Fire and Ice

The Padre told of his hopping a train to the big timber in British Columbia, getting his first job as a lumberjack by telling the foremen that he had been working the tall timber for going on three years.  .He hadn't.  He had chopped firewood for the cook at the Abbey.  But kept a close eye on the old pros and soon faked his way into his lifelong vocation. 

One job had led to another job down the road until eventually after a couple of decades he had worked his way back home.  He hadn't even realized the imperceptible drifting of his life back  to where it first began.  Looking back, he worried that it might be some unseen destiny drawing him back for a meeting with dark tragedy.  The Padre wandered off into some other place when he talked of this.  But he managed to pull himself back to us.

For years now, he had  led his own crew, providing lumber for the local sawmills.  the crew had grown in number and had grown in time together, working together, living together, much like monastic brothers, excepting that they hadn't prayed much together. With this, the Padre took to laughing  which apparently served as the Amen to his autobiography.  He gave a motion that it was time to move on. So we did, leaving the Indian village and its ghosts behind.

The trail led us to a logging road, well-known to our guide.  It was one of those switchback roads that conquered mountains by cutting back and forth up the slope, enduring increased run to overcome the rate of rise.  It was a good-looking hike, the views getting grander and grander with each turning back and up.  Here and there you could see where the lumber crews had harvested a section, mind you not cleared but thinned and topped.

At the end of one turn we let the road and slipped off onto a trail that was invisible to me, but seemed quite clear to Granddad, Padre and Squire.  In fact, Squire took to that trail before we ever did, making me believe that this blue-eyed dog had gone this way many times before.

This path led us eventually to a hidden meadow, tucked in three-sided canyon, a strangely deep hollow.  It was as if we had stumbled to another world, a world of fire and ice.  Before us stretched a smoky cauldron, a lacework of icy snow around steaming vents and bubbling pots.  I am not sure what hell would be like, but if it did have its winter, surely it would like this.

"Why are we here, Grandad?"  Wondering what possibly could be any reason for being here except to brag that you had been here and returned.

The Padre glanced over to my grandfather, checking to see who was meant to answer.  It fell to Granddad to give that answer, "We are here to meet with the Willow Woman."

He said this so matter-of-factly, but those words, that name, Willow Woman, trembled in ears of my soul,

There was a certain, singular path across the cauldron and Padre led us single file along it, slowly, carefully, cautiously.

The End

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