Wednesday, December 21, 2011
We covered a lot of ground the next day. The surrounding mountains were getting bigger. The trees were getting taller the river was getting narrower but it seemed to be moving faster. And the fish were jumping higher. When we reached a water fall in mid afternoon my father said, “This is it.” It was a beautiful spot. The falls were about 15 or 20 cubits high with a large pool about 25 cubits wide and some 70 cubits long. A beaver had built a damn which help exaggerate the natural size of the basin. There was a large clear dry platue on the eastern side (our side) of the river some 30 cubits removed with about 5 or so cubits elevation above the river. Our camp would be close enough to see the pool but far enough away as not to disturb the sport.
There was enough time left in the day to set up camp, fish for dinner, and begin work on a raft that would float us out into the pool. There would be little conversation this night; all men old and young fast asleep shortly after dark. That is except for our sentry. One of the adults stayed awake to keep the fire going and ward off any inquisitive nighttime visitors.
The next day was full of activity; fishing, building exploring, story telling, and eating. Incidentally, I was wrong. One of the men was an outstanding cook. The Guslar prepared the fish in so many different ways on that trip that none got sick of eating it. He had a bag of spices and refused to tell anyone what any of it was. I didn’t care; I just ate it up.
After dinner and around the campfire we played a game of sorts. The Guslar started the game; he called it Mujde. Billaad’s uncles knew this word. It was a word of the language of the people of Gomer. The Guslar knew many of the languages. Let me explain. As I have said before after the confusion at the tower of Babel each tribe (sons of 2nd generation patriarchs) spoke their own language. The 2nd generation patriarchs themselves, like Tiras and Gomer, together with Noah and his sons and all their wives spoke the first tongue. The speakers of the first tongue can’t learn any of the new languages and none of the 3rd generation and beyond can learn the first tongue. However, people can learn the individual tribal languages across tribal boundaries. This learning is difficult and some are more gifted than others but it can be done. All three of the brothers, sons of Ashkenaz, learned our tribal language for example. And, as we came to find out this night, the Guslar could speak many of them. It seemed there was no end to his bag of tricks.
In any case, Mujde is the building of a story one sentence at a time. The Guslar brought out a rock the size of a man’s fist. But this was no ordinary stone. It was what remained of a once larger crystal type structure that had been worked by chisel, sand, and polish so that it was smooth and shaped like the body of a fish, minus the tail fins. The stone was to be tossed about those present at the fire. Each time you held the stone you were to add one sentence to the story. If you dropped the rock, then you were out and could contribute no more. The crystal stone played with the light from the fire as it passed silently threw the air from man to man. It would glow a changing assortment of colors and so was easily traced through the dark night of our forest camp.
We played a few rounds that night and the stories were whimsical nonsense but they brought laughter to the group. One of the stories however seemed to have been put together with meaning. Guslar held the stone to start and it went like this:
Guslar: There once was a King, perfect and true.
Kimeril: His subjects were many and his lands vast.
Brother1: The power of this King was unsurpassed.
Guslar: His great throne was white; his judgments were right.
Crill: His laws were for good.
Kimeril: But they were misunderstood.
Billaad: There came one who lied.
Brother2: He said the King was not fare; did not care.
Grip: He said the law was a joke.
Billaad: He said don’t you want to be happy?
Crill: He said don’t get on your knees; do what you please.
Grip: Sadly the people listened.
Kimeril: They burned the King’s law.
Brother1: They scorned his judgments.
Brother2: They betrayed one another; sons, wives, brothers.
Kimeril: It seemed all was lost and the kingdom rewend.
Guslar: The King sent prophets to warn his subjects.
Crill: They would not listen.
Guslar: Chastening to instruct the people.
Billaad: They would not be corrected.
Grip: Were the people and kingdom so cherished by the King lost to the destruction of their own selfish ways?
At this point grip tosses the stone to Kimeril. It is a poor toss however and my dad can only get his finger tips on it and the stone is deflected right into the lap of Tiras. He has been sitting with us around the fire most of the evening and all during this story. It had been as unspoken rule that we would not toss the stone to him as he could not add a sentence to the tale and so doing would only bring him embarrassment. His quick reflexes reacted to the errant object and he snatched it cleanly form the air with one hand before, I am sure, he knew what he was doing.
