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31: Alchemy



You have come at last
From now and the past

You have come prepared
With your mind well set
Have you earned your way
Have you learned it yet
A believer in alchemy must know
Change shows your only path to go

Until you stand here
With an open mind
The only thing that you will find
Is rock and water
And all you will get
Is a saddened heart
And yourself all wet


Swallows reminded Summer that it was time to think of taking her warm laughter farther south. They gathered in friendly groups, testing their flying skills, or rested along wire-fence runways awaiting their clearance for take-off, young pilots in excited and twittering lines ready to head for their first long distance flight, veterans offering sound and cautionary advice.

     Summer took note, gathered her filmy, colourful garments around herself, gave a last encouraging hug to a few worn and fading flowers who didn’t want to go yet, and started on her way.

     She and Autumn had long ago decided that partnership was not possible since Autumn brought Rain and chilly Wind as companions, and these would not accommodate her flowery, lighthearted approach to things. Nor would her own orchestra of birdsong be listened to. Autumn’s idea of musical harmony was recklessly playful and noisily uncaring of delicate fragility.

     Autumn and comrades began moving in, treading mischievously on Summer’s heels to keep her going, and bringing reminders of things to come, arriving with sweaters and jeans and socks and sneakers as replacements for the bare feet and minimal clothing which Summer favoured.

     Though still bright, the intensity of Sky’s deep blue paled to a more crisp pastel, hinting of ice. Sunshine took on a mellower, more pensive tone for dressing the slowing garden growth. Where flowers had formerly held forth with a cheerful kaleidoscope of petals, plants were now busily setting seeds.

     These they would wrap in tight, protective, hard coverings and store them away to rest in rich soil, where they would sleep through Winter’s chill until the opening score of Spring’s festival once more brought the sudden upward and outward bursting of tiny green shoots from these little packages of magic now being carefully filled for the occasion.

     Earth’s ever changing fabric was once more rearranging mutable materials, readying them to become different catalysts and mixtures in its never ceasing creations of the seasons.

     As swallows and hummingbirds left for the south a new display of wings and a different expression of sound moved through the bay. Indigo coloured jays with their raucous rattling shouts, looking for easy pickings of small fruit and large seeds. Dusty-blue and peach little short-tailed nuthatches nyak nyak nyakking to each other as they ranged up and down tree trunks, searching for tasty bugs who were trying to overwinter there. Finches in small sociable groups, loading up on fir cone seeds and sipping water together at shallow pools as they exchanged gossip in high-pitched voices. Robins arriving early with judicious thoughts of getting south before the cold, calling and ordering their friends and families with unmistakable authority—all these visitors ignoring Raven’s remonstrations of disapproval for the noisy disruption of his usually orderly home space.

     These travellers would also leave the area later, but now they feasted on the abundance of wild berries and seeds, fuelling up for flight, their large presence dwarfing tiny resident ruby-crowned kinglets with their just as tiny voices. Braggadocio juncos, dark brown heads up and alert, tails displaying two white feathers as they flew, argued among themselves and challenged fox sparrows and towhees for ancient territorial rights over a find of fallen seeds while trying to fend off the itinerant finches. Lively flocks of chickadees mingled with bushtits and winter wrens, searching over tree trunks and branches and under eaves and overhangs for insects and caches of their eggs.

     South was an unknown quantity to them.

     Among this competitive seasonal press, red and black squirrels leapt and scurried their acrobatic way high up in the fir branches, threatening and exhorting others to leave some for them as they cut the cones loose with their two long, sharp front teeth and threw this harvest down, to be gathered and stored in their winter larders.

     Rain rolled in, noticing that things must have been dry at the bay for a long time and, not liking drought, set about putting his own stamp on the area, working on that project for the first couple of days after arrival.

     Overcast skies and sudden heavy showers brought a heads-up warning to the residents by the shore. Any outside work which had been neglected was definitely slated for the next break in the wet weather, and a heightened feeling of haste was added to the list of things to be done. Autumn was here and busy, expecting everyone else to be the same, and would not wait for laziness to be overcome in a leisurely fashion.

     During the second such day of showers a definite disruption of outside activity became apparent as everyone gathered aboard LEGER DE MAIN for the lighting of the fireplace, a sure signal that cooler weather was now establishing itself along coast and peninsula.

     A group commiseration of Summer’s departure and a discussion of things which needed attention before Weather broke out with cold and early darkness, took place over lunch there. Everyone agreed as they waited for the cessation of Rain, that outside work, if not attended to promptly, would become less pleasant and more difficult, being hindered by the interference of oncoming cold, which would necessitate cumbersome and heavier clothing.

     As the dishes were cleared away there was an overall feeling of ‘what shall we do now’, until Therése asked, using the old formal manner she had heard going on between Heron and his grandmother at times,

     “Grandmother Dancing Water, may we have a story from you after everything is put away?”

     Surprised, Dancing Water glanced around and found that everyone there had a sudden expectant look about them.

     “If there is nothing else which must be done right now, and if it would be the wish of everyone,” she agreed with a pleased smile.

     Everyone wished it. Her store of knowledge and memory of myth, legend, tale and fact was becoming well appreciated and sought after at the bay.

