“Without an identity, without a purpose, without someone in my life who had a need for my presence, I felt no need to continue along the trek of life.” Elder’s voice is low, tinged with the sorrow that, I surmise, once filled it. Turning toward me, he locks his gaze on me, “You know what happened next.”
“I didn’t understand at first,” he continues, holding my look for a moment before facing the darkened sky. “Well, that’s not exactly true. I did understand, I just didn’t want to accept it. Mayta didn’t take my life. Instead, it was threatened. There’s a difference. When given a choice, when facing peril, a basic instinct within us takes over to survive at any cost. That flight from danger and seeing how close I came to leaving everything behind … it changed my life. It changed everything. Perhaps Mayta allowed my leg to be injured as punishment for doubting her. Perhaps it was simply an obvious way to show me how much I need others and in needing them, my heart has been reborn. Our time here is very short … too short to spend it destroying ourselves or bemoaning our lot in life.”
Elder slowly tilts his face upward so that his vision is filled with the multitude of stars. “There is something about you that invites hope,” he murmurs. “Perhaps that is why Mayta sent you to us. You had no parents and must have suffered at the hands of others in your youth and yet you remain inquisitive, thoughtful and full of life. I am the eldest here so others come to me for advice as though wisdom is gained simply by living long. Yet here I am telling you, a relative outsider, about my struggles with life and faith.” With a sigh, Elder drops his gaze, dragging his foot across the dusty ground in front of us. “What must you think of me — the leader of a tribe who is supposed to govern other tribes and yet, at one point, found it difficult to continue on with life?”
“Your struggles make you a better person,” I tell him. “I think you gained much wisdom in what you experienced. I don’t think you would be a good leader without going through what you did. I don’t think less of you at all.”
Elder nods and looks off into the distance. “I thought I couldn’t go on without my beloved and all the rest we’ve lost. I thought what I needed was to have them back. I didn’t realize that what I needed was something completely different. I didn’t realize that I needed someone who was willing to learn what I had to teach — to carry on after I’m gone. Someone who would demonstrate leadership qualities and wisdom, along with providing a sense of family.”
Elder sits back against the rock face. “You don’t plan on staying, do you?” he asks quietly as he steals a look my way.
I shake my head.
“When I talk with you, as we gaze across at the terrain, it feels as if I’m speaking with an equal, someone who has experienced as much in life as I have. Though, looking at you, I see someone full of life and yet, who appears uncertain about what to do or say. It makes me wonder where the vision lies and what conflict you must live in every moment. Do you know about resolve, Blin?”
I shake head again, unable to look away from watching him. When Elder turns toward me, I have a sense of foreboding, that whatever he tells me I will need to remember.
“It’s that determination that helps keep us focused on a task or purpose. When I lay at the bottom of the ravine, pained with every breath, I resolved to survive. I was going to return here and be a better leader than I had before. You hadn’t arrived yet to help me and still, I believed I could do it. I think you are familiar with resolve — it makes you continue on even after dealing with my son. It helped you survive all those years in the city. And, some day, it’s going to help you with a terrible struggle that you will face.”