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The Valley

Beautiful stories written by YOU about a person or event that changed your life, gave you hope, made you dream...
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MoiraT
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Posts: 1
Joined: September 1, 2009, 11:05 am
Location: South Africa
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Post by MoiraT » September 1, 2009, 11:12 am

The shallow but very broad valley lay deep-green and calm in front of her.

She had visited it many times a year ago, when she had first come to the farm on holiday. She had walked along the steep edges of the short cliffs that formed the face of the near side of the valley.

Sometimes she had sat on the warm rocks in the late, summer evenings, watching the hawks hover as they waited for the rock rabbits to show themselves after a torpid afternoon in their stony hideouts.

She would watch the ice-white cumulus nimbus clouds steeple to impossibly immense shapes in the deep blue of the darkening sky.

She would trace the glisten of the narrow, deep stream as it flickered in and out of the tall grass and dense reeds of the floor of the valley, where the vast herd of red and black cattle fattened itself. Red and black widow birds flashed in and out of the reeds.

She would listen to the kestrels shriek and the rock rabbits bark. Floating from the floor and the sides of the valley would come the mostly calm but occasionally brazen conversation of the cattle. And the high swallows would shree across the slanting rays of the sun.

But she had never ventured on to the valley floor. And she had never crossed to the other side.

There was no overt threat in the valley. In fact, it was idyllically peaceful.

But she was life-tired. Looking, listening, passively, was all the effort she could make.

And the valley seemed very large. It seemed to cradle her entire world. She felt small, perched on its edge.

She could see that, at the end where she walked and sat - the valley mouth, there was easy, gently sloping ground that held no physical challenge. There was, however, the emotional challenge of crossing from this, known side to that, unfamiliar side.

At the other end of the valley, which was shaped like a long U, the floor rose steeply, though still grassy and green, to a high plateau. And behind that there lifted an enormous, less verdant and so, apparently, starker, flat-topped hill, with broad side buttresses holding it firmly in place.

The cattle that sometimes appeared on the hill’s flanks looked like tiny specks from where she watched.

Certainly, that end of the valley was too big, too strong for her.

Last year, she had held herself apart from the valley – loving the beauty, but not exploring, not committing.

She couldn’t, then.

Renewal

This year, though, she had ventured, with the dogs, across a ford in the river at the safe, soft end of the valley. She had scrambled across the slippery rocks and through the mud. She had walked up the jutting headland across the river. She had watched the dogs revel in a different sunshine, new scents, a sense of an expanded world.

She had turned and looked back at last year’s limits, the short cliffs of the near-side of the valley. And discovered that, from her new vantage point, she could see all the way back to the main farmhouse – and the cottage to one side that was her accommodation for the holiday.

After that day, she walked a little further each day. Each day she was less tired. She didn’t puff as much going uphill.

She realised that, if she crossed the ford and got to the top of the ridge on the other side, she would be able to walk all the way along it to the far end of the valley. She would be able to get to a place half way up the huge hill.

She began to want to see what the farm looked like from there. How her cottage would fit into the overall landscape from that perspective. How much more of the world she would see from that height.

But, she didn’t attempt it. Not big enough herself, yet.

Instead, for a few days, she and the dogs followed the old farm road that she now saw also forded the river and ran along the back of the hills that formed the other side of the valley.

They were long, hot walks and, every now and then, the road would become impassable for vehicles. In places, it had been washed away by heavy rains – or rocks and trees had fallen across it.

The first time she came to a new obstacle, she would turn back home. But the next day she would find a way over that one and go on until the next one presented itself – and then turn back. She had will enough only to conquer one new obstacle a day.

Better than last year, though, when she couldn’t face any obstacle at all.

Then, one day, she found herself at a place where dense bush dotted with huge, dark trees engulfed the road. It was late in the afternoon by then. The sun was gone behind the hills. Things rustled and skreeked in the bush. It was difficult to see where to take the next step. The dogs were being unusually cautious, too.

