February 10, 2016 prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story about wild spaces. Is it a wilderness or a patch of weeds in a vacant lot that attract songbirds. What is vital to the human psyche about wild spaces? Bonus points for inducing something cute and furry.
Charli has softened this week after her power trip with this prompt.
My early years were spent in a kind of manicured suburbia – not quite Revolutionary Road conformity but close enough – in North Surrey. Then we upped sticks to the New Forest and our own little bit of wilderness. We have acres of heather and gorse and bog – boy did we have bog. There’s one particular piece of sodden peat where it is said, during WW2, two tanks sank without trace. Matley Bog. I’ve walked across it jumping from heather clump to cotton grass outcrop with the Archaeologist and Dad, avoiding the glutinous pools, knowing full well that, at best, I’d lose a boot, at worst a relative….
But there never was a worst not with the Old Man guiding us. He’d take us across all parts and, while we would inevitably get wet, we’d never feel at risk.
Not that that stopped him trying. Latterly when I brought friends to stay we would head over to Mead End, the nearest bit of classic bogland to our house and take these townies onto the ‘quakes’. These are a series of linked heather and sphagnum moss lawns that sit above heaven knows how deep bogs. The crusts that have formed over decades can take the weight of ponies – always a good guide to where is safe – and therefore people. But as soon as you stand on top, the ground gives a little. And if you are unsuspecting enough one of Dad or the Archaeologist – I never did this, rest assured – would come up behind and jump up and down.
Suddenly the land ripples like an earthquake zone – a grass trampoline. No one actually shat themselves but there were a few who tested the strength of their sphincters.
Mostly, however, the Forest is a benign place to visit. There aren’t any real hills, the woods are reasonably small and easy to find your way out of and there are roads and railways that criss-cross the landscape so civilisation is not far away. You can get lost – we’ve walked in the odd circle in the fog before now – but it won’t happen often.
This week Mary and her daughter Penny are in the garden, looking for their own wilderness…
‘Mum, can we have a wild patch, like Grandpa?’
Mary nodded. ‘He loved that patch. For the butterflies.’
‘Useful too. It encouraged all insects.’
‘And wasps, and ladybirds. All sorts. I loved the caterpillars.’
‘Yuk, they’re green and slimy.’
‘Wait and see.’
A while later, Mary gave Penny a plastic bag. ‘There you go. For your patch.’
‘What’s in it?’ Penny looked concerned.
Penny pulled a face as Mary opened the top. A sleek black larva undulated its way out.’
‘Ooo. I didn’t know they could be cute.’
Mary smiled. Not a bad life lesson.