One of the last places I visited in Asheville was the Biltmore Estate. Oh my, she sure is purty. My next thought, how am I not a Vanderbilt living in this fine home? How?
Listen, I have no shame in saying I would love to be accustomed to living in the lifestyle a grand estate like this demands, but in modern times. Taking the best from the past, and leaving the ugly behind.
This manor of living is an artist's dream. As I strolled through a lady played a hammered dulcimer. It was both soothing and powerful.
There's a music room, a library that rivals Beauty and the Beast. Books, books, so many books and not enough time even for a lady of leisure. The gardens in and of themselves are the piece di resistance.
Then there's the tapestry room. Here's an excerpt from the Biltmore.com. Please go look at this link to see the tapestries.
Dang. Can you imagine enjoying your morning coffee studying the tapestries, "woven from wool and silk in Flanders (now part of Belgium) between 1525-1535"? The only one left in the world? I can. If these don't inspire to share and create beauty I don't know what would.
There were sitting rooms where people gathered, usually before a meal to get to know one another or catch up with an old friend. The main dining room is spectacular. The one particular statement which struck me was, according to the tour dinner was the main event. "Conversation was entertainment."
Conversation was entertainment.
I believe, conversation as entertainment is a profound statement. I would also add it's connection. If the chat is give and take, both parties listening as well as speaking, well, I consider that priceless. It's also a huge portion of a beautiful and meaningful life. Discussions, tete-a-tetes, heart to hearts, gabfests are an art form. Listening, really listening without thinking what you will say next, but actually hearing the person, that's like the tapestry Faith, a one of a kind gift.
Of course the carefree life needs balance. I know this intellectually, but when I'm in the midst of something wonderful, special, GOOD, I never want it to end. I suppose it's a mechanism to block the ugly of the world.
Time, leisure I believe are types of attributes which equates to privilege. Since I do not live at the Biltmore mansion, or any other mansion, castle or fairy tale cottage I do have a bit more time these days. I can make the most of it.
On a side note, I realize not every wants things to be fixed. This realization took me a long time to really understand. There are people who want to talk and vent, I'm included once in awhile, where they just want to be heard, not fixed. I suppose this is a good starting place for me in how to listen in a more refined manner. I must admit I'm better at this than I used to be. I do need to know however what your preference is, listening or listening with advice.
Here's some things I think would help in the quest for slow, gracious living.
- Surround myself with art of all forms. While I don't own a private collection, I can go to galleries, museums, art shows and create art.
- Strolling. Getting outside as much as possible. My city has a lot of amazing gardens. There are also garden tours. I do have friends with green thumbs. The most challenging idea, start in my own yard. I do not have a green thumb or a gardeners soul, so I'm going to have to start small. This is no easy feat because I'm a big picture thinker, not detail oriented. I suppose that's what a challenge means.
- Gather with friends, for meals or walks for meaningful conversations, or silly talks. I don't do this enough. Talking with strangers, well that's my strength, but I think a group of friends relishing in the same activity would be remarkable. I need experience in this area so perhaps a garden party or two or three.
Kelly "Vanderbilt" Whitten