I’ve been contemplating faerie-tales. Ruminating upon them, mulling them over, inhabiting them in the dark forest of my imagination. Not the sanitized, overly sweet pap currently dished up for children, mind you, but the blood-freezing marchen my great-gran used to tell in the howling winter gloom – tales of witches and goblins and poor, lost children. Magic permeated those tales, dripped like black honey, deliciously sinister, from every word. I don’t think I slept comfortably for years, yet I wouldn’t trade one fright-filled night for all the handsome singing princes and bluebirds of Disney. I was a child of dark mind, and I guess not much has changed as I approach my 43rd birthday.
One thing that always fascinated my young imagination more than all the other fantastic fare in those venerable tales was the recurring witch’s garden. Shades of my future, I suppose. I am an avid gardener, much given to musing on the magics inherent in my unruly masses of herbs and billowing borders of wildflowers. Every bird that flits from elderberry thicket, every toad that bumpily blunders from beneath the clary sage, every dark-eyed chipmunk that whisks along the shaded understory of the roses is replete with enchantment. Does a squadron of wild geese shadow the moon, or a lone heron draw a blue line across bales of autumn cloud? It is a sign. It is a story. And the story is magic turning in the air like faerie lights, and I am gone from this modern existence as speedily as Alice down the rabbit hole.
Rapunzel was a passive bore, up there in her tower room; the prince no match for the wily witch and her spellbound thorns. The witch’s garden started the whole show, filling Rapunzel’s mother with such longing that the doomed trespass was inevitable. I longed to enter that garden, so tantalizing it was worth the price of a daughter.
Sleeping Beauty, silly thing, never heeded the 13th Faerie’s curse; she stuck her finger on the spindle just as she was warned all her life not to do. I had no patience for her. But the thorny rose fortress that bloomed with witchy vigor around the sleeping castle – that was treasure to me. All those roses, fat on the blood of vanquished princes whose bones hung amongst the thorns in mute warning, those roses clambering up and up, and sprawling out toward the forest, roused a desire in me to have my own rose-girt haven.
Another Beauty found herself the price of desire when her father plucked a rose from the Beast’s enchanted garden. Such a garden that was! And the house that extended from it was itself a living thing – the ultimate magic garden to be lived in like a wildling, sheltered by a spell of dire elegance. The idea of confusing in with out, of transforming garden beds into green rooms and carpeted rooms into lush gardens, turns my head like a rare perfume. The swooning perfection of the witch’s garden lives in my mind as the pinnacle of magical deftness. The stories all avow the ease with which the charm can be joined.
All one has to do is to gather up the courage to step through the gate…