Canyon Fires
Book 4 of the Dawnwalker Cycle


a novel by
Wes Boyd
©2004, ©2009




Chapter 24

May 6, 2001

There wasnít even a hint of light in the eastern sky when Crystal found herself stirring from her spot on the raft. She glanced up at the constellations Cygnus and Lyra bright in the sky overhead, and realized it was still a way off. She yawned, stretched, and rolled over in her sleeping bag, with the idea of catching a little more sleep.

But, sleep wouldnít come. There were a lot of things going through her mind, and Noah was right at the top of the list.

Noah had been a friend for a long time Ė even longer than sheíd known Randy. Oh, never a close friend, of course, but a good friend. They did get along well together in a lot of ways, he had always been a loyal friend, and they actually thought alike on a lot of things. She couldnít help but wish that they could be closer yet, but she didnít think that there was much chance they could be. In a way, it was almost like a rerun of Randy Ė the only way that they could get closer would be if she made some radical changes that she wasnít prepared to make. She realized now that sheíd had her last chance with Randy blown away at the same time that sheíd found the place mat in that restaurant in Flagstaff Ė that was another huge change in her life that happened that morning. Sheíd been heading back to see if she could put something together with him, and from what happened later she realized it would have been a long shot, but still possible if sheíd pushed it. But it was water down the river, now; there was no point in having second thoughts.

It would be an even longer shot with Noah, so much so that she didnít really consider it seriously. She gave a little snicker at the thought of trying to be a Canyon bum eight months a year and a ministerís wife the other four. Wouldnít that go over like a lead balloon? Once again, she gave thought to hitting on Noah Ė and rejected it, like sheíd done for years, even back before sheíd met Randy. It wasnít the way to reach the guy, she knew it, and that was that.

She shook her head, envying Scooter. If things had worked out like she knew her friend had planned, Scooter and Jim were probably sound asleep in her room in the house. She let out a sigh; maybe Scooter had the right idea. Jim was a pretty decent guy, but right now Scooter had dibs on him. Oh, well. Maybe Dan; sheíd be seeing a lot of him this summer, since he was going to be assistant trip leader . . . but this was probably going to be his last summer in the Canyon, she knew, and if anything did brew up, there we are back to Louise and the husband she left right quick. Nuts to that. Besides, she didnít like him that much, anyway.

Realizing that sleep was impossible, she threw back the sleeping bag and got up. With it totally dark and the camp in silence, it was a good time for a real, swimsuit-off bath. Itíd have to be quiet and quick; the water was cold too. But it wasnít the first time, and the best thing to do was to get it over with. She stripped off the bikini sheíd been wearing for three days and found a different one; this one was getting pretty gross now, anyway Ė but again, she was used to it. It was hard to live out here and not get a little grubby.

The water was almost like ice, just about as cold as it had been up at Leeís Ferry. She dunked herself quickly to get wet, got back out on the shore to soap down, then back in the starlit water to rinse. No horsing around, though; the evolution only took her a couple minutes. In a week, she could have a real shower. She remembered the days before she and Scooter and her mother had the little house; she and Scooter would rent a motel room out at the interstate interchange and try to run the water heater dry. The house didnít have a very big one, and having to share the hot water with Scooter always made that first wonderful long shower all too short. Scooter wouldnít be an issue this trip, though Ė but Nanci might be, she realized now. With Mom actually moving in with Al, thereíd be a room free. Actually, the move had taken place just before the season started more than a month ago, and Mom had more or less lived out of a suitcase at the house over the last break. It sort of depended on what happened with Nanci the next few days; no telling how that was going to work out, either. Whatever happened, it was probably not going to be so much her decision, but more Momís and Alís Ė another issue to sort out in a week.

It was chilly out there under the starlit sky, and she hustled around getting dressed. Realizing that they were going to be running the Icebox this morning before it warmed up too much, she decided to pull on a pair of polypro long johns and a pair of shorts. The polypro felt good, and some nice fuzzy Polartec on top of it made her feel cozy. The Polartec would probably come off before they got on the river, but they felt good right now.

