Friday, October 28, 2016

In Which I Sit and Stare at the Trees and Contemplate Keys to a Creative Life

Postcard photo of the Balsam Mountain Inn
(George & Roberta Gardner Assoc.)

The Balsam Mountain Inn is in Balsam, North Carolina just off the Blue Ridge Parkway in the Smoky Mountains. I spent this past Monday night there for a mini autumn retreat on my way back from visiting my brother in Charlotte. The inn opened in 1908 and sits at an elevation of 3500 feet. There are no televisions or phones in the rooms. Its wooden floors creak (which I found to be strangely comforting) and the huge lobby is filled with wicker furniture and woolen rugs. Two fireplaces ward off the early morning mountain chill. Having coffee in its library, which holds quite an eclectic assortment of books, was like being in a used book store.

There are tables and shelves full of art, pottery, jewelry, and quilts crafted by local artists displayed (and for sale) in the wide hallways. The hallways are so roomy, I learned, in order to accommodate the huge steamer trunks brought by the guests from days gone by.

I arrived at 1 o'clock and for the rest of the afternoon I sat in a forest green rocker on the long veranda reading, sketching, and staring at the trees. I chose a chair away from the inn's gravel parking lot so as not to be disturbed by people coming and going. I sat there until 6 when it was time to get dressed for dinner. 

I was back on the veranda after breakfast the next day until 11 when I had to check out. 

Image result for 99 keys to a creative life

My reading choice was a small paperback titled 99 Keys to a Creative Life by Melissa Harris. The keys are awareness, spiritual, and intuitive practices that are meant to encourage and inspire. I found it the perfect companion to my rocking chair reading as each 'key' is explained in only a page or two. Therefore,  I could read and ponder, read and ponder. 

Her creative awareness keys include setting intentions, making time for play, taking responsibility, and monitoring your energy. Under the spiritual keys she suggests meditation, celebrating your creations, and sharing your knowledge with others. The intuitive keys (I would like to delve deeper into these) look at honoring hunches, contemplation, and chaos as a creative force. 

One of the intuitive keys suggested communicating with one's pet by sending a message telepathically and seeing if it is received. Ms. Harris writes that she will 'call' one of her cats to come upstairs and the next thing she knows, it will join her on her bed. At one point I looked up to see a black cat stalking about in the bushes and silently called to it a few times but to no avail. Apparently I need more practice with that key.  

This is the type of book that is handy to pick up and choose a suggestion at random to think about or act upon when stuck or in a rut. It is one that I borrowed from the library but will most likely buy for my own collection.

Below are photos I took of the inn. I had a great leaf-peeping and restful experience.

A view of the inn from the drive going up the hill.

The view from my rocking chair. 
I was surprised at the number of bare trees.

From the end of the veranda.

Rocking chairs lined up on the veranda.
You can see my books
and other paraphernalia on the table
in the foreground where I staked
out my territory.

The dining room with its
windows overlooking the mountains.
I love the green and purple tiled floor.

I think this must be a balsam tree? It is the same huge tree
pictured in the middle of the photo
 at the top of the page.


  1. What a beautiful, peaceful place. I love everything in all the photos.

    1. This comment has been removed by the author.

    2. Yes, Joan. It was a splendid stopover. It was nice to experience a bit of autumn weather. We are having a record-breaking 80 degree weekend here. Bah!

  2. You had me at no phones and no televisions in the rooms. Then I saw the dining room and I'm hooked. I want to go. Putting this on my 2017 goals. I'm going to put a link to this post on my blog and hope we don't all end up there at the same time. I don't want all the rocking chairs filled.

    1. Patsy, I appreciate your enthusiasm for the Inn. Those rocking chairs are just begging to be filled. I will tell you that the bathroom in my room was the tiniest I have ever seen. The sink was the size of a dinner plate! One other advantage of the Inn is that there is a recommended 10 o'clock curfew for gatherings in the lobby. That was extremely well-received by me as my room was right there.

    2. Sometimes you just put up with tiny bathrooms if they go along with other wonderful things. The bathroom on the Delta Queen was so small, the sink was out in the room. You had to know whether you were going to shower or tinkle before you entered, because there was not enough room to turn around once you were in there.

      She ended up as a hotel in Chatanooga, TN, or I'd do it again. When I see the difference between long ago and now, I realize how spoiled we are.

    3. Sounds like the bathroom at the Inn except they crammed the sink in there too! But you are right, sometimes a little inconvenience makes for a good story.

  3. The Balsam Mountain Inn sound and looks idyllic; the perfect place to read and ponder and I will keep "99 Keys to a Creative Life" in mind as I peruse my local library.

    1. Penny, it was a wonderful fall retreat...if only for one night. The weather was perfect. But now, here in Louisville, we are having an 80 degree heatwave. Will I ever get to wear my sweaters again?

  4. Well, that sounds just about perfect. Lovely photos, and I can just picture you sitting in a rocking chair, reading and pondering, and then telepathically communicating with the cat!

    1. Thanks, Kathy. Just looking again at the photos brings a smile to my face. I do wish the cat and I had 'met minds.' Oh, well. It was fun trying.

  5. I want to go to this inn immediately! And I like the sound of those creative keys.