders stood and in taking their leave one said “You have a strong, thoughtful, and caring woman elder, she has not left your side once since the animal attacked you. And she is truly very protective when she needs to be, we will take our leave, thank you elder” he finished smiling at them both” as they moved off. The old man wondered briefly what the old woman had done as he smiled to himself.

It took the old man another eight weeks or so to get to the point where he thought he could travel again. The old woman had long ago removed all her ‘sewing’ and his wounds had healed well. He felt lucky that there had been no broken bones. As word spread that he was ready to resume travel one of the elders from a small group of perhaps eighty families came up asking to speak with him. The old man said “Yes my friend, what is it you need?” The man replied “Honourable one, my tribe has decided that we will be staying here to build our new lives honourable one. This place makes them happy, and makes them believe they can have a good future for themselves and their families.” The old man smiled widely at him and grasping arms replied “Then it will be so my friend, together you will make this new world here full of bright promise and an even greater future for your people.” The man looked relieved at this begging the old man to ask “What troubled you my son?” The man hesitated and answered “Well honorable one, I and my people were fearful that you would not approve of our staying, that you would want us to travel on with the rest.” “My friend” replied the old man “I have said from the start that many of the tribes would be leaving as they found places special to them. This is your place and you are truly blessed in finding it” he finished. The man looked visibly relieved as he thanked the old man and took his leave. The old woman’s voice came from behind him as the man walked off,

Sometimes old man, sometimes you surprise even me after all these years.” He turned to ask what she meant but she had turned back to mending his cloths. He pulled out his pipe and lighting it from the fire, began to smoke. Very early the next morning he came out of his tent to the sound of the old woman saying “I thought you well old man but here you are sleeping the day away again.” He looked to the sun which was just visible coming over the mountains to the east and thought “Just once Great Mystery, just once I would like to be able to rise before her, just once before I die.” By full daylight they were all trekking once more to the south. The old man was happy at seeing the lead group simply gather and move out instead of coming to consult with him first. “They’re growing up” he thought happily. In almost every plain they came to there were huge black waves of the great beasts the people were now simply calling buffalo, thousands upon thousands of them. It was a truly awe inspiring sight to be sure. The men had learned how to spook them causing them to safely run away from the great tribe. The first time they did this old man was startled as the very ground under his feet shook as they ran with the sound of thunder. And they continued trekking south, day after day, week after week, threw ever more beautiful country.

Three more weeks of travel and the old man called a halt. After a few days of resting the old man asked the old woman to go and ask all of the other elders to gather at his fire. When they had all arrived and seated themselves on their blankets by his fire he said to them “Elders, my friends, we have travelled a long way, and into a bright new land. There are now things we together must begin to teach our people. On this night I would teach you all the buffalo dance and its story so that you all can go and begin teaching it to your people. One of the elders asked “Honoured one, where do these stories come from?” The old man answered him with “They are a great part of my vision that has been awaiting this time to be told” and as he finished and rose with a small gourd with dried beans in it and a wooden handle, the old woman began to stack more wood upon the fire stirring the coals to create more light, somehow knowing what was needed. The old man began to dance, shaking the gourd in time with his movements as he said to them all “Listen well my elder friends, for this is the first story you must teach your peoples. When the buffalo first came to be upon this land, they were not friendly to the people, as I well know. When the hunters tried to coax them over the cliffs or on to their spears for the good of the tribes, they were reluctant to offer themselves up. They did not relish being turned into blankets and dried flesh for winter rations. They did not want their hooves and horn to become tools and utensils nor did they welcome their sinew being used for sewing.” “No, no,” they would say. We won’t fall into your traps. And we will not allow the prick of your spears.” And he continued “So when the hunters guided them towards the abyss, they would always turn aside at the very last moment. With this lack of cooperation, it seemed the tribes would be hungry, cold, and ragged all journey long.”

As he continued to dance and shake the gourd quite suddenly the old woman began quietly beating in time to his dance on a stretched skin drum. The old man smiled at her and returned to the story “Now one of the hunters’ had a daughter who was very proud of her father’s skill with the spear. During the fullness of summer, he had always brought her the best of mammoth hides to dress in, and she in turn would work the deer skins into the softest, whitest of garments for him to wear. Her own dresses were like the down of a great snow goose, and the moccasins she made for the children and the grandmothers in the tribe were the most welcome of gifts. But now with the last of the snow on the wind, and deer becoming harder to kill at the ranges they roamed, dancing and hiding in the willow breaks, running fleetly at the first sight of men, she could see this reluctance on the part of the buffalo families becoming a real problem. The hunter’s daughter decided she would do something about it. She went to the base of a great cliff and looked up. She began to sing in a low, soft voice, “Oh, buffalo family, come down and visit me. If you come down and feed my relatives in a wedding feast, I will join your family as the bride of your strongest warrior.” She stopped and listened. She thought she heard the slight rumbling sound of thunder in the distance. Again she sang, “Oh, buffalo family, come down and visit me. Feed my family in a wedding feast so that I may be a bride.” The thunder was much louder now. Suddenly the buffalo family began falling from the sky at her feet. One very large bull landed on top of the others, and walked across the backs of his relatives to stand before Hunter’s Daughter.”

I am here to claim you as my bride,” said the large buffalo. “Oh, but now I am afraid to go with you,” said the hunter’s daughter. “Ah, but you must,” said the large buffalo, “For my people have come to provide your people with a wedding feast. As you can see, they have offered themselves up.” “Yes, but I must run and tell my tribe the good news,” said the hunter’s daughter. “No,” said the large buffalo. No word need be sent. “You are not getting away so easily.” And with that said, the large buffalo lifted her between his horns and carried her off to his village in the rolling grass hills. The next morning the whole tribe was out looking for the hunter’s daughter. When they found the mound of buffalo below the cliff, the father, who was in fact a fine tracker as well as a skilled hunter, looked at his daughter’s footprints in the dust. “She’s gone off with a buffalo, he said. I shall follow them and bring her back.” So the hunter walked out upon the vast plains, with only his spear and knife as companions. He walked and walked a great distance until he was so tired that he had to sit down to rest beside a buffalo wallow. Along came magpie flying down and sitting beside him. The hunter spoke to magpie in a respectful tone, “Oh great knowledgeable bird, has my daughter been stolen from me by a buffalo? Have you seen them? Can you tell me where they have gone?” Magpie replied with understanding, “Yes, I have seen them pass this way. They are resting just over this hill.”

Well,” said the hunter, would you kindly take my daughter a message for me? Will you tell her I am here just over the hill?” So magpie flew to where the large buffalo lay asleep amidst his relatives in the dry prairie grass. He hopped over to where the hunter’s daughter was quilling moccasins, as she sat dutifully beside her sleeping husband. “Your father is waiting for you on the other side of the hill,” whispered magpie to the maiden. “Oh, this is very dangerous,” she told him. These buffalo are not friendly to us and they might try to hurt my father if he should come this way. “Please tell him to wait for me and I will try to slip away to see him.” Just then her husband, large buffalo, awoke and took off his horn. “Go bring me a drink from the wallow just over this hill,” said her husband. So she took the horn in her hand and walked very casually over the hill. Her father motioned silently for her to come with him, as he bent into a low crouch in the grass. “No,” she whispered. The buffalo are angry with our people who have killed their people. They will run after us and trample us into the dirt. I will go back and see what I can do to soothe their feelings.” And so the hunter’s daughter took the horn of water back to her husband who gave a loud snort when he took a drink. The snort turned into a bellow and all of the buffalo got up in alarm. They all put their tails in the air and danced a buffalo dance over the hill, trampling the poor man to pieces who was still waiting for his daughter near the buffalo wallow. His daughter sat down on the edge of the wallow and broke into tears. “Why are you crying?” said her buffalo husband. “You have killed my father and I am a prisoner, besides,” she sobbed. “Well, what of my people?” her husband replied. We have given our children, our parents and some of our wives up to your relatives in exchange for your presence among us. A deal is a deal.” But after some consideration of her feelings, the large buffalo knelt down beside her and said to her, “If you can bring your father back to life again, we will let him take you back home to your people.” So the hunter’s daughter started to sing a little song. “Magpie, magpie please will you help me find some piece of my father which I can mend back whole again.” Magpie appeared and flew down in front of her with his head cocked to the side.”Magpie, magpie, please see what you can find,” she sang softly to the wind which bent the grasses slightly apart. Magpie cocked his head to the side and looked carefully within the layered folds of the grasses as the wind sighed again. Quickly he picked out a piece of her father that had been hidden there, a small bit of bone.

That will be enough to do what is needed,” said the hunter’s daughter, placing the bone on the ground and covering it with her blanket. She then began to sing a reviving song that had the power to bring injured people back to the land of the living. Quietly she sang the song that her grandmother had taught her. After a few melodious passages, her voice soaring to the place of the Great Mystery itself there was a lump under the blanket. She and magpie looked under the blanket and could see a man, but the man was not breathing. He lay cold as the stone of the mountains. So the hunter’s daughter started to sing again, a little softer, with more of her truest feelings, just a bit softer, so as not to startle her father as he began to move. When he stood up, alive and strong, the buffalo people were amazed. They said to the hunter’s daughter, “Will you sing this song for us after every hunt? We will teach your people the buffalo dance, so that whenever you dance before the hunt, you will be assured a good result. Then you will sing this song for us, and we will all come back to live again.”

And the old man finished with “And thus it will be for your hunters and the tribes, for only in honouring the sacrifice of the animals can the tribe truly prosper and grow.” Dance and story complete the old man once more sat by the fire reaching for his pipe. He worried for a moment as there was not a sound from any of the elders as he sat smoking his pipe. Suddenly, one elder tentatively spoke “Great honourable one, it will be as you say, we will begin to teach all of our people what is needed.” The others were still silent but were nodding their heads in agreement. The old woman appeared beside him with a hot cup of herbal tea, which he sipped calmly, saying “Is the enough for the rest here old woman?” She replied “Yes elder, I am preparing it now.” The old man said “And I thank you also for your fine help in the dance old woman, for it was a fine thing you did.” He could have sworn he saw her blush in the light of the fire. . After the last of the elders had taken their leave and moved off to their own fires the old man reloaded his pipe and while he did the old woman brought him another cup of the tea. She asked “How many of these lessons are there old man?” “Many, more than the number of all our fingers and toes, and all important for the future of the people and their coming lives. I would have you know old woman, you serve both the people and myself well, you could do no better” he answered. Though he couldn’t see, he felt her blush there in the dark.

The old man was well pleased to see at many of the fires that very night elders dancing as the sounds of drums drifted across the plain. He sat by his own fire smiling as he envisioned all of the evening yet to come. They left three days later, and after travelling another three weeks six or seven of the elders came up to the old man as he walked along. One of them said “Great elder, I would speak with you?” The old man smiled at him answering with “Speak then my son.” The elder said “Great elder, each night we have been teaching the story and dance you gave us for the people, and in doing so we ourselves have learned the true meaning behind the story, and we thank you for sharing it with us elder, we thank you. Yet the people grow weary of hearing the same story, of seeing the same dance, so we beg of you great elder, can we not have the next story and dance we need to teach them while they are still ready to learn?” The old man turned his head toward the group as he walked saying “Of course my sons, you shall have it this very night.” The man bowed his head and saying “Thank you then great elder, until tonight then” and they all moved off. That evening after he had eaten the old man turned to the old woman to ask her to go to the other elders only to have her say “Yes old man, I will go and get them now.” As he awaited their arrival he loaded his pipe and began to smoke.

The old woman came hurrying back saying, “They come, old man, they all come“ as she set about getting her drum and what appeared to be a new flute prepared. With the elders all assembled and settled, the old man sat his pipe aside, and standing began his story. He sang “This, my sons, is the story of the cricket and the great mountain cat.” As he sang one of the elders began to drum in time in the drum the old woman had passed to him, and the old woman began to softly play her beautiful flute adding much to the mood and story. He continued “As the great mountain cat was walking in the forest, he jumped onto a fallen log to look around. From inside the log came a tiny voice. “Get off the roof of my lodge!” said the voice. Out from the end of the rotten log came a tiny cricket saying “You are standing on the roof of my lodge, mountain cat,” continuing, “You must step off now, or the roof-pole will break and my lodge will fall in.” “Who are you to tell me what to do?” growled the mountain cat sternly, though he did step off the log as he spoke. The great cat lowered his head until his nose was very close to the tiny cricket saying “In this forest, I am the chief of all the animals! How do you dare to stand against me?” “Chief or no Chief,” said cricket back bravely, “I have a cousin who is mightier than you, and he would willingly come to avenge me for he has no fear of such as you.” “I don’t believe you, little insect,” snarled the mountain cat. “Believe me or believe me not,” said cricket “it is so.” “Let your cousin come to this place tomorrow, when the sun is at its highest, and we will see who is the mightier,” said the mountain cat. “If your cousin does not prove himself to me, I will crush you and your entire lodge with my mighty paw!” The great mountain cat turned and bounded off through the forest.

The next day, when the sun was high, the mountain cat came back along the same trail. He stopped over the log and called to cricket. “Cricket, come out! Let me meet your mighty cousin!” The old man began to dance the dance of the mosquito continuing with “Just then, a tiny mosquito flew up from the log buzzed into the big cats ear. “What is this?” cried the mountain cat, who had never seen or heard of a mosquito before. The mosquito began to bite at the soft inner ear of the great cat, drinking from his blood. “The day silence of the day filled now with anguished cries of Err! Err!” from the great cat in pain, “Get out of my ear!” The great mountain cat pawed at his ear, scratching and digging to no avail, and ran around in circles shaking his mighty head as the mosquito continued to bite him again and again. Cricket came out of the log and called up to the great mountain cat. “Are you ready to leave my lodge alone?” The great cat said that he would so for all of future time, Mosquito came out of the great cat’s ear and went into the log lodge with cricket. The great cat ran off down the trail vowing to never go that way again.” Story and dance finished and a bit out of breath, the old man found his blanket and sat. He no sooner got settled before the old woman appeared next to him placing a warm cup of herbal tea in his hand.

