Up ahead the path narrowed, and I had to make my way between two large boulders that edged right up to a sheer drop-off of about two hundred feet. Once past, I could hear the first gurgles of Phillips' Spring, named by the fur trappers that first set up a camp here in the late seventeenth century. The water trickled down several tiers of rocks into a lazy pool ten feet across that had originally been dug out by hand. Successive generations had added features, such as apple trees up near the mouth and mortared stone to reinforce and deepen the pool. I walked up to the water and reached down to cup some in my hand, brushing a stick out of the way as I leaned forward. The stick kept moving, slithering up the rock face and into a hole.
"Cottonmouth!" I said aloud, stepping back and feeling the sweat pop out on my brow. There are still perils involved in living here in the wild, although not perhaps the ones that old man Phillips faced centuries ago, when you could turn a corner on the path one day and come face-to-face with a big cougar guarding her young, or worse, a pack of wild boars with three-inch tusks that would slit your leg wide open if you didn't get up a tree fast enough. If the day was going especially bad, you might even come upon an angry Cherokee or a displaced Seminole who was tired of finding some new settler on his favorite hunting grounds . . . and was harboring the conviction that a large bite of your heart would stem the European tide forever. No, everyone alive in that generation--Native Americans and Europeans alike--faced direct perils that tested one's mettle and courage in the moment.
Our generation seemed to be dealing with other problems, problems that are more related to our attitude toward life, and the constant battle between optimism and despair. Everywhere are the voices of doom these days, showing us factual evidence that the modern Western lifestyle can't be sustained, that the air is warming, the terrorists' arsenals growing, the forests dying, and the technology running wild into a kind of virtual world that makes our kids crazy--and threatens to take us further and further into distraction and aimless surrealism. Countering this viewpoint, of course, are the optimists, who claim that history has been filled with doomsayers, that all our problems can be handled by the same technology that produced these perils, and that the human world has only begun to reach its potential.
I stopped and looked out at the valley again. I knew that the Celestine Vision lay somewhere in between these poles. It encompassed a belief in sustainable growth and humane technology, but only if pursued by an intuitive move toward the sacred, and an optimism based on a spiritual vision of where the world can go.
One thing was certain. If those who believe in the power of vision were to make a difference, it had to begin right now, when we're poised in the mystery of the new millennium. The fact of it still awed me. How did we get lucky enough to be the ones alive when not only a century changed but a thousand-year period as well. Why us? Why this generation? I got the feeling that larger answers were still ahead.
I looked around the spring for a moment, half expecting Natalie to be up here somewhere. I was sure this was the intuition I'd had. She'd been here at the spring, only I seemed to be looking at her through a window of some kind. It was all very confusing.
When I arrived at her house, there seemed to be no one home. I walked onto the deck of the dark brown A-frame and knocked on the door loudly. No answer. Then, as I glanced around the left side of the house, something grabbed my attention. I was looking down a rock pathway that led past Bill's huge vegetable garden and up to a small grassy meadow on the very top of the ridge. Had the light changed?
I looked up at the sky, trying to figure out what had occurred. I had seen a shift in the light in the meadow as though the sun had been behind a cloud and then had suddenly peaked out, illuminating that specific area. But there were no clouds. I strolled up to the meadow and found the young girl sitting at the edge of the grass. She was tall and dark-haired, wearing a blue soccer uniform, and as I approached, she jerked around, startled.
© 1999 by James Redfield. All rights reserved. Published with permission of the publisher, Warner Books.
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