“Tell me what it is you plan to do with your one wild and precious life”
~ Mary Oliver
It was a year in a life. My one wild and precious life.
A full life is filled with missteps, hardships, laughter, and joy. Like Sam Ryder in my novel Life Is all This, I think we must make sense of time spent, and I too have always been a fan of the epilogue for after making sense we must move on.
Time spent. Think about that term for a moment. Life is short, years are precious, and how we spend them is priceless.
What did I learn, if anything? I like to think of myself as a decent judge of character but possibly I am not as good as I once thought. In my defense, I usually enter into relationships with an open heart and an open mind. I trust most people are good. This time my trust was misplaced.
Am I too old for another adventure? Does life ever settle down? I believe in my case the answer to both questions is an emphatic No. Apparently I am not too old to evolve and change, to learn new life lessons. I may have come out of this past year a bit more wary, slightly cynical and distrustful, but it won’t last. I created Sam Ryder and I agree with him on this, life is good and I don’t need a T-shirt to remind myself of that sentiment.
I don’t imagine anyone leads a settled life. I looked up the definition of settled and found this: adopt a more steady or secure style of life, especially in a permanent job and home. In the past few months I witnessed my parents lose their home to a fire, my mother move in to a nursing home despite my father’s best efforts to keep her at home, and my own move to Vermont. Life constantly changes. We continue to learn and grow from every experience, good or bad, and to paraphrase Tom Petty, we can learn to fly though we ain’t got wings.
The sunset from our deck on the first night in our new home was stunning. As we drank cocktails and unpacked boxes, the music on the local radio station was a playlist I couldn’t imagine improving upon. Ray Lamontagne, The Cure, Dire Straits, Dave Matthews, The Allman Brothers, Mumford & Sons, Ben Howard.
This small piece of the planet where we are now living is populated with artists, hippies young and old, eccentrics, and people who work with their hands making furniture, stone walls, art, and poetry. Despite the tumultuous world we live in at this moment in time, I feel calm.
The owner’s wife called on the Saturday after we left the inn. I was out of cell phone range and missed the call. She left a message. “It looks like we have an almost full house and I can’t find the guest book. Do you know where it is?”
Was she talking about the bible? The reservations book with the names and dates and notes on eating disorders or the need for a blowup mattress or feather free bedding? The one with the numbers I gave to her husband each Tuesday? I left that on the reservations desk where it always resides.
I look out the window at Haystack Mountain shrouded in fog. It is a gray, rainy Sunday in May, similar to the weather when we first returned to New England full of hope and optimism for this new venture we were embarking on. During the past days of our new life in Vermont, we have been licking our battle wounds, sleeping late, unpacking boxes, but mostly healing.
A friend asked, “Does it hurt?” Well yes, of course it does. Innkeeping is the sort of job you put your heart and soul into and even when you’re ‘off-duty’, you’re on. You live where you work, you adopt a new lifestyle. We were required to answer the phone from nine a.m. to nine p.m seven days a week, forwarding the calls on “days off”. On the job is where you reside. And this was someone else’s business we were making this sacrifice for.
And that is when it dawns on me. She is most likely looking for the guest book that usually resides on the table by the front door. The book that has very few empty pages left and is filled with testimonials I copied into my writer’s notebook on days I was so beaten down I couldn’t find the words to tell the stories. I carry them with me like talismans of my own. I too Mine the Divine.
Here’s a small sample of what is in that book:
Sheila & Richard – Thank you so much for the wonderful hospitality! This was our 3rd stay here and you two are a breath of fresh air! We can’t wait to come back!” ~ Paul & Melinda Haddock
“Thanks for the warm welcome and delicious breakfast. Wonderful night’s sleep. Glad we found you. Off to Vermont to get married ~ Steven & Daisy.