Thanking her for her kindness he sipped as his eyes scanned the silent faces around him. The old man continued sipping his teas as the elders around his fire with engaged in quiet conversation. Tea gone he reached once more for his pipe and as he did the old woman took the enter cup to refill it. Pipe lit, and another warm cup of tea in hand, he waited.
Finally, one of the elders spoke broke the silence and spoke saying “Honourable one, we have all talked to each other and to our people as we shared the first story you gave us. We are all in agreement that the meaning of that story is to teach us all to hold respect for each other and all of the animals, a building and beginning of new meaningful traditions for all of our people and the generations yet to come. Is this true honourable one?” The old man was well pleased with them all and answered “Yes my sons that is the hidden meaning within that story.” The man continued “Then honourable one, this new story and dance, is it not to teach us and our people to walk a path of humbleness and respect for all of the life around us, resisting the falseness of believing we may be ‘better’ or ‘above’ any other living thing, and building the knowledge that everything under the Great Mystery is truly equal and blessed?” The old man smiled openly and answered “Yes my sons, you do very well indeed for that is very base of the most important meaning in this story.” He continued “I have seen you all teaching your peoples each night at your fires as we’ve traveled, I would ask you all now, do they learn well? Do they listen to the wisdom you offer?” One of the other elders smiling widely answered “Oh yes great elder, they are ever more eager to hear and learn, and having this newest story to offer will help the greatly to hold that interest, I thank you with all of my heart for sharing it with us “he finished as the others all nodded with ascensions. The old man though for a moment and said “Then my friends, we will add a new story every two weeks as we travel, for I would encourage all to listen and learn.” With that, the old woman was up moving through the ranks of the elders gathering the empty cups from the tea she had given them and hurrying them off to their own tents. The old man chuckled quietly to himself at the sight of it. When they were all gone he said to her “May I see your fine new flute old woman?” She brought it to him and as he examined this thing of beauty he said to her “You are truly a wonder old woman, a true wonder.” Her only answer “Go to bed old man so maybe you can get up before high sun.” The old man smiled at her and crawling into his tent, did just that.

They travelled on in much the same manner until near high sun on the 13th day the old man saw ahead of him the lead group of men just standing at the top of a fairly high hill. They were all looking to the south and east. The old man hurried up to them along with many of the other elders. They reached the top of the hill at long last a bit startled at the silence of the men above, but in cresting the hill and viewing what lay before them, they too were quite speechless. There, in the vast valley below, was a sight to truly inspire any man. There were trees everywhere, but what trees. Most of the tops of them were nearly a high as where they now stood, and yet it would take at least a full day’s journey to reach the forest floor below. The old woman’s voice came quietly from beside him “Is this too a part of your vision elder? Have you foreseen such as this?” He just quietly nodded still looking at the majestic beauty below them. One of the other elders brought his silence asking “Great elder, is it al-right to have the people make camp at the foot of this hill? It will take more than a day for all of the people to safely climb down into that valley below us.” The old man answered “Yes, of course my son, have them do so, and after they have made their camps have them come up here to view this wonder for themselves.” The elder said “Thank you great elder” as he moved off back down the hill. The old woman asked

Are we camping here or back down on the plain elder?” The old man indicated the plain with a wave of his hand still unable to take his eyes off the valley below. He became aware suddenly of the old woman’s hand on his arm saying “Old man, please. Please come down to the fire.” Looking around he saw it was very near to full dark and he stood alone upon the top of the hill with the old woman. He moved off down the hill with her.

The old man crawled into his tent to try to rest, but the whole of his night was racked by nightmares and visions. He foresaw great dangers for the people, and many deaths. Great animals that seemed to defy anything the people could offer to defend themselves from in their attacks. Places where the very ground beneath their feet turned against them, ripping open and dumping his people into a fiery death, a whole mountain suddenly exploding its top and spewing fire down all around them, and yet still he knew they must go on. Even though for all the hardship that lay before them, the end of the journey was yet far away and well worth the trek. The next morning he really did sleep in, nearly half way to high sun and yet when he came out of his tent, head still swimming with the visions, the old woman said nothing about it. Sitting himself down next to the fire he watched as the people streamed up the little hill to begin their climb down the other side. She gave him a bowl of fresh meat and grasses soup and sat a cup of hot herbal tea next to him. As he took his first sip of the tea one of his most trusted lead hunters came up nervously looking askance at the old woman. He saw her nod slightly at the man. “Yes my son?” asked the old man. The man bowed his head and said “Elder, we need to know how far you want us to lead the people into the great forest elder? It is a difficult place to hold your direction in and we fear that people will get lost if we become separated elder” he finished. The old man focused on him and the vision in his head and replied “When you get the people down to the edge of the forest have them all build torches, for on this night we must all continue to travel far into the night. Organize them some that each group is responsible for the one in front and the one behind, for they must make it through together to make it at all.”

As he had talked the old man’s vision had sharpened, he continued “Tell all of the hunters to be truly wary for within this mighty forest you will find many dangerous beasts, you will find bears that stand upon their back legs and when they do they are more than three times the height of a tall man. There are small legless creatures my visions tell me to call snakes that look to be no threat, but of whom one bite will cause a terrible wasting death for the one bitten. There are great mountain cats like the one in the story your elders have been telling you, and they have no fear of any people, very fast and very ferocious. And most of all, as you lead the people through this night, must be at all times watchful for places where smoke rises from cracks in the Earth, or where the rocks of the ground glow red with heat. If you find any of these things lead the people far around them before continuing on.” The old man took a deep breath “Near morning you will find a very large clearing in the middle of the great trees, a clearing far big enough for all the people, with clear fresh water in abundance, plentiful fire wood, and a good grassy food with easy access to game, and know this and make it known to all the others, this is a very fine place we are coming to, but it is a very dangerous place for the people, tell them to be ever wary and to guard each other like never before, because even though it is such a wonderful place that some of the people will choose to stay here building a new life for them and their families, many are going to die.” The young man jumped a bit at that last statement, but nodding his head he said “It will be as you say elder, I will tell them all, and we will lead them carefully.” Nodding his head again, the young man turned towards the hill and started running. The old woman was suddenly beside him asking “Do you need more food old man?” he looked down at the still full bowl and answered “No, no thank you old woman, but I would enjoy another cup of your fine tasty tea if you have more.” She bent down taking both the bowl and the cup and making a ‘humping’ sound turned back to the fire. The old man sat there for perhaps two more hours watching the long string of people move past, then finally he rose and handing his cup to the old woman he tried to struggle into his pack. She stuffed the cup quickly into her own pack and helped him with his. She handed him his walking stick and as he took one more look around he noticed she was using a good sized spear as her own walking stick. She had never done that before in all of their travels.

As they hit the bottom of the small hill and started up he noticed another thing had changed. There were at least thirty hunters spread around him in a circle. Indicating them with a sweep of his arm he asked the old woman “What is this all about old woman?” She answered “Well elder, I believe they’ve decided that you are too important to allow anything bad to happen to you. And in a quieter voice she added, like anything would eat a sour tasting, gristly and tough old thing like you.” He smiled widely at her and for the first time in his memory he saw her actually smile back! He was almost shocked and said “Old woman, you have a truly beautiful smile, you should set if free more often.” This time, in the full light of the sun, there was no mistaking the depth of her blush. She seemed even too embarrassed to manage a snappy comeback to his flattery. They hurried on up the hill, and then carefully climbed down the other side. They reached the bottom at just after full dark to find another ten men there waiting for them and tending a fire. They had torches ready for them all and the old man looked out through the forest seeing a long string of torches stretching into the far distance. It was difficult to see their path or truly judge the distance because of the great width of the trees. The old man asked the men around him if they would do him the favour of joining their hands together and encircling the nearest tree. He wanted to see just how many of them it took. They all moved over to the closest tree and started joining hands and spreading around it. Finally, after just a moment, the men that had been on the other side came back around saying “Elder, we do not have enough men, we were far short.” The old man thanked them all, looked at the tree and then tried to see along its trunk to even its lowest branches. He couldn’t even make out shadows. He moved back to the fire and the pile of torches, and taking one in hand, set it to the fire. The old woman and all the other men did the same, and as they moved off to follow the steps of the people the old man noticed another tree even bigger than the first. And thus they walked through the night. Four different times they were met by men standing in wait of them to direct them around some of the dangerous places from the old man’s visions. But even so, they made slow but safe progress winding amongst the great trees.

Nearing total exhaustion, the old man began to notice a slight graying of the world in the forest. Shortly thereafter they were all assured that the sun was truly on the rise, though because of the great trees it did not touch them as yet. One of the men asked “Elder, can we put out these torches yet?” He answered “Not quite yet my son, for fire is the best defense from the small dangerous animals called snakes.” The man asked again “elder is it true these animals have no legs at all?” the old man replied “Yes my son, but you should know to respect them and their power.” The man spoke again “Oh I do elder, I have listened to the stories well, and I know I must trust all as equal, and I trust in you elder, if you say they are dangerous, then they are very dangerous.” In full daylight they broke out of the great forest into a huge fairly flat plain of grasses and short trees. The great mass of people that had arrived there ahead of them had already set-up their tents and organized their camp-sites. Some of the sites with fires cooking a morning meal, while others who had simply crawled into their tents in an attempt to catch up on lost sleep. The old man scanned the vast area and was impressed to find that all along the perimeter there were groups of hunters watching for danger to the people. The old man felt very good about this place even though he knew what trials were coming for the people. The men all stayed right around him as the old woman led them to a place near the center of the people where she decided she wanted their camp. She quickly began dragging all of their things out of their packs as the men took their leave and moved to rejoin their families. The old woman soon had their tents set up and was out finding fire wood. The old man sat down in front of his tent and pulling out his pipe and fire stones, lit it and began to smoke. The old woman soon returned with the makings of a fine fire, and as she began to build it he decided he would go into his tent and enjoy a nap. As he started to tamp out his pipe the old woman said “Oh no you don’t old man, you sit right there until I have you something to eat and you eat it.” The old man realized he knew better than to argue with that tone of voice as he chuckled quietly to himself.

Breakfast over, and a few cups of hot tea in his belly he asked the old woman “Can I go sleep for a while now?” She answered with a great weariness in her voice “Only if I can old man, only if I can.” He replied “Then I will see you in the morning, rest well my dear friend.” They both crawled into their tents and it would have been hard to tell who was asleep first. A few hours later they were awakened by great cries from outside their tents. As they both slid through their door flaps the old man noticed she had come out with her spear already in hand. He quickly scanned the plain and found the center of the cries. There, surrounded by about forty of the young hunters, was one of the great bears from his visions. The beast was making Earth shaking roars as the men darted in and out stabbing with their spears. Every time a spear would strike home the beast would spin and strike the spear holder sending them flying through the air for a great distance. Many other hunters were running up to aid those already in battle, and soon the great animal lay dead upon the ground. The old man said “My bag old woman” as he hurried over to the bloodied ground. The old woman was right there with him as he knelt down next to the first wounded man he came to. The man had had his clothing cut entirely away and his flesh torn to the bone across his chest. Reaching into his bag the old man pulled out a dirty looking brown dried leaf, and placing it in the man’s mouth told him to chew. The old man then pulled out his gut string and fine bone needle. As the man drifted into the world of dreams the old man began to sew his chest back together, carefully pulling and stretching the skin and muscles back into place. “See to the other wounded old woman” he said as he worked, “next to me, you have the next highest skill.” “Yes old man” she said jumping up and moving off.

Of the eighteen badly injured, and between the care of the old man, the old woman, and the other elders, only four died, and all of them had been dead immediately, one of them torn completely in half. As he finished his work the old man looked up to find people standing all around him. He stood and indicated for some of them to carry this poor man carefully back to his tent. Four of them moved to obey. The old man, upon looking around and finding everything else being taken care of moved over to the great dead bear. Several of the young hunters moved with him. Standing next to the great head of the beast, the old man asked one of the hunters to step off its length. Starting at the head and stepping at least three feet at a time it took him five full strides to reach the end. The old man walked down to that end and leaning over tried to lift the leg of the beast. Two of the men quickly helped him and the old man got to examine what he was looking for. One of the men asked “What is it elder, what it you seek?” The old man responded “I wanted to know if this was a female or a male.” The man asked “And which is it elder?” The old man said “This is the female, and she is very much smaller than the male, and she is pregnant my sons, which it means there is a male around here somewhere.” All of the men started looking around themselves very nervously. At long last, with all of the wounded taken care of and moved down into the camp-site, everyone began to drift back that way. The guarding men spread out in greater numbers per group now, in order to provide more safety for themselves and the people they were guarding.

That evening, back at his fire with his pipe and his tea in hand, the old man thought of all the other visions running through his head. He foresaw so much good and happiness for them, and yet at the same time he saw so much pain and sorry. He sat thinking on this all until he suddenly realized that this was what life was for everything, this was how the Great Mystery had created life to be for everything under the stars. This eased the old man’s troubled heart, and though he knew he would still feel sorrow at seeing the pain of his people, he would never again doubt the rightness of life. As he pulled at his pipe a couple of the young hunters came walking up. Bowing their heads one of them said “Elder, I beg forgiveness for this interruption of your peaceful evening, but I would ask elder, how long may we expect to stay in this place elder?” The old man looked at them and answered “We that will be moving on will be staying here for at least the next three moons my sons.” They both look pleased at his answer and thanking him moved back off across the plain. “Old woman” he said. “Yes old man?” she answered. He continued “Tomorrow I will need you to go a short distance into the forest and bring me as much fresh bark as you can. Take help if you need it.” She answered “Yes old man, I will take care of it.”

