an afternoon in Shepherdstown


It’s a Saturday afternoon in late October.  Shepherdstown, WV is bustling with activity, and although it is warm, the mood is still autumnal—the air smells of burning wood and incense coming from the shops, and there is the crackling of leaves under our feet. We have a late lunch of salad, cream of mushroom soup, and French dip with pommes frites in a cozy bistro with real French doors (painted black and extremely narrow). My wine is served in a simple water glass and it’s on the warm side, but still very good. After lunch we walk the streets, poking around in vintage shops and second-hand bookstores and the farmers’ market where locally grown lavender hangs in bundles. On a side street I see a woman wearing a scarf the way my mother used to wear hers. She is carrying a tree branch from her property over to a pile of kindling in the back of the old graveyard next to her house, and she looks very serious about tidying up. I notice the sign at the entrance to her garden that says, The Garden of the Four Sisters, so I peek in and see a garden still blooming in fall with asters and chrysanthemums and dahlias and a fat cat sitting in the sun.


before the rain


Before devastating floods on Saturday night, Old Ellicott City (the town right next to ours) was full of life, a certain kind of life that exists only there in that quirky mill town built by Quakers, of houses that look as if they are holding on dearly to the sides of hills, of dusty shops selling antiques and knick knacks, of cafes, restaurants, tattoo parlors, tarot card readings, ghost tours, of the sound of trains on tracks and the whistle blowing above, and the Patapsco River flowing below. Sometimes a serenade on the cobblestones. Sometimes an artist painting plein air. Always the same man blowing giant bubbles just across from the Phoenix Emporium. It is the kind of place where everything feels narrow and twisted and slightly off in the best kind of way. The kind of place that enchants.

Today Main Street was closed so clearing and rebuilding could begin. This town has been here before, and history shows that it will, indeed, find its way back.