Once upon a time there was a young girl named Carol Ann who would walk home from school and pass this house. This big old white house wasn’t easy to see back then because there were many bushes that edged the property, but Carol Ann would walk by very slowly and try to catch a glimpse between the branches, seeing what she could see of this house and its extensive grounds.
Back in the day there were gardens there too and how Carol Ann wished a lady would appear in those gardens, notice her passing, and invite her in to see the flowers. Carol Ann would imagine this lady of the garden looked and sounded like the lovely actress Deborah Kerr, that she was a proper English lady who had no daughter but longed for one and seeing Carol Ann would reach out to her in friendship. Perhaps this lady would invite Carol Ann to share her afternoon tea or invite her into the house so the lady could play piano for her, give her some lessons and ultimately they could play duets together. Oh, how many times Carol Ann past this house and dreamed of this lady. Carol Ann’s Romantic personality came up with all sorts of scenarios for the two of them.
And that’s not all. Carol Ann also dreamed what fun it would be if she could explore the extensive grounds of this property for even back then at her young age big old houses with extensive grounds enchanted her. When other young girls were doing what most young girls do (whatever that is) Carol Ann was reading “House and Garden” magazine and books like “The Secret Garden”, materials which fed her imagination. How she hoped one day she could live in a big old white house surrounded by nature, a place where she could work in her garden, enjoy afternoon tea and play the piano to her hearts content.
But life moved on as it tends to do and no lady ever appeared to Carol Ann. Days passed. Months turned into years and only occasionally did Carol Ann have the opportunity to pass the old white house and remember her imaginings. But then one day while reading a book by the American author Henry David Thoreau she came upon a passage that spoke to her.
“If one advances confidently in the direction of his dreams, and endeavors to live the life which he has imagined, he will meet with success unexpected in common hours.”
“Aha”, she thought. At that moment there was an awakening. Though Carol Ann never did meet the lady of her imagination who lived in the big old white house that sat on those extensive grounds she suddenly realized she actually became that lady. Of course she’s American, not English, but besides that one fact, her dreams came true. Now Carol Ann lives in a big old white house of her own and it happens to sit on a generous plot of land. The grounds around Carol Ann’s house may not be as grand as that house of her dreams, but she’s working on them. Gardening is one of Carol Ann’s favorite activities. She does however enjoy afternoon tea regularly and with guests, often children. And that’s not all. She also delights in playing the piano and playing those duets she dreamed of for now she’s a piano teacher herself.
Thoreau was right. If we advance through life in the direction of our dreams not letting them go we can meet with unexpected success.
All this is an introduction to today’s story. You see, after years of imagining and dreaming about that old house I passed so many times as a child I finally had the chance to explore the property.
And this is the lady that made it happen for me. This is Celeste, a wonderful artist and my cousin who happens to live in what was once the gate house for the house of my dreams.
Celeste knows the present owners of my dream property and though I dropped by to visit her, in talking about my girlhood imaginings, Celeste suggested I take a walk at long last and explore the grounds I admired for so many years. She assured me her neighbors wouldn’t notice and if they did I should just explain I was her cousin and a long time admirer of their place.
You can’t imagine how excited I was!
Want to come along? Ok, let’s go.
I stepped out the back door and headed down the long driveway.
At one point the driveway was edged with large stones. They were there so drivers wouldn’t go astray and end up in the woods below.
I don’t happen to have these woods at my house unfortunately but I wish I did. This property goes down to The Cuyahoga Valley National Park. It’s beautiful country.
As I get closer to the house I begin to see a little white. How exciting!
And then there’s a little more white…
As I get closer I notice a lattice privacy screen near the house, but I wonder why anyone needs help with privacy when they live on extensive grounds like these.
I walked past the house quickly so as not to bother the owners and headed for the grounds behind it, the grounds I never could see very well from the street when I was a little girl. How wonderful they were.
The large terraces carved from stone… the workmanship! What such a job as this would cost today!
So many steps down into the valley!
There was a nip in the air and I was chilled to the bone, but nevertheless I walked around with great enthusiasm taking in every sight and sound.
There were places carved in stone somewhat like large benches where people could sit and gaze out at the landscape. I might’ve done that if I wasn’t so cold. But besides being cold there was so much to see. I had to keep moving.
Stone staircases were here and there. As I discovered them hiding under the leaves I felt the same thrill I’d feel discovering ancient ruins in Rome.
And these forgotten, long-ignored garden elements also reminded me of the forgotten garden from the book The Secret Garden, that book I loved as a child and still love today.
There were little streams with charming wooden bridges – so Romantic!
I could’ve stayed in this wonderland forever but I reluctantly climbed my way back up and there was the house peeking out in the distance.
As I got closer I discovered another area that had been abandoned.
It was a large square area framed by a stone wall decorated with wooden fencing.
The fencing had seen better days, the days of my childhood. Oh, how I wish I could’ve seen this estate back in its glory days, but it still had a grace about itself, and in its current condition it seemed even more dear to me.
The stately pillars had such dignity standing proudly as they had done for so many years.
Though ivy and moss grew over them they still were very beautiful to me.
And in the courtyard was this circular stone item. Was it once a well or a planter? I wondered.
And then I spotted the tea house. How lovely it would’ve been on a Summer’s day if and when my lady invited me to share her afternoon tea. Seeing this structure set my imagination stirring once more.
What a wonderful property this is. I wasn’t disappointed at all. Once again I dashed past the house so as not to alarm or disturb the owners. I learned they were an elderly couple. That could explain why they let their grounds go. They probably don’t go walking about these days very much to justify the cost in maintaining such a place, but if only they did. I hope some day a new enthusiastic owner will come along and restore everything to its former glory..
I wish that person could be me.
Perhaps one day my cousin will introduce me to the owners of this estate. The lady of the house in my imagination never became my friend but perhaps I could become friends with the present owners and they just might allow me to return over and over, appreciating their wonderful property.
I’m only guessing, but I suspect I’ve loved their house and grounds longer then they did and perhaps more intensely then they do now.
Well, that’s my story.
So as I write you from my own old white house set in nature I encourage you to keep on dreaming and imagining no matter how old or young you may be for as my good old “dead friend” Henry David Thoreau suggested,
“If you advance confidently in the direction of your dreams, and endeavor to live the life you have imagined, you will meet with success unexpected in common hours.”
I’m a believer!