Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 - Advanced)
Topic: Cross (as in the Cross of Christ) (08/17/06)
- TITLE: The Wind in the Maples
By Allen Scovil
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The birds are chattering around me. Starlings are flocked together in a meadow, hunting for grubs and insects as they squeak and mutter at each other, heads bobbing like needles on surreal sewing machines, stitching the sod. A song sparrow calls out further away, producing amazing music from such a tiny puff of feathers. A cardinal, bright red, and its muted mate flit across the path ahead and set up to watch me as I pass.
A breeze comes at me from behind, encouraging me to walk further along among the trees as it rustles the leaves of the many oaks and maples and hisses softly through the scattered pines and spruces.
A couple of crows caw harshly behind me, as if daring me to turn back. A black squirrel, disturbed by my presence, scolds me from a nearby branch to my right. I hear the bubbling sound of a creek off to my left as it ripples over the stones it encounters.
I sit down and lean my back against an old weeping-willow tree that overspans the way, hanging its fragile branches as if wanting nothing more than to stroke me as I pass. I pull out my bottle and take a sip of water, taking in the surroundings and glancing now and again at that cross. It’s still a way ahead, so I won’t have to deal with it right away, but I know I will soon enough. Its bleached wood seems to glow in the sunlight. Why is it there anyway? I’ve been following the way for a long time, being careful to clean up after myself and to not disturb the creatures around me if I can help it. It doesn’t make sense.
A cicada starts up, and its zinging fills the air, seeming to come from everywhere. The sun casts beams of light in through the tree branches, dappling the bracken and carpets of old pine needles. Little clouds of tiny, flying insects become visible, dancing as they must for their brief life in this world under the trees.
I get back up and stretch. I still have some distance to go before I’m done, and I don’t want to be late. Resuming my hike, I soon come to the edge of the forest where it is halted by fields of corn here and of beans there. They’re not ready for harvest yet, but the sun urges them on, and it won’t be long before they will be. The path continues along the hedgerow between the fields, straggly old cedars standing guard to windward, wind breaks when the winter winds howl.
The ground under my feet dips down at one point to let the creek pass through, and I lose sight of the cross for a moment. I work my way with care over the log that has been placed over the flowing water as a bridge for those who pass by. A little further on, the land rises once more, and the cross returns to view.
At the end of the fields, the trees show themselves once more, accompanied by some sumac bushes where the sun is strong. A blue jay in a birch tree checks me out before flying off.
I arrive at the foot of the cross. Looking down, I am surprised to see that it is in fact not in my way. The path swerves here, heading to my right toward the verge overhanging the valley in front of me where my destination lies. The cross stands at the turning of the way; it does not block or hinder me, and so I understand at last.
I pull it out of the rocks that support it and rest it on my shoulder. As I continue on the Way, I praise God for the one burden that He has left me after His Son took all the rest.
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