Winter: An Innkeeper’s Journal

Like stepping into a deep cave, a sharp chill greets me after walking down the three steps to our side of the Inn. The ceilings are high, the living room has seven windows and two sets of glass doors. The porch is dusted with snow. Our salary has little room for oil bills during a New England winter so we keep the thermostat setting low.

Winter Porch

Jonathan from England is staying for two nights. He originally contacted me by email to say he would love to see the Ani DiFranco show at Infinity Hall but couldn’t find transportation from Hartford. It is difficult to get from anywhere to here.

Rich calls a few cab companies. Roundtrip the cost will be two hundred twenty five dollars. “Why don’t you do it?” I ask. “We need the extra money.”

At our first interview we expressed concerns about making ends meet on the salary we were offered. There were promises of extra work for Rich, particularly during the slower winter months. We prepared several estimates for various improvement projects. Most of them have been ignored although at the meetings we continue to discuss potential projects. One day we found a trash bag tossed into the back of the truck for a trip to the dump. A crumpled estimate had fallen out.

The day of the pickup Rich makes a sign to help Jonathan find him at Union Station where he is arriving from Providence, and on the drive back they take a scenic detour past the Barkhamsted Reservoir.


Jon is on an Ani DiFranco getaway. He has seen her in Philadelphia, Plymouth, New Hampshire, Providence, and now Norfolk. This will be one of over two hundred lifetime shows he’s seen. At first I thought this was rather strange but then we began to tell him about the back to back Dire Straits shows we saw throughout New England and the two nights in Hartford when I scored a kiss from Dave Matthews. We tell him our daughter has seen Phish at least a dozen times. I realize everyone in this room this morning is strange, or normal, depending on how you look at it.

Winemakers from the Finger Lakes visit. We discuss how farming in New England is making a comeback with small farms providing local produce to farm to table restaurants. They are traveling for several weeks while their vineyard is closed during the shoulder season. They leave us with a bottle of riesling and an invitation to visit.

The weekdays are quiet, our guests are few. This is our shoulder season, too. I deep clean the library, removing old books from dusty bookshelves. Pages crackle like dry leaves and the room smells of bookbinding glue.

Manor House Library

A good friend of ours died in a hotel room in Vail, Colorado. He had been fighting demons for quite sometime. There is an early morning funeral on Cape Cod. I would have liked to have attended the service but we have two rooms booked. It is the first time I make breakfast for our guests by myself. Unlike my husband who uses Pam, I use butter liberally. Life is short. This one is for you Mac.

Oakley Thorne spends a night with us. He is a Yale recruiter, a conservationist, a birder, and a sort of innkeeper at a ranch in Wyoming. He majored in conservation which is now called environmental science he notes and once drove Dave Brubeck around Montana to shows in Billings, Bozeman, Butte, and Missoula then continued on a private tour through Yellowstone. We tell him about our trip out there when our daughter spent a summer working at the national park.

“Brubeck said children understand the 4-5 beat of Take Five better than adults,” he told us. “His song Blue Rondo Ala Turk mimics the song of the tufted titmouse.”

Oakleigh tags birds to track their migration routes and one of his Wyoming grackles was sighted in Texas. He found a hummingbird in Wyoming that had traveled from Taos, New Mexico. “The migration of bird’s is fascinating,” he says, and having migrated quite a bit myself I believe that is true.

I tell him about my books, and we discuss self-publishing, how people who write series have marketing advantages with built-in readers looking for the next edition. I admit I’m not interested in writing sequels. He quotes Miles Davis who once said this about making the same style of music over and over, “You don’t want to be a human juke box.”

Since migrating to Norfolk, Oakleigh Thorne is on a list of men I have met with names like Winter Mead, Grant Mudge, and Ted Stone.

Our younger daughter visits for Christmas. Her sister is working in Killington, Vermont on the holiday. The three of us take a four and a half mile hike in the Great Mountain Forest on this unusually warm day. The world is silent except for our footsteps on the mossy, mucky trail. Fallen trees snapped in half block parts of the trail since last we were here.

Christmas Hike

We have one guest during the holiday, a woman who has been here twice before during our tenure. Her mother has early stage dementia so my guest and I have many things to share as my Mom is well into her decline with Alzheimer’s. Gillian is trying to get her mom in assisted living. She tells me a story from when she was young, growing up in Winsted after the back to back Hurricanes Carol and Diane brought the floods that wiped out the factories on the river side of town, including the place where they made straight pins. She was told not to play by the river. Sharp pins floated in the water and covered the rocks where she used to climb, but she was fascinated and couldn’t stay away.

Sixty years later these factories remain vacant. In the coming months this fact will remain with me throughout the political primary season.

Union Pin Company

Here’s Blue Rondo a la Turk. Let me know if you can detect the song of the tufted titmouse.

2 thoughts on “Winter: An Innkeeper’s Journal

  1. Greetings,
    Did you read some of the comments at the end of th Brubeck video? Some of them are hilarious trying to identify the titmouse call.
    The owner of your in is cutting off his nose to spite his face.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Funny you use that term. He reacted like a child to a question I asked and basically told us we should leave by April 30th. Then called the next day to say “let’s not cut our nose to spite our face”. There was only one person cutting their nose to spite their face.

      We’ve moved on. Stay tuned for the final chapters.


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