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Sage The Wayseer. An Urban legend of a Secret Flora and Fauna Treetop Society.
Diary of an Oak Tree Chapter Seven: Sage and Hard-Pad
Power and Victory over Sickness and Death
Let’s step away from Don Notch and his little kingdom for now, and meet another Dreyland creature, the raccoon (Procyon lotor.)Urban raccoons are commonly referred to as “masked bandits” for good reason. Their nimble little paws (more like hands) can open doors, drawers, and trash cans at night while you’re asleep, then sleep all day while you’re awake. They are very intelligent, adaptable, and can thrive in urban backyards and parks. You may have a raccoon living in your own backyard and never know it. The raccoon’s poor eyesight is offset by excellent hearing. However, because their most important and exceptional sense is touch, they’re known to be hypersensitive.
One female raccoon’s hypersensitivity went well beyond her little black hands. Her name is Sage and she was a prophetess, or wayseer, as Dreyland creatures say.
How could any animal, let alone a raccoon, have mystical power?
Sage started her life like any other raccoon with a caring mother and two siblings. As she grew up, she became aware of a healing ability and a unique sense about the future that other raccoons didn’t have. A nick or a bite seemed to heal a bit faster after Sage touched it. And all her little friends believed that when she said that everyone was going to be alright, they were going to be great. Hand wings and doves had a special liking for her, which was very unusual because they kept to themselves to the point of being standoffish.
Nevertheless, the treetop mothers and fathers thought her special powers were an oddity; entertaining but unreliable and of no real use. But that changed the season she had her first litter of kits, when the winter slayer brought a disease that all treetoppers fear into their community—hard-pad. It brought her to a transcendent stage, where life and death, the past and present, performed in the classic tragedy—The End of Days. But Sage wasn’t content to watch. She chose to play a role and it opened a spiritual door to a kingdom that she never knew existed.
Certain strains of the virus, distemper, as it’s called by man, bring about an abnormal enlargement of the pads of an animal’s feet. Hence the name: hard-pad. It’s very contagious and half of those affected never survive the high fever, violent coughing and seizures.
The animals that do survive hard-pad become immune to it and similar diseases. A popular theory is that like humans, who are naturally immune to hard-pad, survival gives them a measure of power and status over other animals.
Meet Sage’s uncle, Prolix, a hard-pad survivor and self-imposed doomsday crier. He loved to tell ghoulish hard-pad stories around treetop gatherings about how miserable and sick he was. His story never changed, and he began every telling with, “You know I’m a hard-pad survivor.” There were so many, you knows’, that his nickname became (translated literally) Youno.
“You know surviving hard-pad makes you tough—special really.”
Eyes would roll and heads would turn. Murmurings of, not again, and, places to go increased to overt chatter. He’d speak up, hoping to keep treetoppers interested. But they’d already had enough of his bigheaded story. “Youno, I’ve got a drey to build.” Many times his story would end a treetop gathering. Treetoppers were convinced that Prolix was a lunatic.
Undaunted, if there was anyone left Youno would continue. “Now mind you, I’ve learned that being special is a burden to bear. But I push on, telling my story to anyone that will listen. It’s my destiny.”
“I saw its devastation when I lived on the Hazel Trail. Hard-pad comes from up there—you know,” he’d point with a wide arm sweep. “It comes from the long dead treetop crowns that haunt the north—the dreaded unknown north. It wiped them out many seasons ago. They resent their deaths and refuse to leave this world. So they’re trapped in a state of jealous wrath. They want all of Dreyland to join them—you know—the hard-pad dead. So when the northern winds carry the frostbite south, they arm the winter slayer with hard-pad to infect us.”
“Uncle Youno, someone’s calling me. I need to go.”
“No they’re not. Now you stay right there and listen to me. You know this is important.”
Young Sage was the only one left. His specialness had driven all the others away.
“Woe to all you careless and ignorant young brush tails. You know, you know when it comes, that you’ll join the ghouls in the dreaded unknown.”
