Pushing his way through the undergrowth and into a clearing, he pauses. The path, if you could call it that, seems to end on a rocky outcrop. He squints into the sun, its bright, harsh, but clean in an honest way. Its been a while since he sat in the sun and just rested.
And he needs a rest. Its been quite a jouney. He pulls himself up onto a smoothed large rock and pulls of his pack. Its a ragged thing, but very functional. Functional. Now there was a word he had learned to love and hate. Functional was never pretty, never the best, always hard and purposeful. He looked down at his shoes and the word "functional" came to mind again and he grinned sadly at them. They were good shoes. They had got him where he was and would no doubt take him where he needed to go and were comfortable in a heavy sort of way. But they were caked in mud and had cracks forming down the sides from hard use. He loved those boots, even if sometimes he didnt like them. They had kept out the worst of the cold and wet on the journey he had chosen and he would always be grateful.
Rolling his shoulders and stretching his neck, the man leaned back against the rock on his elbows and took a deep breath. The path did indeed seem to end here. He took another deep breath and looked around the rocky outcrop, the unexpected end of his journey. At first glance it looked desolate and lonelyand he felt from deep inside a small welling of sadness that perhaps it had all been for nothing, the struggling, the cold, the rain and constant hard slog.
Hi bit his lower lip and hugged his pack.
He squinted back up at the sun and shut his eyes to the blinding glare. Slowly he let his eyes open again and looked back over the wilderness he had crosssed. He had known he was travelling uphill a lot of the time, but was a little taking aback by how high he was and how much he could see. He had come a long way. He leaned forward and put his head in his hands and gazed through the clear sky over all below.
He could easily see the long stony ridge he had spent months travelling along and his eyes hardened. Those had been hard times. But he remembered how warm his old jacket had been and how his shoes had softened the steps. He remembered the fish he had caught in the small sheltered pool next to the waterfall where he had swam, even though it was cold enough to be painful. He had shivered in his jacket afterwards and wondered at his sanity for diving into the small pond at the bottom of the waterfall but looking back he had never felt more alive. The frown-lines on his faced softened at this thought and he looked further.
He could see the sunlight glistening off lake in the distance. It looked beautiful. He chuckled ruefully to himself, for half a second sucked back into the beauty of the lake from afar. It has been so aluring and his mind had romanticized the notion of building a boat and skimming over the surface of the lake, eating and drinking and being provided for by the lake. "What a life of ease!" he had thought. He looked at his scarred hands, healed over now but still showing the signs of hard lessons learned. The boat had been a fantastic idea, but terrible in practicality. He remembered seeing the lake for the first time and excitedly planning the exotic jouney ahead. He imagined his father telling him what a folly it was, how he knew nothing of boats, how he was asking for trouble...and why borrow trouble when you had enough on your plate. And he would have been right.
First came problems with materials. The trees nearby were small and spindly things, the flax for rope inadequate, he had not enough nails, had to guess how to make sails and he had designed too big. Then, and even now this was hard for him to admit, he found he lacked the skills necassary to fashion the dream boat he had imagined. A hard month later he found himself with something that floated -but at what price. He had slashed his hands making rope one day, and had screamed in frustration at the ugly thing that he had strived to hard to create. Where was the sleek watercraft that was going to provided the life of ease, skimming across the water? What he had fashioned he was sure would plod heavily through the small waves of the lake. He had tried so hard, had spilt blood, worked lon hot days until his back was on fire, his lips cracked from the sun and his hands a mess of ropey scars. The tears had come suddenly after he pulled the boat up onto the sandy bank and set fire to it.
Remembering now, it all seemed quite funny and a little silly. But the lessons learned had changed him -some things cant work, no matter how much and sometimes in spite of the efforts you put in. It had made him bigger and stronger and wiser, had given him the hands he had now. But those hands now knew how to make the rope that had frustrated him, to sew the sails that in future might one day send him skimming over the waves of some other lake.
He got up and stretched. For the first time he looked around his immediate area properly. To the left was a small goat track down a steep path, twisted around a corner and disappeared. He settled his feet into his shoes properly and swung his pack back on his back. He ran his hand through his hair - he needed a haircut again, but he always seemed to need a haircut- grinned a little and headed down the path.