In Virginia’s Shenandoah Valley for a combination vacation and writing retreat, I devoted the first full day (Saturday) to the vacation part. To counter the general suckiness of taveling alone, I decided to keep a list of things that made me smile:

Greek yogurt with fruit and granola on the deck.

A bunny rabbit grazing beside the creek below.

Driving winding mountain roads with the windows down.

Standing in line behind two families with small children – who are speaking French.

A perfectly still reflective “lake” in the depths of Luray Caverns.

A green 1913 Stanley Steamer.

A Mennonite meetinghouse dating to 1845.

Sweet potato fries at Burger King.

Back roads laced with wildflowers in blue, pink, yellow, and white.

Patchwork fields of healthy corn and soybeans, as far as the eye can see.

Watching production at the Route 11 Potato Chip factory, and sampling “Chesapeake Crab” chips.

A lone black cow in the middle of a pond, with only its head and shoulders showing.

Discovering the taste of Traminette.

Buying a gift for a friend.

An old red barn with “SPRING CREEK CATFISHING” painted on the roof, faded but legible.

A small white church presiding over a field of tombstones. 

A pretty doe that posed demurely between mouthfuls of grass.

Having tools in the car when I needed them.

A three-mile hike around a clear mountain lake.

A wood mouse skittering across the trail and disappearing into its hillside hole.

Paddling a canoe around the perimeter of aforesaid lake.

Baby turtles sunning on a log.

An ancient turtle surfacing near the canoe, trailing streamers of algae from its crusty back.

Sore muscles and a strong shower without a water-flow reducer (one advantage of an old condo desperately in need of updating).

The Summer Olympics.

Napping during the Olympics, in the DAYTIME.

A homegrown tomato sandwich and homemade split pea soup for dinner.

The outdoor Shenandoah Music Festival in Orkney Springs, on a perfect summer night.

A scoop of homemade black raspberry ice cream at intermission.

Violinist Anton Miller’s vivacious Vivaldi, and the Fairfield Symphony Orchestra, who made Dvorak rock.

Remembering to bring my own pillow.


OK, so a few things also made me frown, at least briefly:


A greenskeeper’s mower at fifty yards – at 6:15 a.m.

The kid who threw a rock into the formerly perfectly still reflecting pool at Luray Caverns.

A parking lot bumper that grabbed the plastic air dam beneath my car’s front fender and left it dragging on the ground, requiring me to find a wrench, crawl under the car, and remove the whole thing.

Internet availability limited to the local library, which is only open 10 a.m.-2:00 p.m.

The big black ant that crawled up my leg – in the bathroom.


The smiles clearly outweighed the frowns, for which I am grateful.

Now, to the “writing retreat” part, and to see what I can find to smile about in my laptop keyboard …

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