Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman
Powers of Healing
by Debby K
"But, Michaela," Sully stood outside their locked bedroom door trying to reason with his wife.
"You can sleep downstairs!" she quickly opened the door and threw a blanket and pillow at him.
"But what did I do?" he was clueless.
"It's not what you did," her voice shook with anger. Then she slammed the door again, "It's what you didn't do!"
Brian and Matthew stood at their respective doorways listening with gaping mouths. Their parents rarely fought. This was not exactly a fight. The boys were not sure what it was, but their concern was growing over their mother's strange behavior and outbursts of anger during the past two weeks. So was Sully's.
Michaela had been quiet through dinner, hardly touching her meal. Earlier in the day, she had snapped at Brian to do his chores, yelled at Matthew for leaving his law books spread around the living room, and even rebuked little Katie for playing with her food. Now this.
Sully sighed in frustration, "Go ahead, an' turn in, boys. Your Ma an' me will work things out."
"What's wrong with her, Pa?" Brian was uneasy.
"I don't know," Sully dropped his blanket and pillow to the floor.
Brian and Matthew closed their doors, leaving Sully to stand alone in the hallway. He tiptoed to the nursery to see that Katie had not wakened.
Rubbing her back, he whispered, "Your Ma's upset about somethin', Kates. Wish I knew what."
When he returned to the bedroom door, he could see through the slit under it that Michaela had turned down the lamp. He shook his head. He could go down to sleep by the living room fireplace, or he could take action and find out what was wrong with his wife. He chose the latter.
Sully descended the stairs. Opening the front door, he walked out onto the porch, then climbed up to its roof. Gingerly, he made his way over to their bedroom window. It took little effort to jiggle open the window, and in he climbed.
Suddenly he felt the force of an object crash down upon his head. Michaela, fearful of an intruder, had struck him with her shoe.
"Ouch!" he reached for the sore spot. "Michaela, it's me!"
Her arm was poised ready to strike again when she recognized his voice, "Sully? What are you doing?"
"Tryin' t' find out what's wrong with ya," he rubbed his head.
She swiftly lit the lamp, "Come here and let me see your head."
He sat on the edge of their bed, "I'm glad ya didn't have the rifle up here."
"Serves you right for frightening me like that," she examined the affected part of his scalp.
Reaching for her medical bag, she applied an ointment to his injury.
Sully's tone softened, "Thanks. That feels better."
There was no reply from her.
"Michaela?" he reached out for her hand.
She turned away and went to stare into the fire. Silhouetted against the flickering light, he could see her blossoming figure through her nightgown. He felt a surge of desire for his wife, but quickly set it aside. She had been in this peculiar mood for so long. They had not made love. They had barely even communicated. He stood and walked to her.
Placing his arms on her shoulders, "Michaela, what's wrong? Is it somethin' I did or didn't do? Somethin' I forgot?"
The touch of his warm hands on her was calming, "No. It's not you. It's me."
"Can't ya tell me?" his voice begged.
"I don't know," she burst into tears. "I can't sleep. I cry at the drop of a hat. I feel such turmoil and irritability. I snap at you and the children."
Sully turned her around to face him. With his thumbs, he began to wipe her tears.
"I love ya," he smiled. "I figure it's just the baby makin' ya feel like this. It'll pass."
"I've been behaving abominably," she wanted to hold him.
Reading her mind, Sully pulled her closer, "I still love ya."
"Oh, Sully, I love you, too," she threw her arms around his neck. "I don't know how you put up with me."
"Put up with ya?" he smiled. "I couldn't live without ya, Michaela. Ya know that."
"I'm afraid I don't know anything anymore," she lay her head against his chest.
With his wife's body tucked against his, Sully could feel her belly. Over five months along in her pregnancy, Michaela had experienced few ill effects until this. He reached his arms around to her back and slid them up and down her tense muscles.
"Yes, ya do," he spoke low. "Ya know lots o' things. Ya know 'bout medicine. Ya know that we got a beautiful family. An' ya know that ya got a husband who'd do anythin' for ya."
His soothing words and gestures were getting to her, "I don't deserve any of this. Mother said I would never find a husband if I pursued a man's career."
"Humm," he kissed her temple. "I don't look at what ya do as a man's career. I think bein' a doctor's a career for people who care about others. Don't matter if you're a man or a woman."
She looked up into his eyes, "You're a very unique man, Byron Sully."
"Nah," he smiled. "Just a man who wants t' see a smile right here," he touched the corner of her lips.
Michaela turned up her mouth in a coy smile.
"That's more like it," he grinned. "That's my Michaela."
"Your Michaela," she repeated the phrase.
"Mind if I think o' ya that way?" he continued to rub her back.
"No, I don't mind," she replied. "It's how I think of myself."
"Good," he raised his hands to caress her neck. Then, leaning toward her, he recited:
"My hope, my hap, my love, my life, my joy"
"Even when I yell at you and hit you over the head, you think to recite poetry to me?" she was embarrassed.
"Du Bartas inspired me," he brushed back a lock of her hair from her face.
"Oh, Sully," she shook her head. "I'm so sorry."
He gently kissed her, "Ya better get some rest now." He guided her to the bed, then asked, "Mind if I join ya?"
Michaela pulled down the cover on his side of the bed and patted the mattress, "Please do."
Sully quickly opened the door to retrieve his pillow and blanket, then slipped out of his buckskins and climbed into bed beside her. The feel of the cold sheets contrasted with the warmth of her body. Michaela lowered the lamp again, then rolled onto her side to face him. Sully propped his head on his hand as he lovingly touched her face.
She took his hand in hers and kissed his fingers, "I've missed our tender moments together, just the two of us."
"Me, too," her movements were stirring him. "Michaela, ya know where this is leadin'?"
"I certainly hope so," her voice was provocative.
"Do ya feel like doin' this?" his passion was being fueled. "I mean, it's been awhile."
"It's been too long," she maneuvered closer to him and placed her hand on his waist.
The feel of her touch on his skin caused his blood to race. She sensed his reaction and made further invitation with her caresses. Sully closed his eyes, not wanting the sensations to end. Michaela kissed him until he could remain idle no longer.
Sully gently pushed Michaela onto her back and with the lightest of touches, inflamed every nerve in her body. How could each have gone without the other for so long? So much time in which they need one another, but spent without the reassuring expression of their physical love?
"Sully," her lips brushed across his ear.
The sound of his name, spoken by the voice that he loved, triggered a passionate desire in him. Sully tenderly repositioned his wife to consummate their longing. When it was complete, their incredible fulfillment was palpable. He buried his kisses in her neck, shoulders, chest.
Michaela held the sides of his head, half guiding, half hoping where his lips would go next.
"How ya feel?" he made circles on her belly.
"Wonderful," she sighed.
"Good," he pulled her into the cocoon of his embrace. "I don't want ya frettin' anymore. You're safe an' loved. No need t' go lockin' me out again."
"I'm sorry I did that," she looked down.
He teased, "Sometimes I gotta work hard t' remind ya what ya mean t' me."
He felt her body relax in his arms. She was falling asleep. He stroked her hair and felt the baby tucked against him. His hand found his way down to her abdomen, where he tenderly rubbed the mound where his child was growing. He would have to tell her about the telegram he had received from the government tomorrow. Tonight, he had brought his wife back from her melancholy, and he wanted to think of nothing more. Soon, sleep claimed him, as well.
Michaela was having the nightmare again. She had not told Sully about it. She couldn't. In the recurring dream, she is in labor, then... something goes wrong. She clings to life long enough to hold the infant, then everything goes black. In the darkness, she hears Sully screaming, crying for her to come back to him. She sees herself rising from her body, looking down on him. He is holding the baby, tears streaming down his face.
Michaela was awakened before dawn by the sound of crying. It was Katie. She quickly sat up, rising from the bed as quietly as she could, but her movement roused Sully from his first restful sleep in days.
"What's wrong?" he yawned.
"It's Katie," she was still shaken from her dream.
"I'll get her," he donned his buckskins and headed for the door.
Michaela sat up, pulled on her robe and lit the lamp as Sully carried their daughter into their bedroom.
"What's wrong, Sweetheart?" Michaela pulled back the covers for the child.
Cradling her in his arms, Sully stroked her fair hair, "Did ya have a bad dream, Kates?"
"Mama yellin'," she played with a lock of his hair.
Michaela felt terribly guilty, "I'm sorry, Sweetheart. I didn't intend to be so mean lately."
"Not mad at me?" she put her finger in her mouth.
"Never, Katie," Michaela reached out to her. "I could never be mad at you. I love you."
The little girl crawled into her mother's arms and hugged her tightly. Michaela closed her eyes and felt tears well up. Then she glanced at Sully, who gave her a reassuring smile.
He cleared his throat, "Michaela, there's somethin' I gotta tell ya."
"What?" she stroked her daughter's head.
"I got a telegram from the U.S. Geological Survey yesterday," he tried to gauge her reaction.
"You have to leave?" her voice faltered.
"It's a lot o' money," he reasoned. "I figure we can use it with the baby comin'."
She was silent. Katie had fallen back to sleep in her mother's arms.
"Are ya okay?" he touched her arm.
"I'm fine," she tried to sound brave. "When must you leave?"
"T'morrow," he replied. "Should be gone a few days, maybe a week."
"I see," she hugged Katie.
"I was thinkin' maybe Brian would like t' come along," he rubbed his daughter's back.
"I'm sure he would love the adventure," she agreed.
Sully felt a distance descend between them as they continued to talk.
"I wanna be sure Matthew can be around though, 'fore I ask Brian," he mentioned.
There was no response from her.
"I'll take Katie back t' her room," he stood and lifted the little girl.
