Staunton Hill

20 Oct

                      Staunton Hill

How lovely it was there and how much I enjoyed it. It was not just the writers workshop, but the beauty of the place and the surroundings and the PEACE that I found there.  I want to come back.
I went to Staunton Hill for a ‘memoir writers workshop’. The place was new to me, and in fact I was completely misled into thinking I was supposed to drive to Staunton Virginia. NO! WRONG. That is not anywhere near where the PLACE Staunton Hill is located. It is below Lynchburg, far below, near a place called Brookneal, VA.
So I drove and drove and drove, having left Washington DC at 3:30 pm on a Friday afternoon. That was a terrible mistake, right there. Eventually, and in the dark, I arrived at my destination. It was after 8:30 pm. I sat outside in my car, because I was trying to figure out which was the front door. I could not reach anyone by cell phone as there was no signal in the driveway. Oh well.
Finally, I left my car and took a chance on a door. It was opened by a lovely woman all pale blond skin and hair. She was slender and pretty and welcoming. I knew I was in a good place immediately. The welcome was genuine and palpable. Janet Bruce is the owner of the Staunton Hill Center for Thought Creativity and Production. She and her husband used to run it together, but now, widowed she does it by herself.

When I stepped inside I saw a sleeping, long hair, black and tan dachshund that looked almost like my own boy, Magnus. So, of course they were great people who lived here. Dachshund owners understand each other.
It was still all confusing to me. The house was charming, but vast. The other participants and the leader were gathered there doing an exercise without me. I was hungry and tired. They brought me a tray with delicious food and offered wine which I declined. We all introduced ourselves and chatted happily. Then I was shown to my room.

It turned out that mine was the Evangeline Bruce Suite. It was just marvelous. The bedroom was charming and had a fireplace and a wall full of a ‘breakfast china’ collection behind glass cabinet doors. The Queen size bed turned out to be extremely comfortable. Opening off of the bedroom was a very modern bathroom with a glass walled shower. And opening off of that was “The Library” part of the suite. A room with a two facing walls of books, fascinating prints and photos and sculptures. I wanted to immerse myself in that room. There was a comfortable desk and a good desk chair and great Internet signal. I was in Heaven. That library also opened with an outside door to the columned walkway that fronted all of the rooms.

In other words the accommodations were just wonderful. They were comfortable and luxurious without being ostentatious. What a haven. What a marvelous place to shed ones cares and revitalize one’s energies.

Janet Bruce’s faithful next in command, Sarah Sargent whom I knew from her earlier work with the VCCA kept all moving smoothly. Our workshop group was fed by them, waited on by hired staff and constantly stimulated by new and beautiful surroundings and inventive meals.

The grounds are extensive. The driveway is a mile and a half long. A wonderful swimming pool is set in such lush grass one wished immediately to talk off shoes and stockings and stand in it. The various gardens and expanses of lawn all sew peace and serenity into the soul. Where ever you look, in every direction it is lovely. The ancient English Boxwood is healthy and luxuriant. The crenelated parapets and Eastern looking columns constantly tease the eye. What a magical place.

Of course I could have worked on my memoir writing skills anywhere and learned a lot. But being in that magical place was so stimulating and engaging that it added immeasurably to the experience for all of us.

I long to return. And I will find a reason soon.

 

Copyright©. 2018 Bonnie B. Matheson

The Lesson of the Pear Trees

23 Sep

Years passed at Heathfield, happy years for the most part. My love for the house and everything in it grew a pace. The land and the trees and the bountiful flowering bushes, lilac and snowball and Japonica. I adored the place. That first summer I would walk around it just saying silently “This is OURS, this is MINE.” It was a dream come true. Why had I delayed moving to the country so long?
I had been afraid. Afraid of change and the unknown and having to make a whole new life for ourselves. But the very things I had been afraid of became the best things. The whole new way of life was miraculous. And we all grew and changed and became better people because of it. Because of Heathfield we had a wonderful life of healthy, fun and frolic. We raised dogs and horses and cattle and chickens and pigs and even tried quail (disaster) and bunnies and I am sure I have left some animals off the list, by accident.
Time passed, our son Charley Jr and daughters Helen and Lilla grew and more were born. Robert and then Murdoch added to our young family. We entertained a great deal. Often we had parties on the terrace overlooking the yard where a pair of pear trees dominated the view. They were charming with their wide branches and tall for fruit trees. Gorgeous in springtime covered in white blossoms, magnificent in summer laden with pears, presaging winter as their leaves changed early in the fall. And in deep winter standing naked and proud of their shape, they were the first thing the eye beheld when looking south. I loved those trees.
And then disaster struck. One morning when I looked out of the window towards the south a horrible sight greeted me. One of the pear trees lay in pieces on the ground. When I say pieces I really mean pieces. It looked as if a china figure had crashed and broken into sections which were lying on the ground. I was so sad. It was heartbreaking to see the remains of that tree. And the other one looked forlorn and alone. Charley called a tree company and they came out to look at it and they brought horrifying news. We must cut down the mate to the fallen tree. We had no choice. It was dead and brittle just like the downed tree. No telling when it, too could fall. It might happen while children were playing in the yard. The situation brought a real danger to our family and needed to be addressed immediately. So we cut her down.
I cried. And I mourned those pear trees. When ever I looked into the yard in that direction, I saw only the gap where there had once been trees.

