Once, there was a Raven who went exploring. He came upon a Woman, small and dark of stature, in threadbare clothes. Woman dragged behind her an enormous cedar tree, which was attached at her ankle with a noose of rope. She took one step, then heaved with all her might so the tree would slide through the mud and muck a few inches behind her.

Seeing that Woman looked haggard and exhausted, Raven flew down and perched on her head. Woman looked up in fear to see Raven swooping down towards her, but when he landed and did not peck out her eyes, she greeted him in between grunts of effort.

"Why do you toil with such effort to drag Cedar behind you?" said Raven, "Why not remove that simple loop of rope and continue on your way unencumbered?"

Woman looked at Raven with exasperation and disbelief. "Do you see that menacing mist along the tree line over there? It threatens me with every step. When I bend over to try to remove the rope, it lashes out in a whip flash and causes great pain."

Raven considered the mist off in the distance. It looked like normal mist, and did not appear to be overtly dangerous. He decided on a different tactic.

"But where are you going, anyway? Judging by the state of your dress and the long muddy trail of the tree, you have been at this work for some time."

Woman, still moving a few inches a minute in painful, dragging steps, considered this question for a long time. Her brow furrowed in concentration. Raven rode along on her head in silence, fluffing his wings out to maintain his balance as she lurched.

"You know, I don't remember. What you say about how long I've been in this bog must be true, though--look at the scratches and scrapes all over my legs, the mud under my fingernails from where I've fallen, the tattered hem of my dress. I don't know who I was, or what I'm doing here. I have made myself forget, I think."

Raven and woman continued trudging in silence for the rest of the day and into the night, thinking. When it was fully dark, and only faint starlight filtered through the dome of mist that now surrounded the pair, Raven spoke up again.

"You say you cannot remove the loop of rope without pain. Have you tried just stopping? Does the mist attack you then?"

Woman's steps over the preceding day had grown closer and closer together in weariness. Her face, grimy with mud and sweat, had more lines now than Cedar's bark. Raven's questions had woken the knowledge in her that she did not know her own self, her history, her life, and the knowledge of her own ignorance brought her great suffering. Without answering Raven, she collapsed to her knees, then sprawled prone in the mud and wet marsh.

The mist floated along in serene silence.

After several hours, the woman grunted and groaned her way to her feet, somewhat restored by her brief respite.

"Thank you, Raven. I now know that I am safe from the lash if I simply rest without trying to remove the rope. I must continue, though, now that I have rested."

Raven fluffed his wings and squawked in irritation. 

"But why? You said yourself you have no idea why you are dragging Cedar in the first place. What is the point of going to such effort if you don't even know where you're going, or why you're going there?"

Woman considered Raven's words as she stood poised to take another step. The thought of dragging Cedar through the mud for one more minute, let alone for the rest of her life, for reasons she did not even remember, seemed foolish. What was the point?

With a determined step, Woman turned away from the path in front of her and towards Cedar. She hauled herself up the side of the trunk, feet and hands grasping at the stubs of limbs that had been broken and rubbed off along the way. As she reached the apex of the trunk and lowered herself to sit, the crest of a weak sun broke above the horizon, shining through the mist.

Raven flew off Woman's head and landed on a broken nub on the trunk of Cedar. Woman and Raven faced the sunrise together and watched as the sky turned a pale pink, then gold. Woman closed her eyes and entered an exhausted trance, her chest rising and falling at the same pace as her steps had once been. 

Over the next several hours as the sun rose higher in the sky and grew stronger, the ever-present mist began to burn off. The watery, muddy marsh began to change too, and the ground underneath Cedar moved farther apart to reveal a small, clear stream, deep and swift. Underneath Woman, Cedar morphed as well. The nubs of branches fell away--Raven, alarmed by the vibrations under his feet, flew up to Woman's head again before his nub vanished. The center of Cedar pushed into the sides, the ends elongated and tapered together. Woman stayed stock still, and the section beneath her became a shaped seat in the center of what was now a Cedar Canoe. The rope still tied around Woman's ankle fell away and shriveled into nothing.

Raven, delighted with these developments, began to peck at Woman's hair to wake her from her trance.

"Woman, look! Open your eyes and see!"

Woman clawed her way back from a dream as deep as dreams, and opened her eyes. Her gasp of delight threw her off the seat backwards and into Canoe as it began to move through the water of its own volition.

Woman and Raven rode in Canoe for a day and a night, moving many miles over the green and lush landscape.

On the morning of the second day, Canoe came to a village on the banks of the river. Children and old ones poured out of their homes to greet Woman and Raven. As Woman climbed up the bank out of Canoe, her many children swarmed her, laughing with delight, hugging, pulling at her dress. Adults smiled and hugged her, pressing her forearms in grips of warmth and love. Woman threw back her head and laughed and laughed, and her village joined in as Raven cawed. Their music echoed out against the hills for a long time.

In thanks to Cedar Canoe for bringing home their mother, the men mounted Canoe so that the opening faced out horizontally towards the East on posts in the center of the village, right above where great ceremonial fires took place. Sometimes, the men and boys would gather and play a game of trying to throw rocks into Canoe, which was mounted quite high. Some rocks would bounce off the bottom and roll right out again, but many stayed, resting against the side. Every morning when the sun came up, it bathed Canoe and the rocks inside with golden light.

The people awoke one morning to a great crash. Canoe had decayed over many years and had finally fallen off its posts. Canoe lay in many broken pieces on the ground next to the ceremonial fire pit, but the rocks inside were no longer rocks.

Instead, in great piles, stood thousands and thousands of seeds of a like that no one in the village had ever seen before. Not ones to let seeds go to waste, though, they took them and planted them on the edges of their fields of wheat and rye.

When Spring came, the new seeds grew up in great bunches to reveal a beautiful golden flower that followed the sun across the sky. The villagers danced and sang in joy on the edges of their fields, surrounded by the Sunflowers that came from Canoe.

Image from MegaPixel.

Image from MegaPixel.

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