They walked together, the forest way. He the teacher, the guardian, protector. She, in trust of he, walking his long shadows.
The smell, it was of labor, cure and of leather. His smile calmed but warned in stern fence lines and she curioused to the riddle.
There were others, they were not alone. But their walk was alone. She spied rabbits and bluebirds and learned their ways through the smile that he spoke so eloquently.
One day, and who could know, she chased the rabbit through the brush and across the creek and laughed to the game in shoeless leather. But in mid chase, she no longer could feel the smile over her shoulder, she felt the chill, and the rabbit found escape.
Her head tilted in wonderment and her eyes lighted to what always was. But what always was had escaped with the rabbit and she was alone.
She still walked the forest way for it was all she knew, but the smells of leather and labor faded to the presence of her own scent which escaped her understanding.
She grew. Her knowledge grew. Her body grew. Another came to walk with her on the forest trail. He was in good gait, and kind in direction but different. His smell was not of strong labour and leather but of sickness and death. He of such strength and life was swallowed in death while he enveloped in death, defined life in guardianship. A curious affair.
Her thoughts questioned the forest and it’s ways. The things she once chased in play she now strangled in control believing harmony unbalanced, and trust cruel.
The forest trail led farther and farther from where the bluebirds played and her hurts led her on. She wandered into a swamp of soft velvet moss where a toad of magical abilities told great stories of enlightenment and sold her a ticket across the great lake. The ticket was free but required a change of garment and the clothes she once wore would vanish forever. An easy sell.
She learned the ways of those that lived across the lake but she could not completely forget the ways of those from the forest. She traded moccasins for sandals and sandals for sorrels as she journeyed rice fields, deserts and snow pastures. She became a piece of all she encountered and all she encountered took a piece of her in uneven trade.
There was a way taught for every land and tribe, and acceptance was based on compliance. Things were tried and bartered for. She became a collage for others to marvel of and read. And all that heard of her stories felt compelled to give another article of clothing, so as to claim part ownership in such a marvelous creature.
After a time, she was very heavy laden in the dress of gifts and the talisman that bled dry the possessor. Now, only her fingers, adorned in beauty's simplicity, shown visible and when she would meet others in the way she would draw them in so that they too could not be claimed and spoken for.
In her journey from the forest to find herself, she found herself only in others, and that sadly so.
Now, well blossomed and full of the world’s great wisdom, she sought the toad which had first granted her passage and found him by a chapel in the garments of a priest, sly old toad. A deal was made and the great lake parted her waves in honour.
This time, she was allowed to keep her clothes that wore her but she could not sail alone. So, a companion was distributed with morning tea and bread and she soon found herself back in the forest being led by a stranger who had never known the forest or it's ways.
The rabbits and the bluebirds she had so long ago known no longer recognized her or trusted her companion. She went to the river and preached to them of the ways she had learned across the great lake but they cared not for her nonsense. So she chose to make rabbits and bluebirds with her companion that would care for her great knowledge.
The forest became less wild. Storms blew elsewhere and all became safe. All seemed happy but only because the origins and the splendor of the storms had long since been buried and forgotten. One day, while walking alone-which was her want, she saw a bluebird fly off the trail, deep into the bramble. At the same time, she smelled leather, and labour, and maybe a cure and she remembered a smile bred of the earth and borne in a storm.
She followed the old trail grown over through heavy underbrush. She had to crawl and make herself small to force passage. The bluebird led her to rabbits that still knew of the old way. Their coats were wild and untamed, their eyes crazy in recognition. She found a familiar creek that flowed in harmony and smoothed stones in easy passage. Here, she took her clothes off and lay back in the soft underbelly of understanding and looked up to an emerald sky as storm clouds brewed. She now realized her own rabbits and bluebirds must learn the old way.
She smiled. She was home.