The Mountain Valley

It was a beautiful summer evening. The sunset caused brilliant oranges and reds to cascade across the sky and tinge the puffy clouds with pink and gold before the colors would fade to a rich purple, then the deep blue of night. Far below, majestic mountains stretched their bare and bony fingers up as if to grasp the falling sun and forever keep it hidden within it’s jealously guarded hoards. Yet they knew it was futile, for their brothers to the East would yield up the glowing orb and it would be morning once again. But as the seasons come and go the sun rises and sets and always the rocky ranges would be there. Greedily extending their peaks to steal the sun from the sky.

Accustomed to it’s fate, the massive ball of fire descends, spreading it’s last burst of light and warmth across the little valley that lay nestled between the great heights of snow-speckled stone. Rising up, yet still far below, the trees of evergreen sought to mimic the mountains with their own towering branches. And yet while the mountains were bare, the trees were full of pine foliage. Deep greens were made darker by the elongating shadows. Beneath the boughs, the cool air faintly smells of water, spiced with the intoxicating aroma of crushed needles and churned earth. Thick on the ground were the needles, mixed in the with compost and moist, warm earth to make a springy cushion beneath the feet of many travelers. A path, small and barely seen, yet well worn and used by the fauna, winds it way through the undergrowth like a snake would wind it’s way through stalks of grass. The beginning of the trail would always remain a mystery for no one can find it. Many small game trails, and a few larger trails as well, eventually combine and join this beaten, dusty path as it twists it’s way into the meadow.

Abruptly, the trees end and the path seems to hesitate before them, staying just within the safety of the trees and running down alongside them. The trees themselves stare forebodingly at the empty valley like soldiers sitting in the watchtower and guarding the fortresses of stone above them. As the ground dips and turns into a hill, the path makes its way toward the mighty waters of the river. The fauna from the region make use of the path now and come down to the water’s edge to drink. Through the great seas of grass, nearly waist high and covering every inch of the little valley, the wind comes as well. Blowing softly and whistling a nameless tune, the wind sweeps and twirls among the bending grasses only to come smashing up against the formidable line of trees which do not bend to the wind. Laughing, the wind seeps between their ranks and continues it’s race with itself across the valley and back again.

The lake, where the animals come to rid themselves of their thirst, is quite small but makes itself large by leaching on the vanity of the great mountains. Holding very still, the little lake makes a perfect mirror for the vain peaks above, knowing they would proudly pose and preen. Thus, the little lake seemed very important to itself as it easily held the mountain’s attentions. Down the shore the river fed the lake; its the turbulent, frigid waters thundering their way down the cliffs to empty into the valley. Around, over, and, with time, through boulders and stone, the water pounds past every opposition. The river smoothed away edges and polished until it was satisfied with the stones and allowed them to rest in its bed, far below the churning surface. Despite all its fury the river calms and quiets upon entering the waters of the lake, perhaps because of the lake’s beauty or perhaps because it realizes the important work the little lake has to do. Whatever the case, the stream pauses in it’s dance of rage to pass through the lake, quiet as a mouse. Then, once beyond the confines of the shores, the river rages once again, down the slope, into the valley and through the mountains once more.

Back in the valley the sun has set and night has come. The noble creatures of the night come alive and begin their night’s hunt under the watchful eyes in the heavens. Twinkling in and out, the brilliant dots of light had no competition as they painted pictures and stories in the sky. But, in the distance, not far beyond the towering peaks, an even darker darkness loomed. Roiling and surging onward, the blackness began to spread like ink wet parchment. Slowly, then with increasing speed the massive thunderheads engulfed the stars until there was no more light. They confiscated the skies. Outraged, the mountains below insisted they move along, threatening them with sharp jagged edges of stone. The river welcomed the clouds, knowing they meant more strength to add to it’s already considerable might. The lake resented it, for it blocked out the stars and without the light, there was no way to see its beautiful reflections. Angry, the lake let itself be pushed by the playful wind and waves began to appear, first lapping then crashing against the shore. The trees didn’t seem to care one way or the other, for it was their duty to simply be. Through the seasons, the trees would be there, standing watch over the valley and the mountains both, like the good soldiers they were.

In one brilliant flash, followed instantly by a thunderous boom, the clouds above let go of their prizes. Rain drenched the land in seconds, pouring out in sheets, driven by the wind which merrily frustrated the plans of any to stay dry. Like a drummer, beating out his rhythm, the lightning flashed and the thunder rolled across the landscape. Cool water fell from the sky, making patterns in the lake’s surface, further disturbing it’s normally calm surface. The promised might was added to the mountain streams, who drank deeply and raced onward. All too soon though, the awesome displays of energy moved on and just as quickly as it started, the cloudburst stopped. Rapidly, the clouds pulled away, leaving behind only the valley, thankful for the water that quenched the thirst of many summer days. The Moon rose steadily and spread it’s own light as if to compete with the sun that would follow. Thousands of droplets caught the moonbeams and shot them back out in every direction, knowing that their glory was now and would never be again. Peacefully, the sounds of night begin again and sleep overcomes the weary like a warm fire overcomes the cold of night.

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