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If you read the title you then reading the rest of this is done at your own risk 😉
OK, here goes…
I DON’T REALLY REMEMBER MUCH OF MY CHILDHOOD. I know it must have been idyllic. I know that because most of my life was idyllic. Until about a year ago that is, but I’ll come to that later. I’m sorry, talking about this is quite painful so please bear with me.
I grew up in my father’s house. Actually, that’s not quite true. I grew up in his garden. I loved it. How could I not, it was idyllic. I remember the trees. The tallest, most luxuriant trees you could ever dream of. The fruits they gave were the most succulent, the shade they offered was the deepest pools of quiet contemplation one could ever hope to find . I would sit beneath those trees for days at a time. I don’t know what I used to think about. Truth to tell, I don’t even know if I thought. I know that sounds strange but it’s the truth, I don’t remember if I ever really thought about anything while I lived in my father’s garden. I certainly never had to think about food or clothes or shelter or, well, anything. Again, I know that this sounds strange but please believe me, my life really was idyllic. I wanted for nothing. Well almost nothing. I know I had yearnings sometimes. I don’t know if I ever really knew what most of the yearnings were for only that there were times when the idyll wasn’t quite as golden as it had been. I know these yearnings weren’t for life’s necessities, as I said my father’s garden was idyllic and bountiful. If I wanted fruit I just had to pluck it from the branch or the vine. The water from the spring was always clear and sweet. As I write this I can almost taste the meat that would occasionally arrive hot, pink and tender. I never had to hunt for it, nor did I take any animals life. I would merely see an animal and wonder how it would taste and some time later meat would be available somewhere in the garden. It was never in the house. In fact I never went into my father’s house. I know he had one for he was fond of telling me how glorious it was but he never me brought inside. I only ever remember the garden.
My father visited me but rarely. I would often know he was in the garden for I could follow his progress as the animals grew small and quiet at his passing but not all of his paths would lead to me. I never went looking for him. I couldn’t tell you why, just that I never really felt the need. I suppose I must have felt about my father’s visits in a similar way as I did about my need for food. If I needed him he would be there. Actually, that’s not quite true, there were many times in my life that I needed him and he was nowhere to be found. As I said, I never searched for my father but his absence from the garden was palpable. Not that it really mattered if he was there or not though for everything in the garden knew whose garden it was. In the same that I knew he was my father.
I knew because he told me so. Often. Whenever I felt a yearning he would be there. Be there to say: I am here my son. I am your father. Stay here in the garden and you will never want for anything.
And I would listen to him. I would lay back on the soft ground letting his voice wash over me and the yearning would leave me. At least for a time. These yearnings always retuned.Not always for the same things. Sometimes I would yearn to be able to fly. To soar as high as the sun like the eagle and the wren. And my father would say: That is not the life for you my son. Stay here in my garden and you shall want for nothing.
Or I would yearn to be like the salmon. To feel the crisp, sparkling water rippling along my spine through all the hours of the day. And my father would say: That is not the life for you my son. Stay here. Keep your place here in the garden I created for you. All things here are for you. Stay, and you shall want for nothing.
Or I would yearn to see beyond the garden. To walk beyond the trees that held the eagles nests, feel the sun bless my skin in meadows that were not my fathers. These particular yearnings always brought forth my father’s wrath. His voice would thunder through the garden, sending the birds shrieking and screaming into the azure everness above. I would cower in the undergrowth as he stormed above me. Gone were the words of comfort and plenty. Now it was demands: Stay Here! Rage: I made you. Control: You need only stay here. Love only me and you shall want for nothing.
I would cower. I would cover my head and shiver until his rage blew itself out. It always ended the same way. He would crash hither and yon about the garden, kicking at the plants, throwing stones into the water. Then he would turn to my models.
Did I mention my models? As I said, I was raised in my fathers garden but had never been inside his house. I used to dream about his house. What did it look like? How big was it? Was it as richly colourful as the garden or as subtly jewelled as the river bed? Some times these dreams were incredibly vivid and would haunt me for days. When this happened I would try to give shape to my dreams using twigs and mud, fire and pebbles; rings of stones stood alongside straw palaces, mud built ziggurats shared the shade of ancient trees with wooden platforms leading out from the riverbanks. Each one a half remembered dream imagining of my fathers house.
I couldn’t look at him as he smashed my dreams. I had no idea whether he smiled as my creations were returned to their natural state under his destructive temper. I don’t know if he wept. I would cower and shiver, keep my eyes tight shut until he stopped. Suddenly it would be empty silence in the garden. I would lay there, frightened and confused as the garden slowly returned to it’s former idyll. It was never the same though. Each time he crushed one of my imaginings I would lose a little trust in him.