Sage loved her first litter dearly. She named the little guy Spy and his sister, Dee. They’d enjoyed a good summer together and she’d just weaned them off the breast when the rumors started. To the south, treetoppers in the More West and Shady Trail areas were dying.
The winter slayer brought hard-pad to Dreyland. Her family would not be spared.
She couldn’t believe how quickly the little guy went down. But denial only goes so far when symptoms present so openly. Watching her little kit trying to walk on his swollen feet broke her heart. She hoped that the fever and violent coughing would relent but it didn’t. It worsened. Spy had a seizure on the sixth day, and it pushed the mother raccoon to desperation.
All the treetoppers, including her brave uncle Prolix cut a wide swath around Sage’s home tree. Dee and her were the only ones left that weren’t sick.
Could she really waysee? Desperation pushed Sage ignore caution, to try anything to get the spiritual power to heal. She had to try, to pretend if nothing else, that she could save Spy.
The mother raccoon went to her son lying under a palmetto tree. He was blind and barely breathing. “Spy, trust me. You’re not going to die—I can heal you. You know that I’ve healed a swollen eye and a cut paw. I can do more.”
His only reply was rattled labored breathing. He was badly dehydrated and she knew he was near the end. She laid paws on him, paused and took a deep breath. “Creator of Earth and sky, I plead for my kit’s life. I pray for the power over hard pad.”
She paused and listened. She heard human music. Its rhythmic beat wafting through the Dreyland air. Somewhere, children were laughing. But the natural world held its breath, waiting to hear more.
“Keep the winter slayer away. Take the hard-pad from Spy. Oh most powerful Creator, give me his death if you must. But save my beloved.”
Spy licked his lips and moaned, “Mother.”
His mother looked down shook him gently. No change.
She looked up, looked front and back. She listened…for an omen, a nimbus wave, for anything. Palmetto fronds rattled a sad rasp. They might have whispered anything. They might have said, “winter slayer.”
Nothing? “Right, a fine mother and wayseer I turned out to be.”
Discouraged, she ambled a few steps away, gathered Dee close, and lay down to watch her son die.
Did you know that people are the only creatures that can see themselves? They call it ego, or self, or id, and from this tree’s perspective it doesn’t work too well for them. Remember Prince Kie? His was a classic story of ego run riot. Oh the stories I could tell of man’s vanity and divine impairment. It’s a good thing that the Creator loves mankind and has a great sense of humor. What’s that have to do with Sage or distemper? For any creature, it’s all about growth and maturity and serenity. You’ll understand more as we go. Anyway, let’s get back to Dreyland and the young wayseer.
The healing worked. The fever broke overnight and next morning Spy was up and around, looking for something to eat. Two afflicted squirrels fully recovered as well. The crown had survived. It was a day of rejoicing.
In the following seasons there were healings other times and places, but Sage never reached the restorative power she attained with Spy, and she didn’t understand why. Why didn’t she grow into a stronger prophetess? Too her credit, she never quit trying to help, but too often the results weren’t there. Her obstacle was a problem of self—my will or His will. They were two different paths.
Most of the rest of us operate very well without an overabundance of self. But for the Sage, self was in the way, and inconsistency limited her power. If Sage didn’t like the animal or bird, or was a stranger there was little good accomplished. The demands of motherhood and wayseer conflicted. Without time and focus, sometimes her curative powers weren’t obtainable and wayseeing was a random experience. But, her gifts did improve and other animals began believe she was real, and to ask for help. Sage enjoyed blessing the treetop animals with her special abilities and soon was elevated to a trusted place in several crowns. She also learned that she couldn’t heal herself, only other beings.
Then life changed dramatically for Sage. After her fourth litter of babies she became sterile. The sarcastic idiom, physician heal thyself, proved absolute because the condition was irreversible. Sage loved being a mother and looked forward to raising a new litter of kits every spring. Her life had revolved around motherhood. Infertility was a terrible blow that rendered Sage lost for several seasons. She drifted from lonely stands of trees to abandoned mankeeps in a nomadic funk, avoiding everyone, even her family, because the sight of her adult kits brought back the painful reminder that there’d be no more.