Wednesday, May 1, 2019

It's May, It's May!



May has finally arrived, amid freezing nights, wind, and record cool temperatures in many parts of the northern tier.  But at least it's here!  Happy May Day to everyone.



May Day is a carry over of an old festival called Beltaine,which I've found is a celebration of the coming of spring and the fertility of the earth.  It must have arisen in northern climes, because I can really relate to waiting until May for spring to arrive.  It never shows up in March when the Spring Equinox takes place.  At least not in Montana.  In fact, May 1 is the midpoint between the Spring Equinox and the Summer Solstice.

Some of you may remember May Baskets we made for family and friends on May Day.  Or perhaps even dancing around the May Pole.  These are probably pagan in origin, but who can argue with bright colors and spring flowers after a long, bleak winter?  I sure can't.

When I worked at Holy Family Catholic School, I encountered a festival I'd never heard of called "May Crowning".  It involves a procession with brightly colored spring clothing and flowers, and it's when the Virgin Mary is crowned with a wreath of flowers as Queen of the May.  If any of you saw the 1990s movie "Sister Act" perhaps you remember the song the nuns were singing which said "Salve' Regina".  That's one of the songs of May Crowning, and it means "Save us, O Queen."  The takeover of a pagan festival by the Church is nothing new, as many of you know.  But it doesn't bother me.  I like the idea that things from our early heritage have been put into new molds and carried on into the present day.  To me it shows that God is over all.  And after all, who made all those lovely flowers?  According to Jesus, he clothed the flowers better than "King Solomon in all his glory."

One spring, my best girlfriend and I found a whole field of daisies near her house.  We picked a huge bunch and handed them out all over our high school (of almost 2000 students!).   By the end of the day, there were daisies to be seen everywhere.  We had such fun that day.  Maybe a few of our classmates even remember it.  Such a contrast to what is happening in school now.  I hope it's not too late to try to spread some joy instead of pain.

So, if you can find some, grab a few of those colorful flowers and crown someone with them.  Happy Beltaine!

Saturday, April 20, 2019

FAITH AND THE RESURRECTION


The following is an out-take from one of my upcoming books, "Where All Worlds End."  I thought it was appropriate for this Easter Season. 

“Ginna?”  Jael’s voice interrupted her memories.  “I think I’m losing my faith.”
“What do you mean?”
“Well, I can’t seem to pray anymore.  The Lord has left me—that’s what it feels like.”
“But in The Book he tells us, ‘I will never leave you or forsake you.’  You know, Jael, I think you’re the one who so often quoted that—especially when we were wandering lost in the Galaxy, trying to find Maia—Mother Earth.”
“But when we found it, the problems were still the same.  I thought at first that the Lord must be testing us.  But now it seems that it will never end.”
“What will never end?  The world—or our troubles?”
“Both, I guess, Ginna.”
“Well, you know The Book warns that as this world draws to a close, there will be many who scoff and try to make us believe that the Lord is not returning.  But he has warned us so we can be prepared to fight against these challenges.”
“I know.  I remember telling my sister about that.  But what if I can’t believe it anymore myself?”
“That’s the little voice in your mind that lurks in the dark and whispers, ‘There’s no way out.’  But it’s a lie.  Don’t believe it, Jael.   I know how it feels, though—I’ve been there many times.”
“You have?”
“Lots, especially when I was struggling to be a good single parent to my daughter, only to have her turn her back on my faith and all I stood for.  It was almost enough to make me want to die.”
“But things are better now, aren’t they?”
“Yes, Jael, they are—when I’m actually in my own time, with my loved ones.”
“Including your new husband, I take it? I bet you miss him right now, while you're here in my time.”
She only nodded—somehow her voice was lost in a wave of emotion.
“I’m sorry we messed up your life to try and help my sister.”
“Please don’t feel badly, Jael.  I came because I care about her, and she needs me.”

