Monday, March 1, 2010

All in a Golden Afternoon...

I’m Late… Le Crâne du lapin blanc (inspired by Lewis Carroll’s 1865 novel, Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland) – Vintage hardcover copy of Alice in Wonderland & Through the Looking-Glass; genuine rabbit skull; antique pocket watch parts; antique hat pins; antique nineteenth-century pocket watch chain; gold-leafed pewter heart; handmade miniature antique kid gloves; handmade miniature fan with tassel; art nouveau patterned ribbon; vintage Baccarat crystal perfume bottle; tiny gold key; altered art pieces—invitation from the Queen of Hearts, Queen of Hearts playing card, Ace of Spades playing card 

The English countryside summer afternoon, heat, dragonflies buzz on prismatic wings, living darning needles skimming the tranquil, mirror-like surface of brackish ponds, towering oaks standing in sun-mottled shadow, clouds of pollen and gnats, infinite silences, time stands still—just the sort of afternoon that sent drowsy Alice dreaming. Tall reeds converse in whispers by the riverside, their roots extending down into damp soil, crisscrossing past and along worm tunnels, pressing ever deeper until they burst through the ceiling of an improbable hallway, doors to the right, doors to the left, paneling and frames warped and snapped, brass knobs corroded. A small three-legged glass table lies shattered, a tiny golden key fallen, cast aside. And what’s this? A bottle labeled “Drink Me” by some unknown hand, its contents a nauseatingly intense Pre-Raphaelite mauve. Doors? A glass table and bottle? One tiny golden key? But how can this be so far underground?

Wonderland.

The rabbit hole has long since caved in, the pool of tears evaporated, leaving nothing in evidence but crystals of salt. Moving deeper, fungi proliferate, mushrooms of variegated colours sprout, some bright, some muted—on which did a large caterpillar smoke his hookah lethargically stopping only now and then to pose psychologically probing questions? Broken crockery is strewn about, an outsized peppermill tossed casually in the scrub. White roses grow in abandon, untended, their heady scent perfuming the air, their stiletto thorns lethal, protecting secrets to be unearthed another day. Right now, attention is focused upon a heap of cobbles, of moldy thatching, of smashed windowpanes and chalky chimney bricks. A ruined cucumber frame is swallowed by unmown grass. All this is what remains of a once neat little house, its address plate lying amongst a plethora of pebbles introducing in tarnished engraving its past owner, “W. Rabbit.”

What to uncover here?

A small skull. Yes, of the Oryctolagus cuniculus, from the Family Leporidae—the common European rabbit and judging from the tatters of fur clinging, white. A Victorian watch chain, bronze and ornate, juts from what was formerly the pocket of a finely tailored waistcoat, now nothing more than specks of rotted silk. Scattered are pocket watch pieces—unwound mainsprings, bent hands, twisted cogs and gears. Look, a pair of miniature kid gloves—white skin now brown with age—and a fan of William Morris print.

Auxiliary scavenging reveals two antique playing cards, the Ace of Spades, the Queen of Hearts, and a well-preserved invitation, with Royal Seal no less, for a long abandoned game of croquet—the flamingoes taken flight, the hedgehogs lost in the underbrush.

But time is fleeting, dusk approaches. Another expedition planned.

Each article retrieved carefully, cleaned and catalogued, and displayed appropriately enough within a copy of the very book that first detailed this miraculous destination so far beneath the earth’s mantle; to read in its pages the somnolent magic of one little girl’s last summer as a child.

Thus grew the tale of Wonderland:
Thus slowly, one by one,
Its quaint events were hammered out
And now the tale is done…