Not for the first time in his long life, Noah gave thanks to God for the wisdom of his wife. He smiled ruefully as he remembered Naamah pleading with him not to cut down every single tree ‘just yet’. She loved walking in the shade of the trees as the evening emerged, the setting sun casting its long shadows. Noah had reluctantly agreed to leave an avenue of trees in place, partly to placate his wife, partly because the trees involved were some of the thickest tallest trees in the forest. He had been relieved not to have to spend several weeks chopping and sawing those particular giants. Now, as he strode purposefully from tree to tree, counting quietly to himself, he realised with a shock that the remaining trees were perfectly placed to serve as key pillars from which to construct the Ark. There were four massive trees at each corner of the long avenue, incredibly they were exactly the right distance from each other to give Noah the 300 cubits in length and the 50 cubits in width he needed to follow God’s instructions. These giant trees stretched up well beyond the 30 cubic height he needed, but he realised that they could deal with that as the ARK ‘grew’ anchored to these trees. Along this avenue of surviving trees, each smaller tree was located almost exactly 30 cubits from the next one, these would provide bulwark and stability to the structure. Noah fell to the ground in awe and wonder as he realised how much God had already put in place to make the ARK both possible and buildable. Tears of thankfulness flowed down his weathered face as he praised God with all of his heart. His family joined him in this simple yet profound act of devotion when he explained what God had done (with a little help from Naamah!). After some time they gathered themselves again and made preparations for the next phase of work.
Their hearts were lighter as they worked. Japheth took charge of the giant beasts of burden, he seemed to have a natural affinity with them, even climbing up onto their vast broad backs, seating himself just behind their huge leathery ears which helped cool him as they flapped in the heat of the day. It took his mother and his new wife Deborah some time to stop worrying for his safety, until finally one evening his bride fearfully joined him atop the female beast, and discovered the thrill of connecting with such a majestic, steady creature. Ham and Bennai took charge of the oxen and the remaining sheep. His brother Shem was skilled as a carpenter and devised new ways to maximise the collective power of the seven pair of oxen to move the fallen trees in place. Ham and Bennai loved to tend and care for the animals, especially when they realised that pairs of different kinds of birds and animals were beginning to turn up at their campsite. Shem and Miriam worked tirelessly at designing and creating wooden tools and instruments to help with the work. They would spend days identifying the job that needed to be done, working out what manner of tool would meet that need, and then design it. Many an evening was spent between them, arguing over the details, their passion to get the design right never leading sullen silence, rather they seemed to thrive on their creative differences.
Noah and Naamah would often spend the early evenings walking hand in hand among the slowly emerging ARK. They took great joy and pride in the efforts and talents of their sons and daughters, seeing much of themselves in their honest intensity and commitment to do whatever it took to build the ARK. After some months since Gomer’s departure the foundations of the ARK were finally beginning to take shape. Where once there had been thousands of trees scattered around the place, now there were neat stacks of similar sized tree trunks at key locations around each of the remaining standing trees that were still rooted firmly into the ground. The huge cartload of iron spikes had similarly been placed in piles around the ARK. Shem and Miriam had somehow managed to come up with a levered device that could pound the long spikes into the hard dark wood, and after several false starts had worked out the right depth the iron could go into the wood without splitting it. Even those damaged split tree trunks were not wasted as they used them to make scaffolding to enable them to climb higher up the trees to attach huge cords of hand woven rope that would be interwoven among the tree trunks to hold them in place until spike and pitch could ensure that the walls and floor of the ARK would be as waterproof as possible.
Noah called a feast to celebrate all that had been achieved so far. It was like the ones they used to have at the end of each exhausting week when the boys were younger. It was a tradition that had happened less often of late, but Noah realised that they were entering a new phase of building and wanted to mark the occasion.
Old Methuselah seemed especially pleased with the idea. He had been less active of late, his old bones finally giving up on him. While he was ready to go to his fathers, he knew that he would need to ready the hearts of his loved ones, both for his departure and for the next storm that was about to break.