This past weekend, I flew to Michigan for my brother's wedding. The ceremony took place at Cranbrook House and Gardens, part of a 319-acre National Historic Landmark campus which includes three schools, two museums, a church and an academy of art. It's one of my favorite places on earth.
(Courtyard of Cranbrook House.
The Little Prince and I are next to the car.)
Designed for George Booth and Ellen Scripps Booth in 1908 by architect Albert Kahn, the house is a glorious example of English Arts and Crafts style.
(The house in 1925)
But even more than the house, it is the gardens which absolutely transport me. Everywhere you turn, there is a hidden corner aching to be photographed...
...a lush fountain nestled in a copse of forest...
...or a crumbling urn marking the way to a secret lawn.
And everywhere, everywhere, art sheathed in the unruliness of nature.
We still have a few minutes before we have to take our seats. Let's pass through this archway at the side of the house. See that black railing on the right? We're going down there.
That path is so calling out to us.
Look, a sunken garden. Despite being in the throes of decay and dormancy, it's still captivating. I'd like to get a closer look at that crest, though.
From this angle, it's getting harder and harder to believe I'm not in England.
And look over to the right: a little gardener's cottage straight from the novels of (take your pick) Thomas Hardy, Elizabeth Gaskell or Anthony Trollope.
I think I need to sit down for a moment.
Would you look at those stunning casement windows? Why, oh why, do so many people in period houses replace them with the vacuous deadpan stares of plate glass? To me, gazing out through a framed vista is so much more pleasing.
(Lest you assume -- as I did -- that they don't make flat iron casement windows anymore, I found this one after an exhaustive ten second search.)
Come on, one last adventure. Let's walk up the steps and take a look at that stone fountain in the distance.
Am I alone or does anyone else think that the discoloration on it adds to its charm? It gives it a well-earned patina that heralds the years of service those two muscular gentleman have provided. And do you see that bust of Zeus in the background?
Here's a little secret: Stand on a certain brick at its base and you trigger a secret mechanism that makes it "cry."
(Thanks to Amy B. for this photo)
How do I know this? Because I spent many preteen summers attending theater school at Cranbrook and am well-acquainted with this fellow. On performance nights, my friends and I would lead unsuspecting guests along a dark trail to Weeping Zeus. After uttering an incantation, we would surreptitiously press the lever and completely unnerve them. Oh, the glorious gullibility of young minds.
According to the Cranbrook website, no less than The New York Times Magazine called it "the most enchanted and enchanting setting in America."
I can't disagree.