by Joe William Shed, Jr.
Born June 21, 1965
Died June 18, 2005 from Cystic Fibrosis
Beloved and admired husband of Parthena Black.
Seeker child asked, “Tell me again Grandfather, tell me about the dreamer.” Grandfather smiled and laid down his pipe.
“In the beginning the Creator was lonely, for he was the only being in the Great void. So from his essence he created two sons, Day and Night. For awhile he and his sons were very happy, but then it occurred to him that if he created more company it would make them even happier. This would be his greatest creation, but it would contain everything and need constant watching over. He would be busy protecting his creation and making sure his two sons behaved themselves, so he made his third son, Zan, out of the gladdest portion of his heart. The Creator then told Zan to create his own worlds and to fill them with diverse life, shapes and sounds.”
Grandfather took a puff from his pipe and continued, “Zan created worlds and beings with enthusiasm and joy, but in his haste he created the female form, Mother Earth, who then created other people on her own. Now these beings could create on their own, and this caused much curiosity among his brothers and his father. They had never seen so graceful a form as the earth, and they were enthralled. As they approached, she reached out and grabbed Zan, swallowing him whole.” Grandfather roared as he leaned over to grab at seeker child, startling her.
“Father was enraged and asked why she had done this. Her reply was that she loved Zan greatly and wanted him on earth with her. Day and Night fled into the heavens to escape her reach in case she so desired them.”
“Is that why day and night are over us?” asked seeker as she squirmed into her sleeping furs. “Yes, my child, now sit still while I continue,” whispered Grandfather. “Now Zan was more powerful than Mother Earth, but if he escaped he would destroy earth and all on it in doing so.”
Grandfather looked down lovingly at seeker child and continued on. “Zan, being wise as well as kind, refused to destroy earth, so he went to sleep to think of ways out of his predicament. While sleeping, he would manifest himself on the world as a mortal to live and learn with others. In his early forms he was
hailed as a god or demi-god because he never aged and passed on to new forms without death.
“Now Creator missed his son and wanted him to awaken and return to him, so he came up with a plan. He would send death, the charioteer, to slay Zan’s mortal form, hoping that the shock would cause Zan to awaken.”
Grandfather paused to throw more wood on the fire as a chill wind blew down into the dwelling. “When Zan died as a mortal, he began to wake up, causing great pain and suffering for earth. As earth suffered, she
cried and flooded her surface with her tears. Zan felt the pain of the world and forced himself back to sleep again, soothing the injured earth.” Taking a draw from his pipe, he looked over his shoulder as if seeing a specter, then continued with his tale.
“He then realized from that moment on he must choose his mortal forms with care because death was looking for him, and each death may force him to awaken and destroy the world. Each time he died as a mortal, the earth underwent tremendous upheaval such as earthquakes, storms, and all other manner of natural disaster. As he slept, he whispered to Mother Earth, ‘I will not awaken, until I can do so without losing you.’”
“So he sleeps to protect us?” asked the seeker child while rubbing her eyes to fend off sleep. “Yes. Because he was made of love, he will never intentionally hurt his creation and those he would call his people,” answered the Grandfather. “Can we ever see or help him?” wondered the child. “He may walk among us even now, but yes, upon occasion mortals have aided him in his quest,” replied Grandfather.
“Please Grandfather, tell me about one of them,” wheedled seeker child. Grandfather again set down his pipe and began to speak. “Now the time had come for Zan to again enter the world as a mortal, but death being ever watchful, saw him begin to enter and attacked with his chariot."
Zan felt the presence of death and tried to halt his birth, but only managed to hold back a portion of his being, hope. The chariot brushed him as it passed, but because hope stayed behind, he was weakened with a sickness that would one day slay him, instead of being slain instantly.”
Wiping at his eyes, Grandfather took down the dreamcatcher that hung above the child’s bed. Running his hands over it lovingly he stared into the fire and with a low whisper resumed the story. “Two mortal years passed and his parents had another child, Akina, who possessed all of Zan’s hope and a portion of his
sickness. With the birth of his sister, Zan rallied and fended off death for a time.”
“So the birth of his sister, Akina, saved him?” queried the seeker child while she watched the old man caress her favorite possession he had made for her.“Most definitely. Now hush; there is more to this tale,” whispered Grandfather while taking another draw on his pipe and hanging up the catcher.
“Akina became the light of his life and that of everyone else’s. She was small, sprite-like, and full of joy and bravery, a lot like you actually. Akina could also recognize the hidden spirit or true self of Zan and sought way to help and advise him. Whenever the charioteer would approach to spur on his illness, Akina would step into the path of the chariot and take the lashes herself. Akina and Zan weren’t alone in facing this menace, because their parents had enlisted the aid of a powerful medicine man.”
“Like you Grandfather?” “Yes, like me,” he smiled, “This medicine man, Remak, would take and gather powerful herbs for them to ingest. He would even take small amounts of their blood to use in misleading the charioteer. Finally the day came when the charioteer would not be denied, and he came for Zan. Akina, to her eternal honor, attacked and diverted the chariot, thus giving her life for Zan. As her essence ascended and joined the Creator, Zan became despondent and inconsolable, for now he was without hope.”
“Don’t cry Grandfather. I’m sure it will all work out,” pleaded the child. “Hush! I am the one telling this tale, and it was just the smoke.” He said, again reaching for his bag to reload his pipe. “Zan weakened and would soon be unable to ward off the charioteer when he came again had not Remak given him the great medicine of the pipe to ward off death. This pipe hid the essence of Zan from death, but this alone would not have been sufficient had it not been for Akina. After her death, she took hope with her and pleaded with the Father Creator to return Zan’s hope to him. The Creator was saddened by the way his plans had turned, and promised Akina that he would return hope to Zan, but that he could not call off death for that is the destiny of all things mortal. Until then he sent his messengers, in animal form, to be with Zan, and to tell him that hope would return in the form of his lost sister Akina. The animal spirits told him to be ever watchful for she would return in the same manner as all mortals.
“Did the animals really talk to him?” the child asked as she made shadow rabbits and dogs on the wall with her hands. “All of nature talks, you have but to listen.” “I thought I heard a crow talk to me today!” seeker
child exclaimed with a surprised expression that turned into a yawn.
“You are getting tired, maybe we should continue this later.” “I’m awake! I’m awake! Puleeeease finish the story!” she squeaked with her eyes blinking furiously. “Okay, okay, now where was I?” Grandfather mumbled while scratching his chin. “Oh! The return of Akina. Now Zan was in a hurry and searched high and low for this supposed return of Akina, and in his search he found Tika, a lovely maid, whom he made his wife.” Grandfather stood to ease his tired muscles. A smile crept into the lines of his face. The old man continued with the story as he banked the fire, “It seemed that Zan had found happiness, so Creator waited to send Akina back until a more appropriate time. After many years Zan realized that this was not the form of his hope that he sought and finally understood that Creator meant something else by his messages. Tika sensed that something was now missing and would never return. Being unhappy with this and unable to find a solution, Tika left Zan and struck out on her own. Zan was devastated by this new loss and would have given up had it not been for the coyote that Creator sent to console him.”
“Coyote told him that he was looking in the wrong places and for the wrong things. Coyote said, ‘Zan, Father Creator has told me that he will send Akina back to you like any other mortal, as a pup, er… baby.’
"And to this very day, they say that Zan, the Dreamer, watches and waits for his lost sister,” Grandfather finished as he tucked in the sleeping seeker child and picked up his pipe. “Sleep my little one. Tomorrow will wait for you, so rest now my little Akina.”