“I’m going to sell my house,” Farkas said to Verloren who was in Waldmeer for the weekend working on her gardening project.
“What?” said a shocked Verloren. “No, I like coming here.”
“Then you can buy it,” said Farkas. Verloren liked coming when Farkas was in the house not when he wasn’t. Farkas had already made up his mind about selling and Verloren did end up buying it. She and her husband would use it as a holiday house.
It was a sad time for Verloren. The house had a quick settlement and she was soon unlocking the door with her own key instead of knocking on the door and Farkas opening it for her. In spite of his ambivalence towards and, sometimes, abuse of her, Verloren would miss him greatly over the coming months. It was a childish and irrational wish to want Farkas to love her but don’t we all do this? We make people special to us, believing that they can save us. Verloren was, perhaps, more obvious in her quest, less reserved than others, more aggressive in what she wanted but who could blame her for doing something we all do, even if others do it with more grace? It’s still the same idea of believing someone else can save us from ourselves.
With time, Verloren would, probably, transfer that longing to another person with a version of the same results. Don’t we do this too? When one thing doesn’t work, we look somewhere else to be saved. We rarely question the concept, itself. Sometimes, we don’t look to another person to save us but to money, acknowledgement, a title, a cause, a notion of ourselves. None of it can save us. We travel the path in different ways; some are more polite, some are ruthless, some are clever, some are instinctive. In the end, it all leads to the same despairing place.
In the midst of all this searching and not finding, Verloren was given a special gift. She now had a house in Waldmeer and Waldmeer had a healing energy that was capable of helping people if they would let it. In the unsuspecting quiet moments, there it was, bringing in a sense of peace and a feeling that everything was fine without searching for anything to be saved by. It softened the grabbing for love and the blaming when that stupid grabbing didn’t work.
One evening while walking in the fading light back to her newly acquired house, Verloren remembered a dream she once had. In the dream, her grandfather told her how to get to the Garden of Garourinn. A person called the Head Gardener suggested that she try to visit it again in her sleep. She had the dream a long time ago. In all that time, Verloren had not even thought about it once. That night as she laid her head on the pillow and drifted off to sleep listening to the faint waves in the distance, a thought crossed her mind. I might be able to find the Garden of Garourinn in my dreams. She was, at last, looking in a place that could actually help her.
Farkas knew he needed to go somewhere away from Waldmeer. He didn’t know where. However, someone else did know.
Maria had just returned home from work and was settling into her comfy chair. Charlie didn’t bother knocking.
“Come and see who came out of the forest today,” Charlie said excitedly.
“Is it Erdo?” Maria asked. She hadn’t seen him for quite a while and would love to.
“It’s not a ‘he’,” said Charlie enjoying the suspense. She pointed to her back door. “She was very hungry and has a leg injury. I don’t know how long she has been wandering around the forest.” There on the mat lay a dog. She was clearly tired but got on her feet as Maria approached. “Isn’t she a beautiful German shepherd, Maria? A few days rest and some food and she will be magnificent.”
Maria stopped walking, “Charlie, that’s not a German shepherd. It’s a wolf.”
“Don’t be ridiculous;” said Charlie, “we don’t have wolves in our forest.” Maria and Charlie shared many things but some things Maria kept to herself. It was not only a wolf; it was Sage, Galahad’s mate, from the North Country. Maria could see from Sage’s eyes that she recognised her. Perhaps, Sage came to find her. She followed Maria back to her shed and, much to Charlie’s disappointment, would not leave Maria’s side again.
Sage refused to be left at home in the mornings and travelled with Maria to Waldmeer Corner Store and Cafe. Maria had the uneasy feeling that keeping a wolf as a domestic pet was doomed to failure but she was so thrilled to have her that she wouldn’t allow herself to think about it.
“You stay in the back area,” she would say to Sage as she headed back into the cafe. Sage would sit obediently but, sometimes, Maria would check on her and she would be gone. The fences were high. It was a mighty jump but Sage was used to the wild country up north and a fence would certainly be no problem. Sage seemed to be scouting for something and when she couldn’t find it, she would return to the cafe and try again later. This happened for several weeks. She was agile and adept at keeping a low profile so that no one seemed to even notice that there was a wolf in their midst.
