I spent my early childhood in a beautiful place, a land full of light filled with wonderful things to discover each day: the Côte d’Azur, the loveliest part of Provence for those who know it! Victor Hugo paid homage to the town of Antibes not far from where I lived. It roughly translates to: “All here radiates, all flourishes, all sings, the sun, women, love, all are at home here. I still have the resplendence of it in my eyes and in my soul.”
We lived in a white villa set in a lovely scented garden filled with geraniums, arum lilies, daisies, bougainvilleas and hydrangeas that my grandmother lovingly watered morning and evening. The almond trees were the first to break into blossom in spring, followed by cherry trees, peach trees, apricot trees and fig trees, each in turn offering their delicious fruit. There was a little pond with a fountain that had small black Japanese fish, goldfish and frogs whose soothing evening song helped me sleep.
It was a happy house, where I lived with my grandparents when my parents were away. In January or February my grandmother would bring in large bunches of mimosa, its bright yellow flowers lighting up the room. We would say, “The sunshine is back!”
Much of my time was spent in the garden learning to ride my bicycle on the gravel paths. But there was also “the field” with its olive tree, walnut tree, tomatoes and melons. It was wilder than the garden and my cousins and I would build forts inside of it. At the bottom of this field was a small wire fence bordering a little wood outside the property where I was not allowed to go.
One day, when I was alone near the fence, I caught sight of something that seemed to be dancing in the breeze at the edge of the wood, hidden in the shadows. It was deep violet in colour — beautiful, vibrant and luminous — and seemed to want to attract my attention. I was entranced. At first I thought it might be a fairy. I wanted to find out what it was but... in order to do so I first had to clamber over the wire fence, disobeying my grandfather. I was filled with anxiety. However, this appeared to be something really extraordinary and magical. I thought that, if I didn’t go to it straight away, the spell would be broken and the moment lost: perhaps forever. I decided to take the risk.
As soon as I climbed the fence I was in another world, and it wasn’t pleasant. It was dark there, and the daylight seemed to fade. I was frightened by my own audacity. But the thing was still beckoning. Finally, crouching down beside it, I realised it was an incredibly beautiful flower — the like of which I had never seen — with the most exquisite fragrance. I was at once full of wonder and questions: Was it the only flower of its kind in the world? And if so, would it die if I picked it? But because I so wanted to show it to my loved ones, I finally decided to do it and ran back to the house, carrying my flower.
There I found my mother and grandmother deep in discussion in the kitchen. I offered my mother the flower. She took it without thinking, saying thank you, and placed it in a small vase. They continued their conversation without realising that it was an extraordinary, magical flower and perhaps the only one of its kind in the world.
A few days later I thought about my flower again and went back to the far end of the field near the wood. I saw to my amazement that not only had the flower reappeared but there were even more of them on the stem! It filled me with joy and relief. I later learned from my grandmother that it was a wild iris.
I also learned that sometimes you have to venture outside the boundaries in order to discover something extraordinary, and that others do not always recognise things in the same way as you do. This experience belonged to me, and it happened in my secret garden. I found many wonders there but gradually as I grew up I ended up losing the key to it. When I met Prem Rawat, he gave me back that key. I found my beautiful garden again and no longer need to climb over the fence.
Illustration by Sara Shaffer.