Carry Me Back to Old Virginia
By: Barbara Steinberg

I sit waiting for my connection from JFK to IAD (Virginia’s Dulles Airport in airport-speak). Blurry-eyed from marginal sleep, I’ve been suddenly torn from my bumpkin Sacramento life and sit surrounded by the hustle and bustle of New York…even if it is only the airport. It’s a whole other place. It’s 9a.m. and the pizzeria is doing a brisk business – slices of pepperoni pizza and their neighborly bagels and cream cheese. This is definitely NOT SMF!

A sign across the concourse catches my eye –in bright pink and chartreuse letters…PAPAYA KING! Professing the great curative powers of papaya on the digestive system and at the same time hocking the “Best Hot Dogs in New York,” better than filet mignon, in fact, and according to the King himself! Guess you may the need the papaya after downing a couple of tube-steaks for breakfast.

The flight from JFK to IAD is uneventful (thankful phlying phobic that I am) and the plane is nearly empty. We have room to stretch, but with less than an hour of air time it hardly pays to close my eyes. Soon, familiar terra firma of my childhood Virginia home comes into view. I don’t know what was up with that landing though! Clear skies and no turbulence and yet we were rockin’ ‘n’ rollin’ as we bounced down at IAD.

We spend time hanging around with Neil, my brother, and sister-in-law KD Kidder, and her mom, Doris, at their photography studio in Leesburg. Oh, yes, Dudley, the studio’s door-dog – a tiny bundle of white (marshmallow) fluff Maltese – he greats everyone who enters. We love these businesses and their canine employees. So we’re sent around the corner and down the street to meet the newest pooch on the block, Baxter, a 10-month-old Shiatsu – what a cutie! Dudley better beware lest he lose his Top Dog designation. Well, not in our hearts!

Established in 1758, Leesburg like so much of Virginia is steeped in history. You can’t fall down without hitting something historic. And this is what I love about my old Virginia home – all the lovely old buildings, so tidily preserved and cherished. On Loudoun Street I was thrilled to meet a full-time Plein Air artist, Palmer Smith, practicing his craft and capturing the likeness of one old building. A blown head gasket some 30 years ago, and the love of Colonial architecture, brought him to this pleasurable trade.

The tiny town of Bluemont is my brother’s home and a place I love to visit. Hard to keep from smiling when you tell newcomers that it was originally called, Snickersville. Yes, really! Founded in 1826, it was named after Edward Snickers who operated a ferry across the nearby Shenandoah River – and not that ever-so famous Mars bar. The curving backroads and lush green hills fill me with joy each time we visit.

Our days are quiet and the nights even more so. And I revel in the time spent looking out into the darkness. It is the most perfect of nights looking out from the “Crab Outpost” the name my brother and sister-in-law’s have given their Blue Ridge Mountain home – it’s an inside joke. The deck, cantilevered over their 7-acre pasture and a heart-stopping view of Loudoun Valley, has an unobstructed 100-mile view…on a good day. But this is night – and the moon is Full! The pasture is fully illuminated and the dark shadows of giant trees keep sentry. There’s a slight mist over the treetops, reminiscent of the Smoky’s farther south. And the outlines of Bull Run Mountain and Big & Little Cobbler loom ghostly in the distance.

The on and off switch of seasonal fire flies is thrown and every so often I have to blink and ask myself, “Did I really see that?” How I miss those magical bugs. And the memories of childhood, when on similar nights we filled jars with these eco-friendly flashlights to brighten a dark bedroom. Though it was always a “catch and release” operation, my now adult sensibility labels it as cruel. Ahhh, childhood! How I miss those simpler and less worried times.

Thousands of cricket voices and one lone bullfrog serenade and lullaby me into sweet dreams.

Sadly, the home is for sale. We relish every visit thinking it may be our last.

Crab Outpost

Distant from where land meets sea,
Human trappings seem faraway.
Restless thoughts keep sleep at bay,
Rise! Watch! Hear the break of day.
In pre-dawn light a masked invader, in deed,
Uncovers a treasure-trove of oiled seed.
Lid unlocked, this morning graze,
Is undisturbed by human gaze.
Cardinals, he; cardinals, she;
Mourning doves; and chickadees.
All have come to play a part
A serenade, of Dawn’s symphony.
Three decades here, brought lasting rest,
On a hillside blessed by Nature’s hosts.
Witnessed the seasons migrating through,
An island of peace on the greenest of coasts.
And you never tire of deer at play,
The hummingbird’s hum, a distant cow moans.
Rise-up. Rejoice. Greet this day!
In shrouded mist, this Blue Ridge home.

Crab Outpost – Bluemont