Friday, May 22, 2009

strange sightings in the woods

I was off into the woods for a jog a few days ago, and right at the entrance to the woods I took a path that branches off to the right that I'd never taken before. Not sure why - it looked more like a road than a path at first, but very soon it had a big blockade across it, so cars couldn't go.

Anyway, I jogged in there and quickly passed a woman with two or three small kids, moving very slowly along - and I remembered that a little further in (I knew this though I had never been on this path because of triangulation: I'd been off along Dauerwaldweg, Eternal Woods Path, many times, and had a sense this path if taken long enough was going to hit that street and voila), there was a Waldkindergarten - which is just what it sounds like if you remember that Wald is woods and kindergarten, confusingly, is almost like kindergarten but is really preschool, i.e. for 2 1/2, 3, 4, and sometimes 5-year-olds. (What we call kindergarten they call Vorschule, which is literally preschool, but we're not confused yet, are we?)

ANYway, off I went jogging along, watching a woman on a bike get farther and farther ahead of me, and then I jogged past a shopping trolley parked there on the edge of the path, all by itself. This is the kind of canvas trolley that stands upright with a handle and wheels and you use it to go shopping when you have no car (I've been doing that so effectively this year except I recently completed the destruction process on my trolley, heaving it in and out of buses) - and this one was standing happily upright, all by itself. I think this one was kind of  a dark green plaid. Unusual for one of those to be out and about on its own, so I looked around - I thought maybe there was somebody doing some business off in the woods, off the path, so I tried not to be too nosy - but as far as I could see there was nobody anywhere.

Jogged past, looked ahead, and saw three little people walking along. I'm talking very little. If these three young people were older than three years old each I think I will eat my shopping trolley, broken or no. Very tiny youngsters. Very cute, very be-backpacked, and quite completely alone in the path along the woods. I looked around more seriously this time. The lady on the bike was still in view but seemed quite evidently not to belong to them. They passed, believe it or not, aNOTHer shopping trolley parked maybe 200 paces (400? hard to judge) up the path from the first one. Then I thought, OK, there is some kind of school group that is going to come this way and these are their provisions, somebody has brought the provisions ahead? Or something?

Never solved the trolley problem, actually, because I was seized by a much greater concern. Where did these truly tiny infantile children come from? Where they were going to became immediately evident - off a ways to the right I could hear and increasingly see a jolly group of kids and a few adults at picnic tables and running around, definitely the Waldkindergarten (and I daydreamed - do they really spend the entire year outside every day? I actually think they do and they have a little shelter for when it rains. Amazing.). And my little people were headed there. But I'm telling you, they were very very very far out of sight of any possible person who could have accompanied them anywhere - they had to have been walking happily along the path for a very long time indeed by themselves. They had jackets on, and sturdy shoes, and as I said serious backpacks - three-year-olds clearly equipped for their day in the woods. And as I watched and they passed well beyond mystery-parked-trolley-number-two, the two little boys of  the group branched off to dart through the woods, off the path, to the rest of the Waldkindergarten. The one little girl stayed on the path a little longer till a branch of it turned right and then she walked calmly on that way.

And I went on my merry jogging way and to this day I am boggled and puzzled by this country where tiny children go marching off, all by themselves, past unattended trolleys, to spend their days in the woods.

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