My eyes saw no further. It was as if there were a screen between me and the further fields. And so things remained all the rest of that year. Over and over I mourned the trees. I spoke of them often. It ruined my pleasure in that yard to see the empty place where they had been.
The following spring I gave a luncheon for the Mount Vernon Chapter of the DAR, at Heathfield. I wanted to please my mother in law. And I was pretty good at throwing these parties for a whole lot of people. I did not hesitate. The day was fine. Not too hot nor was it cold. There were about 60 ladies and I had tables placed all around two sides of the house for them to sit down and eat their lunch. I believe we served them quiche and a salad and then when it came to desert I realized that the pies I had bought were frozen. They needed to cook for nearly an hour in order to be ready. it was a terrible mistake. We heated the ovens extra high and tried to speed it up other ways.
In the meantime I was outdoors trying to distract the ladies from the fact that the desert was so late. I was speaking to a couple of ladies as we gazed out, toward the south. We were looking at the yard where the pear trees used to stand.
“I am so sorry you cannot see the pear trees which once stood there,” I said. “They were so pretty and big and bloomed so wonderfully in the spring.”
And the lady said “Oh that would have been terrible. They must have spoiled your view. You would not have been able to see this lovely vista!”
And when she said that, it was as if scales were removed from my eyes. Suddenly I saw the view. The gorgeous view that had opened up immediately when the pear trees were down. A magnificent view had been there all the time, and I never noticed it. I was too busy mourning the trees that were gone. Focused on lack, I failed to see the abundance which was squarely in my view.
But once I saw it, I could not UN-see it. I was grateful. And I marveled at the human brain and how it can deceive us. All that time I spent missing something that had run its course. Those trees were old. Their time was past. And furthermore, we had acquired the land on the other side of the stone wall. It belonged to us now. And we were able to care for it and mow it and keep it trimmed to some extent while still allowing cover for the little animals which lived in thickets around the fence lines.
What I saw now was spectacular. The long view, the vista, the undulating land disappearing in the distant wood and succeeding fields carried the eye on and on. Everyone could see it, but me. I have rarely been so blindsided by something that was right in front of my face. The lesson has stayed with me. I often speak of the Lesson of the Pear Trees. I have told the story hundreds of times and gained a bit more self knowledge each time. I am so grateful to those trees for teaching me.
It is one of the most important lessons one can learn. And for some reason it seems to be a common problem. People focus on something or someone who is gone, and fail to see that a better thing or person is right in front of their nose. Why is this a pattern?
I am not sure why. It is almost universal. But I preach this over and over. Don’t overlook something wonderful because you are busy looking for something that is no longer there.
There are so many properties, so many dogs, so many choices of people who could be a mate. The possibilities are endless. But you must take the trouble to look. And sometimes that is not easy. Everyone gets tired of beating their heads against a stone wall. People lie to themselves, often. The most important thing is to know what you want, and why you want it.
I wanted the Pear trees because they had always been there. As soon as they were gone I began focusing on lack. it colored everything I looked at. It even colored my thinking about Heathfield for a time. And yet there was NO LACK. Actually there was a better view than we had ever had, and besides that, the entire yard south of the house now opened up for football and tag and what ever games the children wished to play. And when we had our 20th Wedding Anniversary Dance we were able to place the tent without worrying about those trees being in the way , the way they were for our 10th Anniversary party.
Occasionally I have discovered other situations like this, that I would never have noticed it if were not for the Lesson of the Pear Trees…

That sadness which was real, but unrealistic, taught me. I longed for something whose time was over, and almost missed something whose time had come. And there is where the lesson lies.

 

Copyright©. 2018 Bonnie B. Matheson

Serious about weight loss and lifestyle change!

11 Sep

This David King, Long Term Solution weight loss program is seriously important to me. https://www.davidkingfitness.com/lts/
I am losing weight, but being careful, rather than being impossibly diligent. On the other hand, I am really pretty happy eating this way. It keeps me full and not hungry. Did I mention CLARITY??? My mind is clear. Chrystal clear in a way that I had nearly forgotten. Was it ever this clear? I am not sure. Eating this way makes a huge difference mentally.

