In relation to the village’s big central circle, if the path to the “portal stones” [their name for it] was at about 8 oclock, then Tremayne’s bird-house was at about 4 o’clock, and the pathway to the place where everybody went to get things done was at about noon on the circle’s “dial”.
Their homes were essentially roosts, designed for sleeping, bathing, and the occasion fruit snack.
But these beings were also skilled at creating, and took joy in making things for their roosts. It was far more than “hobby”, they were artisans.
Tremayne walked me down the footpath to the workshop area.
There were several enormous piles of finished lumber to our right as we entered the clearing, and beside them were several pallets of cut stones. To our left were neatly stacked piles of what looked like firewood, and beside them, kindling wood, and after that, shredded bark.
A stream flowed through between rock slabs at the bottom of the clearing, here. On the far side was a steep bank between two rock faces. The hillside was planted full of ferns and trees filled with vines. All of the plants- ferns, trees, and vines- bore fruits of a dizzying variety of shapes and colors.
On this side of the stream was a large building that resembled a picnic pavilion, except that it had two high stories and a few walls lined with shelves in places. From the beams at regular intervals hung more of the glowworm lamps- but these gave off a bright white light, and the glass jars were very simple and unadorned.
The bottom floor of the workshop was the size of a cathedral to my eyes.
It had a dozen large structures, perhaps ten feet off of the floor, which were of course the appropriate size to be tables for the beings who lived here, but looked like small flat rooved houses to me.
Below some of these were stacked square baskets full of all sorts of materials- reeds, twigs, straw, fibers, feathers, stones, shells, and so forth.
The beautiful cushions that filled Tremayne’s house were made here, as were the simple pieces of clothing, as well as everything else.
Just past the main building, close to the stream’s edge, were two enormous beehive-shaped rock structures. Made out of piled flat red rocks, these kilns were similar to the ones used for baking bricks in older times on Earth.
One of these was being loaded full of small-diameter wood by a gorgeous being whose wings and body were marked something like a sparrow’s- reddish-brown with pale grey edges and small black spots. His chest was covered with lovely triangular dark streaks. He glanced our way as we entered the clearing, did a double-take, and then turned to stare at me with an open-mouthed expression that could only be called wonder.
I guess I qualified as a strange being to him, to be fair, and here I was staring at him with much the same look on my face.
Near him on the ground I saw several large [to me] pieces of pottery, glazed and ready to be fired.
Inside the far end of the building was a potter’s wheel- also built for somebody 20′ tall. It was being turned by a beautiful parrot-like personage- very bright green, with a few patches of yellow and pink. He was shaping a four-foot tall urn out of pale gray clay- and there were four others just like it along the wall behind him.
Beside him on the floor was an exquisitely woven basket, lined with a thin layer of clay and filled with water. He would dip his hand into the water and then use his moistened fingertips to smooth the surface of the urn as it turned on the wheel.
Tremayne greeted them both with a buzz and a wave of his hand, and they smiled and nodded in response.
“Some of your people don’t sleep at night, then?” I asked, “I thought all birds were geared to rise with the sun?”
Tremayne stopped his companionable slow stride and stiffened slightly.
“We are not birds, ” he said, just a tiny bit sharply. “This is not the same planet you came from. We are not the same as the beings you think you know about. It would be good if you stopped trying to make everything fit what you think you know. It will be easier for you in the long run.”
Grace had said something similar to me, the day before, back on Earth. Whatever this ride was, I needed to stop trying to make it fit my “normal”. I had to learn to fit IT, not the other way around.
I took a deep breath and dared to look directly into his eyes. “I am very sorry, Tremayne. I will try to do better. This is all very… BIG… for me. I have been trying to make it all fit what I know. What I… thought… I knew. I realize that I have things backwards.”
Tremayne cocked his head a little bit, and smiled. “Yer a quick study”, he said, and nodded slightly. “Quicker than Albert and Grace, by a longshot.”
I was beginning to understand that Albert and Grace weren’t exactly revered, here, and I was also beginning to get a glimmer about why not. I had traveled a little bit, in my youth, and had often come up against this same problem when in other countries. The Ugly American, it was called, there. But it wasn’t really restricted to Americans. It had been around as long as there had been cultures of conquest, of invasion, of domination and control.
It was the insufferable arrogance- and ignorance- of somebody who carried smug ideas about the superiority of their place of origin. Such people would go into the new place with the attitude of a tourist visiting a theme park, ready to be entertained, treated, awarded prizes, and then go home to their familiar, comfortable “reality”, having sniffed in snobbish judgment of how Those Other People did things, without understanding WHY they did those things.
The comfort and familiarity of their chosen habits made theirs the “superior” reality, whether or not it really was. In the end, it came down to running on “autopilot”. To living without really thinking critically. All of which was a major impediment to the advancement of civilization, and was one of my longstanding pet peeves about humanity.
“Oh… I’ve been thinking about the ways that my species has been stuck for a very long time, Tremayne. I’m not a quick study at all.” I said.
This admission caused him to positively light up. “O HO!!” he rumble-spoke in his deepest chuckling voice, “I see now more clearly why the stone came to you.”
He laughed for a couple of seconds, and I just stood there, feeling a bit confused. He didn’t do me the favor of explaining himself, either. He just said, “Come on, now, let’s put together a space for you to do things,” and strode to a spot in the far corner of the shop.