A cup of coffee would taste good, she thought, glancing at the sky again. It was still a long ways before dawn. It wasnít the first time that had happened, but she wasnít about to light off one of the noisy propane burners to get a single cup of coffee Ė it was way too early to get people moving. Although they faced a longish run today, there wasnít much in the way of side hikes, although she thought maybe they might stop for a long lunch and a short hike at Kanab Creek. Even so, there was no point in pushing it.

Over the years, Randy had never been able to teach her much about outdoor living, since sheíd always been way ahead of him, but one of the things he had taught her about was silent-burning alcohol stoves. There was a Trangia 28 in the boatmanís box, along with some coffee singles, kept for just such instances as this. Soon, it was sitting on the boatmanís box, and water was warming as she sat back on the side tube to wait it out. In spite of everything that had been bothering her, being alone in the Canyon out under the starlit sky was one of those moments that reminded her of just how much a home this place had become. Like her father, it would be hard to leave . . .

"Crystal . . . "

She gave a start at the sound of Nanciís soft voice. "Oh, hi, Nanci," she whispered, not wanting to break the silence. "I didnít know you were up."

"I wasnít sleeping very well," her sister said. "I saw your fire down here and decided there was no point in trying any longer."

"Yeah, same with me," Crystal replied. "You like some coffee? We wonít have to run this through a sieve."

"Sure, Iíd like some," Nanci said, swinging around to sit on the far side tube.

"Not a problem," Crystal smiled, reaching for her water bottle to fill the pot on the tiny stove a little fuller. "Itís going to take a few minutes, though."

"I donít mind," Nanci sighed. "Crystal, Iíve been wanting to talk to you alone for a couple days."

"Itís hard," Crystal smiled. "You get out on a trip like this, and thereís so many people around itís hard to get alone. What did you want to talk about?"

"Oh, just stuff," Nanci said. She was silent for a moment, then said. "I guess I just wanted to know how you think Iím doing."

"Pretty good, actually," Crystal grinned. "At least as far as the trip goes, just fine. For a trainee swamper who knew absolutely nothing about what we were doing when we got started, youíre picking it up pretty well. It looks like youíre really trying. About everything else, though, well, itís a little hard to say. I watched you the last couple of days, and it looked like you were doing a lot of flirting with Kevin, but Noah tells me youíre not."

"Iíve been really trying not to flirt with him," Nanci said. "Itís . . . not easy, but, well, like weíve been talking about some interesting stuff."

"Noah said you were talking religion a lot," Crystal grinned. "It can be interesting. Noah and I had some awful good discussions about it, back on the Ocoee years ago."

"Thereís a lot to think about," Nanci told her. "Stuff I never thought about before. Kevin and Buddha and I spent some time talking before supper last night. Buddha really makes you think, too."

"He can do that," Crystal said softly. "Noah said you were talking about forgiveness a lot."

"Yeah," Nanci sighed. "Crystal, I know Iíve got a lot to be forgiven for. You know about most of it, the sex, the drinking, the lying, some drugs, not a lot of those, but mostly what I did to you, Jon, Mom, and Dad. I just canít believe I can be forgiven for all of that."

"I canít speak for God," Crystal said. "About all I can tell you is that you have to believe that he will. But, as far as I go, I forgive you for what you did. It was stupid kid stuff, and you know that. It took me a while to understand that. But I can tell you that God forgives easier than I do."

"Itís just hard to believe," Nanci shook her head. "Itís a lot to think about."

"I know. Iíve thought about it a lot, too." Crystal admitted, watching the flicker of the flame lighting the top of the boatmanís box. "Itís something you have to find inside yourself, Nanci," she said finally.

"Yeah, I guess youíre right," she replied. "Crystal, I did like the partying and the sex an awful lot; you know that. It was fun at the time. But if I have my way, Iím only going to sleep with one other man from now on, and thatís after I marry him."

