Well, maybe not sleeping on the ground, but at least seeing landscapes and wildlife in their grandest form; as they appear naturally.
As a child, I remember hiking in the wilds of the Colorado Mountains, swimming in icy streams, and eating hotdogs cooked over burning logs. I often imagined what it would be like to hunt for food and build a shelter from fallen logs.
Yes, like those fairytales that romanticize the Middle Ages, for me, camping romanticizes the pioneer spirit. I’ve always believed I could fend for myself quite well, given the need.
As I grew older, I became aware of how difficult it is to find a rabbits or deer in their natural habitat. There are also dangers I scarcely thought of as a child…
Using a leather thong, Naturi tied a rough hide to the log with the speed and precision of one who’d done this many times before. Picking up another hide, Naturi looked up in time to see the mountain lion slinking through the thick trees, headed in the direction of Trep and Kairma. Racing across the small clearing, he grabbed his bow from the back of his horse. Dropping to one knee, he pulled an arrow from the quiver on his back and notched in the string. Before he could raise the notched arrow, the mountain lion changed its direction of attack, and Naturi was pulled over, long sharp claws raking his left arm. He curled into a tight ball in an effort to roll away from the attack, but the tawny cat had other plans. In a flurry of pinecones and fallen aspen leaves, the two adversaries churned the dirt and pine needles with blood. As sharp pain blistered down his back, Naturi could hear the anguish in Kairma’s voice as she screamed his name. He mentally pleaded with her to run before the cat could finish him off and renew his attack on her.
Dropping the soggy waterskin, Kairma jumped up to help Naturi, but Trep’s firm hand grabbed her by the arm and momentarily held her back. Blinded by tears, she threw Trep’s arm aside and raced across the short stretch of pine needles, screaming Naturi’s name. Before Trep could get past Kairma to fire his karrack, the mass of fur and bloody meat lay still.
On her knees, Kairma brushed the leaves and dirt away from Naturi’s beautiful face. A long claw mark ran from his ear down his jaw like a violent caress. Feeling his bloody neck for a pulse, afraid of what she would find, she openly prayed to the only gods she knew. “Oh, Nor. Please don’t let him die. He was promised to me. He’s the one I’m supposed to be with when I’m old and gray like Isontra. He can’t die. If there is a god in heaven, don’t let Naturi give his life for me like so many others have. Not sweet, gentle Naturi. Please, Nor, not him too.”
It was more burden than she could carry. She trembled as her fingers slid to his throat, and felt the rapid beat of his heart. Sucking in a ragged breath because she hadn’t dared to breathe since the moment she saw the cat pounce, she began to tear her tattered shirt off to stanch the blood flowing from Naturi’s left arm where three claws left deep gashes in his hard muscles. Before she could get the shirt off, someone handed her a piece of Madic cloth, and looking up her eyes met Kinter’s. The girl had had the good sense to grab the med kit before leaving the horses.
Kairma gently tried to pry Naturi’s clenched fingers, his knuckles white, from the arrow jammed into the neck of the large cat. There was so much blood everywhere that she couldn’t assess his wounds, and the tears in her eyes didn’t improve her ability to see. Watching Kinter work rapidly to close the deepest wounds as she found them, Kairma was grateful they had taken the time to boil antelope gut while mourning for Siede.
Naturi opened his eyes. Looking up at Kairma, he asked, “Are you okay?”
“Am I okay? Am I okay! Naturi, don’t you ever do that again. It almost killed you. What were you thinking?”
Naturi swallowed back pain. “It was not my choice. The mountain lion was about to attack you and Trep, so I tried to shoot it. It turned on me before I could set my arrow.” He spit out the blood mixed with Kairma’s salty tears that had run into his mouth as he spoke.
“I’m just so glad you’re alive. I was so sure …” Kairma couldn’t finish the sentence. She was quivering with a mixture of fear and elation.
Naturi’s smile looked more like a grimace. “I am tougher than I look.” He reached up to wipe the tears from her check and left a streak of blood on her pale skin.
She grabbed his hand and held it tight, pressing it to her cheek. “I know you are.” She laid his hand down and helped Kinter clean another deep scratch on his chest.
All this time, Kinter had said nothing. She tended Naturi without emotion, each move confident and precise. As they worked, Kairma remembered her outspoken prayers and was surprised by the intensity of her feelings toward Naturi, at the possessiveness she felt at the thought of losing him. Her hands were shaking again, but this time it was from fear of her own feelings.
Excerpt: The Healing Crystal, Book Two, Fall of Eden [MORE]
When you plan your encounter with nature, remember, nature doesn’t always plan for you.
Happy Hiking and have a wonderful August!