“You’re a resolution,” I said.
“Oh, I am? Is that how I got you to come here so easily?”
Actually, I mean to make this trip every year, but I never do. Somehow the time rolls by, tumbling faster and faster, until the year is worn down to a little nub of a thing. Sometimes it passes me by in a blur. Other times I’m caught up in the tumult, whirling head over heals in the dust. In the end, it all amounts to the same thing: I have not been the master of my own destiny.
Too much? Okay, the less melodramatic version: I have not used my time in the best possible way.
In January, I made a resolution to spend time with the special people in my life who I rarely see. At least once a month, I will make the effort to reach out and connect in person. February’s
victim target special person was Vicki, who is one of my best friends and who also happens to live almost 6 hours away. I love visiting Vicki and her husband Tony, but that distance means it’s something that has to be planned. I think about it, and I say things like, “I need to come see you soon!” But I don’t do it. So this time I said (okay, texted), “When would it be convenient to visit in February?”
I know! That was so, so difficult and traumatic. It’s no wonder I hadn’t gotten out there in so long, is it? I mean, the effort of that text took so much out of me – I had to call out sick the next day.
You met Vicki at the apple orchard this past fall. She’s nice. You like her. We’ve known each other for over 10 years, since we managed together at Zany Brainy. She used to live in Richmond, but moved to Chilhowie, VA with her husband soon after Zany Brainy went out of business. This is Chilhowie:
I took that at the end of our Saturday adventure, when the sky was totally overcast and grey, but you can see what kind of area this is. Some statistics: the town of Chilhowie is only 2.6 square miles, population 1,781 (2010 census). And my friends are two of the 1,781. I am so special.
No. Special in a good way.
If you picture the state of Virginia as the side view of a foot, I live at the upper back part of the ankle, and Vicki lives at the joint of the big toe. (I know, it’s a great analogy. Like I said: special.) It’s hilly where I live, but not so much that you really notice it – or at least I don’t pay much attention to it. But Vicki and Tony truly live in the mountains. I guess they’re kind of on the mountain.
It’s a long drive from the ankle to the toe, and I wanted to maximize the time I had to visit, so I left work a little early on Friday night and made the trip then. I just stopped for gas and fast food, and at the Cracker Barrel because I figure their bathrooms will be mostly clean. I left work at 4:15 and got to Vicki’s a little after 10pm, so that’s not too bad. That first night was like an old lady slumber party. We were “so tired”, and still we ended up talking until past 3am, when, to be honest, I pretty much passed out from exhaustion.
The Cracker Barrel was so incredibly busy! I used to work at a Cracker Barrel, but I forgot what it can be like. I counted 139 cars in the parking lot. 139! Yes, I drove around and counted them just for you. You’re welcome.
We had already decided that we would drive into the mountains on Saturday to take pictures. Even though it was supposed to snow all day Sunday, Saturday started out bright and sunny. There were so many pretty things to look at, and mountain-life features that were novel and interesting to me. For example, there seemed to be Christmas tree farms on every available hillside. I remember on one particular hill, the trees were stacked up in gorgeous off-set rows that just begged to be photographed. But the downside to hilly country is there is only so much space to accommodate everything that wants to be there. Closer to “town”, there were houses tucked up against the mountainside in places they barely seemed to fit (three feet between the back door and the side of a mountain? no problem). Or they were dropped down into narrow valleys (how do they get out in the snow?), so deep that the road was on a level with the roof. And there were many, many photo opportunities we had to let go, simply because there was no safe place to stop the car.
Vicki and I drove somewhat randomly, going up, up, up and then coming back down, down, down. Up on the mountains, the landscape was filled with green-fielded farms, and horses and cows and dilapidated structures of every size and shape. I specifically remember Vicki laughing at me when I exclaimed, “Donkeys! Those were donkeys!” But soon enough, we were in unison, “Chickens!”, as though we’d never seen one in real life before. The road nipped and tucked, hugging around a hillside there and dipping into a crevice there, insinuating itself into the scenery. More than one beautiful vista opened to our view as we drove around curve after bend. And we both uttered “whoa!” at the exact same time when we rounded a sharp corner and saw a distant valley, the view framed on either side by nearer, steeply climbing hillsides. (And yes, one of those hills was covered in Christmas trees.)
One of the great things about living in the mountains is that you get water, too. When I lived in Radford, part of the joy of taking long drives “in the country” was the near constant companionship of some stream or other that followed the road (or vice versa). This was true for our adventure, as well, and we made the most of every opportunity to pull off the road and walk down to the rowdy waters of what Vicki called a creek. The water was so full and fastly flowing that it’s hard to believe this wild thing could be a mere trickle during the summer. I might not believe it if I didn’t live near the Rappahannock River, and if I hadn’t seen such major fluctuations in its water level.
I was practicing with shutter speeds and aperture to see what kind of effects the camera would produce and how far I could go without a tripod.
Finally, it was time to head back to Vicki and Tony’s. We were getting tired and hungry, the sky had turned completely grey and overcast, and the cooler air was blowing in. On the way home, we stopped to take in a few more sites and a few more pictures (Vicki is so completely patient and kind).
Just before I made the trip, we found out that it was going to snow on Sunday. I didn’t have to leave until Monday, so I took a chance on the weather and went anyway. We figured that the roads would be okay by noon on Monday, and they were. The weather has been so mild, that as much snow as we got, the (too warm?) roads were perfectly clear. But on Sunday, the snow had started by 10am or so, and we settled in for a de-clutter day. Vicki and I threw away and donated, moved furniture and reorganized, until she had a nice “new” office space for her business. It really inspired me to want to go home and work on my own de-cluttering. Vicki offered to come help me out in April, which I’m sure she’ll learn to regret once she sees my office.
During a break, I went out on the porch and took some pictures of snow.
On Monday, we woke up to a really beautiful day – bright and blue. Peeking out the window, I was met with a wonderful winter wonderland of snow-covered everything. I should have gotten up and headed out with my camera right then, but I was being too lazy. I’m sorry I didn’t though, because when we did emerge just an hour later, the snow was already falling from the trees in huge patches and in wind-blown flurries.
Finally, it was time for me to really get on the road. I had intended to leave around 10, but I waited a bit longer, just in case the roads were bad (you can’t see the road from the house). And also, we had gotten into the habit of staying up late and getting up whenever we felt like it, so there was that. And also, as much as I love being at home, I would have been happy to stay another day or two. I really had a wonderful long weekend, relaxing and fun and productive and spent with wonderful friends.
PS: Some other time I’ll tell you how I immediately got on the wrong exit and drove all the way into Tennessee before I figured out I was going the wrong way, thereby adding another hour and a half to my already long trip.
PPS: But probably not.
PPPS: Here’s some water for you to look at and listen to.
Items of Interest: