Written by Mary Morony
Having slogged through a particularly long Blackberry Winter—for those of you unfamiliar with the term—you may have noticed that almost every year, ‘round the first of May, we get a cold snap usually accompanied by rain. The old folks, of whom I now consider myself among, refer to it as Blackberry Winter. It happens to coincide with the time blackberries bloom. Another thing you might have noticed living in Keswick is that the start of the horse show almost always necessitates a jacket, if not a coat. By the time the show is in full swing, the sun has burned through the cloud cover and full-on summer heralds the show’s climax! That’s how we bid Blackberry Winter adieu ‘round these parts.
Where was I? Slogging through an unusually long Blackberry Winter-it started the third week of April- as I write, it continues still. But fear not, the Show starts today!
Yesterday. I was overwhelmed with gratitude for having the great blessing of being invited to Dolly Madison’s Birthday party and the celebration of Hugh Motley’s life. For a soul that rarely leaves the manse, two events in one day is heady indeed.
Montpelier looked perfectly splendid in the gray mist and soft rain. The green fields and woods surrounding the estate were so verdantly lush and the light complimentary to all of the lunching ladies, so much so that missing the magnificent view seemed hardly a price. The fascinating Kat Imhoff has done an outstanding job in her capacity as the first lady of Montpelier. She graciously greeted the guests on the front portico, replete with fascinator in true Dolly fashion.
Cokey Roberts regaled all in attendance with Dolly’s darling and daring dos. Dolly Madison, it seems was an accomplished politico in her own right. No mere Quaker bumpkin she, as FLOTUS, she skillfully navigated in and around the political intrigue of the times, outmaneuvering many in the process. Bipartisanship has hardly changed in the two hundred plus years since Madam Madison’s time, reaffirming my belief that it really is the same circus, just different monkeys. At least, some improvements have occurred, according to Ms. Roberts. Political opponents made a regular practice of dueling in Ms. Madison’s day. I’m not sure I concur with Cokey that the dearth of shooting your opponent is an improvement in our political arena, despite my promise not to criticize. You can only do what you can do, but I digress.
The talk proved not only entertaining, but quite enlightening. Dolly Madison is a woman worth emulating, not just a charming hostess. When life gave her lemons, she made lemonade the national drink, my kind of girl.
To top the day off, I had the profound pleasure of attending the celebration of Hugh Motley’s life. When it comes to throwing a party, Dolly ain’t got nothing on Winkie and Shelia. They know how to celebrate! Walking out of the mist into the tent was like putting on a well-loved sweater. There were friends there I hadn’t seen in years. It was wonderful to be reminded that I have friends.
Despite Hugh’s physical absence, he was very much present in spirit. Tony Gammel walked the hounds by in a touching tribute to their former master. As Jessica Motley, Hugh’s sister-in-law, captured the canine crew on her iPhone; she remarked that she was documenting this to prove the validity of it to her dog training friends back in Colorado. Her words brought home to me how much of a privilege it is to be living in the magical world of Keswick. The countryside is beautiful beyond description, particularly in the spring. Life here is lived and celebrated in a myriad of picturesque, unique, and charming ways. We are truly blessed.
A slide-show of pictures of Hugh and family brought back fond memories of days-gone-by. Mary Kalergis, Hugh’s sister, must have a portrait moldering away somewhere in her attic. She looked as if she had leaped from the slide-show, not a second older. When she took the stage to read an interview about his experiences fox hunting she had had with Hugh some years before, there was hardly a dry eye in the tent.
I had chats about all sorts of unusual things. Some clearly stressed the passage of time. Did you know that nasal congestion is one of the side effects of the little blue pills? Apparently so much so that the congestion makes the ultimate end product nearly impossible. It would be hard to enjoy passion when you are unable to draw breath. Some things don’t change. We’re still talking about drugs.
Blessing Offor, Shelia’s friend, Nashville resident, and a 2014 contestant on The Voice provided the music. Could you ask for a more perfect name to perform at a life celebration? The whole event from tent to hounds was a blessing topped off for me by my old buddy Tony Gammel. When I went out to greet him he said, “What are doing here? I thought you were dead. I was sure I went to your funeral.” Good to know somebody went.