After all these years I have decided to visit the solitude of the meadow which was just an hour's walk away from my home. I can remember the sun would shine and glisten on the dewy grass as though it was morning all day long. The birds would play carefree in the soothing air, and the fish would swim gently in the tiny pond to the north end.
When the stress would get too high I would return to the meadow in my mind, but not even the most vivid of imaginations could recreate the richness of the place I at one time went to every day. It is the memory of it being an innocent place that stays so vividly in my mind. Never a gentler word could be spoken than what was said there.
As I pull my car over to the side of the gravel road I am still amazed that I could bring myself back to this place after all the time that I've been away. I'm not sure whether it is the fear of the land being developed and the meadow lost, or the fear of recovering something lost from my childhood that speaks louder in my mind. As I step from the car onto the unkept gravel road I can be certain my first fear is not be a reality.
At the side of the road I notice a pair of bikes lying down, they do seem strangely familiar. One being the standard boy's stunt bike and the other being a frilly girl's bike brings back memories of what I suppose I would now describe as my first girlfriend, Laura. Even as a child she had the most beautiful smile I can even now remember. Her wish to do "girl" things and mine to do "boy" things was so low that we often found ourselves coming out here and spending the day swimming in the pond or rolling through the grass.
But it isn't the carefree memories of Laura that are the dearest to me. One day Laura arrived at my door and said we have to go to the meadow now, usually we'd meet at the meadow later in the day. I stepped outside the door and went to grab my bike, but she stopped me, saying today we'll be walking. I didn't know what to say as she took my hand in hers and began walking, so I said nothing. As we walked down the gravel road she said nothing and I could only ponder in my mind why we were going out there. Continuing into the trees along the path which we had worn ourselves, she held my hand tightly yet still never said a word. The trees broke and before us was the majestic meadow that we had spent hundreds of days enjoying life in. She sat down in the middle of the open area and pulled me down in front of her. She opened her mouth and said, "Will you marry me?" I responded, as I had many times before when we pretended to be wife and husband, "Yes". But this time she reacted differently, and as seriously as a twelve year old could, she said, "no, I mean really, will you marry me?" I was really uncertain of how to respond, and her growing empathy could detect this, for as I started to say something she put her finger to my lips and continued, "no, not now, when you're thirty and if you haven't already married somebody else." Then she leaned towards me and gave me a light kiss, then wrapped her arms around me and started to cry. I didn't know then but that was her goodbye, a few days later I was only able to wave at her as her family pulled away from their house and moved somewhere else. We made no attempts to keep in touch, and I was really too young to miss her, but somehow I knew that she felt differently.
Now, eighteen years later, I start walking into the trees, oddly the path still seems well worn. In the past two years I've lost a brother to a terminal illness, took over as president of a large construction firm, and from the strange confusion on my life managed to lose my first wife. I think my wife just needed some time of her own, and had she not been mistaken for somebody else and shot three times in the back, we probably would have gotten back together. My brother, right up until the hour of his departure, had been doing what he loved, teaching children about the joys of nature. We had always argued with each other, especially since I was always trying to develop the land and he was always trying to protect it. At one point we came head to head on a new development, for some reason we agreed to let the winner be decided by a coin toss. Even though I won the toss I couldn't help but let all those years of his teaching me about nature go to heart; the resulting building was situated in a tree-like enclosure and sported an amazing 4800 square foot courtyard in the center of the building that mimicked the original land. The building was such a popular achievement that, on my suggestion, our firm began specializing in the design of these "natural" buildings, really the heart of why we're now technically an architectural design firm rather than a construction firm, and the real reason why I now find myself at the head of the company. I suppose in this way I never really have to say goodbye to my brother.
The path through the trees always used to seem quite treacherous, but now that I'm so much bigger it is much easier to navigate. I walk along until I reach a small dropoff, less than a meter is the change in the level of the ground, but it's marked by a root that almost forms a trap for the unweary traveller. That traveller at one point was Laura. We were running through the trees and she was laughing at me; due to me tripping she had ended up quite far in front of me. Unfortunately she was continually looking back in order to gain the full effect of her laughing at me; her foot caught the root and she toppled down over the drop-off and landed quite hard on the ground below. I was still babbling about something as I got to her position, she was lying on the ground clutching her leg and crying. I didn't think I could do it, and still don't know where I got the strength from, but I picked her up and carried her all the way back to town. She had broken her leg and wasn't able to venture far from home for most of the summer due to that. I didn't like continually visiting the meadow alone, so I would go there, pick some flowers, get a glass of the pond water, and catch a butterfly or two, then bring them all back to her house where she could enjoy them along with me. We would laugh about it quite a bit, and her mother would say it was sweet, up until the point where she found a frog sitting on the jello in the fridge.