The next morning the old woman and several other women came with great armload’s of freshly cut bark from the great trees. The old man thanked them all and then spent the rest of the morning drawing on them with charcoal from the fire. Just after supper that evening the old man said to the old woman “Go to all the elders and ask them to meet at my fire tonight.” She replied simply “yes old man.” Just after dark the elders began to show up and sit themselves around the old man’s fire. They talked quietly for a while awaiting the arrival of the last of them. When they were all there the old man said “Tonight I have another story to share with you all, there is no dance to this story, only the drum, and tomorrow I will need you all to come back with one of your best hunters.” They all nodded in agreement. The old man continued “This is the story of the woman who fell from the sky. A time so long ago no tribe today remembers the story of the times then, but it was a time when all of the human peoples lived high up in the sky, above the highest of the mountains, above even the clouds, so much nearer the Great Mystery. They had a great and illustrious chief, who served them all well and fairly. It just so happened that this chief’s daughter was taken very ill with some kind of new and strange affliction, gravely ill. All of the people were very anxious and fearful as to the outcome of her illness. Every known remedy of these learned people was tried in an attempt to cure her, but none had any effect.

Near the lodge of this chief stood a great tree, which every year bore corn, a type of seed that can be used for food. One of the best friends of the chief had a vision in which he was told to tell the chief that, in order to cure his daughter, he must lay her beside this tree, and that he must have the tree dug up while she lay there. The chief ordered this advice to be carried out to the letter, and it was. While the people were at work and the young woman lay there, a young man came along. He got very angry and said to them “It is not all right to destroy this tree. It has given it’s fruit for all of us to live on.” With this last remark he gave the young woman who lay there deathly ill a hard shove with his foot, which caused her to fall into the hole that had been dug around the tree by the people. Now, at that time so long ago the hole opened into this world, which was then all water no land, and on this vast sea floated many water birds of many kinds. Being there was no land at that time; the woman would have undoubtedly fallen into that great sea and drowned. It was decided by these water birds as they saw the woman falling that she should be saved so they all shouted, “Let us receive her,” thereby they, at least some of them, joined their bodies together, and the young woman fell on this platform of feathery bodies. When these birds became wearied they asked, “Who will volunteer to care for this woman while we rest?”

The great Turtle then took her, and when he got tired of holding her, he in turn asked who would take his place. At last the question arose as to what they should do to provide her with a permanent resting place in this world. Finally all the animals decided to prepare the earth, on which she would live in the future. To do this it was determined soil from the bottom of the primal sea should be brought up and placed on the broad, firm carapace of the Turtle, where it would increase in size to such an extent that it would accommodate all the creatures that should be produced in the future. After much discussion the toad was finally persuaded to dive to the bottom of the waters in search of soil. Bravely making the attempt, he succeeded in bringing up soil from the depths of the sea. This was carefully spread over the carapace of the Turtle, and at once both he and the soil began to grow in size and depth. The animals placed the woman on the new earth, fed her, and cared for her as they would have for their own. After the young woman recovered from the illness from which she suffered when she was cast down from the upper world, she built herself a shelter, in which she lived quite contentedly at peace with the animals who had cared for her so well. In the course of many thousands of moons she brought forth a girl baby, who grew rapidly in size and intelligence.”

The old man paused for a sip of tea as the old woman continued beating her drum to the time of the story. The old man continued “When the daughter had grown to young womanhood, the mother and she were accustomed to going out to dig wild potatoes. Her mother had said to her that in doing this she must face the west at all times. Before long the young daughter gave signs that she was about to become a mother. Her mother reproved her, saying that she had violated the injunction not to face the east, as her condition showed that she had faced the wrong way while digging potatoes. It is said that the breath of the West Wind had entered her person, causing conception. When the days of the delivery were at hand, she overheard twins within her body in a hot argument as to which should be born first and as to the proper place of exit, one even declaring that he was going to emerge through the armpit of his mother, the other saying that he would emerge the natural way. The first one bore, who was of reddish colour, was called Othawenda, that would be Flint. The other, who was light in colour, was called Duskaha, that would be Little Sprout. The grandmother of the twins liked Little Sprout and hated the other, so they cast Flint into a hollow tree some distance from the lodge. The boy who remained in the lodge grew very rapidly, and soon was able to make himself bows and arrows and to go out to hunt without his bow and arrows. At last he was asked why he had to have a new bow and arrows every morning. He replied that there was a young boy in the hollow tree in the neighbourhood that used them. The grandmother inquired where the tree stood, and he told her, whereupon then they went there and brought the other boy home again.

When the boys had grown to a full man’s age, they decided that it was necessary for them to increase the size of their island, so they agreed to start out together, afterwards separating to create forests and lakes and other things. They parted as agreed, Flint going westward and Little Sprout eastward. In the course of time, on returning, they met in their shelter or lodge at night, then agreeing to go the next day to see what each had made. It was found that Flint had made the country all rocks and full of ledges, and also a mosquito that was very large. Little Sprout asked the mosquito to run, in order that he might see whether the insect could fight. The mosquito ran, and sticking his bill through a sapling, thereby made it fall, at which Little Sprout said, “That will not be right, for you would kill the people who are about to come,” So, seizing him, he rubbed him down in his hands, causing him to become very small; then he blew on the mosquito, whereupon he flew away. He also modified some of the other animals his brother had made. After returning to their lodge, they agreed to go the next day to see what Little Sprout had fashioned. One visiting the east the next day, they found that Little Sprout had made numerous animals which were so fat that they could hardly move, that he had made the sugar-maple trees to drop syrup; that he had made the sycamore tree to bear fine fruit; that the rivers were so formed that half of the water flowed upstream and the other half flowed downstream. Then the rose-coloured brother, Flint, was greatly displeased with what his brother had made, saying that the people who were about to come would live too easily and be too happy. So he shook violently the various animals, the bears, deer and turkeys, causing them to become small at once, a characteristic that attached itself to their descendants. He also caused the sugar maple to drop sweetened water only, and the fruit of the sycamore to become small and useless; and lastly he caused the water of the rivers to flow in only one direction, because the original plan would make it too easy for the human beings who were about to come to navigate the streams. The inspection of each other’s work resulted in a deadly disagreement between the brothers, who finally came to grips and blows, and Flint was killed in the fierce struggle.”

Story finished, the old man turned to ask the old woman for more of her fine tea only to find her right there beside him with her pot. As she filled his cup the old man listened to the discussion going on between the elders. Finally, as the old woman moved among them re-filling their tea cups, one of the elders spoke saying “Honourable one, we understand that much of the story is to teach us the wrongness of fighting among the family of man, of how even what seem simple and silly disagreements can lead to great harm for the people, but honourable one, why was the man in the beginning of the story so angry over the tree, why was he so angry as to kick the poor sick girl down out of their magical home?” The old man smiled in the dimness of the fire and answered “Well my friends, there is a strong important knowledge hidden in the reason for that injustice, this reason is called ‘greed’, and greed is a word describing the selfish demanding desire that some people will hold in their attempt to possess and control things that otherwise would have been easily and better shared with all.” The old man continued “It is much like a child that refuses to share it’s toys with others, but so much more dangerous for the people as a whole. The greed driven live to create a life that is only for gaining more and more power and control for themselves, without feeling or care for anyone else around them. These people can, and will willingly tear whole peoples apart in their greed, setting tribe against tribe, people against people with lies and misguidance, anything to increase their own ends” the old man finished. One of the other elders said

but elder, we have never seen such from our people. How is it you have seen this and made it so important as to make it so much a part of this story?” The old man shook his head in sadness as he answered “Because my friend, my visions have shown me that far in the future the people will be facing the great threat of an enemy unimaginable, and one of the biggest things this enemy will bring to the people is a much bigger importance of greed. I have been shown that many of the people of those times will fall into the trap of greed and control, falling into the leadership of the enemy, endangering the people’s very existence.” The elder that had spoken replied “Then we will fight this thing elder, we will share these stories and teach the people the wrongness of this far distant threat, and in so doing I pray your vision does not come to pass.”

Very early the next morning the old man was setting by his fire drawing rapidly but with care on the bark pieces the old woman and her friends had gathered for him. As he drew, several times he was aware of the old woman standing over him looking down at his work. At one point she asked “What is the height and size of that bigger piece old man?” He responded “About the height of a man old woman, and just big enough around to remain flexible but with strength.” Upon hearing this, the old woman indicated another part in one of the drawings and asked “And how long are these small spears old man?” He answered “Just over the length of a man’s arm old woman.” She sat the hot cup of tea she was holding for him down, and taking up her knife and spear walked off toward the southern part of the plain, gathering other woman to her as she did. Just before high sun, the time at which the other elders had agreed to meet at his fire with one of their best hunters, the women all returned. Many were carrying arm loads of the longer supple trees, while most were carrying as much as they could of the smaller beginnings of the mini-spears. Two of them were even carrying large woven grass baskets of feathers. The old man was well pleased to see what they had done, but got no chance to thank them or say anything at all, as the old woman quickly took up four of his drawings and moved among them explaining and giving instructions. The first elder along with his young hunter came to the old man’s fire. The old man quickly offered them tea, at which the hunter quickly jumped back to his feet, and upon taking the old man’s cup, served them both. The elder asked of the old man “What is it you have these women doing elder?” The old man smiled and replied “Better to ask me what the old woman has them doing.”

Before the end of the hour all of the other elders and their hunter had joined them at his fire. Two of the young hunters were trying to make more tea bringing upon themselves a severe warning from the old woman about what would happen to them if they broke her pot. Seeing how the two big strong young men jumped at her words brought a big smile from the old man. The old man pulled his drawings out closer to himself and began to explain them to the group. Just as he did the old woman slipped up beside him asking “How long do we make the gut string elder?” The old man answered “Three quarters of the length of the shaft old woman.” He continued sharing his drawings and explaining how each fitted together in the creation of new tools for hunting and defence of the people. He was meeting with many blank stares and as he sat thinking of another way of explaining it all to better promote understanding the old woman came up with the first of the finished work. The old man smiled up at her, thanking her and telling her to thank the others. He rose with the items in hand and wrapping his leg around the long bit of tree, he bent it allowing himself to fasten the free end of the gut string to the other end thereby keeping the tree bent. The old man then asked two of the young men to go fetch an old used up hide and bring it near them, and to stuff as much grass in it as they could. As they ran off, the old man examined the small spear like stick. The women had done a truly fine job of affixing the feathers to the shaft in just the way his vision had shown him and he had drawn.

As the men returned with the hide and were packing it full of grass about eighty feet away, the old man held up the long bit of tree that had the gut string attached to it and said “This, my vision tells me is to be called the bow. It will become the primary weapon and hunting tool of the people. “and reaching down to take up the small spear like stick with the feathers attached said “and this my friends will be called the arrow, for though it may look small and non-threatening, it will fly like a bird and do much damage to whatever animal may be attacking while allowing the hunter to be well back from danger.” He could see they still didn’t understand so as the old woman lay about eight more of the arrows at his feet, and seeing that the men had moved away from the hide full of grass, the old man placed the arrow into the bow, and pulling back while sighting along is let it fly at the hide.” Even though it had as yet no sharp edge on the tip, the arrow buried itself deeply into the hide, with only the very end and some of the feathers showing. The elders and men all gave a cry as they saw this. The old man offered the bow to them to allow them all to try this new thing for themselves. As they did he walked over to where the women yet worked and said to them “I thank you all much for the help you have given this day, for you do not even know how much what you have done will aid the people in the future. It is a truly fine thing you have done for them.” The women simply bowed their heads, and went on with their work under the watchful eye of the old woman.

As the men all finished trying the new tool, the old man went back to his fire, and upon re-filling his cup with tea seated himself back on his blanket. The other men finished what they were doing and with great excitement came back to the fire and did the same, all seeming to be talking excitedly over top of one another. The old man waited until they had all settled down and quieted, and as he waited the old woman dropped another fifty or so of the arrows at his side. Taking one up in his hand, the old man looked at the elder whose people had shared the blessing of their metal knives and spear points and said “Elder, I am going to need your people to lead others to seek that special red dirt you make the medal from and teach them how to use it.” The elder jumped at the old man’s words and said “But honourable one, we are far from the source of that dirt, and even if it was close we need also a special kind of black rock that burns with a tremendous heat honourable one.” The old man simply said “You will find all you seek a short distance to the west near those mountains my friend” indicating the mountains with a wave of his arm. The old man held up one of the arrows and said “We will need to find a new source of this metal to create small spear points for the arrows, for though we could use stone to create points for them, stone will make them fly with less force and accuracy, taking away much of the advantage they give to us.” The elder answered back “Yes then honourable one, I will gather some of the people and begin our search this very day.” The old man said “You may take as many as you think you may need from all of the great tribe my friend, and as many of the other elders as may want to join with you to learn the secret of this dirt and rock.”

As they all moved off the old man heard one of them ask one of the others “But how does he know these things?” The other man answered “Because his vision is clear, his spirit is close to the Great Mystery.” Later that day a runner came into the camp-site and upon running up to the old man’s fire said “With great respect elder, we have found what is needed just as you said. The elder sent me to ask you if we could have one of the arrows so we can begin to make the small spear points for it.” The old man smiled at the man, and upon picking up one of the arrows as well as the detailed drawing he had made of the tip, he handed them to the young man saying “This is good news my son, very good.” As the young man ran back off to the west the old woman moved up to him with his supper saying “You act like you didn’t know they would find what they were looking for after you all but showed them the way old man.” He responded taking the offered bowl with “There is always doubt old woman, always.” To which she answered “Well at least I begin to doubt what you just said old man“ and she chuckled to herself as she moved off back to the fire. Later that night, while sitting at his fire with the old woman, the old man suddenly took up his rattle and began shaking it in a rhythm. He had barely gotten started when the old woman joined him on her drum. As they sat there together in the darkness near the low fire, the old man let the rhythm of the sound lead him into a deep vision; unknowingly it was to be the deepest he had ever had.