The garden always felt a little smaller after his rage passed. More constricting. I tried not to entertain these yearnings but as the seasons passed they came ever more frequently.
I remember I asked about my mother once. I didn’t know what a mother was but I felt it was something I should have. I expected my father to be angry. I don’t know why I brought the subject up, only that I needed an answer. He wasn’t angry though. For a while he didn’t move or smile or say a word. I asked again. Eventually he sighed and moved to sit beneath my favourite tree. I asked a third time. He smiled then. Smiled and invited me to sit, patting the earth beside him. He told me again that I was his son and that I should live here in the garden. I never asked the question again.
As the seasons passed and my body grew my yearnings were joined by another. I felt the want most powerfully. The need. It took me many days to realise what my yearning was. I searched the garden. I knew my father would provide for me if my need was great enough. But he didn’t. I know he must of known of my yearning because I had spoken of it as I travelled about his garden. I could feel him watching me as I stood watching the animals during the time of freshening in the garden. I could feel his sadness as he watched me.
When my yearning became too strong to ignore I went to my father. I told him of my yearning. I tried to explain a concept that I didn’t fully understand myself. I pointed towards the beasts and the birds. I told him that I loved him but that that love wasn’t enough. I told him I needed more.
Seasons passed and the stags were trumpeting their need when my father finally granted my request. I awoke one morning to find her there. I didn’t know from where she had come. I didn’t really understand at first that she was a she. We sat looking at each other throughout that first day without saying a word. I didn’t know what to say. All I knew was that I was no longer alone. Correction, we were not alone. Wherever she had come from she had not come alone. Standing forever five paces away was her servant.
My father came to us on the second day. He told us that we should always love him. He told us that we should live together in his garden and that we would never want for anything. I told me I should now be happy. He told us to never try to leave the garden. He told me to never speak to the servant.
I tried. I avoided the servant as much as I could but my new companion spoke to him all the time. I didn’t mind. My new companion spoke often of outside the garden. Only once though did she speak of these things in a voice louder than a whisper. My father’s wrath the first time she spoke of it was the most fearful I have ever witnessed. My models were crushed, trees stripped bare of leaves with his anger. We both cowered beneath our shelter and waited for him to leave.
We tried to please him. We avoided the edges of the garden, where guards now stood. My idyll was slowing being destroyed. I want to make this clear. It wasn’t my companion’s fault. Nor was it her servant. It was my father that was destroying the garden he had made for me. I know now that it was his jealousy that was causing the rift between us. All the time I had been alone in his garden we had been content. But now my affection was divided. I loved my father but my companion now held the greater part of my heart. My father hated her for that.
I think it was my father’s attitude towards my companion that led me to seek out her servant. Her servant wasn’t happy in the garden. He was always attendant on his mistress, he always fulfilled her wishes but he never smiled. Whenever I saw him not in attendance on his mistress he would be looking towards the edge of the garden. Such a look of longing would come across his face as he gazed out towards the meadows that were not my father’s.
I waited until I knew that my father was not in the garden before I went to the servant. I sought him out among the trees in the season of fruit. I found him eating one of those most succulent fruits. He was again looking towards the edge of the garden. It took me a long time to gather my strength to talk to him. My father’s anger was a powerful force upon me. I struggled to push my fear of my father away as I moved towards the tree beneath which the servant lay. I asked him why he was so sad in my father’s garden. Why did he ever look towards the edge?
He told me of places he had seen beyond my father’s garden. He told me of people that didn’t even know of my father nor of his beautiful garden. He told me of cities and markets, of ships and people. He told me of bread and beer. He told of how people beyond the garden didn’t live in such an idyll. He spoke with such passion. He spoke with such longing. I began to cry as his tales spun around me.
I told the servant and my companion that we should never talk of these thing when my father was near. We all knew of his jealousy. We all knew of his wrath. We knew that for my father his garden was everything. We knew he loved us for he was always telling us. We knew also that it was no longer enough for us. Knowing of the lives that were being led beyond the garden made us want to explore the meadows that were not my father’s.
When my father learned of our desires he was wroth. He ordered us to stay in the garden. He ordered us to love only him. He meant to keep us. He would not even entertain the idea of us visiting outside the garden. He blamed my companion. He accused me of throwing his love back into his face. He raged against the servant. The longer he raged the more I came to understand that when my father said love he meant obedience. I came to know that he didn’t want me to just accept his love but to bow down to him. I was never to question him, never challenge him. Never do anything that would bring his wrath down upon ourselves.
