Thursday, September 4, 2008

SEEKING PEACE: The Book Chapter One

This is a fictional story begun in August 2001, so it is a work in progress. I will be adding to it regularly. Edited September 6, 2008.

Chapter One

Colleen sits at the water's edge seeking peace and serenity. Water has always had a calming effect on her. No matter where she lived or what the circumstances were she sought a quiet spot next to some body of water. The gulf in Texas, the lake in Missouri, the river and gurgling stream in Illinois, or the ocean back east. Even a small fishing pond could work magic. Her spirit leads her toward that source of calm always at the most crucial moment, to save her. She is seated on a rock and takes in the view of the river, wide and slick as glass. Suddenly two beautiful, regal, white birds catch her attention. She briefly wonders what they are, herons maybe, but they're white, not blue as she has seen them before. Colleen has looked forward to this day more than she could express. Finding a place, a nearly secret place, and a peaceful safe location to let her mind be free and open. Much planning and praying has lead her to this moment. There are too many unanswered questions. "It's too difficult to think clearly," Colleen recalls explaining to her loving, devoted husband. And then added the thought silently, "let alone come up with honest answers in the noisy, needy world." She hopes can find real solace to quiet her mind. The present bursts back into her attention as hears the noises found at the water’s edge in the woods. Civilization is only a couple of miles away, and yet she feels so secluded here. She sits quietly, letting the surroundings ease their way up to her, to include her, slowly, peacefully. Nature does not intrude. Always active and alive, nature's quietness envelopes a person; it nudges next to the body's protective bubble. Nature seems to say, “we are here. If you allow us, we can help you to be a party to where you are. You can become just another living organism, not an intruder, but one of us. Feel what we feel; let the earth and the water and the trees and the birds and the insects, and the creeping things all become one with you.” She inhales deeply and breathes it in, like it is a mist all around her. She gasps as she comprehends spirit-filled air; she feels each spirit of every living thing flow around her. Serenity is now taking her over. She is feeling relaxed, expecting nothing, but what she allows herself to feel. She is in control and free at once. She slowly stands, hoping not to alert the spirit she is experiencing causing it to flee. Walking, she is relieved nothing has retreated. Shaking her head, she moves into the enclosed porch of rugged, family cabin. When she came here the first time, she was immediately taken back to her childhood. Her grandparents' cabin (their home, really) was a reprieve from the world. Memories flood like a dam has broken. She permits these memories to enter and she smiles. Her parents visited there nearly every single weekend. Next to the Kaskaskia River, perhaps there was the source of the safety and love she feels for the water. She remembers when her parents drove down the lane to “The Clubhouse” as it was affectionately named, she could sense a refuge, though she did not have the vocabulary to name it then. She would spend the next two days in a parallel universe. This is what she remembers as she sits in the cabin now, on the front porch, looking out on the lake through the army of tree trunks. She allows her imagination to begin to take over. She sees each tree standing proud, facing every direction, as her personal military unit. She would salute if she wouldn't feel ridiculous doing that. However, she is secretly pleased they are there if she needs them. And she does, more than the nature could know; she needs guarded, helped, rescued. The nightmares are coming more regularly. She will deal with them later. She has to ascertain why she makes some of the choices she does. They, those choices, are against everything she, she knew she believed. She sits alone, secluded from the world and within herself. She must ask herself the tough questions and explore deep in the darkest recesses of her consciousness to locate where she began to deviate from the truth. "Am I brave enough?" she whispers to the trees. "How I can possibly do this alone? Where is my knight in shining armor to rescue me from this prison? No...wait, it's not a prison. I am in a castle turret. Knight, armor, castle...I'm on a quest! Yes, that's it. That's where I find my courage! I am not alone." She emphasized each word to build the up the courage in her heart. "There is an experienced spirit within me." She imagines herself long ago, before this life. She is standing before Heavenly Father agreeing to this life. "Obviously, I have all I need to survive." She feels frustrated by that word--survive. "I don't just want to survive!" The words flow out of her with such fervor that several birds burst forth from their perches, obviously startled. Reality rushes back. She shakes her head, puts her head into her palms. Her palms are a comfort. The soft flesh on flesh, and warmth against warmth is so soothing. It seems there is some long-buried memory of her loving Father taking her face into his large hands with deep warmth and love. She envisions leaning her cheeks deep into His hands and breathing in softly, taking in the moment, and feeling at one with Him. Forcing her thoughts to stay on track, she remembers the quest idea. This quest is, apparently, one that few people begin. The selected individuals she has shared her quest with have indicated they no nothing about such a search. They do not see cause for such a quest. But they have not lived her life. Sometimes, she thinks nobody has. But then she reassures herself again how many people have, more than those who have not, perhaps. Society teaches us to hide these issues. She has fought that idea with her whole being, what "society" (she ruefully stresses the word) has decided is acceptable for open discussion. She will deal with that later also. A bird is sounding now, its’ call is like a trump. She is beckoned back to the water’s edge to view it, in its majesty. As she sits there again at the water’s edge, she realizes how intensely she needs this. She is not worthy to wish it, but she wishes for a longer respite. It is only through this peace can she find answers she is seeking. She needs to let down her defenses, get past temptations, and find her core. So many things and never enough time to discover. Her mind reels and frustration returns forcefully. She whispers to herself, “Slow it down.....slow it down. Calm down. Breathe in & out, slow your heart rate & your breathing. Go back to where we were minutes ago." Her shoulders drop, her face relaxes, and her arms droop heavily toward the soil. Thinking again, she pursues her recent path of thought. "Can it happen? Is there enough good will in the universe to make the dream happen? Is it too late for me? Have I gone past the place of deserving special treatment and attention? Can my prayers be answered? I have made so many wrong choices; call them sins, that’s what they are." Speaking out loud, she begs and looks skyward, "Please, please make it happen. This is it; this is the answer. This is the place.” Colleen knows it like she knows her own name. "Am I permitted time alone to figure things out?" speaking loudly now. The answer comes to her and she sadly looks down. A tear escapes and slowly falls down her cheek. "I am undeserving and I have people depending on me," she utters. Mentally she recites the list: children, husband, job, school, church. The demands of real life do not permit any sort of escape or respite, needed or not. That's okay, she reassures the disappointed side of herself. You have today. Use it! Still she wishes she had the time to hear the birds enough to understand their language. Taken out of her thoughts, she recognizes a familiar sound. Water, a stream is nearby. She peers in all directions and cannot perceive where the gurgling is located. Starting to walk to discover from where the sound is coming, she stops abruptly. "No, this is not the reason you are here, Colleen." She often thinks of herself in the third person. She walks back inside the cabin and allows nature to work its miracle. She needs to find a place to exist in her mind where she can be the person she knows she truly is inside. She has real, inner strength and calm and compassion. “Figure it out, make it happen. We came here to get to the root of this turmoil. Come on...let's do this," she reasons. She has also referred to herself in the plural, another curious attribute. She needs to pray. Finding a secure place to ask sincerely for divine intervention is her first thought; although she feels so undeserving of the intervention she requires. Though there is no person within sight or sound, she stills retreats inside the wooden panelled walls of the inner cabin. She kneels next to the couch and closes her eyes. Seeking the Spirit will be crucial as she begins to search within herself and find answers. It will be a difficult night and she will request strength from on high to proceed.

