I pondered whether this blog was meant for the business “Farm Blog” or for a storyline post on my personal Facebook page. I am fairly confident that we – our farm wedding business – blurs the lines of personal and business. We conduct much of the activities as a business but we are not only family owned but family property and this is indeed our family land and we have three generations living on the farm today.
In the current issue of Southern Living Magazine (a magazine that is a must for every southern home) is a story worth sharing to my audience here because it is so near and dear to my heart and to my current situation. I was thumbing through the magazine one day with my 20 month old grand-daughter – just hoping to keep her entertained with some of the farm or animal pictures that I might come across. As I turned the page, I saw a photo that looked way too familiar.
Not only did I recognize the cliffs of this mountain range as our own Lookout Mountain, but it looked like the exact same view from my daughter’s (Heather Gardner Powell) newly purchased home. Had I not recognized the view – I likely would’ve set the magazine in the rack and resumed my hectic schedule without reading the article. But, as I maintained an attentive eye to my granddaughters activities – I began to read the article titled “Coming Home To Roost” by Steven Bender.
The story begins with this paragraph, ” “You can’t go back home to your family,” wrote acclaimed novelist Thomas Wolfe. “back home to your childhood…back home to places in the country….back home to the escapes of Time and Memory.’ Plucking an egg from beneath one of her chickens, Amy Arrowsmith begs to differ. ” I will assume that novelist Wolfe is implying that things change; the land gets developed, towns grow and alter, people grow up and move off, the mood and the life changes and once you depart from those “times and places”, there is no reliving them. And as it also eludes – Amy Arrowsmith questions the validity of the assumption as well.
I do not know Amy, though she lives only a few miles up the road. My daughter Jill knows her and Amy did buy one of our baby goats one time to be a playmate to their young boys. But the story certainly hit a chord with me as I too live on family property and try to find a way to blend the past and the present together.
The article is the story of Amy who chose to come back to her grandparents farm in Chattanooga Valley and restore/renovate her grandparents old farmhouse. Amy has created a bit of heaven on earth with her natural gardens, her white picket fence, and her eye-appealing chicken house.
The article is well written and the photos display the homey setting. It is indeed a story about a gentle restoration of an older home and keeping the ambiance of the past but recognizing that connecting to the future for her children (and husband) and their needs is also important. It is a beautiful piece of property located at the foothills of Lookout Mountain and on family property to boot. Her design choices and blending of play areas and natural areas is delicately done. I began reading aloud to my husband the final page of the article. As I approached the last couple of paragraphs, my voice began to quiver and tears swelled in my eyes. My words came out low and slow as I pursued finishing the article. It read, “Though the cows are gone, Isabel Temple Smartt would very much recognize the special place where she and Amy walked hand in hand across the lawn more than 40 years ago. ‘She’d be very happy about how we’ve taken care of it…how much our children love living here, and that it’s still where family and friends get together,’ Amy says. As Wolfe observed in You Can’t Go Home Again, ‘Somethings will never change. Some things will always be the same. Lean down your ear upon the earth and listen.’ Amy Arrowsmith did.’ ”
I felt such a kinship to these words – this article. As my mother died last fall, I have taken over as the Matriarch of the farm, of sorts. I have been renovating her brick home into Guest Lodging. My heart has been heavy as I have tried to not only show respect and honor to my mother’s home but to put my own twist to it as well. As I have painted each piece of furniture, rearranged each wall, repurposed a slew of architectural pieces – I have been mindful to balance the past and the future. My mother was such an artist – not only in watercolors and oils but with her china painting. I always felt like I had the art gene but never found my medium niche. So as I have journeyed through the transformation of this home, it is in some ways that I feel I have presented my mother a large water color painting that she is awed to view and even overwhelmed to receive. I was fortunate to have my mother here during our first four years of the wedding business and to not only have her blessing in it but to share in her delight in it (which are two totally different things). I know my mother was proud of our wedding business as she watched with anticipation as each bride would waltz into “her hayfield” to take photos and then she would also anxiously “SHARE” my facebook page when the bride photo gallery would be posted. I do not have to second-guess her feelings about the wedding side of things. But reading the article in Southern Living helped me to put into words much of what I feel. My mother, Margie Willene Reynolds, would very much recognize her home – this special place where she and family laughed – loved – worked – and shared with others….for almost 40 years. She would be very happy about how we’ve taken care of it….how much me and my family love living here, and that it’s still where family and friends (and many many more) get together.
So isn’t it neat how that you guys – our brides, their family and their guests, from down the street or the other side of town, or those of you who have traveled as far away as Hawaii, Washington state, Australia, and Italy – all of you not only get to enjoy the farm but you become a part of its history. You honor my mother by coming and celebrating marriage and enjoying the day. You respect her by appreciating the property. You allow us to continue her legacy by our hospitality that we share with you. We do not need to lean down our ears upon the earth to listen….we can see it all around this property. We see it and continue to live it.