Challenge: Unexpected (Part 3)

Marking the end of my Candid Camera Challenge is the third and final segment of “Something Unexpected”, a theme suggested by Samantha – and it’s a doozy!

Driving around a quiet, tree-lined residential neighbourhood, peering nosily – as one does – into yards and gardens, one would not expect to see a large, hand-carved tree house for gnomes, complete with arched doorway, lace-lined windows, functioning lantern and mailbox! And one could not be faulted for registering surprise upon encountering a trail of foot-high fairy doors lining the boulevard in the same area. But when one discovers not a fairy house but a veritable castle in a garden a few streets away, one would most certainly agree that this is entirely unexpected!

The garden in question is located on a corner lot of a modest 1920 bungalow with both Edwardian and American Arts & Crafts (also known as Craftsman) features. I have to admit that I have no photographs of this heritage-designated house. The reason is simple: whilst the home has architectural and historical merit, it’s what graces its garden that holds the most fascination! May I present:

In 1961, then-owner Joseph Kodors was inspired to build this fairytale castle for the amusement of his children. How very lucky they were for such an imagination-stirring gift! The story goes that Mr. Kodors modelled the structure after castles he typically would have seen in his native Poland. The castle, which is highly visible from the street, has mortared fieldstone walls, wood shingles, dormers and glass windows, copper-capped turrets with finials, a bell tower and an inlaid date stone. The “miniature” castle is far from small; with the tower spires it probably stands nearly the height of an adult.

The castle became so popular with the community that the property became known as Kodors House. Look closely! Can you spot the clock, an owl, the evil queen and her gnomish minions who seem to be imprisoning an innocent fairy? I long to see what’s on the other side, but once again I’d be trespassing. I shall have to be content with the thought that all aspects of this fairytale are equally enchanting!

Thank you to those who sent me themes for my May photo challenge. Whilst interpreting your suggestions, I had fun, learned a lot and made some wonderful discoveries!

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Challenge: Unexpected (Part 1)

A fascination with architecture and history has always prompted me to photograph old buildings, especially if they feature rare or quaint details or have a story to tell. As far as I’m concerned, a centuries-old moss-covered cottage would do very nicely to live in, especially if there are casement windows and a dusty attic and curlicue ironwork on the old wooden door. And how marvelous it would be to go to work each day in a building with a hundred years of history or more! I’m still working on the cottage, but last year I was fortunate to land a job at a heritage-designated church dating from 1880. It’s a beautiful, imposing structure with its original features and all the creaks and quirks (and possibly a ghost) associated with them!

On my daily route to and from work, I’ve noticed a few picturesque houses in old downtown Brampton that I’ve been meaning to document. Apparently, though, I’ve been missing out on so many more! There are dozens of heritage buildings lining the city’s 19th century streets, and I’ve finally started taking the time to explore the neighbourhood properly, armed with a guidebook and an official designation list. I’ll be posting about some of these adventures soon.

But first, allow me to continue my Candid Camera Challenge, in which readers suggest a subject (a scene, building, people, objects, etc.) they’d like to see on this blog during the month of May. Today’s challenge, something Unexpected, was issued by Samantha of CrystalCats. I’d already had a couple of ideas for this theme, but my recent search for historic buildings gave rise to three perfectly serendipitous – and completely unexpected – discoveries! This is the first one.

One day after photographing an 1867 estate house, I headed down the street, following a route I’d never taken before. As I rounded a corner, I found myself exclaiming in delight – and slamming on the brakes – when I spotted an unusual sight in one front yard: a curious fairytale creation named “Haywoods Hollow”.

This large, hand-carved house is by no means your average store-bought fairy door nailed to the base of a tree! Haywoods Hollow, which sits on the property line facing the sidewalk so it’s accessible to all, was carved by the homeowner from a large silver maple stump. About 12 years before, the talented “architect” had carved a face into one side of the living tree; he modelled it after one of the city’s founding pioneers, a Mr. Dale. Years later when the partially rotted-out maple was damaged in an ice storm and had to be removed, he asked the arborists to leave the seven-foot-high stump, partly to save “Dale” and partly to do more carving. The completed fairy house so delighted neighbours and passers-by that a contest was held to give it a name – and so Haywoods Hollow was born!

