the dabberstone Nov 08, 2021

One day, after the shortest day of the year but before the day was as long as the night, a man was seen, leading a loaded donkey along the path to the potter’s house. Aluli started yelling, “He’s here! He’s here! “ “Who’s here? somebody asked. “The man! The one we asked for! Remember, when we went into the stillness and asked for a man? He’s here! “

The man came right up to the house and tied his donkey to a post that people sometimes used for that purpose. Nobody recognized him right away, til Grandmother had welcomed him, and he said, “I was here with my teacher when we passed through. He said I should pay attention in case I would be called to come back here. One day I was working and stopped and looked around. I thought somebody was calling my name, but there was no one there. I went back to work but the call came again. There was still no one there. The third time I stopped and sought the stillness, to listen for who was calling. My teacher sometimes called like that, to give me practise.

He had left me with a brotherhood who follow the way of silence and peace, to go somewhere alone. I was joining with them in their silent time and working in their fields and gardens during the hours of work. I was in the field when I first heard the call and I stopped to go into the silence to see what my teacher wanted. But instead, I felt I was being called to come back here. I asked if I should drop what I was doing and come immediately. I felt like as long as I got here by spring that would be soon enough. I wanted to have a good donkey, too. And it is far enough to travel. So here I am. “

“Maybe we should say thank you, “said Aluli. They all formed a circle around him, and held each other’s hands, closed their eyes, and silently gave thanks. Aluli said “Grandmother said we needed a man, and we all sent our call into the silence. When we finished, I could feel you were coming but I didn’t know when. Deelie or Grandmother said, “Before next spring. “

Grandmother called him and Deelie into the house and had a long talk with him about what they needed and what he was able and willing to do. Deelie left before they were finished and went to dig more clay. Some of the children came with her. Aluli took some others into the workshop where they all made little men, and donkeys, and strange-looking monsters, most of which got squashed back into lumps of clay again.

The young man came and began to work at rearranging things to make himself a sort of room in the shed. He had taken the pack off his donkey soon after he arrived, and he carried the things in there.

He started working right away, going to the woods with his donkey and an axe. He brought back poles. He built a drag sled and went to the ledge where they got the stone for the houses of Split and brought back enough to start the walls of a small house. Then he made mud bricks and built the walls up with those. He used the poles for rafters. The potter, with Deelie’s help, made something she didn’t ordinarily make – roofing tiles. Then he built a door. But there was nothing in the house. The kids asked if he was going to live there. “No. But it will be lived in. “He said they’d see in the spring. Then it was time he could start to plow. His donkey could only do so much in a day, not like a team of big strong horses or mules. So, it took a long time. Still, when the weather was ready for planting, he had finished the whole field.

He went out planting barley and some of the children helped. Though he covered much more ground than they could, their efforts were all to the good. He also planted a garden of vegetables, using seeds he had brought with him. Some of them were plants neither the children, nor even Grandmother, had ever seen. He taught the children as they went along and those who wanted to plant a row of their own got to do it. He said he had learned from his own mother when he was their size. He told them never to be afraid and try a new way, but keep some the way you know for sure will work until you find out. “Somebody told me never to plant peas in ground with fresh manure or they will rot. I had a big pile of fresh horse manure one spring and I put it on the garden. The lettuce grew wonderfully, but only one pea plant grew. The rest rotted. If I’d planted most of them without manure, I would have had peas while I learned that man told me the truth. I don’t know if everything I planted will grow and ripen here but we’ll find out. “

The children learned to tell what different kinds of vegetables look like when they first come up, and how to tell the difference between them and weeds, which weeds are good to eat, and things like that. He sang as he worked, and he told them that his teacher said that vegetables grown by a cheerful man are better for the people who eat them than the ones grown by a grouchy man.

He went off one day and came back with 4 hens and a rooster and put them in the house he had built. In a few weeks, there was a whole crowd of little chicks following the hens around. They threw them weeds they pulled out of the garden and anything they weren’t going to eat that might be edible to a chicken. They didn’t have many food scraps, though, because they ate them, themselves.

So, the children grew and learned in a house without curses and in a field without curses and workshop without curses amongst a group of people who were happy to be together. The young man sometimes carried one of them on his shoulders and he told wonderful stories they all listened to.

Barley does not need to be weeded or watered. But vegetables do, and the children all helped in some way. After all, it was their food, and they got to do it with people who laughed and sang and told stories while they did. Sometimes a weed had a lovely little flower. Tma said, “It is a lovely flower! Weeds are not bad. No plant is bad; only in this spot, we want the plants to grow that are our food. Maybe we should tell the weeds we are sorry, but our garden needs the light and the water. You know, it is the natural way that many seeds fall. Many of those sprout, but most of them get crowded out by the fastest growing ones, so only a few get to make seeds. We have to make sure our plants have enough room. “

He taught them to save a few of their vegetable plants for seed, how to know when the seed was ripe, to gather it before it fell and scattered, to dry it and keep it where mice would not eat it, “If you forget to save seeds one year, it is gone, and you may never find that kind again. It happened to my mother. For some reason, she forgot to save the seed of a bean she had from my grandfather. When I went to study with my teacher, I hoped I would find it, travelling in near and far countries. I asked many gardeners, but nobody had ever seen that kind of bean. It may be there are none anywhere in the world now. “

If you dug deep enough in the potter’s field, you came to the red clay she made dishes of, but all the same, the soil was deeper and softer than the hard yellowish-grey clay of Split.

Of course, since the children lived in Split, in families whose fathers and mothers had lived there all their lives, the thoughts that Split was full of turned up in their minds at the potter’s house, too, sometimes. One boy said his father told him that if somebody does something unfair or mean you should remember that and look for a chance to get revenge, even if it takes you years. Tma said, “My teacher said that holding a grudge, going around, looking for revenge, is like taking a heavy stone the one who hurt you gave you and carrying it with you for weeks, months, or years everywhere you go. ‘Why carry that weight?’ he would say.

The brothers I lived with said it was like the other person put worms on you and you let them stay there, letting them feed off your own spirit. You carry them for years, suffer the pain of them gnawing at you. Maybe they destroy you. Why not just pick them off in the first place?

“Think of all the worm-eaten spirits in Split! You know how there are sometimes worms that will eat the leaves of kale full of holes, so we pick them off and bring them to the chickens. Forgiving somebody who did something to you isn’t saying it is all right for that person to hurt you. It is picking off the worms he put on you. It is dropping the heavy stone he handed you. “

In this way, words of wisdom, teaching the way of peace came occasionally to be heard on the streets of Split, among the young children. They even entered the minds of an older one here and there, and lurked in the background, to emerge and offer themselves for consideration when the circumstances were right. When the image of worms eating your spirit comes to mind every time you wish for revenge it is likely to result in at least some change in some people’s behaviour.

A stranger travelling over the mountains might not notice, and he was still sure to find Split the most unhappy village he had ever seen. But little by little, changes were seeping in right at the bottom, among the children, which is to say, among the ones who are to be the future.

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