“I Believe in You”
Jonathan T. Jefferson
Wednesday, August 30, 2023
The cool flow of air, accompanied by calmness, swept up ghost-like from Schoharie Creek as it meandered through the Catskill Mountains. Tuesday found me lying in bliss on a large pockmarked gray stone on the edge of the creek. I was supposed to be gathering up the nerves needed to do the deed. The rays of the pale-yellow sun, briefly allowed to peek through the soft white smokiness of the clouds, only bit gently on the skin. The whiteness which was stolen from them more than a few times this summer by the reddish-tan hues cast southward by historic fires in the Canadian forests, were welcomed and distracted me.
Today, overnight thundershowers swelled the reflecting waters enough to cut off my access to that same relaxing stone. Yesterday, I succumbed to the urge to stand barefoot on the smooth multicolored rocks of various sizes below the waves. Now, despite the heaviness of my burdens, I was content to absorb the natural splendor of the environment from a new vantage point, several feet above a slope in a parking area that provides respite for passing motorists and access to fly-fishers. Inhaling deeply to soothe my internal organs with ashe-free oxygen, cleansing the olfactory nerve with a perfectly balanced mix of flower-scented aromas, and feasting my eyes on unblemished panoramas, was more than sufficient to gather the strength for what I planned to do.
Shamefully procrastinating for two days was predictably giving way to greater resolve. A short stroll around this picturesque rest site would ‘seal the deal,’ I returned to my cream colored SUV, drove to a designated trailhead, and began my vision quest into the wilderness. No food, water, compass, or timeframe would accompany me on this journey. Most importantly, no promise of direction, revelation, or survival…
“Don’t nobody know my troubles but God.”
Natural Blues - Moby
Trampled down thatches of weeds and gravel caught each impression of the half-inch black rubber soles on my hiking boots. The loud, but soothing, trickling of the stream filled my ears from the right, while less peaceful sounds of passing vehicle tires on pavement came from my left. A mid-sized blue car entered the parking area one hundred yards ahead of me. It drove toward me on the half-circle of crumbling blacktop that served as the turn off. I tried to appear inconspicuous as the driver slowly cruised by. From the periphery of my left eye, I saw who appeared to be an elderly woman behind the wheel.
Alone once again, I returned to the task of silencing my thoughts, opening my senses to the beautiful surroundings, and listening for what the universe might want to convey. Upon reaching the west end of the turn off, I spun around. The blue car that passed me minutes earlier was parked three hundred yards away at the east end. Its occupant, who I could now see was an old man, was walking towards me. Judging from his appearance and awkward gait, I grew weary. What was this white-haired man, wearing a long white sleeve shirt and white pants, doing? To make it clear that I was not to be bothered, I entered the trees close to the creek to stand just out of sight. To my relief, before I disappeared, the old man turned back toward his car.
Hugged by the branches of trees while standing on a flat rock, solitude enveloped me, and the old man was briefly forgotten. Emerging from that silent embrace of fauna, sure that I was now the only soul around, I did a double take when from only a few yards away the old man was approaching me, saying something I could not understand.
“Excuse me?” I asked. The expression on my face showed that I did not hear what he just said. I noticed the wrinkles of time on his face, so many that his age could not be counted.
“Are you okay?” he repeated. The rumble of his voice gave me the impression of a gentle summer storm approaching. Normally, as is the case for most people, I would have replied, “fine,” but something about our exchange demanded honesty. I shrugged slowly to indicate that the weight on my shoulders felt impossible to carry.
“You appear troubled,” he said bluntly. It was clear to me that he knew his statement was indisputable.
“I like the silence here by the creek.” I replied. “I’m kinda on a vision quest to find answers.”
“Do you want to talk about it?” He asked, opening his arms wide as though an eagle were about to take flight. His gesture was warm, like the unspoken offer of comfort from a grandparent to a child with a scraped knee. I shook my head side to side weakly to turn down what was sure to be his wise counsel.
To counter any hint of ungratefulness, I said, “I’d like to let the universe guide me.” He shook his head up and down with understanding.
The old man began to walk away, and then he stopped and asked, “What’s your name?”
Once again, I did not respond with my usual, “Jon”, I said, “Jonathan.”
“I’m going to include you in my prayers tonight Jonathan. I too trust the universe to bring me answers. That’s why I come here for my daily walks!” He exclaimed with gusto while raising his eyes to the sky.
“Thank you.” I responded with the most sincerity that I ever felt while saying those words.
The old man continued with his walk toward the west end of the turn off. It was only ten yards away. Heading back east, he walked past me again and said, “I believe in you, Jonathan.”
September 18, 2023