     Food and dishes taken care of, everyone settled themselves, the children on the floor before the reinstated fire which was well-fed by wood everyone had gathered earlier in the year, Charm and Fitz in one beanbag chair, Dancing Water in the other, Bettina and Harry, Tashakawa and Shiro seating themselves by the table with their coffee, Armand and Bud sitting leaning their elbows on the bar almost as though they expected service there, Rose and David with a dog apiece, on either side of the hearth, Ulf with Rose, Gurth with David.

     There was a quiet pause as Dancing Water considered thoughtfully which story she would tell, then with a smile she began,

     “In the old days, the land as we see it now was not always so pleasant. Huge tumbles of formidable rough rock marked the borders of space which each spirit called home. Earth’s space between Sky and Sea was sturdy and vigorous, with trees and green fields to make a home for every kind of inhabitant, but sharp granite peaks high up held Sky aloof, and steep Cliff with broken boulders at his feet and along bay shore kept Sea from Earth. It was not that they had wished it so, but that it had come into being that way.

     “The Old One looked and saw that such isolation of Sky from Earth and Earth from Sea was not a good thing, so he set out to find ways to soften and make kinder these hard borders.

     “He walked between Sky and Earth, and asked Cloud to let Rain fall as Snow, pillowing harsh mountains so that Sky could rest easily against Earth’s green lands letting them hold hands in friendship. He had almost finished this work when he pierced his right foot on the last sharp peak, causing him to limp heavily as he favoured this wound, so that he put his left foot down with much weight as he walked.

     “He was limping so when he saw a beautiful waterfall, cool and clean with shining rainbows along its length, and so he paused to rest and bathe his cut foot as Snow finished its task high up. He lifted a slab of granite and set it aside to make a bowl for catching water in which he could set his foot and on which he could sit at rest while he did this. The air was scented with many flowers and the trees were in bloom, so that he lingered long, thinking it one of the best of all the shores he had yet visited and, as he thought this, Sky came softly down bringing sunny light, and gently helped to ease his hurt with Warmth, then dabbled in this beautiful pool wrought in Earth and finding it now easily reached and welcoming, wished to be at home there to care for this lovely place.

     “The Old One was well pleased that his pool was treasured so, and thus it was that Pool by Waterfall became the first place of love between Earth and Sky here at Shalisa Creek Bay. It is said that The Old One left a treasure of all good things there as a gift for the new friendship between the two spirits, and that is why, in times of hardship for themselves and others, a Shalisa leader could go to that place and stay for awhile and on returning, bring back the spirit of all those good things to help everyone, and this was shared with many others who came in need.

     “The work of bringing Snow to all the mountain tops had taken a very long time, and at the end of this effort The Old One was weary as he climbed down to Sea, so he continued to bathe his injured foot in the clear, cool running waters at that place where Waterfall rushes out to join Sea, and there he rested and slept for some time as Creek sang a soft lullaby.

     “Meanwhile, Sea had seen what had been done for Sky, and also wanted very much to stroll hand-in-hand with Earth here, but the boulders between were very hard, jagged and unyielding, and Sea cut and bruised his hands and shoulders as he tried to climb past them. They were so slippery and steep that he could find no foothold or place to stay so that at last, after many tries of dashing and climbing, he became disappointed and turned away, wanting to see if there were other beaches more easily walked upon.

     “All birds and flowers, trees and animals felt sad that Sea could not be with them here joining hands in friendship as had been done with Sky, so they spoke to the small water creatures and asked for their help. All willingly gave of their old shells to be ground into fine bits, promising more as time went by. Sea kelps added their used stipes and tattered blades to hold these pieces from falling away. Waterfall brought down tiny shining grains of stone as she fell toward Sea. Rain carried leaves and twigs to Sea’s edge, and Earth added silt from Creek to mix them all together, so that soon a fine thick sand covered the hard boulders and, at last, when restless Sea returned wistfully to the land he loved the best for one more try, he found he could run easily across the sand, over the barrier of rocks and boulders, uninjured, to rest himself with his head in the lap of green Earth and talk to animals, listen to the music of birds and Waterfall, and enjoy the fragrance of all the flowers and the kindly shade of trees.

     “When The Old One awoke and saw how fine things were and learned how it had been done, he knew he could go on his way and tell other shores how they could also become like this one, by helping themselves and learning to cooperate and be kind and gentle with each other.

     “As he went on his way to do more good work he paused, as he departed, to look back at this wonderful place which had been created for Sky, Earth and Sea, pleased that now all could talk and laugh with each other and be happy together. He paused so long, leaning on his good left foot, that the rocks of Sea’s bed were pushed down by all his weight where he stood.

     “So it is that the place where this happened is called The Old One’s Footprint, and it is this very bay where we live now. It is where his smallest toe came down that the entrance by Sea is found, and that is why it is so narrow. The spirits who came here and found it so beautiful and to their liking stayed to live here and care for this favoured place, guarding it well and keeping away those who would destroy its beauty and peacefulness.

     “That is why Shalisa Creek Bay is shielded from most storms, even to this day, and why we can all rest here so safely, unharmed and with so much goodness around us. The Old One’s Footprint was a gift, keeping sheltered from wind and weather the work which was done by all those who helped to form Beach, and why Sea can live so happily here, resting his head on Earth’s soft green lap, watched over by enfolding Sky.

