Our own Bonnie Grove wrote an inspiring post a few days ago on the value of daydreaming and its connection to imagination titled “Scribble on the Walls of Life.” She encouraged us to play, to imagine and pretend. Rejuvenating stuff for harried, stressful lives.
On a vacation last weekend, I was able to revisit a major source of imagination from my childhood – The Enchanted Forest in Ellicott City, Maryland. Revisit isn’t exactly the word. We pulled off the highway and took photos at the castle entrance. The park’s been closed since the 1980s when it became a retail shopping center. Now Old King Cole directs shoppers to the Safeway instead of the quaint park that fired our dreams and imprinted our hearts with wonder.
The Enchanted Forest, built in 1955, was the first theme park in Maryland. It had no mechanical rides or flashy special effects. It offered a fairytale land with Peter Pumpkin Eater’s house, a rainbow slide, Alice’s Wonderland, the seven dwarves’ cottage and glittering cavern, the three pigs’ homes, Robin Hood’s barn, a gingerbread house…sigh. When you crossed the threshold, you raced to leave reality behind.
My niece and I were only four years apart in age, and we would lie awake the night before our yearly visits planning the route we would follow and which souvenirs to buy. I still treasure my souvenirs from the gift shop. We didn’t care that some of the paint was flaking off the mache-like characters and the pond surrounding Mt. Vesuvius smelled faintly of chlorine. Reality held no power there. We had permission to escape to the land that shimmered with fairy dust.
Once we stuck our toes in the waters of enchantment, it was a short swim to full-length fiction. Narnia, Middle Earth and Camelot unfolded their road maps. We searched out secret openings in cupboards, kept our eyes peeled for hobbit footprints among the ferns and sharpened our makeshift swords. When the stories ended, we remembered with fondness our time there and treasured the souvenirs we picked up along the way.
Imagination is an illusive thing that must be nurtured to grow. Writers know that it meets you at the same place at the same time each day, if properly trained. If you miss a day or sleep in late, your characters will be lined up at the entrance, arms crossed, tapping their feet. But they won’t wait for long.