letter to a friend

Dear friend,

I just couldn’t wait to sit down and write to you all about our day.

The early fall weather is perfect. The air is dry with low humidity so my curls are finally behaving. It felt so good to slip on my favorite pair of jeans, soft and worn thin. Today was date day and Dave and I headed out for adventure with no specific plans.

We started our day at the Battlefield Country Store where we shared a BLT with a fried egg and hot coffee with lots of cream and sugar. We sat on the porch there, in our favorite rocking chairs, deciding which way to go.

Driving down Route 3, we turned off on Orange Plank Road and then took the back roads from Spotsylvania to Orange County. As always, Dave was patient with my stop-and-go pace.

First up, Grace United Methodist Church on Parker Road, an old abandoned site. What I wouldn’t give to get inside that church and make pictures. As I walked the property, I kept wondering if it might be possible to create a photography project of abandoned churches; I’ve come across several in the last few months. Sitting in the cemetery, surrounded by the first chill of the season and the beginnings of green turning to gold, I felt close to Mom.

Turning off of Route 20 for any side road that looked interesting, we made our way. I’ve already forgotten the names of the roads, but I remember one was named Everona. We followed the sign for the Rhoadesville Post Office and it seemed that road must have been the original route to Orange, before they straightened the route. The post office was adorned with hanging baskets of flowers, watered and well-tended. The sign on the building said, “Passports Here.” Everywhere I stopped to take pictures, someone waved. It feels so good to be made welcome, even at home.

Entering the town of Orange by way of neighborhood streets, I came across a FREE chair. The upholstery was torn and I wondered if anyone would want such a chair, even if free. Around the side of the building (I think it was a Food Pantry) with the free chair, there was a home with a load of colorful laundry hanging out to dry. I can see why they chose today – perfect clothes-hanging weather.

We walked through downtown Orange, mostly off of the main streets. We ended up by the railroad tracks where we met a local historian. He told us his full name but I’ve forgotten already, though I do know he told us everyone calls him Mayor. He is compiling the history of the black community in Orange, and he loves to take pictures, too. He explained in fascinating detail the refurbishing of the railroad tracks. I tried to concentrate on his words but all I did was soak in his scent, some lovely combination of lavender and sandalwood that made the moment feel transcendent in some way.

Ready for lunch, we headed to Real Food. The small café is only open from 11am -2pm, Monday thru Friday, and we didn’t want to miss it. You have to know where this place is because there isn’t a sign. We sat outside on metal chairs sharing lemonade and a turkey sandwich. Everything here is homemade and we picked up a quart of soup to take home – carrot and coconut. I can’t wait to try it.

Back on the road toward home. I almost missed the sign that pointed the way to Orange Lake. I worried that I’d take us too far off the path, but Dave checked the GPS and estimated it was only a few miles to the lake, a water reservoir. I’m so glad we made the detour. The lake was serene. We watched two young boys fishing with their grandfather. The funny thing about fishing is that so often it’s not about the fish at all.

One last stop – for hand-dipped raspberry ice cream in homemade waffle cones.

And then we were home again.

I’m writing to share my day because I know you are happy when I am happy. It’s one of the things I love most about you.

Write soon and tell me all about your days. The easeful ones and the difficult ones, too.

In both ways, we’re growing.