As the old man opened his mind up to the wisdom and guidance of the Great Mystery, images and feelings started to fill his very soul. He saw fleeting glimpses of the near future. Mostly pleasant and happy, but one of the images was truly terrifying for him. He once again saw the whole top of a huge mountain exploding in a rain of fire and rock, all of it falling sown upon his people. Even though he saw much death and pain from this, he also saw that the people would stand together through it, growing and moving forward once more to build a brighter, happier future. He saw them travelling, crossing mountains as high as the clouds, crawling down through valleys so low it would take them weeks to reach the bottoms, and yet still he saw the journey. He saw images of wondrous new places, places where some of the people would stay to build new lives for themselves and their families, while the rest continued to move on. And as his vision turned more to the east than south he began to see an even more spread out land, broken by only the deepest of canyons, and mountains. Places where water was more precious than food, but still some of the people found homes there as others chose to continue on. He foresaw a place where many of the people decided to turn father south as the others turned due east, so there was a big separation of the tribe there. He had glimpses of part of that southern tribe settling in the sides of great cliffs, building their homes there from rock and stone, even as more of them split off and travelled further to the south. Seeing once again the lost future of these southern most wanderers, though he saw them creating great stone structures in a far distant green jungle, he was greatly saddened for that part of the vision that once more showed him just how far the people could become removed from the wisdom of the Great Mystery. He saw himself and the old woman walking with the people moving to the due east, ever walking.

The vision released him for a moment allowing him a sip of his cold tea, though even as he sipped he continued the cadence with his rattle. The old woman, still with her drum said quietly “Do you want me to warm that up elder?” He just nodded his head back and forth and as he settled down the cup, he drifted back into the vision. He saw the eastern most tribe and himself arriving in a wonderful green land and as they settled he saw even further to the east yet another great sea. There was then a change to the vision, and his mind expanded so he could look at all of the land and people as though he was a great bird flying high in the skies over them. Years spun by as droplets of a sweet summer rain and he found himself once more looking down at the descendants of the White Jyn arriving in their great canoes from across that huge blue sea. He saw descendants of his own people welcoming them, helping them learn to hunt and plant, helping them survive their first winters here in this land. His world flashed around him again, and he saw war. The White Jyn people once more killing his people, and driving them ever back to the west. So many deaths, so much pain, tears began to run down the old man’s face, even as he saw his people trying to fight back and survive. Another sliding change in his vision. The whole of this county was now covered by the White Jyn and a few others, and though his own people had grown greatly in numbers, they had almost totally lost their connection with the Great Mystery, being enticed into joining with the Jyn in their quest for amassing ever larger stores of things and controlling power. The land was now almost completely covered in great massive structures, connected with hard man made trails on which strange machines travelled at very high speeds. Even within the sky itself there were strange machines everywhere he looked. Another sliding slip in his vision and he saw war again, but war on a scale he could not even imagine. Huge heavy war machines lumbering along killing many at great distances, even many who chose the peaceful were not of the fight. Another sliding, sickening, change, and a new vision. He now saw the whole of the Earth Mother near to death. Human kinds had so poisoned her for so long that she could no longer withstand the abuse. An end was in sight, an end for all life as the Great Mystery readied itself to reclaim its blessings.

The old man came out of his vision dropping his rattle and finding the old woman holding him upright. He was having a hard time getting air, like a fish washed up on a sandy beach. He could see the old woman’s mouth moving, but he couldn’t hear any sound. She had a truly grave look on her face as she rubbed his chest trying to help him get breath. Slowly, after what seemed to be the whole night to the old man, things started to return to normal. Somewhat breathing again he rasped out ‘tea’ to the old woman. She jumped at his voice and almost ran to the dying fire. Hurrying back, she knelt and placed the cup before his lips. As he struggled to swallow a bit of it two elders came walking up out of the darkness. The old man never got to hear what they needed for the old woman screamed at them to “Go away now! Now, both of you! Now before you get hurt!” Both men looked startled, and turned and ran into the dark. Breathing better now, the old man said to her “You shouldn’t do that old woman, you scared years off of their live” trying to manage a smile. She said “Shut up old man, they need to grow up someday, and maybe tonight will help them with that task.” She gave him more tea.

When he seemed more settled and returning to himself she asked “Old man, and if this upsets you don’t answer, but what did you see near the end of your vision?” “I, I,” he started, “but failed to get it out.” The old woman said “Old man, to my knowledge I have never had a vision in my life. I have seen what you predict come true over and over through our years together, so I believe that it is possible for you to see.” She continued “Tonight old man, somehow, I joined you in your vision. Somehow I was pulled along with you as you travelled that other place, a scary place sometimes old man, but also wonderful and with much beauty. How can this have happened old man? How can it be that I also seem to have shared this vision with you?” The old man thought on this for a moment and then answered “It is not a question of some gift or special knowledge old woman, it is simply learning to open yourself and allow the Great Mystery to impart its wisdom and guidance into your mind and heart “pausing he ended with “perhaps you have only just reach the point where you can quiet your thoughts enough to hear the call.” He could see her thinking on this for a moment. She said “ Then those things I saw, the White Jyn all over the Earth Mother, all the greed and power hungry control, the fear, the wars, the deaths, the great structures, the poisoning of the very surface of the Earth Mother herself, and all of the seas,” then she said questioning “all of those things will come to pass?” He thought for a moment and answered “Well old woman, I like to think that because we now know these things we can perhaps make changes in the future so that the really bad things never come, we find a way to avoid or change the worst of them for the betterment of all. “I pray that is true old man, I pray it so” she said back. He held his now empty tea cup up, and as she got up to get him more he said “You know, I truly believe you scared four years out of those poor elders lives” as he burst out laughing. She herself was still laughing as she brought back his tea.

In just another hour the sun started burning its way up over the mountains to the east so the old man continued to sit on his blanket as the old woman stirred up the fire and began to fix breakfast. As he sat there he pulled out his pipe, and lighting it began to smoke. Looking up he saw four of the elders walking nervously towards his fire. As they got perhaps twenty yards from him they stopped and one of them said “Honoured one, may we approach?” The old man bowed his head down to hide the smile he knew was shining on his face, then raising it, waved them in. When they arrived the old man motioned them to sit, and with many glances at the old woman, they finally did. “A bright new day dawns” said the old man. The younger of them responded with “Yes honoured one, a beautiful day to be sure.” “What can I do for you all this fine morning?” asked the old man. Another one of them said “Elder, we have been talking, and since we shall be here for a while yet, we would like to know that instead of the stories for teaching the people, we would ask you elder if you would try to teach is the vision quest?” The old man hesitated a moment and dragged on his pipe, and he heard the old woman making a ‘humping’ noise over by the fire. The old man answered “That is a fine idea my friends, for if the tribes are going to be able to carry on safely as separate and start building their own lives it would be good to have elders training in the vision quest to help guide them.” The men all looked relieved at his answer. The old man continued “We will start those lessons tomorrow night, because I have just spent the entire night on just such a quest myself. Now, would you all enjoy some of the old woman’s fine herbal tea with me?” They all looked at the old woman as if she was about to beat them with a stick, but again the youngest of them spoke “Yes honoured one, that would be wonderful if it’s al-right.” So the old woman brought them all tea and they talked of small things as she continued to make his breakfast.

When she had breakfast ready the old man offered to share, but the elders all stood and excused themselves saying they had various things to see to, so they walked off as the old woman placed his bowl in his hand. As he began to eat she suddenly sat right down beside him. He looked at her in surprise, but she didn’t notice. She asked “Old man, in our shared vision last night, we died didn’t we? I mean when the vision changed to the place where we were suddenly seeing things from high in the air as though we were birds, we were dead weren’t we?” The old man answered “Yes old woman, we were dead then.” “How can that be old man? How can it be that we can see things even after our deaths?” Again he answered as best he could “Because of where the visions come from old woman, they come from what we call the Great Mystery, but truly that is just a name for the source of all things. This source existed before anything else in the universe existed; it created all things, the stars, the sun, the Earth Mother, and all the life in our world. It will never end, because it never began, and we, being a part of it, will return to it when our time here is done, for as a part of the source we can never truly end either.” She was quiet for a moment, then said “I know now what you say is true old man, because as I journeyed with you last night I also felt this connection to a much greater force, it must have been this source you speak of.” He answered “It was in you all along my friend, for it is in all of us, we just forget how to listen to it.” She thanked him, got up, and went back to her fire leaving him to eat.

He slept well that night, and the next evening, as the old woman built the fire up to a roaring blaze, the elders began to arrive and sit themselves about him. When they had all arrived and the old woman had given them all tea, the old man began to speak. “My friends, the vision quest is a simple but life-transforming skill that can help you to relax, enhance while enhancing your understanding about yourself and while helping you develop your inherent potential. I could talk of different way in which you can focus on the ways of different techniques, but, being that most of you have very little knowledge about the quest, you may find it challenging to apply them without first learning how to fully focus. So in this first night, I will lay down some basic instructions on how to quest for beginners, as well as attempt to teach you all some of the common concerns beginners may have.” The old man paused for a second, taking a sip of his tea and continued “Choose a place where you can be undisturbed for a time, whether it be at your fires or in your tents, even walking off into the wilderness away from the people for a time may help. Upon finding this nice, quiet place where you won’t be disturbed for a time, sit down, relax and rest your hands on your lap. When sitting it is important to maintain the natural curve of your back. That means, no slouching my friends. Breathe slowly and deeply allowing yourself to be fully conscious of each and every breath. Close your eyes softly and while taking a few slow and deep breaths, inhaling with your nose and exhaling from your mouth, begin to calm the noise within your minds. Do not force your breathing but allow it to come naturally. The first few intakes of air are likely to be shallow, but as you allow more air to fill your lungs each time, your breaths will gradually become deeper and fuller. Take as long as you need to breathe slowly and deeply, and continue to allow you mind to quiet.

Become aware of that connection to a greater power you will find within yourself. When you are breathing deeply, mind calm, you’ll begin to feel ever more calm and relaxed. This, my friends is a good sign that your quest is beginning. Now, as you continue to focus your attention on your breathing, maintaining awareness of each breath that you take in through your nose. Be mindful of each breath that you exhale with your mouth. Continue to focus on your breaths for as long as you like, or until you feel a pull to go further. If you find your attention straying away from your breaths, just gently bring it back. It may happen many times. Don’t be disheartened. What is important is that you realize that you’ve wandered and bring your attention back to where it should be. As you develop greater focus power, you will find it easier to concentrate. As the visions of your quest begin to flow across your mind, hold to the peace you have brought to yourself, and welcome them freely and openly while knowing that some will be very painful to see and feel, while others will be full of life giving love and beauty. Allow the visions to flow for as long as you are comfortable with them. When you are ready to end the quest, open your eyes and stand up slowly. Stretch yourself and extend your increased awareness to your next activities. You will know a great satisfaction for the gains you have made in your spiritual connection to the source of all. As you do this ting more and more, much more of the meaningful information your peoples need shall be shared with you, and then you can share with them.” The old man finished with “this is the beginning of the vision quest my friends.” The old man said to them “This is but the first steps my friend, we shall have many more lessons for me to teach you what I have learned” ending with “Do any of you have questions?” There was silence for a moment as the old woman handed out more tea, then one of the elders asked “Honoured one, what of the drum and flute, what part do they play in the quest?” “Well, for me my friend, the drum and flute take me deeper within the vision, allowing me an even stronger connection to the source within, “and he finished with “but I would warn you all my friends, there is danger upon reaching too deeply into the visions too soon, and you need to move slowly learn, for yourselves just how far you can safely reach.”

The next night they were all back at his fire, and surprisingly to the old man, without questions. When they had settled he began “The vision quest is the art of focusing the all of the core of you into one area of concern. When I was a young child being taught by the old masters they made this point on many of the “advanced visions” telling me I was wrong, and arguing that the vision quest is an art of focusing your mind on nothingness, or everything that had or will exist For you that begin, the real challenge is quieting the never-ending noise of your minds, that within you that is always seeming to need to tell you something or interfere with what you are trying to accomplish. People who have just started reaching for the vision quest, centering all of their attention in one area will seem a wondrous way to create a razor-sharp focus in their mind. Using awareness of your breath, focusing on the images dancing in your fire, or those within the clouds drifting across the sky above, all can give you in the beginning a way to cultivate the ability to put your full attention towards the one thing you reach for. And as you gain in the ability to do this, you realize just how it will be so beneficial in the everyday life of you and your people. When you reach the point that you are able to quiet your minds and focus your attention singularly, you will get to a second level of the questing experience where the “nothingness” (or everything-ness) occurs within every vision. But the first step must be to learn to quiet the noise within your own minds. Before you start each quest you need to develop a plan of success and a belief in knowing you will reach the goal you set. Quest with a clear purpose in mind. You must make yourself realize that vision quest is a very active process. The art of focusing your attention to a single point is hard work, and you have to be purposefully engaged.” The old man paused for a moment, taking a drink of his tea.