This time, she didn’t turn back. Panicked by the loss of the sun, she worried that going back on the road would take too long and she’d end up having to ford the river in the dark.

She felt it would be safer to push through the bush until she could see enough to go up the side of the hill and walk back along the ridge overlooking the valley until she could reach the ford.

Yes, fear drove her. But this was her biggest obstacle yet and there was just a squirm of excitement in her belly. She felt she could actually deal with whatever the consequences were of having ventured this far.

The bush fell away quite quickly and she could see a sharply angled cattle track that would lead her up to the ridge. Up there, the sun was waiting for her. Low on the horizon, massive, orange, it bathed her in a soft light high above the valley. The valley was in strong shadow.

She found that she had joined the ridge at a point very close to the far end of the valley, where it had always looked as if it became the immense hill. She could see now that the valley and the hill were separated by a long, winding ridge that had smaller valleys on both sides of it.

But night was coming. She walked back towards her cottage along the heights of the other side of ‘her’ valley, the hawks and kestrels hovering above, accompanying her as far as the ford. She’d been walking for several hours. She was not tired.

Regeneration

The next day – second last of her holiday – she forded the river again.

This time, she turned towards the valley floor. It was too slippery and treacherous to be able to follow the course of the river. The tall reeds would have blocked her periodically, anyway.

So she began to follow her own path, her instincts for finding the right ground honed over three weeks of treading a little new ground every day.

The going was rough, the lush green of the valley as seen from a distance proving at close quarters to consist of stubby clumps of prickly grass. She had to focus on each step, so as not to trip. Many a time, she had to make a detour around rocks and marshy ground.

Even so, she made steady progress along the bottom edge of the hills on the other side of the valley. The dogs ran freely, feeling an unusual freedom in this vast open space.

Soon, she was able to turn inward towards the centre of the valley floor. The river had wound away to the other flank of the valley and she found herself on solid ground right at the heart of the valley.

The walls of the valley cupped her as she stood looking up at a circle of sky defined by the cliffs. The silence there at the heart was emphasised by the almost imperceptible movement of the warm breeze in the grasses and reeds lining the river. Birds soared on the air currents rising along the cliffs, but their calls were too high to be heard.

She was in an entirely green and blue world, wonderfully certain that she could enter and leave it at will. She had both the will and the strength.

More importantly, she knew now that the valley had never been too big. Too anything. It had always been simply what it was – a collection of earth, water, and vegetation put together in a particular way. But no more or less daunting than any other valley would have been.

The perception of difficulty had been hers alone. The sense of smallness had been hers alone. And it had receded a little each time she made one small move – to cross the ford, to climb the headland, to explore the land behind the other side of the valley…

Now, here she was right in the middle of the valley. Safe, contained, held. She’d had to put out only moderate effort. Enough only to be able to walk up some hill slopes. Yes, some had been quite steep and some had a bit of tricky terrain. But, apart from a little extra legwork, all she’d really needed to do was focus her attention on placing her feet and picking her route.

And when she paused for breath or sat down to give her legs a break, she’d been so much more aware of everything. The imperceptible touch of the air on the fine hairs of her face. The smell of hare dung from the rocks. The difference in the scent of the moist earth near the river and the dry, dusty, pebbly earth on the ridges of the hills. The white sound of the cicadas blanketing her consciousness but still leaving her ears free to observe the soft crunch of the dogs’ paws on gravelly sand. The cool bite of a segment of a naartjie on her tongue and the burst of the juice against the roof of her mouth as she bit into it.

There had been nothing too difficult in the process of getting into the middle of the valley. Nothing too demanding. Nothing that had stretched her beyond her most basic capabilities. Capabilities she’d been born with. She’d had to develop no special skills. All she’d had to do was take the action of which she’d felt capable at the time.

As she stood in the centre of the valley, there was no bounding excitement, no extravagance of any feeling. Just a deep settling into herself. An ability to touch a solidness inside herself. A gathering serenity.

