Lead, Follow, or Get Out of the Way

6-13-13   Pick a number  –  63      Add “rings”


Sixty-three gold rings were looped around her neck.  The metal had been beaten so thin and fine that all of the rings together didn’t weigh an ounce.  There was one for each year of her life, and if she had been a younger woman, you would have thought they were a dowry.

Each ring had been formed by her husband and presented to her on her birth anniversary.  The celebration in the tribe was a daylong affair, and the presentation of the ring was the start of a bacchanal of feasting, dance and storytelling.  Halfway through, she would be compelled to stand and tell a story of an important day in her life, or in the life of the People.  There were others in the tribe who were older, but none wiser.  The men revered her, and the women respected her.

Leaders before had been presented cattle, or robes, or a finely carved staff with runes telling the story of the people winding around and around from grip to tip.  When she ascended to Head, her husband had presented a gift of twenty-seven rings, which he had worked long and hard to craft.  They were a gift of love and respect, and the gift was renewed each year.  No one else in the village thought to do this thing.  It was set from the beginning.

This evening, as she stood before the crowd, she looked out at her family and all the other families that called her Head.  They trusted and revered her, and the stories she told were written down and became the lore of the people.  This time, the tale would be a hard one.  She stood, and told of the future.

“The time is coming when we must travel,” she said.   “There is a chill in the air earlier than last year, and the fields have grown tired.  Our tribe has grown in size, but not in strength, and the stillness of our feet has led us down no path of good.  If we are to survive, we must gather what we need.  Every one of us must prepare, old and young.  You have two months to teach the children, and then we move to the coast.  Along the way, we will gather what we must, and when we come to the edge of our world, we will build boats, enough for all and some, for we shall travel for a while, and we will continue to grow in our travels.  We must do this, or die a slow death.  I do not declare this lightly, but do tell you the truth.  We can live, but not here.  This year’s celebration is to start a new time for us, and we can all be glad.”

She sat back down, and beckoned the elders forward.  The others drifted off, some of the celebration taken out of their souls.  Clusters formed, and questions were asked.  The elders did not have to ask.  They trusted her, and as they looked back over the past years, they saw the truth that she had seen first.  They spoke with her, and with each other, and began to plan.

One was a shipwright, and was compelled to tell how long the building would take.  The farming folk were told to gather everything, and leave no seed behind.  Weavers were told to begin the long process of outfitting everyone with the sturdy garments needed for travel, and most of all to cover the feet of every person thrice over, for the travels would be far, and there would be no time to stop and gather new.  The eldest knew the sky, and he was told to draw a map of the trip south.  It was to cover the entire distance from zenith to southern horizon, and as new horizons presented themselves, he would draw more.  The children were to gather the fruits of the field and forest, and dig what there was.  No quarter was to be left, as there would be no returning.

“Strip it bare,” the Head declared.  “The earth will heal itself after we are gone, but we need all that She will give us or it will be harder.”  The others knew then that the faint hopes of returning some time to a comfortable life were folly, and that the world had indeed changed.  The drink was passed as they talked, more than once, and the flagging spirits rose a bit before the night was over.  This would be a great adventure, and all would be part of it.  The tales would be told for years to come, and the grandchildren would remember it well, for they will have lived it, too.

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