In the city where Thomas and his family lived in was a splendid creek that flowed into a majestic river surrounded by trees on both sides of the bank. At the place where the creek flowed into the river, the bank was covered with soft, fine white sand. Many would go there to splash in the creek. Mothers took their children to cool off, those who worked in the fields would jump in the creek to wash the sweat off of their bodies. The creek and river were important to the people in the city.
Further up the creek, a couple hours away by horseback, was a resplendent waterfall. The water gently cascaded down layers of rocks, then fell into a turquoise blue pool where the water became calm as glass. This spot was commonly used by families for recreation. In fact, several people built small simple sleeping huts near the pool so for those who wanted to spend more time there they would have a place to sleep. Different people volunteered to be caretakers of the huts, taking turns to go and maintain them. If a person or family wanted to stay in a hut, they would let the caretaker know before traveling there. There were times, especially during the warm season, when there would be a waiting list for the huts.
Thomas informed the caretaker that he was traveling to the waterfall and would be staying in one of the huts. Because he was travelling when the temperatures were beginning to cool, he would be the only person staying there; which he was grateful for. He desperately wanted to be alone.
The path to the waterfall was well-worn as it had been traveled by many. On this brisk day, Thomas relished in the beauties of the trail. The trail went part way through a deciduous forest, speckled with a small number of evergreens. The leaves were beginning to turn into brilliant shades of red, orange, yellow, and brown. Birds sang and a few cool weather flowers were in eloquent bloom. Squirrels and other small animals speedily scurried away from Thomas as he and his horse walked and trotted through the forest. He smiled as he appreciated all of nature’s creations that he experienced during his ride. His eyes and ears were kept open as he was always on guard for larger and more vicious animals, especially a jaguar.
Once he arrived at the waterfall, he unloaded the brown leather pouch he carried his food in, put it in one of the huts, and jumped into the cool refreshing water. The pool was cooler than during the warm months but still incredibly invigorating. Thomas sat under the waterfall, allowing the water to gently massage his head and shoulders. He thought about Nara and his love for her; he wished that she was there with him, but understood that he desperately needed this time alone.
After drying off, Thomas gathered wood that was lying on the forest floor and built a roaring fire. He pulled out a corn cake and deer jerky that he ate for his evening meal. As he sat by his fire and slowly ate his food, he thought about his magnificent marriage relationship with Nara. How he loved her. He tenderly recalled the first time he saw her. Her deep piercing blue eyes immediately captured his heart. He knew right then that he wanted to be with her forever. He thought about the day they were married and how stunning Nara looked. He could hardly wait to get through the day so he could finally hold her in his arms and express to her the intense love that felt for her. How he savored those moments with her.
Thomas also recalled some of the hard times they experienced, especially not yet having any children. He regretted the one time he expressed his anger to Nara and blamed her for their not having children. He was just so frustrated and felt so much guilt because he was not providing grandchildren for his parents. His father soon discovered that he had treated Nara unfairly and deftly delivered one of the biggest lectures of his life. Thomas truly felt extreme remorse and vowed never to treat Nara that way again.
He remembered all the prayers he and Nara prayed, prayers for children. None of them had been answered. He felt raging resentment to God for what seemed to be unheard prayers. He could not understand why they had not been blessed with children. Were they doing something wrong? Were they not perfect enough to have children? No, that could not be the case as he knew many other couples who were just like them that bore child after child. What he would give for just one child.
Suddenly, Thomas heard an unexpected rustling in the trees. The sun had just set over the horizon so there was still a glimmer of light to see through the trees . He gently grabbed his bow, which was laying right next to him, and noiselessly nocked an arrow in preparation to defend himself if needed. He also checked to be sure his knife was strapped to his waistband. Staring at him with deep golden eyes was a large female jaguar with beautifully spotted fur. Thomas wanted to grab his parchment, but knew he had to hold his bow and arrow. They carefully studied at each other, Thomas trying to take in every detail about the large cat and the jaguar trying to determine if Thomas was a threat to her. After a few intense moments, the jaguar slowly turned away and wandered off into the darkening forest.
