Fearful Fox and Badger
"Fox sat by her burrow. With her dear little Kits nestled safely inside her streamside den, just like so many of her friends and even some of her Enemies, she had time to Listen.
"With one foot delicately placed in Darkness and with her other foot gently placed in Light—bish-toh-nah ech'na bish-toh-nah tah ech'na, as it is said, my Little Ones, the same way that Seekers of Medicine sit and Listen into Shadow—Fox sat with her nose pressed deeply into Otherworld.
"Badger approached and asked what Fox was doing.
" 'Why...I'm Listening,' Fox replied with a playful bark.
" 'To what?' Badger inquired.
"Grumpy old Badger would much rather have safely stayed inside his burrow, but he had felt something on the wind that had made him wander into the meadow to look and to smell with his short, dark nose poked sharply upright into the air.
"As you might suspect—or even might already have heard my Nichi Ah-nah-hai'a, Little children—the sight of Badger's eyes was not quite as keen as it once had been. Nor for that matter, was Badger's sight even as keen as it never may have been.
" 'To Shadow,' answered Fox with a bright swish of her white-tipped tail. 'I'm Listening deeply into Shadow.'
" 'How can one Listen into Shadow?' Badger asked with a wrinkling of his stout, short nose.
"Badger furrowed his long, black eyebrows and looked around at all the Shadows that darkened the midday forest. The long, stretched-out lines below the trees did not appear to be particularly threatening.
" 'Easily,' Fox laughed as she pressed her will even more deeply into that mysteriously dark place we call Shadowland or a hundred hundred different names for that living Land of Darkness. What Fox saw amazed her...and she leaned even farther into that ancient, Shadow-filled realm. And then...Fox vanished.
"Having witnessed Fox completely disappear, Badger ran away.
"Fearfully then—because he had once heard Stories about how Darkness had devoured the Star-children—Badger sped toward the safety of his own tucked-deep-beneath-the-roots-of-a-tall-tree den. He ran and ran and ran...as fast as his short little legs could carry him. He was as afraid as afraid could ever become.
"Badger was fearful of the Shadows of the Birds that flew over the stream. He was startled by the Shadows of the Branches that gently waved in the air. Badger was Afraid, my Little Ones, even of the Shadows of the tall meadow Grass. Every single thing that cast a shadow terrified the ill-tempered little animal.
"And by afraid, my Little Ones, I mean so very, very afraid that Badger backed deep, deep, deeply into his burrow...and would not come out. Not for the longest time.
"Forever-ever after that, my Dearest Little Ones, Badger remained frightened of Shadow. He was fearful...silly as it may seem...not just of the Shadows of his Enemies...but even of the Shadows of his own friends who walked by his den. He was afraid of all Shadows. Even his own.
"He was Afraid—ever after that—to venture out beneath the Sky and into the meadow as he once had. Badger snarled at all Shadows—tall and short, broad and narrow. And to this day he will snarl at you if you cast a Shadow in his direction. Believe me this, my Little Ones:
"Badger will tear and bite at anything that carries a Shadow and ventures close to his darkened burrow.
"But...what about Fox, you ask?
"Why, my Little Ones, Fox continues to slip in and out of Shadow like a Fish that swims in the currents of the Great River!
"Fear? Of course Fox is Afraid. But, so unlike that cranky little Badger who is even Afraid of his own Shadow, Fox isn't content to sit in her den and be grouchy, or to bite People—especially when Fox's kits are sleeping safely beside her. That, my Little Ones—as I don't need to tell you because you can already imagine it—is when she feels most safe.
"And yet, my Nichi Ah-nah-hai'a—Little Ones—Fox was not immune to Shadow. Not completely. Her feet and her nose both have become black. Now and Forever they have been darkened from how very often Fox steps and leaps and runs into Shadow with her nose poked deeply into that icy Darkness.
"Badger, on the other hand...well, he suffers from his own Darkness.
"Badger has now and Forever become black-streaked along his back from crawling into and out of those fear-wrought Shadows that visit him in his own flat burrow. That was his reward for being so Afraid.
"So...my Nichi-Listeners...I ask you which is better? Dark feet? And darkened nose and ears? Or a dark-striped back and head? Is it better to be afraid and venturesome...or afraid and hidden away?
"But...before you answer, my Little Ones, I would ask you one more question. Why does there have to even be a better or a worse? What about just...simply...Che-bak-ta Che-bak-ta koh ka Che-bak-ta? Is...is what is?
"That's what Storytellers say when they have found that there is really no choice that makes something better or worse.
"Is...well...simply is, my Little Ones. No more and no less, as my Grandmother Nora-Feather Forever-always says and will continue to tell me.
"And that, my children—as you may already have guessed—is how this Story ends.
"Che-bak-ta Che-bak-ta koh ka Che-bak-ta. Is...is what is. And always-and-Forever will it be."
Iya-Ko-Naya ~ "Fearful Fox and Badger," From the ancient Tales of the Kah-ta'i-hai'a