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April cover

Out of this World

by Patricia Sharpe
In a rain forest in Mexico lies a wilderness fantasy called Las Pozas, where concrete flowers bloom in profusion, unfinished stairways spiral into the treetops, and waterfalls fill secret pools -- All a day's drive from the Texas border.
THE SUN WAS PLAYING CAT AND MOUSE with me. It had risen several hours earlier in the town where I was staying, but here -- where the canopy of rain forest trees and vines blocked the view to the east -- it had yet to make its formal appearance. Silvery shadows, gradually lightening, fell across the trail. Finally, as the crimson disk peeped over the trees and the birds began to cry, the scene came into focus. At the same time, certain other, intangible things went out of focus, and as I reached the entrance to Las Pozas, the logical, the predictable, and the commonplace evaporated altogether.

I stood and stared at one of the strangest places I have ever been -- the remnants of a surrealistic Shangri-la, an absurdist's playscape in concrete populated by fantastical, unfinished buildings, towers, columns topped with gigantic flowers, Gothic arches, gates, pavilions, and railless stairways that spiraled upward only to end abruptly in midair. Red and purple bougainvillea shimmered in the changing light and a transparent-winged dragonfly helicoptered silently across the forest floor. I began to walk, not with any destination in mind but wherever the deities that ruled this singular place might take me. As the flagstone path led steadily upward, I passed the immense bulbous column next to what is known as the House Destined to Be a Cinema and walked through the circular gateway called the Princess' Ring. I continued past the seven rearing concrete snakes lining the Serpent Walk, went under the sinuous Toadstool Platform (half expecting to see a caterpillar on top smoking a hookah), and ended up at a bank of small, lichen-encrusted concrete cornucopias arranged in rows like so many alfresco showerheads. The longer I stayed, the more the outside world faded away and I became lost in the present.


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