Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Moments in the Gardens of The Grand Hotel

"It is good to be alone in a garden at dawn or dark so that all its shy presences may haunt you and possess you in a reverie of suspended thought." ~ James Douglas

"In my garden there is a large place for sentiment. My garden of flowers is also my garden of thoughts and dreams. The thoughts grow as freely as the flowers, and the dreams are as beautiful." ~ Abram L. Urban

Monday, June 27, 2016

Sisters in the Golden Warmth of Friendship

During our recent trip to the Gulf Coast, I took some pictures of Mary Ashley and Emma on the beach. After they posed dutifully together, I let them go free but didn't put my camera away just yet. When they resumed their play -- singing, dancing, laughing, skipping -- I captured precious glimpses into the private world they share as sisters.

There is an ease about their relationship -- a sense of complete and total comfort born of a lifetime together. Shared experiences, shared secrets, shared dreams. Volumes spoken within a single look exchanged between the most intimate of companions.

Even their disagreements hold a degree of sweetness. As Mignon McLaughlin so aptly stated, "Family quarrels have a total bitterness unmatched by others. Yet it sometimes happens that they also have a kind of tang, a pleasantness beneath the unpleasantness, based on the tacit understanding that this is not for keeps; that any limb you climb out on will still be there later for you to climb back." And when one sister is hurting, the other instinctively rushes to the aid of the other.

May they always treasure the blessings of having a sister.

"What greater thing is there for human souls than to feel that they are joined for life -- to be with each other in silent unspeakable memories." ~ George Eliot

Friday, June 24, 2016

Touring on Two Wheels: A Dream Drive Along the Bay

"The bicycle, the bicycle surely, should always be the vehicle of novelists and poets." ~ Christopher Morley

One of my favorite outdoor activities at The Grand Hotel, in Point Clear, Ala., is bicycling. Gliding through the resort -- feeling the sun on my face and the coastal breezes whipping through my hair -- makes me feel like a child again. One afternoon during our recent stay, the girls and I ventured off the property for a look at some of the local scenery. I paused along our route to photograph some of our favorite waterfront homes.

These gracious Southern abodes had us dreaming of living along the coast. Lush green lawns framed by picket fences gave way to stretches of sandy beaches just beyond their borders.

Can you imagine waking up to this view each day?

This brick charmer was one of the first that caught our attention.

Relaxing with a tall glass of lemonade in the shade of this front porch sounds like a lovely way to while away the hottest hours of a mid-June day.

And wouldn't it be lovely to recline on this screened-in porch as daylight fades into evening?

Along our path, we passed other families on bicycles, girlfriends pushing a baby carriage, and a father helping his toddler walk across the pier.

In this lovely setting, I couldn't help but wonder about the many generations who have gathered along these shores.

I imagine a son beaming as he introduces his future bride to the family -- a bashful smile beneath the brim of her sun hat highlighting delicate features as she offers a bouquet to her beloved's grandmother. As the summers pass, this couple brings infants who grow into children who before they know it come home from college with fiancees shyly bringing their own fresh-cut flowers.

"This one is mine," Emma declared to a pedestrian out walking her dog.

"We're dreaming," I explained. It turns out that the woman lives nearby, and she promised to tell the couple who own this home how much we admire it. 

Cheery yellow awnings, a wide screened-in porch, and a bicycle parked out front give this property a welcoming ambience.

Toward the end of our trek, we encountered a cluster of homes that included some new construction. I hope these cottages will be filled with happy memories of summertime bliss.

Golden moments shared between loved ones.

Priceless gifts among the treasures of sun, sand and sea.

"It is by riding a bicycle that you learn the contours of a country best ... ." ~ Ernest Hemingway

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Sisters on the Shore

"Is solace anywhere more comforting than in the arms of a sister?" ~ Alice Walker

Several years ago I shared a special visit with my wee little girls at Callaway Gardens, in Pine Mountain, Ga., and earlier this month I took my pre-teens for a weekend getaway to The Grand Hotel, in Point Clear, Ala.

These daughters of mine are growing up so fast, yet they somehow grow more precious every day.

Shopping for souvenirs in the resort gift shop, I was reminded that as mature as these young ladies seem sometimes, they are still little girls at heart. Emma fell in love with a tiny teddy bear, and just as I was telling her that it was too expensive, big sister Mary Ashley appeared snuggling the same stuffed animal in a different color. Looking into their hopeful faces, I could not resist indulging their childhood wishes. These days are fleeting, after all, and must be treasured in their season.

Mary Ashley and Emma (2012)

And here are my beautiful daughters just four years later.

Monday, June 20, 2016

Getting Away to The Grand Hotel

"The sea pronounces something, over and over, in a hoarse whisper; I cannot quite make it out." ~ Annie Dillard

Over the past few years, The Grand Hotel, in Point Clear, Ala., has become a special retreat for our family. When we looked at the calendar and realized that the overlapping of summer commitments did not allow for a vacation for our party of six, Joe suggested I take Mary Ashley and Emma for a quick getaway. It has been several years since we planned a girls weekend, so we were excited to make the most of our time together while the boys traveled to a camp in Ohio.

One of the delights of staying at the resort is enjoying its many amenities. As we reminisced about last year's trip with the whole family, one of the girls commented that she wished we could stay for a week again. We had only spent a weekend, but I think that enjoying all of the outdoor activities made the vacation seem longer.

We spent two full days -- Friday and Saturday -- soaking up the sun.

Saturday, I took an early morning stroll through the property with my camera. I love taking in the scenic beauty while all is quiet.

Boats in the marina look ready for the next excursion.

What a beautiful day for setting sail!

I love the Southern setting here, with gracious trees and lush lawns juxtaposed against the seaside treasures of sand and sea.

Because our time was short, we decided to make the most of our two sun-drenched days by staying at the resort.

I couldn't wait to feel my toes in the sand! Saturday afternoon we picnicked on the beach -- one of our favorite experiences of the trip.

Our days in Birmingham are so full that it was nice to enjoy some unhurried time together.

Reading, swimming, talking -- just enjoying one another's company.

Bicycling is one of our all-time-favorite resort activities. In an upcoming post, I will share some photos taken during an afternoon ride.

We felt so pampered relaxing in this coastal oasis. The weekend was bliss!

And true to expectation, that brief getaway has renewed within us the joy of an unhurried summer.

"Beauty sleeps on the calm dreamy bosom of the ocean, or lives in the dance of its wild waves." ~ T.C. Henley

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