[written by John B. in October 1988, before he was known as Jesus Crisis]




[me at about age 4]


 


* * * * * * *


 


Bannock Shoals Run




<O</O


<O</O


I believe that each one of us has a memory of some particular time and place in life that we value so immeasurably that we would accept no amount of treasure in place of it.  At least in my life there was and is such a place and time: Bannock Shoals Run, on a mountain in West Virginia’s <ST1<ST1Monongahela National Forest</ST1</ST1, in the autumn of 1984.<O</O


            I was born in the small town of Richwood, West Virginia and, after moving to <ST1Ohio</ST1 at the age of three, returned with my parents annually to visit dozens of relatives.  From my earliest recollections, I adored the trees, the wildlife and the intoxicating smell of lumber from the nearby mill.  But there was something particularly attractive and mysteriously enchanting about the cool, pure water that perpetually descended to the <ST1<ST1Cherry </ST1<ST1River</ST1</ST1 below from somewhere farther up than I had ever been.  As a child I believed the streams came from heaven, the pure tears of a happy God who looked down upon his creation and saw it was good.  However, at the wise old age of eighteen I had become much more cynical.  I believed no longer that a benevolent God could possibly exist, but was certain that when mortal life ended all was lost.  This filled me with despair and some very urgent questions.  Who was I?  Was there any purpose to life?  If not, then why would I want to continue living?  But for some reason unknown to me even to this day, I had a deep-seated belief that I could find the answers to these questions if only I could find the source of the mountain streams, the liquid life that was so soothing to taste, to listen to, and even just to gaze at.  If I found the source, I would know whether or not there was a purpose on earth or a heaven beyond.<O</O


            I borrowed a friend’s tent and at midnight sped away in my loud, rusty 1971 Dodge Coronet to <ST1West Virginia</ST1.  I wanted to be alone, so I did not visit my relatives or let them know I was nearby.  I got there very early in the morning and found a deserted old campsite about fifty miles northeast of Richwood at the foot of <ST1<ST1Turkey Mountain.  I was hungry and tired, but I felt too anxious to eat or rest, so I immediately began hiking up the mountain, without a thought of setting up camp.  The slope was very gradual at first, almost unnoticeable.  The air was crisp.  The rainbow of leaves overhead rustled out a coarse harmony that recalled to me the innocence and blessed naïveté of early childhood.  My cares seemed light-years away for the time being, as if they were just passing figments of my imagination, important only as long as they were my reality and irrelevant once they were seen with eyes unclouded.<O</O


            An indeterminate time passed, the incline grew steeper, but I did not notice.  The birds sang on and the trees continued to hum. Life went on in the four corners of the earth, but I was unaware.  Onward I went, oblivious to anything in the world below and around me.<O</O


            Darkness and rain were beginning to fall when I stumbled into the water.  I was standing in a small clearing, still some distance from the mountain’s highest point.  There was a pool of water, almost perfectly circular, about the size of the children’s wading pool I used to play in as a tot.  Nowhere could I see water flowing into it; but away from it flowed a toy train track of a stream, presumably downward to join with similar tracks, eventually forming Turkey Creek, the Cherry River, the Kanawha, Ohio, and Mississippi, growing greater and greater until reaching the Gulf of Mexico, whence it would someday return in the form of cloud cover and rains.  The source!<O</O


            Life is like the flow of water, I saw as the rain beat down upon the earth and me.  When it reaches the sea, seemingly the end of its flow, this is really only the beginning.  When the water evaporates and seemingly is gone forever, it returns.  And so it is with all things.  When a person dies, it is not the end of his life; he has left something of himself in his family, his friends and even his enemies.  This rivulet of his life in those he knew joins with the streams left by others, forming new rivers and a new sea.  Yet these new bodies of water are not so new; the river is always changing, but it is still the same river.  The names of people may change with the flow of generations, but the people remain.  The words we use to express emotion change, but emotion does not.<O</O


            Since Bannock Shoals Run, I no longer fear death for I know that I will live on in others I have known.  I see no end, only a continual flowing of life.  Thus there and then I found not only the source of the river, but also the source of understanding my existence.  Because of all this, my visit to Bannock Shoals Run stands out as the most valuable time and place of my life.