in Geezer, Travels

Hornbeam Hill, 2012

Hornbeam Hill swing and pavilion

We just got back from a visit to Kelly’s parents and a weekend spent at Virginia’s Twin Lakes State Park. I wrote this post last night.

On the way down to the park on Friday, we detoured to visit Hornbeam Hill, the rural patch of land where Kelly and I got married 13 years ago. It had been probably a decade since we last saw it, Kelly’s parents having sold it soon after our wedding due to their desire for something more suburban. The kids had never seen it and we had no particular time schedule so we turned on to Bell Farms Lane in Palmyra and brought the van to a stop along the side of the property.

The two gates that lead into Hornbeam showed that no one had traveled beyond them in quite a long time. Trees were growing up in the middle of the gravel driveway. Rather than fight our way through the brush there, we opted to climb the hill towards the overlook where we got married. After a climb through the leafy woods and up the hill, we were presented with a field of waist-high weeds and sticky brambles, causing us to loop around to avoid getting stuck. A white camper sat atop the hill, causing us some initial alarm. Yes, we didn’t belong there but should someone had been home we would’ve happily shared our story. Kelly and the kids stayed back while I approached the camper calling to see if anyone was home. A look at the weeds growing up around all corners of the camper confirmed that the camper was empty and we were alone.

Kelly took the kids over to the cellar her father had built. On the day of our wedding Kelly, looking radiant, had walked out of it, the moment captured in a delightful photograph. Now the cellar was overgrown with trees, the dusty glass door buried under leaves. Our dog, Rocket, became unnnervingly attracted to the cellar, spooking Kelly and the kids into returning to the van.

I continued my hike around the property, determined to photograph what landmarks remained. We had seen the old pavilion from the wood-beam bridge below the bluff, so I made that my first stop. Kelly’s dad, Neil, had built that to shelter his tools and it still looked brand new. The green wooden shed stood nearby, a little weathered but still in good shape. On the day that shed was painted Kelly and I had painted a love message on the back side before painting over it. This was the first of a family tradition that has carried over to all of our other painting projects.

The wooden swing slung between two trees still beckoned from its overlook surveying the creek below. Kelly and I had once spent lots of time on that swing, still sturdy if a bit lonely after all these years.

The giant utility shed where I spent my first, rainy Thanksgiving with the Swansons was a wreck, its steel beams stripped of their protective vinyl cover and standing open like a skeleton’s ribs. Piled high “inside” was a load of debris. I didn’t dwell there long.

What hurt more than the tangle of ever-present briers was seeing how this once-magical place had become so neglected. I would have been happier if had someone built a home on it, truth be told. I couldn’t quite reconcile what I was seeing now to what had once been. With a heavy sigh, I took my last picture and made my way back down to the van.

Kelly greeted me there with news that she had found the “engagement tree,” where we had had our picture taken right after our engagement. We posed the kids and then ourselves on this tree, completing the circle. On that note, we hopped back in the van and resumed our travels to our destination: Twin Lakes State Park in Farmville, VA.