Monday, July 17, 2006
Legend of the Eagle Feather - Part III
The quiet man and Grey Bear used up all their reserves of energy that day in climbing the mountain and the ever present breeze had died completely, leaving them at the mercy of great clouds of mosquitoes. As they descended the mountain, what had been an amazing experience of life changing proportions was becoming a hellish death march, the damage wrought by the relentless hordes of mosquitoes more psychological than physical, but very real all the same. The quiet man was reaching the end of his rope and was ready to collapse in despair when he noticed they were almost descended to the spot where he had hid his glorious eagle feather. Using the last bit of strength he possessed, he dropped his pack and stumbled to the snowfield to refill his water bottles, checking that the feather was still safe where he had hid it on the way up that morning. He dropped to the ground by his pack, completely spent. The day's hike of 18 hours covering a dozen miles, gaining over a mile in elevation and then part-way down, had left him nothing in reserve. The mosquitoes closed in hungrily and he could do little to resist.
The quiet man knew he had to get shelter, and soon. He had to strip off his drenched shirt and shorts and change into his fleece pants and hooded sweatshirt, get some food in his belly, and get into his sleeping bag, covered with a survival blanket to keep the mosquitoes away. Night was falling, or what passed for night in July this close to the Arctic Circle, and his body needed rest and fluids and food, but the mosquitoes were slowly driving him mad, sapping the last of his will. They had been pestering him constantly on the descent making good use of the still air and his gradually weakening state to gain maximum advantage. It all seemed too much, more than he could bear, even with such a loyal very small companion. The quiet man gave voice to his despair and tried to find hidden reserves of strength to accomplish what he knew needed to be done but could not even find the energy to swat them away and they had long ago proven to be all but immune to the repellent he lathered on all exposed skin. Things looked very bad for quiet man and Grey Bear. They wondered if they would see their small cave by the winding river of asphalt ever again. The quiet man closed his eyes in exhaustion but moments later snapped them back open as he felt the air quicken around him as a breeze began to stir the stillness. Eyes at ground level, he watched in amazement as the breeze blew just hard enough to keep the mosquitoes at bay - they were flying directly at him, dozens, maybe hundreds outlined against the darkening sky, but the breeze exactly matched their flying speed.
The quiet man lay in stunned silence, watching the wall of mosquitoes in disbelief for perhaps a full minute, maybe two. His exhausted mind struggled to process what he was seeing but in a moment of clarity he grabbed for his backpack and, eyes still on the cloud of bugs fighting the headwind, he began frantically pulling gear out of his pack and changing into dry clothes. He laid out a ground cloth, rolled out his sleeping bag, and was crawling in and pulling the survival blanket over the top when the breeze died as suddenly as it began and the mosquitoes resumed their attack. The quiet man and Grey Bear fell asleep almost instantly despite the incessant drone of the frustrated insects denied their meal.
They awoke the next morning to a world of wonder for they were sleeping right on top of the clouds. The lower half of the quiet man's sleeping bag was damp from the cloud and his face has in the bright sunshine! The quiet man and Grey Bear could hardly move from their exertions the previous day and their only reminder from the horror of the mosquitoes the night before was dozens and dozens of bites on the back of the quiet man's left hand which must have slipped out from under the shelter during the night. There were so many bites it looked like some form of tribal marking. The quiet man and Grey Bear slowly stood up, their feet in the cloud and their heads in the sun, and looked out over the whole expanse of white as far as the eye could see. After eating a bit and drinking some of the melted snow, the quiet man got changed and re-packed his gear. He knew the rest of the descent was going to be a challenge, but the sleep and food had charged his spirits and he knew he could make it down before another nightfall.
The quiet man and Grey Bear once again filled their water bottles with snow and went to retrieve their treasure from its hiding place. Looking into the hole the quiet man and Grey Bear saw their prized eagle feather was gone, and was no where to be seen on the surrounding tundra. The quiet man looked out over the expanse of white and smiled. "Fair enough" he said softly. The quiet man and Grey Bear hobbled slowly towards the trail and began heading down the mountain, gradually swallowed by the mist. The quiet man began to whistle happily as the last of the sunlight was blotted out and he descended into the cloud for the dark spot on his heart was gone, and he had a secret - a secret that he still carries with him in the small cave by the winding river of asphalt where he lives to this day with his very small companion Grey Bear.
Awesome writing of Man, man's struggles with temptation and God's help in times of need. An even better writing of the awe that you have for nature and the reserves beyond normal capacity. Reminded me of traveling cross countrywith you in the waist high muck when we got on the wrong stream in Island Falls. Love from Maine
wonderful, spiritual experience. Thank you for sharing...and in such a wonderful way.
Thats was just one of the best stories i have read in a while. And i can't believe that this is about you and your experience, which just makes it even cooler than ever. Sounds kind of rough out there.