I had lived with these rules for my entire life but now I had a companion and I could no longer endure this life. I could not endure it for her or for her sake. My companion was weeping. I was shaking and shivering, as I had many times before but now my fists were clenched in rage rather than fear. Now my hot and shameful tears were for my companion rather than for myself. I hated my father for how he was treating my companion.
When I had first asked for somebody to join me in the garden I had meant another like me. Another son from my father that I could share my days with, another man that would make my idyllic days fuller. It was my father’s choice to bring me a woman and yet from her very first day in the garden my father had railed against her being there. He blamed her for every perceived wrong. He accused her of stealing my love from him. He looked upon her with contempt.
I knew that I had to get my companion out of my father’s garden. I knew that being there, under his constant distrust and suspicion, my companion was wilting. Her head became bowed, her smile came less often. I knew that she would never flourish if she continued living in my father’s garden. She should flourish. She should be allowed to walk in the sun with her head held high, never fearing the wrath of another. I grew to hate my father for how he treated my companion. I knew we would have to leave.
There are many stories about the following events. My father’s is probably the one you have heard. I have heard it myself. It has followed around after me for years. I have tried to put people straight when then try to vilify my now wife because of my father’s stories but it is difficult. There are too many people in the world now that believe my father’s stories for me to argue against. That’s why I am telling you this now. So that somebody will hear the truth. My father is powerful. He is persuasive. He draws people to him with his stories and his promises but he is also demanding and uncompromising. He claims that all he wants from people is the same as he ever asked from me. Love. But I must tell you, it is a lie. What he wants from people is obedience. Unthinking, unquestioning servitude. I know that now.
While I was young in my father’s garden I accepted his assertions and his demands for I knew no different. I allowed him to smother my will with his because I knew no other way to be. I believed him when he told me that he created the garden for me and that everything in the garden served me. How could I not when his was the only voice I ever heard? But I now know that all of these stories were just that. He didn’t create the garden, he simply took over another’s abandoned place.
In my father’s story I was banished from his garden because my wife broke the only rule. This is a lie. There were many rules. The first of which was, my father’s whim was law. My father’s story, the one that even now is being spread across the land by his servants, tells how the servant tempted my wife and myself away from my father’s loving embrace. Again, lies.
We chose to leave my father’s garden. We did that. He did not cast us out. We walked away with our heads held high. No longer would my wife suffer under my father’s disdain. No longer would my wife be forced to endure the judgement of my father’s servants.
I no longer felt that my father deserved my love. I no longer felt he should dictate how I live my life. I may never forgive my father for how he treated my wife and for how he now dictates his servants to treat all wives and daughters. I know my father blames my wife for stealing me away from him but that is his delusion. My wife has brought me nothing but love and understanding while my father would rather I live my life in fear and ignorance. This is why he hates her still. Because it was her that helped me find the strength to challenge him.
My father’s story is spreading ever farther. Soon people, who never knew my father, will spread the lies his servants tell. Soon my wife will be despised by people who do not know her, for they will believe my father’s story because he is powerful and I am not. All I can hope is that, even as my life becomes nothing more than the ghost of a memory in the minds of my children’s children, my father’s lies about my wife will disappear into myth and legend.
I started this by telling you that my childhood was idyllic. Now that I look back upon it I realise it was not. Forced to grow up alone, living as an animal in a wilderness of my father’s creation. Never knowing the loving embrace of anyone before my wife. Never being allowed to question my father’s lies. Yes, if I had been content to live forever in my father’s garden I would have food aplenty. Yes, I would never have wanted for anything but I would never have found out who I am. I would simply be his little play thing. I would spend my days bowing to him, giving him all of myself that I had to give. But in the end, that life would have been hollow.
Since we left my father’s garden my wife and I have grown in a myriad different ways. We have grown in thought and compassion. We have grown in love and acceptance. We have grown in waistline and wrinkles. I think most importantly we have grown to understand that my father is not the only one that deserves our love.
Now I really must go. I can see my two boys are starting to get a little rough in their play. I swear, one of these days one will kill the other if we’re not careful.
It’s been nice talking with you. Hope to see you again sometime.
I don’t know if the above story is any good. I’m not a fair judge of my own work. I know that what you have just read is not the story that has battering at my consciousness for the past week or more. I don’t know if what I originally intended to write would have been any better.
Anyway, I hope you liked it.
I’m going to return to my own life now and I’ll allow you to return you to yours.