Sunday, August 15, 2010

Discovering Hidden Treasures

Biltmore Estate - Asheville, NC
April 2, 2010  

We have been season pass holders to Biltmore Estate for more than twenty years.  Asheville, NC is about 1 1/2 hours east of us and is our perfect quick getaway spot.  Fortunately, we discovered Asheville and the western North Carolina mountain area before it became quite the tourist destination that it is today.  We know the area about as well as we do our home area and can get most anywhere via backroads that the masses haven't yet found.  We stayed in some absolutely exquisite Bed & Breakfasts until they became so popular they priced themselves right out of our range.  We then turned to cabins/cottages so that we could have the privacy we craved as well as control over our food.  

Here's what most people never discover about Biltmore Estate.   Although the mansion is the "main" attraction, people who pay their days admission and only tour the mansion, have completely missed out on the Biltmore experience.  We are told through the magazine and promo materials we receive as season passholders, that only a small percentage of the mansion and the grounds are open to the public.  The acreage is vast and over the years, we've seen miles and miles of hiking trails, biking trails and horseback riding trails built.  We often go for a night or even just a day trip and never enter the doors of the mansion.  While the hoards of people are standing in line waiting for their "timed" entry, we are meandering along paths beside the French Broad River, through the woodland areas, around the garden or across the knolls which provide unbelievable views back toward the mansion.  We have never visited Biltmore that we didn't find at least one hidden treasure we'd never noticed before.  While strolling through the gardens on our most recent visit, I discovered the hidden treasure of a tulip (my favorite flower) that was the most exquisite color of lavender (my favorite color) I have ever seen.  We also found a new Woodland Trail that we'd never walked, but yielded two Pink Lady's Slippers and a Jack-In-the-Pulpit.

Every day brings hidden treasures just waiting to be discovered.  But the most precious of those probably aren't going to jump out and dance in front of us.  We have to be willing to step away from the crowds, take time to walk down the road less travelled, maybe go against the grain a bit and find the treasure most meaningful to us rather than just accepting treasures as others tell us to see them.  I think the simpler the hidden treasures are, the more profoundly they affect us.  I love the majesty of Biltmore Mansion, but not too far away, is a rare wildflower that can only be found if sought.

I'm in a place right now where I'm extra sensitive to the simplicity of life and discovering hidden treasure isn't difficult to do.   Here are a few that have profoundly impacted me over the past few days.  There are others too personal to even share with you.   But I'd encourage you to look around and find something new to treasure even in the normal routine of a Sunday afternoon.

1) The treasure of one specific new blog friend who told me very early in this process with FIL that she deals with these types of situations in her career as a social worker and offered to help in any way she could.  We reverted to private emails and she has given advice to us that has been invaluable as we've made decisions.  The advice, the time she's given and the peace of mind it has given us is something Mr. B, my MIL and I will never forget.   Thanks, Deb!

2) The treasure of ALL of you.  Not only have you been a comfort to me, but you have made an amazing impact on my husband who wept last night when I put my last post in front of him and said, "read these comments."   

3) The treasure of watching my precious husband of 33+ years change the diaper of his father.  Not that the nurses wouldn't do it, he just wants to.  If that doesn't move you to tears, I don't know what will.  

4) The treasure of feeling so much love in a room, you hardly see how the room can contain it.

5)  The treasure of having scrambled eggs and a bagel for breakfast (because I had run out of milk for cereal and was too tired to stop at the store last night!!) and realizing half way through it that I was FULL!  Not only did I realize I was full, but I thought about it briefly, got up, put the rest in the garbage disposal and listened to it grind with great pleasure.   I believe that it a first! 

See, hidden treasures can be simple, serious, lighthearted or just plain funny.  They're there, just open your eyes and see them.

P.S.  FIL still hanging on, but continuing to deteriorate.  Doctor shakes his head and says, "it can't be much longer."    Since he is now so peaceful and we feel his spirit has been gone for days, we wonder if this isn't time for us.  We've shared memories and learned so many things about each other that we've never known. Each hour that passes makes us feel stronger in begging him to just let go. 