She walked up the far side of the valley, close to the head of the valley, not turning back home yet. Wanting to have a look at the enormous hill from closer than she’d ever been before.

She stood on the ridge running round the head of the valley, a warm wind plucking at her hair and clothes. The sun burned slightly at her bare legs. And she saw that it was possible to get to the huge hill, again, simply by walking. She’d have to be careful in some places. But she knew now that she would be able to get from her cottage to the shoulders of the hill and back in a day.

She did not set herself the summit of the hill as her target. Just the shoulders.

And then she turned and made her way along the ridge at the head of the valley back towards the near-side cliffs and downs that would lead her back to the ford.

This, too, was new territory for her. She had not walked this way before. She revelled in it. Even when she came to a stark copse of withered trees that loomed eerily across her route, she didn’t attempt to find a way around it. The ground was rocky and snarled with ancient roots around which the earth had eroded way – but she walked right through the centre of the copse.

The lattice work of branches above was a mirror image of the tangled footing below and would have made the whole copse unpleasantly dark. But the slanting rays of the late afternoon sun bounced off the chalky ground and the white and grey tree trunks and lit up the copse like light pouring in through a cathedral’s windows.

It wasn’t a comfortable place, with its aura of a death. But it was not frightening, either. It was just a place on the journey home.

After that copse, the going was quite easy, enhanced by the fact that, being high up on this side of the valley, she gained yet another perspective on the valley. She could see again its richness and fertility, but from a different angle. It seemed to smile in its wholeness.

And above the ridge on the other side, the far side, she could see the pale blue and purple, jagged, outlines of the Lesotho escarpments.

Walking this new section of the ridge on this side of the valley enabled her to glimpse not just new geography but a whole new country, staggering in its loftiness above the rest of the region.

And, this time, she didn’t need to go all the way back to the ford. The back of the valley ridge on this side sloped gently down to another river – actually a narrow stream that she could simply jump across. The dogs snapped at the dragonflies that hovered above the slow-moving water. From there it was a quiet walk back to her cottage.

She had found a new way home. It had always been there. She just hadn’t noticed it before. Because she hadn’t been looking for it. Hadn’t realised that the possibility of more than one way existed. Or was allowed.

Rebirth

On the last day of her holiday, she got up early so as to be able to cross the ford before the dew on the grass had dried. The sky was clear. It was going to be a hot day.

She forded the river, pausing to splash her face and head with its cool water. She strode up and over the headland, pausing once to look back at her cottage, settle her small backpack more comfortably on her shoulders, and whistle to distract the dogs from hunting a hare that she could see sunning himself on an outcrop.

As she walked along the smooth, flat rocks above the cliffs on this, far side, of the valley, she had the peculiar but attractive sensation of the earth underneath her feet swirling slowly on its axis. As though the world was moving but she was absolutely still. As though she were the centre of the world. As though she were the axis.

She came to a grove of trees. Clinging to a rocky outcrop with long, powerful roots, the trees grew in weird, spread-out shapes close to the ground, as if the branches were roots that grew into the sky. Collectively they created a canopy of delicate leaves that spread a welcome coolness.

Judging by the droppings, the grove appeared to provide shelter to the cattle. The dogs ran around, nose to the ground, absorbing the story of the cattle. She sat down on a root to rest her feet, drink some bottled water, and eat a peach and a few apricots from her backpack.

From her vantage point, she could see down both into her own valley and the one to the left of the land bridge she would use to cross to the shoulders of the huge hill.

The new valley fell away sharply, levelled out briefly under a forest (the one she’d climbed out of a few days ago), and then dropped completely off an escarpment overlooking the land that ran from there, eventually, down to the sea. Far in the hazy distance she could see a small rural town that she knew would be bustling with trucks, taxis, and people scrabbling to make a living.

Here, in the grove, there was a cool, green, age-old calm.