Suddenly he gave a high-pitched cry and gripped her hand in a fierce hold.
“Ouch!" she cried.  "What’s the matter?”
“I’m sorry, Ginna.  I just had to grab onto someone so that he wouldn’t take me away.”
“So who wouldn’t take you?”
“I think it was the Serpent, or one of his demons.”  Jael was sweating and panting by this time.  Ginna quickly began to massage his arms, and pulled his head down into her lap. 
“Breathe long slow breaths, Jael.  Think of the most beautiful, calm place you can.  The Serpent is gone, remember?”
Gradually his breathing returned to normal, and Ginna did her best to calm herself also.
“Ginna,” he murmured at last.  “How can we know for sure the Serpent is really gone—or that what The Book tells us about the Lord is really true?  What if it’s just a story or myth someone made up?”
“Jael, you saw the Evil One with your own eyes!”
“I got a glimpse—yes.  But I didn’t see the whole battle, remember?”
She took his hand gently.  “I know.”
"I feel so weak and useless sometimes.  Especially since the Serpent held me captive so long. ”
Now she pulled him into her embrace.  “That’s why the evil ones can get to you.  But keep on being brave, Jael.  I know the King still has plans for you.  Besides, have you already forgotten what The Wise One, Johan, told us just the other day--about how many tests of historical reliability The Book has passed?”
“Please help me remember, Ginna.  I think I’m sinking into the depression that seems to run in my family.”
“You’re just emotionally exhausted, Jael.  I would be too, if I was facing what you are—especially after all the other things you’ve been through.”
As she collected her thoughts, she continued to slowly massage his temples, and run her fingers through his blond hair.  Again, she had that quick electrifying sense of her younger brother’s presence—just for an instant.  At last she spoke:
“Well, I know you and Johan have talked a lot about the creation and the beginning of all things--”
“And about the end times, too.”
“Let’s look at some of the historical events recorded in The Book.”
“Right in the middle of Earth history?”
She nodded.  “Let’s look at the central element of the Believers’ faith—the resurrection of the Lord.”
“I remember reading somewhere that if the resurrection is false, then all of the beliefs in Christ are for nothing.”
“That’s right, Jael.  It even says that in The Book: ‘And if Christ has not been raised, our preaching is useless, and so is your faith.  More than that, we are found to be false witnesses about God’.”
“Where does it say that, Ginna?”
“It’s in a letter by Paul, to the Believers in Corinth.  That was a city in ancient Greece.”
“But what does it have to do with us?”
“But didn’t you notice how Paul said if the resurrection isn’t true, then everything he was preaching was a lie?  Think of the early Believers, and all the persecution they faced.”
“Like what Believers have faced here, and in all of the Galactic System.”
“That’s right,” she tried to smile.  “Believers have been persecuted in all ways imaginable down through time.  But stop and think of this: would all these people who were persecuted and killed have gone through all that, if they knew their faith was based on a lie?”
“Of course not!  But how could they know it was true?”
“They were basing their faith on the testimony of those who went before.”
“Recorded in The Book!”
“That’s right, and in other writings, too—by godly men and women who also trusted in The Book.  And if we go all the way back to those men and women who were eyewitnesses of the resurrection--”
“Oh, I remember talking with Johan about the value of eyewitnesses!”
“Okay, good.  So, the people who actually saw the risen Lord were among the first ones who gave their lives for the faith.”
“So, what does that prove?”
“Think on it, Jael!  They were the ones who would have known for certain whether the resurrection was true or a fake—right?”
He nodded, looking puzzled.
“They were the ones who went through all kinds of physical and mental torture for their faith.  And they were willing to endure all that because they knew their faith was based in fact, not fiction.”
“Okay,” he nodded slowly.
“More than that, though,” she smiled.  “The Lord gave us a few extra details to make sure we could trust the evidence.”
“Like what?”
“Well, it was a group of women who found the empty tomb first--”
“Why does that make any difference?”
“Because back in that ancient time, Jael, women were of little consequence.  They couldn’t vote or hold citizenship.  They weren’t even permitted to worship with men—and their testimony was not allowed in a court of law.”
“But they were the first eyewitnesses?”
“And when the men, the disciples, went to see for themselves, it was just as the women had told them.”
“Okay, so their testimony was more valuable then?”
“Yeah, and I think it was the Lord’s way of giving women some of their first hints of freedom.”
“Is there anything else unusual, Ginna?”
“Well, there was also unfriendly testimony.”
“Unfriendly?”
“Right.  The enemies of Christ also knew he had risen, and they tried to invent a lie to cover it up.  Over the centuries, many people have tried to come up with excuses for the resurrection—like maybe the disciples stole the body, or the soldiers guarding the tomb were bribed.”
“But they weren’t?”
“Actually, the soldiers were bribed--but not by who you think.  It was Christ’s enemies who bribed them.  They were told to start the rumor that the disciples had stolen the body.”
“Which was not what happened was it, Ginna?”
“Of course, it didn’t happen.  If it had, why would the religious leaders have needed to start the rumor by paying off the soldiers?  They could have just left things as they were, knowing the truth would eventually come out.”
“And did the truth come out?”
“Yes, it did, but not the truth the religious leaders hoped for.  Nearly every disciple in that time was martyred for his faith.  Would they have died for something they knew was a lie?”
“It’s not very likely,” Jael smiled slightly.  “I guess you’ve convinced me, Ginna.  I’m afraid to let any of my doubts and questions out when I’m with the others, especially my sister.  So, I’m really grateful that I can truly be honest with you.”
She smiled and sighed. “I’m glad, Jael.  Having questions and doubts isn’t a sin, you know.  It can be a way to help us grow—by seeking the truth even more, and really knowing why we believe what we do.”

If this makes you want to know more about these two characters, they are featured throughout The Peaks at the Edge of the World Saga.  The first four books are available, and there are three more to come.



Thursday, April 11, 2019

The Power of Sound Alone

The sounds of spring have finally arrived!  Each morning now, I wake to birds outside my window.  No more the deep, cold silences of winter.  With an occasional raven croaking, "Never more."

It amazes me how just a sound can trigger a host of memories.  I've read that this power of association is unique to the human brain.  (If you're interested in learning more about this, look up the work of Dr. Stephen Hayes and his colleagues.)