"Not a bad goal for you to have at this point," Crystal smiled, taking a flashlight to shine it in the pot to check the water. It looked like it was warm enough, and the coffee would really taste good. She had already set out a couple of cups with coffee bags in them, and now she used a pot lifter to pour the hot water as she asked, "Anyone in mind?"

"No, not now," Nanci smiled. "Iím not quite ready to try to deal with that yet. When I get married, I want it to be nice and close Ė maybe not quite as close as Jon and Tanisha, but close. But, I want the sex to mean something when I have it, not like I had it in college. I mean, itís going to be hard to put that in the past and just get along with one guy now and then, so I want to take some time to get ready to accept it."

"Just because youíre married doesnít mean you donít get much," Crystal grinned. "Hell, you should know that. Look at your brother and sister in law."

"Crystal," Nanci frowned as her sister handed her a cup. "What do you mean by that?"

"You mean you havenít figured it out by now?" Crystal snickered, fighting back a laugh that would have woken up the camp. "Havenít you watched them camp off by themselves, and sneak off during the day?"

"Well, yeah," Nanci said. "I guess I didnít notice, but now that you mention it, they do go off by themselves a lot."

"Maybe Iíve just noticed more," Crystal snickered. "They arenít exactly ones to talk about their sex lives, but over the last year and a half Iíve had enough broad hints to give me reason to believe that neither your brother nor your sister-in-law has reason to complain they arenít getting enough. A full-time Nevada hooker might think itís a little on the light side, but I figure they get way more than most people."

*   *   *

Giselle awoke to the familiar roar of the propane stoves heating water, to discover that it was clear and rather cool. She sat up, pulled on her warm fleece jacket, and commenced with the morning getting around as Buddha began to stir. It was still something of a production, but getting to be a practiced one, now. Usually she tried to have things pretty well packed up by breakfast, but this morning she dawdled a bit, just checking out the awesome beauty of the place in the low, early morning light. And, she was just a little curious about one other issue.

Soon, she wandered down to the kitchen, not far off, to discover that breakfast was omelets, with make-your-own innards. She only had one, a little light, and could have gone back for seconds, but after her seconds the night before, she figured sheíd better hold off a little. She sat eating and drinking coffee, staring at the scenery some more, but soon noticed Ben and Joy working their way down the hill toward the breakfast area, each carrying their night bags and camp bags. They dropped them in front of one of the rafts, turned and gave each other a little kiss, and walked hand in hand up to the breakfast line. There were still several people waiting, but they stood there with arms around each other, much more cuddly than they had been on previous mornings. Giselle didnít need Joyís broad smile at her to tell her all she needed to know. Maybe theyíd tell her about it, maybe not Ė but the mission clearly was accomplished.

For a change, this morning people were a while getting around, made worse by the fact that people had scattered all over the place on this large camping area. Jon and Tanisha were the last to come straggling into the kitchen area, just as Crystal was getting set to close things up.

"Itís a little chilly this morning," Crystal called out, now that most of the group was around. "Itíll probably warm up later, but this morning weíre gonna run the section us guides call Ďthe Icebox.í Itís pretty steep walled, and not a lot of sun gets down to the river, especially early in the morning, so itíll stay cool for a bit. Our schedule is sort of messed up this trip, but we usually stop around in here somewhere on our regular trips, since thereís a lot of campsites in this section. That means that we usually run the Icebox in the morning, and when youíre used to hundred-degree days, itís really pretty uncomfortable, especially if we get a little breeze built up."

As Giselle got set to head out on the river, she decided to put on her rain gear, more to stave off the cool than anything else. She was used to Florida temperatures, after all, and this seemed pretty chilly. She could always take it off when she got warm. But it never did get terribly warm all morning; in fact, it seemed almost chilly after the warm days theyíd been having. She and Buddha were riding in Mikeís raft today, along with Jon and Tanisha; they hadnít ridden with them much before, and they had some interesting discussions as they floated down the river. Most of the rapids this morning were small and not particularly remarkable, and so they mostly stayed dry.

