Whimsy in High Places

What is it about inaccessible places that make our imagination churn and call out to our other selves?

Santa’s helpers may be seen in the middle of the Mall of America, but the headquarters for holiday magic is in the remote and forbidding North Pole. The train to Hogwarts departed a space (platform 9 3/4) that was not accessible to most commuters.

In every culture and religion I can think of, there is a “place.” What makes it “the place” is that those seeking it cannot arrive easily. What calls us to those “places” is the liberation from convention and the world of the expected.

Most of us eschew remote places to conduct our daily lives. The practical aspects of work and community keep us concentrated in the valleys and along the waterways and highways that facilitate modern life.

A few, however, find their way to special places and make them magic.

It’s Different on the Mountain

You’d be hard-pressed to miss the fact that Central Pennsylvania is described by mountains. The Cumberland Valley, our part of the great valley complex, is defined by some mountains that can make your ears pop. More than a few folks make annual treks to those mountains to watch migrating hawks and witness autumn creep over the forests, and some folks live there.

Ron and Barb Leitzel have taken to the sense of place that mountains provide in real life and – perhaps liberated by its relative remoteness – made magic on their mountain-top property.

The challenge of making a mountain property livable is great. A lot of engineering against the forces of nature goes into the structure, the driveways and the landscaping. Most of us would be impressed that a site can be prepared and an attractive and livable dwelling can be constructed in such difficult circumstances. But the Leitzel’s home is an unexpected space.

Threshold to Elsewhere

When I first saw the Leitzel’s special space, between the tidy lawn and the rough drapes of the mountains leafy skirt, it struck me like an apparition. A little house in a garden of unusual and irrational ornaments – was this a portal of some sort?

Though I love fantasy of all sorts, my brain is stubbornly rational. Yet, I struggled to make sense of what I had been surprised to see. Finally it dawned on me that here was a tool shed masquerading as a little dwelling. Here was a garden whose design was informed by no scheme I’d ever seen, populated by fantastic plants, bottles in trees and a garden gate expressing some other destiny – it’s mountain magic.

Back to Reality

Few of us would wear mismatched shoes to work. We don’t wear kettles on our head when it’s rainy. Even Santa’s helpers lose the outfit when they head home for the day.  I think our gardens similarly are an exercise in sameness.  Bigness turns out to be the only thing that distinguishes mine from yours. Why?

If you go to school to design a garden, your designs will look like they’re from a particular school of training. It’s not for me to say it shouldn’t be that way, but it need not be that way. I like the saying that a mind is a terrible thing to waste. Close the books, and let the mind that resonates with magic be your designer.