Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 - Advanced)
Topic: ZEST (10/01/15)
TITLE: In Search of Life
By Jenny Fulton
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“Just like the rest of my life,” she muttered.
Arriving at a scenic overlook, Leah settled herself onto a boulder which had the appearance of having been specially formed for just such a purpose.
A beautiful flowering valley stretched away down the mountain as far as the eye could see. If she had chosen to take a moment to listen, Leah would have heard the sounds of birds chirping. Her ears would have perceived the reverberation of a great waterfall not far up the path.
But Leah’s eyes weren’t exalting in the majestic view before her. Her ears weren’t rejoicing in the sounds of life which surrounded her. All she could think about was her aching body and her aching soul.
“Come on, mom!” a young, excited voice called. “We’re almost there!”
“Hold on, Beth, I’m coming,” came the answering voice, the clear tones of which were punctuated by laughter.
A few minutes later, the duo appeared – a young, bright-eyed girl in pigtails with her light-hearted mother.
“Look! Look! This is my favorite part!” chattered the young girl, staring in awe at the view before them. “Well, almost my favorite part. I also love the waterfall, and the high mountain stream, and the view from the top where you can see everything!”
The mother laughed again. Although she obliged her lively daughter by joining her in an uninhibited delight of the world around them, it was clear that her true joy came from the very presence of her daughter.
Mother and child continued to talk, unaware of the existence of the weary woman who rested on a rock behind them.
Leah, however, was very much aware of their presence. She sat perfectly still, listening and observing them hungrily. Was she ever that carefree? Had she ever loved life that much? A distant memory found its way back into the forefront of her mind. Yes, yes she had been that carefree. The memory of what she had once been was why she had chosen to revisit this pathway up the mountain in the first place. It had once been her favorite place in the whole world. But that was before – before she had been forced to taste the pains of life; before she had been lied to, abused, crushed down, and abandoned. Where there had once been joy and a zest for life, there was now only pain, anger, and bitterness.
The little girl turned around and caught the eye of the staring stranger. Without a moment of hesitation, she bounced over and studied the woman.
“Why are you so sad?” she asked.
“I am tired and my body hurts,” Leah answered, not unkindly.
Beth’s eyes scrunched together and her lips pressed tightly. She was obviously very deep in thought. After a short time, her eyes widened again. She had found her thought. “My mom always tells me I should rest when I’m tired. And my dad tells me that if my body gets sore when I’m hiking, then I should stretch and think about something other than how much pain I’m in. And then, when I do that, when I’m looking at all the beauty and thinking about all the wonderful things, the pain seems not so bad and my dad says that my body is actually getting stronger!”
Beth’s mother had been listening to the exchange from a short distance away. She, too, had been studying the woman. Now, she approached. “It also helps to ease the pain if you have someone to travel with you on this rather demanding trail. Sometimes, you may even need somebody to carry your pack for you.” With those words, the young mother reached down and picked up Leah’s pack, adding it to her own.
Beth reached out her hand to Leah in invitation.
Very hesitantly, Leah took the offered hand. “This used to be my favorite trail,” she said softly, “but somewhere down the road, I lost the joy of it.”
“Well,” said the girl in all seriousness, “maybe we can help you find it again.”
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