A Place of Refuge

There’s a thunderstorm in the mountains tonight.  The clouds roll in so quickly up here…it can be sunny one minute and the next minute:

 

The past week was a blur of activity as we explored the Smokies. I don’t know how it will be possible to see everything we want to in just a year’s time. At dinner each night when we tell guests where we’ve been many are surprised at the number and range of activities in the area, most of which are free.

There were 2 highlights to my week…and both firsts for me:

1. I went to a decoration day (which deserves its own post)

2. Donna, one of the cooks at the inn, invited me to a revival at her church.

Of course I showed up to the revival.  And who did we sit in front of?  The sheriff and the local bail bondsman. Donna introduced me to both of them in case I ever get in trouble. (wouldn’t THAT be an awesome post….)  So, I’d never been to a revival before….and had no idea what to expect….but I’m always up for anything remotely interesting.

Fact: the revival was overflowing with interesting.

It was led by Bill Saye….who was sent to prison in 1982 for first degree murder….and then completely turned his life around.  I pretty much wrote down everything he said in his testimony…including his description of “old fashioned holy ghost preaching.”  At the end of the night I was kind of sad that it was over. The revival singing was beautiful and haunting….true mountain church music.  As I left a man said to me:

You need to know….that in these mountains…..you are in a place of safety and refuge.

It was strangely profound because I’d just been thinking that moments before he said it.  It could have been coincidence or maybe it was God trying to hammer something through to me. This place is a place of refuge. And yes I feel that here.

We stayed up at the inn late tonight so that Boo could play with some new friends.  Brett stayed down at the cottage because we’d had a roof leak and he wanted to check his handiwork (almost narrowed down!).  Walking home with a small flashlight and jumping over puddles Boo and I weren’t so jumpy as we’d been in the past few weeks. The darkness wasn’t something to be feared so much anymore.

 

P.S. My little sister Perry went into labor tonight.  Please pray for her and her sweet baby…and an easy delivery!

 

A Few of My Favorite Things

A few of my favorite things this summer….shoes, games, gifts and bug spray! Links are at the bottom of the post.
My favorite things this summer - Ashley Hackshaw / Lil Blue Boo via lilblueboo.com

 

1. The Donna Hemp Sanuks in Natural.
I wear these pretty much everyday. Super comfortable and match everything….plus they are washable. I think they fit very true to size.

 

2. Girls’ Donna Sanuks in Pink Poncho
Boo’s favorite shoes…and everyone asks where we got them.  The Pink Poncho fabric reminds me of those woven aztec belts you know you loved in the 80’s. I replaced her flip flops with these because she’s so accident prone!

(Note: Brett has a pair too.  We all match. Dorks.)

 

3. Gap Always Skinny Jeans.
My new favorite jeans. I hoard them. I roll the bottoms and crop them when it’s warm….and roll them down if it gets cool at night.

 

4. Spot it
This was a gift Boo received from a family we are close to.  It can be played anywhere and by almost any age.  Between any two cards there is always one and only one matching symbol. Whoever spots it first gets the card.  Love that it fits in my handbag easily and takes up very little space when it’s being played (great for restaurants!)

 

5. RayBan New Wayfarer in Tortoiseshell
My go-to sunglasses. Always a classic.

 

6. California Baby Insect Repellent
My friend Grace brought this last week when they visited and now I’m hooked. Nothing ever works as well as the super toxic stuff…but who wants to put that on?  Not perfect but a much better alternative to the gross stuff. I also like one that I picked up from a local garden store called Don’t Bug Me. Smells amazing and they have soap too.

 

7. Waterproof Fuji Camera
Best purchase ever. We bought this as a camera that Boo would be able to use on hikes.  Now she’s 10 times more interested in what we are looking at instead of “oh another waterfall” reactions.  She’s constantly looking for things to capture (even under water).  It’s waterproof and shockproof…AND it has a wristband that floats in case it falls in a creek.