When he returned, Michaela was standing by the window, looking up at the stars. Sully went to her and looped his arms around her. She leaned back against his chest and sighed. He rubbed her belly.
"Seems like I'm always havin' t' say goodbye," his heart was heavy.
She rested her hands on his, "It's your job, Sully."
He leaned toward her neck and planted sweet kisses on her soft skin, "Ya smell good."
She turned up the corner of her mouth in a smile, "The boys will be up soon."
"I know," he began to kiss her ear.
She was melting at his touch, "I'll miss you so much, Sully."
"I ain't gone yet," he turned her around to face him.
She ran her fingers through the hair at the base of his neck, "Perhaps I can persuade you to stay home."
"Ya can sure try," he grinned.
She lightly caressed his chest, then lowered her hands to undo his buckskins.
He gulped, "Ya ain't gonna use this t' try t' persuade me, are ya?
"Use what?" she seductively tugged at his pants, and they fell to the ground.
Sully stepped out of them and lowered his hands to undo her robe, "This."
He pulled her snugly against him, feeling every ripening curve of her body. Michaela had been embarrassed at her figure when she was first expecting Katie, but Sully had assured her that she was more beautiful than ever to him. With this baby, she needed no reassuring. His touches told her everything.
He scooped Michaela into his arms, as his hungry mouth found hers. Carrying her to their bed, he gently placed her on the sheets. He softly caressed her, then gently placed his body next to her.
She rolled onto her side to face him, lovingly resting her palm on his cheek. Sully continued to work his magic touches along her shape.
"I cannot live without you," her voice quivered.
"Ya don't have to, Michaela," he was puzzled by her statement. "Ya know I'll come home t' ya as soon as I can."
Framing his face between her hands, she began to kiss him with greater urgency. Her movements elicited an overwhelming reaction in him, and soon they gave in to their appetites. The incredible satisfaction that they derived filled both of them with ecstasy.
"Oh, Sully," she was overcome with emotion. "Why do I feel this way?"
"'Cause you're expectin' a baby," he ran his hand in circles around her belly. "An' cause I just told ya I have t' be leavin'."
"Perhaps," she pulled his arm around her.
Sully adjusted the blanket higher, "Sun's comin' up."
"So I see," she linked her fingers in his. "What does your job entail this time?"
"I gotta be a guide for Ferdinand Hayden, William Henry Jackson an' their expedition t' find the Mountain of the Holy Cross," he said. "Their work's responsible for Congress creatin' Yellowstone. I figure maybe this will help 'em start another park."
She smiled with pride, "Protecting the land we love."
"The land for our children," he caressed her stomach.
"I can hardly ask you to not go then," she sighed.
"Would ya ask me t' not go?" he ran his finger along her chin.
"No," she shook her head. "This is more important than your fat wife's missing you."
He slid his finger to her lips, "Ya ain't gettin' fat. You're.... full."
"Full?" she wryly asked. "Full of what?"
"Full o' love," he amended. "Full o' our baby, an' full o' beauty."
The stampede of their sons descending the stairs interrupted their poignant moment.
"Sounds like some hungry boys," he stood up to dress. "Why don't ya sleep a little longer?"
"I'll be down soon," she squeezed his hand.
"See ya then," he was out the door.
She lay back on her pillow and glanced down at the rise of her tummy.
"At least I can still see my toes," she said to herself. Then cupping her abdomen in her hands she spoke to the baby, "Your Papa must leave us for a few days."
She suddenly felt a movement. The baby had responded to her voice. She sighed heavily. She would busy herself at the Clinic, teach Katie new things, somehow occupy her time so that she would not feel the pain of his absence. And hopefully, not to have that dream again.
"Who am I fooling?" she again spoke to herself. "I won't be able to keep my mind off of him." Then the thought crossed her mind, "Why not go with him? I climbed Pikes Peak...." Reality hit her, "But I wasn't pregnant then."
As Sully returned to check on Katie, he heard Michaela's voice emanating from their bedroom. He paused at the door to listen.
Sully continued to eavesdrop as Michaela spoke to their unborn child.
"Your father said he'll return in a few days, and he's a man of his word," she rubbed her hands lovingly along the mound of her abdomen. "Perhaps the government will accede to his efforts and preserve more land for your future."
She felt the movement again, "I do believe you're trying to tell me something, little one."
Realizing that Michaela was reacting to the baby's motion, Sully crept into the room, "Is she movin' around?"
"HE is moving, yes," she looked up and smiled.
Sully sat on the edge of the bed and placed his hand where she guided it.
"Speak to him," she whispered.
"What'll I say?" he wondered.
"Whatever is in your heart," she smiled.
Sully pondered what to say, then leaned closer to her belly, "Your Ma says you're a boy, so I'll tell ya that I want ya t' be good for her while I'm away. Take care o' yourself, an'...."
He paused to look into Michaela's eyes, "An' know that I love ya."
The reaction was immediate. He felt the movement of the baby and widened his eyes in wonder. For an instant, he looked exactly like Katie, Michaela thought.
"Sure is active," he kept his hand on the spot.
"I know," she lovingly touched his cheek.
"I'll take this memory with me on the trip," his voice was soft.
Then taking both of her hands in his, he recited:
"I'll hear thy voice of melody
In the sweet whispers of the air;
I'll see the brightness of thine eye
In the blue evening's dewy stare;
In crystal streams thy purity,
And look on Heaven to look on thee."
She felt tears on her cheeks, "That was lovely."
"George Darley," he cited the poet.
"Tell me more about this mountain," she sat up.
Sully walked to his night stand and picked up a piece of paper, "This here's a description written in 1869 by Samuel Bowles in a book called 'The Switzerland of America':
'The snow fields lay in the form of an immense cross, and by this it is known in all the mountain views o' the territory. It is as if God has set His sign, His seal, His promise there--a beacon upon the very center and height o' the Continent t' all its people and all its generations.'"
"It sounds magnificent," she pulled on her robe. "Where is it?"
"West o' Denver," he folded the paper. "Hayden wants t' find the mountain, an' Jackson wants t' get a picture."
"Have you ever seen it, Sully?" she was curious.
"Nope," he shook his head. "Heard stories 'bout it though. Some people believe it has powers o' healin'. Ya can only see the cross two or three months out o' the year when the mountain top ain't totally covered with snow."
"That's fascinating," her analytical mind was captured.
"Some folks say, the closer ya get, it disappears," he informed her.
"Did you speak with Brian about accompanying you?" she asked.
"Yep," he nodded. "He wants t' go, an' Matthew's gonna stay nearby in case ya need anythin'."
"Good," she put her arms around him. "We'll be fine."
"Brian an' me are goin' int' town t' get supplies. Want us t' wait for ya?" he began to wash his face.
"No," she went to the door. "I'm going to stay home with Katie today."
"Ya feelin' all right?" he recalled her mood of the past two weeks.
"Yes," she smiled. "I think I need to spend some time with our daughter. She doesn't understand my shifting moods."
"Good idea," he came to her and put his hand on her back.
The terror of her dream returned when she felt his hand on her. She shivered.
"Michaela?" he was troubled. "What's wrong? Are ya cold?"
"Sully," she turned and embraced him. "I need to ask you something."
"What?" he was concerned at her tone.
She pulled back and looked into his eyes, "If something were to happen to me, would you...."
"Michaela!" he interrupted her. "What're ya talkin' about? Nothin's gonna happen t' ya."
"Please let me ask this," she urged. "If something were to happen to me, would you... Would you marry again?"
Sully turned away and leaned on the bedpost. Michaela went to him, placing her hand on his shoulder.
He swallowed hard, "Why're ya askin' this? Is there somethin' ya ain't tellin' me?"
"No," she shook her head. "It's just that I need to know."
He turned to face her, his eyes reddened by the thought of it.
He took a deep breath and spoke, "Michaela, why is this somethin' ya need t' know?"
"For Katie and the baby," she replied. "I need to know that our children would have a mother."
"Don't talk like that," his voice shook.
"I'm sorry," she looked down.
"Katie needs her Ma," he calmed his voice. Then placing his hand on her abdomen added, "So's this baby. Please don't ever say ya ain't gonna be here for us."
She was silent. He lifted her chin with his finger.
"Promise me ya won't go thinkin' about this again," he requested.
Her only reply was to wrap her arms around his neck. He kissed her cheek. Katie chose that instant to call for her mother. Both parents entered the nursery.
"Good morning, Sweetheart," she lifted the little girl.
"Mama," Katie's face beamed. "Ya feelin' good?"
"I'm feeling fine," Michaela smiled. "How would you like it if you and I spent the day together?"
"No sick people?" the child wondered.
"None," she replied. "We'll have a grand time."
"Good!" Katie grinned her father's smile.
"I'll see ya later, Kates," Sully touched her nose.
Sully was deeply disturbed all day, as he and Brian prepared for their journey. Michaela's question was haunting him. While he and his son were loading the wagon, Sully spotted Cloud Dancing coming from the Gazette office.
"Brian," Sully motioned. "Could ya finish this? I wanna go talk t' Cloud Dancin'."
"Sure," Brian lifted a box into the wagon.
Sully caught up with the Cheyenne medicine man, "Cloud Dancin'. Can ya talk for a minute?"
"You are troubled, my friend," the Indian sensed.
"It's Michaela," Sully felt a lump in his throat. "She's been actin' awful funny the last couple weeks, an' t'day she asked me if I'd remarry if somethin' happened t' her."
"This is on her mind?" Cloud Dancing pondered it.
"She's got me real worried," Sully confessed. "I gotta lead an expedition t' the Mountain o' the Holy Cross, but I don't wanna leave her like this."
"I shall look to the Spirits," the medicine man replied. "Do not worry."
"Can't help but worry," the mountain man sighed.