When I started teaching music to preschoolers 15 years ago, one of the things we did was listen to the music of nature, especially the sounds of birds.  It was then I discovered what was buried in my own memories.  Just the sound of a Black-capped Chickadee's  "de-de-de" could evoke the feeling of snow and cold as I walked from the garage to the house in winter.  Or the "cheerio" of a Robin brought all kinds of images of spring showers on the sprouting grass.  And, in Michigan, the "trillee" of a Red-winged Blackbird made me feel the warmth of summer and the steaminess of our cattail marsh in the summer humidity.

Another sound that calls up many images is the honking of Canada Geese as they fly over in their V-formations.  This can come in fall or spring, depending on which way they are flying, and always makes me think of my own travels north and south.  And now, here in Montana, I also listen for the first song of the Western Meadowlark and the mating call of the Ring-necked Pheasant.  And then there's the chattering of a flock of blackbirds in nearby trees.  Images come to my mind of them flying in unison, swooping in incredible patterns and circles, as though they are a single organism, even invading our yard for a short time.

.

It's incredible what our minds can store!

Saturday, March 9, 2019

Is It Change or the Wild That Counts? Or Both?


Today I ran across a book of poetry and quotes about wilderness that I made in response to a canoe trek I took in Minnesota's Boundary Waters back in 1970.  Nearly 50 years ago--hard to believe so much time has passed in my life since then.  It was a very formative time in my life, influencing much of what I have become.  As I was reading the quotes I chose from Thoreau, Aldo Leopold, Theodore Roosevelt, and others, I was surprised to find one unsigned poem.  I have a feeling I wrote it--otherwise it would be identified with the author's name. It was a long time ago, 1970, but as I re-read it, I could tell the words had originally come from within me. And I was surprised to find that my 18-year-old mind had thought such deep things.  But then, maybe not so surprising, for I was a very philosophical person back then.  Maybe still am.  So here it is.

It's original title was "Is It Man That Counts?"

'How can you be so no-caring?' a boy demanded,
Staring into the old man's eyes;
'Do you want all our life to die
And leave nothing to show our lives ranged?'

'Every animal dies,' the old chief would say
And gaze with deep-seeing silent eyes
About the village around them.
'Timeless is not changeless,' he would repeat.

But a boy's heart-strength is different
And his restless feet thus wandered,
Searching over forest-depth and countryside,
His mind straining with searches just as deep.

He drank in the wildness 'round him,
Knowing in his animal-part
It had no time, no beginning,
And no end?  Their village

Already was shrinking, the forest depths
Pricked by hard, cold disruption,
A steeling chill so unlike winter--
More senseless--as rape or pillage.

And as the Wild spread its winter
Blanket, with its natural death,
He prayed that this might be
The end--to die as wild things died.

Then as the cold and steel creeping in
On them increased its breath to a roar,
He knew it wasn't death that was coming--
Just as the old man had tried

To tell.  It was what the Wild was really
Made of; so though their villages--
And all men--passed; the Wild would
Sustain itself--timeless because it changed.

Monday, March 4, 2019

Chapter 6 - " A Turning" -- from "A Voice in the Past", Book I of The Journeys Saga






“Have you figured out what I’m supposed to be doing here?”
          “Is that you, Cinda?” 
          It sure is good to hear Lexi’s familiar voice again, even if it is just in my head.
          “Who else would it be?” I sigh.
          A slight chuckle comes into my mind, not exactly from the person lying next to me.  I can see Elka is sound asleep, and looking down my body where I lie beside her on the narrow bed, I see Elena is too.
          “It seems like my insisting on staying here on the island came from Elena herself, not me,” I say to Lexi in my head.
          “I’m not sure.  All I know is we’re here for a reason.”
          “But what am I supposed to do?”
          “Just be here in your ancestor’s mind.  The thing that’s supposed to happen will flow out naturally.”
          “Are you sure, Lexi?  How can we ever know?  I mean, what if Elena would have done this anyway?”
          “Think about it, Cinda.  Do you think a thirteen-year-old girl in the early Nineteenth Century would challenge her father the way Elena did today?”
          “I don’t know.  Maybe not.  But Elka argued with him, too.  Was that your doing, Lexi?”
          “Perhaps.  These differences they have in religion run much deeper now than in our times.  Anyway, the sisters are here with their estranged grandparents.  Something new must come from this.”
          “I guess so.”  I gently roll onto my side.  “I just wish this bed was more comfortable.”
          Her chuckle echoes in my head as I doze off.
         
