Thoughts on Place

Shady Grove

This is where I came from.

That fact will surprise my friends, those who grew up with me in suburbia, lingering on the outskirts of a real city, graced with more than enough to do and see, more than enough trouble to get into and more than enough people to surround myself with and largely, disappear among.

But that suburbia, despite the years and upbringing and immersion, never felt like home. This place, my grandfather’s farm and the forests behind it, the ancient mill pond deep in that forest, this place felt like home.

I did not understand it’s value then. What I wondered is why, despite being part and parcel of life and school and church and all the stuff that goes with Southern Suburbia, I never felt like a part of it. It was, I was sure, a flaw in my own character.

It was not a matter of functioning well. I functioned just fine in our little corner of the world, functioned fine when I went to a large college, functioned fine in the hustle and bustle of big cities for work.

I still do. At times, my work takes me to cities, to the fast paced world of business and technology and I do fine. I’ve built some pretty powerful companies and dealt with a lot of media companies you would recognize. I do well there. Nigh on to impressively. Which is a good thing since it is in cities, or at least from cities where I make most of my money.

I’m just not at home. It’s not where I can rest. It is not where my spirit is renewed. Places like this farm, my grandfather’s farm, renew me.

The farm is called Shady Grove. Most all the farms around this corner of Virginia have a name. This was was so named because of a large grove of oak trees that once surrounded the 1854 homestead. A hurricane, Hurricane Hazel, took out most of those trees in the mid 50’s .  Somewhere I have a picture of my grandfather standing in the front yard with fallen trees, giant thick oaks all around him.

The oaks are mostly gone now. But the name survived.

I would be in my late thirties before I found myself a place in the country, or nearly in the country, a place with a name. I looked at it on a whim. It was priced safely outside my budget.

It was a mess of a place. Dirty inside. Smelly. Bad, bad colors of worn paint. But the bones were good and it was a quirky, large house. My realtor told me to make an offer I could afford. I did, but I was a little ashamed of how low my offer was. And more than a little surprised when they took it. (It’s the house in the picture from yesterday’s post).

It had been called Summit Manor. I am not sure why. It wasn’t on the summit of anything. It was halfway up a small rise, not even a hill. But that’s what they called it and that’s what people in Troutville, Virginia knew it as. It was on the edge of a tiny little town. Across the street was a graveyard. Behind my land was an apple grove. Despite being on a main road, it was quiet. I felt at home there.

A couple of years after my seperation and divorce, I moved here to Vermont. I have an old miner’s house, circa 1800 according to the deeds, that lies across from an abandoned slate quarry at the edge of a town of about 300. It too is quiet.

The house did not have a name, but I gave it one. When I moved up here, I was looking at three houses, a white house, a yellow house, and the one I eventually bought which was right across from the quarry, which I called the Quarry House.

And the name stuck. I even have a slate sign on the house that says “Quarry House. 2009”. I ended up, when I started my own business, caling the business Quarry House.

I like names that tell you something. That is part of why I like the name Shady Grove, I think. It tells you not what it is, but what it was. It carries with it history and truth. The Summit Manor name I inherited, but it always sounded kind of pretentious to me. It wasn’t on a summit. And it wasn’t a manor house. It was a big old farm house.

Quarry House fits. It tells you where it is. It tells you a little about the history, how the first peope to live there, and a few generations aftewrward, would have worked in the slate quarries.

It is also the place where I began building a new life. I think often of the Psalms, where God is called “The rock of my salvation”.  This place was the rock I started over on. It’s where I lived as I reclaimed the best of myself, and worked through the worst. It is where I worked to become a rock of my own, someone who, I hope, can be counted on, whose faith and kindness and stableness can be of service to others. That’s a trait that I want the house name and the company name to reflect, even if others know its meaning, or not.

A lot of people give names to things willy nilly. I am not one of those. I like names to have meaning. Both of my kids have names from grandparents. Partially that was to honor grandparents, but we picked the names carefully, to give them a platform of people’s histories to grow into, while still having names that were uniquely theirs.

I don’t even name my cats on a whim. I live with them a while to see if I can gage something of their personalities before I saddle them with a name. As if they care.

But I do. And I have no idea why. Something from my childhood I suppose. From growing up and spending time at Shady Grove and listening to the stories of it “before” the storm. Of how my grandfather began there as a sharecropper before finally buying the farm outright. Stories of sitting in the shade of the oaks after a long day chopping peanuts. The name became part of the “homeness” of the place.

I’ve been at the Quarry House for nearly 8 years. (8 years in May). It is home now. I am not longer a Virginian in Vermont. I am a Vermonter from Virginia. Living not just in a house, but in a place with history and meaning, waiting for the next chapter, wondering if this wil be my resting place, or if, even at this stage of my life, I might end up moving and starting over yet again.

One of the things I have learned, is that we bring home with us. I didn’t see it then, but I realize now that I brought Shady Grove back with me every time I returned from a visit. I carried it’s peace with me. I brought it’s sense of place with me and it shaped me even when I was in my suburban school, or my big college or my work in the cities of the East Coast.

And I love my quiet little place in the middle of Nowhere, Vermont. It feels like home and it has since I moved up here. But I know now, a thousand journeys later, that no matter where I live, I will find that quiet, because it is within.

It took me long enough.

So I do not know where I will end up. The woman I love, loves cities. She also, like me, loves the ocean. Could it be that someday we will end up in one or the other? Who knows?
Stranger things have happened. Really.

Where ever I end up, though, I will give it a name. Because place has personality. Place has history. Place breeds emotions, and all that, if not quite human, deserves recognition, deserves a name.

One that matters.

Be well. Travel wisely,




  1. What an interesting piece on the “deep Tom” (as opposed to the deep state)! Also thought-provoking for self-reflection. Ty.

  2. LISTEN FOR GODS GUIDANCE>>>GOD KNOS LISTEN” was the theme of our Atlanta my book..”vagabond medics.” published 2015 ‘everready press’ nashville, tn.

    Bernice Thorson Lemon

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