Tuesday, April 12, 2016

The Enchanted Woods at Winterthur: Painting with Nostalgia

The Enchanted Woods, oil, 5"x7"
I often find myself more interested in the story behind a painting than the painting itself. When asked about a piece, I tend to launch into an account of the people and places in the image, rather than the specific techniques involved. I love to capture beauty in paint, but I also love to capture the spirit or feeling of that particular moment! So, let me tell you about the story behind this painting of the Enchanted Woods at Winterthur in Wilmington, Delaware.

I’ve only been to Winterthur twice but both visits occurred during pivotal points in my life. Once as I was preparing to leave Delaware for good (or so I thought) and once right after moving back to Delaware (for good – or so I think!). While the entire estate is gorgeous, no one will be surprised that, of course, my favorite hidden gem was the Enchanted Woods. Obviously I like the area designed for children (and the young at heart!) the best.

The first time I went there was the summer after graduating from college, right before moving to Hawaii (I know – Delaware to Hawaii is quite a change, right?!). My college boyfriend and I had already broken up right after graduation, but somehow he ended up in Delaware for a week in July. Ahh, prolonging the agony of a breakup. We all do it, or at least, those of us who don’t have an iron will. But I digress. I was frantically trying to come up with things to do that would entertain my now ex-boyfriend from San Diego and coming up rather short of exotic exciting things to do in, erm, Delaware. My step-mom suggested Winterthur, which I’d never even heard of before, but decided it was worth a shot. Paul and I somehow managed to find it (my sense of direction is, at best, terrible) and wandered around until we stumbled upon the Enchanted Woods. Enchanting it was indeed! I remember skipping hand in hand over a cute little bridge, walking in circles over the faerie ring, and spying a cute little thatched building. That afternoon perfectly captured the bittersweet emotions of drifting away from your first love and leaving home for the unknown future.

Me on the bridge
Faerie Ring

11 years passed in a flurry of world travel, adventure, and lastly, a deep depression caused by chronic migraine. At the behest of my parents, I found myself moving back to Delaware. Never in a million years would I have thought that I’d come back to my hometown, but it turned out to be one of the best decisions that I’ve made in my adult life. I was leaving St. Louis behind after 4 long years, and I wasn’t sure of my decision. My brain was riddled with migraine pain, I was moving in with my parents, and I had no job. Things weren’t looking super bright at the time. Happily, my dearest and closest friend in St. Louis, Lizzie, volunteered to make the 17 hour drive with me and to stay for a few days. It may seem silly, but having my favorite part of St. Louis with me for the transition made it so much more bearable! Of course, upon our arrival, I was determined to show my latest guest the unknown delights of Delaware! And still, I floundered until my step-mom reminded me of Winterthur for the second time. And so I returned to the Enchanted Woods, faced yet again with saying goodbye to one of the people closest to my heart while saying hello to upcoming untold adventures.

Lizzie in the Enchanted Woods

While I don’t think this one small painting can capture the magic of those two days, or the profound sense of nostalgia that it inspires in me, I hope that it conjures up in my viewer their own memories of this place if they have any, or hints at the magic that lays in wait in what surely is an enchanted wood. 

An Enchanted Pathway


  1. One of my favorite paintings in one of my favorite places. You nailed it.
    Love this blog!

    1. Thanks so much! Glad you enjoyed - it's definitely one of my fav places too!! :) DE has so many great parks and gardens!