We had crossed over the border, evading the armed soldiers who patrolled the woods. At least, we assumed it was the border.
The lands in that wilderness were unmarked by any lines. Maps showed them, but we had lost ours days before in a windstorm. My fault, I admitted. You didn’t care.
We were following the tale about a lake where mountains plunged their roots deep under the icy water to dig for gems in the crushing earth, drawing them up through veins that glimmered when the sun lit the slopes.
“It should make a nice picture,” you said. But I had lost the camera too. Damn that skittish Arabian.
The last river we forded had a reputation — unknown to us — for surprising travelers with a surge of swirling mischief. Your horse handled it bravely. Mine spooked and tumbled me into the thieving current that carried off one of the packs.
We left both horses to graze in a meadow. I was happy to proceed on foot. You were sorry about the camera.
The next day we came to the lake.
Two towering jewel hunters stood by the water and rumbled as they worked their stony fingers far below. Vertical streaks on their sides glowed under dull rock. At their bases grew a thriving forest.
“This would have made a nice picture,” I said. You sighed.
The water itself glittered, hinting at treasures within reach. But we didn’t come for gemstones, we reminded each other as we explored the shoreline. No rubies, diamonds, sapphires or emeralds would tempt us away from our quest.
We had come there to know the unfathomable depths of a mountain’s desire. To let our minds follow their minds, in deeper still, where earth offers up the precious creations of its being.
Hours we spent in tune with stone and water, alive to the mineral joys that energized this sublime labor. We would not have traded that insight for all the jewels in the land. Memories of the day, we agreed, enriched us as no earthly riches could.
But when you weren’t looking I took a bright pebble I found beside the lake.