It seemed like they got to their lunch stop at Kanab Creek pretty quickly. "Weíll take a couple hours here, folks," Crystal announced. "This is a pretty good walk, you might enjoy it. I guess everybody knows about the deal for tomorrow, but Iíll go over it some more tonight. Mom and Dad are going to press on by themselves and tack down a campsite for tonight for us. If we can get the one we want, weíll have to go a little farther than we came this morning, but if we get squeezed out of that weíll have to go farther yet. So, after lunch weíll go ahead and press on out of here, even if we wind up getting in a little early again. Anyway, if you want to do some hiking today, hereís the place, since there wonít be much tonight."

Virtually everyone went on the hike, at least a short distance of it; only Nanci, with her poor river sandals stayed back, along with Kevin. For reasons mostly involving a need to use the river, Giselle was one of the last to leave, and she hurried to catch up. She wasnít far up the rough, rocky trail before she encountered Ben and Joy. "And how are you today?" she asked with a grin.

"Just fine," Joy smiled. "Thanks for your advice, Giselle."

"Really, thanks," Ben added. "We owe you one, somehow."

"It is nothing," Giselle smiled. "Free advice is often only worth what you pay for it."

"It was worth a lot," Joy smiled even more broadly, still holding onto Benís hand. "Weíre, uh, not going to go any farther, just stay here."

"Is anything the matter?" Giselle smiled.

"Iím, uh, a little sore," Joy blushed. "We, uh, maybe overdid it a little. But it was worth it."

Giselle glanced at the two of them, and gave a little grin. "You might want to watch that and take it easy for a day or two," she said, knowing from the looks of both of them that her advice was about to go unheeded. "But enjoy yourselves."

*   *   *

It was warmer after lunch; people were out of rain suits and jackets and down to their normal clothing; a few people had gotten down to swim suits. They ran on for another few miles, with Crystal noting that the Utah agave had given way to a different cactus, the spindly, multi-branched ocotillo. As always, there was the kaleidoscope of the Canyon, ever changing, chaotic, but like any chaotic system, showing an order at some level. There was always the background vision of the cliffs with layers of the sedimentary rock, showing at some level wherever they turned, but broken by side canyons, washes and draws, all filled with rocks and rubble. Here and there were talus slopes below a break in the rock above, clearly showing how they had washed down from a higher level, ever constant, ever changing. It went by swiftly; soon they saw Al and Karinís raft pulled up on shore on river right, and everyone pulled in around it.

Although there wasnít much available for hiking, the beach was fairly large and it was possible to move a ways up or down river. They were off the river plenty early for once, and there really wasnít a lot doing. "Letís get off on our own for a bit," Nicole told Randy, with a smug grin on her face. "Maybe head downriver a little, have a skinny dip."

After the scene at the waterfall a couple days before, he wasnít adverse to the idea and she clearly had something on her mind. "Works for me," he said.

In minutes they were working their way down the river. With a little bit of exploring, they managed to find a scramble up to a promising rock ledge well above the river, one that took them a considerable distance from camp. After fifteen or twenty minutes of moderately difficult walking, they came to a wide spot in the ledge, with a nice view of the Canyon and the river, but the ledge obviously petered out shortly afterward. They turned back and found a little draw that made a place to get down to a tiny beach by the river. For all they could tell, there might not have been a soul for miles around, although they knew that the camp really wasnít that far away, and, of course, someone could come by in a boat any minute. "Nice place," Randy said.

"I think so," she grinned. "You know, I really envy Al and Karin, able to get off by themselves a little. We really havenít had the chance that much on this trip."

"That was the way it worked the last time, too," Randy said, taking off his daypack and finding a place to sit down and take in the view. "It gets to be a kind of group thing."

