Traveling While Disabled: Part XXV, Secret Garden
This is the twenty-fifth installment of the surprisingly rollicking adventures of a courageous disabled traveler going it alone. Here is a link to earlier installments in case you missed them: http://www.thirdage.com/travel/traveling-while-disabled-the-archive.
I was nearing the end of my stay in Kerry, Ireland. My healing vacation had been a blessing. Though I am single, over sixty, and afflicted with Transverse Myelitis, walking about with my cane, and stumbling about in a body that is lousy with pain, the trip has been a joy nonetheless. I have made new friends and reacquainted myself with the girl I had been when life was easier and heartbreak was far from my understanding. This fortnight in an Irish inn has been a magical dream. But it wasn’t quite over. I had a bit more mischief up my sleeve.
I had walked so many places I was now repeating walks, or so I thought. There was one small,l very muddy road that disappeared with thick tire tracks down beyond sight leading toward the lake’s edge. The road was that typical tunnel of green looking much more like Alice’s rabbit hole than is good for me. I veered off the well worn “Road More Traveled” and into the unknown. My shoes were soon thick with mud. I kept knocking off the three inches of mud from my soles only to gather more. I was glad I had purchased my hiking shoes at the thrift store. I would be donating them to an Irish landfill soon enough.
As sunlight thinned and I slid closer to that green tunnel, the small voice of reason wagged its tongue: “Slippery slopes are never a good omen. Turn back.” I did to that voice what I have done my whole life. I told it to shut up.
Under the dense canopy amid puddles and sludge, I heard a truck start up at the bottom of the hill in front of me. Soon I spotted it sliding toward me, spinning mud like a centrifuge. I stood off the road near a small run-off stream with a four foot drop. I gave my casual smile, as if to say, “Yes, I belong here every much as you do.” Turns out no one really cares if you traipse about their land as long as you aren’t poaching or poisoning the water.
I then followed a barely traceable trail, possibly not a trail at all, or even an animal path. But I whacked at ferns and found beautiful moss and white rocks. Then, using my best magical thinking, I spotted the treasure I was seeking.
Along the hill next to the lake was a lush rhododendron stand. As I child I had been fond of making forts under these thick, leafed caverns. So of course nothing would do but to crawl on my hands and knees and find the entrance. There is always an entrance. Standing back up, I was amazed to see the area under the boughs was completely cleared of brush. Even more astonishing and to my heart’s delight, I saw what was clearly a path strewn with shredded bark twisting upwards toward sunlight. I followed it until I came to a locked gate in the underbrush. It would have been easy to climb that gate. Okay, not easy for a lady using a cane whose shoes were still glued with dirt clods. I took a photograph and said, like the poet Robert Frost, perhaps I shall keep it for another day.
But as I retraced my steps toward the inn, I began to wonder what secrets were so lovely and juicy and wonderful that they had to be locked away on a small hidden path secluded among the roots and trunks of a fourteen foot high stand of rhododendron. And did they ever think anyone but a nosy American would even find their gate? Was there a mansion or a secret garden waiting to be discovered? Well, one must leave some mysteries to draw them back for another journey.
After a glorious dinner, I climbed the stars and unlocked the door to my obscenely huge personal parlor. The piano player for the dining guests just below my room was tickling those ivories. He jazzed up some well known tunes. He even did "There's a Place For Us" from West Side Story. Then onto “Moon River”, “O Danny Boy”, a few Phantom numbers and all with much racing up and down the entire keyboard. It felt as if someone were racing his fingers up and down my spine. And that, ladies and gentlemen, is not a bad thing.
To be continued . . .
Sally Franz is a former stand-up comedian, motivational speaker, and radio host. She is a twice-divorced mother of two and a grandmother of three. Sally has a degree in gerontology and several awards for humor writing. She is the author of "Scrambled Leggs: A Snarky Tale of Hospital Hooey," and "The Baby Boomer's Guide to Menopause."