I could never hear when she opened her little gate in the ivy-covered wall. How she froze me with her eyes, with her dry voice like crushed stone. Near Ida’s shadow, black like a black bat, I gave a leap—my heart throbbed darkly and blinded me. Through the air suddenly filled with flames I would manage to get home inside my own gate.
Ida’s garden—the forbidden place.
You were only allowed to pass through one end of it on a long narrow board, perpetually slick (you would have thought a northern territory breathed between the walls of her garden, it was so cool and damp).
But on the path, the deepest silence descended upon you (each place has its singular voice of silence)—and then I’d set off for the sand alley between the straight, flowering hedgerows.
I didn’t touch leaf or tree. Halfway, I usually turned around: sometimes at the faint crack of the red currant twigs, or the whish of a wingbeat of wind.
Everything there belonged to Ida—Ida, soul of a witch.
If there were the slightest sign, a flutter, a stir, I’d run madly back. Nevertheless it happened sometimes that she caught me (you never knew when she would come gliding noiselessly through her little gate in the ivy) . . . just when I had arrived at the heart of her garden, on the grass (oh, the drowsy-scented cradle) beneath the walnut tree.
Here I could see the snowdrops sprouting, how they warmed the snow in circles. How overnight they vanquished the armor of the ice crust: what rustlings and secret happenings occurred under the translucent white mane! I would kneel in the warm snow, I would bring my face near.
“You should never, oh no, never stay awake the whole night till dawn,” children whispered. “That’s what Ida did . . . that’s why now she’s so lonely and so loony.”
In their unknown bed, lost in Ida’s garden, grew the most beautiful lilies of the valley in the entire world.
Ida was a widow, the widow of . . . of whom?
The wife of darkness.
She had a handsome young son as handsome as the sun itself—Horst.
Once a year he’d come to see her, and
then she bustled about as sprightly as a young girl, she flew through doorways, how the pots rang while she prepared his food.
She laughed and laughed with her voice of stone and shade, totally transformed.
But soon he went off to the mountains, soon he set out again into the wide world, and
then night after night she would cry, twisted tight like a gnarled root—until she settled back into her old channel.