“The greatest challenge at Cole Park, [Anouska] Hempel says, was renovating the garden. An orchard of 600 decaying apple trees was removed; more than two dozen 15-year-old chestnut trees were imported from Germany to form an allée that radiates from the house with geometric precision; and an impractically large vegetable garden was transformed into a formal garden planted with artichokes and roses.”
– “Historic Proportions” by Anthony Gardner in Architectural Digest, April 2013
“Any grove or any wood is a fine thing to see. But the magic here, strangely, is not apparent from the road. It is necessary to leave the impersonal highway, to step inside the rusty gate and close it behind. By this, an act of faith is committed, through which one accepts blindly the communion cup of beauty. One is now inside the grove, out of one world and in the mysterious heart of another. Enchantment lies in different things for each of us. For me, it is in this: to step out of the bright sunlight into the shade of orange trees; to walk under the arched canopy of their jadelike leaves; to see the long aisles of lichened trunks stretch ahead in a geometric rhythm; to feel the mystery of a seclusion that yet has shafts of light striking through it.
“This is the essence of an ancient and secret magic. It goes back, perhaps, to the fairy tales of childhood, to Hansel and Gretel, to Babes in the Wood, to Alice in Wonderland, to all half-luminous places that pleased the imagination as a child. It may go back still farther, to racial Druid memories, to an atavistic sense of safety and delight in an open forest. And after long years of spiritual homelessness, of nostalgia, here is that mystic loveliness of childhood again. Here is home. An old thread, long tangled, comes straight again.”
– Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings in Cross Creek, the 1942 Charles Scribner’s Sons edition with illustrations by Edward Shenton
“There is nothing much to report. I just keep working by day at the Office, evenings in my own office, where a lot has to be finished and tidied up. In between I dream of flowering shrubs, fruit trees, deep digging, ploughing, fields, bees, manure, spreading, planting plans, and so on. When I think of these pleasurable activities, everything I do here appears unreal and ghostly and altogether unimportant. I have never felt compelled to stay in the city and therefore never realized how great my need for the country is. But I know it now.”
– Helmuth James von Moltke from Berlin, on March 27, 1941, writing to his wife, collected in Letters to Freya, 1939-1945 (1990). An attorney, von Moltke was executed in 1945 for daring to plan what a Germany without Hitler would be like. His wife, Freya, saved his 1600 letters by hiding them in the beehives at their country estate, Kreisau, in Silesia.
“I noticed a woodchuck’s skin tacked up to the inside of his shop. He said it had fatted on his beans, and William had killed it and expected to get another to make a pair of mittens of, one not being quite large enough. It was excellent for mittens. You could hardly wear it out.”
– “Rice’s Poetic Life” in Henry David Thoreau’s diaries, March 11, 1857
One of those rare marriages of literary and artistic talent creating a book I will never be able to afford.
I am a fool for Jessie Wilcox Smith (1863-1935), an illustrator who studied with Howard Pyle and specialized in images of children. I think her work is magical, almost dream-like, pretty and sentimental to be sure, but much deeper than that. She was brought to mind when I saw these images yesterday, from postcards published by Reinthal & Newman, New York, and Charles H. Hauff, London.
Sotheby’s sold the original art (mixed media on illustration board) for “Five O’Clock Tea” in 2007. I’m sorry I missed that auction.