When I mention the old inn in my family dubbed "The Lodge," I can tell that no one knows quite what I mean. And to tell you the truth, neither do I, exactly.
It's not a vacation house, not really, although I've spent many summers there. Neither is it a year-round home for any of us. Some mix of the two is closest to the truth, but I can say with certainty that the cabin is a part of our family. By turns, through many owners before us, it's been an inn, a family home, a bed and breakfast, and even (allegedly) a house of ill repute. But that's a story for another day.
What's important is that in this incarnation, it's there for us when we need it.
Like last week, when T and I convened with family there, and I felt the kind of harmony that comes when life slows down. Muddled thoughts faded into lightness. There were spiders, yes, and mosquitoes in droves. A trickle of a shower-stream, faulty plumbing, slanted floorboards.
But there was slow-poured coffee with a swing to sip it on, cup after pitch-dark cup. A leisurely hike. River-trout grilled on the porch. Card games, stories, music. Supportive conversation. Reading. Fern fields, mossy benches, and owls. No "shoulds".
It's significant what two days in the right place with the right people can do for the soul.
At once rough-hewn and elegant, the lodge has maintained a mountainside perch near the Smoky Mountains National Park for seventy years and counting. Or anyway, that's what we've decided based on the "1936" scrawled into the chinking by the side door that no one uses anymore.
For me, the narrative of The Lodge is wrapped up with my grandmother's, who is mostly responsible for its continued existence and much of its past. Like her, who is now nearly 99 years young herself, The Lodge has been witness to contemporaries yielding to time, seen them crumble with age, or more often, by bulldozers.
The old inn bears the unmistakable marks of time: groaning floorboards, a damp, allegedly haunted basement, a leaky roof, and many, many stories.
But The Lodge lives on, and I'm indebted to its very existence for the reminder to let myself, from time to time, be filled with wonder over worry and chaos.