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Wednesday, December 30, 2015

A Word about Whimsy



Our neighbor called last weekend, inviting us to take a tour of his Christmas light display.  I’ve written about his property before, describing the elemental ways in which he composes and nurtures his land. This man builds stone cairns and labels them by spiritual influence. He creates contemplative labyrinths and invites folks to walk them. He builds bird houses with slate roofs reclaimed from an old train station.  Although their own kids are grown, his two-story tree house, complete with a trap door and turret, will host a Boy Scout camp-out soon, and he and his wife hold an annual Easter egg hunt for neighborhood kids involving thousands of eggs hidden around their property.  During the summer, they grow vegetables and raspberries, fat chickens cluck in a pen, rhododendrons and day-lilies flourish—and while the place is stunning, and in a way, mystical, during Christmas it transcends everything.

This neighbor spends two full weekends in November setting up lights that cover about 120 bushes dispersed through the woods.  There are no synchronized flashes or hot air Santa's bobbing on the breeze. Don’t get me wrong.  Those things have their place, and trust me, I’ve driven miles to see them.  But here; it’s as if, rather than stringing the lights, he finds a way to make his bushes bloom with them, and because of their luminescent, magical quality, one might expect to see fireflies and druids, maybe even Tinkerbell flitting about. Each time we drive by, I tell my husband the place is a fairyland.

Keep this in mind as I tell you about Saturday night, when my husband and I and our sister-in-law, along with our daughter and nephew, both 22, walked over to visit.  There we joined another group, including two young children, and almost as soon as we began walking the paths, our host told the little ones, “If you find any fairy doors, make sure you knock before looking inside,” He pointed his flashlight toward a tree, where he’d carved a door to fit the shape of the natural opening between the roots, complete with a knob.  Following instructions, one of the little boys opened it to find a plastic figurine inside, ordinary I suppose, except nothing was that night. 

All throughout the walk, even the adults took turns, tapping at tiny doors to discover the surprises inside. Our daughter marveled at one, “It even has a slate floor.”  Toward the end of the tour our host spoke again to the little boys.  “If you come upon the fairies' treasure, only take one piece, so they don’t get mad.”  The last door they opened contained a pile of shiny beads and baubles.

Our daughter and nephew have visited this neighbor since they were little. They already speak its history, of the days before the cairns and labyrinths, when as toddlers they petted his goats and held chicken eggs, warm in their hands.  They learned generosity through the Easter egg hunt, when first, they experienced the joy of retrieving, and later, spent afternoons filling plastic eggs for those who still believed. They encountered mystique as they climbed into a tree house castle at twilight, and discovered how raspberries just off the bush taste so much better than what comes in a carton.  All through their lives, through his land, our neighbor has offered up stories and lessons.  This time, I hope they learned one more--that it's always right to invest in whimsy.


15 comments:

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

Your neighbors are special people to do all of that. People who not only believe in magic but believe in other people.
Have a Happy New Year, Liza.

mshatch said...

What wonderful neighbors you have!

Madeline Mora-Summonte said...

Your neighbors sound like truly unique and amazing people. I love hearing stories like this! :)

Rebecca Taylor said...

This sounds amazing...I would love to have neighbors like this. Or even own a property like this! Thank you for sharing such a wonderful scene.

Delores said...

Lovely people.

Pixel Peeper said...

Wonderful neighbors!

Jan Morrison said...

How good to have such friends! And I want to tell you that I appreciate your particular whimsy and heart. I feel that although we may never meet embodied, I have benefited from your generosity of spirit and your view on the world. Hope we both have a good year with our new stories, our shared love of photographing our land and seascapes, and keeping our pilgrim souls awake.

Gail said...

What an amazing place to visit. All the blessings and love they share with this walk and other events.

Joanne said...

what a splendid treat, and your writing drew me into the whimsy and wonder. Sounds like a special night. Cheers to you and I hope it's an excellent 2016 ahead.

Catherine A. Winn said...

Your neighbors sound magical and wonderful! What a treat for both children and adults to experience what they've set up. Love the knocking on the door. My late brother-in-law made me a door and attached it to a tree trunk for the "gnomes" that live in my tree. Such fun for the kids to imagine, but it didn't open. How clever and fun!

Maggie said...

Your neighbor sounds so generous and full of delight and your description shares that with the rest of us. Magical. Thank you.

Misha Gericke said...

I love that they would go through so much trouble. It sounds like a magical place to visit.

Have a wonderful New Year!

Connie said...

What a wonderful place to visit. Your neighbors know how to spread joy. :) Wishing you a Happy New Year!

Robin said...

I love this! These folks are creating wonderful memories for so many.

Susan Flett Swiderski said...

You are blessed with some extraordinary neighbors. The world would be a better place if it were filled with more caring people like that.

Happy New Year! Here's to a year bursting with peace, joy, and yes, whimsy.