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White dust swirled in small sideways fountains, hitting the verge of the path, painted in dark sand, as soft leather shoes beat a steady rhythm into the earth. To the light grey shrubs and minuscule black specks, whose flight lent an almost inaudible drone to the morning silence, the footsteps sounded like an army marching into battle.

In the already scorching sky, a furnace of wind blew sand in freer, more globular formations. A few calm birds spread their wide-winged silhouettes sporadically on the blue canvas. Below their docile patterns a small winding path cut through sun-bleached rocks and dense, rugged plantlife, through the torrents of the mountain, until it succumbed to the summit and the horizon.

The skin on the small womanís face was dark, and crumpled with the stiff notches and wrinkles of a simple life at the small of a mountain. Her clothes were bleached and her eyes bright, despite the dull blue and grey that surrounded her pupils. Across her shoulders hung a thin leather pouch that rested on her hip, and bounced slightly as she walked. Her gaze was still and focussed, her long hair, varying in itís grey tones, hung like water behind the dip in the small of her back and ruffled slightly as she walked.

The familiar smell of warm, morning dust wrapped around her sad, rested face, and fused with a similar scent engraved into her small body and clothes. The shift in balance from one leg to another caused momentary tremors in the skin around her elbows and arms as they swayed freely, back and forth, with a determined pendular motion sifting the warm wind between the hardened skin of her semi-clenched fingers.

An hour passed, the ground warmed steadily. As the path continued upwards, the view revealed itself to be a mountainous panoramic, coloured by the contrast of damp grey shadows and the fresh morning light. The peaks and canyons appeared all around the narrow track. In the distance, thin, dispersed clouds hovered over some of the white peaks. The coast was visible and shimmered like a mercury lining on the horizon. The distance from the village increased and the pulse of the shoes continued without slowing. The last remnant shadows hid beneath coarse shrubs and the far side of sharp rocks, sometimes exhaling brief, cool breaths, extinguished immediately by the dry heat. The white sun bore down everywhere. Here and there small lizards, mottled in black and yellow scuttled nervously across the sandy path into the vegetation on either side, making wiry trails in the sand.

The silence of the mountaintop felt like it was wrapped in the heat of the sun, and smothered everything in the same way. If it was broken, it was only very briefly, by the distant cry of an eagle passing by on itís lazy, ancient way. As the sun rose high above the tiny figure, the path became steeper and often she would have to clamber over baking, white rocks, and along precipitous scree-slopes. At these times her hands were always on, or near the ground, but her movements were not at all uneasy, they looked perfectly natural, as the small drop of water that moves slowly around the contours in itís path. Her movements were soft and graceful, and she kept her balance as she established harmonious relationships with the terrain. It appeared that she was asking the rocks a question with her feet, and each time they responded with kindness and acceptance.

She came to a small level clearing which allowed a view over the entire mountain range and down to the flat planes of the country below her. At this height the different levels of the sky, and their respective tones painted themselves over the line of the horizon. A haze covered everything and the coastline whispered in the distance. The silence was impressive, unique to this high altitude. The sun was almost directly above her and a thin layer of salty sweat covered her entire body, lying under her dusty clothes. She stood in the clearing and reached into the leather pouch at her side. Still looking into the distance, past mountaintops and great valleys, she pulled from the bag a smaller leather pouch and held it to her mouth. She swallowed a mouthful of lukewarm water, sealed the pouch and returned it to her side. She sat down cross-legged, her back resting against a large rock and closed her wrinkled eyelids.

In the crimson dark behind her eyes she watched the shapes and tones of the sun morph into one as the muscles of her eyes relaxed and she breathed deeply. Although the air was warm and thick, it was fresh and had a cool edge from the altitude she had reached. It invigorated her and seemed to reach into the depths of her being, invoking in her a deep and peaceful rest. Her life had been hard, and she hadnít known much physical comfort, but she had experienced love, and had a good family, her children and their children respected and cared deeply for her. She saw her daughter, in the village sitting in her home, preparing the vegetables from their garden in the black pot, and her grandchildren working steadily in the fields. She felt a deep sensation of love for them, and felt content to be so near to the heavens.

She opened her eyes slowly and let her sight rest on the wispy remains of clouds that seemed to brush their way lightly over icy summits. A smile rose from somewhere deep inside her being and traces showed themselves in the lines at the corners of her mouth. Tiny tremors washed over her lips. A slight breeze ran its hand through her hair. Her heart was beating strongly and she could feel the pumping of blood around her body.

Her eyes followed some current that brushed softly through her, and fell on a small flower on the edge of the clearing, with petals emerging shyly, the sensuous red invigorated and aroused in her a passion that burned and quickly rested, calm and serene, as she lay down. The sensation of cool silken grass brushed against her warm skin and she breathed, inhaling the beauty of this world, and breathed out.

As the day wore on the flower blossomed, striking the blue day with a deep red heart, later still it boasted red droplets, and the grass green droplets, and nearby rain light as mist trickled over the soft eyelids, lips and body of the woman, still and rested. Through the thin mist golden rays began to pour in; a rainbow was born, shone and died, in the eyes of beauty. All was illuminated.

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