Long years ago, after my family emigrated from Germany, we settled out in the country, fifteen miles from the nearest town.
It was a culture shock for my mother; she had lived in Hamburg all her life...and now she lived in a forested area close to a Mountain. We had few neighbours; the ones we did have did not speak German.
I was a solitary child...people were not the ones who interested me. Plants and animals and their behaviour was what absorbed me. I would go outside and sit among the huge Rain Forest Ferns, watching this small insect or that. I would go on long walks, with my dog, a German Shepherd named Zenta.
To this day, I wonder...how is it that at the age of five or six I was allowed to wander through the bush, by myself, and not have anyone wonder where I was? And where did I get the courage to do so?
I knew there were Bear and Cougars and Deer; the sightings of each of these was discussed at home. It did not stop me. I had total faith in my Dog and in myself.
And I did not know what getting lost meant. But there was one day when I found out.
Each morning, I would awaken with anticipation at finding new paths to follow. There were many trails made by animals where I lived. One could follow them for miles, coming to swamps and ponds, fields belonging to neighbouring farms, or to the foot of the Mountain which rose up behind our property.
I was always on the lookout for wild flowers for a bouquet for my mother. Inevitably, I would pick a bunch, not understanding the wilting which would occur quickly, as they were held in my hot little hand.
I figured it out, however, as I grew more experienced. I would leave the flowers unpicked until I had followed a trail far enough; I would pick the flowers on my return. This way, I thought, they would stay pretty and fresh longer.
And so it was, during a trip one Spring day in the car, I saw yellow and white and blue flowers growing not far from where I lived. I promised myself I would find those flowers the next day...they looked exotic and different from the usual Daisies and Dandelions that I picked for my mother.
The following day, I took Zenta on what I considered a huge adventure, since I had not walked along the road before, it being the single place out of bounds for me.
But I knew if I walked along a trail on our side of the road, I could get to those flowers without being seen. I amaze myself...I was so young! To have that kind of guile scares me somewhat, as I possibly may have handed down the pleasure in thrills and risk to my children and grandchildren...
Anyway. There's not much I can do about that one.
My dog and I walked along the sunny trail, which wound around huge Maple Trees, up and over hills which seemed high to me, but in reality were only small mounds. I looked back and when I could no longer see my house, I knew I could cross the road.
Zenta knew we were doing something wrong. She did not want to cross the road with me...I had to grasp her collar and pull her along. It seemed to take ages to cross that road...any minute I was sure my mother would see me, even if that was an impossibility.
But those Flowers in the wooded area across the road called to me...I could not ignore them, even if it meant punishment for my misdeeds later on.
And then there I was! Sun shone on this amazing patch of what I would later find out were Primroses, Forget-Me-Nots, and Bluebells. I thought it was Heaven, surely!
All along the road they bloomed...and further into the Wood, there were so many Trilliums as well! But there was an old gate I would have to try and climb over...and how would Zenta clamber over it with me? I walked along, puzzling over it, until I came to a part where the fence had fallen over.
Zenta pressed against my side, the side closest to the road. She wanted me away from it; I heeded her advice and stepped over the fallen fence, and into the deep Woods.
All my life, in all the gardening I have done, I have never been able to replicate what I saw that day. It was as if a giant hand had seeded the ground...I could not walk without stepping on the Primroses and Bluebells. They were growing that thickly.
Completely absorbed, I wandered along, head down, trying not to step on the beautiful blooms shining in the dappled Sunlight. Zenta, by this time, had accepted our forbidden journey and was only interested in sniffing out unfamiliar scents, although she continued to stay close to me.
I ambled so far into the Wood I could no longer see the road. And when I finally raised my head, there were old buildings just ahead of me. Oh, oh.
But they were old, falling apart. I thought possibly there was no one about, since I had come upon old buildings before and had explored them to my heart's content. Danger of falling debris never crossed my young mind.
Hello! a voice boomed from above. Frightened, I wanted to run, but I could no longer be sure about from which direction I had come. Zenta woofed...one of her friendlier barks, which reassured me a little. But my legs still felt like jelly...I was in a forbidden place and someone had seen me.
Up here! I'm up here!...the voice continued. I looked up. And there, in the ancient barn's hayloft, stood an old, bent figure.
I said not a word. I clung to Zenta's collar, so frightened I was close to tears.
Wait there!...I was told. I saw the man disappear into the dark recesses of the barn. And since it would take awhile to find my way back to the road, I stayed, quivering in my old rubber boots.
He came out of the dark doorway, into the Sunlight. My eyes as big as saucers, I stammered my apologies for trespassing. He smiled; he said no more, but he offered me his hand.
Strangely reassured, I took it. We walked along a well-tended path and came upon another building...a log home, this time, with wild gardens surrounding it. A woman stood on the back porch, which looked as if it had seen better days.
She looked ancient. I don't believe I had ever seen anyone who looked that old. But kindness shone out of her dark eyes and her face was wreathed with a gentle smile. I was not quite comfortable with the whole scenario as yet, but I continued on with the man who held my hand. I climbed the old stairs along with him.
The man and woman conversed, as I looked around. Flowering Shrubs grew all around the porch; they looked as old as the couple in whose company I found myself.
I was invited into a dark room. It must have been their living quarters...I later learned because they were unable to keep up the rest of the house they had closed it off, living in the kitchen, with a bedroom off to the side.
I was offered milk and cookies. They would not allow Zenta into their home; she stayed on the porch, although they gave her a cookie as well.
They introduced themselves and asked me my name. I knew it was polite to tell them, yet I could not make my mouth form my name. I could not speak at all.
So many thoughts raced through my mind. I knew I was in trouble. I wondered how to get back to the road. I worried I might never see my mother again. These people seemed kind...would they show me the way home? I wondered and worried with much trepidation.
I swore I would never disobey again.
The old couple sat with me at a table by the window, as I finished my cookie and milk. Zenta was becoming restless...I could see her pacing back and forth along the porch, looking anxious. And the couple noticed...the old man went outside and comforted her, making her lie down.
They asked eventually if I was ready to go home. Ready? I was more than ready...
I nodded, still unable to speak. The old lady went with us as far as the porch, where she picked some of the purple Flowers...I learned later they were Lilacs...and presented them to me. The perfume is one I will never forget. In my mind, the scent of Lilacs and this adventure are one and the same.
Thank you...I said...and my name is Marion.
Suddenly, the dammed up voice inside of me burst. Now that I was on my way home, I found my confidence and clamoured to know about the Flowers which bloomed so profusely by the side of the road.
I was told they were planted by seed many, many years ago and had spread all by themselves. I was in awe...this old, neglected but charming garden was one I told myself I would emulate. I wanted to live in a place where Flowers bloomed all by themselves.
The man...his name was Mr. Rand...walked Zenta and I home along the side of the road. It was strange...I felt as if I had walked miles and miles on the trails, yet it was only a short walk by road.
My mother immediately assumed I had done something wrong; she came out of the house ready for battle. But Mr. Rand reassured her and the bouquet of Lilacs did the rest. I was only sentenced to my room for the afternoon.
As I played in my room, I mused over the Primroses and Bluebells, none of which I had picked. But I remembered the path which led to them...and I knew it would not be long before I returned, if only to stare at them from the side of the road.
And today, I sit and think...
If only all the paths in my life had led to a Primrose garden...