Pruned, aging women with parasols and maps paraded behind me as I walked ever so slowly through the gardens at The Biltmore today. The Biltmore mansion first began being built in 1889, and was inhabited by one of the wealthiest American families: The Vanderbilts. With an entry hall that contains a ceiling 7 stories high and a library with over 28,000 books, one might say that they would qualify to be on an episode of “Cribs.” I’ll let you in on a little secret. I’m a museum junkie. No, really. Take me to a museum and I’ll be a happy girl. It’s probably because I used to work at Andrew Jackson’s home (The Hermitage) as a tour guide, but there is just something about the diverse demographic of tourists that makes me happy. I love the peaceful, quiet sound of feet pattering through historic places. I love the sound of different languages being spoken in hallways. I even love the sound of the generic voice on the audio guide tours.
What I love most? The fact that in museums, you have the excuse to be alone. There is something to be said for being alone. So often the word ‘alone’ is associated with loneliness or even an image of emptiness, but I think this can only be by people who have never truly found themselves content by themselves. I am a believer that everyone needs to learn to be alone in a public place. How else is one ever going to take in scenery, scents, and the crooked smiles of fellow people watchers? I used to be afraid to be alone. Now, I cherish those moments. Moments like this weekend while driving to North Carolina. One foot resting on my seat, one hand out of the window, I soared down I-40 to the soothing sound of ‘Rivers and Roads’ by The Head and The Heart. A year from now, we’ll all be gone. All our friends will move away. The lyrics reflect my reality. The days ahead will most likely bring much opportunity to be alone. Yet, I am grateful for the opportunity to sit back and observe. The world has so much to offer if we only look around.
This weekend, my best friend and I paddle boarded out upon Lake Lure. We were together but silent. In years of friendship, we have learned to be alone when we are together. It’s healthy. It’s restful. It’s a gift. How very sad I was to pull away today and leave our house nestled in the beautiful mountains and woods.