Everyone was silent now. The pause lasted so long. Billaad and I looked at one another, gave our shoulders a slight shrug and made faces as it to say; what can he do? The other men made blank stairs at the ground, the fire or each other in an effort to escape the discomfort of the situation; all except Kimeril. He gazed into Tiras’s eyes with a hopeful expectation. His mouth hung slightly open and there was a hint of a smile on his mouth. I can remember thinking: “What is he waiting for? Does he actually think he is going to say something?”
It was a long time. Tiras would look at the rock in his hand and then at the men. He did this a few times. I wanted the Guslar to say something funny or break into some delivery that would end this awkwardness. I mean would we not speak again that night? Finally the Guslar shifted in his seat and opened his mouth to speak; but, at that very moment with my dad’s expectant eyes still on him Tiras burst to a standing position with his eyes lifted up above us to the canopy of tree limbs and beyond. Then he pointed with up stretched arm and extended finger as he lowered his gaze upon us at the fire. H started to speak. But it was not the grunts and stammer of a futile attempt to use our language. It was a fluent lament uttered in verse unrecognizable to us all, even the Guslar. It must have been first tongue. I had never heard anyone speak it before. It had a beautiful sound to it; kind a rhythmical.
Anyway Tiras went on for a bit, still pointing up while looking at us. Then he spoke for a while pointing up while looking at the rock in the other hand. Then he spoke with a kind of thunder in his voice as he brought his raised hand down and pointed at the rock. He then spoke softly as he cupped the rock in both hands and peered into its shape. He then spoke with anger in his voice and tears in his eyes as he continued to hold the cupped rock in his hand yet lifting it up a bit. He stared each of us down during this part of his display. The final part of his speech was softer but still tearful. He walked over to the fire and as he closed he lower the stone and then dropped it in the fire.
Tiras walked a ways off from the fire and the men and it was quiet again. Kimeril then got up and walked over and put his arm around his father. As we watched the crystal now in the fire glow a dark red, Billaad announced: “Now that was defiantly more than one sentence.” His statement and the quiet laughter that fallowed relieved the tension and the evening broke up into small talk, prayer, and good nights. I could here Tiras and Kimeril humming the tune to the bedtime song my dad sang to me as a kid. I determined to ask him about that in the morning.
The next day it rained. It was a pretty stiff rain too. Now I like fishing, but not in the rain. Most of the men were undaunted. They all spent at least part of the day angling for a catch.
Billaad and I spent the day in the tented shelters we had constructed for just such an occasion. We did not get a lot of rain but this was the season for it. Fortunate for our quest to understand the flood, the Guslar spent most of the day in the shelter as well. We went over to him as he sat working intently on some small object he was constructing out of this and that.
“What are you doing?” Asked Billaad. “I am making a lure to help catch the fish.” Responded the Guslar. “What’s a lure?” “Well it is supposed to look like an insect that has fallen in the water.” “Oh I get it. It attracts the fish so you can catch them.” “Correct young Billaad. You are an intelligent boy.”
“Crill. What is it you are pondering? The Guslar noticed I was looking out into the rain as it fell steadily. “I am wondering sir if this is the type of rain that flooded the earth when Noah built the ark. It is coming down pretty hard.” “The rain of the flood was a good bit harder yet but most of the water came when vast underground caverns full of water burst open. Much of the surface of the earth crumbled and the waters prevailed over it. It rained for forty days but the water prevailed upon the earth an hundred and fifty days.” “How do you know all this; even the number of days?” Billaad was somewhat skeptical. “I’ve spoken with Noah himself on the subject. He told me these things and more.” “You talked to Noah?” Now I was skeptical. “Nobody around here has even seen Noah since before the big confusion. Anyway he speaks the first tongue like Tiras. How could you understand him?”
“I knew Noah before the great confusion; before the tower. I knew him on the journey from the ark. My name is Elam, first born of Shem, eldest son of Noah. Noah spoke these things to me as we sojourned from the ark.” “Did you ever see the ark?” I asked. “No, my first memories are of the highlands [name] above the great plain of the two rivers.” “Let’s get back to the water. You say it prevailed 15 cubits above the tallest mountains. My uncles say that there are mountains where they are from that touch the sky. How could the water have been that high?” “Remember now Billaad, the mountains that exist now did not exist before the flood. In fact, most of the mountains your uncles are talking about did not even exist until recently. When I lived on the highlands as a small boy the mountains were nothing like they were on the journey through them after the great confusion. They must have formed between the end of the flood and the confusion.” “How did they form?” “That; I can’t tell you. All I can tell you is that they formed sometime in my lifetime.”
