A Country Inn Day Fairy Tale that met with success unexpected in Common Hours

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Once upon a time there was a young girl named Carol Ann who would walk home from school and pass this house. This big old white house wasn’t easy to see back then because there were many bushes that edged the property, but Carol Ann would walk by very slowly and try to catch a glimpse between the branches, seeing what she could see of this house and its extensive grounds.

Back in the day there were gardens there too and how Carol Ann wished a lady would appear in those gardens, notice her passing, and invite her in to see the flowers.  Carol Ann would imagine this lady of the garden looked and sounded like the lovely actress Deborah Kerr, that she was a proper English lady who had no daughter but longed for one and seeing Carol Ann would reach out to her in friendship.  Perhaps this lady would invite Carol Ann to share her afternoon tea or invite her into the house so the lady could play piano for her, give her some lessons and ultimately they could play duets together.  Oh, how many times Carol Ann past this house and dreamed of this lady.  Carol Ann’s Romantic personality came up with all sorts of scenarios for the two of them.

And that’s not all.  Carol Ann also dreamed what fun it would be if she could explore the extensive grounds of this property for even back then at her young age big old houses with extensive grounds enchanted her.  When other young girls were doing what most young girls do (whatever that is) Carol Ann was reading “House and Garden” magazine and books like “The Secret Garden”, materials which fed her imagination.  How she hoped one day she could live in a big old white house surrounded by nature, a place where she could work in her garden, enjoy afternoon tea and play the piano to her hearts content.

But life moved on as it tends to do and no lady ever appeared to Carol Ann.  Days passed. Months turned into years and only occasionally did Carol Ann have the opportunity to pass the old white house and remember her imaginings.  But then one day while reading a book by the American author Henry David Thoreau she came upon a passage that spoke to her.

“If one advances confidently in the direction of his dreams, and endeavors to live the life which he has imagined, he will meet with success unexpected in common hours.”

“Aha”, she thought.  At that moment there was an awakening.   Though Carol Ann never did meet the lady of her imagination who lived in the big old white house that sat on those extensive grounds she suddenly realized she actually became that lady.  Of course she’s American, not English, but besides that one fact, her dreams came true.  Now Carol Ann lives in a big old white house of her own and it happens to sit on a generous plot of land. The grounds around Carol Ann’s house may not be as grand as that house of her dreams, but she’s working on them. Gardening is one of Carol Ann’s favorite activities.  She does however enjoy afternoon tea regularly and with guests, often children.  And that’s not all.  She also delights in playing  the piano and playing those duets she dreamed of for now she’s a piano teacher herself.

Thoreau was right.  If we advance through life in the direction of our dreams not letting them go we can meet with unexpected success.

All this is an introduction to today’s story.  You see, after years of imagining and dreaming about that old house I passed so many times as a child I finally had the chance to explore the property.

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Carol Ann paying a nice friendly visit to Celeste.

 And this is the lady that made it happen for me.  This is Celeste, a wonderful artist and my cousin who happens to live in what was once the gate house for the house of my dreams.

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Celeste’s charming house which I always loved

Celeste knows the present owners of my dream property and though I dropped by to visit her, in talking about my girlhood imaginings, Celeste suggested I take a walk at long last and explore the grounds I admired for so many years.  She assured me her neighbors wouldn’t notice and if they did I should just explain I was her cousin and a long time admirer of their place.

You can’t imagine how excited I was!

Want to come along?  Ok, let’s go.

 I stepped out the back door and headed down the long driveway.

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At one point the driveway was edged with large stones.  They were there so drivers wouldn’t go astray and end up in the woods below.

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I don’t happen to have these woods at my house unfortunately but I wish I did.  This property goes down to The Cuyahoga Valley National Park.  It’s beautiful country.

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As I get closer to the house I begin to see a little white.  How exciting!

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And then there’s a little more white…

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As I get closer I notice a lattice privacy screen near the house, but I wonder why anyone needs  help with privacy when they live on extensive grounds like these.

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I walked past the house quickly so as not to bother the owners and headed for the grounds behind it, the grounds I never could see very well from the street when I was a little girl.  How wonderful they were.