***

          As the weeks of autumn passed, Elka and I helped Nanna search the low hills of the island for the wild berries she needed to make jam.  We also peeled and chopped vegetables from the garden located behind the cottage.  Most of these went into a large crock filled with sour vinegary wine.  The smell was familiar from our own mother’s kitchen.
          “It’s so good to have help with the sauerkraut,” Nanna said almost every day.  “I guess I’m not as young as I used to be.  Every year the work seems harder.”
          “How old are you?” I asked one day.
          Elka gave me a sharp stare, and I realized this probably wasn’t a polite question.
          But Nanna just grinned.  “Well, let me see.  I was eighteen when your father was born in 1811.   Hans and I had been married two years then.  Yes, I was born in 1793, so that makes me 54 now.”  She reached up and pushed a stray curl of graying hair back into her kerchief.  “Getting older every day, my dears.”
          I found myself wanting to say 54 wasn’t very old, but felt I’d said too much already.  And I knew the hard work of farming and fishing took its toll here, whether one lived on the mainland or the islands. With a start, I realized I didn’t know anyone over the age of 60.
          “Nanna, I hope you’ll live forever,” I heard my sister say.
          “We all will--in a better place,” Nanna smiled.  “An afterlife with no pain and no tears.”
          “Are you sure?” Elka asked.
          “The Word has promised it, Liebchen.  I believe it and that settles it.”
          “But what about our different beliefs about baptism?”
          “Don’t let these men’s arguments distress you, girls.  All that matters is we trust in our dear Savior.”
          “I do trust in his salvation bought for us,” I murmured.
          Nanna patted me on the shoulder.  Das ist gut.”
          Elka smiled at me across the top of the table where we were chopping vegetables.

***

          A day or two later, I was again hunting for berries along the sandy hills overlooking the eastern shore.  The wind was picking up and getting colder by the moment.  Elka had already given up and headed back for the cottage, but I felt sure I could find just a pint more.  It was all we needed to complete the last batch of jam.
          Just as I spotted some of the purplish fruit nearby, my foot slipped into an unseen hole.  A horrible snapping sound rose from my ankle as I crumpled to the ground.
          ‘You should’ve known better than to be out here alone,’ a voice in my head scolded.
          There was no point in trying to answer, even though I wondered where this unfamiliar voice came from.  Instead, I tried to rise to my feet.  The injured ankle couldn’t bear any weight, and I lost my balance in the sand.  As I crashed to the ground again, I began crying for help.
          ‘There’s no one here to help,’ said that strange voice again.
          Finally I managed to get up to my knees, and using the shrubs around me, I crawled higher up the sand dune.  There was nothing in sight but empty fields.  The grain harvest was finished and the livestock had been moved to the sheltered pens for the winter.  If only Grandpapa were here.
          Then I thought I saw a flash of blue color in the distance, down near the shore.  Again I called, this time as loud as I could, “Help!”
          The blue dot of color became a shirt, and the arms inside it were waving.  Then the sea winds carried a voice my way, “What’s wrong?”
          “I’ve hurt myself,” I called through cupped hands.  “I can’t walk.”
          “What?”  The figure couldn’t hear my words because the wind was blowing the wrong way.  So, I waved my arms and called for help again.  By now my injured ankle was throbbing.  I felt a rush of relief as the figure began to run along the beach in my direction.
          By the time he started up the dune toward me, I could see it was a young man near my age.  “I’m so clumsy,” I sighed when he was close enough to hear.  “I fell and hurt my ankle.”
          He quickly climbed up and took me by the hand.  “Can you put any weight on it?”
          “No.  It hurts too much.”
          “Here, lean on me.”  He moved to my side and put a strong arm around my waist.  “Why were you up here alone?”
          “I know it was stupid of me.  My sister and I were gathering berries for our Nanna.  She got cold, but I wanted to find just a few more so we could have a full batch.”
          He began to move down the hillside, helping me hop on my good leg.  “I’ve never seen you around here before.  Who is your grandmother?”
          “Helena Hansen, wife of Anders.”
          “Oh.”  He seemed to be wondering what to say next.
          “I know,” I added at his silence, “The family that split.  My father is named Hans Hansen.  My sister and I only met our grandparents a couple of weeks ago.”
          We’d reached the beach by this time, so the going was easier.  He didn’t speak for a few minutes but just continued to help me across the sand.  He seemed to know exactly where my grandparents’ cottage was.
          “So you’re from this island?”
          “Born here on Fohr,” he grinned.  “By the way, my name is George.”
          “Thank you for coming to my rescue, George.  I’m Elena Hansen.”
          “I’m pleased to be of assistance, Miss Hansen.  I guess I should give my full name too.  George Edward Heinrichsen, at your service.”
          By this time we were in sight of the cottage, but for some reason he slowed as we came to the gate of the winter pen.  Before I could ask why, my sister was running toward us.  “Elena, what have you done?”
          “You know how clumsy I am,” I sighed.
          George stopped and waited until Elka arrived on the other side of the gate. 
          “This is George Heinrichsen, Elka.”
          “Thank you for helping her,” she nodded.
          “My pleasure.  Can you support her from here?”
          I looked up at him, wondering why he seemed reluctant to go through the gate.  But he smiled at me as he said, “I have to get back to work helping my father with the fishing nets.  May I call for you later?”
          I knew I was blushing and looked down at the clods around my feet before I whispered, “Yes, of course.”
          Then Elka said, “Here, let me help.”  She stepped into his place and I shifted my weight onto her shoulders.
          “Thank you again, George,” I managed to say through the pain flaring in my ankle as I moved it. 
          He didn’t speak again but did take off his hat and made a small bow.
          “What a nice young man, Elena.” 
          “Yes.  I’d still be stuck in the dunes without him.”
          “You were fortunate.  I hope you’ve learned your lesson about going out there alone.”
          “Yes Mother,” I half-mocked.
          We giggled softly as we slowly and painfully made our way to the cottage.
          “He seems to like you,” said Elka.
          “He was just being polite.  No one else was out there to help.”
          “Oh, I think we haven’t seen the last of George Heinrichsen.”
          I didn’t reply, but I was hoping to see George again, too.
         