  1. Thank you for posting about the Biltmore--I was just talking with someone this morning about her visit there (the short--wait for the timed visit at the mansion kind). You made me want to go there and really find the treasures. My treasure today was spending a couple hours gardening. Not fun stuff, like shopping for new flowers, but active gardening. Pulling weeds, deadheading flowers, using the clippers and the saw to excise overactive suckers and branches. The treasure part was that it was a really good, hard workout. I had planned to go running afterward, but I was totally tired, but with the glow of accomplishment. That's a treasure.
    Hold on to the good memories from this difficult time. I actually have lots of good memories of my mom from the last few days before she died. Love to all of you.

  2. This is a difficult time in your life, but it is a treasure too.

  3. Sharon, your post was beautiful. What a loving tribute to the endurance of love and the focus on what is most important in life. I remember thinking, after my own father passed away, how strange that the birds continue to sing and the clouds continue to drift by, as if the world didn't even notice the significance of his passing. But of course, the important thing wasn't Dad's passing at all. It was his life that held meaning. And to those he touched, we carry him with us always, until we meet again one day. It is wonderful that the family is there to see your much-loved FIL off, and that he is at peace! As Lori said, it may be difficult, but it is a treasure too. Time is precious, and that is something we need to all appreciate more. My prayers are with you all.

  4. I have always wanted to go there!! It sounds amazing.

    I'm sorry this is such a difficult time :(

  5. "We wonder if this time isn't just for us." Ahhh, yes, the gift of the long goodbye. So arduous and exhausting, yet such a blessed and needful tiime to be readied.

    You all continue to be in my prayers. Thank you for the kind words. I was blessed more than you know by being able to help.

    I was just thanking God the other day for allowing me to use the knowledge I had gained in the trenches to ease a bit of the stress of your situation. :) God is good. And having info you could use was such a gift to me.

    You see, the job was not a good fit ; frankly it was like a slow torture. I was a real social worker for a long time before I started at the hospital, so I had neither the disposition nor the heart to become a "company man".

    Working with the patients and their families was satisfying, but what went on behind the scenes between me and the administration was not.

    The patients didn't see (& couldn't be told) that I had to daily fight their battle to give them more time in house, to get them more services, to stand between them and decisions that were $$$ driven. Length of stay was the administrtion's focus--patient's need was mine. It was a clash of the Titans... chuckle.
    sometimes the crash could be heard a long way off...

    As I said, It just felt exceptionally rewarding
    to be able to use what I had learned as a gift to you. It was like God's reward to me for the dues I paid to learn it.



  6. I was only at Asheville a very short time when I visited Gatlinburg a few summers ago. I didn't see the estate, but it looks beautiful! I remember the area was so gorgeous, but the humidity was so hard to get used to!

  7. I've heard about the Biltmore. You should write their marketing materials. You make it sound irresistable!

    Hang in there with you FIL situation. You will all be at peace soon. Beautiful thoughts you have expressed.

  8. This was very beautiful, Sharon.

    It seems when we are going through this kind of situation, we get very very sensitive to what is truly important...we see things we didn't usually see before. I don't know why that is... but I remember it happened to me, too, caring for my Mom.

    I was truly blessed by this post, and reminded to look for the daily treasures.

    I am glad you are being blessed with so much of God's grace right now. You and your loved ones.

    "The treasure of feeling so much love in a room, you hardly see how the room can contain it."

    Yes... such a treasure. Thank you for sharing this with us. You have reminded me once again what is important.


  9. I love the Biltmore Estate. I've been many times over the years. I usually go everytime I visit my parents mountain house in Cashiers. It's gorgeous in many areas.

    Sorry about your fil...I think it's amazing that you can count your blessings while going through such difficulty. God's peace is pretty awesome!!

  10. What a wonderful post, Sharon. I love that you are able to be kind and compassionate about your FIL and at the same time appreciate life, and find wonder in the world in things like tulips!