We spent a good two hours, eating more breakfast than any human being ought to eat and telling more tall tales than any human being ought to tell. But it was all good, especially the biscuits that I kept dipping in bowls of honey.
Tthere did come a time, when my Grandfather with careful deliberation took me aside and seem to be readying himself to tell me some difficult news. "Lad, I need you to do what I tell you to do. Are you willing to do that?"
"Sure, Grandad," I said without giving my thought to thinking about what all that might mean.
"You see that tall fellow over there standing by the door.'
'Yes, that's the man they called Padre."
"That's right. I need you and your dog (I took a moment to look for Blue-Eyes, he was sitting right beside me, as if at attention ready to receive my next command), "Grandad continued, "and go with him to a place you need to go."
"But what about you?"
"I'll be here waiting for you when you return."
"Where is he taking us?"
"You'll see. I've already been there and now it's time for you."
I really did not want to go with the big grey giant, but Grandad kept giving me that reassuring look that this was part of his grand design.
When I gave my final nod, Grandad gave a wave to the Padre, looking over to us from the big wood doors that opened to the world behind the lodge. He gave me just a hint of a beckoning wave. I gave one last look to Grandad, and started to make my way, but first noticed that Blue-Eyes had broken for the door before I had made move one.
As I left the conversations among the lumbermen stopped one by one, all their eyes following my walk to the door. Along the way, Red leaned over from his bench and whispered to me, "Tell me when you get back what you find up there." I didn't answer. I was too nervous to do much more than take one step after the next.
In dead silence, the Padre swung opened the doors, they creakedas if they were creaking under the weight of themselves. Like an explosion, the cold and the sunlight came upon us. It set me to blinking and bundling and it set Blue-Eyes to barking. And it seemed his barking broke the silence behind and the chatter roared back to life.
I was afraid to talk to this overgrown backwoodsmen. But he still carried with him that aura of silence that monks gain after so many years, and somehow he felt good and somehow he felt gentle.
Blue-Eyes was hard at work before us, scouting the trail he somehow seem to already know. With nose to the snow covered ground he would track from side to side the trail, every so often stopping to reconnoiter the landscape like a watchman before returning to his pattern of tracking back and forth.
The climb was at first slow and gradual, picking up rigor as the trail went on. A rather straight course the trail took, with only a casual winding every now and then.
The woods thickened for a good distance of the trek, far enough to lose sight of the lodge and the cabins behind. An hour, maybe more, passed as we continued on deeper and deeper. Not a word from the Padre, and I started to say something a number of times, but silenced myself before I dared to utter that first word. The maples and poplars, the birches and the occasional spruce, eventually merged into a forest of towering pines. These pines had a certain intention in their manner, as if each had been placed in a specifically selected place. They weren't placed in rows or patterns as some gardener might do, but there was some unseen order to it all, quite tidy in its way as if some forest gnomes had come in and swept clean the places between and among the trees.
Still we kept walking as the trail upon which we had been walking began to dissipate. We kept walking until there was no more trail at all. And I knew we were there when Blue-Eyes came to a stop, turned toward us and sat. It was clear communication to me, at least, "We're here!"
Then my gentle giant of a guide stopped, heaved the pack off his shoulders, and invited me to join him for a sit at the base the largest of pines I had ever come across. I sat at the foot of one; the Padre sat at the foot of the other, facing me, with Blue-Eyes seated by his side. They stared at me for an uncomfortable measure of time. Then their eyes began to soften and they both, the Padre and Blue-Eyes seems to slip off to half-sleep. They seemed to praying. So I kept my reverence. It took a time, but in a patient pace, the owls flew in - in absolute silence. One by one, each to a branch that seemed their own. Until the branches of the pines seemed full, like pews in a church on Christmas Eve.
Blue-Eyes cracked open his eyes for a few seconds, I think to check on me. And when he returned to his prayers, I closed my own. i did not mean to begin praying. But at some point I did. And as I did, the air about me began to change. I can't explain but the air about me began to whisper but there were no words; the air about me began to sing but there were no sounds. And as I took my hallowed breathes, the fragrance of the pines began to rise.
And the owls never moved, they simply waited.