Have you ever experienced the wonder of the Cloisters in Washington Heights? From its medieval gardens to the castle proper, it transcends one to a time of long ago.
The one time that I spent an afternoon there, was a misty day in late May. My visit was unexpected so my feet were not dressed for the occasion. Or, in retrospect, were they?
Though the walk over the cobblestones to the River’s vantage point was a challenging one, the memory of the sound of my heels was worth it. Perhaps it was the fog or maybe the company, but that sound resembled a soft rhythmic heartbeat. Each step brought me closer and closer to a breathtaking view beyond those historic walls. The gardens, lavish with etchings of branches and vines that had grown into the walls, created a mural-like canvas on the stone. Century-old trees, weeping with Spanish moss, fragranced the air with their heavy musk-like scent. What a moment. Though I respect that most people prefer crystal clear days, there is much to be said about a place such as this on a “filtered” day.
As I continue with my fantasy, I recall one time as a child when I played “dress-up,” begging my aunt to make me a fairytale gown. It had to be long and full, so it would fan out as I twirled and twirled around. And she did…the most beautiful one I’ve ever seen. I didn’t care that it was created from an old satin bedspread that once graced the bed of my grandmother in Italy. That just made it all the more special. It was the color of a vanilla-washed apricot and it had lace, tinted by tea. I would walk up and down the winding staircase in the old Victorian home we lived in, pretending that I was the princess in the castle. From that time on, my fascination with castles and their lingering allure has remained ingrained in my mind. I don’t just love them; I feel them. Almost as if I were there, perhaps in an earlier lifetime. There is a “draw”…a pulling…a physical sensation that keeps me wishing I could walk through and become one with a touch of the stone walls, pulsing with the spirit of ancient passersby. I can feel the cool sensation on my fingertips, the chill in the air and the smell of leather books and spent candles. Each step, each click of heels, each echo, each cast shadow… such is the embrace of the memories there.
Who walked there before me? Who would walk after me? Would one share my passion enough to walk with me? Perhaps a Count…or a Countess? Did they host fancy parties for gentlemen and women of elegance? I can hear the music wafting through the arched passageways, seeking out lovers to dance to its beat. If you close your eyes, you can see the haunting silhouettes of these ghosts in love. My, what the imagination can conjure up!
Yes, there is something magical in these walls, indeed.
So, I will continue to dream and long for the day when I can stroll through a castle once more and become a princess… even if just for a day. Oh, and what about the prince, you ask? Well, that’s a story yet to be written…
[blockquote class=blue]River Journal invites local residents to submit pieces they have written. This is one such piece from a woman in Briarcliff Manor. Please contact us at RiverJournal@aol.com for additional information concerning submissions.[/blockquote]