Meet the Innkeeper
Like Loretta Lynn, I was born a coal miner’s daughter and I am very proud of my West Virginia heritage. The sweet memories still linger of my Daddy coming home from work with a black face carrying his lunchbox after a long day underground. Every year when the mines closed for a two-week vacation, our family of seven packed our canvas tent, Coleman cooler, lantern and as many friends as we could cram into our long Cadillac and headed for Sherando Lake near Waynesboro, Virginia.
The ride down Route 60 in those days was long and winding and invariably someone “lost their lunch” coming down the mountain. We always stopped at The Greenbrier for a stretch and to drink the sulphur water which smelled like rotten eggs. Somewhere along the way we would find the perfect spot to spread a blanket and enjoy the home-cooked picnic lunch my mother had made and finally the long-awaited moment of finding the best campsite when we reached our destination. One tradition of our family vacation was to take a ride on the Blue Ridge Parkway and Skyline Drive.
I remember looking down into the valleys seeing little villages with narrow roads, a white church, a one-room school house and a few houses dotting the landscape and thinking, “Someday I want to live in a place like that."
Between then and now, I was married and raised two wonderful daughters, Kami and Brandi.
Now they are happily married and have children of their own. Geographically, we are far apart but always close at heart. They are the epitome of motherhood at its best and continue to be my cheerleaders in all that I do. If I never accomplish anything else in life, I consider myself successful because of what they have become.
My days of being a stay-at-home mom were filled with the usual volunteer work—Girl Scout leader, Sunday School teacher, Homeroom mother and the never-ending demands of being a mother. I loved every minute of it. When my children left the nest, and headed for college, I entered corporate America and was transferred to Northern Virginia. A five-year stint there makes me appreciate even more the life I’m living now.
As that career was winding down, I saw an ad in the Washington Post so small that it could barely be read. “FSBO, farmhouse, 360 views….” It had my name written all over it. I bought the old farmhouse and my friends thought I had lost my mind. If you have ever seen the movie, Under the Tuscan Sun, you will know the rest of the story. Diane Lane’s character, Frances, renovated an old house in Italy and I have watched the movie many times and still can empathize with her experiences. I haven’t looked back though and I’m so glad I found paradise.
I’ve traveled to many places that are touted as being the most beautiful in the world (Hawaii, Ireland, Bermuda, Italy and many more). At the junction of Kinsey Run and the Rapidan River in Graves Mill, Virginia, lies one of the best places in the world.
So here I am—a half a century later—living my dream in this little piece of heaven on earth. Instead of looking down into the valley from atop the mountain I’m in the valley looking up.
The view from my kitchen window says it all. It is like an artist’s painting only constantly changing—fog rising, sun setting, clouds dancing, leaves changing color.
The unparalleled beauty of my environs—the textures, the nuances and patterns excite me and are perfect for reflection at the same time. My favorite destressor, yoga, allows me to take slow deep breaths while focusing on the beauty around me. A gentle, contemplating stroll or a brisk walk or mindless wandering guarantees that I will discover surprises and whatever I find along the way will be a wonderful revelation. My favorite time of day is very early in the morning, still in my jammies, when I take a cup of freshly perked vanilla coffee outdoors. Some mornings I go to the meditation garden and pick off dead blooms, some mornings I go to the front porch and watch the river and other mornings I find the rocker on the back porch and count my many blessings. Porch sitting is a natural inclination for those of us who love the country. We share a deep appreciation for nature and long to be connected with the outdoors.
Seldom a day passes that I don’t drift back to my childhood and think of our family vacations. Passage of time and memories are the threads that make me who I am. My desire is that guests here at The Old Mill House will enjoy the history of Graves Mill, appreciate the people who have protected the distinctiveness of place and revel in the beauty. I will know that I have succeeded if even one life has breathed easier because I have lived.