“What happened to all the water?” Billaad said unrelentingly. “Where do you suppose it went Billaad?” The Guslar sat back pausing in his work on the lure and put one hand on his knee and turned his head to one side. “I don’t know!” Snapped Billaad. “I don’t even know that it was ever here. You’re the one saying there was so much water. All I am asking is: If it was here and covered everything by 15 cubits, then where did it go? Did it just disappear?” One of Billaad’s uncles was in from the rain and overheard Billaad’s complaints. “Billaad!” He scolded. “you show respect when talking to your elders.” “I am sorry Mr. Guslar. I did not mean to be disrespectful. It is only that I hear all these different stories about who God is, where we came from, and how the world was formed. I get frustrated. I don’t know what to believe. I want to believe what you say about God and the flood but the part about all this water makes no sense to me.” “I forgive you Billaad.” The Guslar put his fist on his heart as he responded.
“Maybe the water went back into the caverns after the 150 days?” I posed. “Could be Crill, but the men who were there said that the water burst out of the caverns. This describes destructive forces over most of the surface of the earth. Say you take a bottle from your mom’s kitchen and fill it with water. If you pour the water out in to a large basin, then the water can be drained back it; but, if you burst the bottle open, then the water would explode out and the bottle would be destroyed; broken into pieces. Instead of draining back into the bottle the water would prevail over the broken pieces of the bottle in the basin.” “But that leaves us back to not having anywhere for the water to go.” Billaad moaned discouraged.
“What if it is still here?” Uncle interjected. “Interesting, what makes you say that uncle?” “Well, look out side.” He said. “There is quite a bit of water coming down from the clouds. How much is up there I wonder?” “This is a good point. Some, we don’t know how much, is in the clouds.” “The Sea of Ashkenaz holds a lot of water.” I added. “Yes, and how many seas are there in the world and how big are they?” “We don’t know any of that?” Billaad protested. “True but we do know that the Sea of Ashkenaz is not the only one and it is not the biggest. Both the Great Sea and the Caspian are much larger.” “Well then, if the water from the flood is in the seas then these low places must not have existed at the time of the flood.” Uncle concluded. “Correct! And, since the low places must have formed after the flood and the mountains formed also after the flood, then they must have formed at he same time and perhaps as a result of the same set of forces.” The Guslar was very exited now.
All of a sudden an idea came to me and I became exited with the Guslar. “Hey, each spring when I get a new matrass it is flat. The first few nights I notice that when I lie down on it some spots squish down easy and some squish down with more difficulty. Suppose after the flood the earth was like that and the water went to the places that squished down easy; would not that make the low places we see now in the seas?”
“Great idea Crill! I believe it would. Now, as you make the low place in your mattress, what happens to the rest of the mattress?” “It raises up.” “Yes, so at the end of the flood the earth squished down more in some spots. The water rushed to those spots making the seas. At the same time the earth’s surface was pushed up in other spots making the mountains. This must have been going on for the rest of the year that Noah was on the ark. This would have make the highlands of Ararat and the sea of Askenaz.”
“It could have gone on a long time afterward too. It could have made deeper seas and the mountains that touch the sky.” I added. Billaad was just staring down at the ground playing with his lips with the tips of his fingers. “Did you have any other questions Billaad?” Asked the Gusler. “No…, no not right now.” “I have one.” “What is it Crill?” “What did you make of the end of the story that Tiras gave last night?” We all had a bit of a snicker on our face with that question. Billaad could not help himself and let out a gafaa.
“It’s hard to say Crill. It seems to me, based on his gestures, that the King himself came down from his thrown and made some sort of ultimate sacrifice so that the people would be saved from themselves. But that is just a guess.” “But he could not have even known what the story was about.” “He should not have been able to I agree. But it seemed like he did. Hey, by the way, have a look at this.” The Guslar had dragged the crystal out of the embers with a long stick and washed it off. It was white as snow. All the varied discolorations were gone and it was solid white. “What happened to it!” I exclaimed. “I don’t know Crill, but passing through the fire seems to have completely changed the stone.” Responded the Guslar.