Living a Soft & Gentle Twenty-Four Hours

Graylyn Estate – The Mews viewed from our balcony.

It was a crazy kind of a week for us here in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, in the foot-hills of the Appalachian Mountains. Actually it was quite normal until water started spirting out of a pipe that the washing machine drains into – when I wasn’t washing any clothes… and the water coming out smelled of sewage. I called the woman we are renting from, who called our daughter and told her that she had booked a room for the three of us at the Graylyn Estates for the night. The next 24 hours were spent in a soft, surreal, pampered haze.

It was arranged that we could have a 12:00 check in so we threw a few (not very appropriate for a 4 1/2 star hotel) clothes into our overnight bag, and drove 12 miles to the Graylyn Hotel and Conference Center owned and operated by Wake Forrest University as a non-profit to provide student scholarships. We entered the entrance of the stately Norman revival-style manor house built in the early 1930’s as the country estate of Boland and Natalia Gray, and were greeted by a butler who warmly welcomed us and directed us to the (out-of-sight) reception desk.

After a flick of a pen for a signature we were escorted to the Mews where another butler carried our bag to our room and informed us that there were unlimited ice cream bars (the really good kind), butterscotch cookies, and hot chocolate in the room next to the Mews reception desk at 3:00. After the butler carried our luggage up to our room, Jim wanted a little nap and I read on the balcony until Sharon arrived (she left work early). Sharon and I decided we were ready for an ice cream bar, and I also wanted to try the hot chocolate because I wondered if and how hot chocolate could be really special. I’ve had lots of different hot chocolates in my days… this hot chocolate made my eyes go big and my knees weaken. It is so good that they won’t give out the recipe and we have since been scheming how we can get another cup without paying for a room.

We decided on an early supper because Jim’s symptoms were acting up due to the stress and rapid changing of plans throughout the day and a quiet meal will usually help him. Across the front and back of the mansion there are sun rooms that were set up for conference break-out rooms. There is also one off the dining hall that is of similar design to the photo above but with tables seating four. We were the first to arrive for dinner and when I asked if we could sit in the sunroom I received a subtle bow and an “Of course, ma’am.” We are not big eaters so I also asked if we could choose from the menu of the Grille Room located on the lower level. Our waiter asked if we were staying the night in the hotel and when I replied yes, he replied “You may eat from any menu you choose, Ma’am.” We choose three appetizers and a main course so we could all try a baked brie with cranberry and walnut chutney, scallops in a blackberry gastrique, crab and asparagus with white truffle hollandaise sauce, and and a delicious ravioli. My mouth is watering as I am remembering every delectable bite.

We slept soundly that night with the door to the balcony ajar, and woke the next morning to the song of an early spring rain and birds singing in the shower. A van was waiting to transport guest to the manor house for breakfast where we were greeted with a bow of the head and “good-morning” from two butlers waiting a discrete distance inside the entrance hall. We had breakfast in the dining room and relished the attentive service that was respectful of our space and conversation along with perfectly prepared and served food. As we were finishing I mentioned to my family that I felt so at home in the surroundings that I had to stop myself from telling the person serving us that I would like another cup of coffee by the fire and expecting that it would be delivered there promptly and graciously.

Because of the rain, we decided to spend time exploring and relaxing in the public rooms that were so inviting that it was easy to image living in this environment of privilege. Jim picked up a Wall Street Journal and found a comfortable chair by a fireplace. Sharon and I (with camera in hand) went exploring.

From the formal, but comfortable, living areas we walked into another sunroom with a very large fireplace but set up for informal play. What caught our eye were wrought iron and glass doors opening up to a balcony over a large room with art deco tile and painting. We were speculating that it must have been an indoor swimming pool. We were the only people in the area and as we were wondering about the area, a butler appeared as if beamed down with the sole mission to help. There is a pool under a cover and there is still some water in it but it hasn’t been used in years. They use the space for conferences and weddings. He suggested we go down the winding staircase to the right and explore the women’s restroom and shower/changing room that has a door leading to the pool area. It has the original 1930’s decor with upgrades to make it functional for today’s visitors.

Yes, I felt like I was living in a hazy dream, soft around the edges. I also became aware of a nagging discomfort underneath that glow of being special, of being waited on, of being privileged. The man who built this home in the early 1930’s bought 87 acers from the R.J. Reynolds estate, of tobacco fame. Gray moved through the ranks to become President of the company and when Mr. Reynolds died he became CEO and Chairman of the Board. I appreciate beauty but become uncomfortable when I think about how some beauty is created through a vast inequality of wealth or exploitation of others.

What a gentle and magical time we had in that 24 hours, cocooned in a make-believe world of wealth and privilege. How easily I slipped into the role of expecting my every need to be met by someone else. Maybe because I do have a life of privilege – although at a lesser degree than the Reynolds or the Grays. Yes I am privileged because I am white in a wealthy nation that still enjoys the freedoms that democracy affords and my husband and I were able to build a nest egg to support us comfortably in our aging years. Taking advantage of our privilege brings me joy but I also carry the burden of awareness that equality and justice just don’t exist for most of the world’s people – even for most of the citizens of the U.S.

Is it possible for us to create a world where all are served and comforted equally? Is it possible for a world where the privileged person washes the feet of the disenfrancised, the marginalized, the poor. Where the privileged finish by saying, “There ma’am, there sir, is there anything else I can provide for you?” – said with respect and humility. With tears in my eyes I have to admit that privilege doesn’t reach in both directions. As I am aging I am working hard to figure out how to live with this reality that brings both joy and deep sadness.

What a wonderful challenge, Bren. To see more on this topic follow this link.

