Footfall


Footfall’s tread moved lightly across the moonlit path. The oak and elm trees of the woods hung over the thin ribbon of dirt. The tree leaves undulated ever so slightly between the path and the full moon. This gave the ground the appearance of movement as if there were unseen creatures scurrying from shadow to shadow.

The scene would unnerve many but to Footfall the animation was a comfort. He had seen it before. Once he had chased one of the mottled movements and caught it. Except it was not a shadow of a leaf it was an Armadillo. Footfall never did that again. Nonetheless, Footfall loved everything about the dark woods. He knew each tall tree by name. Some of them he had seen year after year grow from a sprouting acorn to a tall strong tree. He wished he was a tree so that he could reach up and touch the fairy lights in the sky as the tall trees could. This was a night to rejoice and Footfall reveled in the events that were about to unfold. So he hurried on his way refusing to give into the urge to chase one of the leaf shadows just to see if he could catch it. He had never caught a shadow before but he kept trying.

One of the trees leaned a branch across the path and spoke to him, “Footfall you hurry, hurry where?”

Footfall stopped and addressed the tree, “Oak, why aren’t you catching the fairy lights. Would you catch one for me?”

Oak shook his leaves,” Cannot catch, too far, wave when wink at me. Footfall you hurry, hurry where?”

A sigh as soft as his tread escaped Footfall, “Oh Oak, I wish that you could come with me. Others will gather tonight in the big clearing where some of your children live. Tonight Bright Light returns to take us home.”

Footfall continued on his way down the path to leave Oak rooted in the ground and pondering the conversation which for Oak was more than he had said or heard in uncounted years. Most trees were content with their place in the forest never speaking until asked a question. When that happened they might or might not give an answer. It depended a lot on how the question was asked. So off he went in the direction of the clearing. As Footfall neared the end of the path he could hear the others of his kind.

Footfall and others gathered to fulfill a legend that one day their Creator Bright Light would return for them. It was a legend for no one knew for sure whether Bright Light had ever returned and taken some of them back. They had waited a year for a summer night, just like this one, the night Bright Light would come for them. There were so many in the woods and each one had the same urge to return to this spot every year at this very time and wait for Bright Light to come. They all felt that this year was the special night of the year as they had felt on so many nights before. There they were, hundreds and hundreds in the clearing, spilling out of the other paths that ended at the edge of the mossy covered ground. Some were big, others small ones, and some rather odd shaped. Some belonged to the same clan and displayed their unique clan patterns etched into their forms. They congregated in silence blending in to the moonlight or the shadows and waited.

From a distance came the sound for which they had been anticipating for many years. Some of them had waited longer than others and could not tell you how long it had been. Those were the really plain looking forms with most of them showing wear and tear from their age. But, each one of them whispered in the clearing with growing excitement and expectation.

Bright Light burst into the clearing. It was a magnificent glowing globe that lit the entire area. Bright Light banished the shadows and they disappeared without a murmur. The trees took on an eerie yellow glow that was somehow comforting. Bright Light hung above a giant domed Temple and was attended by its Priests and Priestesses. It shimmered and sang a song much like the whispering grass of the meadows when the breeze kissed their blades. Footfall was enraptured. Here was all that he ever believed something this magnificent could be. He lay on the moss with the others waiting for Bright Light to gather them up and whisk them away.

All knew that Bright Light came from very far and indeed must be tired. It needed rest as presently Bright Light fell asleep. In slumber it was still a faint glow that pulsated and sang softly. Footfall never slept. Like the others it was something for which he had no need. So they lay about the clearing patiently waiting for Bright Light to finish resting from its journey and awaken.

The dawn was just beginning to warm the air removing the night’s dew that had grown on the gathering. The Priests and Priestesses emerged from the Bright Light Temple and busily worked at preparing the day’s first offering. This went on for some time. The attendants to Bright Light were doing all sorts of rituals and purifications as they faced the sun and warmed their forms. They built a sacred fire throwing offerings into it. There was a sudden change in the movements of the Priests and Priestesses.

Footfall felt anxious in the growing dawn, “Will they be able to see me he thought.” He knew as everyone knew they were not heard by Bright Light or those that cared for it although everyone believed they could be seen. Bright Light assumed a place on a low alter where all the attendants assembled.They made their offerings and rose to place another sacrifice in the ritual fire. Then they began to gather up all their ritual materials they had brought with them. They even poured rain on the fire and buried it under the earth.

One of the Priests spoke, “Leave nothing behind, take everything with you.”

Oh the glory, the joy, the utter elation Footfall felt. All he heard was “take everything with you.” Everything would mean all of us. Hooray, they were going back with Bright Light. Everyone whispered so very softly. The whisper was so soft that even the moss could not hear them, but they heard each other. Then the head Priest took a giant black sacred container and turned in the direction of Footfall. “This is it, this is it,” he thought.

The Priest again uttered the magical words, “Leave nothing behind, and take everything with you.” The Priests and Priestesses gathered up every possible thing that was there, even the Bright Light Temple and placing all that they could carry on their backs turned with Bright Light and left the clearing down the path from which they had entered. The head Priest even burdened his back with the giant black sacred container. They were gone. But wait! Something was left behind. The multitude looked and there with them in the clearing were new others. Everyone gathered around and greeted the new strangers.

“Next year would be the year,” Footfall thought. There was no sadness for this had occurred many times before. This was a sacred place where the ritual was held with Bright Light each year. Everyone left for their places in the woods, along the paths, and creek banks. Some were from the mountains and others from tree limbs where the smaller Bright Light attendants had climbed. They left and they waited. The woods were quiet, except for the new ones who had so many questions. Their Creator had gone back without them. The Temple, the ritual materials – all that the Priests and Priestesses had carried into the forest clearing was gone. Nothing was left in the woods but Footfall and all the multitude like him.

Lying on the ground Footfall thought to himself, “Maybe this is the way it should be after all.”

© 2011, Donald Harbour

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