Saturday, March 17, 2007

Baptism - Chapter 4

[scroll down for previous chapters]

The young man paused stared through the floor and into the memories beyond. He glanced up at me, held my eyes for a moment. His gaze was steady. “How long have you been alone?” His voice soft, deep, old.
“Years, since I moved north. I don’t sleep easy. Was hell on the relationship.”
“You should understand. Being chosen… It’s not about belonging, it’s about isolation.”
His gaze shifted back to the floor.
There’s three tough portages to Agnes but only one paddle longer than a mile. We made the falls well before noon. We could hear the rush of water, the gathering of motion, the scent and feel of it in the air. The falls tucked into a notch on a shoreline of tree-choked cliffs, a fine spray of mist and a bank of cedars marking it’s location, the fall of water not visible till the canoe poked into the notch.
She held her paddle still before the rush of water, twenty feet wide in a near vertical scatter of white, the sound of its plummet masking all else. She scarcely held the canoe long enough for me to get out before scrambling up the rock face. I heard a cry as I dragged it ashore, looked up to her pulling off her shorts and t-shirt, her tanned skin catching a patch of sun as she stepped into the pool hidden in the thunder halfway up.
I followed her up the bank to the edge of the pool. She was sitting against the upstream side, her eyes closed, head leaning back into the rush of water streaming around the edges of her face, running against the taut skin of her arms and chest, aglow with the swirl of sound and sense. Then her eyes were open watching me watch her, a deep quiet smile played across her face and she pulled her head from the rush of water and shouted, “Come in, you must come in. It’s unbelievable… It’s perfect.”
The pool was a basin of dark slippery rock hemmed in by cedars, the water cool and clear and so filled with air that it hardly felt like water. I waded in and she reached for my hand and pulled me to the wall of water. With the rush and pound of water against my shoulder I could look out onto the blue green water of Agnes far below.
We played in the pool, immersed in the cool water and cool green light until we were shaking and blue-lipped. When we finally dried and dressed we were giddy with the rush of water and the cold in our bones.
He took a deep breath and leaned against the concrete wall, his eyes closed the slightest trace of a smile formed on his lips.
“Such a mix of joy and beauty. I was right in the middle of it, the rush of water, the sun through the trees, the pale of her skin against the black shine of the wet rock..” He faltered, choked a bit.
“I know the falls. A sacred spot.”
His eyes opened wide at “sacred”, a flash of fear or foreboding.
“No, not sacred but of this earth, terrestrial, and I belonged, was not set apart. It wasn’t me, Agnes Louise and God. It was just me and her and the wonders of this world, of a place, a place I had brought her to.” He slumped forward, eyes on the floor.
We chose an island for our lunch spot, a great curving arc of bedrock naked but for a narrow tree covered point where we landed the canoe. We clambered up the steep slope and onto the great smooth slab high above the water. Still chilled from our time in the falls we spread our blanket on the warm rock and ate looking down upon the water our backs to the sun. When I finished eating I laid back and closed my eyes against the sun, I felt Agnes Louise lay beside me, the length of her arm resting against mine.
I opened my eyes to stare into a strange even gray blue sky. There was a steady breeze from the east and the sun was gone. I shook Agnes Louise awake. “Weather’s changing, we have to go”. She stood and gathered the blanket, leaned back to stretch and stopped, staring towards the tall ridgeline of the western shore. “What’s that?” Pointing to the horizon. The even gray blue of the sky stretched from the eastern horizon to the west, not a cloud so much as if the empty background of the sky had changed tint. Just beyond the high ridge of the western shore a sharp line drawn from north to south, a crisp sharp border delineating the strange gray blue and an opaque ink black sky. The line was nearly straight, led by a sharp bulging parabola etched in white, looking like the nose of a shark protruding from a long breaker, sleek, perfect and lethal.
We stood and stared at the strange line in the sky, watched as it crept towards the distant ridge. The trees atop the ridge began to sway and bend and then leaned hard towards us. A dull roar filled the air and the tops of the trees took flight and tumbled down the ridge. The roar became a high-pitched scream punctuated by snapping explosions. I grabbed Agnes Louise and pulled her to the leeward side of the rock, we slid over the crest and to a small flat. “Get down.” I yelled above the roar pushing her to the ground and against the curve of stone. I covered her with my body as the wind screamed above us and I was pelted with debris. I looked down to the water, white and churning. I saw whole trees skipping and tumbling across the agitated surface. I closed my eyes, pressed myself against her and began to pray.


Unknown said...

Again, you pull me in with your story. I am eager to know if his prayers are answered.

Unknown said...

Hi Solus, nice blog. You lead an interesting life, and write about it well.