Once upon a time there was a bridge. It was a humble, practical, inconspicuous structure; certainly no great beauty. In its construction, the local folk used whatever was available to them - random rocks scattered around the fields. The foundations were weak and the heights unsteady, so crude had been the crafting. But this bridge took great pride in its task, and so for years it stood, miraculously, in the wind and rain and blistering heat. Though ever-weakening, bravely it endured, simply for the sake of those who traveled across it.
Time was a constant enemy, an ever-present dread. By and by those misshapen rocks began to crumble and the delicate arch began to sag beneath the weight of its burden. Nobody noticed, of course; the farmers and merchants and fish-mongers who crossed it daily never gave a thought as to the humble little bridge that separated them from the churning waters below. They never thought that it, too, might need support.
One night it collapsed, entirely without ceremony. One minute it was there, the next, it was not. What remained of a lifetime of service was but a pile of rubble hidden beneath a swollen river. When morning came, so did the grumbling. What had once been taken for granted was now an aching loss. Doctors lost precious time in reaching their patients, lovers felt themselves further separated, the elderly were confined. There was not a soul that had not been touched by that humble little bridge.
As chance would have it, it rained very little that year, and the once-mighty river was reduced to a muddy gurgle. All plans for rebuilding the bridge were dismissed, as the cost was considered to be greater than the convenience. The ruins of the bridge were certainly a very sorry sight; choked by weeds and covered in mud and housing all sorts of unsavory creatures.
Passing by one day was a young woman, an artist. One of the few who had appreciated the bridge before its collapse, she had often tried to paint it, never quite content with the results. Now she searched through the rubble, selecting a few stones to take home with her. Rough and covered in grime, they were certainly nothing special… at least, to anyone but the artist herself.
Many nights did she slave away in that far-off place that only artists know how to get to, until at last her work was complete. Out of the rubble she had created half a dozen lovingly-crafted figurines. In truth her work was mediocre; the critical eye could discern a thousand things amiss with them.
Yet, in the eyes of the artist, her work was perfect; without fault. It was the strength of a century bound in things utterly common - a heart, a flower, the face of a lover. It was the rediscovered beauty of something that had been cast aside. It was youthful energy and idealism lovingly inserted into what had been forgotten.
And the bridge? Once having to bear the burdens of all the others; once unappreciated and alone, it was now cherished. It was now a masterpiece - or had it always been?