         
         















Tuesday, February 26, 2019

Chapter 5 - Another Storm Arises

On the coast of Denmark:

I gripped the gunwale of the tiny sailboat as it tossed in the choppy waves.  I wasn’t used to being on the sea like this, having been born in the town of Hohn, centered in the Jutland Peninsula.  True, Papa was a fisherman, but I hadn’t been his helper like my brothers. 
          And now I was on my way to the Isle of Fohr, a few miles off the western coast of Denmark.  Papa was seated just behind us holding the tiller, looking quite at home there.   He’d been born and raised on Fohr like Mama, but for some reason I still didn’t understand, they’d left the island for the mainland.  Trying to settle my churning stomach, I reached over and grabbed my sister’s hand.
          Elka gave a tiny smile.  Apparently, she too found the churning North Sea uncomfortable.  “It’s all right, Elena,” she whispered.  “The voyage isn’t long.”
          “Papa, why are we going to Fohr now after so long?” I asked.
          Papa frowned and made no reply at first.  Finally he shrugged, “We will talk of this later.  Now I must keep this boat upright.”
          As he said this, the small craft lurched into a tall wave, climbing its side and cresting the white top with a crash.  I gagged and turned to heave my breakfast into the crashing waves.
          “Aye, you’ll never make an islander,” Papa shouted above the water’s sounds.
          “Why are we going to see Grandpapa and Grandmama?” Elka asked.
          I wiped my mouth and tried to swallow the bitter taste in my throat.
          “You’ll see when we get there,” muttered Papa.  “Your grandmother can be very insistent.”

