Forest Mists

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The sun's rays gently broke through the forest canopy, illuminating the pine trees as they streamed through the foliage and filtered down to the forest floor. Beneath lay a lush undergrowth of ferns standing amidst a landscape of moss-covered rocks and fallen tree trunks. Across the forest floor ran a small stream, its flow quick but measured, its sound accompanying the soft cries of woodland birds singing in the canopy above.

A man was walking amidst the greenery. He was tall and muscular; with a thick neck, broad shoulders, and heavyset arms. Yet his demeanour belied his formidable appearance. Those who knew him described him as having the face of a sage, with an aquiline nose and thick brows that framed his thoughtful eyes, giving him an almost perpetually pensive look.

Field-Marshal Zack Assegaf knew this place well. Ever since he was a teenager, he'd hiked the forests and explored the waterfalls of Lumajang, just three hours away from his hometown of Surabaya. These not only served as his regular hangouts, but they also became his favourite places of respite and a sacred space outside the mosque, where he would spend hours in quiet contemplation away from the cares of the world.

The poet Besari had once remarked: "The city teaches men how to wear masks, but nature teaches them to unmask themselves." Assegaf had spent the past week arguing with the Defence Minister about the need to send additional forces to the Syrian front. Though he managed to convince Emperor Byoma to provide him with additional troops, the whole affair had left him completely drained. As with any deal involving high-ranking officials, one must take care not to reveal oneself too much – lest one falls victim to backstabbing rivals and fickle allies.

Here Assegaf had no need of pretence; he was standing amidst nature, which was not only a creation to be enjoyed, but also a place to observe and reflect upon Allah's divine majesty. The Qur'an had stated: "The seven heavens, the earth and all that is therein extol His glory, and there is not even a single thing but glorifies Him with His true and perfect praise." The chirping of the birds and insects, the scampering of the squirrels, and the sound of the stream running gently across the forest floor, they all serve to remind him that every creation basks in the glory of Him who creates all things.

A sudden rustling noise stopped him in his tracks. He stood still, scanning around to see what had made the noise. Moments later a majestic-looking Sambar stag with tall antlers emerged from the underbrush, its rich brown coat of fur gleaming in the light that filtered down through the canopy.

Assegaf smiled. He'd never come this close to a wild stag before. Moments later, a doe emerged from the same spot where the stag had stood. She was followed closely by her fawn, still small in size and stature, but already endowed with the rich brown pelage of its parents. They paid him no heed as they went off to drink at the nearby stream.

Assegaf continued forward as they drank, hoping to finish his hike before sunset. He'd planned to explore Kapas Biru and Tumpak Sewu Falls before heading back to Surabaya. As he ascended the steep incline, he saw woodland birds of various shapes and sizes singing amongst the branches, calling to one another.

The pines slowly gave way to cloud forests as he continued his ascent. Closing his eyes, he took a deep breath and inhaled the thick humid air, saturated with the rich scent of damp soil and plant matter. As he walked further along the trail, he could just make out the sound of water gushing in the distance. He knew his destination was close at hand.

The gushing grew louder as Assegaf drew closer to Kapas Biru. From a distance he could see the towering granite cliffs from which the waterfall cascaded. Clouds of mist hung peacefully over the plunge pool, around which bamboo, cycads, and ferns grew in abundance. The torrent of water pouring from the cliffs conjured torrents of equally powerful emotions in his mind, and it quite took his breath away. Truly, it was a sight to behold.

Making his way towards the waterfall, Assegaf found a large rock standing next to a bamboo grove nearby. As he sat upon it, he could feel his worries dissipate with every second spent taking in the scenery. Shortly afterwards, he assumed a meditative pose and closed his eyes in contemplation, the sense of wonder and reverence at Allah's magnificence lingering in his mind as he witnessed the beauty of His creation.

And thus he sat in blissful contemplation throughout the morning, accompanied by nothing but the sounds and smells of the forest.

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⏰ Last updated: Mar 23 ⏰

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