 

8. The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt
My friend Eric gave me this just a few days ago and I’ve already devoured it.  i’ll never enter an art museum again without thinking about this book.  Also, The Secret History by Tartt was one of my favorite books I read as a teenager. If you haven’t read it…you are missing out!

 

9. Expecting Adam by Martha Beck
Just reread this for a second time. I love her writing….and her story. It’s witty and dark all at the same time….my favorite kind of book.

 

10. Keeping a Journal You Love
This is probably the tenth time I’ve reread this book.  It’s more of a guide for me and a glimpse into some beautiful writing.  If you are a writer, a journaled, both or neither….I think you’ll love it. I don’t think it’s in print anymore but I linked to the used books…you can get it for almost nothing.

 

Disclaimer: Sometimes I use affiliate links. All products were picked by me, purchased by me, used by me and loved by me.

 

A Rustic Wedding in the Smoky Mountains

One of the perks of living at the Hemlock Inn is that we get to watch beautiful weddings take place.  The 3rd weekend we were here a couple named Becca and Jake were married on the property. We were lucky enough to be seated for dinner with Becca, her parents and friends two days before the wedding and get to know them a little. Such nice folks.  Boo said Becca is her new BFF (and Becca sealed the deal by leaving her a bouquet of flowers when she left the morning after the wedding….)

Rustic Wedding Ideas - Hemlock Inn - Bryson City, NC #wedding #rusticwedding #ncwedding #brysoncity

 

I loved all the rustic touches like this pitchfork sign to greet guests as they came up the drive:

DIY Rustic Wedding Ideas and Smoky Mountains Venue - Hemlock Inn - Bryson City, NC #wedding #rusticwedding #ncwedding #brysoncity

 

Here’s a little before and after animation. Jake, the groom, and his step-father and a friend made the arbor:

 

I hid behind a tree to take this photo. It was drizzling during the ceremony but only for a few moments! [Read more...]

Neutral Nursery Decor Ideas – Restoration Hardware Inspired

My sister Perry and her husband Justin are going to have a little girl in mid-July.  I’m so excited to have a niece! We visited their house last weekend and the nursery just blew me away.  I love the neutral look of it….so serene and peaceful.

A Neutral Nursery - Neutral Nursery Decor and Ideas - Click through for paint colors and details #diy #nursery #nurserydecor #baby

 

The crib is the Roselle Crib that she picked up at Restoration Hardware Finale Sale:

 

Neutral Nursery Decor - The Roselle Crib Restoration Hardware Baby

 

The wall color is Edgecomb Gray from Benjamin Moore:

Neutral Nursery Wall Colors - Restoration Hardware Inspired - Edgecomb Gray from Benjamin Moore

 

The cute wall prints behind the crib are vintage Winnie the Pooh book pages from an Etsy shop called Cloud Nine Prints. The frames were from Home Goods.

Neutral Nursery Wall Decor Ideas - Vintage Winnie The Pooh Book Pages

 

A cute little chair and ottoman that was a gift:

Neutral Nursery Decor Ideas - Restoration Hardware Inspired

 

I love this vintage Winnie The Pooh that was a baby gift. It’s the Kids Preferred Giant Plush Winnie the Pooh.

Vintage Winnie the Pooh (where to buy)  - Baby Gift Ideas

 

The chair is the washed linen camelback swivel glider chair with slipcover:

Neutral Nursery Chair for Restoration Hardware Baby Nursery

 

A sequined pillow:

Neutral Taupe Nursery - Sequined Pillow

 

 

The vanity was our grandmother’s.  Perry re-painted it with Annie Sloan Chalk paint in Old White.  The mirror was from Marshall’s and she painted it to match:

A Neutral Nursery - using Annie Sloan Chalk Paint - Old White

 

I love how she painted these to look old and uses the vanity as a changing table: [Read more...]

A House of Windows

When I was at my sister’s house last weekend she had a huge pile of old windows sitting outside her garage.  At first I was like: hey can I take one of these? But that turned into: hey, can I take all of these? So…on a trip to empty out the rest of the items we had in our trailer we ended up bringing back a truckload of old windows.  Brett sure lucked out when he married me (when it comes to accumulating free junk).