***
          The boat was now tied to a floating dock on the shore.  As we climbed a nearby grassy knoll, a man in working clothes came striding toward us from a cottage perched on the side of the hill.  He waved, but I saw he wasn’t smiling.
          When he got within a few yards of us, he planted his feet in the sandy soil and crossed his arms in front of his chest.  “So you’ve come at last, have you Hans?”
          Papa stopped and assumed a similar pose. 
          Before Papa replied, the man pointed to Elka and me.  “And these are your girls, I presume?”
          The anger in his voice was confusing me.
          “Father, please.”  Papa’s voice was edged with anger, too.  “Can we at least go up to the cottage?”
          “Your mother insisted on it, of course.”  He said nothing else but turned on his heel and started up the hill from where he’d come.
          “So, is this truly our grandfather?” I whispered to Elka as we tried to keep pace with the men, no easy task in our long skirts and tight shoes.
          “I guess so, Elena.  I’ve never met him before either.”
          Just as we reached the door of the weathered wooden cottage, it burst open and a woman in a long brown skirt grabbed me in her embrace.  “My dear granddaughters, at last I see you face-to-face.”
          “Yes Mama,” said our father. “The eldest is Elka, and Elena has just turned thirteen.”
          “Already women,” the woman sighed.  “Why have you taken so long to bring them to me, Hans?”
          “Hmph!”  This sound came from the older man.  “Enough of this, Helena.  You know as well as I that all Hans’s children have been led astray by their mother’s Baptist heresies.”
          ‘So that’s it,’ I thought.  ‘There’s a religious argument between Papa and Grandpapa.  Could this thing really be the cause of so much strife and separation?’
          “Now Anders,” the woman was sighing.  “Can we please put these differences aside for the sake of family?”
          “I’m not the one who pulled their roots out of this home-ground on Fohr and dragged them away to the mainland.”
          Helena frowned for an instant.  Then she grabbed each of our hands and pulled us girls toward her.  “Don’t listen to the grumpy men,” she whispered.  “Come inside.  I’ve made a special lunch for you.”
          The interior of the cottage was dimly revealed by light coming through the small windows.  They had no covering, and the shutters were opened to the brisk outside air.  I took a deep breath, glad this seemed to settle my still-churning stomach.  Despite its sparseness, the room had a homey welcoming feel.
          “We’re so fortunate to have a sunny day, my dears.  Please sit.”  Grandmama guided us to benches on either side of the worn trestle table.
          Before us were chipped crockery plates, each with a small stack of barley cakes topped with a dollop of jam.
          ‘Is this the special lunch?’ I thought.  ‘It seems so plain.’
          “Oh, thank you, Grandmama,” Elka was saying just then.  “You didn’t have to give us so much of your precious berry jam.”
          “Please call me Nanna,” she smiled.  “There’s no need to be so formal with just us women.”
          Looking up, I saw Grandmother’s warm smile but thought I also saw tears in her shining blue eyes.
          “Would you like coffee?  Or are you not permitted to drink it?”
          “Oh yes, Nanna,” Elka nodded.  “We’d love to try your coffee.”
          Once we had steaming mugs beside our plates, I finally found my voice.   “Won’t you join us, Nanna?”
          “I’ve already eaten my lunch, dears.”
          “Please, just sit with us,” Elka insisted.
          “Very well.”  She poured herself a mug and drew up a battered wooden chair to the end of the table.
          As we ate the barley cakes, I tried my best to look pleased with them.  This would be considered ordinary fare in Hohn, but apparently out here on the Isle of Fohr, things were quite different.
          Then I found my mind wandering back to Grandpapa’s comment on Baptists.   My own baptism was just a few years back, and I remembered it well.  The true meaning of having my sins washed away was cemented in my memory by the feel of the chill waters rushing over my face as the pastor leaned me back into the lake near our little church in Hohn.
          Mama ran and embraced me tightly as I stepped back up the bank, heedless of my dripping white gown.  I remembered seeing her do the same when Elka was baptized.  Now I realized with a start, this was one of the few times Mama had ever hugged me.
          “Blessings on you, my child,” she’d murmured into my ear.  “You have decided to follow Herr Jesu Krist.  May he be with you and guide you always.”
          Now Elka’s voice pulled me back into the present.  “Nanna, why do Grandpapa and our father seem so angry?”
          Even as she said this, I heard deep voices coming toward the door.  “You’ve turned your back on your family, Hans.”
          Nanna jumped to her feet, slamming her coffee mug on the tabletop, and shouted out the open window.  “Do not bring your stupid arguments into my house.”
          I glanced at Elka’s face and saw she was as surprised as me.  Our own mother would never be heard raising her voice like this in public.
          “Those pig-headed men,” Nanna muttered.  “They’ve made their opinions of God more important than their own families.”
          “Is that why Papa has never brought us to visit you?”
          Nanna laid her hand over Elka’s before she replied.  “You are of my own blood,” she sighed.  “I should never have let us be torn apart like this.”
          “What do you mean?”
          “My husband is a Lutheran, like most of Denmark and Germany.  This is a part of who he is.  But when your father married Elka Nahmens, he turned to her beliefs and became one of those who teach differently.”
          “So that’s why he and Mama left Fohr?”
          “My husband sent them away.”  Now I definitely saw tears shining in Nanna’s eyes, and my heart felt heavy in my chest.
          “He banished them?”
          “Some would use that harsh word, Elena.  These men—"
          Her voice broke.
          I reached over and gripped her hand.  It was icy cold, and I began to rub gently, trying to warm it.
          Just then the door was flung open and Papa stomped in.  “It’s time to go, my daughters.”  We could hear the tension in his voice. 
          Elka rose and nodded obediently, but I didn’t move.  “I’m staying here with Nanna,” I said. “I want to visit with my grandparents.” My mind was racing and my heart was pounding.  I couldn’t believe these words were coming out of my mouth.  But as soon as I said them, I knew they were true.
          Papa’s eyes flashed as he turned to us, but Elka stepped toward him from where she was standing at the table.  “She’s still young, Papa,” she said.  “She needs to get to know her family.  Please, don’t stop her.”
          “Why should I take orders from you?” Papa hissed.  “You get back in your place, woman.”
          “You know Mother would let her stay for at least a little while.”
          “These old Lutherans will ruin her faith.”
          “Papa, my faith is strong enough,” I said.
          “And I’ll stay with her, if you wish,” Elka added. 
          “Very well,” he grumbled.  “But you must keep my father from preaching to them,” he glared at Nanna.
          “You know he loves you, Hans,” she murmured.  “He just doesn’t know how to show it.”
          Papa reached down and kissed Nanna on top of her head.  “I know, Mama.”
          “If only you two weren’t so stubborn, you thick-headed Deutsche Manner,” she sighed.
          “I can’t come back for you until after the barley harvest,” he said then.  “Are you sure you want to stay that long?”
          “We’ll be fine, Papa,” Elka said, giving him a hug.  “Don’t worry.  This way we can help Nanna with her canning for winter.  Especially since she’s given us the last of her berry jam.”
          “There’s still a bit left, dear,” Nanna smiled. 
          “I love the idea of helping,” I added as I embraced Papa.  “Please don’t worry.  And tell Mama we’ll help her as soon as we return.”
          “Yes,” Nanna nodded.  “The berries ripen earlier here than on the mainland, I’m told.  The girls’ help will be appreciated.”
          Papa was staring at the floor as though he might find an answer there.  “Very well,” he muttered at last.  “I’ll be back before the winter storms.”
          Then without another word, he turned and stalked out the door, slamming it behind him.

Monday, February 18, 2019

Chapter 4 - "After the Storm" - Book 1 of The Journeys Saga



Journeys Saga Book I - New working title "A Voice in the Past"

Photo below is Long's Peak, Colorado Rockies.  One of the Fourteeners mentioned in Chapter 3.  It's known for its unusual flat top.  This photo taken in Rocky Mountain National Park by Paul Erler, Sept. 2017.