"There is something out of balance," Cloud Dancing responded. "I will seek answers."
"I gotta leave t'morrow mornin'," Sully informed him. "I'm takin' Brian with me."
"I shall come to see you before you depart," the medicine man nodded. "The Spirits will guide you." He departed.
"Sully?" Reverend Timothy Johnson approached.
"Yes, Reverend," Sully guided the blind pastor to him with his voice.
"I just spoke to Brian," the minister began. "He said that you're going on an expedition to The Mountain of the Holy Cross."
"That's right," Sully replied.
"I've heard it has powers of healing," the reverend went on.
"I heard that, too," the mountain man answered.
"Could I come with ya?" Reverend Johnson got to the point.
"But...." Sully did not finish.
"I know ya might think that because I'm blind, I'd be a burden," the minister lowered his head. "But, Sully, this could be my opportunity to experience the Lord's healing."
Sully cleared his throat, "Reverend, if ya wanna go, I'm willin' t' take ya."
"Good," he smiled. "What time should I meet ya?"
Sully lifted Katie high into the air, "Hello, sweet girl. Were ya good for your Ma t'day?
"Mama say I pwesus," she laughed.
"You're what?" Sully looked to his wife in the kitchen.
"Precious," she clarified.
"What pwesus?" Katie whispered to her father.
"It means you're so special, there ain't no one like ya in the whole world," he grinned.
Sully set his daughter down and walked into the kitchen.
"Where's Brian?" Michaela was cutting an onion for the stew.
Sully put his arms around her waist and kissed her cheek, "Puttin' the horses in' the barn."
He picked up a carrot and began to munch on it, "You an' Katie have a good day?"
"Yes," she smiled. "We had a wonderful time."
Sully saw tears streaming down his wife's cheek, "Michaela? Ya all right?"
"Onion," she indicated the source of her tears.
"Reverend's goin' with us t'morrow," he commented.
"Reverend Johnson?" she was surprised. "But...."
"I know," he raised his hand. "He wants t' go t' the mountain for its healin' powers. And I talked t' Cloud Dancin'."
"How is he?" she placed a lid on the boiling stew.
"He's gonna stop by in the mornin' 'fore I leave," Sully answered.
"Did you tell him about what I asked you this morning?" she asked perceptively.
"It's botherin' me, Michaela," he said.
"There is something else I want to tell you, Sully," she turned to face him.
"Michaela," Sully rested his hands on her shoulders. "What else is botherin' ya?"
"It's a dream I've been having for the past two weeks," her voice shook.
"Here," Sully guided her to one of the kitchen chairs. "Sit down. Tell me about it."
She took a deep breath, "In my dream, I begin to experience labor pains. Then I deliver the baby, and hold him in my arms."
"That's a good dream," Sully sat beside her and placed his hand on her arm.
"But something goes wrong," she shook her head. "Everything goes black. You begin to scream and call my name. You take the baby and...."
"An' what?" he searched her face.
"And... I'm gone," she looked down.
"Gone?" he was unsure.
"I die," she said the words softly.
At first, he was silent, trying to absorb what he had heard.
Then he rubbed her arm, "An' that's why ya wanted t' know if I'd remarry?"
A single tear trickled down her cheek, "I would want to know that you and the children are cared for."
"Michaela," he shook his head. "I wish ya would've told me this when ya first started havin' the dream."
"I kept hoping it would stop," she began to wring her hands. "But it hasn't. I had it again last night."
"It's only a dream," he reminded her.
"But you know that sometimes dreams are premonitions of the future," she told him.
"An' sometimes they're just what we're worryin' about," Sully stood up and pulled her into his embrace. "Nothin's gonna happen t' ya. Nothin'."
Having already helped her son pack before tucking in the children for the night, Michaela looked through her husband's things, "How many pairs of socks are you taking?"
"One," he replied.
"One?" she plowed through the cupboard. "That's not enough, Sully."
He sat down on the bed, "Michaela, I ain't gonna be changin' clothes every day."
"I know, but what if your socks become wet? What if you lose one?" she found another pair. "You should take these."
Sully watched as she neatly folded several pairs of drawers and shirts for his journey.
"Michaela," he knew she was overdoing it.
She was too absorbed in her task to hear him.
He spoke louder, "Michaela."
There was still no response from her. Sully stood up and took her hands in his.
"Ya packed enough for a year," he felt her cold hands.
"I simply want you to have...." she stopped when he raised his finger to her lips.
"I have plenty," he meant more than just his clothing.
"I'm sorry," she looked down.
He hugged her, "Nothin' t' be sorry for. I love that ya wanna fuss over me."
She relished the feel of his arms around her, and leaning her head against his chest, sighed, "You will be careful?"
"Yep," he inhaled the scent of her hair. "An' you'll take care o' yourself. Stop frettin' about the dream."
He felt her muscles tense.
"Michaela," he lifted her chin to gaze into her eyes. "You an' the baby are gonna be okay."
"I know," she hopefully replied.
"It's late," he rubbed her back. "We best be gettin' some sleep."
He undressed, while she removed her robe and slipped into bed. He pulled her close. How familiar the feel of one another had become. Familiar, yet never taken for granted. Sully looped a strand of her hair around his finger and lazily played with it. Michaela tenderly made circles on his chest with her finger. Neither spoke.
With his wife's belly against his hip, Sully felt a movement.
"Baby's movin'," he broke the silence.
"Yes," she replied.
"Tellin' us she's not ready t' sleep yet," he guessed.
"I'm not either," Michaela confessed.
"Did ya wanna talk?" he sensed.
"Not really," she simply replied.
Then Sully realized why, "Ya not wantin' t' sleep 'cause ya fear havin' the dream?"
Her sigh gave him an answer.
Then she looked into his eyes, "Sully, would you read some poetry to me?"
"Sure," he pulled himself up and reached for one of his books under the nightstand. "Any one in particular?"
"You choose," she settled herself beside his new position.
Sully searched for one of his favorite Wordsworth passages. He read as she looked over his shoulder, enjoying the timbre of his voice:
"And oh ye Fountains, Meadows, Hills, and Groves,
Think not of any severing of our loves!
Yet in my heart of hearts I feel your might;
I have relinquished one delight
To live beneath your more habitual sway."
Michaela began to stroke his cheek as he read on:
"I love the Brooks, which down their channels fret,
Even more than when I tripped lightly as they;
The innocent brightness of a new-born Day
Is lovely yet;
The Clouds that gather round the setting sun
Do take a sober coloring from an eye
That hath kept watch o'er man's mortality;"
Sully could sense from the touch of his wife's body against his, that she was becoming aroused. He continued:
"Another race hath been, and other palms are won.
Thanks to the human heart by which we live,
Thanks to its tenderness, its joys, and fears,
To me the meanest flower that blows can give
Thoughts that do often lie too deep for tears."
Michaela lifted the book from his hands and reached across him to set it on the stand. As her breasts touched him, even through the material of her nightgown, his reaction was immediate. She slid back slowly across him, hoping that he could feel her need. He did. And it further stirred him.
"What ya thinkin' about?" he grinned.
"I have to tell you?" she pulled him closer.
"I like t' hear what you're thinkin'," he reached down to caress her thigh.
"I'm not thinking very much at the moment," she shifted to make his task easier.
"More like feelin'?" he ran his fingertips across her warm skin.
"Many feelings," she smiled.
She lifted toward him and began to press her lips against his. Sully closed his eyes, overwhelmed by the surging emotions he felt. They positioned themselves to receive the other's love and soon gave in to the powerful demands of their feelings.
Afterwards, Sully tenderly stroked her cheek, "Know what?"
"What?" she felt so close to him.
"I love ya," he grinned.
"And I you," she closed her eyes.
The up and down movement of his chest soon lulled her to sleep, and this night, she did not have the nightmare.
As a shaft of dawning light broke through the window, Michaela was awakened by the soft voice of Sully, speaking to Katie. He was rocking her in the chair by the hearth of their bedroom. Michaela made no motion, not wanting to disturb their conversation, but she listened attentively.
"So you'll be a good girl for your Ma an' Matthew?" he spoke low.
The child's voice trembled slightly, "Ya gotta go, Papa?"
"I do, Kates," his voice faltered. "But when I get back, we'll do somethin' real special."
"What we do?" Katie patted his chest.
"You decide," he smiled.
"Somethin' with Mama an' Mattew an' Bran?" she asked.
"If ya wanna," he nodded. Then he took her little hands, "Will ya do me a favor, sweet girl?"
"Yep," she nodded alertly.
Sully thought his heart would burst with the love he felt for his little girl, "Watch over your Ma for me. Take real good care o' her."
"She pwesus," Katie observed.
"Very precious," he agreed. "An' tell her how much ya love her," he winked.
"Papa," Katie looked up at him. "Mama belly gettin' big."
"That's the baby growin' inside her, Kates," he stroked her blonde tresses.
"Not huwt?" she was concerned.
"Nope," he explained. "But sometimes it makes your Ma feel real... different inside."
"Make Mama yell?" she recalled.
Michaela's heart sank at the guilt she felt for her behavior.
"Sometimes she yells," he nodded. "But she's not really mad when she does."
"Just feelin' difwent inside?" his daughter understood.
"Yep," Sully smiled. "She loves us more 'n anythin' in the world," he rocked her. "Always remember that."
"I 'member," Katie played with a button on his shirt. "I be good."
"That's my sweet girl," he felt such pride.
A tear streamed down Michaela's face as she rolled over to watch them.
"Mama up!" Katie slid from her father's lap. Running to the bedside, Katie leaned her face closer to Michaela's, "I love ya, Mama."
"Come here, Sweetheart," she lifted her daughter up to her bosom. "I love you, too."
