Hiking Toward Heaven
A Novella by Ian Palmer, Ph. D.
On a tranquil evening, twelve year-old KARA is exploring with her younger brother JADEN an arroyo in Albuquerque, when she is kidnapped. In a tense confrontation, her grandfather POPPER is at a loss to help when a stranger walks out of the sagebrush, and delivers an ultimatum to the kidnappers. KARA is rescued by the stranger, MICHELLE, in an unusual way.
MICHELLE agrees to meet with POPPER in Santa Fe, where she reveals that she is a coangel, sent to earth to learn more about humanness. At the Loretto chapel, Michelle unveils another coangel, who in 1880 built a marvelous staircase but then disappeared without payment. The “Miraculous staircase” has become quite famous.
MICHELLE suggests a series of hikes with KARA and POPPER, so she can learn more about their humanness, and they can learn from her. During each hike, incidents occur which are dramatic and suspenseful. The first hike involves an encounter with a rattlesnake, and with meningitis in a hot springs pool. The challenges turn out to be opportunities for KARA and POPPER to learn about God and the Christian faith.
In the second hike, a cousin BRYAN joins the hikers, and is intrigued by the stories of Geronimo and the Lost Dutchman gold mine in the rugged Superstition Mountains of Arizona. BRYAN offers a simple and direct prayer, when the hiking group becomes lost and the situation becomes perilous. This prayer leads later to a discussion of childlike faith in a restaurant, where the children, the scientist, and the coangel offer contrasting views. Afterwards, MICHELLE the coangel wants to learn to dance, and that turns out to be a blast.
One hike, to an old plane crash site, allows POPPER to educate MICHELLE about the geography and native plants. When they arrive, the broken airplane propellers, where 19 people died, are sacred and sobering, and trigger from MICHELLE a learning about heaven. This is largely for the benefit of DARBY, another hiking cousin who has led a rather wild life to this point, but wants to know what heaven is really like.
However this also portends the death of MICHELLE in an accident after she dramatically saves the people from an overturning truck in a fast-rising creek bed. This tragedy, so unexpected, leaves the hiking group in disarray and tears, until KARA reminds the group that MICHELLE is a coangel, and cannot die. She has just zipped up to heaven!
After seven years, KARA has become a smart and beautiful woman, newly graduated from college. She joins POPPER and his brothers in an ambitious hike in the Flinders Ranges of South Australia, where the desert scenery is dry and different but beautiful. It’s an opportunity for the Australians to learn about MICHELLE, and her template for overcoming obstacles in the course of life. The adventure is successful in all respects until the hike out through steep-sided isolated mountains is marred by a fall. KARA has injured an ankle and cannot go on. Despite the cumulative smarts of the party, they are unable to come up with a solution, and the dilemma becomes serious as the day begins to wane. They decide to pray, and pretty soon is heard a “Cooeee” from the ridge up above. KARA, in pain but instantly alert, somehow recognizes that it is MICHELLE. After the reunion, and a mix of skepticism and faith by the Australians, MICHELLE lifts KARA onto her back and with supernatural strength carries her out of the steep stubborn gulley. After KARA presents her with a pretty blue malachite stone found in a creek bed, MICHELLE departs with the reminder to “help someone to hope”.
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On Ian D. Palmer Ph.D.’s previous visit A Scientist and His Faith