He continued “You must commit yourselves for the far future, for the vision quest will become for you all a life-long practice, and you will benefit most by not examining the overall results of your daily practice, but by focusing rather on the overall benefits it brings to you and your people. Do the best you can every day, and then let it go, for only by letting go can you continue to learn and grow as you move forward.” Pausing once more for a sip, he ended with “and I would add my friends, if you truly want to become good at questing for meaningful visions, then you need to practice. Every day, two or three time a day, and learning to share what you have gained with those around you.” There was silence for a time as the old woman re-filled his cup and moved around re-filling the others. As she did one of the elders spoke asking “Elder, you say for us to practice the vision quest two or three times a day, but I would ask elder, how we can do this as we travel on?” The old man sat his tea down and replied “That my friend is done by what I call ‘the waking dream,’ for even as we travel we can teach ourselves to enter the vision and gain truth from what it reveals. A dangerous thing for the hunters guarding the people perhaps, but then again maybe not, for when within the vision our awareness becomes such that we become truly one with our surroundings and can truly feel when a threat may be at hand.” The man nodded his understanding, as some of the surrounding others did also. The old man was surprised to see the old woman nodding also. He thought “She has truly learned much.” With no more questions for the evening, they all thanked him and moved off toward their own fires, leaving the old man and old woman to sit drinking their tea.

The next night they were back, and back early. The old man watched them as they arranged themselves around the fire. There was a difference in them, in the way they moved and held themselves. The old man said “It is time I taught you some of the more advanced questing tools my friends. How has your been going so far?” One of them shrugged and said, “it seems to go partly well for me honoured one, but just about the time I get into the center of emptiness and the knowing begins, a thought comes along and disturbs the stillness and I start following the thought instead of the vision. Most of the time the thought is related to the knowing I was beginning to experience, but a thought stream seems crude compared to the other.” The old man smiled for he could tell that the young elder was ready for what he had to teach them all. Moving over next to the man that had spoken and sitting down the old man said “The center of you that knows is like a lake that is so perfectly calm that the moon is reflected brilliantly and serenely on its surface. A thought is like a breeze that ripples across the surface of the lake and shatters the image of the moon into a thousand sparkling lights. I can give you some tools that will help you still your thoughts like the calmest of lakes. All of you reach for a vision and once your soul is still and that which lay within you all is fully connected to source, so receptive it can reflect the light and love of the Great Mystery, and you can achieve your normal questing posture and breathing and then I will instruct you.” The old man waited a few moments all they all prepared themselves. When he saw them ready, sitting comfortably with legs crossed, breathe flowing smoothly and calmly as he had already taught he thought of the more advanced instructions of which he would speak.

The old man continued to wait until all of the elders breathing became slow, deep and measured. Calmly and quietly the old man began his teaching. “Listen to my words my friends and find the spot within your center of awareness that the sound around us centers on. Discover for yourselves the hearing focus. Soon I will quit speaking. See how long you can thoughtlessly focus on your hearing center. As soon as a thought begins, I want you to find where the thought originates. Focus on that new spot and connect the source of thought and the source of hearing together. As long as you can keep your hearing source and your thought source touching you can block thoughts completely. Now try this yourself.” There was total silence as they all focused on the old man’s instruction, and the old man noticed that the old woman seemed to have joined them in the exercise. All of them found that as soon as the old man’s words stopped the hearing source felt stronger to them. All of their thoughts seem to originate at the base of their throats as if they were about to speak. Within the silence of their minds they brought sound source and thought together like touching a finger tip to their thumb tip. The energy within them all vibrated higher and higher almost instantly. It was almost like holding a live bit of lightning within.  It was a subtle joy that went from a whisper to a shout. The moved back over to his own blanket as soon as he realized that they were all in the joyful throes of joy from their strongest connect to source they had yet experienced. He smiled as he sat, well pleased that they were all becoming such a quick study of the way.

And the next night, they were back again, even though there had been a light rain all afternoon, all of them were setting once more at the old man’s fire. He welcomed them and began his next teaching. “The secret of success in what you do and developing the benefits it will provide for you and your peoples, and in vision quest itself, is to be able generate an energy that will enable you to direct your quest where and when you wish. The old ones before me learned after many thousands of generations of study how to gain the Energy they needed from their connection to source within, the same connection which you now learn as an integral part of yourselves, and more and more as your deepening understanding expands your connection to the source of the all.” The old man paused looking at the surrounding faces, and continued “I would have you all continue to develop an ever stronger calmness and clarity of your minds. Work to increase your powers of concentration and focus, while overcoming whatever obstacles you may encounter to the vision quest you seek. And perhaps most importantly, fully explore your inner universe, that part within you all and all of us where the connection to source is at its strongest.” The old man paused again to see if there were any questions. He continued “I would as you all, in you practice have any of you ever noticed how your practice of vision quest reflects your level of energy? When you’re tired or sleepy, your mind is likely to wander, or you may even find yourself in a drowsy fog. It takes energy to quest effectively. Our level of awareness is determined by the amount of energy we have at our command.”

Continuing with “So where do we gain that energy we need to advance in our quests fully?” The old man waited to see if any would answer. One of the younger elders said tentatively “Great elder, is it not provided by the source connection within us all? I mean, when I have been practising questing as you have told us to do, and I grow weary it seems that by simply touching that connection more strongly I receive more than I need to continue on my quest.” The old man smiled widely at him saying “Yes my son, exactly right, for the source of all will provide us with exactly what we need if we but open ourselves and except its gift.” At that the old man saw the old woman nodding in agreement over by the fire. He continued “The more aware you become of that flow of energy, then the more you can direct that energy by the gentle guidance of your will, not only to the body, but toward anything that you do. Toward your work, toward creating inspiration and knowledge, toward the source in you vision quests, and in every aspect of your lives. For anything to be successful depends ultimately on the energy available to do the task. These exercises you all work on are much more than any physical thing you may have done before, they will lead you to a far greater existence than you have ever known” finishing with “and, in fact, of a spiritual progress you may not as yet be aware of.” Again the old man saw the old woman nodding in agreement by the fire. The old man ended with that as it had begun to rain again. And as the elders moved off toward their tents he said to the old woman “I notice you learn well old woman.” To which she replied “No, you teach well old man, that makes the learning easy.” He said good night and crawled into his tent.

It rained all the next day, and late into the evening, so there were no lessons given. The night after, after all of the elders had assembled the old man “So my friends, what changes have you noticed in yourselves and those around you?” They all started to talk at once, so the old man held up a hand, and then indicated one of them to speak. The man said “Great elder, questing for me has become a matter of pure awareness and concentration. It is now both a spiritual discipline and liberation, freeing me of things I had not known were holding me back. Through questing I have learned that I have neither limits nor lack of future hope. I notice also that those around me now seem more content and peaceful, and even though they still look to me for guidance, they seem to come less often relying and trusting themselves more than they ever have before. Why is it that they find more self-reliance from my own enlightenment great elder?” The old man answered “It is because now they see the true strength that you had hidden away within for so long. By allowing it to be shown you now allow them to know that they also have this kind of strength within them. This too will grow stronger and stronger as you all progress on you future paths.” He indicated another elder to speak. The man said “Elder, my visions so far have shown me many wonderful things, both beautiful and promising for the people, and heartbreaking and sad. For instance elder, in the not too distant future I have foreseen a large mountain coming apart with much violence and fire, throwing that fire and rocks down upon the people. There are many deaths in this vision elder, many. Is this a true vision elder, have I seen that which will come to pass?” The old man noticed the old woman nodding her head yes as he answered “Yes my son, the vision is true, and as heartbreaking as it is, it will happen as you have foreseen.” The man then asked “But elder, what use then is the truth of the vision if we cannot use it to avoid the dangers that lie ahead of us elder?” The old man replied “Well my son, some of the things shown to us are a part of the future than we cannot change. We can use the vision to better prepare ourselves for dealing with the hard times as they come, like in this example I had already decided to have all of you and all of the healers work hard to prepare extra burn potions and herbs in anticipation of the people’s coming needs.” The man nodded his head in understanding and went silent.

And thus it went, with a few more talking of visions they had already had, but more of them talking of the changes they had noticed within themselves and those around them. Finally the old man said “You have learned how to be peaceful, content and happy and to develop a spiritual attitude to your life, this will continue to grow within you all. People living in spiritual based society will continue to grow into even happier lives based on a set of spiritual values they will develop and share. The result is a lot of peace of mind, and a continuing growing of loving care among them all. Peace of mind is your single most important asset for it is the basis of happiness and a prosperous life in the future for all of the people. The most simple and wholesome way of attaining peace of mind is to learn to sit still and stop worrying through the cultivation of the ocean mind and the practice of “letting go.” At the same time, it is important teach all the people to embrace spiritual values such as gratitude and reverence. With peace of mind and a spiritual outlook on life, it is easy to appreciate who you are, what you have, and lead a simple and happy life” he paused a moment watching them. Continuing he said “Through more practice and changing your lives to one of truly living what you practice you will learn to fully concentrate your mind and take care of this present moment. The interaction of the people is complex, fragmented and full of distractions, but with your leadership to set an example for them, they will prosper and grow. Some will have a general lack of purpose and moral integrity and you may become frustrated with such because of the negative impact they have on other people’s lives. Many may begin to feel helpless and unhappy with their lives. They will find their work unsatisfactory and that the overall quality of life has been slipping in spite of a high spiritual living standard. In this situation there are two ways you can help them, one is awareness, you have to help them become fully aware of themselves and their potential for a happy and successful life. The other is by teaching them of concentration.

You have already realized yourselves that by concentrating your minds. In other words, teach them that at some point they have to stop running after distractions and start taking care of their present life for the sake of the world and their children’s futures. The sooner you start these lessons, the better. A focused attention and concentrated mind will take care of this very moment of your life, and if you teach it to the people it will take care of theirs too. This very moment is the most precious thing in your life and contains both your past and future. Apart from this very moment, your life does not exist.

And the next evening, again they were all there, eagerly awaiting the words they would hear next. The old man began “By now my friends, you have begun to learn to strive for the right livelihood and compassionate living and to become accountable for your actions and responsibilities of teaching your peoples. One of the highest ideals I can offer you all is to teach you that living a peaceful life is the most important thing you can accomplish, for just as our people have struggled on this far and difficult journey to escape the war the White Jyn would have forced them into, the future needs to be one of peace also. You accomplish this be first striving to lead a harmless life, one of non-injury to all the life you find around you., not hurting, not wasting and not polluting things as you move through your journey. This requires attention and your most mindful attitude which both of which are stressed throughout the wisdom of the Great Mystery. By listening within, you will learn to take good care of all the things at hand. For instance, you are instructed to do small things carefully such as taking your boots off and washing your feet. The viewpoint of a visionary

life is that life lived fully in each moment is the end and purpose in itself and not the means for something else. Thus, each small task you perform becomes an awakening of your heart and the fulfilment of your life’s dream. You must make yourself accountable for what you do, for everything you do effects all else around you. I would have you know this because through this you find none other than a life of a full heart and enlightenment.” He paused watching their faces closely. Seeing nothing but understanding around him, the old man continued “the vision quest my friends, as well as the practice you’ve been giving it will help bring peace and happiness the entire world around you. I need you to know this too my friends, no one is too weak or unenlightened to learn the vision quest, for with the proper guidance all can make that connection to the source within and begin their growth. It takes only the willingness to begin the practice, a need to listen to the teacher, on and a resolve to continue. And finally, one should never underestimate what one’s sincere commitment to questing practice can do for the world” he ended while looking at the faces around him once more. And there, after allowing them all to ask any questions they had, and share any visions or comments, he ended the evening,

The next day the people that had been out to the west creating the little spear points for the arrows returned with many thousands of them. They also brought many new knifes and spear points. As they were given out among the people the old man stood there admiring the fine craftsmanship of the new metal, and as he did one of the elders produced a large bag which upon opening it showed an abundance of highly polished beautiful odd stones, each of which shown with an amazing light from within in every color the old man had ever imagined. The elder insisted that the old man take his offered gift of these stones, and as the old man protested the old woman stepped in taking the bag. The elder then spoke to the old man saying “Great elder, my people have decided we shall be staying here when the rest of the tribe moves on. We find this place very pleasing, and can foresee a great future here.” The old man replied “That is well then my friend, I am glad you have all found your place.” The man nodded and said “I shall miss your council great elder, and I would have you know that the great gift of you teachings have already changed my life and the lives of many of my people, worth far more than all the steps I made to and from the west so I could hear them and learn. You should also know great elder that we would all be more than proud to have you join us right here in creating this new life.” The old man then replied “I thank you for your kind offer my friend, but my journey is not yet near to its end. I wish you all well.” Two days later when he crawled out his tent in the early morning it was to a view of all of the people around him getting packed up and ready to leave. The old woman was hurrying around trying to get their things together and ready. She growled a question at him “I supposed you told them we were leaving today but didn’t think you needed tell me?” Smiling broadly he answered “No old woman, they didn’t tell me either.” As he was standing there a group of elders came walking into his camp site. The old man nodded a good morning to them saying “Do you mean to leave us behind my friends? “He finished with a broad ornery smile. One of the men looking quite startled at the old man’s words quickly said “Oh no great elder, that was never our intent!” One of the others continued “Elder, some few of us met and compared our visions and we decided to separate our people into smaller group to minimize the danger we are yet to face.

Spreading out rather than in one large group will allow all to come to the rescue while not risking so many at one time.” “A good plan my friend, you show wisdom in taking care of the people” replied the old man. Another spoke “We would like you and your woman to travel near the end for safety honoured one, for we have seen that place as the safest position.” The old man heard the old woman say “Your visions are cloudy elders, for we have both seen our ends, and they are not for many years yet. You need not worry for his salty butt.” Her words really did startle them but the old man said, “We will do as you ask my friends.”

