In the waning light of a golden autumn afternoon the forest was alive with the whispers of leaves and the soft, hurried sounds of woodland creatures. A narrow path worn by countless footsteps and the relentless march of time, wound through the thickening trees and over an ancient stone bridge. It was upon this bridge that a young woman named Elara, paused.
Clad in a cloak the colour of cardinal wings she stood out vividly against the muted colours of the forest. The cloak was a gift from her grandmother billowed gently in the crisp breeze, as if it were part of the living tapestry around her. In her hand a woven basket carried the sweet comforts of fresh bread and honey lovingly prepared for the grandmother she was journeying to see.
Elara had travelled this path many times before each step ingrained in her memory like the verses of a well loved lullaby. Yet today a peculiar sense of foreboding tugged at her heartstrings. She looked into the murky waters below where her reflection was met by another, a younger version of herself wide-eyed and innocent. Elara's gaze lingered on the water's surface, a mirror to a time of innocence when the path held no secrets from her and the forest no whispers that spoke of caution. The young reflection seemed to beckon her a silent siren of her own making to remember the days when her feet danced along the path and her laughter mingled freely with the rustling leaves.
But the years had draped her shoulders with a cloak of wisdom as vibrant as the red fabric that wrapped her now a wisdom that saw the tangled undergrowth and knew of the thorns it concealed. With the passage of time she had learnt the language of the woods, had deciphered the hushed tones of the wind. It told her tales of change, of life and of the inexorable cycle that brought her back to this bridge season after season.
The bread in her basket seemed heavier now laden with the weight of tradition, and the honey though sweet, carried the bittersweet tang of nostalgia. For Elara understood that with each crossing of the bridge with each delivery of sustenance to her ageing grandmother, she was partaking in a ritual far older than herself, a ritual of care and love that had been enacted long before her own mother had taken her first steps on this path.
Shaking off the shadows of foreboding Elara straightened her back her silhouette a stark contrast to the descending twilight. The days of being the wide-eyed girl in the reflection were behind her but their memory was a cherished companion that walked with her still. It was a part of her as much as the blood of her ancestors that ran through her veins.
With a final glance at the reflection of her youth Elara stepped off the bridge, her resolve as firm as the stones beneath her feet. The path ahead twisted into the golden hues of the forest, leading her onwards to the warm glow of her grandmother's cottage where stories and laughter would mingle with the crackling of the hearth, and there in the embrace of family, the peculiar sense of foreboding would dissolve into the night as ephemeral as the mist that rose from the river at dawn.
January 18th, 2024
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