I am concentrating on me. I have completely changed my eating habits. I went through my granddaughters wedding weekend without cheating. It was a big day. All that food and all that excitement did not tempt me. None of the drinks or the hors d’oeuvres passed my lips. I think a lot of people would have found this hard. But, not if they have been in a program where all the bad carbs and sugar are completely cleared out of their system. That is why it is so easy, now.
None of the sugar demons that David King is always talking about are in my body. I don’t feel like taking a week off for poor eating, and gaining 10 pounds back. I want to continue my steady but slow weight loss. It would be nice to speed it up, now that I am home in the city. I went on a 40 hour fast starting last Monday afternoon and ending it with lunch on Wednesday. That helped things along. Fasting for 40 hours is powerful. I have done this 4 times so far.
I do not want to eat boring food. Every sort of ethnic food is my favorite. I am not sorry, I can learn to eat those things without the rice. I do love rice and that is the one food that I have chosen as my cheat food for David King’s Fat-Shocker program.

Though I went through a week of prep and two weeks of Fat Shocker I only lost 2 pounds and that is not much compared to what some people lost. But I did not exercise twice a day, as they said we should. I did not eat purely unsalted food. And I could tell that my body was getting thinner. Even though it was not as MUCH thinner as I once thought I might be able to do during the 2 week intense phase. Since I was on vacation it was modified. For me it just was not that intense. IN fact, it was fairly easy for me. Because I was so focused on the way of eating outlined in his program.
I want to get thinner and fitter. I used to believe that in order to get thinner and fit I must work out with a trainer. It does not work. It did make me quite fit, but I lost NO WEIGHT. For women my age, there is only one way to lose weight. The old fashioned way. Changing your diet. Now there are different types of diets. The fastest one by far is the Keto Diet.
But there is a huge downside. Once you start eating normally again, it all stops working and you gain the weight back. Some people gain MORE than they had lost.

The answer is David King and his Nutritious Keto programs one of which is The Long Term Solution. I recommend it highly. It has changed my life.

If my weight was to creep back up, I would be in serious trouble. So, I must adjust to never eating the way I ate before …never…again. That is sort of sad. But, I actually like the way I must eat most of the time. My clear mind and feeling of alertness reminds me to stay focused. All that soul food that I love so much is simply NOT good for me. Many years ago, I used to drink Coca Cola all day. I loved cokes. I could not imagine how I would ever give them up. But I did. 30 years ago, I gave them up and have barely noticed since. Every once in a while I have one. At the movies sometimes, but they simply do not taste the same. So, if I can give them up, I guess I can give up ravioli! And pasta of all kinds, rice and noodles and potatoes and quinoa, couscous and every type of starch that I have enjoyed, so much. No more toast at breakfast or popovers or popcorn in movies. Corn is just as bad as wheat for causing me to gain weight. It is all GMO. And I want to avoid that…
This is going to be a different lifestyle for me. But, there are plenty of things I can eat. Sandwiches are out. Hoagies and wraps and pita type sandwiches, pizza, and even quiche is all a ‘no no’. But if I can be thin, which I am NOT yet, but if I can, it will be worth it.

I did not realize how much I wanted to be normal size, because it was so out of my reach. Now I see that I can do this, after all. I am very grateful to my daughter, Helen, for arranging it.(For badgering me until I signed up, actually)
My whole mindset is changed. With my head so clear, everything makes sense. And I have become hopeful and happy. You never know what you REALLY think, until something happens to give you a bit of clarity. Sometimes that is a desperate change, sometimes it is subtle. My 25 pound weight loss has given me a huge incentive to keep it up. I want to see how long it takes to lose another 25. Let’s make it 12 weeks allowing for unforeseen events. 12 weeks from now is about Thanksgiving. If I could lose 25 pounds by Thanksgiving that would mean that I will have lost 50 total. And I would be at a normal weight.
Now that is an attainable goal. I can do that. There will be no reason to eat sugar. No cookies, not any holiday foods, except wild rice casserole, which I will not give up. But, that is also OK. If I can have that, then I can give up the other things people like about holiday eating. If there is a turkey, I would love to have some stuffing. I believe I can just go on eating as I am and do OK. Lots of artichokes. And an occasional martini to make it festive now and then.
So perhaps without meaning to I have become a tiny bit obsessed with this weight thing. Because it keeps my mind clear. Writing is first of all, my favorite thing. It makes me happy every minute that I am doing it. All the while I am losing weight, a couple of pounds a week. That is a goal that will keep on giving, just as the writing does, in it’s own way. What a happy and exciting time this is. I am so grateful for it!

 

 

 

 

 

Copyright©. 2018 Bonnie B. Matheson