One evening, just before the sun disappeared in the west, and with the gentle caress of a cool wind on her face, the youngest daughter returned to her hill.  She had been far too busy during the visit of the three suitors to watch her dove, and she found that she missed her daily daydreams on the hill. 

            When she got to the hill she lay in the cool grass as always, and looked up at the sky as always.  Everything was still the same.  Everything, that was, except her.  Something was definitely different within her, as the feeling of longing and dissatisfaction had intensified since her sisters’ parting. 

            Confused, she began to ask God for guidance.  She prayed for enlightenment, something she had never done before.  She loved to speak with God, telling Him of her delight for His world, but she had never thought to ask Him to change anything in it for her.  The world was as it should be, the way He made it.  Why should it ever be any different?  But now there was a difference, one inside her, and it longed for an answer to an unspoken question.

            “Lord, what is it that has entered my heart?  What does my soul long for, and why has it such a hold on me?” She asked, kneeling on the crest of the hill.

            The dove reappeared suddenly, floating on the invisible wind, drawing delicate circles in the air with its wings.  It seemed to her that her heart suddenly began to beat in time with its wings, fast and hurried, like there was a dove trapped in her chest, in a cage formed by her ribs and breastbone, and it yearned for its freedom.  Suddenly, she knew what it was her heart wanted.  Her wondering was replaced with clarity as swiftly as a still and clear day could be replaced with a storm by a sudden rushing wind.  She now had the words to express her feelings.

            “Lord, I wish for someone to love, just long enough for me to bear a child.”  She spoke with conviction and power, her words borne away by the wind, perhaps to be carried off to the sky and the audience they were intended for.  “I wish for a child who might one day be as free as the dove.  I love my life here, but I would see my child have one away from these hills.  Your will be done in all things, Father in Heaven, but please make this unworthy shepherd girl’s wish Your will.  A child, Lord, a baby girl.”

            Her heart lifted, and she began to rise to go home.  The sun set, a smouldering fire on the edge of the horizon.  The wind touched her face and hair, a gentle stroke, and then it was gone.  With the wind’s passing she suddenly heard the shrill war cry of a hawk as it plummeted from the sky like a feathered spear thrown frown Heaven’s lofty heights to strike the dove from the air.  Its exquisitely sharp talons pierced the soft dove in a flurry of white feathers, the victory scream of the keen-eyed predator and the heart-wrenching death cry of its gentle prey echoing together over the hills.

            The sensitive and caring girl ran home in tears at the loss of one of her greatest friends, and was plagued all night by frenzied dreams of a great hawk swallowing her, with its cries echoing over and over, bouncing off of the hilltops until an earthquake began and shook the ground until each hill collapsed in a mighty upheaval of earth and stone.  Her sisters awoke to her screams and it was many hours before they could calm her enough that sleep could return.  The next day she did not go to the hill, and neither did she pray to God.

            One day not long after, the girl took her father water and then visited the sheep in the field, calling each by names that she and her sisters had bestowed.  The sheep were old friends, and each knew her well.  Still upset by the loss of the dove, she took comfort in their number until she noticed one was missing.

            “Father, where is Old Mother?  She is missing.”

            “Not missing, girl.  Simply gone.”

            “What’s that supposed to mean?”  The girl asked, suddenly fearful.

            “We fed her to your sisters’ husbands during their stay.  We often eat mutton, child, that’s nothing new.  It is the way of things, all things take from others to survive, and then the cost is balanced when they die.”

            She listened with attention with a new comprehension of facts that had been before her all her life.  So simple, yet until now she had not seen it.  She pondered her father’s lesson, and life continued on.

            It was still several weeks before her return to the hill.  It was late in the year, and cold compared to the wondrous summer the country had enjoyed.  She knelt in the same spot as always in the grass beneath the tree and looked to Heaven with arms outstretched.  Teardrops fell from her brown eyes, running down her face like tiny streams glistening in the autumn sun, the warm rays of light it projected in its setting turning them into tiny reflecting rivulets of gold that ran down her cheeks.

            “Lord, forgive me.  I have ignored you of late, and did not mean to.  The hawk is your creature as much as the dove was, and did not kill it for spite, but for its own survival.  So you made it, so it should be.  I am sorry for not having understood.  That’s all.”

            She looked away from Heaven to wipe away her golden tears, and felt the wind caress her face again.  The cry of the hawk echoed from the hilltops, and she was amazed to see it suddenly land before her, on a branch of the small tree on the crest of the hill.  She froze stiff, for she was behind it and out of its sight for now.  She watched it, silent and still, as it ate some meal trapped in its claws.  She saw each feather, and the cool gaze in its sharp, bright eyes as it turned to leave and saw her.  A gasp escaped from her as the bird’s startling gaze met her eyes.  As their eyes met, she realized that the hawk was as beautiful as her dove in its own way, and then it left, as suddenly as it had come, free to soar the wild skies again.

            It was seven years later that I appeared to her.

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