|Splash! it has started
The country was arid and dry. Mountains on the west, endless expanses of useless land, barren, spread in the other directions. The trees survived because of the subterranean wells, and their foliage was luxuriant.
The people of the land ate the fruit, leaves and bark of the multiple varieties of trees growing there. They raised several types of small animals which could subsist on the same diet so that they had a small meat supply also. Naturally, they dug wells for drinking water and for daily use, but it was a rare commodity.
The only way to be water rich was to wait for the rain to fall. The population had ingenious systems of collecting water in barrels constructed from the hardest of woods. And some years it rained five days in the summer months; other years it rained a week in the spring months.
This year summer had gone already. To the oldest members it seemed an exceptionally doomed season, for at the end of the warmest period, no moisture had yet fallen.
The community's shaman had been in a quandary for many weeks, having read the signs in the sky and in the bark of one of his most useful trees that the year would be an exceptionally dry one. He decided that it was necessary to leave his people and go consult the ancient ones on the Sacred Mountains.
His absence would frighten many of his people; but his disciples could handle the majority of daily ills and insecurities that they would feel in his absence.
It was decided he go on foot, with the smallest of his sacred drums, his smoking pipe and his ceremonial herbs for invoking and calming the ancients when he spoke to them.
The shaman had been in a trance for the last three days. He had chosen a place high on the Furthest Mountain To The North, an isolated and very secret sacred place of power where the trees grew crooked and where there was water to drink. In time his disciples would learn of the importance of this location, but it was not yet the moment for any of them.
This mountain was many days distant from civilization, but it was hospitable, being greener than below, for there was always mist in the morning due to the extreme daily temperature changes. There was a fine covering of moss on most of the rocks and although the earth was no richer than that of the plains below, the moss had its uses.
He understood the idea of micro-climate, explaining to himself why on the vast plains of his people there was no rain. But there certainly had to be a way of bringing the rain from the mountains two thousand meters lower. That was the object of his meditation: to ask the ancestors if there had always been this difference between the two climates.
He had already gone back twenty generations, beating his drum reverentially to calm the ancient ones before asking for their wisdom. He would go back ten more generations, if needed. The solution was there, hidden for a great reason, but it was in his power to find it. He would not, indeed he could not disappoint his people.
The shaman had been absent in retreat for ten days. His arrival was heralded by all the population, but they found it strange that he was returned his arms laden with green moss. The moss had never left the sacred mountains. It was thought only a tool of the shaman, to assist his meditation, to be used in the making of medicinal remedies.
"The ancients have spoken to me."
"Tell us, oh shaman, what is the secret of bringing the rain."
"It is the moss which brings the mists in the mountains. The water thus falling from the warm daylight into the cold night air is trapped by the green moss, thus helping it to proliferate on the mountain."
"The ancestors of ten generations had no answers. The ancestors of twenty generations had no answers."
"Oh shaman! This is distressing news. Did they answer your calls?"
"Yes my friend, but the secret has been well guarded for many seasons. After thirty-five generations, an answer appeared as clear as the full moon."
"Will you tell us this answer, shaman?"
"Tomorrow I will take ten men to the mountain, bringing back more moss, collecting it delicately so as not to disturb nature's balance on the mountain".
"The moss I have already brought here must be revered. It represents our salvation. Keep it humid, but not dripping, with well water, and place it where it receives only the morning light."
Two more weeks of aridness passed until the collection of the moss was completed. Men women and children alike took part, taking turns drawing water from the deep wells, and then in watering the sacred moss. They knew instinctively the importance of community work and the forthcoming rewards promised by the shaman who would be proud of their dedication.
Large flat stones from the Sacred Blue Mountain had also been carried, using donkeys and camels to drag large baskets suspended on logs made for hauling the heavy stones. At the request of the shaman, they were transported to the Ceremonial Circle, the large open space surrounded by Silver Elm Bay trees. It was not a sacred place, though one which was purified regularly with sage smoke for use in all the community ceremonies. It was at this spot where he instructed his disciples to assemble concentric rings alternating with the Sacred Blue Stones and patches of green moss. There were enough stones so that each member of the population had a stone to stand behind.
The principle of the ceremony he was to recreate through the Most Ancient Wise One's guidance was simple: the large stones kept the day's heat, the moss remained fresh because of its water content. So, the nearness of the warm stones would produce even more condensation, and at the peak of the night, The Mist from the Mountains would occur.
"The full moon arrives in three days. I will teach a new sacred chanting, revealed by our Most Ancient Wise Ones."
The new chanting was taught first to the disciples, then, when the words and rhythm were properly learned, they taught to the heads of each household, men and women alike. The last step was to teach the song to the children, and even those too small to sing properly would beat their hands together or on their thighs in the rhythm the shaman taught.
Naturally, the population was agitated during this waiting period. Children whispered together the ancient words of the new prayer song, unsure of the meaning of the archaic tongue. Men and women went about their daily business, calmly but often looking to the sky as if to reassure themselves that the full moon was truly part of the season. But all had faith in the shaman and the wisdom of the most revered ancient ones.
His secret calculations made, the shaman summoned the population to the Ceremonial Circle at one hour before midnight. The full moon would happen on their horizon just after the first hour of the new day.
In the center of the concentric green and alternating rings, he stood in his finest ceremonial attire. Behind every Sacred Blue Stone, stood a member of the community, young or old. All were dressed with respect for such an important event
He instructed everyone to participate in the singing, the chanting and the rhythmic drumming, although only he used a proper drum. No one was to tire themselves, resting when they started to have hoarse voices. He explained that the ceremony might last six or seven hours, and the object of the entire population participating in the ceremony was to have at all times a multitude of voices chanting the prayer for rain.
The song which was raised was more beautiful then the most elegant of bird song, more poignant than the wind's secrets.
As the third hour of the new day approached, the mist started to form. At first there were tiny drafts of wetness which inspired laughing praise from the children, who thought they were witnessing a miracle. The general surprise assured the shaman that everyone would continue chanting with renewed vigor, in spite of their fatigue, until the ceremony was completed.
Several minutes after the fourth hour of the new day, there was a surprised cry.
"Listen brethren! Quickly stop your chanting." It was the head tool-maker who spoke the excited command. The shaman knew what to expect but not where it would happen. Five minutes later everyone heard the second sound.
"It has started," declaimed the shaman.
"Splash, is has started", everyone exclaimed as the rain splashed the first enormous drop onto his or her Sacred Blue Stone.
The next morning, after the first meal, which was postponed so that people could sleep, the shaman spoke again to his followers who continued to marvel at the wetness on the ground.
"When I was absent on the Sacred Mountain, I learned from The Most Ancient Of Ancestors that in former times, our people crossed the mountains in order to exchange our Sacred Blue Mountain Rocks for seeds to grow nourishment."
"But that is sacrilege" cried many, not only the eldest.
"No, it is no longer sacrilege. We have the responsibility to begin a new era for our people, and we must think not only of ourselves but of our future generations. This is why we will send a party of men and women bearing our most precious gifts to learn from the People On The Far Side Of The Mountains how they plant their seeds in order to also nourish our population."
"We have learned to bring the rain. The rain will bring other things which grow."
"We must have faith."
And it was done.