Sand Castle Lands
presents

A Visit to Lil's  Enchanted Garden
Edited by Rj LeBlanc

Autum was gentle this year when, early one morning, out seeking hidden waterfalls within the city, I prowled backyards looking for artifacts of yesteryears. Passing by vineyards, trellises and landscapes which reflected the secret lives of tenants, I found glimpses of  hidden worlds on the farside of each house.

In one yard I stopped to drink in the beauty of the golden leaves as seen through an old trellis silhouetted against the bright foliage. I thought I heard the sounds of children's laughter but that may only have been my imagination. Yet, light filtering through the petals, made shadow patterns and I could swear that I saw children, a boy and two girls frolicking, playing tag, among the leaves . . .
.
.
.
.

Quite by accident, in an alleyway between houses, I came across the little world of a folk artist, to be sure. I was entranced by this miniature culture, made of bits and pieces of things cast out as old and useless by some. Yet, arranged as they were -- there was a plain charm about them, a folksy energy that spoke of someone with an eye for design. Immediately I knew that there was an artist at work here in the backyard of this town. And too, there was something more, a thing intangible, a presence which I could feel and almost see, sort of a glimpse into yesterday . . .

Fragments of a poem came to mind, from Lord Dunsany's "Beyond the Fields We Know."

"Who treads those level lands of gold,
    The level fields of mist and air,
And rolling mountains manifold
    And towers of twilight over there? . . ."
.
.

.
.
.

I explored the yard, experiencing this fragment of someone's imagination, enjoying its energy and youthfulness. I found an innocence here that spoke of a person who loved flowers, toys, old things -- and yesterdays. I wanted to know this artist and hoped that I'd be able to meet her or him.

"The people out of old romance,
    And people that have never been,
And those that on the border dance
    Between old history and between . . . "

From: "The Riders" by Lord Dunsany
.
.
.
.

.
.

Then, as I knelt with my camera before a collection of  pieces a "young" lady came down the stairs of the house. "Hello!" she said. Looking up I replied, "Are these your things?"  "Yes, they are," she said. "But they're wonderful," I said, adding, "You're an artist."

"Oh no!" she quickly answered, "I'm not that. I just like to collect things and put them together; it's nothing, really."

"Oh, but it is something," I continued, "You have a fine imagination and a good sense of design. You certainly are an artist whether you want to call yourself one or not. Do you mind if I look around and take some pictures?"

"No," she said, "I don't mind at all, but I have an appointment in an hour; I have to be there."

"Of course," I said, "I don't mean to interrupt you."

"No, that's okay," she said with a smile, "I have a little time. I can give you a short tour of the things I'm working on."

"May I ask you your name?"

"You can call me Lil," she said.
.
..

.

I followed Lil up the backstairs, and past a nervous cat, where Lil showed me a new collage she was working on. "It's almost done," she said, "Just a few more things to add." For a short while we explored the porch with its critters and stuff, then went back downstairs to the garden.
.
.
.
.
.
.
 
 

There was a surreal quality about Lil's work. I wouldn't have been surprised if Uncle Wiggly stood up from beneath the briar patch and winked at me. That's it! I thought -- this is an Uncle Remus world, a child's fantasy setting come alive. Little ones would surely love it here; what a grand place to sit and read stories to young children.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.


We explored more of this Picasso-like landscape and I began to see visions of Alice in Wonderland as she chased after the white rabbit, following him down a dark tunnel into a land of childhood fantasy. That was possible here, as Lil had changed the rules for this part of the world and imagination was allowed here.
.
..
.
.
.
.
.

.
..
.
.
.
.
.

I had the feeling that it would be a grand adventure to be "little" again, and to play within this garden of fantasy. I envied this woman's grandchildren and hoped that they lived close enough to enjoy this wonderful fantasy. I imagined them sitting nearby as she read stories of Pooh Bear and Christopher Robin and the gang.

"It came, it came again to the scented garden,
    The call that they would not heed,
A clear wild note far up on the hills above them,
    Blown on an elfin reed . . . "

From "The Enchanted People" by Lord Dunsany

.
.
.

.
.

I heard a faint shout, "You're it!" and then a giggle. Somewhere, lurking among the fading greenery there had to be a Peter Pan, Wendy and the Lost Children forever caught up in a game of tag. I couldn't see them actually, but I could feel their presence everywhere. I thought again of Lord Dunsany's "Fields We Know . . . "  and remembered another line from one of his poems:

"What are these hills so strange that stand
    Where I knew none before?
Are they the slope of Fairyland
    Above the fields of yore? . . . "
.
.
..
.
.
.
.

.

A sudden motion in the leaves near the "farm truck" caused me to look and a small figure disappeared behind the maudlin cow and scurry into the tall grass. Was it only my imagination or was that a troll. Naw! Couldn't be, must be a cat or squirrel or something else, don't you think?
.
.
.
.
..
.
..
.
.
.
.

Lil held up a sunflower sculpture that might even have been a magic wand. I waited to see if I was about to become a frog. In the background a changeling child sat motionless, watching us from its wicker chair.
.
.
.
.
.

.
.
.
.
.
 
 

At the sound of childish laughter I turned but saw no one except the milk maid and her companion. Nearby an anxious cow looked on as if impatient to be milked.
..
.
.
.
..
.
.

.
.
.
 
 

There was a feeling here of cows and chickens, and the world of nature and the rawness of the soil, but done in miniature . . .  A distant line from a half-remembered childhood song that my father used to sing went through my head: "When the rooster crows then everybody knows we'll have eggs for breakfast in the mornin' . . . "
.
.
.
..
..
.
.
..
.

.
.

Graciously, Lil presented each of her creations and their stories as we prowled the yard, looking into each clump of bushes wherein, indeed, a new creature knestled.

"Oh! oh! I'm sorry," I said as I glanced at my watch, "You have an appointment."

"Yes, I do," said Lil, "but you can come back another time."

"Thank you," I replied, "I'd like that."
.
.
.,.
.
.
.
.
.
.

"Anytime you see my station wagon in front of the house," said Lil, "You'll know I'm here. Just knock on the door."
.
.
.

.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.

"Again, thank you," I said, returning to my bike. The adult in me knew it was time to go but the child within wanted to stay and play in Lil's magical garden. This round the adult won out, but the next one . .  Well, who knows!"

As I peddled back toward the University I heard a rooster crowing in the distance. I smiled, wondering if the sound came from Lil's menagerie. It felt good to know that there was still magic alive and well somewhere in the world.
.
.
.
.
.
..
..
 
 

.
I didn't find my waterfall that morning, but as luck would have it, later in the day a friend named George gave me new clues as to where I might try to locate it. Yes, I thought: Tomorrow. I'll go there tomorrow. You know, one universe discovered at a time is quite enough, and I've had mine for this day .
.
"It may be so, I shall not ask
    of any man the way;
Those hills are far beyond our task
    And sought for, fade away . . . "
.
Lord Dunsany "Beyond the Fields We Know."  (1929)

..................................................."Vale' Wanderer!" Captain Jason Redbeard (2000)