Monday, March 31, 2008

the labyrinth

A week after our return from Gatlinburg I think it's time to wrap up the review! As I think you can tell we had a fabulous time and are hooked on the Buckhorn Inn. We can't wait to go back and enjoy everything about it, as well as have more time to explore and enjoy the mountains.
I'll close with a reflection on the labyrinth. The "modern" labyrinth (13th century, Chartres Cathedral) offers the opportunity to journey through the pattern (see black and white figure) as a spiritual or meditative exercise. There is one way from the outside to the center, and the same path is retraced from the center out. Most labyrinths that I have encountered are one dimensional, with the pattern printed on canvas, inlaid in the floor or ground, or outlined with gravel. The Buckhorn labyrinth is the first I have experienced that has dimension: the pattern is made using rocks anchored in the ground with edges protruding up.

I walked the labyrinth each morning that we were there (and on the last day had the joy of walking it while it snowed!). Without overdosing you with spiritual details, I'll share one particular and very meaningful part of my second-day walk. When I got to the center of the labyrinth I paused to look out across the path I had journeyed to that point, and was astounded by what I saw. Understand that I am a person of metaphor--I see representation in many things, and this was no different. As I looked at the circle of stones that form the path of the labyrinth, all the stones faced me. They were, to me, the people in my life, past and present. They represented love and support without exception and without reservation. They were my steadfast and unwavering cheering section, present and accounted for to hold me up and keep me strong. It was a profound moment of appreciation and acceptance, and the picture I took from the center (shown here) will be printed out and framed to remind me of its significance.

As I retraced my steps from the center back to the beginning of the labyrinth I took note of the different stones that formed the path. Some had jagged edges, others were more smooth--they all were of varying shapes and sizes. Some had lost the support of their foundation and had toppled. Some were grey, others brown, still others were white mottled with color or a combination of color. Each was unique and offered something different to the complexion of the whole. They were, as people are, in varying stages of wholeness: some in need of attention, others able to stand strong. As I made my way along the path I was reminded that as we encounter each other in life we offer what we can to each other. Sometime we need the support, at other times we offer support to others. In the end, we all stand together to form a circle of love and affirmation to the souls whose paths we cross and whose lives touch ours.

Each labyrinth walk holds its own revelation and presents its own gift. On that particular walk I began to heal and connected to a place inside me that had been shut off. In cold and snow, with hands shoved in pockets and wind blowing around me, I felt as warm as I ever could.

Bless you all for being part of my circle.

Saturday, March 29, 2008

a perfect day

Our first full day in Gatlinburg was glorious. The weather couldn't have been better--clear blue skies, mid-sixties with a breeze, and pristine rivers running through the mountains. We started our day with the nature trail at the Inn, with a stop along the way to walk the labyrinth and admire the plantings in the nearby garden.

Further on down the trail is the pond, home to the mute swans Pen [sic] and Teller, a gift from the inn co-owner to her husband. They apparently love visitors, because they swam right to us and kept us company while we were there. At the base of the trail was a bridge that connected to a collection of artisan shops and galleries, Turtle Hollow. We detoured to visit the shops, which had just opened, and found some wonderful items, including a collection of individual wind chimes that captured Ken's interest (and one of which he received as an anniversary present!). Back on the trail we headed uphill on a steep incline, and determined that I was not quite up to the task of taking on a hike in the mountains, something we thought we would do. Building stamina for the next visit is on my to do list!
Instead of hiking we drove into the Greenbrier section of the Great Smokey Mountains National Park, which runs along the Little Pigeon River. I couldn't take my eyes off the crystal clear water tumbling over rocks and boulders, but almost equal in the "wow" department were the abundance of wild rhododendron. I think I wore Ken out with my exclamations: "Look at all this rhododendron! We have to come back when it's in bloom!!!"

After several hours of exploring Greenbrier and taking lots of pictures our hunger led us back to civilization. Following the map that is dedicated to the arts community we found a great cafe called The Wind Walker. Everything is homemade, from bread, to soup to desserts. We sat outside and listened to a duo who sang and played guitar and banjo. Great mountain music and wonderful food. We then ventured through some shops before heading back to the inn.

The Inn was full for dinner, so we enjoyed a happy hour on the side porch before setting out to eat at a local restaurant that proved to be a disappointment. That let-down notwithstanding, it was a fabulous day, and full of great memories.
Enjoy the photos--more tomorrow!

Friday, March 28, 2008

back to the Buckhorn...

The Buckhorn Inn is a fabulous place. Set on a ridge in the rolling foothills of the Smokey Mountains in east Tennessee, it offers spectacular views of the mountains (see photo!). Our room had one such view, pictured here. What a treat it was to wake up to that scene! The grounds of the Inn cover 17 acres, and include a pond (home to two swans), a one+ mile walking trail, a labyrinth, and lovely landscaping.

The Inn itself offers an incredible breakfast, as well as dinner for an additional cost. After our first meal Friday evening we were eager to repeat the experience. The food was fabulous! In addition to breakfast guests at the Inn also have the use of a large sitting room with coffee, tea, sodas, fruit and baked goods available throughout the day (I especially enjoyed the chocolate chip brownies!). Off the sitting room is a covered deck that was the perfect location for happy hour. The dining area also features a large fireplace in front of which we enjoyed conversation with some other guests, as well as a place to enjoy some simple quiet and relaxation. The front porch, facing the mountain view, is filled with rocking chairs, and guests regularly gathered there before dinner.

Among the details we enjoyed most were the birds that flocked to the feeders while we ate our breakfast, visible from our seats at tables by the windows. I was also thrilled to have access to the labyrinth, which I walked each day that we were there.