One day, Sage was gone for longer than normal and Maria started to worry. Eventually, she returned but she looked different. She pulled on Maria’s hand to open the gate and follow her. She seemed to have found what she was looking for. She took Maria past her parent’s house and then stopped outside Farkas’s house. Maria’s heart sank. Sage looked calmly into her eyes.
“All right, girl,” said Maria, “do as you must.”
Farkas was in the process of his final packing as the Reisendens were taking possession of the house tomorrow. His door was open. Sage went inside with one last backwards look to Maria. The door closed after her. Maria walked back down the hill slowly. She didn’t come for me. She came for Farkas. He needs her more than me, sighed Maria.
Farkas recognised Sage immediately. Not only that but he found he could speak with her as fluently as with a human, probably, more so. Farkas and Sage headed for the Leleks, crossed Erdo’s walking bridge, and began the long walk to the North Country. Farkas had never been on the bridge before. He hesitated a moment but Sage nudged him on. He now knew where he had to go. Back to the pack. He remembered much in the next few weeks of travelling with Sage.
“It will be winter soon in the North Country,” he said to Sage.
“You will be alright, Farkas. You can use the abandoned hut. Galahad will get enough supplies for you from the Garden of Garourinn to last the winter. You will remember how to live there once we arrive. We will help you.”
After a short adjustment, Farkas settled into life in the North Country. For the first time, in as long as he could remember, he started to feel genuinely happy and relaxed. He loved the companionship of the wolf pack and the daily tasks of life. The harsh conditions did not bother him at all. He had fire, water, food. The pack would, often, bring him the kill to take what he wanted first. He did cook it! He could recall a lot about life in the pack, although, he had been a human for a very long time. Sometimes, he let the pack stay in the hut overnight but that was rare. He played with them often and laughed a lot. He found them very funny. They took a lot of pleasure from amusing him. The play was very healing for Farkas.
One day, close to the end of winter, Farkas went for a long walk over an adjoining mountain. He had not seen the pack that day which was unusual. After a few hours of walking in soothing, relatively warm sunlight, Farkas was getting hungry and so he turned for home. Once he turned, he realised that he had not noticed the mass of dark clouds which was fast approaching his way. It was not good. Once they were upon him, it would be freezing cold and difficult to see anything. He would have to trust his internal compass to get back home.
After half an hour, he was completely surrounded by cold, swirling darkness and had lost his bearings. He didn’t know which direction to walk and he was still several hours from the hut. Worse, his mind was starting to dissolve into a sea of disturbing images which were getting more intense with every passing minute. Everywhere he looked in the moving darkness were images of past hurts, people he felt had betrayed him, and a mass of sorrows and angers of every imaginable form. It was relentless. Who would think that we could hold so many grievances? Many of the people, he could not even recognize but they contributed to the throbbing, grey beast that was now hunting him from every angle.
Farkas found a ledge and sat under it, trying to protect himself from the bitter wind. He wouldn’t survive long if he just sat there but he did not want to go back into the tormenting gloom. He could neither defeat it nor even understand it. The image of a man appeared to his right. Farkas thought it was another of the tormenting images and he shuddered closer to the rock face. He tried to brush it aside but it wouldn’t move.
“I see you have returned,” said the stranger. The other images were voiceless. This one talked. “We have met before,” the man continued. “You once saved my youngest child and paid for it with your own life. In return, I gave you a different life – a human one.”
Now Farkas knew who it was. It was the Head Gardener from the Garden of Garourinn. He jumped to his feet both out of relief from being saved and, also, out of respect.
“We will walk together. You are not alone but you must do as I ask,” said the Head Gardener who had already turned into the multitude of gruelling images.
“I don’t want to go back out there,” said Farkas.
“It is the only way for you to get back home. All these images are of your own making. You made them and your anger feeds them and keeps them alive. You have given them all the power that they have. Walk through them and they will leave. I cannot do that for you but I can show you which direction to walk. You must do the walking yourself. Let us go or it will be night before we get to the end of them.”
Farkas did as the Head Gardener asked. He only slightly believed that it would work. However, as he squarely looked at each image and walked through it, it would disintegrate. It was, however, immediately replaced with another harrowing image. As he kept walking, he became more confident in the process. He felt he was getting somewhere and he detected a tiny bit of light in the blackness. Eventually, the conglomeration of images seemed to be thinning and, relieved and exhausted, he could see his home mountain in the distance. A small moving blur was heading from the mountain to where he was walking. It was the pack.
