Whenever we stay in Sleepy Hollow, New York we make time to wander the grounds of Rockefeller Preserve. This time, in early November, the golden, beckoning arms of autumn enveloped us as soon as we stepped onto the property. My heart immediately became full, my spirit stilled, as I walked the familiar paths and watched my kids skip stones across the lake. It was as if an old memory had somehow stepped forward and merged with the present. This is why, I thought, we embrace traditions, the act of merging past and present and future. It brings us comfort in its consistency and reoccurrence.
For many they go to a temple, a church house, or other structures of ritual and worship to feel the divine. I respect that. We all have our own pathway in which the divine, the spirit, God, or whatever you wish to call it speaks to us. For me, I have a hard time connecting spiritually in my church or temple. For me, the divine finds my heart in nature; in a walk through the woods, or in the reflection of autumn trees on a lake. And this has been especially true in this particular place. Rockefeller Preserve at once got under my skin the first time I was there. I've often pondered as to why. One thought I've toyed with is that many of my French Huguenot and Dutch ancestors once called this area home. Maybe some of my cells, something in my DNA, recognized this place. Perhaps a great grandmother once stole away to meet a secret and forbidden lover under these trees. But that is just my imagination running away with me, as it tends to do. It doesn't matter why I feel this connection. I just do. And this is where my spirit finds its pathway to my mind and opens it in ways it can't otherwise be opened.
"I love to think of nature as an unlimited broadcasting station, through which God speaks to us every hour, if we will only tune in." - George Washington Carver
The timing of my return to Rockefeller could not have been more perfect. I'm in a time of belief and thought transition in my life. I'm taking ownership of where my faith should lie, of what is deserving of my time and heart, and a lot of the change I am making breaks with the tradition of my fathers. Traditions are comforting and worthy, the merging of the past and the present, but some can be stifling and unhealthy, and those are the things that must be examined, no matter the discomfort it causes the psyche. In the wise words of Robert Frost, "Two roads diverged in the wood and I - I took the one less traveled by, and that has made all the difference."
As I walked the paths that wound through hauntingly beautiful woods, streams, and hills, I found myself holding back tears. One or two would escape and I would quietly wipe it away. I felt my spirit communing with the divine, with nature, and with beauty, and all I felt was love and affirmation. I have been trusting my intuition more lately, even as it leads me away from old, and sometimes harmful, beliefs. It's been frightening and uncomfortable in many ways, but here in nature, in the woods of the northeast, I could see the rightness in following where my heart leads. A sense of liberation, freedom, and appreciation for the world around me took hold. Nature is my chapel, and never fails me.
I realize I am far from alone in understanding nature's effect on our spirits. Poets have written entire books on this subject alone, and I know most of us can look back on a breathtakingly beautiful, spiritual moment that took place simply because we were in a forest, or on a beach, or a jungle, or desert. For me, my spirit connects most with the northeast woods. The New England and New York woods speak the language of my soul. And if it is autumn, all the better.
I wish I would think to spend more time than I do in my chapel made up of oaks, maples, of fallen leaves, dirt walkways, of streams and lakes that reflect the flow of life, that bear testimony of the ripple effect of love, demonstrated in a thrown pebble disrupting a watery surface. Life has a way of getting in the way. The distractions and tasks of life, however, make moments like this all the sweeter. And it is all important for spiritually connecting with the divine, the mundane moments as well as the spectacular ones that leave us in grateful tears or in deep serenity.
In the restructuring of my beliefs, my faith, of my way of life, I will add to the good and healthy traditions of my youth that I am keeping, a new one, merging present with future. Instead of investing my precious time in certain unfulfilling and unhealthy obligations that I am now letting go of, I will make time for small moments of devotion to be near a still pond, a raging river, or under a canopy of trees, staring at a sunset, or simply walking a dirt path and looking up at the stars through skeletal branches; letting my spirit reconnect to the earth that grounds me and sustains life and centers my soul.
"Reading about nature is fine, but if a person walks in the woods and listens carefully, he can learn more than what is in books, for they speak with the voice of God." - George Washington Carver
Posted by Alyson (New England Living) at 7:02 PM
I must apologize for my spotty, inconsistent posting (and answering of emails) for the last couple of months. I had wanted to constantly post the beauty of fall in New England here, but I ended up being so busy exploring and partaking of all that my region has to offer in its prime season that I scarcely had time to actually post about it. Now that things seem to be settling down a bit for me, I may finally have time to post about my autumnal adventures.
At the end of September and first part of October, I had two friends come out to stay with me and I was able to be their host to all things New England. One friend was Heather, who is well known for her art under the name of Audrey Eclectic. I have so much of her art (including two different portraits of my family) in my home that I feared that once she got here she would deem me a stalker! But, no, I believe she was more charmed than frightened of her artwork staring back at her from so many of my rooms and she settled in with ease into the family and house. This was Heather's first time ever in New England. My other friend who came to stay was Emily and she is one of the dearest people I know. Wouldn't want to imagine my life without her! She was the one who went with me on a grand adventure across England, France, and Scotland last spring.