Leah is right.  The storm soon passes, and we crawl back out of our tents to warm up camp stoves and start supper.  By the time we’re finished eating the sun is back out, and we can watch it disappear behind the mountains to the west of us.  There are only a few patches of the white ice pellets left in the shadiest spots.
          “I’m sorry we’re not allowed a campfire,” says Jeanine.  “It would be fun to sit around, sing songs, and tell stories.  But it’s getting dark.  Without a fire, I guess we’ll just have to get into our tents while we can still see them.”
          As Leah and I crawl back into our tent, I hear her humming a tune.  “What song is that?” I ask.
          “It’s called ‘The Happy Wanderer’.  It’s an old camp song.”
          “Please sing it for me.  I’ve never heard it.”  Shivering, we quickly crawl into our sleeping bags to get warm.  “I’m glad Jeanine said to get in our tents.  My hands feel like ice.”
          “Mine, too.”
          As I lie there in the gathering darkness, Leah’s voice begins the song, “I love to go a-wandering…”
          But I must have dropped right off to sleep, because I never hear the end of the song.

          It’s still dark outside when a yellow light glows beside our tent door.  “Who’s there?” I whisper, thinking it’s someone with a flashlight, maybe Jeanine checking that we’re tucked in.
          “Cinda, come out here for a minute,” says a female voice.
          “Wait,” I whisper.  I see no reason to think it isn’t Jeanine.  After all, we’re up here isolated in the mountains.
          I crawl out of my sleeping bag as quietly as I can.  Leah stirs and mumbles.  I freeze.  Once I feel confident she’s still asleep, I unzip the tent door.  The sound seems like a passing jet in the silence of the night.
          “What’s wrong?” Leah’s sleepy voice asks.
          “Nothing.  I—uh—just have to go pee.”
          “Oh—‘kay.”  She pulls her bag over her head, as I heave a sigh of relief.
          Once I’m out the door and it’s zipped again, I shade my eyes and try to focus on the bright figure blocking out the night.
          “It’s me, Cinda.  Lexi.”
          My legs give way and I sit flat on the ground, but she reaches down and helps me up.  At the touch of her warm hand, I shiver for an instant. Then the warmth seems to flow into my body as she pulls me away from the cluster of tents to a pile of boulders several meters away.
          A cold chill freezes my backside as I sit down next to her.  Then it rises to my belly and runs through me like a knife.  “Why are you here?”
          “Because it’s time to come with me.”
          “Do I have to go?  I’ve finally made some friends, and this will make me miss my one chance at camping in the mountains.”
          “Don’t worry.  I can take you through the GAP, and we’ll be back before morning.  No one will even know you’ve been gone.”
          “How can you do that?”
          “I just fold space and time--and cut across the GAP.”
          “What is the GAP, anyway?”
          “It stands for Galactic Antipaterminal Passage.”
          “Is that like a Wormhole?”
          “Sort of.  Wormholes are in space.  But GAPs can be anywhere.”
          “Why do I have to do this?”
          “Because you’re the one being called.”
          “I thought I called you.  That’s what my dad said.”
          “Well, it’s a two-way thing.  You and I are meant to work together, Cinda.  I need you, and you need me.  Please, just come now.  One of your ancestors is in great need—your six-times-great-grandmother.”
          “My what?”
          “Please come with me, okay?  I think you’ll like her.”
          I take two deep breaths before I answer her.  By now, my eyes have adjusted to the light coming from her, and I can see those same green eyes shining at me that I saw in my bedroom a couple of months ago.  “Okay, prove it,” I mutter.
          She reaches over and takes both my hands in hers.  The yellow light seems to flow from her into me.  My hands begin to shake as I see them become a glowing gold.  It’s like they’re turning to molten metal.  Then everything turns pitch black around me, and I feel a wind as sharp as ice.   It pulls and tears at my hair, and I grip Lexi’s hands as tightly as I can.  Then in an instant, the black is lifted like a curtain and I see a sky full of stars.  The rocks and the mountains are gone.  Looking down at my feet, I see they’re standing in wet sand.  In the distance, I hear the sloshing of waves and the call of seabirds.
         