     “So it is said of some people who are hard and sharp—they are as Earth before there was Snow, and though they are strong and steadfast they lack softness and gentleness—and of those who are restless and find no peace—they are as Sea before there was Sand, because they are always bruised contending with Rock and finding no place of their own to lie their head for comfort—and of those who are kind and thoughtful and eager to help others, they are as Earth’s land and creatures who created ways which bring happiness to all.”

     There was a quietness for a few moments after Dancing Water had finished speaking, as though everyone hoped for more, until she smiled and said,

     “Now you see, Rain has finished watering all the land, and we can once more go out and finish those things which still need doing.”

     Her final words brought laughter as everyone noted that the rain had indeed stopped, and the gathering began to break up as the bay dwellers returned to what they had been doing before the shower.

- - -

As David was turning over his dinghy to row back out to TJUTELA so that Ulf and Gurth could have their regular lunch, even though they’d been well stuffed with handouts aboard the barge, Dancing Water strolled by and stopped, saying,

     “It is well kept, this little boat of yours. You are very caring with your helpful friends.”

     “Like they say,” he returned with a smile, “If you aren’t, your boat will find you out, and pay you back with trouble, rather like a wife, they tell me.”

     “This last you do not have to worry about,” remarked Dancing Water with a smile, “But all wives are not like this. You are beginning your finest years. How is it that such a man as yourself has not married?”

     “I’m too fussy Dancing Water,” he laughed. “I could never find anyone who suited me. I almost asked someone once even though she seemed a bit self-centred. In spite of it I decided that I should go along with her ways, instead of asking her to join in mine too soon, and then maybe later I could share my things with her and she’d like that.

     “I tried pretty hard to make a go of it with her and for awhile I succeeded. So well that I thought she was the one, but it turned out that she only wanted her own way and had no intentions of putting up with any of my ideas. One day I tried to share just one love of my own with her and I found she had a shallow heart. After that, I looked at the things of hers we’d done together and found them shallow too.

     “It was the same with others. It wasn’t enough for them to have me join in their interests. They wanted me to give up mine. What could I do with a woman who would ask me to abandon my music because it didn’t pIease her—or one who felt two dogs should have no place in my heart? She wanted it all for herself.

     “Can’t they see that someone can have many loves, each of a different kind, and none interfering with the space of another but rather adding to it? Just as I tried to join them in what they did, I wanted to share all the things I loved with them, but they weren’t interested. They wanted exclusivity. That’s why I’m still single.”

     Dancing Water was silent for a few moments, but then she advised,

     “You must keep looking. There will be another who would wish to join in the fine things you love, as well as sharing her own with you. The eyes of one who will treasure you this way have not yet seen you.”

     “It’s not just the sharing,” he explained further. “It seems I lead the kind of life most women don’t want to put up with. I wander. I do things they think are strange or odd or totally unacceptable. They tell me I’m too different, or that I’m uncaring when I go away to be by myself, and they want me to change. I try but it’s not easy and some things I just can’t—so who wants a man with itchy feet who breaks all the rules, doesn’t observe conventions, gets into trouble half the time and who’s not there the other half?”

     Dancing Water considered the words from this earnest-faced friend, then told him,

     “My man was such a one. Before we married he too had dreams and laughter and did things others did not approve of. They were things without harm and many of them were even very good, and I was happy with this, but they were things others did not understand. I was happy with what he did and with that which the land around offered us but then, after we married, he listened to what people said and urged him to do and he changed. He thought he should do as others said, that we should have all the things other people had and which they told him we should also have, and that it was shameful of him not to get them for us. He would go away to work hard and come back with money so we could have these things.

     “Then, when he returned, Sun was more warm. Rain sang songs so happy I had never heard until then. Trees grew tall and so green and good it seemed they had not been so before. He died far from this lovely green place, on an oil rig with our son. I am told they went together, each trying to help the other.

     “Even had I known when we first met that he would be gone for many long months, I would have chosen him. It is not the time apart but the time together which is remembered. Do not change unless there is good reason. Sometimes priceless treasure is reduced to worthlessness because of this idea that something else is better. If it is something which is seen as truly not good, perhaps a change is possible, but If you are happy together and what you do is not harmful, leave it so. One who loves does not ask change of the other if, as you say, these things are good even only for the happiness of the one. The other should be glad in heart that such things are there.”

     “How would I know the other was happy and not just putting up with things to please me?” asked David.

     “In the same way you would know that you were not just putting up with things to please her. Happiness shows. Perhaps you have been wise. To marry and find an empty heart is sad indeed. Better to know one friend well over time than to choose quickly and unwisely.”

     “We say, marry in haste, repent at leisure.”

     Dancing Water laughed, but added,

     “One also cannot be forever in doubt. He who would go to sea but misses the tide loses that day. This may also mean that Heart may be lacking, and does not really care.”

     “Well—sometimes it’s not just doubt or not caring. How about being scared stiff in case you ruin somebody else’s life and your own with it, because you misjudge things, figuring everything is great, and then they decide you aren’t what they’d wanted after all, and you blame yourself forever after?”

     “Fear has no place in love. Those who love truly, are fearless. They would not harm the other. If such mistake is made they would rather take the pain themselves. They would go silently away and let the other live. I have seen this.”

     “Does the word ‘coward’ enter into it? Maybe I’d rather go away before there’s cause for pain. Nobody wants to suffer in silence, much less alone.”

     “Nobody wants to do this. They choose. To suffer is sad. To watch another you love suffer because of self is worse.”