"Well, itís a good group, and that helps," she said. "Randy, Iím glad you talked me into coming on this trip. Since weíve gotten through the worst of the rapids, itís turned into fun."

"Glad you hung in there to figure it out," he smiled.

"Randy," she grinned. "What would you say if I suggested we do something a little crazy?"

"I might just say fine," he grinned. She wouldnít have brought him here if whatever she had in mind hadnít been something he would have enjoyed, anyway. "What do you have in mind?"

"You remember when we were up at that waterfall a few days ago?" she smiled. "I mean, when the group was still there, not afterward."

"Yeah," he smiled. "I was just so damn sure that Trey was setting Myleigh up for getting some nude photos that it wasnít funny. I figured he was waiting for us all to get out of there, but then, he just put the camera back in the Pelican case."

"Thatís what I was thinking, too," she said, untying her top. "I have to admit, I have a hard time imagining Myleigh doing it, but, well, like you said, with Myleigh, you never know. But, I got to thinking that itíd be fun for you to take a few nude photos of me. You know, something special to remember the trip with."

"Nicole," he grinned as she stood before him bare breasted, starting to untie the strings to her bikini bottom. "Would you believe Iíve been thinking about the same thing? I donít know that we want to put them in the scrapbook we show our folks, though."

"Probably not," she grinned. "Well, maybe if we get one thatís really artsy and doesnít show anything."

"Still," Randy laughed. "I donít think theyíre quite ready for that. You did bring the camera, didnít you?"

"Of course," she smiled, getting it out of her daypack. It was her old Pentax WR-90 that sheíd carried the length of the Appalachian Trail; Randy had taken it down through the Canyon on the last trip heíd made through here, too. That camera had seen a lot of interesting places that summer.

Randy was no great photographer, but over the next few minutes he did get a few shots that he hoped might be passably decent. Nothing dirty, but artistic, he hoped, anyway. But, in doing it, there was a huge thrill at toying with the forbidden. It got to both of them, but it was open enough that they couldnít quite bring themselves to do what they both wanted to do, other than take a short skinny dip and get their swimsuits back on. Out of nowhere, she asked, "Randy, do you ever wish it was Myleigh with you, instead of me?"

"No, Nicole," he said. "Not ever. I think about it, occasionally, like how it would be different, but wish it was different? No. I hope that she winds up with someone sheís as happy with as I am with you." He let out a sigh. "I have to admit, it makes me wonder whatís going on with her and Trey."

"Me, too," Nicole agreed. "I mean, when she met him with that big kiss up at Leeís, I figured theyíd be all over each other the length of the trip, but I just havenít seen it."

"Theyíve been together quite a bit," Randy said. "Not like you see Jon and Tanisha, but together. After two or three days, I realized what that kiss was all about. It was just Myleigh marking her territory."

"If there is something going on there, I guess I canít figure it out, either. How about you and Crystal? Do you ever wish it was Crystal with you?"

"No, even less," Randy told her. "Donít get me wrong, thereís a soft spot in my heart for her, just like Myleigh. There always will be. Darn it, Nicole, we had some good times together, and you know all about them. There was a time I expected Iíd wind up marrying her, but she wasnít ready for it. That last trip I made with her, I realized it would never work. I donít see her getting out of this Canyon until they carry her out. Iím too civilized, I guess."

"What do you mean?"

"This is fun for me once in a while," Randy sighed. "I wouldnít care to make a life of it. Nicole, that summer you walked the trail, I really would have liked to have been with you. It would really have been a neat thing to do, even though I knew I could never get the time to do it. I hope I get to run this place again sometime, whether that deal with being an occasional boatman or whatever comes off or not. But, I wouldnít want to do it all season long without you, no more than Iíd want to hike the trail all year without you. We fit together pretty good, Nicole. Better than Crystal and I or Myleigh and I ever could. Theyíre just friends, now, thatís all, and they both seem to have drawn away further than ever. Youíre my wife, and I married you because I wanted you to be my wife."