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The large terraces carved from stone…  the workmanship!  What such a job as this would cost today!

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So many steps down into the valley!

There was a nip in the air and I was chilled to the bone, but nevertheless I walked around with great enthusiasm taking in every sight and sound.

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There were places carved in stone somewhat like large benches where people could sit and gaze out at the landscape.  I might’ve done that if I wasn’t so cold.  But besides being cold there was so much to see.  I had to keep moving.

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Stone staircases were here and there.  As I discovered them hiding under the leaves I felt the same thrill I’d feel discovering ancient ruins in Rome.

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And these forgotten, long-ignored garden elements also reminded me of the forgotten garden from the book The Secret  Garden, that book I loved as a child and still love today.

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There were little streams with charming wooden bridges – so Romantic!

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I could’ve stayed in this wonderland forever but I reluctantly climbed my way back up and there was the house peeking out in the distance.

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As I got closer I discovered another area that had been abandoned.

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It was a large square area framed by a stone wall decorated with wooden fencing.

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The fencing had seen better days, the days of my childhood.  Oh, how I wish I could’ve seen this estate back in its glory days, but it still had a grace about itself, and in its current condition it seemed even more dear to me.

The stately pillars had such dignity standing proudly as they had done for so many years.

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Though ivy and moss grew over them they still were very beautiful to me.

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And in the courtyard was this circular stone item.  Was it once a well or a planter?  I wondered.

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And then I spotted the tea house.  How lovely it would’ve been  on a Summer’s day if and when my lady invited me to share her afternoon tea.  Seeing this structure set my imagination stirring once more.

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What a wonderful property this is.  I wasn’t disappointed at all. Once again I dashed past the house so as not to alarm or disturb the owners.  I learned they were an elderly couple. That could explain why they let their grounds go.  They probably don’t go walking about these days very much to justify the cost in maintaining such a place, but if only they did.  I hope some day a new enthusiastic owner will come along and restore everything to its former glory..

I wish that person could be me.

Perhaps one day my cousin will introduce me to the owners of this estate. The lady of the house in my imagination never became my friend but perhaps I could become friends with the present owners and they just might allow me to return over and over, appreciating  their wonderful property.

I’m only guessing, but I suspect I’ve loved their house and grounds longer then they did and perhaps more intensely then they do now.

Well, that’s my story.

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So as I write you from my own old white house set in nature  I encourage you to keep on dreaming and imagining no matter how old or young you may be for as my good  old “dead friend” Henry David Thoreau suggested,

“If you advance confidently in the direction of your dreams, and endeavor to live the life you have imagined, you will meet with success unexpected in common hours.”

I’m a believer!

The Pleasure of a Letter

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Dear _______________,

You already know my name.  It’s Carol Ann, but I wish I knew your name so I could address this letter to you properly.  Yes, it is a letter that you’re reading  even though it’s not the typical letter I write each day – the kind that uses paper, ink, postage stamps and sealing wax.

We have something in common, you and I, we  both have an interest in the Art of Letter Writing.  I absolutely love letters – to write them and to write about them, to receive them, and to share my enthusiasm for them with others.

Do you write many letters?  I figure I’ve written at least 10,000 letters so far.  That number was easy to come up with because for the last 20 years or so I’ve been writing one letter each morning with my coffee before I do any other thing, and very often I write more letters later in the day.

If I have a boring job to do (like cleaning the house)  I’ll make the job more tolerable by giving myself permission to take breaks here and there and in those breaks  I’ll write  a page of a letter.    Do you do things like that?

I’m sure I could happily write letters all day long if I allowed myself to do so, but I do enjoy a few other things. well maybe more than a few, so at this time in my life I limit my letter writing.  The day may come when I feel this limitation is unnecessary.

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A letter from a friend

After all, isn’t it Ralph Waldo Emerson, my very own “dead friend”, who said “To find the journey’s end in every step of the road, to live the greatest number of golden hours is wisdom.” So perhaps it would be a very wise move for me to grant myself permission to write more letters even now.  What do you love to do?  What could be more golden than filling our days with  our most favorite things?

