DH and I took a much needed mini-vacation. It helped our grieving process to be able to be away from home, to have other things to think about. On Friday we packed the car with our overnight bags and my briefcase. I take it everywhere with me, it has a book I am reading, my iPad, a notebook, my notes, tape recorder, my various fountain pens, and sometimes my e-reader. It was an unusual chilly day for NC so I grabbed my favorite soft fleece pullover and a matching one for hubby.

Around noon we set off, heading west. We weren’t sure where we were going, we just knew somewhere in the vicinity of either Asheville or Boone. Checking out the map I decided I wanted to go see Thomas Wolfe and Carl Sandburg’s house. I love maps, we do use a GPS, and I have my maps on my iPad, but there is something about a paper map. I can see where we are and where we’re going and say, hey look this little road takes us there, let’s follow it. I much prefer back roads to highways. There is something about seeing towns, or what was once a town, and I try to imagine what it was like during it’s heyday. I imagine a timeframe and then the people. How might they have dressed? how did they travelled? car, horse, train, buggy? The only problem going this route is you sometimes can’t find a restaurant, especially on a Sunday, or a hotel/motel. Well, one you would want to sleep at anyway. The good thing is you can find very interesting stores, bookstores – used/new, eateries and B&Bs. The B&Bs are usually in old historic houses and being a history buff they are perfect.

We wound our way through Lake Lure, Chimney Rock and Bat Cave. All small towns, on a twisty mountain road. We were wondering what it would be like in the winter. Not that we are snowbirds, not by a long shot we lived in upstate NY, a mountainous area that gets snow measured in feet. It’s just the road was very steep with lots of twists and turns. We had a good laugh when we saw a sign for a farm saying it was a mile away. We were wondering if that was by the way the crow flies, or by the length of the road. If it was the length of the road, it was right there to our left, only thing was, we would have to go through four hairpin turns to reach it.

We found ourselves in Asheville just as the sun began to set behind the mountain. We settled into a Hampton Inn and headed for dinner. The next morning we repacked the car and headed for the Wolfe house, called Old Kentucky Home. I was disappointed to find that he did not do any of his writings there. It was his Mother’s boarding house, the children mostly lived in another house nearby (long gone), but Thomas did spend time there, only not writing. I thought maybe when he wrote some of his plays while in college at UNC Chapel Hill, but no, he didn’t. It was a great house and seeing some of the original furnishings was interesting.

We then headed south for Flat Rock and Carl Sandburg’s home Connemara. AMAZING!!! I loved it. It is a hike to the house along a winding steep path, but well worth it. You pass a pond, filled with turtles who peek their head out to say hi as you walk by. The scenery is gorgeous, with wonderful mountain vistas. The house sits up on a hill and has breathtaking views of the mountains. After Carl passed away, his wife Lillian didn’t want to stay in the house any longer. She wrote to the government to see if they wanted to purchase it for an historical landmark. They agreed, so Lillian, her daughter and grandchildren, packed up their clothes and moved to Asheville. Yes, you read right, just their clothes. Everything else stayed in the house. When you walk in, it is as if you expect one of the Sandburg’s to come walking around the corner to greet you.

Carl Sandburg

This time I was able to see a writer’s workspace. I was surprised, it was a small room, filled with shelves and cabinets, papers and books strewn all over. A typewriter sat on a small box next to the desk. What really surprised me was the small window and the desk was no where near it. Carl was actually to take a room near his office with a great big window and a wonderful view, but declined saying that it would be too distracting. Okay, I guess I could see it, but I need my view. In my craft room, my sewing table sits in front of the windows, in my office, my desk is near my window, overlooking a small sitting area with a white bistro set, a birdbath and feeder, along with a hummingbird feeder and rhododendrons (Mums in the fall). Hmmm maybe I should rethink this and sit where I am not distracted by the view…

Cathy von Hassel-Davies

P.S. One of the best things is finding out the name of Carl Sandburg’s house – Connemara. I have always loved that Irish name and the names of nearby Killary Harbour and Kilkieran Bay, so it was with great pleasure hearing the name of the house. Also during one of the video’s in which Edward Marrow is interviewing Carl and he mentions a rock he likes to go to and write his poems. When we lived in NY I would frequent John Burrough’s Thinking Rock and write in my journal. Having two things in common just made the writer in me very happy and a little bit of the grieving let go.