Vacation house

Swimming off the Blithewold dockI think it’s because I work here year-round that I tend to forget that Blithewold was built as a summer retreat. The Van Wickle/McKee family came up from Pennsylvania and later down from Boston and spent the entire summer here, from late May to October. Unlike most of the grandiose Newport mansions which were occupied for shockingly short periods of high society socializing, Blithewold was lived in: It was their home – and probably all the more precious and beloved for being their summer home.

Playing tennis (where the tent is now)I don’t know if it’s a universal tradition but around here – up and down the Eastern Seaboard at least – it seems like nearly everyone has a summer home-away-from-home, whether it’s borrowed or bought, really rustic or extra schmancy. These houses (or mansions or villas or camps or cabins) are often shared with extended family and passed down through the generations and the more we move around in our lives, the more these places become the constant. And the summer place (the shore, the lake, the island, the mountains) has all the blissful associations of endless summer days with absolutely nothing to do (besides swimming, reading, sailing, drawing, napping, eating, playing cribbage or cutthroat Trivial Pursuit, and laughing with family – to name just a few nothings) to give it even more significance and giant chunks of our hearts.  When I think about how attached I am to the place my family rented for a couple of weeks every summer for 70 or so years, I can only begin to imagine how much the Van Wickle/McKees must have loved Blithewold.

I’m way off the garden topic today because I’m about to go off on my own summer vacation and I can think of nothing else! I wonder, do you get away with your family to the same place every year? Where does your heart live?

North Garden 7-30-09The Summerhouse 7-30-09

I’ll be away for 2 weeks and I hope you’ll return when I do to see how dramatically the gardens have changed in the meantime. Happy summer – wish you were here!

The Cutting Garden 7-30-09

3 thoughts on “Vacation house

  1. Best wishes for a restful time away!

    Here, summer homes and weekenders tend to belong to wealthy people, though going away for weekends is quite common as there are places and prices for most budgets. Some people do like to go to the same place all the time, as with your area.

    Thank you, Chookie! Since you’re all the way on the other side of the world in Australia, I’m going to go ahead and call the tradition “universal”! -kris

  2. Kris, have a great and restful vacation. I will stop in at Blithewold when you return. Lots to discuss! Anyway, my heart lives here at my home and garden. I have never felt the need to leave in the summer although the winter is another story indeed. Alas, my husbands heart is in Maine at the ‘camp’. Haven’t been there yet for vacation but I guess it is inevitable since he loves it so.

    Layanee, I’m back, so come on over anytime! I can understand the pull to stay in your own garden during the summer – you’ve got all you need for your heart right there! But you might be surprised about how blissful a Maine vacation could be… -kris

  3. Hey! We are so happy you made a stop along the way to no-electricity paradise :) Growing up in the West TX desert, summer=neighborhood pool. Swimming and sun. I spent every day there as a kid and lifeguarded there as a teenager. I love the back East tradition of a “camp,” but I’m with Layanee in that winter might be a better time to get away. Have a wonderful break!

    Lynn, It was such a treat to visit you and your garden! I had a great break and will have to get busy planning a winter get away next… -kris

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