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2019 Apr 2

10 minutes: Hummingbirds

They lifted up over the field as I walked by. The flowers that made up their home glowed dimly as evening fell over the village.

If they weren't so large, if I was a bit further away, I might have mistaken them for fireflies. They apparently absorbed the bioluminescence of the nectar they drank.

I put away my lantern. I didn't need it. Nor did I want it to pollute what I was witnessing.

A path took me over a stream and the tiny stone bridge the townsfolk had built over it. I followed a few flocks of them north across the stream, along their evening migration from the vast fields and forest south of town. The path led up the mountain, where they spiralled upwards, circling. From the bottom, I couldn't see much besides what looked like glowing ribbons of birds, waving in the wind as they made their nightly pilgrimage skyward.

Fortunately the climb up wasn't a long one for these old bones, but I could see a day when I would not be able to make it anymore, when I would have to stay behind. I could hear the chattering of children as I approached the summit, running about in flocks of their own.

15 minutes: The day began

The first rays of the sun broke over the horizon. The hummingbirds had already returned to their homes in the fields, as had most of the townspeople.

I sat among the wrappings of the treats they had brought with them last night, mostly leaves of native plants. Some had left old cloth wraps too. No matter. Whatever they left would still be there the next time they returned. They knew where they would be able to find whatever it was they left behind. They had been doing it for hundreds of years.

The atmosphere was different without anybody around. No murmuring, no unintelligible conversation. Just the sound of the sun reclaiming its territory in the sky. The sound of shadows shortening as midday came.

I wasn't staying until noon. I didn't want to tire myself being out too long. Midmorning I began my trek down. An empty path had a different feel than one populated by others out for the evening. The sun wasn't so hot yet, and foliage from the trees blocked most of its light.

I was at the end of the path before noon, heading back to my hut. Lunch was waiting for me there. Salted vegetables from the fields. It was a quiet meal.

I had no plans for the rest of the day and wandered over to the saltsmith's shop. We had no natural sources of salt in our town, and had no other ways of preserving our food, but the saltsmith had his own methods unique to our region. He left out a tarp each night in the field, where the starlight and dew gathered. And in the morning, he would collect what had accumulated the previous night, and distill crystalline salt from his tarp.

I never figured out how he did it, but that was not my trade. He had his own apprentices to learn his craft. And I was too old for that.

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