One of the most magical places I've experienced is Driftwood Beach on Jekyll Island, Georgia.
While my family and I were exploring the island, we heard of beach like no other. Finding a path on the side of the road, we trekked through lush greenery until we were standing on a beach completely devoid of life.
Surrounding us were the most fantastical and contorted trees I have ever seen; some still rooted, some laying on their sides exposing their intricate lace-like root structures and others resembling washed-up sea monsters from tales of old. This alien landscape extended for as far as the eye could see.
Walking through these twisted trees felt like being transported to a cursed land or stumbling upon the remains of an apocalyptic event.
If you ever want to step into a different world, venture to Jekyll Island.
Figureheads on ships always intrigued me – I can’t resist objects believed to possess supernatural powers.
In addition to being gorgeous works of art, figureheads were believed to bring good luck. Recognized as the ship’s soul, they were adorned and protected by their crews.
Figureheads have graced ship’s bows for thousands of years – even the Egyptians embellished their ships with images of birds. And to shield their long-ships from evil spirits, the Vikings carved intricate dragons and serpents.
Over time, the female form became the most prominent, even though it was considered bad luck to have a woman on board (gender imbalance, anyone?) Female figureheads, or sea maidens, were often carved with flowing garments, exposing portions of their bodies. Their beauty was thought to calm the oceans as the ship traveled across unforgiving waters.
I love how a simple piece of wood transforms into something with spiritual and superstitious significance, becoming a beacon of faith and hope amidst the uncertainty of the unpredictable waters.
Deep within the enchanting gardens of the 20th century gothic residence of Quinta de Regaleira, is the mysterious Initiation Well.
While walking the labyrinth of paths surrounding the estate, I sensed this was a special place. Scattered among the exotic greenery and stone structures were pagan statues and symbols of alchemy.
When approaching the unassuming entrance of the Initiation Well, I had no idea what I was in for, but I knew that I was embarking upon a unique experience. Suddenly, I was descending in a circular subterranean tower, leading deeper and deeper into the earth. It is said that the tower was meant to represent the nine circles of Dante’s Inferno (yet there are only six levels, which is curious in itself). The drama of it all seems fitting since many believe that the well was used for Free Mason initiation ceremonies.
Once I reached the bottom, the journey did not end. I found myself navigating through secret tunnels until I could see daylight ahead. When I emerged from the underground, I realized the tunnel led to a pond – the only way to cross it was to hop from one stone to the next. Not only did the experience awaken the childhood sense of discovery within me, but it had the quality of otherworldliness that I crave.
In many ways, the Initiation Well represents many of the things I strive to capture in my writing: layers, secrets, hidden meanings, depth, enchantment, mysticism.
When I go back, I’ll spend more time exploring the hidden symbols of the Quinta de Regaleira