More details will follow. I don't want to overload you!

Thursday, March 27, 2008

today

It is quiet here this morning. Too quiet. Dooley isn't barking at the window as the neighborhood walkers pass, or sassing me for his breakfast. He's not scratching at the carpet in a futile attempt to create a nest in which to lie a few feet away from my chair. He isn't sighing as he settles into position to keep me company. He won't greet me when I get out of the shower, or jump into my lap when I am in my reading chair. Perhaps worst of all is that he won't greet me when I come home. He won't do anything anymore. It's unbearable.

I am trying to focus on things that need to get done, appreciate the beautiful spring day outside my window, and tend to Juliet and Rigel. But I am confronted by reminders of Dooley everywhere: his dish, his food, the places where he liked to curl up for a nap... even the fact that I can now throw my used kleenex into the wastebasket without worrying about him snatching it out (he couldn't resist used kleenex). It will take time for these reminders to lose their edge, and there is some comfort in knowing that that day will come. But today I ache and the tears flow. Today I feel empty.

I know the intensity of this loss will subside, and I am grateful for that knowledge. I have survived other losses, and will survive this one. All in due time. Just not today.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

farewell, good buddy

We lost our beloved Dooley tonight. He seemed fine this morning, but this afternoon he was a bit sluggish. As the day wore on his breathing became labored, his movements slowed considerably, and he began to cough up blood with some regularity. He finally lay down on the floor, and as I lay beside him to stroke him and offer him comfort, he took his last breaths.

My heart is numb with grief, and I know the nights will be difficult without him since he spent most nights under the covers snuggled against me. I miss the sound of his bark when there is activity outside, and the sound of his sigh when he would lie down near wherever I was. He was my companion, my cuddlebug, my grumpy one, my delight.

I am thankful that his end was not prolonged, and that I was with him. But oh, how I will miss him for a very long time.

Monday, March 24, 2008

happy anniversary to us!

This is a quick post in between things. We've just returned home from an anniversary/mini-honeymoon weekend away in Gatlinburg. I had meant to post before we left to let you know we would be gone, but got squeezed for time as we were getting ready to depart. I will post this one picture today, taken this morning at breakfast. The flowers are from Ken (he's so good about that), and they are beautiful.
We stayed at The Buckhorn Inn, an absolutely marvelous place that had been recommended some time ago by friends as a favorite getaway of theirs. I will tell more about it, and the weekend, in subsequent days, but wanted to "break the silence," as it were, on this blog. Thanks to the Early Birds for the wedding gift of a gift certificate that made this trip possible. Big hugs to you all!

More tomorrow!

Sunday, March 16, 2008

traditions

Mom is in town for a few days, and we had the happy coincidence while she is here of being invited to one of last night's shows at the Grand Ole Opry. I hadn't been in years, and neither Ken or Mom had ever been. It turned out to be a great night to be there, with a fabulous lineup: Vince Gill, Carrie Underwood, Little Big Town, Hal Ketchum and new country sensation group Lady Antebellum. There were also the usual appearances from more legendary artists: Jean Shepherd, Jeanie Sealy, The Whites, and a handful of others I can't recall. We also lucked out with a surprise visit from Randy Travis, who acknowledged that he hadn't been on the Opry stage in about six years. His presence there was to invite Carrie Underwood to become the latest member of the Opry, so it was a special night for that reason as well.

The music was great, as was the entertaining chatter. Since the Opry is a live radio show, the stage set up is transparent to the audience, and there is a casual atmosphere. I found myself enjoying watching the stage musicians and vocalists who back up the performers. It is no small talent to accompany the range of musical styles that perform on the Opry stage, and these (mostly) men do so with only occasional recognition. They are an aging group, and I became aware of the rare opportunity I was witnessing. No other musical genre stages this type of gathering every week, and offers it to fans of that genre to witness and enjoy. What a gift we are given! It's no wonder that the world of country music feels so much like a family, and that performers are so accessible to fans.

The tradition of the Grand Ole Opry is truly a unique expression not only of music, but of heart. No wonder it speaks to so many.

Friday, March 07, 2008

due diligence

Now that I have time at home I am applying diligence to some long neglected "tidying up." Inspired by the need to get taxes done (translation: locate supporting documents in that effort) and by a visit from my mother next week (i.e. clear the guest room of the items that have accumulated there), I have been in something of an attack mode. Taxes were the first priority (no reflection on my mother--the guest room clutter can always be "relocated," as it has typically been handled in the past), and every stack of paper I could find has been gone through and dispatched into three piles: trash, tax-related, or subject to filing. It's amazing how much of that could be thrown away. (Why do we keep such things in the first place?)

Once the tax data was liberated and its various hiding places dispatched it was time to focus on the guest room. I am pleased to say that four boxes and one bag of "stuff" have now been gone through and sorted or pitched. What a good feeling! I still need to determine what to do with the remains of that effort, as well as the things that are still on top of the bed, but this is definite progress. Categories are clear: church-related resources (and some seminary notebooks); art and scrapping supplies; mementos; business documents; and Christmas paraphernalia. There's a little bit of room in a hall closet to store some things, probably the church stuff, and there is still some "reallocation" of existing storage spaces that could be managed, but adequate storage continues to be a challenge here. I will persevere.

After some pleasant, sunny days here cold and rain have returned, so my mission continues. Clean up! It is my goal that the guest room appear as it does in the picture here (except that things are now stored under the bed), and I am confident that it will, with as little relocation as possible.
On with the task at hand!

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