Just prior to Thanksgiving, my husband and I stopped at the famous and historic Omni Grove Park Inn, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki. A Historic hotel of the Arts and Crafts Movement, the Grove Park Inn was built in 1913 atop a spectacular site among the Blue Ridge Mountains.
Even before entering the lobby of the Grove Park Inn, I knew spectacular awaited me. Double doors were thick and heavy, made of natural wood surely harvested from trees of nearby woods. The doors were tall, massive in height and opened by pressing down on original levered hardware made of bronzed brass.
Stepping onto slate tile floors of the grand lobby was like being whisked back into time. Soaring ceilings above were decorated in boughs of holly with impressive, wrought iron chandeliers swinging to and fro filled with mistletoe. To the right was an enormous fireplace at least 36 feet wide made completely of stone. A roaring fire sang a song in flames of blue and gold. And, directly in front of me, a wall of windows where postcard views greeted eyes of old and new. Outside, there were tiers of terraces to sit and chat, sip a bit and make new friends or relax to gaze at all anew.
Taking a brief walk to the out of doors, I sat on a stone ledge, closing my eyes at the beauty before me. Gently, two lids at a time, I stopped to breathe the air. Not subconsciously but knowingly. First through my nose then through my mouth. Parted, purposely sucking it in. Air from the sky and all that surrounded me. Fresh, deep into my lungs, right there I held my breath. This new air inside of me was held with tight lips for as long as I could. My lungs expanded as though underwater until finally I was forced to exhale all within.
Different scents were discovered along paths of each tiered terrace as we climbed the steps. Scratch and sniff. Dip your nose to smell them now. Lingering essences similar to holiday gifts of bottled bath candles. Pine, firewood, warm cocoa, cool air, and fresh greenery. Feelings were hidden there too. When my eyes were closed, there was no doubt they were spiritual in nature. Land of green that hadn’t been touched in years and years reached to grab a gloved hand if only for a second or two.
Oh, how I would have loved to stay there for a while if even if only in my dreams. To get lost in God’s natural beauty, the glory of the mountains together with all of its surroundings. I imagined writing among the peacefulness while listening to sounds of trickling water from nearby streams together with the rustling of leftover leaves. The humming of birds perched among the barren bark of trees. “I must come back one day,” I silently thought to myself.
Back inside, there was a sixth sense about this hotel, a belonging I felt deep inside my bones. Although I knew nothing about it or had never been there before, an aura followed me wherever I went. Down through long abandoned halls, out more patio doors and into the fencing of dipped rose gardens now withered in drab colors.
Entering another wing of the hotel we came upon an unexpected display of history and artifacts. My husband and friends continued on but I was enthralled, mesmerized if you will by the scene before me. F. Scott Fitzgerald had not only stayed at this hotel, but lived in rooms 441 and 443 for approximately two years, coming there to write after the enormous success of his novel, The Great Gatsby.
Fitzgerald’s interest was peaked by the divine beauty of the Inn’s location. He was depressed at the time and wanted to find an uplifting place to write his next novel while taking care of his mentally ill wife, Zelda. The Inn seemed to call his name. Zelda was transferred to an institution nearby where he could visit her often. However, soon Fitzgerald became even more depressed, drank heavily and eventually moved to Hollywood to become a screen writer where he died of a heart attack three years afterward. His poor wife Zelda, died in a fire at the Asheville hospital a year later.
Although the Grove Park Inn did not have a happy ending for F. Scott Fitzgerald, I prefer to think of how he must have felt as he entered those massive wooden doors for the very first time. Excited and full of hope at the possibility of a new beginning. He was inspired to write among beautiful scenery like no other in all of this world.
Things might be different for Fitzgerald had he lived today. The chronic conditions of depression and mental illness can be treated through a variety of ways and there is help for those who seek it. Seeing F. Scott Fitzgerald’s belongings and touching the nameplates on the doors of rooms 441 and 443, left me with a longing and a connection to him like never before.
I hope to go back to the Grove Park Inn one day. Perhaps I won’t write the great American novel there, but I will remember F. Scott Fitzgerald together with his greatness as well as his struggles. He was human after all. No different than any of us. Regardless, his greatness will never be forgotten.
I close my eyes of two to imagine the good times Fitzgerald spent at the Grove Park Inn, long ago. The beauty of the scenery together with his wonderful words. That in itself is a gift to me.