The sun cast shadows upon the meadow, long tendrils entwining the branches of distant trees into a single shadow.

An aging warrior sat upon a rock overlooking the rolling fields that lead to his town and home, allowing his thoughts to cast their own shadows, collecting into one thought: "How much longer can I do this?"

With effort he lifted his weight and stood facing west. He felt the pain surge through his broken knee, again and the skin burn beneath newly forming scabs on his back. He stood and prayed aloud.

"Odin, my guard and guide. For 50 seasons I have live here. For 36 of these years I have fought the Beast into submission, sending its weakened body and depleted spirit back into the caves to sleep and heal through the winter. I wield sword and shield in Your name and provide safety for my home, my family, my village. Each year I fail to destroy the Beast and like the certainty of each spring it returns. I am tired and wounded and this time I fear tired beyond the recent battle and am wounded of not only body, but spirit. How long, Odin, how long can I continue?"

The warrior gave into his pain and stumbled again sitting, resting his hand on the hilt of his sword and brow upon his forearm. He could hear the music and singing beginning already, drifting across the darkening meadow in celebration of his apparent victory. He knew better. He knew that the beast would live and in a few months they would renew their battle, and he doubted his ability to endure. He felt not only the pain of his new injuries, injuries that would heal, but the weakness in his limbs from healed and scared damages of battles past.

Tonight the village would sing. Tankers of ale would be hoisted in his honor. The voices of maidens would sing and young men would weave another chapter in the tale of his valor. Their Hero was invincible. The winter would be safe.

But next season would come and the fight, his fight would continue.

A breeze lifted his thinning hair and he raised his head.

"Odin," He spoke almost a whisper, "Tonight we will celebrate. I will not worry about the aging of my bones, or the weakening of my strength. Tonight I will give you thanks for our victory, another year of safety. But, tomorrow I will not lift tankers of ale or songs. I will forget the victories of the past, and I will prepare for the battles to come. I will lift wet-stone and blade, shield and arm and back to the work of a warriors training. I will not quit. Odin, you have my word and my life."

As the last word drifted away on the breeze, a tired man stood and began walking to the village.

Note: This story came to me this weekend as I finished hours of yard work. The fall cooling of the air is here, and I was aware that the hard work of yet another summer is almost at end. The respite of the fall and winter will soon be here - only to give way, soon enough to another year... I know there are a limited number of years left in my life when I can manage the hard and relentless work of maintaining our home, and I wondered...