Saturday, July 19, 2014

A Tour of Friends

I hardly know how to begin describing the past week. Right now, it's Saturday evening and I'm back home in Oriental. After leaving West Virginia and all that family fun, I traveled south. First I stopped to meet a good friend, a fellow blogger, Sandra of Thistle Cove Farm. (You must click over, if to see the header photo alone! What a stunner!) We'd never seen each other face-to-face before.
I've seen some beautiful places in my time: my brother's blueberry farm, the Berkshires, the Alps, Venice, and Oriental, of course. But I think perhaps Sandra lives in the most beautiful spot on earth. Her valley in Virginia swept our hearts away.
She treated us to lemonade, a fabulous lemonade made without short-cuts, of good ole lemons and sugar. Go check out her recipe that uses a blender, a hat, and a syrup.
And that short bread delicacy there was very nice. It involved butter, brown sugar, flour and vanilla and I'm not sure what else. Yummy.
We met her doggies. Look at that sweet face. She was longing for my short bread, but I held her off! Sadie is a Rhodesian Ridgeback. Isn't that utterly cool!?
And then there's this fellow, Sam Spade. I fell in love with his sweet face. Oh my, how could anyone resist?
Sandra's historic home and farm are for sale. I say this because it's such a treasure, and we want the right person to own it, someone whose heart will skip a beat when they walk in the front entrance and smell that Old House Smell that clearly indicates pre-1850 :) Someone whose eyes will water with delight when they gaze each day over the valley. Someone whose soul longs for peace and beauty. Sandra probably mostly wants someone who will just BUY it :)
 We met her curly horses and said hello with carrots.
I was sad to leave, but we had "miles to go before we sleep," as Mr. Frost once said. Good-bye, valley!
I wasn't sure how far I had to drive, exactly. We dashed down through rural Virginia into rural Tennessee, following rather vague directions to a place I'd never been. I was meeting a college friend I'd not seen in 29 years, Ruth.
Ruth is one of those wonderful girls with a cheerful, fun personality, stable inside herself, who hasn't really changed much in all these years. We stayed three nights at Fairhaven Ministries, a quiet place in the deep woods of eastern Tennessee. No cell service. No internet, at all. It was lovely! Julia and I arrived before Ruth, in the dark on Sunday night. We hunted for the road I thought it was on, slowing down on the winding mountain turns, peering at signs. I won't explain the near miracle that occurred in order for us to find our destination. We turned onto a narrow very-winding path, uphill, into deeper darkness. At last, twinkles of lights appears among the trees. A sign for Fairhaven appeared on the left, and Julia and I went on a hunt for any information that could tell us where to find our cottage in the total darkness. We met no people, but at last we found a map with our Ruth's name on it. We found our little home among the forest. Ruth and I stayed up late into the night talking and reminiscing, laughing and chortling, digging into our fuzzy brains, completing each other's memory gaps. I must say, I really like this idea of reconnecting with old friends!
Our cottage sleeps six people and has a loft.
Plenty of relaxing seating on the broad porch
 The main lodge:
We left the peace of Fairhaven on Wednesday morning and drove to Chattanooga to see Philip. He made pizza for lunch.
 We strolled around Chattanooga, an activity Julia never wearies of. She adores an urban life.
I include this photo of the house he rents with his old college friends, because we'll want to remember it twenty years from now.
He took us on a tour of his workplace, Southtree. It's a cool business in an old-brick building with younger-than-thirty employees. Very creative.

There's a lot to love about Chattanooga. Philip seems very happy there, and he's found a good niche for himself.
That evening we enjoyed dinner with some precious old friends. I failed to mention that Ruth was a fellow music major in college. So was this dear girl, Gretchen.
 Julia and I stayed overnight with her parents because Gretchen's house is being renovated. Her daddy was our voice teacher and chorale director, mentor, friend, fellow-conspirator-on-choir-tour, and general all-around fabulous human. When you're a musician, there is almost no greater joy than making music with your musical friends. When you do it every day, for years, without the pressure of making money but just because you love it ... well, it doesn't get much better. We had so much fun.
 We all owe him such a debt of gratitude, but he'd tell you he enjoyed every minute. And his adorable wife played the piano that evening while Gretchen and I sang together again. Oh! To go back and enjoy those days again! Well, to do it with the wisdom we now have. That would be perfect.
 The next day Julia and I had breakfast with Philip. We visited the Chattanooga Choo-Choo and rode the trolley for the first time.
 She was delighted to find a new pair of mile-high shoes on sale for $6. She's taller than me now.
Chattanooga has some wonderful downtown delights. Julia liked this quote and asked for its picture.
 The domed ceiling of the Choo-Choo hotel lobby is worth seeing also, and their ballroom-sized bathrooms.

Many quirky oddities dot the urban landscape on both sides of the river in Chattanooga. We enjoyed these brick adornments on the sidewalks.
Julia found a boat, of course.
We hurried on to North Carolina and found more friends at Ridgehaven, and stayed the night there also with our friends, Tom and Judy, but I forgot to get their photo, I'm sorry to say. By that time I was like a horse headed for the barn at dinnertime, and eager to drive the long road home. When we entered North Carolina on hwy. 64 from Tennessee, a little sign greeted us. "Manteo, 563 miles." Yes, that's how long our state is.
Home again -- what lovely words! What a perfect trip! Visiting friends old and new, staying in a series of strange beds, meeting deadlines and hunting unfamiliar places -- all these things are unpleasant to Adam, and he doesn't do these kinds of long trips. But I enjoyed it and would do it again! Many thanks to all my friends who helped make this a journey to remember.


  1. Wow, you just visited some very beautiful places. And everyone looks so friendly and nice. Your heart must be full from it all. Welcome home.

  2. Wow! What a beautiful, friend-filed post here! It's obvious y'all got blessed --- I can feel it through your words and photos. Oh, the goodness of the Lord, who provides all this wonderfulness!

  3. What a lovely trip! Fairhaven is absolutely up my alley. I would love to visit there. And I smiled at Julia's new shoes. I had a pair like that when I was 20, but in bright yellow. No way could I wear a heel now, let alone one so high. Sigh.

  4. Awesome trip! Awesome friends! I adore the brick piano. ;)
    What does Philip do at Southtree? (I'm sure you've mentioned it before. Sorry!)
    Glad you had a great trip and made it safely back to your harbor. :)

  5. What a great trip you had! How wonderful that you were able to meet Sandra and see her beautiful place.

    Enjoy being back home with your sweet Adam and in your dear little town.


  6. What an amazing place!!! I stupidly, didn't even realise that Chattanooga was a real place- I know the song very well of course, having sung it and played arrangements for recorder ensemble since I as 9! I know exactly what you mean about music and musical friends and by some amazing coincidence, last night, I went and played at the retirement concert of my old high school/college music teacher who was retiring after 34 years at the school. There were pupils from all 34 years there, having travelled from all over the UK and abroad and there was SUCH affection for him. It was a wonderful occasion. I saw so many teachers and people that I cared about including my old flute teacher before I left school who I haven't seen for about 12 years!!! It was wonderful. x

  7. Our paths could almost have crossed! I just got back to Texas after being in East Tennessee, where my siblings and I were cleaning out my mom's house. I hope Tom and Judy were well:)

  8. Sounds like a wonderful trip. And it was nice to see a picture of Sandra at Thistle Cove Farm. She does have a beautiful place. Your time at the retreat sounded very relaxing. Love to be cut off from technology for a little while.


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