There was once a woman who lived in a small house in a big garden far outside the city. The same forest that surrounded the city also surrounded her home, but through the years more and more forest around the city was cut down to let the city grow and expand, and from other sides came other cities slowly creeping, almost like amoebas made of concrete and brick, glass and metal. The woman had lived in her small house ever since her parents died, she had played in the forest since she learnt how to walk and run. She knew each and every path, each and every tree, and she would pick berries in the summers and mushrooms in the autumns. She loved her small house and the green forest and the beautiful garden and the animals who lived all around her and would leave their paw prints in the snow and soil.
As the cities crept closer she felt worried and nervous, but she took care of her garden, and she fed the animals who sought shelter in the patches of forest which were left.
The birdsong in the evening slowly got joined in by the sounds of engines; cars and trains and machines in the distance, and then closer, and then closer, and then drowning out the songs of the birds who remained.
The woman grew old, and she would still not move. One day, two city planners knocked on her door to tell her that they were going to build a shopping mall and an office building nearby, and they would have to evict her. She said she did not want to leave her home, and no matter how they tried to convince her, she refused. The men returned to the city planning office and after much discussion they decided to let her stay, with a tiny garden surrounding her house, and just put storage buildings to one side to at least lessen the traffic right outside her home. They returned to the old woman to inform her of this, and there was nothing she could do but to accept this arrangement or move.
The shopping mall was built, and the office building was built, and the old woman stayed in her small house and her small garden. There was no longer any forest to pick mushrooms or berries in, no apple trees or currant bushes in her garden. She kept on feeding the birds, but no longer would she find any wild paw prints in the snow or soil outside her house.
She began to wander in the parking lot outside the office building just as she had done when it had been her garden, for in her heart it was still her garden. She wandered between the cars as if they were her beloved bushes, she patted and whispered to the light posts and street sings as if they were her beloved trees. She would sit down in the parking lot to smile at every bright yellow dandelion and every tiny creeping chamomile, and sometimes people would almost run her over in their cars on their way to work. She would call out and caw to the magpies and jackdaws and crows which had replaced the thrushes and tits and woodpeckers, and they would gather around her.
And every day she would come to water the asphalt and sing for the seeds she knew were still waiting, sleeping, hidden in the dirt and soil below.
Slowly, slowly cracks opened in the asphalt, letting the water seek its way down to the soil. Slowly, slowly, a leaf at a time, a flower here and there, the barren wasteland of concrete and asphalt was broken up. A thin branch of a red currant bush which had somehow survived, a small, small apple tree shooting up its hesitant limbs through the dark crust to reach for the light. Slowly, slowly, a crack here and there, and the old woman sang and she cawed and she watered her garden which was returning to her; which would not stand to be separated from her. In the autumn the red currant shot out other branches and bore fruit once again, and from beside her house the raspberry bushes came creeping out over the asphalt. The parking lot was broken up by grass and wild strawberries, the walls and fences were softened by moss and climbers and creepers.
No matter how many times guards and keepers tried to cut the plants down and trim the lawns and keep things in order, the garden was called back; slowly, slowly, a crack at the time, a leaf at the time, by the old woman’s love and care and songs, until one winter the paw prints were back in the snow outside her house.