And so, around high sun the old man and old woman began walking out across the plain to the waves and calling voices of those staying behind. Again, the old man noticed he had an escort of about forty men circling about him. They walk the rest of the day, ever to the south, through the rolling tall grasses and to the view of large running herds of the great black buffalo. The sky was clear, the wind light and full of the sweet scents of life, a pleasant and fulfilling day’s journey. Nearing full dark they came to where the rest of the people had set up their great camp. They had even prepared a spot for the old man and old woman up near the center, with a fire pit of a circle of stone and much firewood. As he helped the old woman set up their tents, while she growled about him ‘getting in the way and doing it wrong,’ he thought of his vision for the next part of the journey. Work done, the old woman having gotten a good start on a fire, and beginning to start to cook supper, the old man sat down on his blanket and pulled out his pipe. As he lit it about ten of the elders came walking up one of them saying “Honoured one, may we speak?” The old woman spun from her fire saying in a loud voice “He is not teaching tonight, tonight he needs food and rest!” The startled man bowed to the old woman saying “No, no great woman, we want only to ask a question about the trail tomorrow.” The old man had been looking at the old woman and saw her confused face as the man had bowed, and then her deep blush as he had called her ‘great woman.’ He knew he was smiling broadly, but he couldn’t stop. Finally, after a long silence the old woman said “Well fine then, ask your questions.” Another of them bowed to the old woman and turning to the old man said “Honoured one, we have talked of our visions, and all of us agree that very soon we must leave the southern path and turn the people due west. Most of us have seen mountains higher than the sky lying before us if we do not do this. Our question honoured one, is this correct? Do we see clearly?” The old man smiled at them all and responded

Yes my friends, your visions are true and clear. On the third day south of here we must turn the people’s steps to the west, for though this part of the journey will be difficult and dangerous, to continue south would mean meeting the impassible mountains. “He finished with, “you have learned well my friends, truly well.” They all looked pleased at his words and bowing then thanking him they moved off to their camps. The old woman brought his bowl and tea, and handing them to him said “They really have learned much haven’t they old man?” He answered “Yes they truly have old woman, as have you I think.” He didn’t look, knowing she blushed as he dug into the food.
Three and a half days further south and they all turned to the east. The terrain was getting much more difficult, with many hard climbs and detours. But even as they struggled, with the warmer temperatures, plentiful game and water, and brighter days, the people were more than happy with this new world they travelled in. Mid-after high sun on the thirty-forth day after turning east the old man saw a huge rolling dust cloud there in front of them. Everyone took off on a run toward the sight. As they all crested a steep hill the sight below was quite depressing. There had been a great rock slide, and even from the distance they could all see many of the people had perished. Still they all ran down to check for wounded and survivors, and even as they arrived there were people coming from the front to do the same.

The old man and old woman worked and worked trying to safe those they found still living in the mass of stone. While they worked many of the people worked at digging out those still trapped. By night fall, they had done all they could. One of the elders came to the old man asking “Elder, is it safe for us to stay here tonight or should I tell them to carry the injured and move on?” The old man answered wearily “Tell them we must move on, move on until we clear this hateful place and find a place of safety.” The elder ran off to make it so. Much later that night, finally sitting be a fire the old woman had built, the old man tried to take the cup of tea the old woman offered, but his hands shook so that he was afraid it would spill. He indicated for her to set it down next to him. An obviously very upset elder came up to the old man’s fire. He said “Elder, may I have a word with you.” The old woman started to say something but the old man waved her off, indicating to the man to speak. The man said “Elder, this new knowledge you have passed to me is so hard elder, it is so hard to see before time what will happen, and not be able to do anything to help. This cannot be the only way elder” pausing he ended “can you not teach me another way, some way to truly help my people?” The old man sighed and took a sip of his tea indicating for the man to sit down. As the old man started to speak, the old woman brought the man tea, “My friend, all of you shared a vision that it would be safer for the people to spread out their travels, so not all would be trapped in the same danger at the same time. Has that not made things better for the people?” The man said “But elder, there are eighty four spread out dead in that pass behind us, could we not have foreseen better and saved them all?”

The old man took a sip of his own tea and answered “Well my friend, there are times that no matter how much we try, or how well we prepare, we will fail, for the world is a dangerous place, and we are but a small part of it. Do you think the mountain was angry with us for coming too near, and fell on the people out of that anger?” continuing without giving the man a chance to answer, “No, it fell when it did because the rocks had simply loosened over time and were ready to fall, and our people simply had the misfortune to be in their path when they did.” The old man continued again “And, because of the wisdom all of you elders showed in spreading the people out, there were far fewer lies lost than could have been the case.” The man sat with his head down shaking a bit and said back “But elder, so many dead, so many lost.” To which the elder asked “Old woman, is it truly an end when we die?”

She immediately answered back “No elder, there is no end with death, for we are all a part of the great source, and therefore will never end, for it does not.” The man’s head snapped up at her in the light of the fire saying “Elder, you truly have a wise woman at yo0ur side, a wise woman.” The old man answered with a smile “Yes, but do not be telling her that, her head is big enough already” to which she said “and what is wrong with my head elder?” with a false angry tone to her voice. The old man finished his tea and saying good night to the old woman, crawled into his tent and was soon in exhausted asleep. Early the next morning as he sat by the fire one of the young hunters came running up. Nodding his head the man asked “Elder, how long will we be staying here?” The old man answered “I think we should stay at least a few weeks to allow the wounded a chance to heal. Is there urgency my son?” The young man responded “No elder, my wife and oldest son are two of the wounded and I was worrying as to how they would travel.” “Well” said the old man “we won’t be leaving anyone behind, so you can go and tend to you family with a clear heart.” “I thank you elder, for you have truly set my mind to ease.” And he moved back down the hillside. When they had finished breakfast, the old man got up and telling the old woman to bring his medicine bag went to check on the people. Some of them needed more attention, and some of them just needed a kind re-enforcing word of encouragement, but everywhere he went the people seemed to come alive at his presence. The old man also notice that everywhere they stopped the old woman was immediately surrounded by other women asking questions, and wanting to talk. In all, no matter the hardship they had endured, it was a pleasant day.

On the fourth night the old man asked the old woman to go to all the elders and ask them to come to his fire. As he waited there in the darkness, he lit his pipe, and allowed all of the things he wanted to teach run though his head. When the old woman came back she was not only being followed by the elders, but be a large crowd of the tribal women also. Some of the elders seemed displeased by this, but all settled around the fire, as did the women. The old man began “My friends, tonight I would want to teach you all some of the most important thing for leading a good and inspiring life, a life that will lead your peoples to finding happiness and contentment in their own lives. Firstly I would say to you that you take into account all that great love and achievement involves a great risk on your parts, for in order to achieve you must weigh the risk, and begin with your first step toward fulfilment. I would have you all know that when you lose, and you will, don’t misplace the lesson loosing blesses you with.” He paused taking a puff on his pipe while watching their faces, then continuing “always hold to a respect for yourselves, respect for others, and most highly responsibility for all of your actions. Learn that by sometimes not getting what you want may be the best thing that can happen, for that too can bring you learning and luck in you futures. Learn the rules governing life, and learn how at times you need to break them, but breaking them in a proper manner. Never my friends” continuing “never allow a small dispute to injure or break a great friendship.”

And know this my friends, when you realize you’ve made a mistake, take immediate steps to correct it, again taking full responsibility for your actions.” The old man paused yet again, puffing on his pipe and watching the faces around him. Seeing no questioning looks he said “Each of you need to spend some little time alone every day, for in that quiet time alone you will find your path to connection and source. Open your arms to change, but never let go of your values, remembering that silence is sometimes the best answer to a difficult question.” Once more he dragged at his pipe, and finding it had gone out, reached into the fire for an ember to re-light it with. As he did, one of the elders asked “Great elder, but how are we to know when silence it the right answer?” The old man replied “All of you have been learning to truly listen to the Great Mystery and its voice within you, you need only to trust in that voice and you will know the proper course of response” continuing “I would have you all live a good and honourable life, for as you get older you will be able to think back and enjoy it all a second time as though it is all before you again. Make for yourselves and your families a loving atmosphere and giving in your home for this is the foundation for a truly joyful life In disagreements with loved ones, deal only with the current one, never bringing up the past, or trying to ‘win’ by using the past another.  Share your knowledge freely and openly, for in this way you achieve true immortality while allowing your wisdom to continue down through the generations yet to come.” Pausing once more to re-light his pipe, he once again looked closely at the faces around him. He continued “Be gentle with the Earth Mother, once every year go to a place you have never been before and give thanks to all she has blessed you with. I would have you each remember that the best relationship you can have is one in which your love for each other exceeds any need you may have for each other. If you must judge your success, judge it be what you had to give up rather than by what you gained by getting it.” The old man finished with “I am very pleased at the progress and growth I have seen in you all, and my own visions have shown me that this will only continue to improve as you continue your journeys.”

The next night the old man told a very old story. He started with “In the old days, many thousands of generations ago, all of the great animals, the birds, fishes, and insects, all could all talk, and they and the people lived together in peace and friendship. But as years of time, went by the numbers of people increased so rapidly that their tribes spread over the whole of the Earth Mother, leaving the poor animals to find themselves to be without for room to live. Though this was bad enough, but adding to the misfortunes of the animals man invented spears, knives, and hooks, and began to slaughter the larger animals, birds and fishes for the sake of their flesh or their skins, while the smaller creatures, such as the frogs and worms, were crushed and trodden upon without mercy, out of pure carelessness or contempt. In. this state of affairs the animals resolved to consult upon what measures they could take for their common safety. The great bears were the first to meet in council in the mountains just south of the great ice, where old White Bear, chief among the Cave Bears presided. After each in turn had made complaint against the way in which the peoples killed their friends, devoured their flesh and used their skins for his own adornment, it was unanimously decided to begin war at once against the peoples of the human race. Someone asked what weapons the people used to accomplish their destruction. “Spears and knives, of course,” cried all the bears in chorus.

And what are they made of?” was the next question. “The spear if made of wood and stone, and the knife is made of sharpened stone alone, with both of them using own entrails to hold their handles to the blades,” replied one of the bears. It was then proposed that they make a spear and some knives and see if they could not turn the people’s weapons against themselves. So one bear got a nice piece of locust wood and another sacrificed himself for the good of the rest in order to furnish a piece of his entrails for the string. But when everything was ready and the first bear stepped up to make the trial it was found that in trying to use the spear, his long claws caught at it awkwardly and spoiled the thrust. This was annoying, but another suggested that he could overcome the difficulty by cutting his claws, which was accordingly done, and on a second trial it was found that the spear went straight to the mark. But here the chief, the old White Bear, interposed and said that it was necessary that they should have long claws in order to be able to climb trees and catch the game they needed to survive on. “One of us has already died to furnish the binding string, and if we now cut off our claws we shall all have to starve together. It is better to trust to the teeth and claws which nature has given us, for it is evident that the people‘s weapons were not intended for us.”

The old man continued “No one could suggest any better plan, so the old chief dismissed the council and the bears dispersed to their forest haunts without having concerted any means for preventing the increase of the human race. Had the result of the council been otherwise, we should now be at war with the bears, but as it is the hunter does not even ask the Bear’s pardon when he kills one. The deer were the next to hold a council under their chief, the Little Deer, and after some deliberation resolved to inflict rheumatism and disease upon every hunter who should kill one of their number, unless he took care to ask their pardon for the offence, and thank them for their blessing of life. They sent notice of their decision to the nearest camp of the people and told them at the same time how to make propitiation when necessity forced them to kill one of the deer tribe. Now, whenever the hunter brings down a deer, the Little Deer, who is swift as the wind and cannot be wounded, runs quickly and quietly up to the spot and bending over the blood stains asks the spirit of the deer if it has heard the prayer of the hunter asking for pardon and thanking it for its sacrifice. If the reply is “Yes” then all is well and the Little Deer goes on his way, but if the reply is in the negative Little Deer follows on the trail of the hunter, guided by the drops of blood on the ground, until he arrives at the tent in the people’s camp-site,, which Little Deer enters invisibly and strikes the neglectful hunter with rheumatism and disease, so that he forever after is rendered a helpless cripple. No hunter who has regard for his health ever fails to thank and ask the pardon of the deer for killing it, although some who have not learned this proper way of respect may, in an attempt to turn aside the Little Deer from his pursuit, build a fire behind them in the trail.”

Next came all of the fishes and reptiles,” continued the old man “all of whom had their own grievances against the people. They held a joint gathering of council and determined to make the people dream of snakes twining about them in slimy folds and blowing their fetid breath into their faces, or to make them dream of eating raw or decaying fish, so that they would lose appetite, sicken, and die. Thus it is that snake and fish dreams are now accounted for. Finally the birds, insects, and smaller animals came together for the same purpose, and the tiny grub worm presided over their deliberations. It was decided that each of them in turn should express an opinion and then vote on the question as to whether or not the people should be deemed guilty. Seven votes were to be sufficient to condemn them. One after another, each denounced the people’s cruelty and injustice toward all of the other animals, the time came for each to vote for their death. The frog spoke first and said: “We must do something to check the ever increasing numbers of the people or they will become so numerous that we shall be crowded from off the Earth Mother. You have all seen how man has kicked me about because I am ugly, as he says, until my back is covered with sores.” and here he showed the spots on his skin. Next to speak came the birds, who condemned the people because they said “they burn my feet off,” alluding to the way in which the hunter cooks birds by impaling them on sticks set over the fire, so that their feathers and tender feet are singed and burned. Others followed in the same strain of complaint. The ground squirrels alone ventured to say a word in behalf of the people, who seldom hurt him because he was so small, but this so enraged the others that they fell upon the Ground Squirrel and tore him with their teeth and claws, and when you chance to look even to this day, the stripes remain on his back.”