"I be good when Papa 'way," Katie assured her.
"I know you will," Michaela kissed her.
"Gonna miss Papa," the child's eyes saddened.
"Very much," she looked toward her husband.
Michaela knocked at Brian's door, "May I come in?"
"Sure, Ma," he finished making his bed.
"All ready?" she observed that his things were sitting by the door.
"Yep," he smiled. "I'm gonna take lots o' notes in my journal, too."
"That's a wonderful idea, Brian," she beamed.
"Pa said we might be helpin' t' save the land," he stood a little taller.
"That's true," Michaela put her hand on his shoulder. "It's very important that future generations be able to enjoy the unspoiled landscape."
"I know," he nodded. "Matthew said he'll be around if ya need anythin'."
"I appreciate it," she hugged him. "But I'll miss you."
"I'll miss ya, too, Ma," he embraced her back.
"Would you do something for me?" she fought back her tears.
"Sure," he looked into her eyes.
"Take care of Sully," she requested.
Brian chuckled, "He's usually the one takin' care o' me."
"You're becoming a man now, Brian," she looked at him, eye level. "A handsome and compassionate young man. I'm very proud of you."
"Thanks, Ma," he blushed slightly. Then picking up his belongings, he added, "I better get this downstairs."
Sully stood with Cloud Dancing on the homestead porch enjoying the dewy morning.
"I don't know about this trip," Sully sighed. "Brian's really lookin' forward to it, an' the Reverend's goin', too, but...."
"The Spirits have told me that Dr. Mike needs Cheyenne medicine," Cloud Dancing spoke.
"What?" Sully was alarmed.
"Ceremonial medicine," the Cheyenne advised. "There is a hindrance to her destination."
"Her destination?" the mountain man grew more concerned. "Where's she goin'?"
"Each life is a destination," Cloud Dancing replied. "Sometimes we are thrown off its path, or the way is blocked. This has happened to Dr. Mike."
Sully started for the door, "That does it. I ain't goin'."
Cloud Dancing stopped him, "You must go. It is only then that she can find her way."
"What d' ya mean?" Sully wondered.
"With you here, she cannot see what is blocking the path," the friend advised.
"She's gotta do this alone?" the worried husband looked toward the door.
"Not alone," Cloud Dancing placed his hand on Sully's shoulder. "Just not with you."
"What can I do?" Sully felt helpless.
"Take Brian on this journey," the medicine man counseled. "And the Reverend. Their destinations need to be guided, as well."
Sully exhaled heavily, "You'll keep an eye on Michaela?"
"I shall.... keep an eye on her,'" Cloud Dancing smiled.
Sully pulled his wife closer for his good-byes. Framing her face in his hands, he tenderly kissed her.
"I love ya," he smiled.
"I love you too, Sully," she tried to sound brave. "With all of my heart."
"We'll be home soon," he did not want to let go of her.
"Be careful, and watch over Brian," she hugged him.
"I will," he looked down. Lovingly stroking her abdomen, he added, "You an' this one get lots o' rest."
"We shall," she placed her hand on his.
Katie toddled over to him and tugged at his jacket. Sully lifted her into his arms and kissed her cheek.
"Wolf stay, Papa?" she hoped.
"Yep," he tickled her side. "An' ya got Swirl t' play with."
"An' Bunny," she could not leave out her oldest toy.
"Right," he hugged her again. "I love ya, Kates."
"Love ya, Papa," she did not want him to put her down.
Michaela reached for the little girl, who finally acceded and went into her mother's arms. Sully embraced them both, then turned to leave.
On the train to Denver, Brian glanced out the window, then silently made notations in his journal.
"What ya writin'?" Sully was curious.
"Just what I see an' how it makes me feel," the young man replied.
"That's important, Brian," Sully smiled. "Gotta let folks know what the land does in here," he pointed to his heart.
"You taught me that, Pa," Brian's eyes shown with admiration.
"All that the Lord has made," Reverend Johnson thought about the landscape. "Tell us about Ferdinand Hayden and William Henry Jackson, Sully."
"Don't know much about 'em personally," Sully rubbed his chin. "I only know they helped persuade Congress t' create Yellowstone with their writin's an' pictures."
"I can't wait to meet 'em," Brian was excited.
Michaela and Katie lay in the big bed, side by side. Katie cradled her doll and sweetly hummed a lullaby. The gentle movements of the child on the bed caused Michaela to drift off to sleep.
It started again. The dream. She was in labor. She held her little boy in her arms. Then the blackness. Sully's screams for her. "NO! Michaela! Come back to me!"
"Sully!" she sat up with a start.
Katie's eyes were wide, "Mama havin' bad dweam!"
"Oh, Katie!" she pulled the child into her arms. "I'm sorry, Sweetheart. It was a bad dream."
"Baby makin' ya feel difwent inside," her daughter patted her head.
There was suddenly a pounding at the front door. Michaela could hear Matthew's voice speaking with someone.
Michaela descended the steps with Katie in her arms.
The little girl recognized the medicine man, "Cloud Dancin'!"
He lifted the child high into the air, "It is good to see you, Katie."
"We play?" she was hopeful.
"I must speak with your mother today," he smiled. "Perhaps another time."
"Okay," Katie's brow wrinkled.
Matthew extended his arms, "Come on, little sister. Let's go out on the swing Pa made for ya."
Katie's eyes widened, "Good thinkin', Mattew!"
The two departed, leaving Michaela alone with the Cheyenne medicine man.
"Would you care for some tea?" Michaela put on some water to boil.
"Yes, thank you," Cloud Dancing replied. "I have come to begin your healing."
"Healing?" she did not understand.
"The Spirits have shown me that you are troubled," he sat down.
"A dream, Cloud Dancing," she felt a tear. "I keep having a dream that I die, leaving Sully alone to raise our children."
"You must make peace," he informed her.
"Peace?" Michaela sat down beside him.
He began, "The first peace, which is most important, is that which comes in the souls of people when they realize their relationship, their oneness with the universe and all its powers. At the center of the universe dwells the Great Spirit who is everywhere, including within you."
"But I go to church, and I pray," Michaela replied.
"It is good that you do this," he nodded. "But you must do more."
"What?" she was curious.
"You must listen to the Great Spirit with your heart," he raised his eyebrows. "The love, peace and serenity of all things exist on Mother Earth, from the four-legged creatures to the winged ones, from the insects to the plants and stones. All have infinite knowledge to teach us. You must go to Mother Earth for answers."
"But I can't leave," she looked around.
"You do not have to leave," he replied. "Women for centuries have expressed their connection to Mother Earth through many activities: weaving, sewing, making dream catchers, raising the children."
"But I do many of those things," Michaela struggled to understand.
"There is something within you that you must let go of," Cloud Dancing responded. "Something old that must be shed."
"Old?" she asked.
"You carry within you something that is a burden in your heart," he explained. "It has been there for some time, perhaps even before you married Sully."
"How can I discover what it is?" she went to the boiling water on the stove and poured two cups of tea.
"You must meditate on it, then release the old part of yourself to the Great Spirit, so that the new may be formed," he answered.
"Then what?" she sipped the tea.
"After you have released that which needs to be released, you must spend time with the Great Spirit to reveal that which you want for future good relations."
"How is this done?" Michaela listened intently.
"I shall make a medicine pouch. In it, you will place wildflower seeds and your request of goals to be fulfilled. I shall bless the pouch in a ceremony. Then you must plant the seeds so that your goals will come to fruition. Mother Earth will nurture your dreams and your wildflower seeds to beautify all your relations."
"This is what my dream means?" she wondered.
"Often time, because we are human, we do not get the messages which the Great Spirit is sending us. Our dreamtime is the time the Great Spirit can speak to us with uninterrupted clarity. But you must listen carefully to hear the message."
"I must give careful thought to what is burdening me, then. Thank you, Cloud Dancing," she placed her hand on his.
"Do not be afraid. I will help you, Dr. Mike," he smiled.
The expedition was ready to depart shortly after Sully, Brian and Reverend Johnson arrived in Denver. Introductions were made, supplies loaded onto pack animals, and off they rode in search of the Mountain of the Holy Cross.
A good amount of distance toward the mountain was achieved by the time the expedition made camp the first night. Sully had not spoken much to those in his party, having been too deep in thoughts about his wife and the words of Cloud Dancing.
Brian joined him as they ate by the campfire, "Worried about Ma?"
"In a way," Sully stared into the flickering fire.
"Anythin' I can do?" Brian looked to him.
A smile crossed Sully's face, "No, thanks, son." He decided to change the subject, "Did ya write a lot in your journal t'day?"
Brian set aside his plate and picked up his notebook, "I'm gonna later. I talked t' the Reverend most of the time. He's hopin' that goin' t' the mountain will bring back his sight. Do you think that's possible, Pa?"
Sully pondered the question, "What d' you think, Brian?"
"Don't know," the young man considered it. "I believe in miracles, though. Don't you?"
"Sure I do," the mountain man nodded. "Katie reminds me o' miracles everyday."
"So it's possible the Reverend could get his sight back," Brian concluded.
"Anythin's possible," Sully put his hand on his son's shoulder.
"Have ya had a chance t' talk t' Mr. Hayden?" Brian wondered.
"Not much," Sully shook his head. "I been keepin' t' myself."
"I wanna talk t' him," Brian stood up.
"That's a good idea," Sully grinned.
"See ya," Brian left him.
Sully did not respond. He closed his eyes and tried to will his love to Michaela to feel tonight so that she would not have the dream.
Michaela pulled Katie into her lap and began the familiar back and forth motion that had settled the child since her birth three years ago. Three years, Michaela contemplated. Could it be that long since her little girl was born?
"Oh, Katie," Michaela sighed.
"I here, Mama," the child looked up with her shining brown eyes.