"I was wondering, there, just a little," she said. "Back when I was being a little chickenshit about the rapids. Iím sorry I made it harder on you than I had to, but I guess I learned something out of that. Thanks, Randy."

"No thanks necessary," he said. "It just reminded me of how much I love you."

"Thanks anyway," she said, pulling him close for a kiss that went on for a while. "Hey, lover," she whispered finally. "Got a question."

"What?"

"We can see up the river pretty far from here. Half a mile, anyway, maybe more. Thatíd give us five minutes, even if it was a motor rig coming down. Do you think we can hide down behind the rocks and be that quick?"

"I donít know," he grinned. "Letís find out."

*   *   *

Once again, there was another small Canyon fire flickering in the fire pan, as there had been each night since the beginning of the trip. The sun was down now, and the western sky was spectacular with reds and golds. "Before we get too deep in stories," Crystal said, now that everyone was gathered around. "Last call for the power hike up Havasu Creek. Itís still Nicole and me, with Jeff going along to watch the raft at Havasu until the rest of you get there. Any other takers?"

There was silence around the campfire. The plan had been to go up to Mooney Falls, five and a half miles up the side stream, but Crystal and Nicole had been talking since it was just the two of them, and they were both fast hikers, if they got a good start they might go another couple miles, clear up to another couple of interesting waterfalls. It was a rough trail, and while there were other people who liked the side canyon hikes, the general run of opinion was that there was no one else that crazy. Larry and Mike had offered to lead a more moderate hike partway, up to Beaver Falls, but that was still going to be a five-mile round trip that would probably take three hours or more.

"All right, if thatís the way itís going to be," Crystal said. "If Iím not the first one up, someone wake me, and Iíll get Nicole and Jeff up. Iíll get some coffee going on my little alcohol stove so I donít wake anyone else up. Weíll just get on the river as soon as itís light enough to see where weíre going. Randy has offered to pack up Nicole and Jeffís camp bags and bring their night bags, and thatíll help. The rest of you can have breakfast and take your time getting around. Before you leave, boatmen, break out the cold cuts and have everybody make sandwiches, so those who want to hike up to Beaver Falls can eat on the way, and take some chips and extra water and stuff. Put the sandwiches in a couple of small drybags since thereíll be some wading. Make sure that you donít take the lunches of anyone whoís just going to hang around the creek mouth. Mike, Larry, one of you needs to be sweep coming back down from wherever you turn around, make sure no one gets left behind. If someoneís off the trail, Nicole and I might not notice them when we come back. Hopefully everyone will be back at the rafts by the time we get back, or pretty close, so we can just hop in and go. Any questions?"

"Yeah," Al piped up. "Iíve been thinking about it. When we first thought about this, I was sort of figuring on trying for 161 Mile since thereís not much before there, but thatís kind of small. Iím thinking maybe Karin and I want to run to Tuckup Canyon, maybe even National. Since we got Lava the day after tomorrow, maybe weíd appreciate a little shorter day to have to face it."

"Works for me," Crystal told her father. "Thatís a pretty good hike up Tuckup, and Nationalís even better. Maybe we could work the kinks out a little, us OLTA people, anyway."

"Crystal, we already know youíre crazy," her mother snorted. "Thereís no point in your going out of your way to prove it."

"Like mother, like daughter," Crystal grinned. "The two of you have a good time exploring up the side canyon by yourselves. OK, I guess that works that out. On to the other item of business. I spent a while this afternoon filling out the daily trip report, and would anyone like to guess what day this is?"

Again, there was silence around the campfire. It was easy to lose track of time, what day it was down here, and Crystal just proved it. She let the silence go on for a minute, then said, "Preach, would you like to guess?"

"Donít tell me," he smiled. "Sunday, right?"

"You got it," Crystal grinned. "Youíre up."

