Every morning, at sunrise, Sparrow followed Mama Nina to the hilltop to collect herbs and berries or down to the creek to collect water and the small fish caught in their submerged basket traps. Then there were other land traps to check for small animals that they skinned and dried for jerky. Mama’s people lived off the land, and now she taught Sparrow all their skills and traditions.
“Here, for our tea.” Sparrow collected pieces of honeycomb from a nearby beehive. She loved sweets, and not everything Sparrow ate came from the natural world around her. This was a secret that separated Sparrow from her mama.
The two of them lived in a one-room wooden cabin that also served as Mama Nina’s herbal clinic. The space was so small that Mama had to roll their sleeping blankets into the corner each morning to make room for her clients.
“Find high, dry spaces between the wooden planks to protect the herbs from the damp air and the mice,” Sparrow’s mother told her. They each had their morning chores, and then Sparrow and her mother shared hot tea, berries, and little dry cakes made from ground acorns for their morning meal. The cabin could have been cozy, but it was originally a storage shed used to butcher and store prey, so the space smelled of dead deer, bears, and wolves.
“We need more sage bundles to clear the air.” The odor of death lingered no matter how many times Mama Nina spread the vapors.
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