          “Lexi, where am I?”  My voice seems to echo like I’m in a long tunnel.
          “Don’t panic, Cinda.  I’ve brought you through the GAP to Denmark in 1847.”
          “What?”
          “You’re actually near a place called Hohn, in the district of Schleswig.  Right now it’s ruled by Denmark, but the people here see themselves as more German than Danish.  It’s okay, you’re with family.”
          “How?”
          “You’re ‘within’ your six-times-great grandmother, Elena Hansen.  You and she are now merged and she’s thirteen years old, just like you.”
          “I don’t believe this.  I have to be dreaming.”  My voice can barely squeak out a sound.  “This is impossible.”
          “No, I can assure you this is all real,” she says calmly.  Her words echo inside my head, but I don’t hear them with my ears.
          Everything around us is shaded, like it’s twilight or just before dawn.  Then as the light begins to brighten, I decide it must be dawn.  The sun seems to be rising out of the sea in bands of pink and purple clouds.  Gulls are flying above the waves and occasionally dipping down to grab some food, calling to each other raucously.
          “What’s going to happen now, Lexi?  If I’m ‘within’ this Elena, what happens to me?”
          “Just relax and let Elena be herself.  You’re here to help her.”
          “But how can I help?  I don’t know anything about Denmark in—whatever…”
          “Eighteen-forty-seven.  People are much the same inside, no matter what time and place they’re in.  Elena at thirteen has some of the same questions and feelings you do.”
          “But how will I know what to do?”
          “It will come to you as you need to know.  Don’t worry.”
          “That’s a bit vague.  I can see why Dad wasn’t too happy to see you in my bedroom.”
          “I wish I could tell you more, Cinda, but it would interfere with what needs to happen.”
          “We’re so far from my time, over two hundred years.  I’ll be totally out of place here.”
          “The Lord we serve doesn’t change, remember?  The Book says ‘He is the same yesterday, today, and forever.’ ”
          “The Book?  What book?”
          “I think you call it The Bible.  Don’t you believe in the True Lord?   
“Oh, you mean Jesus?”
          “Yes, that’s one of his names.”
          “Well, sure I’ve heard the stories about him at church.  A few years ago, I was baptized and gave my profession of faith.  We still go to church most weekends.  My dad doesn’t always come with us, but I wish he would.”
          “Is he angry with the Lord about his father’s death when he was so young?”
          “I think it’s something like that, Lexi.”
          “That’s another reason why you need to be here, Cinda.”
          “How’s my going back over two hundred years going to help my dad?”
          “I can’t explain it all.  You wouldn’t understand right now.  Don’t worry about fitting in.  Elena is the one everyone will see and hear, not you.”
          I’m already beginning to feel my real self fading, and my insides flip over, like I’m on a steep rollercoaster.  I want to ask Lexi more questions, but my own consciousness seems to be disappearing along with my voice.
          By now the ball of the sun is completely above the horizon before us, and the beach is bathed in yellow-orange light.  My feet are still planted on the sand, and I can just make out the dark shapes of some pointed-toed shoes.  When I try to take a step, it feels like I’m glued to the ground.
          “Lexi, why can’t I move?”
          “Don’t panic.  We’re still settling into our new time and place, and new bodies.  It takes a bit longer when we go backwards in time.  Try to follow the Lord’s guidance, and things will fall into place as they’re supposed to.”
          I want to turn my head to see where her voice is coming from, but none of my muscles will respond.
          “Okay, I’m really confused,” I take a deep breath to try calming myself.  “Are we trying to change history here, or something?”
          “Nothing as big as that, Cinda.  There are just some paths that would’ve been better not taken.  And we’re here to redirect those choices.  And keep the wrong things from happening.”
          “Sure sounds like change to me.”
          “Well, it is.  But not changes of the big things that happened in this century.  Just some smaller details.”
          “And this will change my dad’s attitude?”
          “We hope so.”
          “We?  We who?”
          “I can’t tell you right now.  You just need to merge into Elena, live her life with her.”
          “I don’t want to lose my identity, Lexi.”
          “Don’t worry, you won’t.  The little risk is outweighed by the benefits.  Please, Cinda.  Just trust me, and the True Lord.”
          “All right.  I’m not sure I have a choice anyway.”
          “Yes, you do.  But I hope you’ll make the choice to help your family.”
          By this time, the sun is moving higher in the sky, and I can see the dunes around us.  Now when I look down I’m surprised to see black button-up shoes on my feet.  “Ouch, these shoes are pinching my toes.  But at least I can move again.”
          I hear a low laugh.  “Shoes haven’t developed comfort yet in 1847.”
          Then I notice I’m wearing a long skirt reaching to my ankles.  The wind is whipping it around my legs, and I must gather it up toward my waist so I can walk.  “These clothes are crazy.”
          “You have to fit in with the people here.”
          “I sure wish I could wear blue-jeans.”
          “Sorry.  They haven’t been invented yet.”
          “When did jeans get invented, anyway?”
          “About two or three years from now, in San Francisco.  Levi Strauss finds that the denim used for ships’ sails makes a sturdy, tough pair of pants for the gold miners in the 1849 gold rush.”
          “Oh, Levi’s!  Can’t we go there and get me some?”
          She laughs aloud.  “No, not really.”
          “I thought you could take me anywhere and anytime, Lexi.”
          “No, that’s not how it works.  Can we please get on with this?”
          “So, what am I supposed to do first?”
          “Just relax and let yourself slide into the background of Elena’s mind.  Then things will become clearer.”
          My heart is pounding—or is it Elena’s?  Taking a deep breath, I look down at my hands where they’ve gathered the heavy woolen skirt.  They don’t look at all like my hands.  They’re much smaller, but not fragile. 
          Now my body begins to regain its balance as I turn and walk away from the shore.  In the distance, I see a small cottage, and my feet want to take me there.
          “Wait.  Lexi, where will you be in all this?  Am I here all alone?”
          “Look at me,” her voice echoes in my head.
          Turning to my left, I see a girl standing next to me in a long dress similar to mine.  “Who are you?”
          The girl next to me shakes her head.  “Elena, you’re such a dreamer.  Has your mind gone across the sea again?  I’m your sister, Elka.”
          Her voice is familiar to Elena, and I quickly nod, “Oh, yes.”
          “Are you inside her?” I ask silently in my mind.
          “Don’t worry,” says Lexi’s familiar voice.  “I’m right here.”