„Good morning, Jonathan,“ Maria thought smiling as she woke the cock again that morning. It seemed familiar to her to be awakened as if it had never been otherwise. Quickly she slipped out of bed and dressed, knowing that now only she had the chance to help her great-aunt with the breakfast preparations. So she ran into the living room, which was still cold from the night, opened the door in the chimney and still found some embers on which she put two or three logs after she had vigorously mixed them up. Then she stopped in silence to watch the flames begin to lick at the wood, at first small and tentative, but then brighter and happier. Only then did she close the door again to help her great aunt in the kitchen. Together, they sat with sweet porridge and steaming coffee at the large table in the living room, while the winter before the windows set nature freeze.
„How did you get here?“, Maria asked suddenly. „I mean, you were a noblewoman after all. So it’s probably not the most common thing to marry a farmer.“
„That’s true, and you can probably imagine how unhappy my mother was about it, who so wanted me to marry any prince or count, or someone like this. She was a good-hearted woman, despite everything, but she was also limited in her field of vision. There were very clear social barriers in this, and one could not go beyond them. As little as a simple man could belong to our circles, so little was it possible the other way around. It was inevitable for them like a law of nature. But I’ve always had my own ideas about life. So I preferred nature and the occupations in those who would have been more appropriate to my position, such as embroidering and learning French and giggling artificially and dishonoring myself and cleaning up the domestics. My mother was fainting every time I came home from one of my legendary trail rides, dirty from top to bottom.
‚You behave like a man. Do you want that? ‚, She used to ask me, but she had no chance, stubborn as I always was. But then came the change, not in the sense that my mother would have wished, but from wild conquest to soft wonder. It was a young, strong fellow with a broad dialect when we picked up a new gardener. For hours he devoted himself with the utmost care to his plants. Of course every gardener does that, but he had a special gift to know exactly what his plants needed and also the patience to let them grow in their own rhythm. So I observed that one day my mother sent the cook to get fresh strawberries. With all due courtesy he rejected this suggestion, because the strawberries are not yet mature enough to be picked. Even the strawberries seemed to resist my mother’s will, but when the cook got them, my mother realized that the gardener had been right. From that moment on she succumbed. And I was on his side because he guarded those who cannot guard themselves. More and more often I spent the time in the garden and learned about vegetables and fruit, about flowers and animals, because even these creatures he took under his wing. The first crucial change was that I stopped riding my horse, but I took him for a walk, which contributed to general cheerfulness. It was the same fields, the same woods, and yet it was as if I was rediscovering them because of the changed perspective and the reduced pace, „Magdalena said with a glazed look.
„And this young gardener was none other than Uncle Toni,“ Maria interjected.
„Yes, he was. It was not hard to guess, „the great-aunt admitted with a smile, „our friendship was getting tighter, and one day he confessed to me that he needed to go home because his parents could no longer farm alone. He was unspeakably sad. I sensed that I could not even imagine spending a day without him, and there was only one way to prevent this farewell, just one that would be appropriate. We had to marry. Then, yes, then I had to go with him. That’s what I suggested to him. A few days later we got married. It was a big scandal, and my mother said I would never have to come back as long as I was the wife of this vulgar subject, yes, that’s how she expressed herself. I never entered the castle again. The only one who still kept to me was my father, who came to visit me from time to time, but he was too weak and too dependent to openly acknowledge it. But I did not care, because I was happy and I still am today.“ Slowly she looked up, as if she came from a distant past into the present, which would one day be the past and in which the future lay dormant. „Maria, no matter what you do, do it, because it promotes you in your liveliness, nothing matters!“ Was Magdalena’s conclusion.
„Why did you invite me to you after all these years?“ Maria asked again. „Because I wanted you to remember,“ Magdalena said cryptically.
„What should I remember?“ Mary asked irritated, even though she probably had an idea, because she had already begun to remember.
„Remembering yourself,“ Magdalena said shortly, „you were a girl at the time who wanted to turn to life that was open and full of dreams. So you told me that you want to learn so much, so that you could help all sick animals. But then something happened, I think, because you have changed, I cannot say exactly where, but definitely away from you. When you came here, you are scary fighting ready, like someone who is layer by layer built a tank around him and now lost somewhere in no man’s land between the vulnerable, but capable of love and the armor that is supposed to suggest to the other that you are sovereign and untouchable. “
Maria looked at her. Her first reflex was to rebel. That could not be right. That was not allowed. Because it hurt, hurt to admit that you left behind what was worth to chase after something whose value came only from a hazy, dubious idea. Everybody said that you feel better if you succeed, a success that was before the world. The yacht in Monaco and the second home in Hawaii, that represented success. But to help a cow to give birth to a calf that laid wrong or to raise a fawn, whose mother was – of course accidentally – shot dead so that it could live free, or make a disabled child smile, or a suicidal person To give new hope was not a success, because that did not bring anything to one’s self, except perhaps the warmth of happiness that can not be measured in numbers. She had been running after that picture for years of her life, when she could not suddenly say that was all wrong, not me, nothing you did not admit, that she had wasted all the time of her life for the wrong thing.
„But maybe it’s just these detours that let us know what’s the right thing or what gives meaning and value to me and my life,“ explained Maria, in all unpredictability, „perhaps it’s just the contrived that makes us a matter of course.“
And as the sun disappeared behind the horizon and covered the snowy landscape with a gentle red, there was a kind of peace in the world around them, but also in this house, in their thoughts and in their hearts, as it can be, where One has reconciled oneself with oneself, with its transgressions as well as with its hits. And in her cups the herbal tea was steaming.
„It’s good as it is,“ Maria added. A confused little snowflake, a small, tender elf waved her through the window before sinking down and cuddling to her sisters. And the weaving boat made its orbit to add a new line to the web image of life. The silence enveloped her like a protective shell, silence she had not endured otherwise. Suddenly she was full of life. Suddenly she was full of possibilities. And it was the fourth day of Advent.