Tedgery knew it was time to leave home before it was too late to do anything about the threat only she saw coming. Her family tried to understand and hoped her departure would find a place she belonged and people who might understand her crazy ideas. It was all they could do.
All of the people achieved adulthood by learning to be able to live completely on their own through the ancient tradition of vision quests. As soon as the children’s impatience to be treated as adults achieved a certain intensity they were given permission to live alone, using all the considerable survival skills already acquired by that age, so they might seek their very own nature guide for help with questions so deeply personal there were no words to answer, away from the company of people. Through alternating fasting, prepared medicines, quiet meditation and singing and dancing the seeker concentrates on finding a wisdom greater than her/his experience about the nature of experience itself, embodied by an avatar of nature: a bear, wolf, eagle, ape, deer, tree, thunder or sunrise. This passage into adulthood is a tradition intended to introduce an individual to their ingrained genetic memory, the knowledge of nature’s ways common to all its variations without the distraction of the individual differences of the variety.
Having a nature guide benefited both the individual and the tribe. All parties recognized an individual capable of living alone in symbiosis with Mother Gaia as having fulfilled the primary responsibility of being useful to oneself as a beneficial part of the body one’s environments is. Each is utterly alone in that responsibility. The tribe recognizes that such a one chooses its company out of a sense of their kindred spirits as opposed to fearful dependence on its protection. Those completing their vision quest serve as good examples of its benefits to developing generations helping the tradition become a natural way of life
Tedgery’s vision quest failed the first time she sought her guide. After eight days of anguished failure to conjure a believable avatar she drug her exhausted body back to the empathetic arms of her clan. Not finding one’s nature guide was always appreciated as a sign of one’s integrity in not making one up to avoid the stigma of failure. Those that invented their avatar were more obvious than they ever realized of themselves and therefore less dangerous than they might have been in a society where appearance means more than substance.
On her second attempt two years later, Tedgery had concentrated with an intensity that frightened her worse than the figments of her heightened imagination as they tried to lure her belief in them by claiming to need it to become real. Her experience of friends and elders who had achieved unity with spirit guides taught her that they were indivisible once they had accepted one another. She knew, even before meeting her own mentor, that its voice would not require belief any more than its guidance could ever again be ignored.
After five frustrating days her body announced it was quitting such behavior and led her to a quiet brook and laid her on its bank to sleep from that afternoon until the next sunup. Long before she opened her eyes her curiosity about the song all the people in her dream were singing in beautifully layered voices resolved a quiet chorus into the gurgling of the brook as it swept her hair along the bank upon which she lay. Somewhere between the dream and the normal waking reality she understood the vast wisdom in the water’s words drawn from its experience of being a part of all the variations along nature’s curve boiled down to simply remembering that everything is a part of the same nature whether one agrees or not. Agreeing with the way it is just makes life more harmonious. As her nature guide has been gurgling in her ear ever since, water takes the most attractive, least resistant path in traveling everywhere being everything, as will the water she is long after her body no longer contains it.
Upon returning to the family a tribal ceremony was held where she told of her trial and its lessons, which in turn earned her an honorary name, Goeswell. To her people it came to mean she-that-never-has-problems-and-can-solve-yours. As admirable a being as that name seemed to indicate, Tedgery soon learned she had not represented her guide properly because she had begun to have more and more confrontations with the immovable certainty contained in tribal traditions honoring mortal confrontations over possession of those things more beneficial to all when openly shared. Above all the other traditions, she held highest her loyal defense of the beloved kindred she called home and now she saw she may have to abandon it to save it from itself. Or herself.
Her gurgling nature guide had shown her how the tribal council’s refusal to drink of the fresh new ideas bubbling from the wellspring of she and her friends youthful curiosity when it filled the bowl at council meetings was a sign that a larger understanding was being born that must learn to flow around the rigid traditions forbidding new ideas so that they may be slowly absorbed and eventually dissolve the resistance. While maintaining the tribal ways of relating to Gaia, Tedgery found their rigidity was prohibiting more experience of nature’s ways than they revered.
Just the other day her friend, Klatoo, was prohibited from illustrating an honorific history of the seven northwest tribes until he purchased the tribal symbols of the Chippiwamu, Cucumexon, and the Blackwater clan of the Usuki tribe. The question of ownership centered around an old tradition based on maintaining symbiotic relations with the rest of the world by prohibiting ownership of any living part of it unless gathered at season’s final ripeness or hunted for food. All life was sacred.
Such remnants as inedible parts of animals and fibrous parts of dead plants, as well as certain rocks and minerals served as material from which tools and crafts were developed by all the people. Initially they were implements to help with the getting, preparing and eating of food created and used with an honor for the spirit of the living material as a token of respect for all of nature and as thanks for the utility through whose service it lives so artfully on. Artifacts thus created also served as an example of the unique character and history of their creator and her/his signature technique or style of decoration so that they were less possessions than identifying symbols of the creator. An exceptionally skilled painter could paint the tipi cover in the symbols of a friend’s design, who in return could make a tipi cover to fit the painter’s poles in trade. All this brought good health and harmony to the people. The only thing that resembled competition among them was friendly comparison of the beauty and grace with which the identifiable overall style of each tribe represented their respect for the mother, Gaia, at annual gatherings in her honor.
In the lifetime of her great, great, great, great, great grand mother, a gatherer from the Monsandow people had been given the honorary name, Growsit, when she began gathering so much extra food for her family that none of her whole clan went hungry during lean times and the men began having to hunt less. Before she died she had shown each family in her tribe how to nurture small gardens in clearings to propagated food they had ‘til then only gathered wild where it grew. In the beginning the gardens helped expand the interest and awareness of the interdependent relationship of the people to nature’s bounty through symbiotic respect as they learned when to plant to get the most fruitful crop in the season where their parents used to trek the wilderness to find sometimes too little.
Within her great, great, great grandmother’s generation a coalition of tribes way off to the south began to eat all their food out of the same garden tended by five farmers from each tribe. Their notorious disrespect for Gaia in burning off acres of forest and killing all the natural inhabitants to fence away growing plants and build huge lodges to store the excess harvest for their exclusive use was overshadowed by the belligerence they began showing toward their neighbors and wandering nomads as their well fed, growing population began to feel as cramped in their traditional homelands. In much the same way, the surviving exiled field mice, when more and more new brothers and sisters appeared fighting them for the excess grain spilling from the silos, wished the humans would build another silo.
When she was born the farming culture had reached the edge of the great desert where only the nomads could survive — and then only long enough to cross by balancing the weight of trade goods against water between oases. With the aid of her nature guide’s understanding of thirst she estimated it was a matter of a hundred years before the swelling population and insatiable greed of the farmers bridged the divide and infected her people with such harmful disregard of their environment when they no longer needed to know or care where their food came from. The elders said she was an alarmist. How can anything so good for the people be bad for Gaia?
She knew if she could learn the answer to that she might be able to return to the tribal council with an understanding based on experiencing the effect of this farming thing on the people and the body of Gaia. To do so she would have to cross the desert, a brave adventure for someone whose nature guide is water.