Previous Challenge Entry (Level 1 – Beginner)
Topic: Valley (08/10/06)
TITLE: Mesmerizing Sentinels
By Noreen Ophoff
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I drove along. The radio was playing a song I liked, so I sang along. I noticed a flash of red. It was a male cardinal flying into a maple tree. The road began to wind, first to the right, then left. A "Do Not Pass" sign was posted.
Suddenly I felt like slamming on the brakes. There wasn't a deer in my path, or a skunk. The road was lined with towering pine trees. They were spaced two feet apart on each side. The sun was shining from the West through these trees. The shadows of the tree trunks were evenly spaced on the roadway, every two feet. The images of the branches and the needles looked like a painting on the tar canvas.
I was mesmerized. I pulled over on the shoulder of the road to absorb the unique beauty of the unexpected encounter. I wished I had my camera. My memory of this moment will be precise. A blue jay perched on a branch of one of the pines. We gazed at each other.
In the rearview mirror I noticed a high hill, rounded on top. No trees or bushes were on it. No black-eyed-susans could be seen. I hadn't realized I had driven on part of that hill. The descent had been gradual.
Looking to my right, through the trees, I saw a swampy area. Red-winged blackbirds were singing while grasping the stalks of cattails. Just beyond the reeds there was a pond, only a few feet wide. Fallen trees created the far bank at the foot of another elevation. This hill was hidden by the tall pines. I never noticed any of these elements before, just off the road.
I use this road often to bypass hectic routes, to glean a glimpse of nature on my way to town. If the sun hadn't been shining, accentuating the towering sentinels, I would have entirely missed the lay of the land, the birds' songs, the pattern of shadows, the expansion of the valley of my soul.
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