So, there we were, three ladies, out for an adventure, sans our kids! We were invited to stay at the Snapdragon Inn in Windsor, Vermont, as the innkeeper is an old friend of Emily's. The inn is in a stunning, historic home. It had been renovated beautifully, and I can't wait to stay there again.
The exterior is gorgeous!
And so is the interior!
When I was a little girl, living in California, having never gone east of Nevada or Utah at that point, I was enthralled with the tv show Newhart. Do any of you remember that show? It starred Bob Newhart and he and his tv wife ran a Vermont inn in a small town full of eccentric characters. I was so little when it was on, but the idea of this quaint New England locale with four seasons and old houses and inns (always been a history buff) was magical to me. I even recently purchased a season of the show to remininsce, and seeing the opening again, full of images of a cute New England town, brought back so many memories. I had been a child with a vivid fantasy life and this adorable inn in a small New England town had been part of that and it warmed my heart, brought a tear to my eye, to see it again. Why do I bring this up? Well, the Vermont town in Newhart was near the New Hampshire border, close to Dartmouth College. And Snapdragon Inn just happens to be in that exact area. I was afraid all my little girl fantasies of an adorable inn and picturesque town might be dashed, but was also excited to get there. Thankfully, the inn was perfection; old, yet updated. My jaw dropped when we walked into the welcoming lobby area. Not only did the inn live up to my childhood fantasy, it surpassed it.
The inn and the whole surrounding area was charming, warm, and quintessentially New England. We drove around nearby towns, taken in by their curvy hills, well-kept colonial homes tastefully decorated for the season, covered bridges, weathered barns, and rushing rivers.
This trip into this part of Vermont hadn't been part of our original intinerary for travels around New England, but I'm so glad we shifted things to make room for a stop at the Snapdragon Inn to visit Windsor, Woodstock, and all the lovely little hamlets in this area of Vermont. It was a childhood fantasy come true!
Posted by Alyson (New England Living) at 10:49 AM
Tomorrow is the day I pine for all year. Halloween! October is sacred to me, full of breathtaking foliage, longer nights, mild, misty weather, and the rich, spooky atmosphere that soothes my soul like a pumpkin spice enriched balm.
This October has been full of explorations of my beloved New England, starting off with Emily and Heather coming to stay with me. I had the privilege of getting to show them the land of my enchantment. We even stayed a night at the beautiful Hawthorne Hotel in Salem, Massachusetts, where I met with a psychic for the first time, but more on that in another post. We stayed at the Snapdragon Inn in Vermont as well, and it was gorgeous (more on that in another post as well). We visited so many places that renewed my love for my favorite place in the world, which is New England, of course! And I was reminded of how truly blessed I am to get to live here. My husband and I took many day trips around New England to soak in this stunning October, and last weekend I was lucky enough to go back to the Hawthorne Hotel in Salem for their Halloween ball (can't wait to post about that either). We also kept up our tradition of giving the kids a day off of school so we could partake in the Haunted Happenings in Salem. It has been another glorious October and I can hardly believe it'll all be over on Friday, except not really for me since we are staying the weekend in Sleepy Hollow, New York in order to stretch out the Halloween spirit for as long as is humanly possible. I will get to be in sweet denial for a few days more that Halloween is truly over.
October is magical in my own little village. One of the first things Emily said when she saw my village is that it looked like I live in Beetlejuice and I couldn't agree more. I often feel like I am living in a movie set of the ideal New England village. The joy and inspiration this little village provides me never ends, and it is never more dramatic than in the fall.
Looking into the village green
A Revoluationary War hero rests in peace in the Old Burial Ground
Strolling through the village sidewalks
There is nothing that warms my heart more than walking through leaves. Isn't that one of the sweetest and simplest joys of autumn? Kicking them, crunching them under the soles of long, leather boots, or taking in their bright beauty set off against stark concrete or asphalt.
Looking down the walkway of the village green
Looking through the trees to the Old Burial Ground.
An old village home, which once served as a bank in its glory days
Fallen leaves on an old stone wall in the graveyard
A golden tree watches over the village's dead
Imagine strolling past this lovely antique house, under a tree full of blazing leaves, with two sweet pumpkins greeting you on a white picket fence. This is an autumnal dreamland!
The old schoolhouse hugged in fall foliage
Nothing more New England than mossy, old stone walls surrounded by hundreds of fallen leaves
Thank you for joining me on this walk around my autumn village. I wish all of you a safe, happy, and spooky Halloween!
Posted by Alyson (New England Living) at 4:24 PM