     “Got me there. Let’s dig up those old words, such as Honour, Trust, Loyalty, Nobility... .”

     “Stop young man,” laughed Dancing Water. “I need say no more. Your heart is on the right path without any guidance from me. You will choose wisely when the time comes. Let us speak of other things.”

     They laughed together and there was silence for a moment until David said,

     “That story of the Old One is quite beautiful. Is the magic of the good things at Waterfall still going on, or do you think it’s all been used up?”

     “This I do not know,” she replied honestly, “As I left this place many years ago and did not return. Also, there has been no one here since Grandfather Shalisa. Rose herself went away and Bay was left alone. It would seem that nowadays no one looks for such help from these good spirits, as everyone seems to have so much there is no thought for this. I only know Sun shines warm here and Sea and Sky look kindly on all at Bay. I would hope the Good Spirits will not leave this lovely place.”

     “Well, I think I can say they haven’t,” said David. “I was here alone a lot before anyone else came back again and—I hope you won’t think I’m being impertinent if I say, I’ve met some spirits but—lately I feel there are some which, if treated in the wrong way, could cause harm as well as good.”

     “I am pleased indeed, young man, that you have spoken with spirits,” replied Dancing Water. “It is not given to all, this privilege and, I will tell you now since you have spoken of it, I too feel they are here. The last thing you say, about harm, is very true. There have been stories passed down through time of leaders who offended Waterfall with arrogant demands and were punished for this as she hurled them down her white water. They did not receive the good things left there by Old One, and the people suffered for this until another worthy leader came.

     “Also, it is well known that there is Guardian of Bay, out there by Old One’s Footprint, although those who are not aware say it is just a dangerous place with rocks. Those who do not believe have wished harm to that place, asking to have the opening blasted wider so that large boats could pass without harm into safety of Bay. This has not been done, only because the one whose face holds sunshine has fought hard to save this place. It must have been very difficult to do this alone, but she has done so. We must all be grateful to this strong one.”

     David, looking toward green Cliff where he knew Waterfall’s Pool was hidden replied,

     “Thank you for pointing that out to me. We’re maybe all so busy with our own lives we forget that what we have may be the result of someone else’s hard work. I’m guilty of coming here and enjoying all of it and forgetting how easily this can disappear if no one cares for it, not only in the physical sense, but caring for its spirit as well. I think maybe I’ll be even more in touch with everything here now that you’ve told me these things.”

     “That is well said,” returned Dancing Water with a warm smile. “It is such as you who will help the sunshine one if the need should arise. I feel a good friendliness here at Bay among those who now have come. It is a fine place to be, and I too am grateful, as well for young Heron. Let us try in our own ways to show this young leader that we know what she has done and that we are so glad for that.”

     Once aboard TJUTELA with Ulf and Gurth, David mulled over his talk with Dancing Water as he set out the bowls for the two samoyeds.

     <Wonder if Rose saved the bay with her legal skills only or did she ask for the help of good spirits? From what she said about not being an idiot who’d go climbing under a waterfall, maybe she’s forgotten the spirits of the bay—or is it that she simply doesn’t want to be seen by a sharp city business man as a believer in superstition? We’ve talked about this before, except it was always a little bit cautious and guarded on both sides, kind of loaded with ‘if, maybe, could be, guess it’s possible, but’. Wonder if I could find out for sure.>

     “Hey guys, I think you ate too many goodies on LEGER DE MAIN, and if you’re going to turn your noses up over this you’re going to have it for dinner.”

     It wasn’t until after dinner that David had an opportunity to speak with Rose alone. She seemed to be always busy with the other people of the bay, laughing and playing with the children, talking about things with everyone, or working in the garden with Bettina, Dancing Water and Tashakawa as they picked flowers or coddled the vegetables.

     After he’d finished his own dinner he sat in TJUTELA’s cockpit with a mug of coffee, watching Ulf and Gurth giving him sideways glances as they picked unenthusiastically at the barely touched, leftover fare he had just given them, comparing it with the feast which had been lavished on them aboard the barge.

     “Come on guys, you’d better polish that off,” he encouraged them, “Or—you’ve heard of breakfast have you?”

     Looking toward Rose’s house he saw her through the window of her kitchen as she went back and forth between sink and table, and decided to use this opportunity of finding her by herself.

     He rowed ashore again with Ulf and Gurth, told them to have fun, and headed for her house. They headed for the barge with hopes and expectations of something better for dinner than leftover, ordinary lunch.

     Rose was just doing her evening dishes, and he picked up the dishtowel to help by drying, finally getting around to what he’d been thinking of when he’d come.

     “Dancing Water certainly does know a lot about Shalisa history,” he began. “The story she told us today about the bay and the waterfall is so much a part of everything here. Do you think any of it is based on reality or is it all myth, for the purpose of explaining things which came up when people started looking around and getting curious and asking questions?”

     “I don’t know, really,” she replied thoughtfully. “So much of anybody’s history is a mix of truth and fiction. You may think I’m a bit simple, but I do believe that some of the stories held truth in them, if only we knew how to get at it.”

     “Yuh,” returned David. “Like that bit about a leader going to the waterfall and bringing back some of the good things Old One left there so that the people would be helped. Do you think that was sort of psychological tweaking?”

