As I stand overlooking the view of the Hudson Valley, I hear the tinkle of a girl’s laughter. I turn in time to see her riding her trusty horse’s back (dad’s shoulders) up to the steps of Olana. He helps her dismount and she skips up the steps to the front door. To my surprise, she drops into a curtsy as a thank you. Looking at Olana, it’s easy to enter into her imaginary fairy tale filled with castles, princesses and horse-drawn carriages.
I turn back to look at the amazing view of the Catskill Mountains and Hudson River and think how fortunate the owner of the house, Frederic Church, was to have these views. So that there were even more views to appreciate, he created a lake out of the swampy area below the house that, from certain angles, appears heart-shaped. I stand and appreciate all the work he did, and the imagination he had to make it a reality.
According to the 20-minute video that can be viewed, Frederic Church was a renowned New York City landscape artist, who chose to make the Hudson Valley his family’s home. He still worked in New York City, but started to spend more and more time at his new home, designing and building additions and decorating the exterior himself. He created the colors on his own paint palate, and then taught the construction workers how to re-create the colors for use on the brick, wood, slate, ceramic tiles and in the stenciling. He was inspired by the Middle Eastern motifs he saw in his many travels, and those can be seen both inside and outside the home.
The exterior views of the house are as impressive as the natural views of the landscape.
Just below the house is a well maintained garden, with many old-fashioned species of flowers still in residence. As I wander through, I take pictures of the morning glories, closed to the heat of the day, the vibrant orange and yellow daisies, Puffball celosia, a lazy Tiger Swallowtail butterfly sipping on the sweet nectars and try to get pictures of a jittery hummingbird, but he won’t stay still long enough, instead giving me a little buzz for interrupting his attempts at lunch.
Further down the hill from the house are open fields, alive in the yellows, purples and whites of Birdfoot trefoil, Oxeye daisies, Dame’s rockets, Common yarrow, and White campion. I had been wandering the paths of Olana, but instead decided to walk through the fields, and got whiffs of the musty earth underfoot and sweet scents of the wild flowers. It was all I could do not to pick a handful to take home.
I wandered back up the hills, back towards the house, and took a seat on one of the benches overlooking the grounds. Even they had been created out of Church’s imagination and turned into something amazing.
As I enjoyed my view and the warm sun beating down on my head, I allowed my imagination to run wild in my own little fairy tale. After all, if there is any place in the world made for daydreams, this is it!