Book II _ Chapter 3
Darkness came while we were still on the ledge of the crevasse. Iím still not sure how we managed to visit the deep shafts of the mountain, spend hours packing and then hike all the way out onto the ledge of the crevasse in the light of one day. My experience tells me it has to do with the time line that held the helicopters in place, but Iím not sure how our Uliak friends enabled it.
I remember thinking, about the same time darkness came upon us, that it seemed odd I wasn't scared at all. You needed to watch where you put your feet down. Every now and then a rock would get kicked over the edge and you'd hear it fall and fall. Every thing seemed to be going well and there didn't seem any reason to get excited.
Llamas are very sure footed and even the younger ones were relaxed. EO led the way. As night fell he became a shadow out in front of us. The shoulders of his gray tunic extended out beyond his arms. Since then I've learned that the design allows rain and snow to shed off your clothing easier but at that time, in the dim light, he seemed a floating triangular shape with a head but no arms or legs.
Grandfather and Jack lighted kerosene lanterns as the darkness and cold of the night set in. We continued for several more hours until we came to a small mountain meadow. There, along the wall of the mountain EO found an overhang of rock. It was dry and large enough for both us and the animals. Snow drifts completely covered the windy side of the opening so it was well sheltered also. The llamas found they could paw the thin snow covering away and found brown grass from the previous summer to eat. We unpacked the male llamas and I milked the goats, then we all sat in a circle for a cold supper.
"Will we light a fire tonight, Grandpa?"
"No Sandy, excessive heat might make this snow slide unstable. We'll have fires but not tonight."
"Were are we going?"
Annie said, "If I'm not mistaken this path will take us across the crest of the Divide on a north west track."
Jack looked at EO, "Is the legend of the Haven also true?"
EO said, "Yes, it has been decided that we will open the valley we call Haven for you."
Mom said, "We are in your debt sir."
Then IO spoke, "No, we are all members of the same community and share very similar views and beliefs. You are welcome and it is our honor to have you as guests."
At first it seemed that every one talked formally. Slowly the adults and I learned the basic sounds of the Uliak language. Then everyone just shifted over to that language. It occurred in just a short time, perhaps the first week. The Uliak people talk like we do in their own language. That language is different from any that I had been learning from Mom and Grandfather. Itís a running series of clicks, clucks and squeeks that sound funny at first but with the low frequency sound receiver in my ear itís very melodious, even musical.
We reached the Haven after six weeks of travel. I had, pretty much, mastered the Uliak language by the third week so the last three were the most interesting.
EM and I loaded packs on the male llamas each morning and when we stopped for the night IO would always help me with the unpacking. The adults always seemed to be talking with EO and with which ever of IO and EM that wasn't with me. I didn't feel left out though because I liked working with the llamas and there was so much to learn from IO and EM.
It wasn't a picnic though. We walked the narrow paths which wander through snowy peaks that are even higher than the grassy meadows that Grandfather had lived on. There were spots where the drifts were so deep that we needed to use snowshoes. At least we did. The three Uliak people never made more than a light impression in the snow and the llamas always seemed to manage even in the most difficult circumstances. Almost every day we would find a rocky overhang with exposed grass for the llamas to eat and shelter for us at night. Mom had packed special food for the six dogs and there was honey and dried vegetables for us. The Uliak people ate with us each day but I wondered if they really needed to. EO was very fond of honey like Grandpa. Some days we would stop in the middle of the day and rest overnight, other times we would walk all day and far into the night. One night, when it seemed we'd been walking forever, we stopped high above a frozen lake that sat in a hollow between three mountain peaks.
EM unloaded the llama packs with me this night and, as we worked, we watched the stars, talking in her language.
EM said, "Sandy, raise your gem in front of your eyes and concentrate on just one star."
EM smiled, "Each star is special and the light from each has a special purpose. For tonight though it won't matter. It's only important that you choose yourself."
I raised my gem, the gem which the Uliak people call: the gem-with-a-loop. I concentrated on the middle star in the belt of Orion, the Hunter. The gem made that funny sound I had head it make before and then a thin beam of light shone out across the lake.
EM just smiled and turned to talk with Mom and Annie. Jack came over and sat on a rock at my side.
I said, "Do you see this Jack!"
He smiled and said, "This is starshine Sandy; it's a very great gift. I don't know of any person the Uliak people have shared this knowledge with. It has many uses and great powers which only the Uliaks can teach you."
EM came back and told me how to turn the gem off. It was simple enough, you just stop concentrating on the star.
"Can we do more EM?"
She smiled again, "That's enough for now, step by step is always the best approach to anything."
We rested that night and were off again at first light. I thought when we first met these three Uliak people that they'd be very quiet and stern, but they weren't that way at all. EO told the most wonderful stories at night. EM and IO would sing the beautiful melodies in both English and their own language. Everyone sang and laughed and talked as we traveled farther and farther beyond the wilderness I have become so use to over the past two years. The hardships of the trip didn't seem bad at all.
I was walking with EO one day and asked, "EO, are you real people?"
"Are we real people?" His face never showed expression but his eyes would smile as we talked."
"You seem so different but at the same time so similar."
"The creator has made all things similar yet each is unique."
"But what's the difference between us?"
"A proper question deserves it's answer. My culture predates most of what your culture knows about social organization in history. There are people and scientists who speculate about the traces of our civilization but the truth, that is the time frame and sequence of events, is too jumbled to make sense unless you know Uliak history as it is preserved in our lore.
At a point in time, long ago, Uliak people found that conformity with the order of creation and a singleness of mind permits greater freedom for the individual. Those of us that chose this path have found a way of life in which many things are very good and perhaps there are a few that are not so good. The result is that we are a solitary people even with regard to each other. Not unfriendly, just solitary. As individuals, we have come to live very long and for the far majority of us, our love for the physical and living aspects of creation grow as our years lengthen.
I understood what he said but I still didn't understand how I was different from him or EM or IO. "How am I or how are we different from each other?"
EO actually smiled, "Your culture, the culture of the present world, has a gift from the Creator which we do not. Your hearts are driven to seek courses far from the preset paths which we call the order of creation. Also, while each type of living thing is unique in the order which we understand, each individual in your culture seeks for its own uniqueness.
This results in many bad things in your world but also much good which would not be possible without these gifts."
"Wars, rampant depletion of natural resources, non-excusable pollution of the environment, the wanton destruction of natural habitats which belong to other living things and the unequal distribution of wealth within your societies are just some of the bad things."
"Is there any good then?"
"Yes, within the turbulence and violence of your culture, many individuals arise with monumental attributes of honor and justice. It's the paradox of mankind for which only the Creator understands the purpose."
EO smiled again, "In the end, the truth is always simple; it's the shrouds in which it is cloaked that require time and thought."
Each day brought new discussions and new ideas. Sophie had her cria while we were on this trek. A beautiful cream colored female we named Snow Bunny.
I was walking with Moche when we arrived at the Haven in the middle of a cool crisp day.
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