“I bathed that morning in the waters of renewal. Layers of dust and sand sloughed off of me, and I tasted a hint of the freedom that those birds up above had spoken to me moments earlier. I remember that moment as vividly as if it were happening right now. Yes, it was refreshing, as you can imagine, but it was also terrible…why terrible?! I was overcome with sorrow for my life, how I had lived it up until now. These were also waters of repentance. An oppressive weariness rose up within me even as I drank of the fresh water, and even as I felt my body revive. Spiritually, I was exhausted and wanted to be done with my life. The water tasted so good as I swallowed it…I considered breathing it deeply into my lungs and flying away for good; my soul raising up to the heavens and leaving this poor world. I leaned back and floated for a time, and more time, until time left me suspended between earth and heaven, sometime within eternity. Who knows how long I floated like that but when I finally did open my eyes and return to myself, I was looking up into the face of another. His kind eyes smiling down upon me.”
Father Davidson looked up from the fire where he had been gazing. It struck me that his own eyes reflected this kindness of which he had been speaking.
“Well, I can speak more about him another time. If you are interested.”
Yes, we all nodded and agreed that we wanted to hear more of his story.
“Okay, tomorrow then. Good night.” Father Davidson got up from the fire, turned and walked into the darkness towards his cabin.
Eventually the rest of our group wandered off to their various places as well; Tara and Adam went to their tent, the others to their RV, and then I realized I was stuck with nowhere to go. I had come to the orchard on the back of Father Davidson’s bicycle and had no means to return home. “I suppose I could take his bike and bring it back in the morning, but he may need it,” I thought to myself. “I could walk, but my home was on the other side of town, a long walk to be sure, not less than an hour by foot.” I glanced around me at the emptiness, smoke rising from the dying embers. I shivered, more from a feeling of sudden loneliness than from the night air, which happened to be pleasantly warm. Out of curiosity I wandered off in the direction of the Father’s cabin.
Walking from the clearing, the land sloped gradually down to the east. Rows of fruit and nut trees lined my path as I made my way through the tall, fragrant grasses which swayed softly in the breeze. Nearing the eastern limits of the property the slope steepens and drops off, offering vistas towards the conifer-covered hills below, and the ocean beyond. I could hear the distant crash of the surf, and the occasional hoots of owls from the surrounding trees as I approached Father Davidson’s cabin which was situated in another clearing where the rows of trees ended, and before the native trees just beyond the property fence began.
He seemed to have anticipated my arrival as I noticed a blanket and pillow placed at the top of the steps leading to his front door. I saw the flicker of candlelight through the drawn drapes covering the window to the left of the door. I considered knocking as I picked up the blanket and pillow but then thought better of it as I peered through the opening between the drapes and could see the Father praying in the corner near his bed. Looking around me I noticed a hammock strung from the wide-set branches of what appeared through the darkness to be a cherry tree. Quietly I walked over to the hammock and made my bed and lay down. Swinging gently, looking up through the branches I fell off to sleep.
As I slept, I found myself somehow within a tempest, lost amidst crashing waves, all breaking around me and over me. I was sinking beneath the waves, afraid for my life, when someone reached out and pulled me into a boat. It was raining very hard and I could hear the sails above me, shaking and whipping about in the wind, the cables rattling and slapping against the mast. As I looked outside the boat the waves became people, all arguing and blaming one another, pointing fingers and yelling—horrible, smug faces with bulging eyes, accusing each other of anything that came to mind. And then the rain turned to hail, and fell upon us all, those in the ocean were hit very hard, but those of us inside the safety of the boat weren’t hurt in any way, though I could feel the pieces of hail, the size of golf balls, landing upon me.
I awoke from this strange scene, and noticed my blanket littered with…cherries. I looked up into the day-lit tree and saw Father Davidson sprawled out above me, with arms and legs anchored into the crooks of various limbs, shaking the tree and causing cherries to fall all about, onto the ground below. He smiled as he looked down through the branches at me. It was a bright morning with the sun already high in the sky above us.
“You looked like you were sinking there for a moment,” said the Father. “I had to grab you or you might have been a goner.”
“What?! How could you know?” I stammered and looked up at him inquisitively. “It was a dream.”
“You were about to fall out of your hammock, that’s all,” he replied and smiled simply. “It looked like you were going to fall.”
“Oh, I see.” I thought for a moment about how he phrased it. “That’s a strange way to put it though…’sinking’.”
“Yes,” the Father replied as he climbed down out of the tree. “It is always, and only, a sinking feeling when we accuse, and judge and point fingers at one another.”
He walked back to his cabin, and left me alone to ponder this last statement. I sat up in the hammock. “Again! How could he know? It was a dream.” I said to myself as I watched him enter his cabin and close the door behind him.
* * *