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The Village

(c) Linda Hutchison November 2017

The village was hidden high in the mountains. The rain, when it fell, softly swathed the gardens in green. It fed the long, narrow fields, and the springs and waterfalls. The sun brightened days and warmed the earth. Each night, the cool mountain air drifted over the peaceful sleep of the villagers. The wind, when passing through, was gentle and fragrant with the scent of honeysuckle. Clouds drifted past only long enough to share their melodious shower before disappearing over the mountain peak. Peace was the daily bread of the villagers.
The backpacker lifted his heavy load onto his shoulders and looked upwards. Far in the distance he could see the gates to the village, high above him. He was running low on water and nearly out of food, but he knew that tonight he would find shelter and a full belly. He commenced his final ascent, not looking back. His mind concentrated on where his feet were placed, stepping methodically over logs and around boulders. He knew that a lack of concentration on these tight mountain paths could lead to a single fatal step, and he’d come too far to risk another accident.
It had been a single missed step that had put him back on this path. He’d lived in a large city for the past 20 years.  One day, while rushing to a meeting and reading emails on his phone, he’d stumbled over a homeless man, falling on the concrete, and causing the beggar’s takings to be spread far and wide. Gold coins, each representing a meal, rolled into the drain. His initial reaction had been to swear at the homeless man, until he realised that the beggar was seeking help for him. He was shocked into silence by this unexpected kindness. People came to his aid, and before he knew it, he was whisked away in an ambulance. Behind him, he saw the beggar hunting for the lost coins. His heart sank at his own misplaced sense of importance. In hospital, they diagnosed concussion and a broken arm and held him overnight. The bright lights and busyness of the hospital prevented sleep, but gave him plenty of time to reflect.
He had come to this new country 20 years ago to make his fortune. He had learned their language, and sought to understand their culture. He had studied at university and build friendships over coffee. He’d found a job, bought an apartment and learned to drive. He was aiming for a third promotion at work, the next belt in Taekwondo, and a holiday in Europe. But the beggar had interrupted his plans, in more ways than one. He lay in the hospital bed, thinking of that small figure hunched over the path, reaching for the small change of passers-by. Unbidden, memories of his home village flooded back. That small figure could have been his grandfather. He suddenly saw his 20 city years in a new light, and knew he had to go back. The mountain called him.
As he walked this long path up the mountain, he reflected on how he had changed. He’d become so busy that he’d forgotten how to be still, but now his senses were reawakening to the wild around him. He thought of what he had bought with his earnings, and the storage he had been forced to rent. He realised that he had been working harder and harder to find the time to rest. Somehow, the trappings of the world had attached themselves to him and weighed down his spirit. Now, as he walked, he could feel the world fall away, and he became lighter with every step. By the time he reached the gates of the village, his steps were lit with joy.
The villagers rushed forth to greet him, and to wrap him in their arms. They would celebrate tonight, and walk life with him as he retreated from the world into their mountain clan. It wouldn’t be easy to reacclimatize, but they would feed him, give him shelter, love him when it wasn’t so easy, and help him find himself again. Each individual would be there with a unique word, action or gift at just the right time, and his soul would be restored. And later on, in years to come, he would become the small hunched figure dispensing the wisdom of the aged, “Find love for what you have, and you will find contentment.”

The Village: Work
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