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I’m settling in here at home after a 1,000+ mile roundtrip road trip.  The laundry is nearly finished and there is one bag still to be unpacked, but I have downloaded and looked through the photos I took.

None of the photos are from the wedding my husband and I attended on a ridge in Butler, TN – because I was too busy dancing to shoot photos!  My feet ached the next morning, but I was smiling widely – and I wish again, here and now, a long and loving life for ”Mar ‘n Pat.”

Aside from the wedding in the middle of the trip and arrival dates for Shepherdstown, WV and Asheville, NC, I had no fixed idea of what was to come.  I had the car, the camera, the clothes, even a battery-powered candle and some wine, a travel coffee press and coffee, and my favored gunpowder green tea.  Oh, there were also books, paper and pens in the (weighty) bag.

As prepared as I was I did forget the corkscrew, but Grapes and Grains Gourmet in Shepherdstown rescued me.

Shepherdstown is steeped in history.  Over time its inhabitants have had brushes with George Washington and, during the Civil War, Union and Confederate forces met across the Potomac in the Battle at Antietam.  Harpers Ferry, WV is a short drive from town as well.  More recently, the renowned actress Mary Tyler Moore, who was nominated for an Academy Award and won a Golden Globe Award for her role in the film “Ordinary People,” donated funds to acquire and renovate the home of her great-grandfather, Lt. Col. Lewis Tilghman Moore.  Lt. Col. Moore owned the home in 1861-2 and loaned it to Major General ‘Stonewall’ Jackson for use as his headquarters.  The home, once known as the Conrad Schindler House (ca. 1795), is now The George Tyler Moore Center for the Study of the Civil War and is part of Shepherdstown University.

I enjoy visiting historical sites very much, but having lived in both Fairfax County and Williamsburg, VA, I have already visited those places.  Shepherdstown, however, was new territory to me.

I spent my time there just wandering, in the 90+ degree heat, to see what I could see.  At one point I stopped a moment to mop my face and just rest a bit.  I burst into laughter when I looked down and saw a snowman at my feet, looking much like a toddler begging to be lifted into my arms.  When I stepped across the street to get an expanded perspective on the little guy I laughed harder when I saw a window fan pulling air in through an upper window of the house.

I think the snowman was reaching for the fan rather than me.

That whimsy, that lightheartedness, typifies the atmosphere I found in Shepherdstown. The people were courteous; the shops (Dickinson & Wait Craft Gallery; Four Seasons Books; Grapes and Grains Gourmet; Shepherdstown Paint & Art) were labors of love; the eating establishments (Blue Moon Cafe; Mellow Moods; Shepherdstown Sweet Shop Bakery) were top notch.  I will be happy to return.

The road from Shepherdstown was long, clogged for about an hour by an accident, and left my husband and me feeling a tad frazzled and confused by the time we reached the site of our friends’ daughter’s wedding.  There was a bit of a mix-up when we arrived, but I found some surprising loveliness as we waited to sort out the situation.  We were standing under a canopy in a field when I looked down and saw a lovely old leaf – then I saw another and another and another.  Desiccated and masticated upon by who-knows-what-sort of insect that had long since left the scene, they resembled lacy metallic leaves to me.

I set about photographing them as subjects of a still life.

My husband gave me a hug and a kiss and said, “That’s my Barb.  She finds old, dry, chewed-up leaves and she makes art.”  I appreciated the compliment – I still do – but just as nice was his patience when I put those leaves in a bag and insisted on carting them back home to Atlanta with us!  I’ve had one session to photograph those leaves as a still life and I know there will be more.

Of course, during the trip I was well aware we’d be going through Asheville, the same general area I’d visited last year with the bride’s mother.  I was blown away then by all the stunning artistry and craftsmanship I saw and this year, because we decided to drive the Blue Ridge Parkway, I was happy to chance upon two shops featuring work by the juried artists of the Southern Highland Craft Guild.  There are multiple shops showcasing their work and I think I will have to find the time to make my way through each one of them.  The selection is diverse and wide-ranging.  The quality and artistry are exquisite, superb.

We topped off that drive with dinner at the Tupelo Honey Cafe on Hendersonville Road, in Asheville.  I guess when my husband saw that they bill themselves as a restaurant “that colors outside the lines” he knew it would be for me!  It was, believe me.  The meal was heavenly – pan-seared trout with capers, peppers, asparagus and goat cheese grits.  Yeah.  Off the charts.  Go there.

Given all the beauty and wonder of the area, it is easy to understand why George Vanderbilt undertook to build a chateau-like estate (Biltmore) in the environs.

It does inspire dreams.

Barbara Butler McCoy, 2012, photos and text