Now it isn't much of a challenge to navigate this root trap, but I still catch myself turning around and saying to it, "bad root!" Up ahead was the tree where we had carved our names into, which was punishable by serious talk about how it harms the trees once my brother found out what we had done. I guess in the end he was right, the location of our names on the tree has grown somewhat disfigured. I notice that on a tree nearby there are some other pairs of names delicately carved in; they look like they were done with a knife, whereas we were only able to use a pointy rock. The number of names is not abundant though, only four or five pairs, all of which are progressively weathered back until our own. It makes me smile to think that others have found this place, hopefully they haven't upset it in any way.
As I enter the clearing which I have done so many times before my memories are swept clean, at least for a moment, as the real atmosphere takes their place. The grass is waving back and forth in the gentle wind. Birds still fly in the air above, occasionally landing in the pond to take a quick drink or to cause the fish to scatter. This time the meadow has a new inhabitant though, a young fawn is chewing on some grass not to far in front of me. She looks up and appears scared for a while, but almost as though she senses I am a friend, she then again lowers her head and continues to eat away oblivious to my presence.
Then without being able to take another step a little fat boy comes out of nowhere and pokes a stick at me. "You are an unauthorized guest of the kingdom. Do you wish to speak to the king or be thrown into the black lagoon?" I suppose I have lost some of my childlike nature, but the question doesn't appear too difficult to answer, so I am escorted towards the North side of the clearing, by the water, and with a quick poke to my belly from the pudgy boy forced to sit on the grass.
"Will the king be along soon?"
"The king will appear when he feels like appearing." And the little fat boy pokes me again with the stick. I am about to say something but then a pair of screaming children run from the trees and jump into the pond making a big splash that sends water all over me and the overweight boy. There is a young boy and girl now swimming towards the edge of the water where I am sitting. Not unexpectedly the fat boy pokes me again and requests I rise for the king's presence.
"Now, now my beefeater," speaks the other young man, "be nice to our visitor, he doesn't appear to be doing any harm. Please sit and be comfortable." Although I would prefer to stand to be comfortable I wish not to ruin their fun, so I sit down. "May I introduce you to the lovely queen Cleopatra." He not surprisingly points to the extremely shy young girl now standing behind him. "I am King Ceaser, who may you be and why are you here?"
I can't help but wonder if as a child I had my history this screwed up as well. There isn't a chance that I am going to upset their innocent play, so I without much pause reply, "I am a representative of Zeus, I come to deliver a message." I suppose I could have said Aphrodite or something, but with Zeus I'm positive they will know who I'm talking about.
Obviously being of bigger stature than all of them, and not being their parents, and also probably being the only adult they've ever seen in this meadow, they are willing to accept my statement. "What message does Zeus wish to give us?"
"Play now, be carefree, and later you will be free." I don't think they have any chance of really understanding what I say. I bow before the king, then politely kiss the hand of the queen, which quickly causes her to blush a great deal an duck behind the king. Saluting the fat boy his back suddenly went entirely vertical and he salutes me back. I take a few steps back then turn and walk away.
Without getting too far I hear a voice that is obviously that of the queen, "just a second sir." I turn to see her running towards me. "A lady was here a few days ago, she said that her and a friend would always play here. She gave us some treasure and a card and said one day her friend might return." The fat boy comes hussling up to us, with the king calmly trailing behind. The fat boy extends his hand, a business card is presented to me. A few layers of chocolate prevent me from making out anything on the card, the treasure was obviously a few chocolate bars which the fat boy indulged in.
The king notices the mess of the card and lightly hits the fat boy upside the head and scolds him. "It's all right", I say. With that I also say thank you then walk back to my car.
I put the card on the seat beside me and don't really think too much of it. There could have been hundreds of people that played in that meadow, and the chance the name of the card would be that of Laura is extremely low. I pull into the motel parking lot and walk back to my room. The day is quite a revitalizer for me and I'm bound to have happy dreams of the time I spent in the meadow for years to come...
...just before I'm about to leave I hear a knock at my motel door. I open the door to find this young girl standing there, something about her looks quite familiar. She extends her hand to mine and says "we have to go to the meadow now." We run down the gravel road and through the trees into the meadow. She sits me down in the middle of the clearing. I look around the meadow and when I look back towards the girl, about to ask her something, she's disappeared, it seems unlikely she could have run away, but it is possible.
I stand up and wonder why I am here. To the North I notice a woman about my age emerging from the pond. Her beauty is matched by that of nobody else. As she walks towards me I can't help but think of what is happening. I'm about to say something when she presses her finger to my lips. Then she kisses me and wraps her hands around me. I suddenly find myself twelve years old again sitting in front of Laura in the meadow. She breaks the embrace and just before she gets up to leave, as it happened before, I manage to blurt out "yes"...
I awake in my motel room to the most brilliant sunrise I've ever seen. It floods the room with an orange glow that is tough to even describe. I can't help but feel awestruck, maybe by the sun, but possibly more by its follow-up to the most amazing dream I think I've ever had.
I pack up my things get into my car and begin to drive away. I notice that the sun has dried up the chocolate on the business card. I wipe it away and look at the name written on the card, I laugh to myself a little, then stick the card in my shirt pocket and drive back to the city which now I know was never too far from home.
Back to index...