Tuesday, February 18, 2014

The Secret Garden

It could have been a bridge, but now it's a mystery!

Out the gate, down the dusty road, past the junkyard in front of Elias’ house, through the grassy field that feeds Erlinda’s cattle, across the new concrete bridge that keeps us fed during the wet season, skirting Fancho’s tomato fields and avoiding the cat calls that spout out of the muslin-wrapped rows, up the aerobic-inducing inclined stone road, tiptoeing over the slippery river stones (Careful! Wet feet are not desirable!) – you will find the Secret Garden.

A barbed wire fence separates it from the world but the entrance has been trampled to the ground, seemingly by cows or horses, whose poop piles are scattered fresh and old over the ground. Passing through the entrance, there is a (comparatively) large house, hollowed out by weather, time and disrepair. It must have had a family once, because there are logs sanded into stools visible through the open wall, which wasn’t always open, but now has an enormous hole. When the wind blows, the less attached metal roof flaps around and makes creepy noises. A stone laundry washing area sits abandoned and there is even an attractive gazebo, where I can imagine a family sitting in the evening, overlooking the river.

But while the semi-creepy homestead is abandoned, the property is teeming with life. Gnarled trees and bushes that were once cared for (many are growing inside of Goodyear tires) now grow wild and crazy. It’s not fruit season right now, so although I can identify at least a dozen giant mango trees, there’s nothing too exciting about them currently. But what I did go crazy for were the lemons. Giant lemons the size of grapefruit are weighing the branches of the trees down to the ground, and there are hundreds of them! It smells like a well-cleaned kitchen, with a hint of cow patty.

Flacco romps the garden as we collect lemons!
I’ve filled my backpack twice now, which makes crossing the stones in the river difficult with ten pounds of citrus behind you, and heaved them the half-hour or so back to campus. We made lemonade for the girls for Valentine’s Day and we’re hoping to start using juice to clean instead of bleach. We can use it (those of us few blondes) to lighten our hair! I’ve started sticking peels inside my smelly shoes! And the best for me, is the journey. Haven’t you always wanted to discover something forgotten, unused, an entirely intriguing?

The Secret Garden beyond the river crossing is a childhood fantasy of mine. It’s one of the biggest reasons I go exploring every day, mapping unmarked trails in my mind. The magical and lonely mountain hideaways are a favorite perk of the backcountry. Plus, there’s lemons, and I can constantly make lemonade.

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