The gathering then began to devise and name various diseases, one after another, and had not their invention finally failed them not one of the people would have been able to survive. The grub worm in his place of honor hailed each new malady with delight, until at last they had reached the end of the list, when someone suggested that it be arranged so that the menstruation of the woman of the people also should sometimes prove fatal to woman. On this the grub worm rose up in his place and cried, Thanks! I’m glad some of them will die, for they are getting so thick that they tread on me.” Fairly shaking in his great joy at the thought of this, in shaking he fell over backward, and could not get on his feet again, but had to wriggle off on his back, even as you see the grub worm doing today.

When the plants, who were friendly to man, heard what had planned and was being done by the animals, they determined to defeat their evil designs. Each tree, shrub, and herb, down even to the grasses and mosses, agreed to furnish a remedy for some one of the diseases that had been named, and each said: “I shall appear to help the people when they call upon me in their need.” Thus did medicine originate, and the plants, every one of which has its use if we only know it, all furnishing the antidote that counteracts the evil wrought by the revengeful animals. When the healer is in doubt what treatment to apply for the relief of a sick, the spirit of the plant suggests to him the proper remedy. The old man paused and took a drink of the tea the old woman had placed next to him. As the old man sipped one of the elders asked “But honoured one, how can it be there were so many of the people in the story, when there are so few today?” Setting the cup down the old man answered “That is another story I will be sharing with you all, but suffice it for you to know now that at one time in the far past the people all over the Earth Mother lost their way, beginning to make great war against each other, all of which led to the near destruction of them all, and the loss of much of the great ancient wisdom and knowledge, but as this evening grows long, that is a tale for another time.” One of the elders said

Great elder, in my vision I have been seeing only colors, red, blue, black, white, brown, and yellow great elder. Can you tell me what this means?” the man finished. The old man answered “Red represents the east, bringing success and triumph, blue is the north bringing defeat and trouble, black is the west meaning death, white is the south representing peace, happiness, and the great source within, brown has a meaning of the uncertain yet most likely successful path before you, and finally yellow has nearly the same meaning as blue, but more toward sickness and disease.” And, as if that were a clue, the old woman rose and began ushering the elders off to their own fires, leaving the old man to enjoy his tea and pipe.  The next morning, true to the medicine story he had told the night before, the old man and old woman set out to re-supply their stores of healing plants, roots, and herbs. As they moved south through the little plain of grasses they were in, they were soon surrounded by perhaps thirty of the hunters at a respectful distance. The old man growled a bit over this.

The old woman simply said “Shut up old man, the children guard their father.” As they moved, looking through the grass, pausing to dig up roots where they found them, they were joined by perhaps eighteen of the woman of the tribe, all carrying baskets and digging tools. They spoke to the old woman briefly, and then began to help in the search. The old man was well pleased at this, for the old woman was a great healer, and if she was teaching the others, then a great need would be filled for the tribe. As they moved up a small ridge and into a light stand of small trees the hunters all moved closer to them, not even breaking their ranks when a large deer suddenly jumped up right between them and ran. The old man started to say something to them, but the old woman laid her hand on his arm and chuckled. As they walked the old woman suddenly asked “Old man? In your story last night, it seemed there were many more people in the world than now. How can that be old man?” “Well old woman “ he answered, “that story is of a time so far back in our past as to be unimagined even by the best of us.” It was a time far back before the great ice, when the people had spread all over the face of the Earth Mother. They had built great structures and lodges ‘cities’ they called them, some towering as high as mountains into the sky. They had what they called ‘machines’, things that allowed them to travel great distances in a short span of time, they even had things that allowed them to fly in the skies like great birds metal birds, and things that allowed them to travel out toward the stars, even to the moon’s face itself.” She then asked “But old man, if there so many and they had such wonders, where are they today, and why did you not talk of these things last night?” The old man hesitated a moment, and continued “Well old woman, they also had terrible things of war and violence, for even though they had reached a higher level of understanding that should how allowed them to be at peace with all people, and all life on the Earth Mother, they were taken by the greatest enemies of the people, greed and the need to control others. First they began to war on the animals, treating them as though they had no meaning for living, just as in the story, and even though the people of those times had learned of the balance of all life, and how to understand and speak with every living thing, they turned aside and began to do as the story told.”

The old man continued “What I left out of the story was the terrible weapons they had then, things that caused lightning to strike down and destroy many at a time. Things they dropped from their flying machines that rained fire and destruction to everything below. And even worse things, terrible silver streaks that flew on their own and exploded with the force of a thousand of the fiery mountains, destroying all beneath them, leaving nothing but a ragged scare of broken stone and rock, some of the rock with the images of people burned into it. By the time there were too few of the people left to continue the war, all of their wonders were gone, even most of the animals of that time had been killed, and over the many years since all memory of those times have been forgotten.” The old woman looked quite taken back upon hearing this, she asked “Old man, why then did you not tell any of this to the elders last night?” “Well old friend,” he answered “I shouldn’t be sharing this with you either, for back long years ago when this was shared with me I was sworn to an oath not to reveal this knowledge to any of the people, for fear that they would try to learn of these ancient destructive things, and perhaps this time complete kill all of the people forever.” The old woman said “I think it would be better old man, to teach these things and the foolishness of it all so that the people can learn and not repeat this madness in some future time.” The old man smiled at her and said “That is what I said to my master all those years ago, and his answer then was as mine will be now, who, in the far distant future, perhaps thousands of thousands of years from now, who will remember and follow the words of one old man from the far distant past?” Even as we speak here old woman, there are still a few of those ‘cities’ and people in our world, though not as powerful and dangerous as they once were. And most sadly for them I fear, their end too is close at hand, for when the great ice melts they will be no more, and with them dies all the knowledge they possess. The old woman paused for a very long time now, bending to dig up a root, and moving on into the little wood. Finally she said “Old man, sometimes you truly make me sad, for I know the truth in you, and sometimes I wish what you say to be a lie, but you don’t lie old man, you don’t. Your visions are clear and true, your wisdom balanced and loving, there is no lack in you that I can blame for what even for myself I have seen in the coming future.

With the injured finally healed enough to travel, they began the sometimes difficult climb around and through the mountain valleys. After another four weeks of hard travel they came down into a truly beautiful tree studded valley, which had in its center a pristine running brook and a peaceful tranquil pond. The old man called a halt for a few days as soon as he saw it.  As the people began to set up their camp sites, one of the elders came up to the old man saying, “Great elder, why do you stop us here? I am sure the people are strong enough to continue travelling for some day yet.” The old man answered “And why do we force them to trek on past such wonders as this my friend, why would you not want them to enjoy these new-found magical places as when they can? Is not their happiness the real reason they travel at all?” The elder nodded his head in respect saying “You are a truly wise man great elder.” As the elder walked away the old man saw near the center of the valley a small spotted fawn walking into camp down the mountain side to the south. A few of the hunters grabbed up their spears and moved to take the small animal. The old man took up his staff and went running at them yelling “no” as loudly as he could. When he got to the men, out of breath and heaving, he realized the old woman was right beside him with her spear gasping for her own breath. The hunter stood frozen, looking all around themselves for the cause of the old man’s outburst and curious actions, and as they did many of the other hunters came running up also. Finally able to breathe the old man said “You will not harm this animal,” and looking around at the others continued “None of you are to harm this animal.” The old woman started to say “Elder?” but the old man waved her off with his hand. He said to one of the men “Go and get as many of the older children as you can and bring them here,” The man ran off in a great hurry, and soon after he did, a few more of the men did too. As he stood there waiting the old man pulled some grass up from beneath his feet and began to feed the little spotted fawn much to the surprise of both the hunters and the old woman. The fawn just stood there with the old man, munching on the freshly pulled grass, seemingly happy that it hadn’t had to bend down and pull it its self.

Soon the children and hunters had come around him, and the old man smiled at them, waving them all to come in closer to he and the little fawn. One of the older boy finally overcame his few of the elder and moved up to stand next to the old man, even reaching out to gently stroke the fawn’s back as he did. Soon all of the children were trying to get closer to the fawn, pretty much ignoring the old man, who was telling them that the fawn really liked fresh pulled grass, and that they had to be gentle and not crowd the poor animal too much. The old man sat down next to the fawn and began to speak to the children and hunters. He told them as he himself reached out to gently stoke the fawn’s side “The animal is called ‘Little Deer,’ and Little Deer is the spirit leader of all the deer in all of the forests.” As he spoke the children all moved back a bit and began to sit down in the surrounding grass. The old man could already see that many of the hunters had been startled at his words, so it was clear to him that their elders had shared his stories from the other night. Still gently stroking the deer the old man continued “This place here”, waving his arm to indicate the valley around them,“ this place is a truly magical place, a place much revered by the animals, and blessed by the Earth Mother.” He watched as he saw the children’s faces turn to one of rapture and attention, and as he watched the
little deer laid down against him, stretching its legs out away from him. The old man began to gently scratch the little deer’s belly as he continued

I would have you all know that as you grow up and become fine hunters you must learn to respect all of the animals that will give of themselves to feed your families. Your fathers and elders will tell you and show you what it is you need to do to give thanks and show this respect to all of the lives on the face of the Earth Mother, you need to listen well. Little Deer here chose to test up by coming down into her place to see if we had learned these lessons yet, to see if we were worthy of her trust and that of the other animals. I ask you all, will we be judged worthy?”  All of the children, and even some of the hunters were nodding their heads yes, as one of the children even said “Oh elder, what is it we need to do? What would you have us do to earn the respect of Little Deer and the animals?” The old man smiled once more at them all and answered “What we need you to do is while Little Deer is here among us We need you all to be greatly caring and careful, feed her as she likes, comfort her, learn of her, and most of all learn yourselves how it is that you can love and respect life as it is meant to be. Take time out of your days, each of you, and do these things, for this is Little Deer’s place, not ours, and in learning that, you all learning the beginning steps of true wisdom.” The child that had spoken said

It will be as you say elder, we will make Little Deer as though she is one of our own family, and she will know us for being worthy of her kindness and trust, and take that knowledge back to the other animals.” The old man laid a hand on the girls head and said to her and them all “You will do well them, you will all do well, now go and help get your camps ready before your parents come after me for keeping you.” A few of the hunters came up as the children were leaving and one of them asked “Great elder, what is it we need do, what is it we need to do to keep the blessing of Little Deer and the animals?” The old man answered “You need but follow what your elders have been teaching you, but know this, this is truly a sacred valley we have been welcomed to, and there will be no deaths in it while we are here, The men all nodded at that, and slowly walked away still talking among themselves.

As the hunters moved off the old woman sat down next to the old man and fawn. She even reached out and began stroking the little deer herself, and as she did she said “Old man, how did you know? How did you know this animal would be as it is, and this place would be as it is? How did you know old man?” The old man smiled at her in the growing twilight and said “Can’t you feel it old woman? Can’t you feel the magic of this place, the closeness to the Earth Mother, to the source of all? Open yourself, open that special place within you that you try so hard to not allow out, let it breathe and live, let it lead you into the kind of awareness that only it can bring to you. Look within old woman, and find the answering you seek.” She didn’t answer, and they sat there together quietly petting the little deer and the night grew strong around them. After a time the old woman broke the silence saying we need to go to our fire old man, you haven’t eaten yet today and the evenings in these mountains are cold and long.” The old man sighed, and slowly got to his feet. The old woman said “And what of little deer old man, what are we to do with her?” He answered “She will do as she pleases old woman, though I would bet she will find better companions than two old fools for the night,” and chuckling he began to move toward their camp. He would have lost the bet, for the little deer followed off right behind them.

Sitting at their fire, with a bowl of the old woman’s food and a cup of tea, the deer once more laying right against his leg, and with the old woman grousing at him for sharing a bit of his food with the little deer, the old man decided he was well satisfied with how things had worked out so far. He knew the whole thing was going to change the very way the children looked a life from now on, for that matter it would most likely also changed the hunter’s view of the world around them too. A good thing he decided, for the tribes, and for the generations yet to come. After smoking his pipe the old man decides to turn in for the night, blessing the old woman for her meal, he crawled over to the door flap of his tent, the little deer right with him. For a second as he crawled through he was worried the deer would come in with him, but as he settled into his blankets he relaxed, though he did laugh to himself a bit at an image of the little deer slipping into the old woman’s tent in the middle of the night, which would have been funny, especially if it had rained a bit first. Early the next morning the old man crawled out of his ten to find it had rained a little in the night. At first he thought the little deer had left, but upon rising and walking toward his fire he saw the children and the deer running and playing further across the valley. The sight brought a great smile to his face, and as he sat down the old woman said to him “The children are truly enjoying the gifts the little deer brings old man, and not only the children “she finished indicating a large group of hunters laughing and talking a short distance away as they watched the scampering play. “And there’s more old man” she said as she pointed up the ridge line to the south, “they have been there watching too all morning.” The old man looked where the old woman was pointing and saw six fully grown beautiful deer standing quietly watching the tribe below them. He asked of her “And what of the hunters old woman? What have they done about that small herd?” She answered “What would you think they do old man? You made it very clear to them last night that this was to be a place of peace, a place of no blood. They honour your words, this place, and the animals in it.” Continuing with “I even saw some of them feeding a small ground squirrel this morning, feeding it and offering it thanks as though their lives depended on its happiness.” The old man was still smiling as he took the hot tea the old woman offered as he said “My vision begins to come to light old woman, they “indicating the great tribe around them “truly begin to learn.” Sipping his tea and taking out his pipe, the old man set out to truly enjoy his day.

