As the bus pulled away, I stood on the side of the road with my bags in hand. I stared at the great Avenue of the Trees before me. I could have requested a staff member to collect me from the bus stop, but I wanted to enjoy the mile-long stroll on the Avenue that leads to the gates of Riversleigh Manor.
You never know what type of trees will be on the Avenue or in what season. Everything at Riversleigh operates on its own time and in its own way. On a previous visit, the Avenue was comprised of jungle foliage with a heavy canopy. At another time it was a Siberian taiga forest. Today there are luscious green deciduous trees in full summer leaf, even though it was mid-winter, cold and dead, in my real world back home. The tree branches interlaced overhead making a tunneled portal directly to the manor gates — and into another realm.
You see, Riversleigh Manor is a universe within a universe.
When I got to the gates, they glided open like magic. In fact, it must be magic since at no time during previous visits had I ever seen a human hand or any form of technology operate the gates. I walked on through and saw Riversleigh’s legendary garden. Sweet peas and peonies, delphiniums and foxgloves, and white and purple hydrangeas spread an exuberant jumble of color across the grounds. Oh, and the roses: I took in a deep breath. Their sweet, giddy fragrance lifted my dampened spirit. When I heard that the former estate manager, Sibyl Riversleigh, had left to go on a Grand Tour, I feared that the manor would deteriorate, especially the garden, and I had not wanted to visit here again. I wanted to remember the manor in all its former splendor. Then when I received information that Anastasia Riversleigh, Sybil’s twin sister, had taken over the management, and I knew my fears were probably unfounded. As I surveyed the grounds, I found that was indeed the case.
In the past, my visits were opportunities to write. Those trips were never without drama, though, since inevitably Arvilla, my Inner Critic, would show up to put a twist my knickers and those of the management with her annoying brassiness. Since Arvilla only shows up when I write, I decided this would not be a writing retreat. Time and life had left its debilitating mark on my creative spirit making me incapable of dealing with Arvilla. This time I would be retreating to Riversleigh simply to rest and have fun.
Screams and howls of laughter flooded across the grounds. I looked towards a small grove and saw an enormous hammock stretched between two trees. A full-scale pillow fight was in process with a half-dozen women combatants perilously close to tipping the swinging hammock over and sending them all spilling to ground. I recognized several of my writing colleagues and smiled. Some things never change.
I knew the way to my room — #444 on the second floor overlooking the river. Since there is no need for locks or card-keys at Riversleigh, I had no need of a bellhop to show me there. When I arrived, the room was open to receive me. I plopped my bags on the bed and opened them. I quickly changed into sweat-pants and t-shirt, my uniform for the duration of my visit.
I plugged in my laptop to charge. I would not be using it for writing; I planned to use it to visit the various social media outlets to catch up with friends. First, though, I wanted to get down to the kitchen. I had signed up for a cooking course with Madame Pommesfrites, the head chef at Riversleigh’s Michelin-starred restaurant, and I wanted to meet her before we started the course tomorrow.
When I entered the kitchen, I found that it was empty. Since it was after luncheon but well before dinner, the staff was on a break. I noticed a stack of papers resting on the end of one the stainless steel counters. I twisted my head to read the top sheet and discovered that it was the syllabus for the cooking course. I figured there would be no harm on getting a little preview of the course, so I pulled one off the top and began to study it.
Suddenly, a brilliant light flashed across the kitchen accompanied by a loud pop. The hanging pots began clanging against each other. I dropped the paper and turned away from the counter. My first thought was that some appliance had shorted-out and exploded. Then I saw her:
Standing in the center of the Riversleigh kitchen was Lumina, my personal Muse.
To be continued……
LJGloyd (aka Miss Pelican) 2013
Image: 2003, 2013