Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Ten Stones

Ten Stones is a very beautiful and moving narrative by Clay Hurtubise. It is about a hardship that was a blessing in disguise and the beautiful Christmas Clay spent as a result of it. Hope you enjoy it. 

Lichen covered, lying still high in the mountains, the rocks had been in their home for time eternal. Warm golden days of summer were brief while the cold of winter set in early and clutched to the ground as long as it could with all it’s strength. Trees are stunted and branches often grow on only one side due to the intensity of the winds. Water is scarce, except when not needed. Large outcroppings of stone are scattered throughout this land, giving it a unique appearance that some find cold while others, like myself, find comforting. Soil conditions are poor and growth of any plant is slow and tedious. Large jackrabbits, sly coyotes, and quick deer call this their home.

Christmas Eve and all my friends had gone off to visit family, far from this desolate habitat. Neither my family nor I had sufficient funds to pay for the fuel and tolls for me to travel the two thousand miles home. Two thousand miles.  One family was kind enough to invite me into their home for the day, but I felt like an intruder and headed for where I feel most connected. The winds were expected to peak at over seventy miles per hour that night. The quiet town in the distance was boarded up, deserted streets and the proverbial tumbleweed skipping down the streets with nothing in its path to stop it.

My battered C-10 pickup was loaded with my tent, some worn blankets (my sleeping bag having been stolen some time back),  small, basic amount of food and a flashlight. The drive in is normally done only with four-wheel drive, and then it needed high clearance to avoid the rocky approach. My skills at driving my beast of a truck were honed in the oilfields of Wyoming, traveling miles on end through mud as deep as the axle and then rapidly changing to hard pack roads dustier than a two bit motel. Icy patches of the one lane trail tested my abilities to the utmost. The drive in was surreal, the wind already howling, calling my name. There would be no one else out in such conditions tonight, at least not human.

Twilight was fast approaching and I lugged my tired belongings to a favorite spot. The tent could not be staked down for the wind laughed at my attempts. To late to drive back into town and there were no options but my original intent. Tying the ropes of the bright orange tent to rocks was futile: the wind so intense that it would lift the tent up and shake it, with me inside. Now darkness was near and I found my solution. Scattered about were the lichen-covered rocks, embedded in the earth as if tentacles held them in place. With a stick I could free them from mother’s grasp and carry them to my tent. On each side I placed three, then two on each end, firmly securing my humble abode. Once inside my deluxe flashing shone for the last time and I was alone with the darkness. The fabric of the tent was whipped about creating a torturous sound and I fully expected it to be torn to shreds at any given moment.

Nothing to do but wait it out so I made my bed out of the sparse blankets and rested my head on my jacket. Within moments the coyotes were talking to each other, their howls echoing through the valley. Each howl sounded closer than the previous. My thoughts were scattered at first, then as I listened I felt comfortable, home. Soon the tent was aglow with morning sun, and all was silent. For some time I just relaxed and listened to the quiet. After I got dressed I opened the flap of my trusty tent and it was as if God had played a trick on me. Was this the same land I fell asleep in, or like Dorothy, had I awakened in a fairy tale? The fresh, dry snow covered the land in an even blanket of white, and I kid you not, two deer were just a stone’s throw from my tent, basking in the morning’s early rays. Of all the Christmas presents I have received in my life, this will always remain my favorite. The awe, the intensity of beauty.

Mother had never flown in a plane, as after the end of WWII my Father went back to Belgium where he met her, and after a double ceremony with one of her sisters, she and my father traveled back to the United States via ship. While she missed her family dearly, she was deathly afraid of planes for as a teenager she had watched multitudes of them be shot down over her home. My graduation provided the impetus for her to conquer her fear, this from a woman who faced the Nazi regimen on a daily basis. She was nervous of the ride to the special place I wanted to take her and I repeatedly calmed her nerves with yes, I know what I’m doing. My parents hiked the short distance to what was my home for one special evening. As she stood there, she looked about and understood why I loved this land. As I had described the event to her in detail, she knew exactly how it should look. Nothing had disturbed this harsh spot of land since my last visit. Tears came to her eyes as she turned, reached out to hold me and said: “Ten stones”.

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