Excerpt: Historical Novel, GATHERING WATERS--Read Now!
They want to worship as their hearts demand... but is it something they can give up everything for? Brianna has only ever been what her life demanded. A wife, a hostess, a mother. But when a stand her husband takes ostracizes them from the Lutheran church that controls so much of life in Sweden, Brianna finds herself needing to find a strength beyond her station...a strength that will see her through prejudice and persecution and to a home she never dreamed she would find. Based on the true story of the author s family s journey from Sweden to America, this sweeping saga paints the brilliance of new faith, the bravery of a new land...and the beauty of plunging beneath the waters and emerging a new person, capable of what one never thought one could do.
Here is an excerpt provided by Cara Luecht:
I could smell the river before I could see it. The air grew damp and the animal sounds changed. A hush fell over us as the horses slowed, and we strained to hear the hollow melody of Pia’s nyckelharpa. The wagon with Mark and Pia had gone on ahead of the rest of the group, so as we approached, the music of bow on strings, at first one with the sound of wind through the trees, diverged as separate instruments, with the wind accompanying the echoing notes. The song was a familiar hymn, calling us to come to the river that was Jesus. At the clearing, the horses and wagons split off, running east and west and spilling their inhabitants in a quiet stumbling to the edge of the water.
Pia sat on a large stone. Her right hand glided with artful precision up and down the humming strings; one note sustained to the next. Her left hand cradled the keys, hidden under the polished wood, almost motionless as they attended to the instrument. She loved the instrument as a mother loved the child whose hair she softly ran a brush through. The sun glimmered off the water, sending vibrations up to strings, through the bow and the bend of Pia’s arm. It was a pulsing, familiar cadence that surged with my blood to my fingertips, leaving a tingling expectation.
Patches of lavender flowers spilled to the river’s edge. They competed for dominance with the golden foliage that interrupted the living carpet in irregular patterns. We stood amongst the flowers. Some of the children sat. Pia played on, the sound reverberating in the cathedral of leafed-out trees. Birds flit from branch to branch, spots of brilliance amidst an impossible number of greens. The canopy fractured by the movement of white sun in an evolving ceiling of stained glass. Jakob stood with Mark, waist deep in the water. It rippled around their bodies, plastering their shirts to their chests. Jakob motioned for Anders to come forward. He was to be first.
He handed Hjalmer to me and bent to unlace his shoes. He pulled them off, walked to the water’s edge and stepped down. There was no shoreline, no sandy surface for him to sink into gradually and let the water inch up over the arches of his feet, then ankles, caressing calf and the sensitive area behind his knee. No, the carpet of tiny flowers ended where the water eroded their foothold, leaving those who chose to enter the water standing knee-deep in patches of yellow or lavender, and then with their first step over the edge, knee deep in the water. Fish scattered at the intrusion and crawfish scuttled under rocks and decaying branches.
It was quiet, except for the melodies floating from Pia’s fingers and the mumbled prayers of those who surrounded me. The words Mark and Jakob spoke over Anders before he covered his nose and was plunged under were words and prayers that remained a mystery to those of us on shore.
Elsa stood behind us with her eyes closed, and Liona sat amidst the flowers. Hjalmer had crawled into her lap. I had no idea if she would choose to be baptized today. As close as we were, she was always very quiet about anything that carried emotional weight. I said a quick, silent prayer for her and turned back to watch Anders be plunged down and come back up.
I could hear the water fall in sun-laden drops from his hair and elbows and hands; the pieces of prism in a rush to return to their stream home, interrupting the glassy surface in ever-expanding rings of light. Anders climbed back to dry land, back to his family, back to me, washed of his sins. I imagined them left crawling into the mud, dissolving at his feet and disappearing, hopeless, destined to fertilize the nutrient rich banks along the river. Our sins diminished to the duty of enhancing the beautiful things at the water’s edge; God’s creation, once again, fulfilling its purpose.
No one spoke. I wasn’t sure what I had expected, but Anders motioned for me to follow his path to the edge of the water. Suddenly, I was aware of the sounds I made: the small twigs snapping under my feet, the rustle of my skirts, my breathing. Astrid and another woman stood at the water’s edge and took my hands to support my first step into the cool water.
I wanted to shed my clothes, to feel the water rush up to my skin, unhindered by the trappings, but I took the next step and was submerged to knee, then thigh. Waist deep, the cool mud worked around my feet and rose in a cloud until the weight of the blessed water pressed it down again. The birds above were quiet, and I stilled to feel the fingers of water playing with my ribs and hear the old oak at the stream’s edge moan sweetly, the breeze rubbing one limb against the next, all to the time of the bow drawn across the instrument in Pia’s lap.
They prayed over me. Mark took my elbow, Jakob stood at my back, and I was not pushed or pulled into the water. Rather, I was drawn in, my nature losing the willful battle. Finally submerged, I understood.
My eyes flickered open to see the world turned upside down, the slow floating streams of light, the creatures swimming toward the yellow beams, and those hiding. The branches, once alive on a tree, were still alive underwater, but in a way they could have never imagined, and needed no less than when they were beautiful, pushing new foliage from their tips.
I saw my hand. For a second the warm light fell into my palm and danced there with a disturbed bit of leaf, and I knew. I knew my purpose, even if unseen, was not diminished by my ignorance.
Soft hands pulled me up. The sun, full, having a body of its own, shone on Mark’s hair and on the freckles spattered across his nose and on the backs of his hands. We stood together as one, gathered, as God gathered the waters. I climbed out, hands and knees on the bank, water dripping down my face, knowing it was not my duty to make my abilities an acceptable offering.
I only needed to surrender. God made me. He wanted me as I was. What I had to offer was irrelevant. As I climbed onto the shore, Astrid laid a warm blanket across my shoulders, and I turned to see Liona step into the river.
Everything was brighter. An iridescent beetle scurried up the stalk of a weed, rushing to a place of protection under a leaf. I walked to Anders’s side and stood as witness to our friends, our new family, as one by one they went under and crawled back to a new life on the shore.