     “It’s possible,” agreed Rose. “I only know that they said it was true. The leader would go up there, come back down, go on what is called a journey of discovery with some young men, taking with him things from the bay, like fish and other dried seafood and shells and such which those inland people didn’t have, and they’d come back with goods he had traded with them, always more than was expected for what they had taken. The Shalisa were good traders, and the leader would go off by himself to trade, while they were there. It was a tradition, supposedly to let the young men learn how to bargain fairly, without him around to supervise and make them feel inadequate.”

     “Where did he go?” asked David. “Were there other people farther inland?”

     “I have no idea, but I guess there were other groups nearby unable to make the meeting place so he’d go there.”

     He was thoughtfully silent for awhile as he dried dishes, then he asked,

     “Have you ever paid any attention to that story about gold around here?”

     Laughing, Rose replied,

     “Everyone paid attention to that. Not so long ago—well, I’m not so sure how long—but awhile before I was born—they say men came from all over, mad for gold. It wasn’t just here, it was everywhere up and down the coast, like insanity. They’d climb the cliffs here even though they were warned how dangerous it was. They’d bang on rocks everywhere and—I think I’ve told you this before—everyone figured that, in filling their knapsacks and pockets with whatever rocks they found which they wanted to look at later, some of them lost their balance when they went to come down because of the weight of their packs. Most of them were found loaded with rocks.

     “None of the Shalisa would have anything to do with it. They felt it was stolen from Waterfall and Cliff and they dumped the rocks back at the bottom. They wouldn’t take anything belonging to a dead man either. They figured that it must have a bad spirit with it since it was there with him when he died in such a way.”

     “I’ve heard the story about someone selling a claim here, or trading it or something,” said David, following his own train of thought, “Even though they had no right to it.”

     “From what I heard,” laughed Rose, “That claim got sold over and over again. Maybe that’s where the gold was—in the selling. It’s terrible to think of the men who lost their lives for greed.”

     “I guess there are unscrupulous people everywhere. They probably found this,” smiled David, taking a rough lump from his pocket and putting it on her table. “Fool’s gold—iron pyrites. Maybe they thought they could change dross into real gold, like the old-time alchemists.”

     Rose gave him a surprised look and asked,

     “Where did that come from—around here?”

     “It’s a good luck piece which was given to me,” was the indirect reply.

     Rose looked into the grey eyes across from her. They looked back, seeming to be perfectly innocent. She remembered that she was facing a formidable poker player, and felt that here before her now was the face to go with that skill. She recalled his way of avoiding questions by giving oblique answers, and she wondered if this was happening now.

     Reaching over and picking up the rock she replied,

     “You’re very likely right. The fools killed themselves for—fool’s gold. I suppose most of them didn’t even know what they were looking for. If it shines it must be gold.”

     “I wonder if the good spirits which The Old One left at the waterfall had to do with the ceremony of a leader crossing under it and back,” suggested David. “Mind over matter. If that experience didn’t clear your mind I don’t know what would. I guess the good leaders who survived used their brains when times got tough, just like you do, and went trading instead of sitting around worrying along with everyone else—or looking for gold like all those poor fools did.”

     “That sounds like a reasonable suggestion,” returned Rose, setting the little lump back on the table.

     “Good thing you used your brains,” he laughed. “Having heard you tell me the Shalisa would have nothing to do with such stuff reinforces my hunch about mind power. I was talking to Dancing Water and she tells me that all the good luck around here was your doing, and we ought to appreciate that fact a lot more.”

     “I think the luck was here already and I just picked it up where I dropped it when I left,” she smiled. “The good spirits didn’t leave—just me. I’m sure the luck will all be good from now on—and I’d better keep all the promises I made, just to be sure. I still have a couple I’d better get after—soon. Let’s have a cup of tea.”

     “Sounds great,” he agreed, then, pushing the lump between them toward her he told her, “This should belong to you. I don’t want to take the luck of the bay away from here. Call it a token of reason and trust between the two of us—like a promise—except some promises get broken and trust never should.”

     “You’re really something of a mystic aren’t you, believing in luck and magic,” she laughed.

     “Everybody else calls it superstition, but they’re entitled to their own opinions, just like I am,” he smiled. “I’m glad to hear the good spirits didn’t leave.”

     She gave him a blank look, remembering her words and wishing she’d been more careful with them, got up and headed for the stove, asking,

     “What kind of tea would you... ?”

     “Hey—not again!” laughed David, “You choose this time and I’ll be happy with your good taste.”

- - -

After David had left, Rose sat quietly holding in her hand the little rock he had put on the table, thinking over what had been said. She knew it was not iron pyrites. She also felt that he knew that as well. She was puzzled and uneasy, wondering why he had brought up this subject. ‘Call it a token of reason and trust—like a promise... ’.

     Like a promise—except some promises get broken... .

     Now she was presented once again with the promises she had made to Grandfather years before. She had scorned the ceremony of Waterfall—and she had not made her peace with Chanting Breeze. The graceful old guitar with the beautiful hand made shoulder strap leaned against the wall, drawing her gaze.

     She went over to her desk, reached into a drawer, took out Grandfather’s pouch of good spirits and put it on. Then she pulled out a small carved cedar box and took from it another necklace. She held it in her hands for a few moments, then put that on as well.

     As Sun touched Sea, making room for Evening, Rose Who Always Holds The Sunshine In Her Face, walked toward Meadow to sit at Grandfather’s Place, seeking peace of mind to help her carry out her promises.