You’re reading these words of mine and I’m happy you are, sharing really does double my joy, but perhaps one of these days you’ll be inspired to write of a few words of your own and send those words off to me.  I’d love that!  You might write a comment at the end of this post or take out paper and a pen to write a real old-fashioned missive, one I could keep in a box and refer to time and time again,  saving the letter for my future grandchildren to enjoy some day. 

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It seems to me that our task on earth is to find our deep soul work and throw ourselves into it head-long.  For me letters play a big part in that soul work for as I delight in the writing and receiving of letters carrying on this beautiful old art form, helping to keep the art alive,  I am also able to share many other joys with lots and lots of people.

We’re all in this life together and the more connected we are to each other the richer our lives become.  In letters we share the daily comings and goings of life, but so much more.  In letters we share ideas and philosophy.   My old letter friend, Harry, was always putting beautiful, thought-provoking ideas into my head.  One idea I liked very much, one that I’m forever sharing with others is this:

WORK AND WORRY ARE STURDY WEEDS,  BUT JOY REQUIRES CULTIVATION.

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What joys are you cultivating?  Being a gardener I can’t help but relate the cultivation of my joys to the cultivation of my herbs and flowers.  My favorite plants don’t just happen, but strangely the weeds in my garden do.  So it is with our joys.  Developing  joys into passions take time and effort.  First, we need to identify our favorite things just as we need to plant flower seeds.  Then we need to work those favorite things  just as we need to work and fertilize the soil around our plants.  This takes time and effort.   I’ll often ask people what passions they’ve cultivated  and very often they just give me a blank stare.

What does this have to do with the Art of Letter Writing?  Well, good letters ask questions and get one thinking.  Writing letters provide us with that quiet time to think, ponder and reflect. In today’s world it’s not so easy to find ourselves alone in quiet.  Thomas Edison would go to a lake holding a fishing pole.  There was no bait on that pole, but people left him alone since they assumed he was fishing and needed quiet.  Well, he did need quiet, but not to fish.  He needed quiet to think.

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In writing our  letters we are giving ourselves quiet alone time to think, but we’re also connecting to others at the same time.  Lord Byron, another favorite “dead friend”, put this idea beautifully  when He said, “Only in letter writing do we have solitude and society simultaneously”.  We’re alone with our thoughts, but we’re also sharing them with our letter friend.  Our friend receives those thoughts, ponders them, adds his or her own, perhaps includes a few more questions for discussion, and the end result is a rich mix for both of us.

 People always ask me what in the world I can find to talk about in a letter.  They forget a letter is a conversation and if our mind happens to be blank one day all we have to do is read our friend’s letter and respond to the ideas we find there.

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Henry David Thoreau, (yes, another “dead friend” –  I have lots of them) said, “If one advances confidently in the direction of his dreams, and endeavors to live the life he has imagined, he will meet with successes unexpected in common hours.”

Time alone spent in reflection can help us get in tune with ourselves, and how nice it is if we can also get in tune with others at the same time.  Letter writing provides us with this opportunity.  It’s no wonder I find writing letters such a complete treat and maybe you do too.  It gives me a time to sit and rest, a time to ponder the life I have and the life I want to have, and it offers me the opportunity to share my life with others.

SHARING DOUBLES THE JOY AND DIVIDES THE SORROW

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So when I find a letter in my mail box addressed just to me, I’m delighted!  Someone was thinking of me.  Someone  wanted to share.  I can’t wait to read what they have to say.  I’m delighted to sit myself down and ponder their thoughts.  I’m then anxious to reply, though life does get in the way at times for a quick reply.

What activities fill you with delight?  Are you cultivating your joys?  Are you sharing them?  Are you achieving the wisdom that comes from living hours that are golden?  Are you advancing confidently in the direction of your dreams?  If you’re a letter writer I bet the answer to all these questions is a big YES!  And these questions are great to include in  your letters to others for questions like these will help your friends focus on some of the most  important issues of life.  Maybe one of those next letters you write will be going off to ME!  I hope so.  I’d love to hear from you.  Really!

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Here’s wishing you golden days  filled with wisdom.

Truly,

Carol Ann