The wood was still. Not even the hint of a breeze shifted the sparse brown, curled leaves still clinging dumbly to their trees. It made me think of the love long dead, when one lover still holds desperately to traditions now meaningless. I stopped at a tree that was more an oversized stick, standing crooked and oblivious at the edge of the trail. There was one last little leaf still hanging on to a branch right at my eye level. She was redder than the others I had seen so far. I offered her my best advice.
“You should just let him go. Just give it up, honey. He doesn’t care about you anymore. You aren’t even getting anything out of this relationship anymore. It’s just…time. Anyways, he’s ‘focusing on himself’ right now, and as far as he is concerned, you have already left. It’s time for you to move on.”
As I stared at this one-leaf twig, a chill wind suddenly pricked up, coming in from the north. It was light at first, but insistent, and my auburn friend finally took the plunge. She landed at the base of the tree directly opposite hers, across the trail. This one was a skinny oak, from the looks of his bark, but I guessed that his roots must have gone deep, since his branches were already strong and wide, reaching out to cover the trail and seek out all available sunlight in the warmer months.
“See? I told you you could find a better place. This one should have a lively crowd. I know you will end up fitting in just fine. Besides, when you think about it, you all come from the same dirt, and that’s where you are all going, anyway!”
I smiled my best tongue-in-cheek grin at them all and turned back down the path. The wind blew down at me in stronger gusts, promising a cold night. I was now strangely grateful for the sixty pounds of dead weight on my back, since I knew the exertion of lugging it further northward would only help keep me warm on the move. At least I had decided to bring precautions against the cold, topping off my pack weight at about sixty, instead of forty, pounds. I opened my mouth wide and breathed in as much winter chill as I could in one big gulp, letting the air fight the warm blood in my lungs. I had miles to go before I slept, and many more to bring me to the end of my walk, and I would savor every inch, every step, every breath, and every gust.
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