Last month we had a wonderful holiday with family on the eastern shores of Lake Michigan, with sunsets, wine-tasting and much good American food. Tabor Hill Winery
On one of our expeditions we visited the Fernwood Botanical Garden. There were woodland walks, prairie meadows and formal areas, but one particular display grabbed our interest for a long time. We became kids again. A walk-in area of wooden structures and natural landscape with trains running in and out and suddenly reappearing where you least expected them. It was wonderfully complex, engaging and utterly charming. There was so much to see, we didn’t know which way to look. We watched these trains dipping in and out of the foliage, creeping round the sheer edge of a wooden cliff, or traversing great gaps balanced on twig like structures. Yet all the while I felt a sense of haunting, a constant tug by the images of another railway. This is the Wampo (Wang Pho) viaduct, and this Fernwood. and this shows the bamboo scaffolding for the Bridge on the Mae Klaung (now renamed Kwai)and Far East prisoners of war and conscripted labourers at work on the Thailand-Burma railway in 1942/1943. This is Fernwood again.
Some of us cannot forget.
That is unexpectedly eerie, Hilary. Did any of the written information about the garden hint at far east or historical influences?
I think it was simply a case of convergence. If you build a railway in a jungle setting, using local materials, it is going to look similar whatever the scale or locality. It was a happy and beautiful day and the garden was wonderful, but I was rather unsettled.
There is often something lying in wait to set us off. I think the something is often referred to as a ‘trigger’ these days. The pictures are excellent.
Ah yes, ‘trigger’ is the word. For my companions, the little railway was all joy. I loved it too, but my mind was doing this strange to and fro to the earlier one.
Sounds like an amazing place. Wonderful pictures. That sunset is gorgeous.
It really was. We sat for hours watching that sunset with the boats circling. I was spoiled for choice over photos.
Haunting reminder indeed.
I knew you would understand.
And the latest book ? – is publishing underway ?
Indeed. I have just had the copy editor’s report and there were only thirty queries and soon dealt with, so I am very happy so far. I am not entirely sure about the way he is suggesting it should be printed – it is very difficult because there are three ‘voices’: letters, memoirs and editorial passages. We shall see.
You will win out. I have absolute faith in you.
It looks a wonderful place!
It was, we spent three wonderful days staying in St Joseph and touring the area.
Eerie replication. What might the creator have felt building this?
Indeed. The creators are just train nuts who love the challenge of building railways for different places. I found them on the web http://www.appliedimagination.biz/#welcome They probably have no idea about any connection with the Thailand-Burma railway.
Whoa – they must live under a rock then!
Well, I may be wrong about this, but the Pacific sector of WWII is not well known to most people.
Love the trains
They were wonderful, we stayed for ages waiting for different ones to reappear. If you want to see more, the website in my reply above is all about them.
Thanks Hilary, I’ll check that out. 🙂
It is stunning and confounding when that kind of recognition happens, and makes me think that metaphor lives not only in literary tomes, but is also something real in ordinary life that occurs and can set our mood for hours or days. Wonderful pix!
I’ve always thought that the poem by Elizabeth Bartlett, Entering Language describes beautifully how metaphor is the source of both learning and language development.
Mothers remember the first word,
rising like a stone in a stream of babbling.
I heard the word dot
from my miniature pointillist
unsteady in his painted cot.
The first snow, and Dots, dots, dots
he cries with the eloquence and tone
of a lay preacher spreading the word
to a deaf world. We are ecstatic
and amazed as Seurat discovering
the phenomenon of vision. In his world
of wooden bars and milky white, dots surround us
for a few days, stars are pin-heads
at night, sugar glacial specs;
we dot and carry one, hear Morse code
in our sleep, wake on the dot of six.
There’s no doubt we are all dotty,
but we are soon into language.
No pause each day for breath;
linked words, sentences gather momentum.
Dots all gone away, he greets the sun.
We welcome him into our world; he picks
out commas, colons, full-stops
to please us, but Os are more exciting.
Oh, we cry to everything, but it palls
At last; the great Os of Advent
turn into yawns. At dawn we hear him
trying out the seven antiphons and groan.
You can buy it on the internet with Elizabeth reading http://www.poetryarchive.org/poet/elizabeth-bartlett (but she has a lisp).
This is a wonderful poem, Hilary. I like Elizabeth Bartlett’s work. And now I’ve just spent a delightful side-tracked while-away at the Poetry Archive!
I’m glad you enjoyed this. I never knew she was American until today.
I am waiting impatiently for a friend’s birthday in order to giver her a copy of A Certain Age, in the certainty she will enjoy it (there is a post in-the-writing on the subject).
Very poignant, I can see how that would throw up conflicting emotions. I love the complexity of the garden railway and the way the trains pop out unexpectedly. What a fascinating place, and some lovely weather by the looks of things.
That was exactly it. I was perplexed at my own reactions as I loved the little trains and the family enjoying them, at yet I was tugged by these other images. We had sun for the whole ten days of our holiday!
What an emotionally mixed day. It would have been such fun to stumble across this discovery but I can see why you were unsettled. It is eerily reminiscent of the Thai-Burma railway.
By the way, I found your comment that the Pacific sector of WWII is not well known as I would say most Australians would know of the railway and also, of course, Kokoda but then that sector of the war was very close for us.
You are absolutely right. Australians are way ahead of the UK or US in remembering and understanding the Pacific War and the plight of Far East POWs and their widows. I have learned more in my research from Australian sites and researchers than from British ones.
Fun pictures…but I can see why they brought up chilling memories of the POW built Thai-Burma RR.
Yes, it was a strange to feel such pleasure at the same time as the memory of such distress.
I grew up in Michigan! So glad you had a great time there 🙂
It was beautiful and the people so welcoming.
Interesting Hilary. I am always amazed by the creativity and devotion of model train buffs. We took our grandkids to a train park in our local city of Medford this summer. There were trains to ride, which was fun with the kids, but there was also an impressive section where model trains chugged through all kinds of terrain, including around Hogwarts Castle. What caught my attention, however, was the replica of a logging operation. My dad worked for a lumber company when I was a child and the logs were brought in from the mountains by rail. My little friends and I would stand next to the track and the engineer would throw out candy to us. Hard to forget that. –Curt
Wow, candy and trains, it every child’s dreams in one moment. It is odd how trains continue to enchant whatever our ages.
I remember my father-in-law at 90 loving model trains. You are right, Hilary, enchanted whatever the age. –Curt
How big were the trains? Lovely photos
I’ve been trying to think of something equivalent, the engines and carriages were maybe about the size of big boxes of tissues (hmm, longer and thinner)…?