     “I’m here, Grandfather,” she said as she sat down on the old moss covered tree trunk. “I need your help and advice before I go any farther along this path. I’ve made promises which have yet to be kept and I’ve found they’re not easily met. I’ll sit here awhile and think about these things.”

     The events of the past which she had put away from herself for so long came to mind now, and the words Grandfather had said to her when he had told her she must one day be leader became the focus of her thoughts.

’Young Granddaughter, do not become enmeshed in gathering the empty pots and hollow reeds of the world. Our home grows green and alive to its very heart. Here we have enough to fill all our gathering baskets to overflowing and to give to others. Have the good things which are already here, and do not seek more. The temptation to possess wealth destroys the fabric of such a place as this, as well as those who desire always to gather more than necessary to meet their needs. Their cooking pots gape wide with a  bottomless capacity, always asking that those who possess them endlessly pursue this hopeless and foolish task of trying to fill them. The greatest riches comes from within. Learn from your sojourn with Waterfall that happiness is the finest wealth of all. It is my hope and belief that you will return with the wisdom found by those before you who kept this place safe. The choice must be made there.’

     “Have I not made the choice yet?” she asked aloud. “Is it because you told me it must be made at Waterfall, and I haven’t honoured this obligation, that there has been doubt in my mind many times? I guess I’ll never have peace until I do what I’m supposed to. I admit, I’ve thought it a foolish thing to do. People don’t pay any attention to those ceremonies anymore but—so many other Shalisa leaders have gone there and returned safely it makes me feel, Grandfather, that you wouldn’t send me to do something beyond my capability or which was unsafe, so it can’t be that difficult. Nor would you tell me to do something foolish and unnecessary. Maybe David was right and it’s rather a psychological barrier to be crossed more than anything else. I do think I’ve been a good leader so far, but it’s time I did what I’m supposed to.

     “Remembering your words, along with that talk I had with David, it’s reminded me that a promise is made to be kept. Tomorrow morning I’ll do as I should—make peace with Chant and go up to Waterfall.”

     Her mind firmly made up, Rose came back along the meadow path, went into her house, lit a kerosene lamp rather than turning on an electric light, and sat quietly, holding the two necklaces in her hands as she thought of what she would do the next morning, and of a day when she had followed that route upward with so much joyfulness.

     For her, the climb up Cliff that day had been a momentous one. Chanting Breeze and she were going to stand with Waterfall by Pool and tell each other that they would spend the rest of their lives together. A little tune she had made herself, and words to go with it kept going through her mind as she set feet and hands in the places where other happy people had also gone upward. She would sing this to him once they were there accompanied by the music of Waterfall and Pool.

     As they had reached the granite slab she turned to him, but it was not as she had expected. There was a hesitancy about him which she had never met before. There was a guard in his eyes, and as she looked into them she knew the reason for this.

     “You’ve been with someone else.”

     His silence confirmed it.

     “We came here—and you didn’t tell me this.”

     She saw the anxious, pleading look in his face as he replied,

     “I came here with you to say our words before Waterfall and to explain this thing. I was at a party. It just happened. We saw each other a few times. It meant nothing.”

     “So it meant nothing to you. What of me?”

     He had no answer for her—only the look of appeal in his eyes.

     She turned from him and headed determinedly for the way down, saying,

     “Perhaps we’ll talk about it later. Not now. This is not the place.”

     He stood, the future leader, disgraced in the eyes of the one who meant the most to him, and in his own eyes, and in the source of the Spirit which lived here with all this beauty. He stood by Waterfall and Pool and there was no music here for him. Light seemed to have left its water. There was only the roar of powerful strength, plunging down and down, seeming to voice its scornful disapproval. He hesitated, watching the spill, then turned away.

     <I won’t do that. It would be the worst sort of cowardice, the final dishonour. I’ll follow Rose down and make amends. She’s so good and understanding. Please, let her forgive me. We’ll be together again. I’ll become what I know a leader should be. I’ll be a good leader. I will!>

     They were both very young.

- - -

David awoke early, not quite sure what had roused him, feeling an odd sensation of something about to happen. Here at Shalisa Creek Bay he was used to sleeping until he arose at any hour, but this was not a drowsy awakening—he sat up wide awake.

     A little puzzled, he wondered if the anchor had lost its hold, but a check out the companionway told him he was still firmly held in the same place he had been since he’d set his anchor on his arrival. He went below again and made coffee, as Ulf and Gurth, disturbed by his early rising, rose and stretched and regarded him curiously.

     “It’s okay guys, you can go back to sleep,” he told them. “I’m just a little off my timing, that’s all.”

     Ulf took him at his word but Gurth, seeming to sense something out of line, chewed a few biscuits from his dish and then sat waiting until David took his mug of coffee out to the cockpit, following him out and sitting at his side, where he stood leaning on the taffrail, watching Bay awake in a misty dazzling light.

     The showers from the day before had cooled the surroundings a little, and the breath from the conversation between Bay and Sky about the matter caused an enveloping vapour which, though bright with Sun’s attempt to shine through from high above, dimmed everything to almost colourless blurred shadows.

