tisdag 3 januari 2017

Deep in the woods I found a well

I normally never take the path north of the smaller beach this time of year.
Why? Well, the ground gets all suggy and moist and if the winter behaves as it should, the snow lies so thick that you can't even see the scrubbery beneath the trees.
For my part, being a wee bit out of order, it means risk of falling, spraining or breaking something. That's why.
Come to think of it, I hardly ever walk there at all, it has thickened, the scrubbery, I mean.
It's a lot darker than when we moved here. Nobody tends to this part of the forest, I'm not sure if anybody owns it even.
Most parts of the forest, the meadows and the dales here are private property. Or protected area. Some parts of the coastline are military and off limits, but that's another story altogether, let's stick to this one.
So I went out for a walk, a fine day it was, no fog or drizzle, sky not entirely blue but close. The wind had fallen the last few days and that made walking quite pleasant again. I went alone this time, being the only one with time to spare it seemed.

Down by the harbour the water lay smooth and clear. People went in and out from the store,
we are quite proud of this village, it's alive and kicking you might say, we've got everything we need, or almost.
I turned right and walked along the coastline, facing the sun. It was real sharp, I couldn't see much, but I brought my sunglasses. I speeded up my pace, thinking there would be some benefits in it, like burning of calories or at least excercising my tired muscles.
I met some people along the way, at least the first mile or so. Dogowners mostly. We used to have a dog, Alma, a Borderterrier. She loved both the beach and the woods. She got sick and died after a couple of years here. We speak of getting a dog every now and then. Especially when we are out walking. I stopped to look at a ridgeback galloping around hunting for a badly bruised ball.  Not a cute kind, those ridgebacks, but strong and alert. They moved on, dog and owner, giving way for a furry little thing, trying hard to keep steps with his jogging owner.

Sun was diving, I thought of turning home but something drove me on. I had passed the first of the small beaches, now I passed the second and looked up north. I didn't look so bad in the sunlight, perhaps I should try it. The soil was dry, no rain for a long time, no melting snow.
As I took the path my mind was wandering, I just kept walking, trying not to slip or get caught on the thorns. Blackberries all over.  After 15 minutes or so, I stopped. There was no one but me, I left my fellow villagers behind. It was darker too. I realized the sun was setting faster now, and there was a wind coming up. Or not? What was that sound? 

It was sort of a humming, wheezing sound. I hesitated . Maybe I should just turn and walk back?  I turned in every direction to locate the sound, it had to be further north. My ears were suddenly sharp receivers, I focused completely on that sound. There shouldn't be anything here, the path was nothing but a path, made up by dogowners and wanderers.  Nobody had lived here, I had never seen any traces of houses or stonefences or any kind of structure similar to those in other parts of these woods.  On the other hand, I was new to this area, generations of fishermen and farmers had lived here, but not in those woods. I had walked all the way up to the top several times years ago.

The sound was closer now, not very strong, but very close. All of a sudden, I almost fell right into ....a stream.  There are underground streams running from the hill and down. Taps and wells have been opened in several places.  That's what it was!  One of those small streams!
Only, as I followed it, the water dissapeared..inside a small structure of smooth stones.
It was actually a well.  A small, beautifully built little well, large enough to sit on the edge.
There was even a small roof held up by wooden pillars, and an arrangement with a bucket in a chain.  First I thought it must be summerguests building it for pleasure or leisure.
But as I looked closer I could see it was battered and overgrown, as if it had been there for a very long time.  Ivy on the roof, lavas on the stones.  I looked down and I could hear and smell the water but I couldn't see it. That was odd! Or was the water low in wintertime? 
I started to search for traces of a house, a barn, a shed, anything that could explain the well, but there was nothing. The trees and bushes grew thick, the scrubbery covered almost everything.

I noticed the complete silence too. Only the quiet mumble of the water. No wind, no birds, no villagers. I couldn't see the path anymore and began to regret my choice. 
The sun was almost down, dusk was my only source of light. I almost panicked. I had no torch with me, I must get back in time before darkness, I wasn't quite sure of the way. 
With my heart pounding hard I started walking towards what I hoped was the beach.  I soon left the sound of the water behind me, but it lingered in my head.
How I got back I don't know but after what seemed an eternity, I found the path back towards the village.  Strange, the sunlight wasn't gone. I looked at my watch.  I had been gone only half an hour!!  No! I turned towards the northern path. It looked innocent. Darker now. I wouldn't walk it again, not today . Not any day soon either.  

I reached the house while there was still sunlight. The wind had started whining a bit again and I noticed I was shivering. Hoping to find coffee ready, I entered the hallway.  I told my husband about the well. He looked puzzled, but he wasn't altogether certain about where I had been.  " You should go ask Walter" he said. "He knows these woods"

And so I did. I looked him up a few days later, telling him exactly where I had walked. He asked questions, looking more and more serious.  After quite some time he looked firmly at me and said: " You know, nobody have lived in that part of the woods for at least 150 years. I have never seen anything there, but my grandfather told me of a small cottage up there somewhere, that burned down completely in a fierce fire, taking everything alive with it, two people, some animals.  They had a small well built on one of the streams running from the hills, but when my grandfather was a boy, the well collapsed during a very harsh and long winter. Only a heap of stones left, perhaps some of the cattle got loose from the fields further down and helped out with the fall.  I have been up there several times , looking for traces but never found anything but a heap of stones, smooth, beautiful stones, covered with lavas.  That well is long gone, child, long gone"

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