"I'm glad you're here with me," Michaela smiled. "I thank God every day for you."
"You welcome," Katie responded to the "thank you" words of her mother.
Michaela chuckled, "And I thank you for making me laugh."
"I funny?" the toddler did not realize.
"You're a joy," the mother answered.
"Ya go t' Clinic t'morrow?" Katie took her mother's hand.
"No," she replied. "Tomorrow I'm going to get rid of some things that have burdened my heart without my being aware of it."
Katie placed her tiny hand over her mother's heart, "Somethin' huwt ya, Mama?"
"More than I realized, Sweetheart," Michaela hugged her. "More than I realized."
Cloud Dancing arrived bright and early to begin his ceremony with Michaela. Matthew watched Katie while she and the Cheyenne medicine man rode to a beautiful meadow not far from the homestead.
They picked wildflowers and pulled the seeds from beneath the petals. Cloud Dancing built a fire and had Michaela sit before it.
"Tell the Great Spirit about your dream," he counseled.
Michaela began to describe her nightmare, as Cloud Dancing softly chanted.
"There's Notch Mountain up ahead," Sully pointed.
"How long before we get to the top?" Hayden asked.
"Should be there by sundown," the mountain man estimated.
"You've done a fine job, Mr. Sully," the short, bearded and energetic geologist smiled.
"Thanks," he simply replied. "Figure we oughta take a rest here 'fore we start the climb."
Hayden relayed the message and returned to Sully, "Tell me about yourself."
"Not much t' tell," Sully munched on a piece of hardtack.
"You have a son," Hayden motioned toward Brian.
"Two sons," Sully nodded. "My wife an' me adopted 'em with their sister. Then we had a girl of our own an' have another on the way."
"Many mouths to feed," the geologist smiled.
"How 'bout you?" Sully turned it around.
"Let's just say I like the ladies," he grinned.
"I notice ya got a 'friend' with ya," the mountain man stated.
Hayden cleared his throat, "Companionship."
"I see," Sully nodded. "Is that why ya do this? For the ladies."
Hayden chuckled, "No, of course not. I do it for the future of this land. I want to do as much as I am able, as fast as I can. You know, the Indians call me 'Man-Who-Picks-Up-Stones-Running.'"
Sully grinned, "So you're on a mission."
"The fight for Yellowstone was very rewarding," the geologist sighed. "Jackson's photographs made all the difference."
"Maybe it'll do the same here, too," Sully observed. "Seems like ya got some clout."
"I have great enthusiasm," Hayden raised his eyebrows.
Sully agreed, "There's a lot t' be said for enthusiasm. How'd ya get int' this line o' work?
"Actually, I was a school teacher in New England," he excitedly relayed. "I began surveying for the General Land Office bureaus and ended up organizing them into the U.S. Geological Survey. "
Sully was fascinated, "An' how'd ya get interested in Yellowstone?"
"For more than sixty years, trappers and travelers had been coming back East describing its wondrous beauties," he spoke wistfully. "I reasoned that if I could document its sights and geographical uniqueness, Congress might be persuaded to preserve it."
"Sure worked," the mountain man smiled. "I know ya wrote a lot o' articles about it."
"But," Hayden raised his hand. "When Jay Cooke joined the cause, we were given quite a boost."
"For the profit o' his railroad," Sully added.
"Sometimes you have to deal with the devil, Mr. Sully," he replied. "There are now two million acres set aside for your children's future."
Jackson came over to them "May I join you gentlemen?"
"Sure," Sully nodded.
"I've been filling in Mr. Sully on our Yellowstone achievements," Hayden smiled.
"It's beautiful country out here," the photographer replied. "I was quite impressed by Denver. Perhaps someday I might settle there."
"Hopefully, you'll be able to photograph Holy Cross tomorrow," Hayden observed.
"How'd you hear about it?" Sully wondered.
The geologist responded, "The earliest recorded account of it was from Samuel Bowles, who spotted it from Gray's Peak, 40 miles away."
"I read what he said," Sully nodded. Then standing, he added, "We best be movin' on."
"The Great Spirit has sent you this dream, Dr. Mike," Cloud Dancing related. "Do you know why?"
"To warn me of something?" Michaela feared.
"Is that what your heart tells you?" he asked. "Remember to listen with your heart."
She was silent and listened to the call of the birds. Meditating for several minutes, she suddenly looked up.
"I think I know now," she placed her hands on her abdomen.
"What have you learned?" Cloud Dancing asked Michaela.
"I think that I fear what happened to Abigail will happen to me," she felt her heart grow heavy.
"Sully's first wife?" he recognized the name. "Because she died giving birth to his child...."
"Yes, and I have something in me that I've never told Sully," she confessed.
"Then it must be told to him," Cloud Dancing advised.
"What about the ceremony?" she recalled his words.
"Once you have told Sully what he must know, we can complete the ceremony," he replied.
"Will I continue to have the dream?" she feared.
"If you have discovered that which the Great Spirit wants you to know, then there is no need for the dream," he answered.
It was dusk when the Hayden party made camp on Notch Mountain. A fog had descended, and visibility was difficult.
Sully, Brian, and the Reverend sat on one side of the campfire, with Hayden and Jackson opposite.
Reverend Johnson listened to the crackling fire, "I am so grateful to be here."
"Sir, I pray that you find what you seek," Hayden spoke up.
"The Lord does work in mysterious ways," the man of the cloth nodded.
"Will it work if ya can't see the mountain, Reverend?" Brian wondered.
"I'm hoping that just me being here will matter," the minister replied.
"Cheyenne believe that there's healin' powers all through Nature an' livin' creatures," Sully recalled the teachings of Cloud Dancing.
"My religion is quite different," Reverend Johnson removed his hat.
"Not so different," the mountain man replied.
The minister recited, "In the book of Genesis, it says that God created water, the sky, the earth...."
Jackson contributed, "And He created night and day, the animals and plants...."
The Reverend resumed, "And from the dust of earth, God created man, the beasts of the field, the birds of the sky...."
Sully said softly, "Indians believe that the earth was originally covered by water, and when the waters were separated, plants were created, then animals, and man, all from the earth. That's why they call the land Mother Earth."
"Sounds like they got some beliefs in common," Brian picked up his journal.
"Indians also believe that plants, animals an' even minerals have life in 'em and are due respect," the mountain man continued.
Hayden chimed in, "The Covenant."
"What?" Brian looked up from his writing.
"In the story of Noah," the geologist explained, "God demanded an accounting of every animal. After the flood, He told Noah of the Covenant with man and animal alike. He pledged never again destroy the earth with water."
"Hence, the rainbow," Jackson nodded. "God's reminder of the promise."
Hayden agreed, "Even in the book of Job, there are references to learning from the animals, the birds, the fish and the earth. Again, some similar threads with Indian beliefs."
"Sounds like I'm among biblical scholars," Reverend Johnson commented.
"What about ceremonial fires?" Brian was curious. "White men make fun o' the Indians for those."
"Well, the Bible is full of references to fire," the minister admitted. "Burnt offerings, incense...."
"What d' you believe in, Pa?" Brian turned toward Sully.
"The power o' love," he placed his hand on his shoulder. "Folks are a lot more alike than they are different. Love brings 'em t'gether."
His words caused all to fall silent.
Michaela rocked Katie in her bedroom.
"Feelin' good, Mama?" Katie laid her little hand over her mother's heart.
"Yes," she smiled. "Matthew said that you two had fun today."
"Yep," Katie agreed. "We play games."
"That's nice, Sweetheart," her thoughts were distracted by the revelation which she had experienced today.
"Ya like games, Mama?" the child tugged at her mother's nightgown.
"I'm not very good at games, I'm afraid," she answered. "I didn't play them when I was a little girl. Your father sometimes tries to get me to play. I tried baseball once. It was quite enjoyable."
"Baseball?" the child was fascinated. "Ya teach me t'mowwow?"
"Perhaps Matthew would be better suited for that, Katie," she pointed to her abdomen. "Your little brother might not find it too agreeable."
"I gettin' a bwother?" Katie's eyes widened.
"Shhh," Michaela gently touched her lips. "That's our secret. Papa thinks it will be a little girl, but you and I know better."
The chilly air hung on the mountain as the expedition slept. The reverend was suddenly awakened by his senses.
"Sully!" he shouted. "Rock slide!"
The mountain man jumped to his feet immediately.
"Brian!" Sully grabbed his son just in time to avoid a falling boulder.
The rest of the expedition party was alertly seeking safer ground with the horses and mules, as Brian and Sully protectively led the Reverend away from danger.
"Reverend, ya saved our lives!" Brian was out of breath. "How'd ya know there was a rock slide comin'?"
"It was a miracle, Brian," the minister wiped his brow.
"But everyone was asleep!" the boy persisted.
"Ya could feel it an' hear it 'fore any of us, couldn't ya, Reverend?" Sully observed.
"Why... yes, I guess I did," Reverend Johnson realized.
"If ya weren't with us, we might've all been killed," Brian looked up at Sully.
Michaela rose with the sun, having experienced a restful night's sleep. Her rumbling stomach, however, told her that she was in need of breakfast. When she descended the steps, she saw that Matthew was already at the kitchen table eating.
"You're up rather early this morning," she kissed his cheek.
"Got a lot t' do," he smiled.
"So do I," she sat. "I've been rather remiss at the Clinic."
"I'll ride int' town with ya," he stood. "Gotta hitch up the wagon."
"Wait, Matthew," she touched his arm. "I want to thank you for spending so much time here at the homestead with me."
He put his hand atop hers, "I know ya been havin' a rough spell lately."
"Nevertheless, I appreciate your being here," Michaela responded.
Katie's voice was heard from overhead.
