The summer I turned eleven we moved to Oak Tree Cottage on the edge of Ashdown Forest, in East Sussex. My parents chose this place to settle for several reasons, but for me the most important reason was that it was where A.A. Milne wrote Winnie the Pooh, and knowing that Christopher Robin (then about fifty years old) lived about five miles down the road.
Rambling through that fairy-tale countryside (I walked the mile to school, and weekends were spent mostly playing in the woods with friends or taking long solitary walks reciting poetry to myself), I felt more at home than I have ever felt before or since. All the familiar places you love in your favorite children’s story were there to be discovered and explored: Owl’s Tree, and the bridge where Pooh and Piglet played poohsticks, and Kanga’s sandy place, and the marshy place where Eeyore lived, which was carpeted with the most amazing bluebells in the spring. Best of all were the long walks to the Enchanted Place at the top of the forest, where we would picnic and lie on the pine needles and gaze at the sky.
Ashdown Forest was also where W.B. Yeats honeymooned, and there was an unusual Waldorf school I attended through senior year, Michael Hall School, where I fell in love with writing and writers – most of them English.
We lived on the edge of Ashdown Forest till the summer I turned 18, when we sailed to the United States across the Atlantic on the Queen Elizabeth II. I left behind my friends, the boy I loved, the house of my dreams, and my childhood. Still I know this: wherever I go, and whatever happens to me on my way, “in that enchanted place on the top of the Forest a little boy and his Bear will always be playing.”