Maria was now the fifth day at the court of her great aunt. Maybe you could not quite figure out the first, because she had arrived only in the evening. But she had held out, longer than she could ever have imagined, had endured to spend the days in equanimity and quiet bustle or just silence, had endured without any cell phone and laptop and virtual connection to the outside world, had not endured shopping to go and meet other people. But what was it really about the meeting of the people, there in her normal life?
In the morning she has been awaken by her cell phone. Always too early, as she thought. There was hardly a day when she felt she was really rested. It was too much of anything that never allowed her to settle down, and always too little because she was convinced out there that it had to be more and more. To stimulate the economy. Always more. To increase the GNP. Always more. To raise your own standard of living. Even if it was not true, because what is enriching us is true, but it was just an accumulation of things she had no relation to.
Here she was awakened by the cock when the night was over. And she was refreshed and rested. It feels good. Get up. Heat the fireplace and enjoy the rapidly spreading warmth. Prepare breakfast. A simple meal. Coffee or tea, a piece of bread, a porridge, and so nutritious. Food that is also for the heart and not only satisfies the physical hunger, because she had breakfast together with her great aunt.
At home, where she lived, she usually did not have time to eat breakfast. She was always under pressure. Hastily it was devoured, if at all, between the door and the rod. Coffee to go. Everything on the way. Because the time it takes to get from one place to another, even that must be used, among other things as trivial things as the food intake. You hardly notice it.
„Have I already eaten or not?“, she wondered often, because she had not noticed. Regardless of biting into something and slipping down, always with one eye on the advancing pointer. Here she sat eating and did nothing but eat. Maybe they talked to each other. Maybe not. It did not matter, because the presence was noticeable. Just be there, because the encounter needs no words. Quite different than she lived otherwise. Because when she was racing with her coffee in her hand between people, it was like slalom riding, with all the people being mere obstacles that had to be swiftly and safely turned around, but unlike the slalom, where the bars have to be surrounded as close as possible, it was tried to avoid contact as well as possible.
„Excuse me,“ it was said, if someone came too close, unintentionally. There was no contact, either outwardly or inwardly, and if it did, then it was inappropriate, both outwardly and inwardly. And then she saw him, the beggar sitting in the same place every morning, the way she had to go to reach her destination. She always scurried past him, in a wide arc if possible. From time to time she had thought about changing the side of the road, but that would have cost her too much time, and the road was so wide. Going far, as far as was possible under the given circumstances, pull in the head and look away. Each time she felt embarrassed, as if she expected somebody to stop, to look at her, then raise her hand and point her finger to show that they all knew she was infected, miserable with misery.
„Sit down to him. Go where you come from,“ and everyone around them burst into laughter,“ Never will you leave that behind. You can never escape.“ And that’s why she had to work harder, much, much more.
The beggar was himself to blame. Everyone has the opportunity to leave the misery behind and to work out a life. Everyone. But now she saw him in her mind much more clearly than she would have ever allowed herself to see him in passing.
He sat there in a tattered coat when it was cold. A greasy bonnet on his head and the stubble of beard stood out wildly from his face. Everything about him was old and worn, only his eyes seemed young and alive, but there was more. What was it? It was vague in her mind, as if she did not want to allow seeing, and certainly not understanding. But here, in peace, she wanted it. And so the picture became clearer in her thoughts. There was something alive, something warm, lying next to him, his head on his legs. It was a dog. Although the beggar was alone, so abandoned and neglected, he was not lonely. She began to guess why she did not want to allow seeing, because she envied him. She, who had her life under control and was about to achieve everything she wanted to achieve, envied something for this run-down, expelled individual, that this being who stood by him remained with him no matter what happened. She did not want to allow seeing, because in the midst of her success, she was preoccupied with deep loneliness. Escape to the front. Away from yourself, farther away, from oneself and lively encounters. It was exactly there that she had been advised, into a living encounter, into which one is taken, no matter what one has or what kind of position one wears, in all originality and looseness, intercepted and held.
What was it worth? And when they went to the stable to look after the animals, it was another immediacy she lived. Deliberately, the sheep ate the hay and patiently waited to be let out into the snow, into the day. Wild, the chickens ran aground. The blizzard was not good, but when it was over, they were able to get out of it, and Maria saw the joy of scraping, running about, just living, not paying attention to the day, which was nothing but a succession of moments. Much more would not be necessary. She stroked the horses dreamily over the neck, and the donkeys. Everyone went out to freedom. In all mercy. And she watched them.
What had been worth her life until now, without the slightest liveliness, with the corset she wore every day, so that it seemed to grow over her, a corset of drama and discipline. Discipline in dealing with the time. Discipline in dealing with people. Discipline in dealing with her body. What was her life worth until now?
And the recognition hurt. Deflection. She did not want it. Deflection. She wanted to distract her cell phone and laptop by the demands that others made on her. Deceptive necessity. It’s certainly terribly important. She wanted to get out of this thought, into life.
„When can I have my things?“ she asked abruptly.
„As soon as it’s possible to find your car,“ her great-aunt answered succinctly as she scrutinized Maria, sensing that her niece had left. A little escape into the past. But Magdalena allowed Maria. She would return if she wanted to.
„Look,“ said Magdalena abruptly. „That sheep, which is the most eager to jump through the snow, I raised by hand, because the mother did not accept him. For many days and nights I feared for his life, for the desperation of abandonment fought against the will to survive, and then life triumphed. I was so happy and grateful to see him streak away on his own, still uncertain but ready to take on life. He had confidence again and became part of the herd. “
And while Maria looked at the said sheep, she sensed that she had also been cast out, longing for the confidence to be touched by life and allow a touching encounter. She wanted it so much that it scared her.
„I need my stuff,“ she repeated succinctly, and another row appeared on her woven image of life, and perhaps it showed a stumbling block on the way that was just starting to open up again, a stumbling block she would fall over or which she could lay to the others to build a bridge to the past and a reconciliation with herself. It was in her hands, even if it was not yet fully visible. It was in her hand to accept and let go, to connect acceptance and detachment in reconciliation. And it was the fifth day of Advent.