Feeling more secure, Thomas said a quick prayer of gratitude, grabbed his writing tool and parchment, and with the light of the fire, promptly sketched all the details of the jaguar that he wanted to include in his carving. Feeling satisfied and sleepy, he went into the hut to sleep.
Awaking to the brightness of the rising sun, Thomas curled up in his blanket trying to stay warm in the cool morning air. He finally decided to brave the chilly air, get up, and start a fire. He walked outside his hut to the sound of birds singing, the waterfall tumbling over rocks and into the pool, and squirrels chirping as they scurried to gather acorns and hickory nuts to put in their winter stash. Using coals what were still red hot from the previous night’s fire, Thomas added dried leaves and small twigs, gently blew on the coals until the fire ignited the leaves and twigs. Thomas added larger sticks and logs until the fire roared with life.
After a morning meal of another corn cake and some beef jerky, Thomas decided that he wanted some fresh meat, so he picked up his bow, chose an arrow and quietly walked into the trees. He spotted several squirrels, carefully nocked his arrow to his bow, and waited patiently. It was not long until he spotted a squirrel burying a hickory nut. Thomas aimed then let go of the arrow. The perfectly aimed arrow went straight through the squirrel’s heart, killing it instantly.
Thomas thanked the squirrel for its sacrifice, skinned it then placed it over red-hot coals to slowly cook. While the squirrel was cooking, Thomas looked up to Heaven and asked God again, why he and Nara had not yet been blessed with children. He wanted to believe in God, he was taught by his parents to believe and have faith in God, and knew that he had been blessed. So, why were the heavens silent now? Could he still believe in God, even if they were never blessed with children? So many questions without answers.
As Thomas was meditating, a young furry fox with oversized ears, smelling the cooking squirrel, wandered near Thomas. He smiled and laughed at the clumsy antics of the cute little kit. He even asked the kit his questions. The kit looked up at Thomas with a questioning look in his eyes, then hungrily looked back at the squirrel. Thomas finally threw a few small sticks toward the kit, not hitting it, just enough to scare it away. He knew the mother would be close and did not want any competition for his meal.
After feasting on the squirrel, Thomas picked up his bow and arrow and began target shooting at a tree that was off in the distance. Even though he did not compete as often as when he was younger, he still thoroughly enjoyed shooting. He flawlessly hit his target each time.
While Thomas shot his arrows he continued to ponder his relationship with God. He prayed, he argued, he had faith, he doubted. He mounted his horse and traveled up the trail until he was at the top of the water fall. He continued his meditation as he sat on the grassy bank of the creek with his feet in the cool, brisk water. He picked a couple of small blue and white flowers that grew next to where he sat. He wished he could take them to Nara, but knew they would wilt before he could get them to her. He decided then that he would pick flowers for her on his way home.
Feeling hungry, Thomas went back to the hut where he left his food. As he approached the hut, he noticed that the door was slightly ajar and he heard something rustling around in the hut. He dismounted and tied up his horse, grabbed his bow which was mounted on the side of his horse, nocked an arrow and silently walked toward the door. As Thomas approached the door, at once, a bright red fox with a corn cake in her mouth scurried out the door and into the woods. Thomas smiled and laughed at the fox, went into the hut to assess the damage. Thankfully, the fox only took one corn cake, but spilled the rest of his food onto the ground. Thomas picked up the food that was laying around and put it back into his leather pouch.
Still feeling hungry, Thomas ate a corn cake and more jerky as he sat by the edge of the pool. As he sat and watched fish lazily swimming in the pool, a calm peaceful feeling unexpectedly came over him. It was as if he were being covered in a soft, warm blanket. Somehow he knew everything would be alright. He did not know how, but felt the peaceful assurance that God loved him and was keenly aware of their situation.
(To be continued…)