"I'd better go get your sister up," she turned to leave.
As the morning sun burned off the fog, each member of the expedition looked to see if the elusive mountain would appear. Each member except Reverend Timothy Johnson, who sat pensively resting his elbows on his knees.
"There it is!" Brian glimpsed the alp break through the clouds.
Jackson swiftly set up his camera and began to capture in a photograph a first image of the magnificent cross carved into the mountain. The group cheered and whistled. Sully noticed the Reverend and went to him. Brian turned to watch their exchange.
"Somethin' wrong?" the mountain man said to the minister.
"No," the man of the cloth raised his head. "It must be quite a sight, eh, Sully?"
"It is," Sully replied. "Want me to describe it to ya?"
"No, that's all right," Reverend Johnson shook his head. "I can tell from everyone's voices what it must be like."
Sully put his hand on his shoulder, "I don't know if you're ever meant t' see again, Reverend, but I know that if ya weren't blind, your other senses wouldn't be as keen."
He nodded, "And I wouldn't have been able t' warn everyone about the rock slide."
Sully took a deep breath, "Ya called it a miracle."
"Yes, I did," Reverend Johnson answered.
"Do ya remember what ya said last night around the campfire?" Sully asked.
"I said many things," he did not understand the reference.
"Ya said ya hoped that just your bein' here would matter," the mountain man reminded him.
"So I did," the minister recalled.
"It does matter," Sully patted his back. "Matters a lot."
He turned to leave the reverend.
"Sully?" his voice stopped him. "Thank you."
Brian began to feverishly write in his journal. He had been inspired not only by the sight of the mountain, but by the actions of his father. He penned these words:
"Today I saw one of the rarest things, not just in Colorado, but in the whole United States--a mountain that has hardly ever been visible to mankind. It's called the Mountain of the Holy Cross because snow in ridges along its face forms the shape of a cross. Mr. Hayden says the mountain is over 14,000 feet high and has a lot of mystery and legend about it.
As great a sight as it is, I also saw something today which, like a mountain, has always been there before me, but I have often taken for granted. I saw my father. Not the Pa who is related to me by blood, but the man who has always been there for me, teaching me, guiding me, loving me. I saw Byron Sully. He has treated me like a son since my mother died. With Dr. Mike, he created a loving home for me. And by his example and wisdom, he has shown me what courage, strength and compassion are. He is my mountain."
At that moment, Sully approached.
"I reckon ya got a lot t' say 'bout the mountain," Sully grinned.
"Not just about the mountain," the young man replied.
"What else ya writin' about?" he wondered.
"'Bout you, Pa," Brian looked up in admiration.
"Me?" Sully was surprised.
"Ya got more wisdom than anyone I know," the would-be journalist closed his notebook.
"I don't know 'bout that, Brian," Sully felt embarrassed.
"Ya knew the Reverend wouldn't get his sight back, but ya brought him anyway, and he saved us," his son recounted.
"That wasn't wisdom," he answered. "Just helpin' him search for answers."
"Ya always do that for folks," Brian added.
"Brian," Sully sat beside him. "I ain't perfect. The main thing in life is t' try t' treat all livin' creatures with respect. I gotta tell ya, I ain't always done that. Sometimes I made bad decisions an' hurt the people I love most."
"But never on purpose," the young man amended.
"An' sometimes I lose my temper, use my fists instead o' my head," Sully told him. "I ain't so wise."
"Well, I'm gonna think o' ya that way, even if ya don't see yourself in that light," Brian avowed. "An' I'll never forget all that you've done for me."
"Ya know what? As much as ya think I've done for you, that's how much ya done for me," Sully tussled his son's hair. "But now, I'm anxious t' get back t' your Ma. How 'bout you?"
"Yep," Brian agreed.
"Mr. Hayden an' Mr. Jackson can find their way back t' Denver all right, an' they got their picture," Sully reasoned.
"I'll go ask the Reverend if he wants t' return with us," Brian jumped up.
"You do that," he watched the boy run off.
Sully sighed. He would soon see Michaela again. Glancing briefly at the Mountain of the Holy Cross, he lifted his eyes to sky. He uttered a silent prayer, then prepared to leave for home.
"Ma," Matthew shouted from the living room. "I'm gonna go take care o' the animals for the night."
"All right," she called down from the nursery.
As she bathed and dressed Katie, her thoughts turned to her husband.
"I think Papa might be home soon, Katie," she hugged the sweet smelling little girl.
"Weally?" the child's eyes brightened.
"Really," Michaela smiled.
Michaela carried her to the rocker and sat down.
"Papa say we do somethin' spacel," Katie recalled.
"Special?" Michaela translated. "What would you like to do?"
"I think o' somethin," her daughter yawned.
"Close your eyes and think of that something special," Michaela rhythmically rocked the little girl. "Think about Papa and Brian coming home to us."
Within moments, Katie was asleep. Michaela placed her in her crib and secured the blanket around her. She positioned Katie's doll and stuffed bunny nearby, bent down for a kiss, and then left her daughter.
Michaela heard the front door, then footsteps on the stairs.
"Everything all right, Matthew?" she called.
The bedroom door opened and Sully walked in, "Everythin's fine."
"Sully!" she ran to him. "I knew you would be home tonight."
He hugged her, "Ya did? How?"
"Intuition," she kissed him.
He stepped back to look her over. Placing his hand on her belly, he lovingly stroked it.
"How are my little girls?" he grinned.
"Katie is well," she put her arms around him. Then looking down to her abdomen, she added, "As is 'he.'"
"Good," he kissed her more deeply.
Michaela pulled back, "Where's Brian?"
"Helpin' Matthew in the barn," he returned to his hungry kiss.
"Sully!" she felt his appetite. "We can't do this now."
He stopped the kiss, "Somethin' wrong?"
"No, it's just that... I want to greet Brian," she approached the door.
"You go do that," he understood. "An' I'll go greet Katie."
"I just got her to sleep," she cautioned.
"I gotta see her, Michaela," he sounded like a little boy.
She laughed, "I know you do."
Although the hour was late, Michaela sat reading Brian's journal, unable to put it down. When she reached the segment about Sully, tears trickled down her cheeks.
Finishing the essay, she turned to her younger son, "Brian, I'm speechless."
"That's somethin' new," Matthew teased.
"I mean it," she ignored the joke. "This is superb. Your account is vividly descriptive and clear, and I couldn't agree more with your observations about Sully."
"Thanks, Ma," he beamed. "It means a lot t' hear ya say that."
She predicted. "With your writing talents, you'll be a famous author someday."
Brian looked down, "I don't know if I'll be famous, but I sure do love t' write. Pa says it's important t' tell things from here." He gestured to his heart.
Michaela smiled, "Yes, speak from the heart, as well as listen with the heart."
"Sounds like somethin' Cloud Dancin' would say," Sully joined the conversation, a wide-eyed Katie in his arms.
"I see your daughter is awake," Michaela raised an eyebrow.
He kissed his child's cheek, "Just for a little while, Mama."
The children were finally asleep, and Michaela entered their bedroom with a cup of tea. From the aroma of his cologne, she knew that Sully had washed and shaved. He was already in bed, lying on his side with his back to her. She removed her robe, took off her slippers, and quietly climbed in beside him. He did not stir.
"I know you're awake," she ran her hand across his broad shoulders.
He rolled over to face her with his handsome grin, "How'd ya know that?"
"Let me see," she shifted closer. "You are cleanly shaven and bathed. You're wearing cologne that you know I adore. We've been apart for several days...."
"Okay," he touched his fingertips to her lips.
"And...." she set the tea on the night stand, "I've missed you to the point of despair."
"Despair?" he reached over to caress her neck.
His hand continued down her form, each touch bringing warmth to her body.
"Desperation," she moved closer.
"Missed me that much?" he caressed her.
Her voice changed slightly, "I missed everything about you."
"Everythin'?" he enjoyed the game they were playing.
"Mmm," she ran her hand lightly across the hair on his chest. Tilting her head toward his face, she sweetly kissed him "I missed your lips."
"An'?" his voice was becoming raspy.
"And," she pulled his arm across her waist, "Your arms around me like this."
"An'?" he loved listening to her voice.
She provocatively slid her hand lower, "And I've missed this."
"Michaela!" he gulped. "Ya shock me with your behavior!"
"The day I shock you, sir...." she stopped.
"Yes?" he grinned.
"Just don't tell anyone about my shocking behavior," she cautioned.
"Like Hank?" he teased.
"Sully!" she patted his chest. "You wouldn't dare."
"Why not?" he continued the joke. "Lot's o' times, men like t' compare their women."
"Sully!" she was truly becoming uncomfortable.
Sensing the game was going too far, he dropped the smile, "Michaela."
"What?" she pretended to be hurt.
"Ya know me better 'n that," he touched her nose.
"I thought I did," she was not ready to let him off the hook.
"Truth is, it'd be a waste o' time t' compare ya t' any other woman," he smiled. "They'd all pale."
"If you're trying to...." she suddenly felt his lips on hers.
He pulled back for a moment, "I'm tryin' t'... show ya I love ya."
"Since you put it that way," she let down her guard.
Soon they were enraptured by the fulfillment of their bodies' desires. Gentle kisses, tender touches, loving words were exchanged, and the consummation of their longing was happily and gratefully reached.
Tucked against her, he kissed the top of her head, "Did ya have the dream again while I was away?"
"No," she kissed his hand. "Cloud Dancing helped me realize why I was having it to begin with."
"Why?" he ran his hand lightly across her back.
"Could we discuss it in the morning?" she was becoming tired.
"Sure," he nodded. He could not resist a line of poetry to her:
"Her face was as the summer cloud, whereon
The dawning sun delights to rest its rays."
