I always loved secret little places as a child. An alleyway going down to somewhere I had never been before. The dark cupboard in the terrace room that anyone hardly opened. The makeshift tent I made in my playroom with umbrellas and dupattas.
Part of my fascination with secret little places was Enid Blyton, in whose stories the kids always found some sort of secret passage in the most unexpected ways. I stayed on the alert whenever we went out, hoping to tap some floorboards or panels or walls and find a secret passageway emerge.
As I grew up, it became more and more difficult to find such places. Everywhere I went, there were people. Everywhere I went, someone had been before and explored thoroughly. How did I know? The bags of chips and biscuits, cigarette ends, etc., shouted it out. It seemed impossible to find anywhere anymore that was unexplored, full of secrets, or solitary.
This is why, when I discovered the place in the cover photo, I was enthralled. It’s a sprawling park in Oberlaa, a neighbourhood in Vienna, and is full of quiet little walks. There are miles of beautiful countryside, dotted with streams, sheep and goats. Every turn you take leads you to new sights and sounds, and the air is heavy with the secret whispers of nature.
“By the side of the river he trotted as one trots, when very small, by the side of a man who holds one spellbound by exciting stories; and when tired at last, he sat on the bank, while the river still chattered on to him, a babbling procession of the best stories in the world…”*
Oh, how much beauty there is in the world and how much to be explored! Perhaps, the saddest reality of life is how our energies and inclination to explore tend to fall as we grow older, ‘more important’ things taking precedence. But that moment in my newly discovered secret place was different. Oh yes. The only important thing was to listen to what everyone was quietly but fervently discussing – the trees, the winds, the birds and the stream.
*The Wind in the Willows is a delightful novel by Kenneth Graham where animals have glorious adventures in the countryside. If you haven’t read it, I highly recommend you do!
* * *
Find out more about 100 Happy Days here.