Do you remember reading books where children escaped into a magic land? My favorite was The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe by CS Lewis. I always wanted to live in an old house with an attic full of antique treasures and rooms so full of furniture that I would never lack a place to hide no matter how many times my sisters and I played hide and seek. The wardrobe in Lewis’s book never seemed that farfetched to me; it made sense as both a place to hide and a world in which to escape. And the fact that those children lived a lifetime in another world before coming back home didn’t seem so strange either. Maybe that’s because as a child, I moved every few years. And today, it’s even less strange as we spend a year in a new location, live our lives as fully as possible, and then start all over again with the next assignment. Of course, I do age but maybe if I found the right magic portal, that could change as well.
I’ve found a magic portal in Washington DC. It’s a place right out of a children’s novel. In fact, it’s waiting for a writer with a good imagination to find it. Or maybe it’s waiting for the right child. I’m not sure which. All I know is that I haven’t found the right sequence of events, the correct magic word, or the sheer dumb luck to open it.
If you have ever visited the National Cathedral, you might know of the place I’m writing about. Along the South side of the building you’ll find the Bishop’s Garden. It’s a stunning little place, full of fragrant roses in the summer time and the tiniest purple irises in early spring. The birds love it here – it’s an oasis in the middle of a big city. The garden is divided between flower beds and a large grassy lawn where small children or small dogs can be found at play, sometimes even together. And tucked in the back, just between the two spaces, hidden along the wall, is my magic archway. It’s well protected by trees, even in the winter time. The heavy pieces of stone are perfectly aligned to hold a strong and steady archway and a flagstone path leads beneath it to a tiny courtyard inside. On the wall at the end is a small font in the wall. The place is damp but not moldy. It smells of rich soil and cold stone and peace.
This small place is an escape from a hectic world – the traffic from the main thoroughfare is dulled to silence, the buzzing voices of tour guides and the heavy footsteps of tourists are left inside the Cathedral itself, and even the shutter of my camera pauses for a moment, silent. This escape is magic in itself.