A walk beyond the forest

Saturday morning. Mid August, the sun is shining and I step out of my home in Breb with my camera – detestation unknown. I see the neighbors and Georgy Pop making Horinca in Maria’s Casan. We say hi and Pertu our other neighbor appears and tells me to buy his land down at the cross. This is all before nine o’clock and within five minutes of leaving the house.

Only the day before we were stopped by a guy on top of his huge Maramures gate.
” Hey, English guy, I have to take down my gate, it’s going to fall into the river other wise. You buy it?”
“How much?”
He scratches his head and says “400 euro”
A 50 year old wooden gate, hand carved and over 7 meters wide… I mean, what else can you say “OK, will bring down the tractor and you can put it on there, will pay you next week.”

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I guess Petru had heard I was buying and wasted no time. Hill Billy turned up with his sheep, he was my que to leave and I said I would walk with him.
” Where you going?” I asked as we started to walk.
” Up the mountain, in the woods” he smiled threw his caner ridden lips.
I had no plans, so the woods it would be. We walked up and out of the village avoiding the fallen fruit on the road and into the hills above. Hill pointed out where every one was neglecting their land. Not keeping the trees trimmed the way they should and how it was all changing. I call him Hill and his wife Billy as they live 100% off the land, have done all their lives. We bought their house off them so they could move out this winter and stay in the town with heating and water etc. They want to retire and so this is his last summer of working the land and he was very reflective on the whole thing.

” Look at that, the grass has turned to trees! How can you keep your land like this? The kids, they want fast cars and a job in Germany” he says as he looks down slightly and shakes his head. His herd of 5 close by, following like… sheep.

We reached his land and he proudly showed me the prune trees he planted him self that are now 10m high. He rattles the branches so the sheep can eat the sweet fruit. I am given a guided tour or his lifes work and he sits down to role a cigarette.

I hear some giggling in the distance. ” I will investigate and come back” I said. Over the ridge I find two young girls picking berry’s from a tree. They become super self concise on my approach, but after 5 minutes they are once again start to sing and fool around. I capture the moment with my camera.

” We will be on the internet” they say to each other in Romanian, the giggles turning into pain of laughter. They explain how they get 1.5 ron a kilo for the berries and calculate with some pride, that if they work hard they will earn more than a grown man earns in a day.

I realise they will earn nothing if I keep taking pictures and say my goodbyes. As I leave, Hill Billy is ready to go on to his next piece of land. We walk across the mountain slope in the flickering sunshine through the leaves and come to Claudia’s rock. He poses for a picture so I can post it on Claudia’s FB to show her the carvings are still there.

Lunch time and home beckons.

” Drum Bun Domno” I say; he nods his cap and is gone -the sounds of the sheep bells slowly drowning out into the thick of the forest beyond.

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