     As TJUTELA swung to her anchor she brought her stern about so that David could have an unobstructed view of Shore. Running his eyes over the scene he delighted in, which was now presenting a pale and somewhat out of focus version of its usual face, he glanced up toward Cliff which hid Waterfall, along Beach, past the group of buildings where Tide was rolling in fresh from Guardian’s arms, and farther along to his favourite Tree.

     That dim vision straightened him up.

     There was someone sitting at the base of the big old fir, and distance added to mist made it difficult to determine who it was at first. As he looked, the person shook long hair dancing free from shoulders, which told him it was Rose.

     Something about the morning changed then. It seemed to him that there was a watchfulness—a vigilant sense of waiting in the surrounds, as though Spirits of Bay stood by in expectation of an important event about to happen.

     Cupping his mug in both hands, he waited too.

     After some time Rose left Tree and began to walk with a purposeful step along Beach, looking neither to right nor left. David got the impression that she had made up her mind about something, and was heading for a definite destination. Sun’s light cast a tall shadow against the bright mist beside her as she went, making it appear to David as though an incorporeal spirit accompanied her.

     Watching woman and shadow, he felt more strongly that there were spirits around, joining in this misty morning walk of Rose’s. He thought of the presence he himself felt by Tree and became even more convinced.

     He was about to call out to her, but her determined progression and the sensation that this was something between Rose and the spirits of Bay stopped him. He watched her as she went far along Beach and came to the mouth of Creek. There she turned upstream along its path and disappeared into the green foliage. Then his intuition told him where those determined steps were taking her.

     He waited, debating with himself.

     <So what? She probably goes there a lot. You just haven’t seen her do that—and it’s none of your damned business what she does with her time around here—except—I think I know where she’s headed—and why.>

     This morning, just as Sun was ready to lift above Horizon, Rose had headed for Tree, sat down with her back against its bole and run her fingers through the deep duff, searching until she found the guitar peg she had pushed back deep under a root the day she’d returned to her old home.

     Polishing the dirt from it she said softly,

     “Chant, I’m here because I’m going up to Waterfall, and I don’t want any bad thoughts or feeIings to go with me. You and I often disagreed about things, but until that day by Pool we could always talk and come to an agreement. I know now that I never have forgiven you for that day there. I want to do that now. I’m sorry I’ve wasted all these years being angry with you. I told you I’d forgiven you, but in my heart I hadn’t. I have a better understanding now. Please forgive me as I should have done for you so many years ago.”

     She sat for a moment in silence, then said,

     “But don’t think you’re going to sneak out of all your responsibilities, because you’re not. You’re coming with me and we’re going to do this together, and then maybe we can both get on with things in peace.”

     She rose from under Tree then, the guitar peg in her hand, and started along the Beach toward Creek in the bright mist, tall shadow by her side.

     The way up had to be handled with careful thought as she climbed, making sure each move was slow and firm in the dim light.

     When she reached that place of ancient ceremony everything shone with a startling brilliance!

     Mist hung bright and enveloping around Waterfall and Pool. This was not the sunny, sensuous environment David had encountered on his climb of discovery. Nor was it the quiet, clear space of sadness she had found with Chant.

     This was a place dressed with intention, excluding extraneous details and focussing on here and now. It waited, old Arbutus leaning over Cliff, scarcely visible but present, Pool dancing with a marked, definite rhythm of purpose, Harvest Spider webs showing everywhere like tiny fragile palaces, brightly jewelled, gossamer-domed, splendidly decked out for the occasion, ferns stiff and quiet, drops of water glistening on their open fronds, Breeze at rest, waiting expectantly with the others.

     Waterfall greeted her with a solemn and purposeful symphony—muted strings and timpani rolls and, far off in the background, as though being created by spray and the rising mist, a limpid, shining, flute-like voice joined the music.

     She stood on the granite slab, regarding this magnificent enfolding setting, which seemingly had prepared itself for her arrival, shutting out with ethereal light those not meant to be observing, then she put the guitar peg in her pocket and with unhesitating steps she went toward Waterfall, saying,

     “We are here, Spirit of the Waterfall, as you have expected for so long.”

You have come at last
To this place of joy
As you came before
When a girl with a boy

     Mist and music closed softly around her as she went.

- - -

When she stood once again on the granite slab, as she dripped rivulets of water onto the smooth stone, it was not wisdom which was in the expression of Rose Who Always Holds the Sunshine In Her Face.

     It was anger.

     In her wet pocket with the guitar peg was an oblong lump, and in her mind was a feeling that all her life she had been taken down a blind path, blindly, and with only her trust to keep her going. She stamped her feet, hard, one at a time, which shook water spraying from her, then said,

     “I should have been told!”

     Standing there in the misty stillness, with the roar of Waterfall and the rippling voice of little Pool speaking as though with placating comfort, she imagined she heard again the flute, faint and serene, and she was glad of it, for it seemed to her that it was the only redeeming feature of this moment.

     “I will return, that I promise, Waterfall!” she vowed. “It is not your doing.”

     She walked away then, heading for the way down.

     As she made her return to ground level with an unheeding angry scramble the sound of the music she thought she had imagined increased, until she realised the source of it, and as she walked toward the mouth of the creek she saw, leaning against a tree in the mist, David Godwin, playing his flute.

     The music stopped when he saw her, but he stood with flute still at the ready as she came up.

     “Good-morning,” he smiled. Then, seeing her still wet person he added, “Leader Hold.”

     He meant it as praise for what he considered to be a brave and personally fulfilling act of courage.