I had to examine the house for a while to take in all the details; there are even more at the back, but I didn’t want to trespass onto private property. Its main features are a bright red door with a fancy knocker (the door is sealed shut to prevent children from crawling inside), a shingled roof with chimney, and two lit, lace-trimmed windows. A metal lantern, a welcoming beacon for all nearby gnomes, glows day and night. If you look very, very closely, you’ll discover other whimsies such as tiny carved faces amongst the gnarled driftwood door frame (one is made from a peach pit). And, in order for the wee folk to receive their “tree-mail”, there’s even a little mailbox with its own street number: 17 ½. I’ll have to check to see whether it opens!

Judging from the colourful bits and bobs adorning the house (gnome ornaments, plastic flowers, etc.), it seems to be “the thing” for visitors to leave an offering for the wee folk. Naturally, next time I stop by, I’ll be sure to bring a little gift, too!

Scenes from a Witch’s Cottage (Part 3)

The hummingbird hovers, the goldfinch alights
A leafy green path ’neath the lofty pine beckons:
“Come ye to the woods, seek their earthen delights
where oaks count the hours and bright toadstools, the seconds.”Willow basket in hand, she heeds sylvan call
and wanders past foamflower and lowbush blueberry,
whispers welcome to trees, with a silent footfall,
she soaks up the magick of old forest Faerie.A lighthouse stands guard on the point, giving warning:
Wave-lapped rocks – sailors’ bane! – warmed by midsummer heat.
Her throne a moss pillow bedewed from the morning,
she rests, breathes in pine-scented air, soft and sweet.How wondrous the isle where the woods are enchanted!
How sparkles the sun on the diamond-like water!
How blessed is she in her sturdy white cabin,
where secrets are passed from wise mother to daughter!

Scenes from a Witch’s Cottage, Part 3
© 2017, Valerie Barrett

A Faerie Quest

For many years now, the Faerie Folk have made themselves known on our cottage island. These wee creatures usually remain hidden, appearing only when they want to be seen. The little wooded isle has an abundance of portals, in many forms, which they use to travel from their realm to ours: sometimes the base of a tree (usually oak), sometimes a cleft in the rock. The Wee Folk, for the most part, seem to accept our presence and allow us to go about our business, but we know only a little about them. We have discovered, for example, that their quixotic, mischievous nature can make them rather tricksy. Gardening tools and the lids of cooking pots will be where they should be one hour, and go inexplicably missing the next. The refrigerator may be nearly empty on a Tuesday, and stocked with a staggering seven bottles of salad dressing on Wednesday. And tiny red- and white-spotted parasols, found scattered amongst the leaves where there were none the day before, are signs that the perverse Fae delight in a festive frolic through the woods of a rain-drenched night.

This week, a mysterious scroll, written in elegant hand on aged parchment, was discovered in the house, which is itself quite old. It seemed to have been left by a benefactor, wise in the ways of the Fae, looking out for our welfare. Here is what the message said:

’Twixt water and forest the ancient stones hide,
long since forgot within deep cedar shade;
a place of high rev’rence, once sacrifice made –
an altar, a portal where Faerie folk bide.

Old spirits sigh ’neath the leafy green bower;
they whisper of magick beyond human ken:
should Mortal pass through, a year becomes ten –
and all youth is gone in the count of an hour.

When human eyes light upon grey granite table,
take heed! For hungry Ones watch from the wood!
But gifts from the land must ye bring, fair and good,
to soften their hearts toward Men, if ye’re able.

Upon the high altar, the Fae to appease,
lay these humble off’rings, the spell to unbind;
these gifts must ye proffer, these treasures to find;
in all there are seven – a number to please:

One gem of clear crystal for scrying and Sight;
two feathers, now pluck’d, from wings that flew free;
green cones of the pine, numberéd three;
four stems of wild thyme, a fragrant delight;

For five, bring blue berries, a sweet woodland feast;
six glassy grains from a wave-lapped sand beach;
and last, seven seeds of the wise oaken tree.
Hope the Fae favour your obsequious deeds!