I love this photo of my 8.5 months pregnant sister Perry blowing off the window for me as Sienna darts after a ball. Chaos.

 

I started searching for projects that used large quantities of windows and I came across this:

 

I love the video by Half Cut Tea:

 

Now all I need is a few acres of land and lake!

 

Meet it and Live it

I love this:

Waterrock Knob - Harvey Broome - Out Under the Sky of the Great Smokies "A Year at the Hemlock" via Ashley Hackshaw / Lil Blue Boo

 

That photo of the Smoky Mountains is one I took yesterday….I’m pretty sure you can see all the way to Tennessee.  Brett has been researching the nearby trails and natural wonders. We are working on some printable “day guides” for the area of our favorite places….that could be an endless project. On the suggestion of a friend we went to visit Waterrock Knob yesterday. It’s a short trail off the Blue Ridge Parkway. Don’t Boo and I look really outdoorsy?

Waterrock Knob off the Blue Ridge Parkway via Ashley Hackshaw / Lil Blue Boo

 

The real truth is….I am not very outdoorsy….yet. I used to be. When I was in high school I wanted to work for the National Forest Service. Now I cringe when I walk through spiderwebs or tall grass. (and when do the spiders realize they can’t build a web on a path?! It’s endless rebuilding! Unless they are actually trying to catch a human….) Boo and I are getting a little braver each day when it comes to nature. Brett on the other hand has already found a riding group and ventures out to Tsali on his own to go biking.  He was really patient with us yesterday when he took us on a “secret trail” and Boo and I were both almost hyperventilating at the sighting of fresh bear poop (scat?!) every 10 feet.

Waterrock Knob Hike off the Blue Ridge Parkway via Ashley Hackshaw / Lil Blue Boo

Brett and Boo are putting together some more office storage today so I can get myself out of boxes. All my bookshelves are put together and my books are unpacked. Brett’s looking for some old wood tomorrow to build me a desk so there’s a place to put my desktop computer and printer.  Then I have endless tutorials and home decor photos backlogged from the past few months that I never got to before our move….that will take a little catching up.  And I can’t wait to share our revamp of the cottage we are staying in here at the Hemlock Inn.

I’m still trying to find my rhythm here with writing. There is so much to see and do here that I get easily sidetracked.  I’ve been working on a book now for 2 years and I would love to finish it in the near future which will require some serious discipline soon.  Everyone asks me what kind of book it is and I used to say “memoir” until a man told me I wasn’t old enough to write a memoir so now I just call it a “totally true episode”….that leaves room for multiple episodes right? So if I don’t hear from me for a few days I’m probably 1. wandering or 2. off writing for the episode…  (or I’m probably on Instagram @lilblueboo)

I went to the library today to get some work done.  As I was sitting there an older man meandered in, grabbed the newspaper and said to no one in particular in a thick southern drawl:

Well, let me sit down and read some of this here propaganda.

I lost my souther accent years ago but I hear it coming back.

I found the below passage in a magazine in the library. It was written originally in 1919 but was republished in Smokies Life Magazine recently (Volume 5 #1):

First I came here for health’s sake and peace of mind. The grand old hills and forests gave me both. I return to then a fond affection.

Then I got to liking the people. They are a plain, honest, brave and independent folk. They are pure Americans, with true American ideals. They are hospitable, with genuine good will, and not for the sake of gain. They judge a man from his own deeds and bearing; not from his pocket book or family tree.

Towns are few and small. Outside of them, the people are quaintly old fashioned, with ideas of their own, not borrowed ones. They are original, these mountaineers; nearly everyone is a character.

-Horace Kephart, published in All Outdoors magazine, October 1919.

 

“Then I got to liking the people.” There’s something about a small mountain town that you can never find anywhere else I think.  Everyone I meet is itching to tell a story.  And the buildings too:

Two Silos out of Bryson City off the Tuckaseegee River

 

I can’t wait to show you what I see. I could spend a whole month documenting the roadside motels that have closed down and are slowly being reclaimed by nature.  I could spend another year sharing some of the stories from the locals I’ve met so far.  And most of them have had some hard lives but most of them make me think of that Thoreau quote:

However mean your life is, meet it and live it.

