One of my all time favourite books by C.S. Lewis (my literary soulmate) is Mere Christianity. I know there are tons of quotes and unbelievably amazing thoughts from this book, but for some reason the thing I remember most is the paragraph where Lewis speaks about his brother Warnie, and the little moss that grew inside a can of some sort. He spoke about this moss in a way that I can relate to deeply. I relate to the small beautiful things that have brought me inexplicable joy. I once had a little moss just like theirs, I could say that since discovering that such small things could hold such large magic and wonder over ones psyche, I’ve been looking for places and things like that all of my life. I’ve had great luck in finding such magic in places all over the world. The funny thing is, it usually isn’t in the large sites and the big tourist attractions, there is magic in those places too of course, but I’m not talking about that sort of thing. I’m speaking mainly of moments, corners, alleys, little plants, glimpses, things that are seemingly small but somehow stay in your mind and in your heart forever.
My first little moss, and the one that I have been comparing everything I’ve ever seen to, was a small and peculiar library in a small town called Poinciana in my home state of Florida. I first encountered this library as a toddler, riding on the handlebars of my older sisters bike, as we strolled through cyprus trees and orange groves. The smells of those summers are always present in my mind, I always struggle to find a fragrance or a perfume that will remind me of precisely those days. I can describe those moments as the same sensation you get when you close your eyes and the sun shines on them, you pass through trees and you see merely the shadow of them but it creates this warming effect, a very intoxicating sensation. This library was the most beautiful place I had ever seen in my life, and it might as well have been a dream for I can’t find a single piece of evidence anywhere to prove that it existed. It was demolished shortly after my 12th birthday, and after that it was as if all of the magic in that small town had all but disappeared. The library was a perfect circle, it was small and made of glass, it looked more like one of those cafe kiosks in Paris near the louvre than it did a library, and it was glorious in every way. Inside that library there were only a few couches, but there was this scent inside… this fresh and crisp scent. Almost like the kind you get in new cars, wrapping paper or winter, and the air was always cold inside. I remember that the books were placed around the circular walls of the library, and you could see the green grass from the crystal windows. We were somehow sheltered from the summer there. I feel as if the ceiling had an enormous skylight which brought even more light into the center, but the library itself was just pure light. I spent hours and hours there with my sister. Those were the most joyous days of my childhood. I remember getting books on gardening, plants, French, Italian, Science, things children weren’t normally into reading but my sister had instilled in me to read. We had long conversations there about how to make crepes, and how in Paris people carried baguettes under their arm. My sister would talk to me about butterflies and cocoons, we would talk about space and how to become astronauts, and every week something new would catch my attention. I’d go from wanting to read about archeology so I could become an archeologist, to quickly going back to the ballet, the opera and impressionist paintings. I couldn’t decide what to be -I still can’t.
This library possessed a magic very few places I’ve seen have been able to contain, and yet I’m thankful that I spent time there, and that in some way, I find it over and over again. I have found bits of that library in my travels, and now, living in Valencia, Spain I have been on the search to find places that evoke in me those same feelings. The first place I found was the central garden at El Museo Del Carmen.
This is a small museum in the area of “El Carmen” in Valencia, Spain. El Carmen in itself is a very artsy, historic and wonderful neighborhood where you can find all sorts of lovely nooks and corners you may fancy, this just happens to be one of the places where I had a magical moment. I came here on a late afternoon in early December and discovered this central garden (the photo you see above). It had Valencian orange trees, jasmines, and an old well which resonated with one of my favourite movies. I listened to a soundtrack by George Fenton as I walked through this garden, and I couldn’t help but look up as the cold winter chill came through and the leaves rustling with doves above. I felt as if I had gone back in time, I was some sort of princess who was going to meet someone special there at that magical well. Nothing like that happened, but somehow, being there made me feel like it could.
The second place I found in this city which made me remember the library was a little cafe called “El Kiosko La Pergola”, the food is pretty good, but honestly I don’t go there for the food. I go there because not only is it a sort of circular place which resembles that magical library, but its also open and the breeze runs through as you sit around the bar. It’s quite lovely there, its not fancy, it definitely isn’t a gourmet cafe or anything of the sort, but I love it. It is right in the center of the street, and on a roundabout. The cars are going around you, the park of Turia is right next door, there are so many trees around, and you are somehow in a calm in the middle of all the traffic. The best part is that it is such a chance to find it open, the place is closed most of the time. They only open for a few hours during the week, so most of the time you’ll find it closed. This somehow adds to the mystery.
There are many places in this city that stir in me memories of that library, but everyday I stumble upon new ones. The other day I found a church which had yet another central garden I fell in love with. I walked in, and the noises of the city vanished. It’s something magical in itself when you are walking through chaos and find a place in which your thoughts can rest and meditate.
I actually don’t even know what this church is called, but when I find out I will insert it in the caption. I barely remember what street I found it on, but I know I will easily find it again. I had taken a detour from my normal path when I saw the doors to this hidden little Eden wide open. The palm trees were inviting, and mysterious all together. I think that’s it, I think that’s what makes these places so incredibly captivating to me. It is that incredible combination between something familiar and cozy, and something other-wordly and mysterious. These are places that stir in me the feelings of finding something new, or not finding anything at all but knowing that something is hidden there. Maybe my imagination is too big.
I don’t know, but I will always remember that library, and I’m thankful it existed, even though I have doubts anyone remembers it ever did.