The heat of the day was growing. She pulled on her floppy hat and set off for the land bridge.

As she approached it, she realised that it was steepled high with enormous rocks that were the crumbling remnants of an ancient cliff. She would have to inch her way very carefully along the edge of the overhang of the new valley. She didn’t like heights. Always felt as if it was inevitable that she would fall off them. Didn’t trust her ability to balance.

She hadn’t expected this. Hadn’t expected any real obstacles, actually. Conquering the valley had never presented her with anything that had made her palms sweat.

But turning back was not an option. Not any more.

So, slowly, she began to pick a way over the rocks. When she felt overwhelmed she stopped for a few minutes. The dogs were enjoying the new terrain, squeezing themselves through narrow crevices and appearing above her on the rocks, tongues lolling, grinning.

She suddenly realised that the dogs were following cattle paths. If cows, so much bigger than she was, could negotiate these cliffs, then so, absolutely, could she.

She struck out with more confidence. She got so bold, in fact, that there were moments in which she could stand quietly, leaning against the rock wall and look down into the new valley without feeling nauseous. She even had the emotional freedom to help lift the old dog up over some rocks that were a challenge for her, rather than using the old lady’s slight stiffness as a reason to retreat.

So focused was she on each step that she was taken by surprise when the rocks gave way to more open ground that cradled a spring that would, in the rainy season, extend itself into a thin waterfall into the new valley. Her focus on the moment seemed to have speeded up time.

Hot now, the dogs went straight in to the spring, drinking the cold water as they swam in it.

She took off her shoes and soaked her feet and legs. Sitting on the bank of the spring, she looked to see how close she was to the shoulders of the huge hill and found, again to her surprise, that she was already sitting on its chest. She had arrived without realising it.

More than that, she had arrived not at the destination she had chosen but at a point directly under the flat top of the hill. The contours of the land bridge had taken her off her original course but brought her to the place that she had really, in her heart, wanted to be but hadn’t dared to openly make her goal.

She could still go to the left-hand shoulder of the hill, if she wanted to. She could see it clearly and it wasn’t all that far. But there seemed no point now. A much more significant option was now available, easily attainable.

She made her way to a large boulder overhung by a thorn tree. Perched on the rock, drinking some water, eating fruit and nuts, and giving the dogs some biscuits, she watched a bird she’d never seen before in her many years of bird-watching hover for nectar over a flowering shrub. Iridescent in all the colours of the rainbow, the tiny bird flitted from bush to bush, embroidering the rocky slope with its flight.

In the hollow of land into which she had moved to reach the tree, she couldn’t see out over the route she had used to get here. She could see any distance only when she looked up towards the crest of the hill.

She put her shoes back on. As she stood up, she realised that her leg muscles were tiring. They were not used to the action needed to surmount the rocks she’d traversed on the land bridge. And she had, she saw as she looked at her watch, been on the move almost non-stop for more than three hours. Still, with the greater awareness of her strength that she had developed in the past three weeks, she knew there was enough left in her to get to the top of the hill.

For once, she refused to let herself worry about how she would manage to get home. She knew that, if it turned out that way, she would not be afraid of spending the night on the hill. In a way, she quite wished it would turn out that way.

She had to go almost straight up the neck of the hill. It was a sharp incline, but not so bad that she had to go on her hands and knees.

Her leg muscles objected frequently and she found herself, a few times, panting as though she’d run a marathon. But, as she had learned, if she felt overwhelmed, she gave herself a rest.

She focused on moving only a few meters at a time. She did not look at her goal, the crest of the hill. She concentrated on the small distances she needed to move, one by one.

And, again, in far less time than she had expected, she walked up a short slope and found herself, suddenly, on level ground. She was on the flat plateau at the top of the hill. Specifically, she had arrived at a beacon that topographers had placed on the hill to mark height above sea level and other geographic co-ordinates.

She held her hand on it for a few minutes, understanding that it marked her new emotional and spiritual co-ordinates.