"You really like doing this to me, donít you?" he laughed. "I was right sure it was tomorrow, and I figured on thinking about it tomorrow. Give me a minute, would you?"

"Like Scooter said, you do better when you donít think about it," Crystal grinned.

"All right," he sighed. "I donít remember the exact date for sure, but it had to be about three months ago that I got the phone call from Crystal that invited me out here." He let out a sigh and continued. "We donít get a lot of snow in east Tennessee, but every so often a storm picks up a load of moisture out of the Gulf of Mexico, and dumps it right on us. Now, we donít have a lot of world-class snow-removal equipment down in Tennessee, and unlike us people raised in Michigan, the people down there arenít used to it. I wasnít about to try to drive in that, and besides, it was my first opportunity in a couple of years to use my cross-country skis. It was real pretty out there that morning, pretty as this Canyon in its own way, and I decided to take the long way up to Glen Hill Church, partly to enjoy the beauty that God had made, and partly because I wanted to think a little. Mostly, I wanted to think about marriage."

He paused for a moment, and continued. "Now, as a youth pastor, Iíve not performed many marriages, but I have performed a few. But especially since Iíve never been married, I wanted to think about it. Now, we all know thereís civil marriage, and thereís marriage in the church, and they are two different things. Sometimes they get a little confused, since when we pastors marry people weíre usually filling both functions. Sometimes the people weíre marrying donít understand that, and sometimes we pastors donít either. Now, a civil marriage isnít a whole lot more than a piece of paper that will stand up in manís court of law. A marriage as a part of the church isnít the same thing. You probably remember the phrase, ĎWhat God has joined together let no man put asunder.í When you get down to it, thatís a prayer, because we do know that things do come apart sometimes. A marriage in the eyes of God is a stepping out in faith of the people involved, asking God to help them make things work. To make that work, it takes a belief in God, a belief that He will work his will. Sometimes itís hard to know Godís will, especially when the lusts of the flesh blind us. It takes prayer; it takes contemplation; it takes faith to make it work, faith in Him, faith in each other.

"Faith is sometimes a little hard," he continued. "It involves reaching out beyond yourself, reaching out to a greater power to guide you through the unknowns. There are a lot of unknowns when a man and a woman come together. Like I said, Iíve never been married, but Iíve heard it said that we all marry strangers, and to some degree we always remain strangers. In a marriage in the eyes of God, there has to be the faith in God to rub off the rough edges and make the pieces fit, to overcome the differences and make one out of two. There are many unknowns in this life, and sometimes the path isnít clear. We have to have the faith in God to make it clear, whether itís with Him, or with the person we marry. Often enough, that faith will lead us down roads we didnít expect, through darknesses we canít contemplate. We make mistakes, we sin, and we all do it, for we are all sinners. But we have to have faith in his forgiveness, in his guidance.

"Last week, I talked about vision quests. As I said up at Nankoweap, which seems like a long time ago, in a place like this where the evidence of God is all around us, perhaps we can hear His voice a little clearer, and see the way to His light a little more clearly. If the hand of God could build this Canyon over the ages, then who are we to deny his guidance in our lives? Here, more than most places, we are in the works of God. A church isnít necessarily a building; itís a place where believers come together so that He may be in our midst. This may be the Grand Canyon, but itís also a grand cathedral of God, and itís a grand place to let Him take us by the hand to do his works and enjoy his blessings."

For several seconds there was silence, filled only by the whisper of the river flowing by, a slight crackle of the fire, the whisper of a bird call far downstream. Finally, Alís voice broke the silence: "Well said, Preach."

"I hope so," Noah said quietly. "I guess I was just rambling a bit, saying what was on my mind."

"Or what God put on your mind," Kevin said softly.

"Yeah," Noah nodded. "I have to have faith that there was a message from God there, and those it was directed to heard what was said." He stopped for a moment, staring at the fire before he continued, "And yes, that includes me. I guess I ought to listen to what I say once in a while."



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