“Write about getting lost and finding an alternative way –
it can be literal or metaphorical.”
– a prompt for this week’s CW piece.
When I was a kid, I would spend my summer vacation at my grandparents’ house out in the countryside. They were my father’s parents, who had a rather tiny little house, but a substantial piece of land away from the hustle and bustle. They grew wheat and potatoes and beets and cabbage and strawberries and apples and many more things I cannot remember at this time. Sheep and chicken would always be present near the house. Back then, I did not appreciate all the homegrown meat, veggies and fruits as much as I should. You always appreciate it more when you lose it… However, what I always did appreciate was the surrounding flora.
My cousin, five years older than me, would be the one to always come up with some new and fun things to do when we got bored. We were city kids stuck with two older people in the middle of nowhere, where the “store” would come to you. Well, to be more precise, we had to walk downhill for a couple of miles to get to a van, which would deliver freshly baked bread. There was a specific time at which the van would come, which meant no sleeping in for us. After we picked up the fresh bread and milk, we would have to hike uphill to get back home. Now I see it as exercise, but back then it was just annoying. However, that was our unmonitored time, with no adult supervision, allowing us to chase one another with bows and arrows, push each other into stinging nettles, or just come up with pranks we would try and pull off later. My cousin was older, so he had the upper hand in whatever ideas he came up with. But all in all it was mostly fun. I miss those times of innocence and laughter…
As much as I adored my older cousin, every now and then, I would reach my limits. There were only so many times I could hide in the barn or in the attic before someone walked in for one reason or the other and my cover was blown. Sometimes I just needed some alone time. One day, I just started walking uphill from the house. Up a path I have walked so many times before, but never walked past the horizon. This time I wanted to see what was behind the horizon. The path between my grandparents’ house and the “horizon” was a rather open one, so I expected someone to yell after me the more I distanced myself from the safety of our home. Every step I took, I was further from what I knew and closer to the unknown. That was exciting! Nobody called for me. I turned around, and the already small house was now even smaller. My feet just kept on going.
When I got to the top of the hill, I discovered a dense forest to my right, which I decided to explore. People living nearby would walk this forest in search for mushrooms in the early morning hours, after it had rained. Because of that, there was no clear path in the forest, which would take you from one end to the other. Instead, the paths were like veins, crisscrossing at random. It was mid-day, so the sun was up above me, but the trees’ crowns obstructed most of my view of the sky. Lost in my thoughts, I walked in what I thought was a straight line. However, soon enough, the entrance to the forest closed behind me and I was just surrounded by trees. Just walking straight ahead was not always convenient with various bushes and shrubs in the way. Finally, I snapped back into reality and realized that I was not sure which way I should go in order to return home.
There was a brief moment of panic, but I quickly regained my composure and soldiered on, making a conscious effort not to walk in circles. After what felt like an hour (a few minutes more likely), I begun to see more of the sun and I thought I returned home. I did not. But what I saw was worth the trouble. A clearing, a meadow in the middle of the forest. It was nothing I have not seen before – pristine, waist high grass with various wild flowers, but at that moment, the way the sun was hitting the blades of grass, the way I found the sunny reprieve when I was lost… I found it beautiful. It was a spiritual moment for me. My way back home was not found just yet, but I received a sign from the Heavens that I am not lost. There is hope and my Guardian Angel will guide me home. As I was about to stand back up from my sitting position, a doe walked past the meadow. Calmly and surely. She stopped in the middle of the meadow for a second (just a few feet away from me), looked around and walked back into the forest.
I swear, the doe looked at me before walking back into the forest. So I waited a few seconds so as not to spook her, and then followed her into the forest. She was gone as quickly as she appeared. Back on my own I was, but this time I was armed with a feeling that all was going to be alright. After a few minutes, I reached the end of the forest. I stood at the border between the forest and the rest of the world. It was now clear to me that I got turned around in the forest, because I was to the right of the house, instead of in front of it. Nonetheless, I knew where I was now. During my walk I must have created something of an inverse “L” path in the forest somehow. Worried that the whole house was out looking for me, I hurried home. However, it turned out I was gone for much shorter than I thought, since no one even noticed I was really gone. Dinner was served and the rest of the day went on uneventfully, but I never forgot how I was almost engulfed in darkness and then I got saved by the light…