Like Coming Home: Kensington Gardens
I already know there's no way this blog post will even come close, and this is just the first sentence.
That's how amazing Kensington Gardens was.
I apologize in advance for how disjointed and gushing this will probably be.
That day was a full one. We had just come from exploring Covent Garden, and before that a Harry Potter walking tour, and before that a bus and walking tour of the main tourist sites in London. It was already just on the edge of magic hour when we climbed the stairs from the underground and crossed the street into the gardens. We only had just enough time, we knew, to make it to the Peter Pan Statue before dark.
As we walked along the Serpentine, trying to hurry while still taking it all in, I started to get that fluttery heart feeling you get when you're about to see someone you love that you haven't seen in a long, long time.
You have to understand, friends. I grew up with Peter Pan basically in my veins.
Yeah, I watched the Disney movie. And the Mary Martin musical. And Hook. Oddly enough we didn't have the book when I was a kid, but later on I read and reread it. (And Peter Pan in Kensington Gardens, which you can bet I reread again right before we went, along with a biography of J.M. Barrie, but that's an entire story all of its own.)
But even before I had read the book Peter Pan, the whole story, the bigger sense of it, drew me in.
The story became so much a part of me that I could no longer really distinguish between myself and Peter. So for a period of time, I thought I was Peter Pan. I was Peter Pan all the time.
I loved Peter Pan. The story, the character, all of it.
And before I saw Peter there in Kensington Gardens, I thought I knew what that meant for me.
I thought we took a wrong turn somewhere, and wasn't quite sure we hadn't missed the statue somewhere along the way. Then the path sloped downward and turned a bit of a corner, and I saw it.
"There you are, Peter!" Yep. I said it out loud.
We got closer. There was no one else nearby--not for a minute anyway. I can't even begin to describe what happened, friends. I had no idea it was coming, but it hit me like a giant wave.
When I was standing right in front of him, I lost it.
Now, I'm not really a crier, guys. I cry sometimes, but not usually... ...over statues.
But this was different.
This wasn't just a statue. It was Peter. It was Peter, in Kensington Gardens.
The statue that, by the way, J.M. Barrie had put there in the middle of the night so it would be a surprise for people in the park the following morning.
And all of a sudden I felt... home. Home, like I've never felt home before. Like he'd just been waiting for me this whole time.
I had echoes in my head of people telling me I couldn't be Peter Pan forever, and had to grow up some time (which in a way is true, but not in the way they think). I had defended myself and Peter Pan (and stories in general) from people who talked about stories like they're just escapism. I had known that wasn't true, and that Peter Pan, like so many other stories, was so much bigger than that.
But all of a sudden, here it was--here Peter was--truer than true, realer than anything, and I just... bawled my eyes out. As quietly as possible so the people that seemed to flood in immediately after wouldn't notice. And tried to look semi-composed for a very dark photograph or two when they finally left.
We only really had a few minutes there, and I was crying for most of them, so my very kind and understanding husband allowed an adjustment in our schedule to cut back on his time in Oxford so we could go back the next day. Thank you, Ethan!
Some people had left notes on the statue, behind where Solomon was perched, and I added mine, too.
Besides just the statue, we saw the Round Pond, and walked around a little bit more before heading out to Oxford. The whole experience of being in the place that had such a big role in the creation of Peter Pan was marvelous and magical. And in a way, it wasn't just about Peter Pan.
Just thinking about it now, and any time since we were there, it's like I get hit with a whole new wave of the importance and real-ness of stories, and of just how deep a personal connection I have with this one.
Stories are so important. They make such a huge impact on us. Even if you think I'm utterly crazy, please believe this.
And, whether I'm crazy or not, I get stories. They're my language. I don't care if that makes me weird or not, it's just true. And I suppose now more than ever I'm embracing that.
I'm embracing that fact that sometimes just thinking about being in Kensington Gardens makes me cry. And that I apparently see things very differently from a lot of people. And that part of what will bring me joy (and I think fulfill more of my purpose here) is to share the way I see the world. Sometimes I lose sight of that and get caught in the day to day of running my business--or even in creating things that are still fun and pretty, but don't really speak to the power of stories and beauty in our lives in quite the way I'd like my work to.
So I'm going to pull back a bit from the business-y side of my work. I'll be spending as much time as I can over the next couple of months really getting up to my elbows in the story of Peter Pan, focusing on bringing it to life, and into everyday use, in new ways that honor its depth and richness. I want to try more physical, tactile pieces that are more like acknowledging the stories that already linger all over us like cobwebs, instead of just prints that allow us to look into them like peeking through a window at something we can never get to.
Because we bring these stories with us everywhere we go anyway.
In a way, we're all walking libraries of stories that have become a part of us.
So let's celebrate that, and explore that, and discover more of who we are and tell our kids stories so they know how to be heroes, and revel in beauty, and be unashamedly ourselves, and bring these stories out from the nooks and crannies of who we are and into the day to day.
I plucked this leaf from a tree near Peter's statue and pressed it in a notebook.
As I plan out projects for this explorational time, I keep it on my desk, to remind me, incase I ever lose track, of how very real stories can be, and how sharing that is part of my purpose.