Note - Dereck has run from three very bad guys who had tried to kill him before he could tell the police of their murder of his parents. The bad guys were ruthless, and one possessed near-supernatural abilities, but Henry had a special link to the wild that would turn the odds to Dereck's favor. Now it is done, and Henry communes one last time with his God...
The above picture is an actual shot of Hurricane River as it ends in Lake Superior. The image, taken by a very near-sighted friend of my son, captures the story perfectly.
The old man wrote slowly, carefully. The light of the kerosene lamp was barely bright enough for his eyes, and his arthritic fingers held the pencil like a child’s. The white lined paper had been smudged by soot and grease and oil, as if it held in its fragile surface a sign of all the tack and traps, all the things in the small cabin. It was after dark now, a foggy, dense night in mid-March. Beyond the clearing the coyotes howled wildly, blood running with the rut and hunger of first spring, but Henry did not hear. He could have, his ears were not yet used up, but his concentration was such that nothing could penetrate the idea that he struggled to put on paper. He pushed hard to make the marks clear through the splotches and stains, and when he finished he sat back and smoothed the paper out on the small table and read aloud:
“Moses asked the burning bush, ‘and what should I tell them is your name?’ And the bush replied, ‘I Am. Let them know for all generations this name, that it is I AM who sends me.’
“Few would understand that the bush had no other name but “bush,” for the burning bush was not “I AM;” no, the burning bush was only the mouthpiece of I AM, a non-entity, no more a being than the phone that carries the message. Moses knew this; Moses knew that to stand before “I AM” itself was annihilation; that no man, no mortal, could stand before the infinite. Thus it has been since after The Fall, since man was given his own thoughts, since man not only became the image of “I AM” but also his own agent; since man, from that time, had become “I.”
“Few can recall the memory of paradise, of the time when we had no “I.” I can. He blessed me with His will and “I” was no longer and there was no more pain or doubt. When He left me again, when He felt me healed and left me, the first thing ‘I’ did was to kill. Still I wonder at it, why, why?, but it is a gift, this “I,” this is also a gift. “I AM” is forever, “I” just a small thing, so short, and oh, the heartache! Oh, the loss! It can be no other way, it is made to be and that is His mystery, but still, it is a gift. With it I can give out my heart one piece at a time, one piece here and there until there is no more, until there is no more “I.” With it I can feel the wrenching pain as I tear out each piece, and with it and only it, with the mortal pain of “I,” only this, can I know Love. Jesus told us to give away our all, and this is my all, this is my heart my all. If it were easy it would not be worthy. If it were easy, it would not stand before “I AM.” It is only when we have given that last piece, when there is nothing where our heart once was, can we stand before Him. It is only when we are ash can we stand before Him. He has given us the pain to prove our courage. His has given us His love, His own heart, to give us the courage. It is up to “I” to decide. It is up to “I” to understand and decide.
“He will be my judge, there can be no other. He will be my judge before another winter passes. Still I hear Him in the leaves and the earth and in the great, great sea. Still He talks to me from close and afar and He will be my judge. He will be my judge and He will count each piece, each piece of heart one at a time. He will be my judge and I will love Him and worship Him and fear Him and I will give out every last piece to the dying, to the dead, to the bereaved, I, I, I will feel the pain and He will give me courage and He will take me one piece at a time until I rest in Him. I will beg Him to take my last piece and lay me to rest in Him. I have stood too long at his shore and I pray He accepts this one last piece that I may rest in Him.”
Henry finished the last word and sat further back, as far as the chair would let him, and he frowned as he closed his eyes. No, that’s not quite it. No, for the hundredth time, that is not quite it.
The lanterns burned so long that they lost their trim and flickered unevenly. Henry did not notice as the chair had taken him in sleep. His chest moved slowly under his clasped hands and if he thought of anything, it was not of letters but of spring. If he thought of anything, it was of a boy who rode on his shoulders besides growing flowers when his hands were smooth and his heart was whole and he was as silly as a puppy and knew nothing of pain. If he dreamed of anything, he knew nothing of pain, and above it all the sun always shown. If he thought of anything, he knew in his dream what the sun was, and that the boy would always be there to laugh on his shoulder and know nothing of pain.