Finally, they entered the Ljubljana plateau. It was time to have a longer rest, not only for the animals but also to find time to arrange a fresher supply of provisions to use on the next leg of their journey. They camped on a nearby plain at the edge of the city.
With the start of springtime, they were on the move again. Their journey took them into Slovenia, crossing over a greener hilly countryside that was returning to life, after the cold winter. The wagons traveled over secondary roads, well known to the Gypsies, and in their usual formation with goats and spare horses in the front, with the stronger people marching behind the animals, and finally the wagons, taking their scanty possessions and the elderly ones.
Joko had planned to reach the Italian border no later than the oncoming summer. In June they traveled along the Dalmatian coast and crossed into Italy at the Trieste’s border.
This was a hospitable place for the Gypsies and well-remembered by their leader Joko. He guided the caravan along the Carso’s road, a secondary road zigzagging over the hills rising from the Isonzo River until they reached the outskirt of Gorizia where they set their summer camp near the river. Joko loved this valley and his memory took him back again in time when he had experienced some of his best days in his previous visits to this district. He remembered, when years earlier, he exchanged some Tokay and Green Pinot vine cuttings that he had taken with him from Hungary, for some pigs from a local farmer. Today the hillsides around the region are luxuriant, covering the area and producing the best quality wines.
But it was in this valley that a miracle happened. Those memories were the happiest moments of his past. It was just up on the mountain rising in front of him that he and Marika had received the most precious and unexpected gift in their entire life.
He remembered Marika, while they were camping on the Isonzo, many years ago. She was in great despair and spent long hours at night crying after the last miscarriage a month earlier. Then one night she had a dream, foretelling the coming of a good omen. In the morning, she excitedly told Joko, “I have the most extraordinary news that fills me with hope and happiness. I dreamed that the Great Forest Mother had in her arms a baby girl, and told me, ‘This is the daughter you are waiting for and who you couldn’t conceive. Love her, as she is your own flesh. From now you’ll be the happy mother that you always wanted to be.’
“Please Joko go in the forest and take back the precious jewel that the Great Forest Mother wants us to have. And don’t forget to thank her with a large bunch of flowers that you pick in the forest as a symbol of our gratitude.”
Joko left Marika full of hope. He knew that the Gypsies must be believers, and only in this way, could they see their dreams come true.
He walked up the mountain and loudly he spoke to the forest spirit, ‘Great Forest Mother, please help us. Please make Marika’s dream be true. We will be forever grateful for the magnificent present. Marika, with your help, will be the happiest mother that she had always hoped to be.”
. He walked securely in the thick woods, knowing his steps were guided by the Great Forest Mother. It was a narrow winding pathway, deeply cut on the side of the mountain. Above him was a majestic forest with the tall pines touching the sky. He recognized this was the Great Forest Mother’s realm. Where else would she guide him if not into the deepest part of her reign, the forest itself?
Joko, approaching the woods felt more confident in his hopes. At that altitude, he felt dizzy, but the air was fresh, mixed with the pungent aroma of the resin, that opened his lungs, and relieved the fatigue of the fast uphill walk.
Joko had the premonition that someone was nearby and stopped. He looked around him, listening; then he heard the baby’s cry. Not far away he saw a corpse, dressed in black clothes, already rigid in the spasm of death, and next to her was a crying baby.
The baby was still connected by the umbilical cord, to her mother. Who was she? She must have been one of the inhabitants of those barns rising on the side of the mountain, scattered along the visible crest.
Joko freed the baby from her mother and joyously took his new daughter in his arms and wrapped her in the mother’s shawl. He didn’t disturb her long sleep and left the woman’s body to the care of some pitiful local that the Great Forest Mother would certainly guide over to her. He knew that She, the merciful Forest Mother, would tend to the poor woman’s body and her soul.
Joko thankfully prayed, “I give thanks to you, Forest Spirit, for your intercession, the greatest gift in our lives, and the joy of making Marika a mother.”
Marika waited for his return with trepidation for her new baby daughter.
There were festivities at the camp that lasted for three days, a symbolic number for the Gypsies, as an omen of good luck in the future to the newborn baby and of happiness to the parents.
Marika called her new baby daughter Ida. Finally, she was a mother of a wonderful baby, and the cycle of her life was completed.
End part 5