Anna ascended the crumbling stairs of castle’s mighty keep. The ocean’s bitter breeze blew through her thin jacket. She shoved her numb fingers farther into her pockets. She knew that she should have brought a warmer coat, but Anna was so focused on getting to the castle and climbing to the top of its once-glorious tower before the sun rose. The castle on the hill, the rugged cliffs had once been a sight to behold. Once it had beckoned ships from far and wide and offered safety and a haven for the weary and the stranger. Now, it was charred and ruined, falling into a waste and threatening to crumble under the weight of the next wind’s breath and a wave’s mighty hand.
However, it was not the castle Anna was seeking. She had been told that there was no greater sight than, after she reached the top of the great ruins, seeing the sun’s rays bouncing off of the ocean’s dancing waves, feeling the sea-salt air, breathing in the scent of the garden’s dew dropped flowers, seeing the vast valley below. Lands that the castle had once protected and people it had once shielded from enemies shrunk away in shame. This once fair and mighty dwelling place was left to the elements’ greatest wrath.
Quickly Anna picked up the pace as she climbed, watching the mist rise as she skipped every other step. The air grew colder and thicker with each passing step. Rocks crumbled and wood creaked under her weight as she flew over the stairs. The old wooden roof door leading to the top was falling off its hinge and threatening to fall down into the blackness at the center of the spiral stone stairwell. But Anna did not look down. If she was aware of the danger, she did not act on it. She kept her hands in front of her and steadied herself against the old wall. The old handrails had long surrendered hope of offering any support for the few living that dared to reach the top.
As Anna climbed out of the stairwell onto the top of the keep, a harsh wind blew, threatening to knock her over. The sea salt that she desired to savor instead cut at her face and sent her hair wildly swirling in the bitter cold air. She stumbled over to the edge; some of the stones gave way beneath her feet. She struggled to keep pressing forward, away from the wind, but the mist refused to rise higher. Those low clouds pressed against her, hiding her surroundings.
Anna pushed against the fog, but it refused to surrender. She fell on her knees, tired and dejected. Every bone in her body ached. Her stomach groaned in pain and the bitter wind sucked away her tears. She tried to pick herself up and fell into a hole. Anna grasped at the ledge and managed to pull her self up, grasping an ancient, ruined statue. It was all that was left of an ancient monument made for a mighty king, long forgotten. She gazed for a moment at his faceless head. Another gust of wind blew. At last she surrendered, realizing that though she had fought as hard as she could to climb to the top of the condemned keep, she could not see what she wanted.
Suddenly there was a warm glow behind Anna that crept around her, like hands embracing her. Light spread all around. She looked in front of her, beyond the keep, around the ancient hills and valleys. Although the keep no longer protected the valley and its inhabitants, the place still thrived. She saw that the fog that fought against her was giving the land its moisture, creating beauty around her. Anna saw that the same wind that had pressed so hard against her strengthened the fields and trees. She heard the cries of laughter and joy as the people below gathered salt from the rocks in the early morning to bring to their families and to sell in the markets. The maker of all that was beautiful, that brought down the mighty and ancient keep, still watched over the valley and ocean and its people. It was beautiful.
Then, Anna turned her head and looked toward the mighty ocean waves where the warmth of light was coming from. She turned and she saw the light of the sunrise.
Image of Corfe Castle by David Bunting, Flickr Attribution License.