Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Creating Home: A Meditation on Blackberry Wood

Perhaps the most important Place we can create is Home. In my new book, Creating Home: A Meditation on Blackberry Wood, I explore, through essay, poetry, and photography, the elements that make a real home: connection to the land, connection to the community and the history of the area, the creation of uniqueness that reflects individual life experiences, the sharing of memories and stories, and ultimately, the sense of peacefulness that allows connection to self. Here's an excerpt:

Blackberry Wood feels part of the land itself. Situated down in a shallow valley, nestled amidst cherry and sycamore and locust trees, on a slight rise between two wet-weather creeks, the saltbox colonial is unnoticeable from the road, only seen when you drive down the drive and turn the final corner. And though the craftsmen we brought in did their best to convince us to change the character of the place, clear out all the trees to make it visible from the road, paint the house white and build a big colonial porch with columns, we smiled at their well-intentioned advice, and did our best to maintain the connection with the land, the feeling that the place had sprouted naturally like a large forest fern.

The thing that I always liked best about Western Loudoun, even in the many years before I could call it Home, is its irregularity and texture. That’s what makes it magical. The old stone fences, laid by hand, a reminder of bygone days, are crooked and ramble like the dirt roads and streams that crisscross and interlace the countryside. The land rolls, intricate, inviting, and enchanted, alive with hayfields, lilies, thickets of rabbit and deer, board fencing and coops, old spring houses and barns, grazing horses and cattle, riotous woodlots, intimate villages, sun-dappled pastures, homes with names like Solstice and Maple Grove and Jubilation tucked around green corners, under hundred-year-old trees, just out of sight.

In the distance -- marking the far western boundary of Loudoun and its separation from the world beyond – floats the Blue Ridge, a lovely, lilac haze.

We wanted to keep the intricate feel, the enchantment of Western Loudoun, here at Blackberry Wood, not destroy it, as is so easy to do, as we saw being done in other close-by places where the texture and magic of the land had been lost, replaced with tidy sameness.
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