"My Byron?" she smiled.
"No, Lord Byron," he kissed her. "I'm your Byron."
"You are indeed," Michaela sighed.
"Now that's somethin' ya better not tell Hank, either," he chuckled.
"I wouldn't dare," her eyes closed.
Secure in the touch of one another, they soon fell asleep.
Sully was awakened by Michaela's hand on his face. Squinting through her fingers, he looked toward the window and saw the sun dawning. Carefully, he lifted her hand and placed it across her waist. He let his hand linger there and caressed their unborn child. As quietly as he could, he turned on his side to gaze at her. Then his thoughts rambled:
"Is there anythin' about this woman that I don't love? She's beautiful, smart, caring, compassionate.... She's headstrong, bossy, opinionated and determined.... But I love all that about her, too. Not only do I love her, but... she loves me."
He shook his head, "How could any woman love me? I go off on my own. I ain't refined or sophisticated. I don't have patience for things. I don't like big gatherin's or fancy...."
Michaela was moving, repositioning herself. When she rested again, his thoughts continued:
"Look at her sweet mouth, how it sort o' turns up there at the corner. And her nose. How could a woman like her love me? How could she want t' have my children?"
So deep was he in thought, he did not even notice that his wife had awakened.
She looked up at him and smiled, "How long have you been awake?"
He snapped back to reality, "Not long. Hope I didn't wake ya."
"No," she rubbed his arm. "But I'm glad that you're up. I do want to discuss something with you."
"What you an' Cloud Dancin' discovered?" he perceived.
"Yes," she nodded.
Pulling herself into a more upright position, she reached for his hand. Sully willingly gave it, and attentively waited for her to speak.
"My dream," she began. "Cloud Dancing said it was because I've been holding on to something which has burdened my heart, and I need to release it."
"What is it, Michaela?" he could not imagine.
"Sully, when you and I made our first awkward steps toward expressing our love, you know that I was very uncomfortable," she looked only at his hand.
"I remember," he squeezed her hand reassuringly.
"Do you recall my first Halloween in Colorado Springs, when you wanted to make repairs on the old homestead, and I resisted the idea?" she went on.
"Yes," he did not know where she was going with her story. "Ya said it was too permanent."
"It was around that time that I found the rocking horse that you had been making for your baby girl, Hannah," she stopped.
He made no sound, so she took a deep breath and continued.
"I asked you to finish it but said I could not tell you why. You were so upset with me, you threw it into the forge at Robert E's," Michaela said.
"Why are ya bringin' this up?" he lowered his head.
"Let me finish," she answered. "The reason that I wanted you to finish the rocking horse was because.... Abigail wanted it for your little girl."
"What?" Sully looked up.
"It was Hannah's cries that guided me to the barn to find the rocking horse. Then Abigail began to come to me in dreams," Michaela was relieved to finally be confessing this to him. "At least I think they must have been dreams, but she was so real to me."
"Michaela," Sully wondered about her mood.
"At first, she was very spiteful toward me," she resumed the story. "She demanded that I leave her home."
He knew that she had to get this off of her chest, but it was painful for him to remember his first wife and child.
"One day I took flowers to her grave," Michaela continued. "Yellow button mums."
"Those were her fav...." he stopped.
"I know," she nodded. "Later, Loren told me they were her favorite. But the strangest thing happened, Sully. That night, she came to me again and threw the flowers on the floor."
"Michaela, I....." he was interrupted.
"I know how this sounds, but I'm not making it up," she asserted. "Abigail demanded that I get out of her house and away from her husband."
Sully's blue eyes were now riveted on her.
"I told her that she was being unfair, that I had done nothing to her," Michaela related. "She told me that it was unfair that she never got to hold her baby and that your little girl never got to ride the rocking horse which you were making for her." Michaela took his hand again, "Then she told me that I had everything--three beautiful children, her home and... her husband."
"But...." he started to clarify.
"I know that we had not told each other of our feelings yet," she interrupted. "I became angry and hurt by her words. I told her that it was not my fault, and if she really cared about you, she would want you to be happy and get on with your life. I'm ashamed to admit that I was jealous of her. I told her that you would always compare me to her, and I wondered how you could love two women who were so different."
Sully swallowed hard.
Michaela went on, "Abigail asked me how I knew that you loved me. You hadn't said the words as you expressed them to her. You hadn't married me, given me a child, only to have it all taken away."
They were silent for a few moments.
She took a deep breath, "The next day you brought me the finished rocking horse, and that night I set it in front of the hearth. She came again. When I gave the horse to her, I explained that I was not trying to take what was hers. I told her I did not want you to forget her, but that she was gone, and I was still here. I said that maybe she and I might never have been friends, but had I been here, I would have done everything in my power to save her."
"What'd Abigail say to that?" he was now entranced by her story.
Michaela chose her words deliberately, "She cried and hugged the rocking horse. Then she told me I was wrong. We would have been friends." Michaela added, "When I woke up the next morning, the horse was gone."
"I don't know what t' say," he closed his eyes.
"I'm sorry I never told you this before, Sully," she felt her eyes water. "It has burdened me that I never did."
"An' that's why ya been havin' this dream?" he was uncertain.
She replied. "Do you see? Now I have everything that Abigail had wanted with you and more. Her troubled spirit made peace with me then, but I'm not certain that I totally made peace with her."
"What d' ya mean?" he inquired.
"I did not fully realize then what her losses truly felt like," she responded. "I did not know then what loving you, holding you, wanting you would bring to my life. I could not comprehended then how powerful the desire to have your children would be." She struggled to not cry, "And I never envisioned the devastating pain of losing a child."
He reached out to hold her, and Michaela threw herself into his arms. For several minutes, the healing touches of each other were exchanged. Finally, she pulled back and caressed his cheek.
Michaela spoke softly, "Was her soul restless because she would not accept the notion that someone new could come into your life? I don't know. But now, I have experienced what she had with you. Now, I more fully comprehend what it felt like for Abigail to give you up. And... that's why I needed to know, if something were to happen to me that you would go on... That you would not...." her voice trailed off.
"Ya been strugglin' with this for some time," his eyes penetrated her soul.
"This recurring dream that I've had of late," she recalled. "Cloud Dancing says it is the Great Spirit speaking to me to let go of the old."
"Can ya?" he hoped.
"I believe so, now that I've told you," a tear trickled down her cheek.
"Michaela," he took both of her hands. "I never thought I'd lose Abigail. We were so young an' happy ...."
He stopped to be certain that she was willing to hear his words. She squeezed his hands for encouragement.
Sully continued, "But if she'd told me that somethin' might go wrong an' asked me if I'd love again, how d' ya think I'd react?"
"I'm sorry, Sully," she remembered her question to him before the expedition.
"No," he did not mean for her to apologize. "I mean, I wouldn't have even considered it. When I lost Abigail an' Hannah, I wanted t' die with 'em. But... somethin' deep inside kept me goin'. I didn't know why at the time, but now I do. I was meant t' love again." He kissed her hand, "You, Michaela. You're the love of a lifetime. If ya left me t'morrow, I... I know, I could never love again. But I wouldn't give up on livin'. I'd not hide away like I done when Abigail an' Hannah died."
"For the children?" she assumed.
"Yes," he nodded. "An' for you. Ya wondered if Abigail came back 'cause she didn't want someone new in my life. Maybe the reason she came back was t' make sure I would go on with my life, an' she knew it would be through you."
"She did open my eyes to my growing affection for you," Michaela acknowledged.
"Affection?" he grinned.
"Love," she amended.
"What you an' me got," he touched his heart. "It's the most beautiful thing in all the world. Ya said that ya never knew back then all the things that lovin' me would bring. That's true for me, too, Michaela. Before I met you, I never thought I could share my life, let alone my soul with another person. Ya give me love, peace, joy, laughter." Then caressing her belly, he added, "An' you're givin' us little ones t' share it with."
"I think I'm ready now," she sat up straighter.
"Ready?" he noticed the change in her.
"Ready for the new," she felt a weight lift from her. "Cloud Dancing will show us the way."
Cloud Dancing led Michaela and Sully to the same meadow where she had gathered wildflowers earlier. They built a fire. Then Cloud Dancing presented her with a medicine pouch. In it, she placed the seeds of the wildflowers.
The Cheyenne medicine man began to chant and call upon the Great Spirit. Sitting before the fire, Sully and Michaela reassuringly held hands.
Cloud Dancing turned to her and spoke, "Now that you have let go of the old, you must tell the Great Spirit what are your hopes for new goals."
Michaela looked to her husband. He smiled and nodded.
"My goals?" she took a deep breath. "To unconditionally show my husband how much I love him." Then she touched her abdomen, "To protect my children from harm." Finally, she looked to Cloud Dancing, "To seek answers in healing the sick."
"These are good goals," the medicine man told her. Handing her the pouch of seeds, he then instructed, "The Great Spirit has listened, as you listened to him. Now you must plant these seeds. As they grow, so shall your newfound awareness of Mother Earth."
She accepted the seeds. Sully stood up and extended his hand. Michaela raised up beside him.
"Where should I plant them?" she wondered.
"I think I know a good place," her husband replied.
The sun was high overhead when Michaela and Sully arrived in Colorado Springs. He helped her from the wagon, then pulled a hoe and bucket from the back. Taking Michaela's hand, he led her to the tiny cemetery. Sully approached the graves first. He swallowed hard as he gazed at the worn wooden crosses above the graves of Abigail and Hannah.
Michaela touched his arm and he turned to her.
"This is the perfect place for the flowers," she smiled.
He began to loosen the soil around the crosses and soon had cultivated a plot for the flowers. He and Michaela knelt down and began to plant the seeds in the ground, covering with a thin layer of dirt as they went. Then Sully walked to the creek to retrieve some water. When he returned, Michaela gently sprinkled it over the seeds.
