Life within the Valley
The sun set across a beautiful landscape. Snowcapped mountains encircling a lush valley, full of life. The verdant terrain of vegetation deceives with its appearance of tranquility, and passivity. Wildlife teams throughout, feeding off of the plethora of abundance. At the center is a calm-watered lake of sparkling reflections. As the sun sets, leaving trails of glimmering fire racing across the surface, a single deer lowers its elegant neck, and with pursed lips drinks from the lake with an incongruously long tongue.
Bushes shift. Branches creak. The deer pauses in fear, tongue extended. A low growl rumbles forth from behind, and a large feline leaps upon its prey, dragging it down into the shallow water of the lake’s edge. Thrashing stops, and the carcass is daintily dragged by strong jaws backwards into the brush. Leaves rustle into silence, and the lake lays still.
Far away, in the foothills along the base of the soaring peaks, exists a cave. Branching every which way, it spreads roots of air beneath the valley, and deep into the mountains. At the entrance, though, it is but a simple cave. Musky odor of bear fills the ingress, with a heavy cloud of decay wafting upwards from a partially eaten meal left heaped in the corner.
As the last rays of light glimmer their farewell across the mountain troughs dense fog flows into the valley, swiftly blanketing the valley floor – obfuscating it from the hungry gaze of the starlit sky. Shadows swim lazily across the gauzy blanket of forest canopy, echoed by cautious movements within. Cries sporadically interrupted the silence of the night; shrieks of exultation, squalls of pain and panic, screeching frustration – the sounds of night. The sounds of life. And of death.
Herbivores scurry to find shelter. Safety in den, numbers, or both. Carnivores stalk the darkness, intercepting when able - singly, and in packs. Overhead the hunting shadows cover all. Darkness thickens and the dance quickens. Frenzied feeding and fleeing, and then… stillness. Safety reached, hunger sated, the dance was done for that brief window of time when all but plants sleep.
Fog swirls about the trunks of ancient trees resting upon their earth-clenched fists of roots. This night passes as thousands have before. The life-giving sun rose and basked the valley during the day, and fled from the indecencies of beasts during the night. Day, night, and creatures all came and went, but the trees remained. Under the sheltering shade of their limbs, and atop the rough carpet of their crowns played out the drama of animal life.
A scattering of unnoticed hours passes, and the sun renews its routine. Shadows stir, stretch, and separate. Light brightens, and moving shadows develop into lips pulled tight over long fangs carefully holding scraps of flesh for the tiny teeth of a predator-to-be. Not far off the sun slants and sneaks down the twisted opening of a den, through burrowing roots, and revealing the soft brown eyes of a furry face studiously bathing its young. And so it goes that the future generations are prepared for their role in the dance of life.
Water stirs along the lake. A deer gazes across the water in-between drinks. Slit eyes gaze back indifferently from a thirsty predator. Snuffling sounds scatter all but the plants. The noise is soon accompanied by a bear, and its cubs – rolling and scuffling playfully amongst each other. In time they too are replaced by others coming to quench their thirst; land, lake, and trees the only constant.