I’m spending my summer in London. This weekend, I stayed at a beautiful estate in Henley. On Sunday morning, the owner urged my friends and me to go for a wander.
A big house sits on long little driveway, tucked into and under the trees and the bushes of a green gray morning. It is a great family estate in Henley. It is all hidden, specialized. To be explored. To be discovered. To never be shown, but to be stumbled upon. Each corner, each bridge, each carefully-cared-for shrub, was hand-placed, thoughtfully chosen. Was known by the Honourable as a child, playing, rushing through mazes. These immaculate gardens somehow seem skipped through. The geese, so perturbed by my wandering, flap at mossy water, tell me that these grounds are not unused; they are undisturbed. That world, these gardens made to be the color on grayest days for a timeless family. These purples, these least assuming of flowers and leaves— lavender, rhododendron, crawlers— these are meant to be trampled and climbed. It is a child’s estate maintained by old, tired, happy men. It is the estate of Lizzie, wandering, reading. It is the estate to make you fall in love. It is an estate that hides shyly behind its cap yet holds arms warm and wide at the welcome. It opens its gates and spins you around and lifts you up and pulls you into its aged mystery. It sits you at some perfect bench and some conversation. It offers you quiet and kindness. Ladies will scuff their shoes on the way to the stable. Horses will stamp at flies but nose at your fingers, demanding nothing. Chickens in the distance will tell you, young buck, that there is more to be discovered when you have another summer-cold morning of exploring. It is an estate that knows much much more than you do. It is the gut, the heart, the gentlest nobility. It is the treehouse, held up by and holding a grand, healthy, broad tree. Sturdy, unremarkable, grounded, looming. You see, a gentleman doesn’t mind a bit of branch in his study. A gentleman clears his own porch of bramble.