     She halted before him with a deliberate set of her feet, regarding him steadily, and then the anger which she had been trying to control took over.

     “You and your insinuating conversations—I suppose you thought you’d find me falling down the spill did you?” she asked, “And then you could play a requiem?”

     Taken totally by surprise at her tone and words he replied, shocked into reverting to his old habit of repartee,

     “Hell no! You’re much too much of a goody for that. Any bad spirits hanging around up there probably ran for their haunts in a panic when they saw you coming.”

     “You see through everything don’t you?” she accused, throwing back her long wet hair. “Sometimes you’re too damned smart for my own good.”

     “Hey! I didn’t tell you to go hose yourself down under a waterfall,” he reminded her, on the defensive, “I thought you’d be smart enough to figure that one out for yourself.”

     “Ugh! Men!” she flung out, losing more control. “Bloody know-it-alls—sure—because they keep all their little secrets to themselves.”

     “Geeze Rose, what the hell’s going on here?” he asked, bewildered. “All I did was stand here and play my flute.”

     “Stick your flute in your ear!”

     For a moment he was totally taken aback, then, realising that she was angry about something other than himself, he replied reasonably,

     “Okay—I know I’ve got holes in my head—but I’m not going to do that. Not unless I find I deserve it after you explain what this is all about.”

     “And I’m not going to do that!” came her definitive reply as she turned and started walking away. “You’re so smart—figure it out for your self.”

     “Maybe you’d better go sit in the sauna and thaw out,” he called after her as she began to dissolve into the mist.

     She turned her head and yelled,

     “Get stuffed!

     “Glad to know you’re real and not an apparition!” he yelled back, put his flute to his lips and began playing The Sorcerer’s Apprentice, with devilish intonations.

     She kept on going until the music faded as she went at a furious pace up the path to Grandfather’s Place.

     Standing straight and determined before the old trees, she began,

     “I’m here Grandfather, because I’m angry! I’m angry with you, and Chant, and everyone else who’s done what I’ve done just now. Okay—so you’re all hard-nosed realists. I knew that—but couldn’t you have had just one ancient ceremony which was there for the sake of making the one who performed it feel uplifted and dignified and honourable afterwards? Did you have to hitch this one up with power and manipulation and deception?

     “Well go ahead and screw up your own concepts, but leave mine alone. I’ll believe in good spirits if I want to, in spite of you, and if you don’t like it you can take a hike! That’s no sort of way to pass on information. Why didn’t you just tell me? You told Chant—but of course he wouldn’t tell me—and I’m damned sure somebody told you—and all the lot of you had to do was go up there when and if necessary and come back pretending you were some great sage.

     “Didn’t you happen to think I might die before I got to this point, or that I’d go up there later, just as self-centred as anyone else, and fall down the spill, and no one would ever have cared anymore about it, and no one would ever have been able to help anyone ever again with Waterfall Spirit?”

     She stopped, then said with sudden insight,

     “What the hell am I saying? So who would have cared anyway after that? I’m all there is to care—and what would it matter to anyone then? They could blast and pillage and tear down to their heart’s content and who’d care? Oh—b—other it! It’s not what they’d do, it’s what I’m going to do.”

     She sat down, wet, cold, beginning to shiver a little, and let reason take over.

     “Okay, I’m sorry Grandfather,” she conceded at last. “I was self-satisfied—too smart, know-it-all lawyer Hold. It’s not your fault I was gullible and didn’t figure it out for myself like David said. Maybe you would have told me if I hadn’t taken off beforehand. It just didn’t seem fair—I was looking for direction and inspiration, not reality—and now I’ve gone and yelled at a good friend because of it all.”

     She sat quietly there in the morning mist, pondering, arms around drawn up knees, then continued,

     “Maybe I did get direction. You’re right. I don’t need trouble—but if I’d known I’d have been just as wise before I went. On the other hand—it has taken me down a peg. Maybe I did come back wise from it. I certainly know what I won’t do with this wisdom, which is probably what you expected. Maybe I’ll be a little more humble in future—and it hasn’t stopped me from knowing there are good spirits here just as you believed. They are here if I only let them come to me instead of chasing around after them.

     “I’m going to go and steam in the sauna like he said.”

     She got up, went over and knelt down with the guitar peg in her hand, saying,

     “Chant, you and I have been honest with each other at last and you should rest here now with the others. Be happy and at peace.”

     She picked up Grandfather’s shell to place the old cracked peg under it and saw beneath it—a pair of dice.

     “Oh—I really have done it haven’t I?,” she exclaimed softly. “He must be doing his damnedest to reform like he said he would—and he calls me a ‘goody’. I’ll have to apologise—somehow.”

     She stayed there for awhile, her legs folded under her, then bent her head and said,

Of  anger comes harm
Of  pride comes disaster
Of  ignorance comes defeat
Of  humbleness comes peace
I have found all four today

     Picking up one of the pair of dice she set the guitar peg beside the other, saying,

     “I forgive you both. It’s not because you’re men, it’s because you’re just human like me and we all make mistakes and blunder around trying to do things right and keep coming up with it all wrong.”

     She got up then and went quickly away, needing the comfort of Warmth.

     The old trees stood in the misty morning, weathered, sturdy, enduring, and The Old Ones, understanding, were well pleased with this latest of the Shalisa leaders.