So David and Faith are travelling this week, and suddenly I started thinking about places I’ve always wanted to visit. As writers, we’re always looking at our ordinary world with an eye toward finding the magic hidden everywhere, but there are places right here on Earth that can rival fantasy worlds for their beauty and otherworldliness. Remember the gorgeous landscapes of New Zealand, that made the Lord of the Rings movies come alive? And that’s not all – so many places all over our beautiful planet verge on the magical. So come with me on a quick trip to some extraordinary places!
When I was a little girl, I had a set of children’s encyclopedias, and one volume was about the wonders of the world. It had pictures of countries from every continent, but my favorite was a shot of the Blue Grotto in Capri, Italy. It’s a sea cave that’s only accessible by boat, and the light from outside causes the water to glow an unearthly blue.
Speaking of water, have you ever seen the Great Blue Hole off the coast of Belize? It’s an underwater sinkhole, about 400 feet deep, and very popular with divers. It’s such an incredible sight from above – a dark, round shadow under the bright blue water. What might it hide, there in the depths?
Travelling in the other direction for a moment…the town of Derweze in Turkmenistan is home to a cavern some call the Door To Hell. In 1971, geologists tapped into a cavern filled with natural gas, but when the ground collapsed under the drilling rig, the men decided the best way to clear the air and keep from poisoning the town was to burn off the gas. The fire is still burning today. The sound of the fire is one of the eeriest sounds I’ve ever heard.
On top of a mountain in Wales, there’s an ancient ruin that utterly captivated me. I visited Llanthony Priory in 1992. We drove up a mountain, going from a highway to a small paved road, then to a rocky path before the trees opened up, revealing the brilliant blue sky and this gorgeous building standing before us. Walking under its arches, I felt as though all the souls who’d once walked its halls were still there, moving quietly about their duties even as I stood on the grass that served as its floor.
The Olympic National Forest is a lush rainforest in the Pacific Northwest United States, and one of the most beautiful places I’ve ever seen. It’s so insanely green! My very first novel was born during a visit to the forest, and while you may never have a chance to read that story, the million shades of green will definitely inspire you to write other stories of your own.
And then, of course, there’s my home, the Lowcountry of South Carolina. We have spooky mansions, gorgeous beaches, and haunting marshes. Live oaks line the roads leading into town, bending low over the pavement as if welcoming a royal visitor to the realm. One of my favorite spots is the ruin of Old Sheldon Church, out near Yemassee. The highway goes right past, but the minute you step past the tree line and approach the brick walls that still stand, peace descends. It’s as if something there is focusing on you, waiting for you to reach out and touch it.
I’ve shared a few places I think are fantasy on earth. Some I’ve seen for myself, and others I can only hope to visit someday. Share yours!