I live in the same house I’ve lived in since birth. It’s a small farm house, split level, with an old garage with lots of rusty farm equipment and tons of terra cotta pots. The sun beams down through the places where weather and rain made the shingles soften and cave in. Vines have started to creep over the walls and down into the cement foundation. The earth is going to reclaim it soon. Even farther out on our property is a small barn. It has a run in area, a small stall for our horse, a back room where sheep can live, and a front room with two windows with no glass. It is in this front room that I spent the majority of my childhood.
I would pretend that I was a healer. I lived in some ancient land where warriors and knights fought and battled and magic ruled. It was a dark place, and it was full of wonder and also terrors. And I was there to help. I would venture onto our massive property and forage for belladonna and dandelion, hemp and medicinal herbs. When really, I’d come back with weeds and grass. I’d hang them from the glassless windows to dry. I had an assortment of mismatched bowls, clay bots, glass jars, and containers that I would put crushed “herbs” in.
I wouldn’t label them, because I knew what all of them did. They were for aiding in sleep, or for protection. Some were poison, and I didn’t want to use them but they were there just in case. Those were the ones with belladonna seeds in then. There were some plants that you shouldn’t dry, like milkweed and onion grass. I would pull those fresh, and I was really careful about it because I had to pull them out with the root still in tact. Milk weed had really huge roots, with skin like ginger, and I would grate them and put them in potions. Onion grass had a strong smell, but to me it meant summer was here and I liked that. Those I would chop up and use in aromatics. I’d smear them on things to keep evil away. I would scratch ruins into the sides of the barn to keep evil away too. I’d get yelled at for that. But pretty soon the hole doorway had symbols all over it, that I would fill in with paint and marker.
Our property was rectangular but beyond our fence we owned more land. “Uncharted” land, I called it. It was unruly and wild. There were paths made by people I didn’t know and sometimes I heard them out there. I’d stand in my tree and peer out into the woods with my binoculars and wait till they were gone. Then I’d run out and pick berries and pulls roots that only grew out past the fence. And I’d hug the big white tree that stood on a high hill and looked down into a deep rut in the ground. It was special to me, and so were the rocks underneath. I would collect them for luck.
I would listen to wind and learn what it meant. I knew when it would rain, when it would storm, or when it would snow. I sat out in warm summer rain because I felt closest to the earth then. I built a throne of bricks out under a tree in my yard, and I felt like I was king of the world. I made this world, I escaped into it, and no one knew about it except me.
When I got older and took on more responsibilities, I had to abandon my little room in the barn. I miss it. A lot, actually. Digging in the dirt and planting and picking flowers. For no other reason than to create something in my imagination. I know I do that on a grown up level now, by creating movies, but this was different. And even though I had to give it up, I haven’t lost that mind set mentally. I still see things differently.
Like that day I visited the Cloisters in New York. I was traveling from my boyfriends house in Staten Island, and it was snowing something fierce. I set out that day with this mindset, and it was a wonderful day.
The Cloisters are situated high above Harlem and look out onto the river at one side. It’s all cobblestones and masonry, bridges and towers, and big vaulted ceilings. D dropped me off out front and my internal adventure began. It was like I had traveled a very long way to see some king in his castle. A doorman opened the think oak door for me and looked concerned back at the snow. “I’m not sure if the busses with make it up here today, you may have to walk”, he said to me.
My heels echoed through the empty castle and I made my way through each room with its ancient secrets and artifacts. The snow was falling heavy, but it was a special kind of snow. It made things warm. I went out onto the balcony and looked out onto the water and the cliff beyond. It looked like more uncharted land from my backyard, but vast and unruly, full of tribes not yell civilized. I stood out in the snow, warm and comforted, enjoying silence.
Back inside, I came across my favorite room, where I imagine a king would have sat, enthroned. We would be old, as old as the walls that kept the cold wind out. He would have a stone throne, and it would hurt to sit on it after a while, so it made him cranky. I probably wouldn’t have stood for any of his snide remarks, and that would impress him. What sun forced it’s way through the clouds shown down onto his throne; a small bit of light in this dark, dreary place. But besides all it’s dreariness, I found beauty in this solitary stone fortress.
The journey back was my favorite part. I had to walk; the busses never showed up. I drew my hood up, tucked my hands away and tightened my back pack, and set off. The road from the Cloisters was easy enough to follow, although it wasn’t plowed. I met someone along the way who directed me where to find the nearest train. It was such an enjoyable walk, to be in a part of such a bustling city could actually be silent, cold, and lonely. I walked over a bridge that looked down onto a road not plowed yet. I walked past a park with high rock cliffs and the sound of laughter echoing through it. Eventually I felt cobblestones beneath my feet again and I descended down into the causeways beneath the city, and hopped on a train back to civilization.