Black dogs and new patterns

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By Jody Benson

A Native American story goes like this:

There is a cave in which lives an old woman who for years has been weaving a garment – a special garment, sewn from porcupine quills. Its pattern is sacred to honor the ceremony for which it is intended, because it is this ceremony that sustains the world soul.

 If she wove the quills without altering them, the quills would poke at the pattern and tear it open, so she flattens each quill with her teeth. Over all these years, her teeth have worn to nubs, but she keeps working, for without the robe, the ceremony cannot take place.

In the back of the cave, over a fire, hangs a cauldron that contains all the seeds of the Earth. The old woman must get up now-and-then to stir the cauldron so the seeds don’t burn.

 As she stirs the pot, a black dog, who also lives in the cave, goes to the garment and sniffs it. He sniffs it all over and finds a loose thread.

He takes that thread between his teeth and begins to pull. He pulls and pulls until the garment is unraveled, and when the old woman comes back, she sees her quills and thread in a pile on the floor.

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