It will be interesting to see how my perspective changes or doesn’t change over the next year.

I just realized I haven’t been to a Target in over a month….and I can’t think of anything I could possibly need from there anyway.  I’d have to drive to another town to find one if I did.

Ok, enough rambling for today. I still have a letter to write.  If you haven’t signed up for the weekly letter….click here.  A few recent letters if you missed them:

A Little Space to Dream

More Than Resting

The Weight of the Centuries

To Be Yourself

 

P.S. I’d love to know if you live in a small town. What is your favorite part about living there?

 

 

 

 

 

 

What I Want To Be

For our move cross country to the Hemlock Inn, we took Boo out of school 2 weeks early. Her teacher Mrs. Mayfield sent us a large package today with a letter, work missed and awards from the end of school. Included in it was this essay that Boo wrote for a local essay contest in Palm Desert:

 

Boo's essay on growing up "What I Want To Be" via Ashley Hackshaw / Lil Blue Boo

In case the scan doesn’t show up here is the text:

What I Want to Be…
(By Boo Hackshaw)

When I grow up, I want to be a writer. My mom writes in her journal and she writes a blog about our family. I love my mom and what she writes. I like to write stories too. I like to write stories about how my day has gone and how my year has gone.

When I grow up, I want to be kind. I want to be a person who is helpful and who has a smile on their face. I will try to have good manners. I won’t smoke or litter or lie. I would like to be a person who respects others.

When I grow up, I want to be a mom like my mom. My mom gives me gifts of love. She helps me with my homework. She likes to write stories with me.

Growing up is going to be inspiring and imaginative.

 

She gives me way too much credit in her essay. It’s Brett that does most of the parenting around here.  I feel like I’m mostly hard on her when I need to be giving more gifts of love.  I’m often deep in thought in another universe before I realize she’s talking to me.  Earth to Mom.

I do have three things going for me: I don’t smoke or litter or lie.

Oh, I can’t wait to grow up too…it will be inspiring and imaginative.  That’s a lot to look forward to.

I loved this essay.

Thank you Boo.

 

Meet Ruby

I made it three weeks as a one car family.  Then I realized I need my freedom to wander on my own, without worrying about the rest of the family being stranded.

Meet Ruby, my new 1982 Chevy C10:

I knew Ruby would need some work….and she did.  16 seconds after purchasing her she died.  I’m not kidding. It was a scene out of a movie. Yay I bought a truck!  And…. I broke it.

Here’s my brother-in-law Justin, Brett and the sales guy Mike pushing her back to the garage:

 

I had to leave Ruby in Charlotte for a week while she gets fixed up.  She needs a new speedometer and a horn. A rearview mirror too.  Oh and her engine needs to start….she starts when she’s cold at least and runs perfectly until she gets warmed up.  Maybe she’s lazy.   I’ve never been excited about a car before….but I’m excited about this one.  I tried to get her to start by telling her how much fun she’ll have just sitting by the river with me.  Maybe she’s nervous about small town life.  She’ll come around.

 

 

Beautiful Things Don’t Ask For Attention

It was a rough day for Boo yesterday…she was grounded. I don’t know what got into her….maybe it’s all the freedom. There’s a wedding tonight and the bride and her family were here yesterday setting up and Boo was so excited to help…and she was a great help…but then she began to get a little snooty, too big for her britches as they say, and then she was disrespectful to the inn’s intern Harper and that was the last straw.  I confined her to the house and then witnessed a full blown tantrum and I’d never seen her so defiant before. She is well beyond her years in being able to turn arguments around on a dime.  After being grounded and realizing that her actions had serious consequences (like not being able to run freely around the inn) she turned back into my sweet, down-to-earth child.

