In between two longer trips in June, I had two mini-trips in my home state of Tennessee. I once again climbed Mt. LeConte in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park and stayed in the off-grid lodge at the top with my Wednesday hiking group. Last year was a very cold hike with beautiful hoar frost on the trees and this year was a very warm hike with the rhododendron and mountain laurel in bloom. I always enjoy a hiking challenge and this year I was rewarded with probably my all-time favorite mountain moment—sunrise over the gorgeous layers of mountains. It was worth the journey to see the sunrise in one direction and the beautiful moon, Venus and Jupiter on the opposite side of the sky. Fifteen minutes after sunrise, the fog rolled in and my view was instantly white but the moment of sunrise is with me forever.
Earlier in the month, I went west to my hometown of Nashville to see my dear friend Melynie who was finally able to get back to the US from her home in Taiwan. It had been several years since I was last in Nashville and I have some favorite places I always want to visit. Top of my list is the beautiful Athena in the Parthenon in Centennial Park and then the gorgeous Bi-Centennial Park just a couple of miles away. Both hold such a special place in my heart and no trip to Nashville is complete without a visit. We finished off the afternoon with a long trip to the used bookstore as we are both voracious readers and then a delicious dinner at Adele’s.
There was one place in Nashville I particularly wanted to revisit, The Hermitage, the home of the 7th US president, Andrew Jackson, and the third most visited presidential home in the United States. The Hermitage holds a special place in my memory and heart. I visited it often as a child for we only lived about 20 minutes away. I have very vivid memories of the grand Greek Revival façade and the beautiful rooms with antique wallpaper. The beds seemed so small but with elaborate curtains flowing from the canopies. The mansion was never sold outside the family, so it still has all the original furnishings and is well preserved. I loved wandering the gardens and seeing the carriage house with the old carriage and artifacts from so long ago. It certainly made an impression on me as a young girl.
It was a beautiful June morning and the breeze was gentle—perfect for my return after more than 20 years. Now there is a big new visitor center/museum a ways from the old home and we spent some time learning about Andrew Jackson while we waited for our entry time into the mansion. Andrew Jackson, the president on the $20 bill, has become a more controversial figure in the last few decades as history is revisited but the museum focuses on his illustrious war career and the power he had as president. I’m sure this was all important, but I was only interested in one thing, the house. I wanted to see that beautiful home again.
With much anticipation I walked down the path to the front of the home. It was almost as I remember with the tall Corinthian columns and beautiful old brick. It was no longer bright white but a soft beige which apparently was the original color. We wandered the mature English style garden but mostly I was happy to sit and look at the beautiful front porch and stately columns. It was finally our turn to go into the entrance hall—I love that entrance hall with spectacular hand painted scenic wallpaper of the Odyssey, a Greek myth, perfect for a Greek Revival home. The tour guide gave many details in a very sing-song style and then we wandered down the hall to hear more stories and see the main bedrooms. The tour continued upstairs and then down. Each room was just as I remembered.
Looking back on my fascination with The Hermitage, I can see my early love of homes and architecture. That beautiful old mansion was the beginning of my deep love of historic homes and places. For me, houses are people too and I love to feel their presence and sense the essence of their long lives. There is a soul to a well-loved old home that I really connect to and cherish. I have had several more special meetings with great houses and feel they have much to say. What I didn’t know then was I would eventually move to an old Greek Revival home and build a special relationship with my own bit of history.
What from your past turned out to be more influential than you realized? Have you ever had the chance to visit that person or place again? I found my morning with The Hermitage to be so sweet and joyful. I was meeting a beautiful old mentor again, and that home’s influence started me down a wonderful path.