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Homeward Bound (excerpt from 'Secrets')

* Uxann - 'x' pronounced 'sh' . . . so "U- Sh-an".

As soon as they'd gone through the hole in the fence, Uxann* walked off for home. To kill the extra time she had, she decided on a track through the woods. She knew where there was a bird setting on a clutch of two speckled brown eggs. Several times already she had climbed the low tree and inspected the nest. She'd never seen the mother, but always aware of Anxiety spying from nearby, she was careful as she snuggled the warm globes to her eyelids and cheeks. But although handling the eggs was great, Uxann yearned to discover and observe the distressed mother. That her chance might be this time pulled her swiftly through the murmuring forest.

Freed from the sense of eyes on her, Uxann let herself go. Instead of a short-stepped mimsing, she strode loosely, balanced more on the balls of her feet, light on the leafy forest-track. And because not always sight allowed secrets, she kept her passage nearly soundless, and listened to the forest be alive. Heard its breathy leaves whisper. Heard private talk in whistles and tweets and chirps and squawks of tensions and territories, and rituals and harmonies.

With each stride, her book-bag, slung across her right shoulder, beat on her left hip solidly, in rhythm with her breathing, her heartbeat, and the vital pulse of the forest. Just her movement, her rustling through the great, quiet place comforted. Here in the forest she felt at home, native like a wild thing. Here her size fitted. When she jumped, there was no threatening thump. The natural trace had spring enough-enough to absorb her solid presence. She didn't have to think light, or prim and tight. She could move bold here, could prance and spring, un-dam the cramp she lived under others' eyes. Let go to how she was: big and floppy, muscled slack and jouncy. She hummed the chorus of the popular caiso, pausing to dance a dip step natural to the melody. She didn't feel clumsy at all, but light-hearted close gladness that she was big and she could move so well.

At the stream ten yards beyond which the nest waited, she paused to catch her breath-stealth was important here. She rested against a large boulder and chose a path of stones to hop across. Satisfied with one, she skipped to a first, raised, flat one and squatted down, cupping a handful of the gurgling water to her face, lip-sipping some before letting most splash back to the stream.

Again and again she repeated the soothing cooling, until gradually, a complete peacefulness seized her, and ceased the background rustle of breezed leaves, and stilled the chaos of bird-calling. And the whole world paused as it seemed an angel floated by, her passage catching Uxann poised with hands reaching forward to the water, worship shivering through her.

After the while she was released, and deciding against bothering the bird, she retraced her steps to the track for home.