“I must return to the Garden now,” said the Head Gardener. “Remember, Farkas, every grievance you hold hides a little more of the light of the world from your eyes until the darkness becomes overwhelming. Everything you forgive restores that light. So ask yourself, who is it that you are really hurting?”
One week-end in late winter, when Gabriel was home, everyone was sitting on Charlie’s verandah listening to the early evening sounds and, also, to Gabriel’s idea. His living arrangements in the city had changed and he had found a large, rambling, old house in one of the alternative, inner city suburbs. He was proposing that everyone move there. Everyone being: Gabriel, Maria, Charlie, and Mary.
“It has three big bedrooms:” said Gabriel, “one for me, one for Maria, and one for Charlie and Mary.”
Ever since Mary first visited Charlie’s property, she and Charlie had become inseparable. Elizabeth was long gone. Mary was having a wonderful effect on Charlie. Charlie now had a calmness which had been absent before. Mary helped her to move forward more peacefully and it added to her, already, successful direction.
“Mary wants to start her university studies,” Gabriel continued, “and Charlie has so many offers in the city that she could spend all week responding to them. The house has a workshop at the back which Charlie and I can share and a shop front which we can use as a gallery. There is a closed-in side verandah which, I think, Maria should use. She could start to see people and help them.”
“How?” asked Maria.
“I don’t know,” said Gabriel frustrated by the question. “How would I know? You will work it out once we get there.” He stopped and then added, “Turn it into a Shrine. You know how much Charlie always loves going into your Shrine here and if she likes it then other people will too.” He said it as if only people like Charlie would want to go into it, not people like him. However, he was the one who thought up the idea and even found the space so he can’t have been that dissociated from it.
Everyone just nodded and that was that. They were moving. Charlie went to the local Waldmeer real estate and told them she would rent her property out. The rent would pay her mortgage for now. That way, she wasn’t completely cutting her ties with Waldmeer.
Maria closed the door of her shed one last time. There was no lock on it. There had never been a lock on it. She realised that she had left two holy pictures and several half-used candles on the window sill. For some reason, she decided to leave them there, although, she had been told to completely empty the shed for the future renters.
“Goodbye, my dear home,” she said to the Shrine. “You have loved me and so I leave part of myself here with you.”
By early spring, Farkas was back in Waldmeer. There was not much available to rent and so he decided to take Charlie’s property. The more isolated location suited him after the complete isolation of the North Country mountains. To help with the rent, he decided to rent out Maria’s old shed. However, each time he called into the real estate agent to let them know, he would get to the desk, make some excuse, and walk out again. I’ll do it another day, he told himself.
One morning after a storm, Farkas noticed that the shed door had blown open. He went to close it. Something was on the windowsill. He went in to see what it was. Maria has left some of her stuff behind, he thought. He hesitated and then sat on the bare floor and listened. Not for anything in particular. It was calm and still after the storm. Presently, he got up and lit one of the candles and then sat down again.
It’s Maria, Farkas said to himself. I can feel Maria is here. It must be the candle. She always was a strange girl.
Actually, it was Amira more than Maria but Farkas could not distinguish them. Nor did he even know Amira’s name. He only knew Maria, who was now gone. Farkas sat there a long time. He didn’t move.
“I’m sorry,” he eventually said. Farkas wasn’t a man to say, sorry. There would have been too much to say sorry for. “I found it hard.”
“You did well,” said the candle-voice. Farkas could hear Maria’s voice but it seemed older, more distant, yet, very close. “You were brave to even come anywhere near me,” continued the voice. “At some level, you knew that every thought you cherished would be taken apart, every grudge you harboured would be thrown back at you, and every ancient dream you held would be put into the fire.”
Farkas didn’t say anything. He was a little pleased with himself that he could even hear the voice. He knew it was a gift but, also, an earned right.
“It is not just desperation that does that,” continued Amira. “It is a belief in oneself, that one can do better, that one is worth it. You tried to hurt me but you couldn’t. All of it, you did to yourself. You never gave up on me completely, so that means you never gave up on yourself. Yes, you did well, Farkas.”
Amira stopped talking. After a little while, Farkas got up and blew the candle out. If he wanted to talk to Maria again, she might come back if he lit one of the half-used candles. He wanted to save them. He opened the door of the little shed. It smelled sweet and fresh after the storm. Maria’s words went with him as he walked out into the day. You did well.