But she is me. She wants to do and see everything.  She craves freedom and independence. She wants to disappear and wander aimlessly. She never tires. I get it…but when it affects others it’s time to reign it in.  I guess that’s why we need boundaries, right?

I stayed up way too late last night…reading Thoreau of all things.  I hadn’t touched Thoreau since being forced to read it in high school but something deep down was urging me to revisit it. I kept having to turn on the light to write down page numbers of quotes to share:

“I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what it had to teach, and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived.”

“However mean your life is, meet it and live it; do not shun it and call it hard names. It is not so bad as you are. It looks poorest when you are richest.”

“It is life near the bone where it is sweetest.”

“In proportion as he simplifies his life, the laws of the universe will appear less complex, and solitude will not be solitude, nor poverty poverty, nor weakness weakness. If you have built castles in the air, your work need not be lost; that is where they should be. Now put the foundations under them.”

“The life in us is like the water in the river. It may rise this year higher than man has ever known it, and flood the parched uplands; even this may be the eventful year, which will drown out all our muskrats.”

 

let us spend every day deliberately - quote by thoreau

*****

Yesterday was the first day I took my big DSLR camera out…and I only took a few photos.  We watched The Secret Life of Walter Mitty the other night and there’s that scene where the rare snow leopard emerges from its hiding place and Sean O’Connell doesn’t press the shutter button.  Watching it I’m thinking: PRESS THE BUTTON. PRESS THE BUTTON!

Walter Mitty: When are you going to take it?
Sean O’Connell: Sometimes I don’t. If I like a moment, for me, personally, I don’t like to have the distraction of the camera. I just want to stay in it.
Walter Mitty: Stay in it?
Sean O’Connell: Yeah. Right there. Right here.

(loved that movie…except I have been singing the line non stop “This is Major Tom to Ground Control….I’m stepping through the door.”)

I’m in these moments…I haven’t felt like I needed to capture them all for the first time in a long time.

******

I was a little uncertain for the first few days living here….the moisture of the mountains, the spiders and healthy insect colonies of the forest. It was all so new. I wondered if maybe I just wasn’t made for the outdoors. But yesterday, as Brett and Boo were skipping rocks into the river yesterday afternoon (her request) I found this place along the shore where the powerful Tuckaseegee river was flowing backwards because of the current. He leads me beside the still waters. I’m in awe of this place.  The richness of the land and the area. It’s humming with life all the time.  I find strength in the trees and peace from the water.

A year ago I would have needed the perfect office to write from, now I’m writing from the floor of my bedroom huddled next to the dog for the best sunlight. It’s quiet here and Diesel’s sweet panting breath is soothing. And other than that there is no sound whatsoever except for an occasional bird song. I could be the only person on earth right now…..except I know there is a flurry of activity up the hill for a young couple getting married on the property tonight:

rustic wedding

The Road to Nowhere

There was nowhere to go but everywhere, so just keep on rolling under the stars.
– Jack Kerouac

This morning we took a wrong turn and ended up on the Road to Nowhere. It’s a 6-mile-drive into the park that ends abruptly at this tunnel. (you can read the story here).  There’s not really anywhere to turn around so we just kept going.  Why not right?  We were the only ones there when we first got there:

Things to do in Bryson City - The Road to Nowhere Tunnel in Smoky Mountains

 

Boo and Brett talked me into going in. I walked behind them holding Diesel. One foot in front of the other…careful to stay right in the center…totally focused on the light ahead of me. I felt like I was going to be snatched into the walls. My heart was beating a million miles per hour and I just kept saying the Lord’s Prayer so it echoed throughout.  Funny how things can be scary and amazing all at the same time.

the light at the end of the tunnel

Things to do in Smoky Mountains National Park - The Road to Nowhere Tunnel

 

Here’s a photo Brett too from the other side:

 

exhilarated….until we realized we had to walk back through.

 

a graffiti compliment

 

So the Road to Nowhere actually does lead somewhere…to an eerie tunnel that feels sinister, earthy and breathtaking all at once.  I totally recommend walking through it…first thing in the morning (that’s the safest time of day in scary movies).

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