By Sarah West

Climbing to the terrace plateau, sun pierces dense morning clouds as I gaze out over expansive vistas. In the stillness, a quiet echoes beyond stone -sculpted walls. Gently sloping canyons of grey caress rising ridges; mist thins revealing lagoons and riverscape. Birds sing their praises to the day. Their sound is different, only in this place. Beams of honey hues pour ‘cross entangled vines of wisteria, springtime’s verandah canopy long since faded.
Through iron gates I step, as enormous doors of walnut open. The footman bids me a welcomed hello, and my romance with the past continues. I promenade along spacious corridors and explore ornate places. Velvet ribbons of green trace each foot step. Ferns and luminous plant life of every kind envelope lantern light sconces. Paired with towering columns of masculine design, feminine embellishments enchant the eyes. Amidst walls of wooden panels, hidden passages and the finest of Italian leather aroma draws me hither. Passing from one threshold into the next, a giant of evergreen is suspended. Adorned with lights of white, ornaments in size larger than life, she towers towards the height of this Renaissance cavern. Ropes secured reach beyond the organ loft, the weight impress the senses. A steady roar rumbles through the home as carols pumped through grand pipes play above the big tree’s star.
Exquisite collections of artifacts and antiquities present new discoveries. I walk in silence as my eyes dance upon new sights including some pastime favorites. Hand cut paper girls dance too, along chairs and tree boughs, nestled between icicles of crystal in the music chamber. In this rose hue room, 12 apostles stand guard; their reflections reside only in the Vatican.
Tapestries, portrayals of virtues illustrated and gothic vestry designs line my walk, making my way towards a favorite scene of admiration. Above me are the works of Sargent and Boldini, elegant brushstrokes I have studied and adore.
Draped hues of red pour forth, a passion for literature drips from each library bookcase and ladder step.
Aurora enraptured in embellished sky, her torch casts Venetian light. Wreaths and trees of evergreen adorned with holly and gold flank a fire of glowing embers. Upon a small, handcrafted table lay a box of glass, encasing a rare treasure. Beneath beveled crystal panes sits George Washington Vanderbilt’s, Charles Dickens First Edition, A Christmas Carol. I explore this treasure from a distance, and am filled with childlike Christmas Magic.
Sarah West serves the Opelika Observer as a contributing columnist, with written works of cultural arts relevance and prose. She is a preservation and conservation advocate, activist and visual artist of American Illustration with a focus on regional narrative painting. She is the founder of the Sarah West Gallery of Fine Art, a center for cultural arts, Smiths Station, Alabama’s premier fine arts destination. She is the appointed official artist to the city of Smiths Station, a Lee County syndicated columnist, the director of her art center’s Cultural Arts Outreach Initiative, which partners with local schools to make the arts accessible to all. She also serves a chief curator to the city of Smiths Station, City Hall Art Galleries. She is a founding member of the Smith Station Historic Commission. She is a member of the Women’s Philanthropy Board-Cary Center, Auburn University College of Human Science. She is an elected member of the Society of Illustrators-NYC. She mentors art students of every age through weekly classes at her studio located in the heart of Smiths Station. To learn more about her work and activism visit,