pWdumaNjA-6CEEBhRoD5euxNETs When All This Actual Life Played Out: Ghosts in their natural environment

25 June 2017

Ghosts in their natural environment

Hedge maze
Governor's Palace
Williamsburg, Virginia
23 March 2016

I was the weird kid who loved history and wanted to know how things got done. I learned to cook, to bake bread from scratch, to sew, to knit, to make adobe mud, to spin, to weave, to embroider, to dip candles, to plant flowers and vegetables, to work wood and to fix cars. I've milked cows, and though I've never sheared a sheep, I've watched it done. What I couldn't do in a hands on sort of way, I read about. But I tend to pursue knowledge and experience in a very physical way.

The daughter is much like me in that regard.

I visited Williamsburg for the first time when I was 14. A young teenager, an impressionable teenager. I was traveling with a passel of women: my mother, aunts, a cousin. When everyone was tired (I wasn't), I was given permission to go off and visit the gardens on my own. I loved and still love gardens, herb gardens, knot gardens, formal gardens, flower gardens, secret gardens.

All gardens have secrets.

It was actually a cool spring day when I took this photo, but I look at it and I feel the weight of weather, of heat and humidity. It was August the first time I stood here, decades ago.

The hour was late, and the gardens were close to closing, all those years ago. I was short on time, but long on enthusiasm, and I jogged along the paths at a good clip despite the August heat, despite humidity carried in on a hurricane coming up the coast, referring to my pamphlet periodically to get my bearings. I was enchanted by the maze, running through it, then gazing down at it from the mount. But as I sought out paths less traveled, I saw a little sign:


An icehouse! I'd read about them, and now I could visit one. I chased along the path until I came to a low brick arch.

These days, the arch is sealed by iron bars, but I swear that when I was a young, impressionable teenager, it was open and accessible because I have the most distinct memory of carefully treading down the dim, curved stairway and peering into the dark pit at the end, marking the chill air and the fact that I was underground and all alone at the edge of a big hole in the ground, a place that would be a fine setting for a murder. The hair rose on the back of my neck, and I didn't waste too much time finding my way back up to the arched doorway. When I exited into the heat, humidity and failing sunlight, it wasn't lost on me that the hour was late, I was due back at the hotel to dress for dinner, and I was very much alone there behind the mount at the far edge of the gardens.

So I started back along the paths that were likely to lead me to an exit, eventually. I expected that an adult would show up to chivvy me along.

And I did see a woman as I made my way out of the maze. But that's another story.

It's not a story that I often share.

Tech stuff: Taken with my Nikon D7000. Yes, all this is true, even if from the mind of a 14-year-old with an overactive imagination. It's as true as the impossible pipe tobacco I smelled in my hotel room in a historic house, and that was as true as the ginormous cockroach I killed in the en suite bathroom.
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