I am obsessed with waterfalls. When I lived in New Zealand, I traveled around both big islands, taking photos of as many waterfalls as I could find. Back in California, I hiked in the mountains to find the highest waterfalls. When I flew off to teach English in Turkey, I discovered Duden Waterfall–the best example of a waterfall in all its mysterious anatomy. I took photos from all angels, even from the cave behind the cascading water.
My children, Jonathan and Jessica, at a waterfall in Peele Forest, New Zealand
My fantasy novel “Selah of the Summit” tells of a slave girl from the desert who can only look at the distant, snow-covered mountains and imagine lakes and rivers. She must fetch water from a dusty, warm well and bring it to her evil Master. One evening, as she serves guests in the Great Hall, a stranger gives her a surprising gift and a promise of freedom. That very night Selah follows Micah out of the Keep, across the desert, and to the mountain’s edge. Thus begins Selah’s journey up the mountain to the Summit.
At the Summit, Selah finds the river’s source. In this scene, she jumps into the water and discovers something amazing:
Selah turned around and looked down at the spring bubbling out of the rock and into the river far below. She stared into the water, clear and cool. She could not see the bottom.
She knew what she had to do. Without hesitating, she dove into the river.
The living water, cool and clear, swirled around her body, cleaning all the weariness from her. Weightless, she drifted on its currents, down toward its endless depths.
It rippled in diamond-shaped patterns of light with rainbow edges. The patterns danced across her arms and hands as she stretched them in front of her. Bubbles floated around her, giving her air to breathe. All the way down Selah heard the river’s voice, words she could not repeat but would always remember.
A waterfall in Milford Sound, southwest New Zealand.
Just as she thought the current would carry her down forever, it caught her up again. But she did not immediately break through the barrier. For a moment she hovered beneath the river’s surface, staring at her mirrored reflection, hearing the Maker call her name.
“I am coming,” she replied as she burst through to the air.
When she emerged from the spring, she was not even wet. She felt lighter than when the current bore her. She walked effortlessly up the white granite steps back toward the Archway. Micah and Evergreen were no longer there.
Selah stepped alone into the Arch.
The last weight of the valley left her. She moved her arms as if through water, her steps slow and light. “I am coming,” she said again, as the Maker called her. His voice was music, the sound that sprung the universe to life, that caused the morning stars to sing together and the planets to spin on their perfect spheres. It filled her like sunrise. All her life as a slave, Selah held a void inside her, a blank space only her Maker could fill. Now she stood in his presence.
And she understood that he was love. And Micah’s love was but a single candle flame against a light beyond all stars. And Micah’s love was rare–one in millions–and blessed was she to find him. But, as all things human, it could be lost–even in the mountains, for a time–but found again in the source of all love, the presence of the Maker.
Why did you seek me?” she asked, kneeling. “I am not worthy of your Calling.”
Duden Waterfall in southern Turkey, at sunset
“Before you were born, I loved you,” he replied. “Before your body was formed in the secret place of your mother’s womb, I called your name.”
Selah lifted her open palms and, for the first time in her life, sang a song to the Maker:
“In your presence is fullness of joy;
at your right hand are pleasures forever–
I will sing to you a new song.
Arise! Shine! For your light has come.”
A cloud appeared around Selah, sparkling with light in each living particle that hovered in the air.
“I want to stay here forever,” she pleaded.
“You will,” he promised. “When your work in the desert is done.”
How long she stood inside the Archway, Selah did not know. It seemed forever in a moment. And in the next, her feet moved on their own, and she stepped away from the cloud to the center of the Arch. She looked up.
Stars shone above her, and she felt that she could fly to them like the winged Creatures that hovered above her. Behind the Creatures, behind the stars, she glimpsed a sea of clear glass that spread without limit. Above the sea stood a mountain higher than the Summit, and upon the mountain a city that glowed from within. Its walls were made of gems, and light spilled through emeralds, rubies, sapphires.
As Selah stepped beneath these sights, she felt as though she entered a place beyond space or time. She wanted to fly to the city on the highest mountain. But she knew she could not–yet. Her feet, almost against her will, continued moving.
On the other side of the Arch, her head parted another mirrored surface.
Micah was standing there, holding Evergreen. He reached out his hand. Selah grabbed hold of it and followed him to the other side of the Summit.
Read the rest of the story here:
For the cover of my book, I took a photo of where I lived in the California mountains east of Los Angeles. My teenage children, Jessica and Jonathan, still live there with my ex-husband. I haven’t seen them in 2 years and hope to sell enough of my books to make my own journey back to the Summit.
I dedicate this Blog to my Facebook friend Jane Kelly Durham who died of cancer last month. Surely she has stepped inside the waterfall!