A Perfect Foggy Bottom Marsh

On Monday I decided that Wednesday morning I would go out photographing the fall color in the marshy areas along country roads close to where we live. I slept a little later (7:30) than I had wanted and almost decided not to go but decided I needed to go out even though the sun may be a little higher in the sky than desirable. I needed to go out because I hadn’t gone down early morning dirt roads since Julie, my photography partner, moved away two years ago. I’ve been afraid, I’ve procrastinated, I’ve slept in too late, I’ve decided to have a second cup of coffee, it was too hot, it was too cold. The bottom line, though, is I’ve been afraid to go out alone – and I’ve missed the times of solitude Julie and I shared. I’ve missed the joy of the hunt for the perfect subject with the perfect light, and hopefully the perfect settings on my camera.

It was a beautiful, cool (temp in low 50’s F), end-of-September morning with light fog and no breeze. There isn’t much color in the trees yet, just a few branches here and there, but the earth is definitely telling me that here, close to 45 degree latitude in the northern U.S., the vegetation is preparing for winter’s dormancy.

I was thinking this morning that I live in two residential locations during the year, southern Michigan and southern Florida, that were carved out of swampland. The first Europeans to walk this area of Michigan, mostly surveyors, described it as a mosquito-infested place that was uninhabitable. And the land I live on in Florida was raised up from the Everglades – a very wide (a hundred miles wide), shallow, slow-moving fresh-water river moving over grasslands, around pine, cypress, and Live Oak strands, and through mangroves along the ocean coasts. Southern Florida has so many mosquitos that they have a State Mosquito Commissioner and they have alligators. But these swamps are absolutely beautiful at all times of the year. I search them out and am working on capturing this beauty that I see.

As the sun got higher the fog dissipated, but I had plenty of time to fill my camera disc with the beauty that was feeding my soul. During the summer months photography becomes more difficult when the sun gets high in the sky but between now and early June the sun is riding lower in the southern sky and is soft and mellow.

I had a wonderful time on my first solo outing and plan on doing a couple more before we head south. My time photographing nature filled all my needs that I treasured with Julie, except I really missed her quiet, gentle presence and fun conversation. I also confirmed that I really love my mirrorless Nikon Z fc even though I don’t have a good zoom lens. I took my older Nikon along and used it to take photos at the spot that I took the photos for this post but realized I wasn’t as happy with using the camera and deleted most of the photos I took.

I continued down back country road for over an hour more, capturing color that I’ll be posting for the Lens-Artist Challenge. Stay tuned.

Amazing Lines – Origami

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Happiness Shared

Last year the Naples Botanical Garden had a display of origami sculptures throughout the garden. These were big, and not really sculptures. They were created through the collaboration of Dr. Robert J. Lang, one of the world’s most renowned origami artists, and Kevin Box who used the paper origami objects to make cast aluminum replicas that were then painted.

I loved the birds, so took photos of them on several occasions, including a rare evening visit when they were lit from below but also were catching the last soft warm light of the setting sun.

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Title is Migrating Peace, of the common crane.

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Model folded from a single piece of paper by Dr. Robert J. Lang.

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Gathering Peace

The most amazing part of this exhibit was the display of moldings created from the origami papers that were folded and unfolded.

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Crane Unfolded – Phoenix Rising

Hidden within every folded origami object is a “crease pattern” – a document of history accounting for most of the choices or creases made in creating an origami object.

Each fold leaves a permanent crease in the paper that can only be revealed by deconstructing or unfolding the object.

Kevin Box, from his explanation of this exhibit in the Naples Botanical Garden, 2017

The Daily Post’s photography prompt for this week is lines. I spent a lot of time thinking about it and as I was trying to get my Lightroom data and hard drive images merged in my new computer I saw these photos from last year. Thanks, Cheri, as this gave me the perfect theme for using them in a post.

You can see more of Kevin Box’s work by clicking here¬†or googling Kevin Box Origami.

Morning Glory

 

DSC_0175I’ve traveled around the block enough times to realize that my years seem to be marked by rounding cycles that are similar in many ways but also are different. Maybe like a spiral, moving around to familiar places but on a new plane, providing new joy but also new challenges. I plant morning glories every year, even though I never know if they will grow or bloom. Sometimes they do and sometimes they don’t, because of warmth at critical times, amount of fertilizer, and how often I water.

This year my morning glories were slow to bloom because of a month without rain while we were vacationing along the northern east coast. We returned home in mid-August to weak vines with hundred of buds, and then I watered and we received rain. By the time we were rounding the time to head south for a few weeks, the morning glories exploding with blooms.

 

DSC_0176I am in love with the way the long, narrow white buds unfurl to show the beautiful, clear blue that looks and feels like the finest silk. As late summer rounded the curve into the cool nights of fall, I marveled at the deep purple on the edges and along the curved veins.

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The beautiful blue flowers filled my soul with glory every morning as I sat on my purple porch swing with a cup of hot, creamy coffee between my hands, the steam curving up around my face.

Most years JB and I “discuss” when to pull the morning glories, with me negotiating to leave them in the ground until the morning we leave. This year it was JB who suggested we leave them until we returned in November. I thanked him with a smile and a kiss.

This week Ben Huberman at WordPress’s The Daily Post moved outside his comfort zone of straight lines and angles to challenge us to share our interpretation of “rounded.” I love curves, roundness. I have been thinking about the curves and round-about course of my life. I looked through many photographs containing curves because my eye is drawn to the grace they portray. But today I chose to put forth the simple but beautiful roundness of the morning glory. I am needing simple pleasures these days.