Tsou-Tahi burns with shame.
A simple task usually relegated to women, the gathering of medicine herbs. But even at this Tsou-Tahi fails. Time and again he returns to Yatoyenh with an empty sack. The old man shakes his head and retraces Tsou-Tahi’s trail, always finding the plants with ludicrous ease. This time he shows Tsou-Tahi his own footprint, points out that he stepped on the very plant he sought and crushed it into the ground.
The old man offers no rebuke, but Tsou-Tahi thinks he sees disappointment in his face. Impatience.
The old man is always kind, though sometimes Tsou-Tahi does not understand him. His lessons are stories, complicated stories that draw no distinction between the world of the spirits and the world of the living. The animals speak, as do the trees, the river, the mountains, the sky.
Yatoyenh walks ahead. For such a very old man, he is remarkably agile and quick. Tsou-Tahi can hear him singing. He picks up his sack and trots after.
When he rounds a bend in the river, there sits the old man, high up on an enormous log fallen across both banks. Yatoyenh grins.
“Come, boy. Sit by me and see as the birds do. The spirits wish me to tell you a story.”