For this Earth Day, a brief passage from Chapter 3 of A New Eden, Part II of Idolatry:

*****
The sun had risen high. The breeze was warm on their faces. Ian produced a bottle of chilled white wine and two glasses, removed the cork, and poured. He raised a toast.

“To another day in paradise.”

She touched her glass to his. They drank, the sunbeams reflecting off the wine and the glasses, dancing across their faces, splashing in their eyes. The wine was crisp, light and good.

“Paradise . . .” she mused aloud.

He had used the word without a trace of sarcasm or irony. The dry ruins beneath their feet, the surrounding hills, and the alkali flats were predominantly in chalky browns, yellows and whites. The sparse native vegetation was all of the scrubby, hardier varieties, evolved over the eons to survive the long droughts, blazing summers and freezing winters of the high desert. From the reservoir, her eye followed the river, the presumable source of all things green in the valley proper. There were bends in the river’s line, but other segments were unwaveringly straight – it wasn’t a natural river at all, but a manmade canal.

“Paradise – ” She smiled at the epiphany – “just add water.”

Ian had laid out an offering of cheese, olives, fruit, and finger sandwiches. “When the first explorers came through this way,” he said, pausing to sample a strawberry, “the valley was a desolate wasteland. There was hardly a reason to even note it on the maps. Most of the early settlers passed north of here, following the Humboldt River west. The few who detoured this far south saw little if anything to recommend the valley – they barely paused on their way to California.”

Paige watched his eyes. They were shaded by the brim of his cowboy hat, following the lay of the land with an easy acceptance and steady intent. His body was relaxed, at one with the place, as if he too had sprouted from the earth here, watered and grown by the river that was a canal. She followed his gaze, trying to imagine the unwelcoming, harsh emptiness that the valley must have been.

“But one man came,” he said, “and that man stood alone on the top of this hill, above where we are now. He envisioned a paradise in this place – and proceeded to make it so.”

There was solemnity in his voice. Paige set her glass quietly on the stone. “Do tell. . . .” she urged.

He glanced at her, studying her in the same steady way he studied the land. Adjusting his hat, he took a bite of an olive, followed it with a sip of wine, and looked out to the horizon and beyond.

“At the time, that man wasn’t even a man yet – ” he said, letting the story begin – “but a boy.”

***

Enjoy the acclaimed IDOLATRY series in paperback, audiobook, and ebook ~ https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B072HTC1FV

 

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