One of my favorite books of all time is The Secret Garden, by Frances Hodgson Burnett.* Growing up, it seemed impossibly exotic, full of foreign lands (India, England) and secret spots. In fact, I think one of the reasons it's such an enduring story is that Mary's search for a place of her own and her discovery of the tucked away and forgotten garden resonate with something very human: the quest for that which is hidden.
As a child, I was obsessed with secret passages, hidden gardens, and overgrown paths. I'd roam our hundred year-old house, feeling the walls for catches or painted-over door frames, and explore the wooded park near our home, in search of abandoned encampments. This thirst hasn't abated.
As a result, I expect, I found myself enchanted by Maudslay State Park, an old Newburyport estate (home of the Moseleys) which became a park in the mid-1980s. The park is right on the river, and the estate's old gardens (some maintained, some running wild) dot the property. There are also the remains of two old houses - the foundation of the original 72-room mansion as well as that of the smaller (but still respectably-sized) home the Moseleys built for their daughter.
The park's visitor center was closed on Sunday afternoon, so Miles and I found ourselves exploring the woods, fields and gardens unguided. We contemplated every path, wondering if we'd found the service driveway, or the path created to impress visitors to the estate. We stumbled on kitchen gardens, arbors, greenhouses long since missing their glass roofs, and overgrown thatches of rhododendron - those were everywhere.
It was all I could to stop myself looking for a nosy misselthrush and a poorly-buried key.
*It should also be noted that Miles & I met 12 years ago performing in a production of the musical version of The Secret Garden. Yes, we are officially old.