The Secret Garden

Once upon a time, not very long ago, the roomie and I took a stroll down Main Street. Along the way, we decided to investigate an old, red, brick house that was for sale just a few blocks from our flat.  A sign said the building was the first Davie County jail, and behind it there was proclaimed to be a Japanese garden. We crept around the house, admiring the screened in porch that begged for long summer nights filled with sweet tea, and the tiny red outhouse behind it.

Hmm. A path. Paths lined with shrubs are good. Sometimes they lead nowhere, or to boring places like a forties brick ranch house, or a chicken coop, or a pile of rusty old vehicles, but this one looked worth following, so we did.

And at the end, there was an arch, and if that wasn’t enough, it was covered with ivy! Please tell me I’m not the only one whose soul is completely enchanted with doorways leading to mysterious places, and ivy-covered walls and arches, and hidden, beautiful, undiscovered nooks. We stepped through the arch, and it was like we were in a different world, far away from the bustling Main Street we had just left.

Meandering paths lined with overgrown shrubs filled the fenced in garden. A stone bridge spanned a tiny pond with goldfish, and a lantern that looked for all the world like it belonged in Narnia appeared around a bend. An air of neglect gave the place a wild sort of beauty and mystery that carefully cultivated places cannot have.

Several times since then I have snuck back in there, hoping that this isn’t the time that I’m thrown out for trespassing. There are few things that delight me more than finding a hidden corner of beauty that I can claim for my own. As Jawaharial Nehru once said, “We live in a wonderful world that is full of beauty, charm and adventure. There is no end to the adventures that we can have if only we seek them with our eyes open.”


To THAT dating person we all know

Dear Friend

I know you have a boyfriend. I know it’s new and exciting, and that there is nothing in the world you would rather do than spend every spare minute with him. I know that other friends fade away in comparison with the thrill of being in love for the first time. But here’s the thing of it. (You knew a “but” was coming, didn’t you?) Remember how you used to tell me before you were dating, “Please tell me if I’m ever that kind of girlfriend?” Well, you are. And the sad thing is that now you don’t even care. But we care.


We have lives, and schedules, and drama of our own. We cannot reschedule to accommodate your every whim to have a date instead of keeping your prior commitments. “Fine,” you say, “I’ll just go on my dates, and you girls can do stuff without me, and everyone will be happy.” But that’s not how it works. Your personality brought an extra splash of fun to our group, and when you aren’t there, we miss you. We hate being blown off for your super-duper-awesome-boyfriend-who-you-can’t-resist, like we don’t even matter anymore.


And you know what else? Eventually you’re going to want friends again. You’re going to wish for a community to be part of, and girl talk, and coffee dates with someone besides your man. But if this is the way you treat other people now, you may wake up one day and discover that you don’t really have other friends left.


Dear Tuesdays

Dear Tuesdays,

Why you gotta be like that? See, Monday is supposed to be the bad guy, not you. Monday is supposed to drag, and we are supposed to drag right along with it. But instead, Monday gives me free breakfast, a long meeting first thing in the morning, and consequently, a shorter work day. Monday is almost nice to me!

But what do you have for me? Sadness, despair, and heartache. Lynette spends the day at home, so I have to check voicemails for her. I check her emails. I answer all the phone calls I can reach. You’d think being busier would make time pass a little faster. And yet, you drag, interminable, ceaseless, everlasting, for hours and hours. The clock hands slow to half-speed, and my back twists into knots as I spend endless hours in my chair, waiting for five o’clock to come.


Your one redeeming factor is the evenings. Lynette is gone, and every week I can choose what I want to do with the evening. Walks to the library, dinner at the Padres, baby watching (similar to bird watching, but a bit more of a contact sport), curling up in a chair with a book and tea, baths and facials, sitting on a bench outside my flat and watching people, the options are endless. Yes Tuesdays, if it wasn’t for your evenings, I think I would skip you altogether, but as it is, I suppose I will keep my weeks at seven days. But really, would you mind spreading your charm a little more evenly throughout the day?

Missing You


Tonight, I’m missing this Illinois sky and the people who go with it. As much as I love my charming downtown flat, there’s something about the vast, open, airy space in Illinois that can’t be beat, not to mention the goodhearted people who shared their lives with me for a winter.

Even with all the icy winds, and getting stuck in the snow, and the cows getting out of their barn and people pounding on our door to let us know, and the headache of planning the Christmas program, my Illinois winter still lives in my memory as one of the most idyllic chapters of my life. And why shouldn’t it? It was my first time living on my own for an extended period of time. I had a completely charming farmhouse to live it, complete with an honest to goodness attic and creepy basement. I got to experience lots of snow, and I loved it. The people were so welcoming, warm, and funny. Good combination, that. I could always count on popcorn at the Kennells if I stuck around long enough Sunday evenings. Oh, and best of all? So. Many. Tall. People! I felt positively short at times!


A Walk in the Dark


It rained loudly while we were meeting in my room, so the air was freshly washed, and the night was a little cool, but barely, when we ventured out to clear our heads. We walked down, past the library, admiring the quiet houses on either side of the street, and sneaking up onto a tiny balcony we weren’t sure we were supposed to occupy, to look at the sky. A couple of the girls crawled between the rails, onto the flat roof, to better peer down on the quiet town. The thrill of the possibility of being chased out just added to the enjoyment.

On our way back, we peered in the windows of the little shops, since window shopping is definitely more fun after you can’t buy anything. Gaudy jewelry, weird little pugs with sunglasses, empty restaurants, awaiting the next day’s customers. The doll shop looked decidedly creepy, with its occupants staring out at us with lifeless eyes from the dark interior of the shop. The ancient windows in the two stories above the shop glared balefully at us as well, daring us to uncover the mysteries of their dark, curtained depths. We did not venture to find stairs up there, but we did stare back at them, wondering why they have curtains if nobody lives there, and wondering why some of the windows were open, to let the damp night air curl through the rooms.41eca022-2a21-4e33-9206-c1175e6e913c

Main Street simply begs for an iconic Beatles picture redo, so we gladly acquiesced. Perhaps they were famous musicians and we are just unknown country bumpkins in our little redneck town, but I think I like our picture even better than theirs. 🙂

How can one side of the street feel so mysterious and sinister and ghostly, when just across the corner lies my cozy little flat with its warm lights and comfortable, creaky floors?