“We stayed here the night after our wedding. It was fantastic. So beautiful. Sheila & Rich, you are amazing! :)” ~ Steven & Kayla
“Sheila & Rich, you guys are amazing. We’re already talking about coming back in the fall.” ~ Andrea & Bill
“Out traveling every once in awhile for business you find yourself in an amazing place like this with beautiful innkeepers. Thank you Rich & Sheila!” ~ Kendra Eliagoni, Boulder, CO
“Thanks for your flexibility, hospitality, welcoming presence, and all around good cheer. We hope to see you again.” ~ Celeste and David Welch, West Hartford, CT
“Rich & Sheila, you guys are amazing!!!! …Take care and stay warm and sweet.” ~ James & Brenda, NYC
“Richard & Sheila you were a total delight! Oh the conversations.” ~ Thanks Ellen & Al
“Thank you very much for the much needed rest.” ~ Bus Driver Brad Thomson, Lubbock, TX
“Thank you so much Richard & Sheila for a spectacular retreat.” ~ Lauren & Colleagues, Yale University, New Haven, CT
“Thank you Rich & Sheila (not Ralph!) for a most lovely stay. Perfectly peaceful ‘Staycation’ ~ Meghan & Paul Geary, Hamden, CT
“Great place. Best innkeepers in the world!” ~ Dino Federici, Wethersfield, CT
“What a wonderful place to wake up on our first morning as a married couple. Thank you so much for looking after us so well.” ~ Jon & Jess Stuart, Brooklyn, NY
“After only 24 hours I feel like a new person! Charming Manor & even more charming hosts. Thank you so very much.” ~ Ani Church
Our short one night stay was absolutely fantastic. I felt like a guest at Downton Abbey! We shall return again.” ~ Jim & Carol Foley, Norwalk, CT
“Thank you…Rich & Sheila, A class Act! See you soon.” ~ Mill
“Will tell everyone about this gem. :)!!!! ~ Linda & Gary, Valencia, CA
“Another great time. This time we met the new innkeepers, Rich & Sheila. Great people and we loved the music discussion.” ~ Kathy & Dave Simons, Naugutuck, CT
“Those who know, know awesome stay” ~ 704 KCA
“Rich & Sheila went above & beyond to make our stay memorable. We will be back. Happy New Year.” ~ J.M.
“The room & ambience was terrific. However we will be back because of the relationship we made with our wonderful innkeepers…Thank you Sheila & Richard for making this an experience we will repeat.” ~ Gail & Joe Petrowsky
“There is nothing to say but…WOW! Thank you so much Rich & Sheila.” ~ Tom Drennan & Sharon Davis, Madison, CT
“Thank you Rich & Sheila for a little bit of heaven. Wonderful feeling of cordiality and home. We will spread the word in our little corner of the world. Good health and good cheer to you both.” ~ Tony & Marie
“Best B&B EVER-Rich & Sheila, the innkeepers are golden!” ~ E.R.
“Had a wonderful time. Rich & Sheila are our new found friends. We will see you again.” ~ Unknown
“The hospitality is second to none. Thank you so much.” ~ Peter & Irene Cosgrove, Jersey Channel Islands, UK
“What a magical place and what thoughtful and helpful hosts you were! Thank you so much for a lovely stay.” ~ Darcy, Cambridge, MA
Rich and I earned each and everyone of these comments over the course of one year of our precious, wild life. A year filled with hard work, kindness to strangers who returned it in kind, laughter, long days, new friends, and music.
Memories are the best things we own. What we will always remember is the year we spent in a twelve bedroom mansion in a beautiful corner of New England with the wonderful people who slept in the beds we made, ate the omelets and French toast we prepared, and shared their stories with us.
***Stay tuned. New stories are on the way. It’s time to turn the page. I am going to take a short break from blogging to find my way back into the fourth novel I am writing. For a time my profession will be writer and if you’ve enjoyed the stories I’ve shared and would like to help a struggling artist there’s always the three novels I’ve already published. And about those Amazon reviews – they help, they really do. Thank you one and all for joining me on this ride.***