Later that morning three of the hunters came to the old man’s camp. One of them said “I beg your pardon elder, but we need to know if it is good for us to go and hunt outside of this valley?” The old man responded “Of course my sons, you need only to go clear of this valley and of course observe the thankfulness and respect I know your elders have been teaching you.” The young man nodded his head as he said “Thank you elder, we will do as you say, and as we have been taught.” As they walked off the little deer came up and laid down against the old man’s leg. He sat there stroking the deer watching as the men joined a large group of others and moved off to the west. As the men moved off the old man noticed a group of children playing with a ball they had made out of the grasses. He smiled widely at the sight and sounds of their laughter and joy. The old woman came and sat next to him and the deer, handing him another cup of tea. He said to her “Thank you old woman, it is a truly beautiful day is it not?” She smiled, openly and without shame, as she too began stroking the little deer saying “Yes old man, it truly is that.” continuing “I have never, never in my long life know such peace as this place, an inspiring and wondrous place closely tied to the Earth Mother and the Great Mystery. It has made me think and wonder old man, why I seem to have wasted so much of my life in troubles and conflict.”

He replied “Well, old woman, we only travel the road that lay before us as we step upon its path, and sometimes that path is difficult for us all.” She said “As I sat thinking last night old man, I realized that I have never thanked you for taking me in and saving me from that horrible nightmare of a man I was married to, and I do thank you old man, with all of my heart and soul. I still fail to see what made him hate me so.” The old man thought for a second and said “He didn’t hate you old woman, he hated himself, and by not loving himself he could find no love within himself to share with others. He was more deserving of pity than anger, even though the things he did to you and others were unforgivable. I have often wondered what happened to him after the people drove him off, for a man such as he would not have done well without people to depend on, and take his abuse.” “I have never looked at it that way old man, never thought to look at what might have driven him to be the way he was, I thought more that there was some lack in myself that caused him to treat me that way, and it made it harder to understand after the fine respectful way you have treated me over all these years. I think perhaps I had also lost my sense of self value also old man, but you have restored it to me and again I thank you for all your gifts.” He answered “There is no need for thanks old woman, we are what we are, and that is we are and always will be great friends.”

That night the elders all once more gathered at the old man’s fire. He began to tell them a new story, one that they would in turn tell their tribes and the children, one that would be passed along for generations yet to come. He said “At the end of the Moon of Falling Leaves, after the white Jyn had killed so many, the spirit voice of the Great Mystery came to me saying I must gather the tribes together and lead them over the great ice to a new land, one of safety and promise, where they could all live and prosper for many years to come. So as one big band we started with, and we others as we travelled. This large band of tribes were now bound together within the dream of making a better life, a better future for their children. Our people were all sad about leaving their homes, but all of them saw the need for their families for too many were dead, and now they saw a chance to make it better. So before we had gone very far, the white Jyn struck at us again, but this time they had not enough power and were defeated. And we travelled, the long hard journey across the great ice, and finally we came at least to this new land, and a true wonder it has turned out to be. Some of us have already found their new home and broken away from the rest, starting a new community and a place for their children. For the rest of us, the road lay yet ahead, and slowly but surely each tribe will find its new place in this new world, a country that seems made by the Great Mystery its self just for our happiness.” He paused taking an offered drink from the old woman.
Where we used to be happy, a place now only in our dreams, far behind us, but it too needs to be remembered for future generations. We travelled far, and the white Jyn did not follow us. But still we lost friends to the dangers of the trek when our people came to the challenges of the path. It was not like it used to be, and we were not ready for the coming winter, so we must keep on travelling south and east, for there I have foreseen a much milder and more survivable winter season for us all, and we must soon move

fast for winter comes. By the time we leave these mountains and begin crossing the plains below it will be very cold. While we still travel here in the mountains where game is plentiful, we need to prepare and dry plenty meat for the longer journey across the plains.” One of the elders broke in at that with “The hunters have a very successful day today, bringing in much game. We will tell them to re-double the efforts in the coming days.” The old man responded that would be good.” and continued “I was fifteen years old when the vision we now follow first came to me. I asked my teacher what he thought of my vision, and what it might mean. He told me that it meant I had a duty to perform, and a service to a people I had yet to meet. I wondered long of when my duty was to come; for the grandfathers had told me of a people walking on the white road and how the tribal nation’s hoop would be broken and the flowering tree be withered, therefore I should bring the hoop together with the power that was given me, and make the holy tree to flower in the center and find the magical road again. Part of this had happened already, back then I wondered when my power would grow, so that the rest might be as I had seen it in my vision. But, at that time, I could say nothing about this to anyone, because I was only a boy and people would think I was foolish and say: “What can you do if even the grandfathers can do nothing?”

He paused again taking another drink, the continued “When the blood covered grasses appeared again in my vision I went hunting for the people, and I was big enough now, for I had grown old in the long years I waited. One of my grandfathers walked along with me for a time as I started out, walking together, he asked me “Is your vision still clear my son?” I answered him very clear grandfather, though there are many parts that are very troubling, they truly sadden me. He then told me that what he remembered of my vision was of a very high need and though it would prove dangerous and painful at time, it was very necessary for the good of the people I was going to serve, and the end of the journey would be well worth the risk. I My grandfather then said I have a strange feeling and I think something is going to happen soon. I will watch while you make the ridge of the mountain and then you go. He looked at me in a strange way awhile. Then he said “You must learn to trust your inner wisdom as much as all of us have my son, for within you lay a very special gift, one you need to share with those you will travel with.” I walked on, but now I too had a strange feeling. As I crested the ridge of the mountain and started down the other side voice that said: “Go at once and look!” Quickly running back up the ridge I saw eight of the white Jyn galloping after my grandfather across the valley floor. I though to run down and try to aid him but even as the thought entered my mind it was too late, for they had already killed him and rode on without a care. Just after they went out of sight behind a bluff, the voice returned saying “Run on fool, there is more danger!” Then I saw a band of about fifty of them on horseback coming out from behind the bluff where the two hunters had disappeared. They were looking all around, and afterwards I thought that they had killed the grandfather only for their pleasure.

I realized then that my power had truly grown, for the voice had been very loud and clear. So I moved on in my grief, but driven to begin the task I had long awaited. In the Moon of Making Fat, I finally arrived at the first of the people’s villages, meeting with the first of you elders and explaining what I saw needed done. And thankfully you herd the wisdom of my words and began to ready your people for the great journey. This took time, but as a blessing from the Great Mystery it also allowed me to meet and begin building my friendship with my greatest of friends, this old woman” indicating her with a sweep of his arm. He continued once more “As you all can remember on the morning the white Jyn attacked I had said “Make haste!“

Before this day is out something bad will happen! Something very bad”, for my vision had shown it thus, and had also shown me that there was nothing I could truly do to stop it from happening.” he finished with “I will end this here and continue tomorrow night, I wish you all to have pleasant dreams, and to enjoy the day tomorrow.” They all rose, thanking the old man, and nodding to the old woman as they moved off to their camps.  One of the elders said “Of course when I heard this I was excited and worried, so I told my people to hurry for I had a feeling that I should listen to this man. Somewhere I had heard a voice like it was coming from the clouds, and that we must hurry up and go. We left everything but the fat of the cow, and fled. As we fled, others joined us, and at first I worried as to how we would be able to care for so many, but by the time we got to the third camp of our new band, I knew we were going to be all right. So, even though tired from our hurried flight, we quickly broke camp each morning and continued our eastward trek. And now here we are, in this fine new land, far from the dangers of the white Jyn and blessed beyond measure with the future that lay before us.” he continued indicating the old man and the old woman “What fine leaders they have been for our peoples, for who but them could have brought us safely through all we have travelled through?”

There was a large man called Brave Wolf who was well known for his bravery and skill at the art of war, he stepped forward saying “Indeed, you speak the truth elder, for this man” indicating the old man with his hand “I will admit I doubted him in the beginning, I doubted his ability, honesty, and did not trust him to care for the people as I did, but over and over he has proven himself to me and us all. He has taken on a great burden for himself, one I doubt any of us could should, for he cares for all these people” indicating the whole of the valley with a sweep of his arm “All of these people equally, without favour or bias, just as though they were all his blood family. And for all of the very great deeds he has done for us, what bane or favour has he asked? I say to you all none, for he shares his aid and all he knows freely and openly to any who will listen.” He paused for a moment, and then getting down on his knees said “I would say this that I have never said to another, to you great elder and you great woman, you have my eternal gratitude and humbleness thanks for the gifts you have brought to our people. There can never be anything you could ask from me that I would not give.” And at that all of the other elders did the same, saying the same kind of things.

The old man sat there by his fire for a moment and said “Get up, get up all of you, I respect what you say and the honour you give to me, but I feel undeserving of it. Each of you have your own strength, and give just as much to your people. I am but an ordinary man, just as is this old woman here an ordinary woman.” The old man thought for a moment longer and said “So, back to our story, The voice in the clouds had told the truth, and it seemed that my power was growing stronger all the time. When my grandfather was killed, it was my duty to protect his wife and family, so I did; I ran all the way back to the temple and though it rained all night, I arrived there very early the next morning. My grandfather’s wife cried so hard that I had to make her quit for fear some enemy might hear her and find us. I told them to gather some of their things and lead her and the rest to a temple far to the east hidden high in the mountains. When we reached the temple the next morning my relatives began mourning for my grandfather. They would put their arm across each other’s shoulders and wail. They did this all day long, and I had to do it too, for the loss was too great for me also. I went around crying, knowing all the while that he had thought so much of me and I thought so much of him, and now he was dead. I only stayed at the temple that day talking to the masters and telling them what I had to do, and begging them to take care of my family. The masters game me dried meat and blankets to help me on my journey and I left early that morning. And after a long walk I met the first of you, and you know the rest of this tail. “

They all looked startled at his words, but none questioned what he said. Wind suddenly went down over the valley, and it got still and very cold. Sitting there wrapped in his best blanket the old man listed to the sounds of the night. As he listened a coyote began to howl not far off, and suddenly he knew it was saying something. It was not making words, but it said something plainer than words, and this was it: “Two-legged one, in the big valley east of you there are bison; but first you shall see two over the great cave bears over there.” He said to the elders “I have heard a coyote say that there are bison on the big ridge east of us, and that we shall first see two of the cave bears over there. Have your hunters get up early.” Long before this time they had noticed that he had some kind of great strange power, and they believed him without doubt. The wind came up again with the daylight and with it a heavy fog, and the hunters could see only a little way ahead when they started east in the morning. Before they came to the ridge, they saw two of the great cave bears, dim in the blowing snow beside some bushes. They were huddled up with their tails to the wind and their heads hanging low. When they came closer, there was smaller bear sheltering in the brush, with its eyes open looking at them. Quietly the hunters slipped by the family and moved on up the ridge, there was much timber up there. They got behind the hill in a sheltered place and waited, but they could see nothing. While we were waiting, they talked about the bears and what a strange sight that had been. Now and then the snow fog would open up for a little bit and you could see quite a distance, then it would close again. While they were talking about the need for food for their hungry people, suddenly the snow haze opened a little, and we saw a shaggy bull’s head coming out of the blowing snow up the draw that led past them below. Then seven more appeared, and the snow fog came back and shut them in there. They could not see the hunters, and they were drifting with the wind so that they could not smell them.

The four hunters stood up and made vows to the four quarters of the world, saying: “Grand us success and safety Great Mystery” Then they moved from the brush on the other side of the ridge and came around to the mouth of the draw where the bison would pass as they drifted with the wind. The two oldest of the men were to be the first to cast their spears, as the two younger used their bow and arrows to try to bring the great beasts down. Soon they saw the bison coming. The older people crept up and cast, but they were so cold, and maybe excited, that they got only one bison. They cried “Now!” and the younger two charged after the other bison. The snow was blowing hard in the wind that sucked down the draw, and when they came near them the bison were so excited that they back-tracked and charged right past them bellowing. This gave the two older a second chance with their spears and as the buffalo ran past in the deep snow they cast again, this time with success. Suddenly the bison one of them had speared got out in a big flurry of snow, and the hunter knew it had plunged into a snow-filled gulch, but it was too late to stop, and they all four plunged in right in after them. There they were all together, four bison, and four hunters, all floundering and kicking, but they managed to crawl out a little way, and turning brought the remaining buffalo down. They had killed five buffalo with no-one hurt. They were well satisfied, for the people would eat well from this day’s work.

It was still morning, but it took till nearly dark for the hunters to do the butchering. Around noon there suddenly appeared more help, saying that the “Great elder had sent them.” And a great help they were too. I could not help, because my hands were frozen. With the butchering finally done and the meat all piled up on the fresh hides they began the long trek back to the camp dragging their bounty. As they neared the place where they had seen the bear family one of the hunters that made the kills asked of those that had come to help it they had seen the bears. They answered “Yes, two adults and a young one near some bushes.” The four looked at each other saying nothing, and the one that had spoken said to the people that had helped “We will need the smallest hide and some of the meat.” When it was ready the four said to the others “Now go far to the south so as to miss the bears, we will see you back at the camp.” And they started off directly toward the bears. None of the other people said anything though they did look at each other with questions in their eyes, they went to the south as told. As the four neared the bears the female suddenly jumped up letting out a mighty roar. The great male also jumped to its feet and the roar it gave shook the vary trees around them. The four hunters began to sing a quiet song, of of thanks and peace continuing to drag the hide up to the bears.

Finally, very close, they stopped and began throwing meat off the hide to the adult bears. At first the bears continued to growl and roar, but at long last the female reached down and smelled the meat the hunters had thrown. She tore into it with a mighty hunger and as she did the male took notice and while still keeping an eye on the hunters smelled the meat at his feet. He too tore into the gift, all the while the four continued their song. At long last after throwing all of the meat off the hide they moved off together toward the camp leaving the bears to their unexpected feast. When they arrived at the camp the people had a great big fire, and had tied the meat and hides around it to prepare their own feast. Many, upon seeing the hunters, came running up to thank them. It was going to be a night of great feasting, singing, and dancing, for all were very happy.

More to follow soon, am still writing this one…

3 thoughts on “The Journey of the Great Ice

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