Weeks later, Colleen is back at the river again; sitting inside the cabin today. She needs the safety of these oak-paneled walls around her. It is blustery this morning. It rained most of the night and the chill is remaining in the air. She feels so safe here. She knows she will be left all alone; alone to contemplate, remember, and reason. She is remembering a conversation with her best friend, Joanna. She wisely stated, "What you have to do is figure out why there is this hole, this unfulfilled need. You have to figure out what you are searching for & see if there is an honest way to achieve it. You also have to come to the conclusion that maybe what you are seeking can never be found. You have to evaluate your motives & see your past experiences clearly to determine how much you are being influenced by the unfulfilled nature of your relationship w/ your father.” Joanna has a way of cutting through a matter to arrive at its honest center, Colleen thinks. Colleen needs to escape for a little while. She needs to read or sit quietly still and listen to nature again.

It is evening now. The sun is beginning its downward course. Colleen wants to watch it disappear entirely. She wants to sit here in this spot for the next three hours to allow the darkness to overtake her and her surroundings. Nighttime has not been a problem for her while she is awake and in control. It is merely sleeping that brings anxiety and dark visions, and then the nightmares take over. She has had sleep problems her entire life. Colleen is approaching 39 years of age. That idea, in part, has led her here; here to this place, this cabin and this quest, this idea of figuring out what has troubled her so relentlessly. She has come to peace with the people and places and circumstances of her past, she believes.

Just a sliver of the bright orange sun peeks over the treetops across the river from Colleen. Just as suddenly it is gone. Shades of orange, pink, and yellow are all that remains. "Can I do it? Can Iallow the dark to creep to my side?" she thinks meekly. Her heart pounds slightly at the thought of it. What will the night bring? "Peace as I have not known, but as I have found here? her thoughts continue. "I will know soon enough. This is just dusk. Dawn will not come for many hours," she whispers out loud and her heart speeds. "When will fear not be a constant companion?" she pleads again to some unseen force. The tree frogs have begun their cadence. The Heron & the Egret squawk in turn. The chirping of the squirrels continues as it has all day. Two squirrels have chased one another around & through the treetops throughout the day. The water is still reflecting light from the sun, which has disappeared over the horizon. The hillside is becoming darker. Geese are honking somewhere to the north. They have settled into a place for the night.

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