Reformation

Then, she turned around to see how she had got here.

There it was. An entirely new view of the world she had been living in.

Away to her right and much closer than she had expected from the glimpse the previous day, were the Lesotho (Maluti) mountains. Indigo blue in the midday sun, they glistened with snow and waterfalls and quartz outcroppings.

To the left, past the near-side wall of her valley, in vast receding terraces, lay the foothills of the Maluti, shimmering in the heat.

And, in front of her, warm and rich in its jade coat of grass and reeds, almost perfectly oval in shape from this perspective, lay her valley. From this height, so small. So small.

She could see now that is was one of many similar valleys – on the farm she’d been staying on and all its neighbours.

It had seemed for so long to be too big for her. It had taken her so long to get to its heart. And now it had slipped softly into its proper place in her personal geography – utterly comprehensible and a lovely marker along her journey towards a stronger, less fearful, more open, more adventurous self. A self who could take each moment of the day as it came and didn’t need to know what the outcome would be before she took a step, a decision.

The valley had shown her that she didn’t have to rush anything. That it was perfectly ok to explore all around the edges of something before you committed yourself to it. But, also, if you committed to it, whenever you committed to it, everything would manageable. Safe. And that, once confronted, it would shrink back in significance and become just one of many beads of experience on the necklace of life.

She knew, now, where to find her strength. Her mind could feel it, touch it, deep inside her.

She turned around and walked about 200 metres to the opposite side of the flat top of the hill. There, the cliffs dropped down to a road that wound away towards the next small town and, eventually, the coast.

The countryside rolled away from her into a far-away haze. She felt as if she was on top of the world. Nothing seemed bigger or higher than she was. She saw and understood so much more than before.

The sun was dipping away into the afternoon. Her sense of adventure and of her own strength was filling her veins. So, instead of going back the way she had come, instead of going back over the same ground, she chose to walk along the top of the hill towards one of the shoulders that had been all she’d allowed herself to aim for before – and began to head back towards her valley and home.
Moira Tuck
website: www.aboutbeing.info
Email: moiratuc@mweb.co.za

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ladybird
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Post by ladybird » September 6, 2009, 12:53 am

Dear ((((Moira)))))

Wow I am spellbound by this amazing incredible beautiful write...
I enjoyed it immensely...the vivid descriptions made everything about the valley tangible and its so uplifting....about courage and perserverance...I do hope you will post more stories for they are a gem to treasure...

love from a blissed
ladybird luv
Sunshine surrounds the earth as love surrounds our souls. ~Amethyst Snow-Rivers

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Laura Sue
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Post by Laura Sue » November 8, 2009, 3:43 am

Dear Moira,

Beautifully written. So glad that I read this. "Life weary" - it happens.

Many words called out my name, and today will be better because I read this.

Best wishes, Laura :)

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Post by mwzephyr » November 14, 2009, 5:32 am

Moira,
This story of yours was a slow, deliberate and beautiful one. I loved the visual details wound up in the personal discoveries and growth.
I am hoping you will find time to share another one with us soon.
David

lagoamedia
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Post by lagoamedia » November 24, 2009, 9:51 am

It reminds me of something from Chicken Soup for the Soul.
Mark Victor Hansen, co-author of Chicken Soup for the Soul just did a video interview about the economy with Steven K. Scott, co-founder of the Total Gym. Watch the interview on my blog at http://bit.ly/4uLn2d

olivia751
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Post by olivia751 » December 3, 2009, 11:06 pm

Hello,

Nice story i got here. i am feeling lucky that i am here where i got many good stories which sometimes really near to the life.




Regards,
Olivia

Leadership Books

Yoron
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Post by Yoron » December 24, 2009, 1:42 pm

Sweet Moira.

It's difficult to write like you did, and I think you did it very good.
Glad I found your story.
I accept all comments, god or bad :)
As long as you don't 'troll' .

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