Day 13: A Room at the Inn

I grew up in Wise, Virginia, a small mountain community on the western edge of the state. In those days our town was so remote we had only one red light, no movie theaters and no fast food restaurants at all, unless you count our locally owned Dipsy Doodle Drive-In (which happened to have the very best banana milkshakes ever).

What we did have was The Inn, a majestic hotel built in 1910 that anchored Main Street and gave an air of sophistication and a bit of liveliness to our little world. In addition to guest rooms, The Inn featured a large dining room, a cafe called the Coffee Cup, and a tavern and grill called the Tap Room. I still remember what a thrill it was the nights Daddy took us all there for dinner; The Tap Room was dark, romantic, and smelled of pepper-spiced steak.

I also remember roaming the halls and back stairways of The Inn, Harriet the Spy-style, when my mother sent me to play with a little girl who came there in the summer to visit her grandmother. My friend, Suzann, reminds me the grandmother lived in the Penthouse of the Inn, something about which I have only a vague recollection. What I do remember, however, is how grand and mysterious it all seemed–and how terrified I was that we would get caught.

Sadly, in the 90s The Inn began to fall into disrepair and closed as the area’s economy, based largely on the coal industry, began to decline. It was heartbreaking to watch. Paint peeled from every surface; the steps leading to the grand front porch were so brittle and broken they were roped off with caution tape.

The Inn, circa 2006
The Inn, circa 2006

We heard rumors from time to time of investors interested in saving the old hotel. But year after year, trip after trip to enjoy the Wise Fall Fling with my wonderful Wise Women, there never seemed to be any action.

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And then.

And then last week I see a photo roll past on my Facebook wall. It catches my eye, and so I click.

Wow. Wow. Wow!

 

The Inn at Wise
The Inn at Wise

 

There it is, The Inn at Wise, fully restored and open again for business. The 45,000 square foot facility features 48 guest rooms, the Colonial Restaurant, the Corner Diner, and the Pub & Tap Room. (I’m especially happy about that.)

 

Main Street, Wise, from the second floor balcony of The Inn
Main Street, Wise, from the second floor balcony of The Inn

 

I am overjoyed! I am also so grateful to the people who worked so hard to make this happen. It’s an incredible blessing for our little town, and I can’t wait to make a reservation!

 

A grand thanks to my friends Tim and Angel Cox for allowing me to use their photos of The Inn. The pair have long been a treasure to all of us who love those Southwest Virginia mountains and the people who live there, for no one has done more to document the rare beauty of that part of the world than Tim and Angel. See more of their work here.

30 Days of Joy

 

 

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22. Happy May Day!

The next part of The Eagle Story is coming right up. (To catch up, there’s Part I, in which—just last week—the Eagle nest fell, and Part II, in which I go back to the beginning of the story, the 2009 babies. Did they ever fly? Did they survive? Then what happened? More to come.)

In the meantime, please allow me to post this in honor of May Day:

doorstep in downtown Columbia

As young girls growing up together in the mountains of Southwest Virginia, my friend Suzann and I welcomed this sweetest of months with our version of the May Day tradition. We’d gather little bouquets of flowers, place them on a neighbor’s doorstep, then ring the bell and flee—hiding just out of view as the door opened and the “delighted” commenced.

It was a simple, sweet celebration of this official* first day of summer.

Happy May Day to you!

30 Days of Grace II

*Summer is the swiftest of seasons, don’t you agree? How much nicer it is to consider May 1st summer’s beginning, thus positioning the solstice nearer the halfway mark. A longer summer season. Yea!

Personal commandment #1: Be me.

Do you believe, as I do, that a wonderful gift of age is the ability to embrace—and celebrate—the things that make us different? It’s something that’s on my mind as I watch my own daughter, now 19, move beyond that overwhelming teenage need to blend and belong. She is a little more Eliza each time she comes home from college.

I think back to a gathering of my lifelong friends, the Wise Women, when we met last Spring at Primland. There was a moment late Saturday night when I looked around the room and into those familiar faces and I thought: How I love these women. How I admire them. How surprised I am we are here, all these years later, such an eclectic group.

Amy, Julie, Lisa, Suzann, Vickie, Cathy, Sharon

You see, we seven have been friends for 50 years. We share a unique history, growing up together in the 60s and 70s in the rugged mountains of Southwest Virginia, remote, isolated even. It was quite a time.

We were quite a group.

You might expect that we Wise Women would, today, have a great deal in common. And we do. Time together reconnects those links and offers a powerful, centering force. But we have also grown into ourselves, each of us, and have become a rather diverse collection. These annual gatherings are a celebration of those differences; they are the moments in which I feel the most transparent, loved not in spite of but because of the ways I have Become Cathy in my South Carolina life.

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Be Gretchen is the first commandment author Gretchen Rubin wrote for herself in her year-long quest for greater happiness. I found it to be such a profound concept I, too, put it at the top of my list. In doing so, I vowed to let go of some long-held (and constantly nagging) intentions in exchange for an honoring of those abilities and interests that come to me more naturally.

What a wildly liberating thought. How wonderful to release the burden of eternal expectation and to instead, simply acknowledge what is.

I will get organized; clean off my desk. I will launch a thousand good ideas into the world.

I will learn to love to run, dammit! I will stretch and strengthen with Pilates.

I will start less and finish more. I will have a little bit of everything, thank you.

When it comes to our Wise Women weekends—making reservations, planning meals, coordinating travel—I am not the friend tasked with “details,” you can be sure. But there’s no doubt I will drive up in a car loaded down with bag after bag of unsanctioned snacks, several knitting projects, a sketchbook or two, a stack of magazines, the last 10 books I’ve loved, a ridiculous assortment of outfits. And shoes. Always way too many shoes.

After all. How can a girl possibly know on Thursday what she is going to feel like wearing on Sunday?

Actually, we all take too many shoes. (We counted.)