The blessings of Faeries must you also ask,
your future determined by their fitful will.
Seek now, then, these gifts, a long quest to fulfill –
Good Fortune smile on you in your fateful task!

As it seemed prudent to maintain cordial relations with the Fae, we immediately took our gathering baskets to the woods and began foraging for the required gifts. We had some idea of the location of the “grey granite table” – the place on the lakeshore where fishermen past had always cleaned their catch – and, indeed, the signs were there that this was no ordinary set of stones!

With the utmost respect and reverence, we left our seven offerings, along with our own scroll, a carefully-worded beseechment for magickal favour, on the long-lost altar. A short while later, we received word that all was good: the blessing had been made, and the Faerie Quest fulfilled.

Scenes from a Witch’s Cottage (Part 2)

Well! It has been quite some time since I’ve had a chance to focus on this blog. I do apologize for not keeping up with yours; I will try to catch up soon. I hope everyone is enjoying the newly-minted summer. Happy Solstice!

For the last few weeks, I’ve been on a mission to spruce up my Etsy shop. I hadn’t made anything new for quite some time, and many items have been languishing on my work table, waiting to be finished, or to be photographed, written up and posted. I’ve now added several items, including a new line of beaded gemstone jewellery which I’m really excited about, and will soon be posting more.

I’ve also been wracking my brain, trying to come up with a new shop name using gillyflower somehow, so that the shop, this blog and my Facebook page are all tied together. (Wood So Wild was fine, but it seems removed from what I do here.) “Gillyflower” was already taken, so I’ve pestered my friends and co-workers, and even held an informal Facebook contest; the winner gets a custom-made item from my shop if I end up using his or her suggestion. There were some good submissions, but none was exactly right.

It was just this week, when I arrived at work, that my friend and co-worker gave me a wonderful book called An Encyclopedia of Fairies: Hobgoblins, Brownies, Bogies, and Other Supernatural Creatures by Katharine Briggs (1976, Pantheon Books). This volume, which is an alphabetical listing of all manner of mystical and mythological beings, customs and lore, was originally published in England as A Dictionary of Fairies by Allen Lane (Penguin Books). It was a lovely and welcome surprise!

As I flipped through its pages, looking particularly at the G’s (to alliterate with gillyflower), I came upon a term (not a G) that was so obvious – and so perfect – that I wondered why on earth I hadn’t thought about it before!

I still have work to do before I’m sure I can use the name. Etsy has rules about such things, and I will secure a domain name, too. Then there are the not inconsiderable tasks of switching the name wherever Wood So Wild appears in my listings and across other social media platforms. And, of course, I do have to come up with a new photograph for my shop banner, and design and order business cards and branded packaging. If all goes well, I’m hoping to unveil the new name this weekend and spend the next little while making the transition. And I owe my friend a piece of jewellery, for, although she didn’t suggest the actual name, she did give me the book from whence the idea came! Fair is fair, after all.

I haven’t had much time to read, so I’m still enjoying Dark Witch by Nora Roberts. Yesterday, after a spectacular lightning storm had ravaged the night, a gentle, nourishing rain fell steadily throughout the morning and afternoon. I read a little, worked on this article, and tended my herbs before heading off to work. My window garden has expanded to include a selection of culinary and medicinal herbs, and they’re all coming on nicely. As I was potting up a couple of new ones, this scene played in my mind:

Last e’en, lightning flashed and thunder shattered;
today the storm’s settled to soft June rain.
The hedgewitch steps barefoot from the garden,
basket a-brim with lavande and fresh thyme.
Rosemary, too, to remember with,
and basil – well, that’s for supper!
The warm windowsill waits with aloe for balm,
and oregano grows to flavour a stew.
What shall it be, this aft, for the cauldron?
A tincture, an oxymel, chamomile tea?
In leather-bound grimoire, receipts will be written
in spidery hand and iron gall ink.

Scenes from a Witch’s Cottage, Part 2
© 2017, Valerie Barrett