The Valley

Anonymous

The harsh, echoing cry of a loon rebounded throughout the valley. It awoke the deer in their beds, hidden amongst the trees. It awoke the eagles in their nest, high above the lakeshore. And it awoke a man, sleeping beneath the ancient oak, on his mattress of ferns.

The man rose, unperturbed, at the sound. It was an alarming noise, the cry of the loon, but the man had heard it before. He had heard it all his life, because this valley was his home. He, being subject to the laws of normal men, was not allowed to live in the valley all of the time; he had to work throughout the winter in a small office in the large city of Detroit. He worked hard all day for a painfully small salary.

But even on such meager pay he managed to save enough money to visit the valley in the summer. Perhaps it was his fierce longing to be there, in the one place that he felt like he belonged, that allowed him to work the long hours and live off of the barest of necessities all winter long. It was the knowledge that by the end of May he would be in the valley that kept him going.

And now he was there, and he had three glorious months to spend. He had arrived the morning before, as the mist slowly rose from the lake. He had silently paddled his canoe across the lake, always keeping the shore and its familiar landmarks in sight, until he spotted his landing. It was all his; he had made it himself the last summer. And there, hidden from the sight of any people who might chance the two day hike up the valley from the nearest town, he had pulled up his canoe and slept. He slept away the exhaustion of his nonstop canoe trip up the river, which had taken him two days and a night, hauling all of his gear. He slept away the worries that he had gained over the winter. He slept in the knowledge that he was safe, that all was right with the world.

He slept deeply throughout all of the day, until the loon woke him in the early evening. When he woke, the valley was bathed in a golden glow as the sun slowly sank beneath the top of one of the hills that guarded the valley. It was still early summer, and while the ground was still warm, there was a chill in the air. The man rose, and began the task of gathering firewood. Later, doing so would become monotonous, but for the moment the man did not mind. He almost enjoyed it, walking through the woods that he knew well. He noticed how they had changed since he had left. He noticed several new groves of pine trees, and a blackened hull of a tree burnt during a lightning storm.

When the fire had burned down, the man ate supper. He retrieved a wool blanket from underneath his canoe. And again he slept, free of all the cares of modern men.

During the night, animals crept into his camp to examine what this new creature was. Some of the older animals, such as the raccoon that resided in a tree nearby, remembered him. An owl silently swooped past the edge of the circle of light provided by the glowing embers. Bats flew through the camp. But the man slept undisturbed until the sun rose above the hill and began to disperse the mist gathered in the valley.

Then he got up and cleaned his camp. He added wood to the fire until there was a cheery, crackling blaze. There was fishing line and a hook in his pack, which he retrieved. Then he visited a rotten log that he had noticed the night before, and retrieved some worms and such for bait. The man then followed a faint deer trail along the shore of the lake, until he came to a long log that jutted out into the water. It made a perfect dock. By the time the sun was completely over the hill, the man had landed two large bluegills and a perch. A huge snapping turtle had tried to steal one of his catches, but the man was wise to its ways. He had seen the turtle many times before.

The man returned to his camp and cooked the fish. He was hungry enough to eat every bite. Then he rested. The day was going well. It was the perfect start to his summer.

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