All this was accomplished without words between them. Finally, they washed their hands in the remaining water from the bucket. Each felt a comfort in what they had done. Hand in hand, they left the peaceful spot.
"Mama! Papa!" Katie shouted as she looked out the kitchen window, spying the return of her parents.
Matthew lifted her and carried her to the front door. The child insisted on going down the front steps on her own, although it was a somewhat labored process for her. By the time she reached the bottom, Michaela and Sully had disembarked from the buckboard.
Sully lifted her high in the air, "Kates! Look at ya'. You're flyin'!"
Her giggles elicited smiles from all. Then the little girl extended her arms to her mother.
Michaela gathered her close and kissed her, "What did you and your brothers do today?"
"We do some thinkin'," she spoke quite seriously.
"What'd ya think about?" Sully tickled her side.
"Papa say we do somethin' spacel," Katie reminded him.
"That's right," Sully nodded. "So what'd ya decide?"
A large grin crossed the little girl's face, "Wanna play baseball!"
The front of the homestead became a primitive baseball diamond as Michaela, Sully, Brian and Matthew determined to teach Katie the game. Sully found the bat that he had made when the Traveling All-Stars had visited Colorado Springs, and they all donned their Colorado Springers uniforms.
"Wanna bat!" Katie had tired of watching her father and brothers hit the ball.
"Okay," Sully carried her to home plate.
"Pitch us some, Michaela," he called to his wife.
Michaela picked up the ball, and the infield players moved much closer as the toddler approached the plate. Sully stood behind his daughter, trying to stifle his laughter, while Katie imitated the mannerisms her brothers had acted out before batting. Finally, she bent low to pick up the bat. She could barely get it off the ground.
Her lower lip began to quiver, "Heavy, Papa."
"Here," he lifted the bat. "I'll help ya."
He crouched down and held Katie's hands on the bat, "Okay, Mama, throw us one."
Michaela softly tossed the ball underhand toward the little batter. With Sully's guidance, Katie swung and hit it.
"Start runnin', Kates," Sully pointed to first base.
The ball had traveled no more than three feet, but Matthew, Brian and Sully played it out as if it were a high fly. They began throwing the ball at one another while Katie ran--to third base, then first, then second, and finally home. The males of the team finally collapsed into one heap on top of one another, pretending to be exhausted from their ordeal.
Michaela greeted her daughter at the plate, "You hit a homerun, Katie!"
"I did?" the little girl's eyes widened.
"You did!" she clapped her hands enthusiastically.
Sully crawled over to the child and lifted her into the air, "Yeah! Katie hit a homerun!"
They all applauded, and her laughter lasted several minutes.
Finally, Michaela announced, "Time for supper."
"Good," Matthew laughed. "Chasin' Katie made me work up an appetite."
"Be sure to wash up," their mother instructed.
Sully carried Katie into the house, when with her little index finger, she beckoned him to lean closer for a question.
"Papa," she whispered. "What a homewun?"
He chuckled, "It means ya ran around all the bases an' back t' homeplate."
"Oh," she pretended to understand.
Alone in their bedroom that night, Sully and Michaela lay side by side contemplating the day. She shifted on her side and tucked herself against his body. Then she reached up to push back a lock of his hair from his face.
"You're awfully quiet this evening," she noted.
"Humm," he looked toward her. "Just thinkin'."
"About what?" she was curious.
"'Bout the mountain," Sully responded.
"From Brian's description, it must have been magnificent," she nodded.
"It was," he agreed. "But I mean I was thinkin' about its powers of healin'."
"You said that the Reverend believed it might heal him," she recalled.
"Maybe in a way it did," Sully slid his arm around her. "I think he was able t' accept his blindness in a different way."
"How so?" she placed her hand on his chest.
"He saved our lives 'cause he was able t' warn us a rock slide was comin'," Sully informed her.
"Sully!" she sat up. "You didn't tell me."
"I was more interested in other things when I got home," he rubbed her back. "Anyway, it was on account o' his keener senses that he felt it comin'," he elaborated. "Maybe healin's more than just reversin' an ailment. Maybe it's acceptin' what ya can't change."
"Like losing loved ones," she observed. "Your losses of Abigail and Hannah, your parents, your brother."
"An' your losses o' your Pa, your sister, your fiance David," he added.
"The loss of our baby," her voice cracked slightly.
"But we found the powers o' healin' right here," Sully pointed to his heart.
"Love is a powerful medicine," she placed her hand on his.
"I agree," he began to trace her lips with his finger.
Sully slid his hand to the side of her neck and guided her lips to his. Their soft, teasing touches soon turned more urgent and hungry. He tenderly maneuvered her to a comfortable position for her and began to guide their physical needs to fruition. Their adaptations to her condition created an exciting and fulfilling encounter. When they completed their passionate union, Sully pulled the covers up higher and protectively scooped her into his embrace.
He kissed her temple, and recited:
"She was a form of life and light
That seen became a part of sight,
And rose, where 'ere I turned mine eye,
The morning star of memory
Yes, love indeed is light from heaven;
A spark of that immortal fire..."
"I know that must be Byron," she lifted up to whisper in his ear.
"Yep," he winked.
"Immortal fire," she thought about the words of the poet. "That's what our love is like, Sully. Remember what Sam Lindsey said?"
Recalling the Bostonian woman who had enticed Michaela to climb Pikes Peak with her before she died, Sully grinned, "About us?"
"Yes," Michaela ran her fingers through his hair, "She said that seeing us was like watching a fire burn."
"An' you said, 'if ya tend t' it, take care o' it, feed it, it'll keep on growin' bigger, burnin' brighter,'" he kissed the palm of her hand.
Michaela looked down to her belly, "Well, it's certainly growing bigger."
Sully placed his hand on hers, "Speakin' o' growin' bigger, I been thinkin' about somethin' for Katie."
"Something for Katie?" she asked.
"Yep," he nodded. "Been thinkin' maybe it's time I make her a bed o' her own. She's gettin' too big for the crib, an' we can use it for the new baby. 'Sides, when we took her back East, she slept in a larger bed. I think she's ready."
"Sully, that's a wonderful idea," her eyes shown. "And you're right. She is ready, but...."
He saw a tear trickle down her cheek, "What's wrong?"
"It means she's not our baby anymore," she responded.
He touched the tear, "She's gonna be the big sister."
Quickly her mood changed, "She was funny playing baseball today and so proud of her homerun."
Sully laughed, "She didn't even know what a homerun was. Had t' ask."
Michaela stroked the slight mound of her belly, "Do you think this little one will be anything like her?"
"No more than you an' your sisters," he teased. Turning serious, he lovingly rubbed her abdomen, "She'll be smart, an' beautiful like her Ma, an'...."
"Handsome like his Pa," she corrected.
"Guess we don't always agree," he sighed.
She raised an eyebrow, "It does make things more interesting, don't you think?"
"No," he sounded stubborn.
"No?" she was surprised.
"'Just wanted t' disagree with ya some more," he flashed the smile that never failed to make her melt.
"Byron Sully, you...." she was interrupted when his lips met hers.
"'Night, Michaela," he pulled back.
"Day, Sully," she tried to sound obstinate.
"It's night out," he pointed t' the window.
"I was making a joke," she referred to his apostrophized term for 'good night.'
"I know somethin' we don't disagree about," he stopped the game.
"What?" she leaned closer.
"I love ya," he raised his fingers to her lips.
"You're right," she smiled. "I love you."
Their banter ended for the night. The sanctuary which they found in this room, in these arms, provided a harbor for their abiding love, their shared confidences and their dreams for the future. They had found their powers of healing.
Ferdinand Hayden and William Henry Jackson were responsible for the creation of Yellowstone National Park. Their eight year association took them all across the West.
Jackson became the leading photographer of the American West in the 19th century. With Hayden, he was among the first white men to see and photograph the Mesa Verde ruins of the Anasazi people in Colorado. After the Hayden Survey years, Jackson settled down to a successful commercial career in Denver, where his pictures revealed the steady conquest of the Frontier by the railroads. By the 1890's, he was called "America's greatest landscape photographer." He traveled around the world and later played a part in developing the Photochrom process and the color postcard revolution in America. Jackson lived and worked until his death at the age of 99 in 1942. A veteran of the Battle of Gettysburg, he is buried in Arlington National Cemetery.
Their expedition to find and photograph the elusive Mountain of the Holy Cross in the Colorado Rockies took place in the summer of 1873. Find it they did, and from Notch Mountain, Jackson captured it in a photograph. Hayden returned the following year with Western artist Thomas Moran. Moran's painting of the Mountain of the Holy Cross was completed in 1875 and measured approximately seven feet by five feet. Both Jackson and Moran pictures were exhibited at the Centennial Exposition in Philadelphia in 1876. The public was enthralled by the religious implications of this natural wonder.
The Mountain of the Holy Cross was said to have restorative powers for the sick. By the early 1920's, people began to make pilgrimages to view it. The Denver Post reported in 1930 that cures had resulted from pilgrimages there. The Denver and Rio Grande Railroad supported the claims. To increase tourist traffic to the site, they hired Moran to create wood engravings for their railroad publications.
The Notch Mountain site was designated as the Holy Cross National Monument by President Hoover in 1929 but was later revoked in 1950 because of declining visitation and erosion of the cross's right arm, seriously marring the image.
A commemorative stamp was issued in 1951 on the occasion of Colorado's 75th Statehood Anniversary showing the Cross in a collage with the State Capitol and the Columbine flower.
The Mountain of the Holy Cross is located approximately 100 miles west of Denver and about 15 miles south of Vail, Colorado in the Sawatch Mountain Range.
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