"In a world where skyscrapers and cities lie in rubble ...

we yearn for our Dark Hollows."

Nashville grew up on the banks of the Cumberland River and never learned how to stop growing. Her tall buildings slash the sky, and black ribbons which weave throughout the city, hold it hostage. Additional laces being tied into the maze turn freeways into snail paths resulting in blown tempers and confusion.

On one of side of the city there lies a sprawling luxurious hotel whose least objective is to provide a bed for the night. It is a condensed fantasy world changing its dress and personality with the changing of the seasons. Inside we have roamed tropical forests in the summertime, and icy wonderlands in the winter, both worlds festooned with miniatures lights which twinkle throughout as those spun by an inebriated spider. Accustomed to such delights, it should not have been a surprise to escape the "Athens of the South" with its noise and bustle and return for awhile to a past forever preserved by the brush of Norman Rockwell.

Norman Rockwell was a living part of my childhood where I eagerly caught a glimpse of the idyllic and real with each publication of The Saturday Evening Post. Thus, I was no stranger when we walked through the wide portals of the hotel, down a narrow corridor and through a doorway into the world of Norman Rockwell. Here was created in life-size the favorite scenes of a peaceful and less complicated world. Rockwell himself, cast in bronze, sat at his easel to welcome us. We intruded into a quaint old-time doctor`s office where a kindly doctor listened with a smile to the heartbeat of a rag doll held tenderly by a little girl. We envied an old-timer sprawled in sleep in his fishing boat, who dozed off hoping no fish would disturb him by nibbling at his probably unbaited hook. Ducks floated on the surface of the water. We were drawn to a drugstore fountain where a soda jerk wearing a familiar Coke cap, identifying him as the master of the ice cream soda, grinned broadly. A young boy and girl, immersed in puppy-love, shared one of his creations sipping through separate straws. Scene after scene unfolded as we strolled slowly among the "good times" frozen in time. Reproduced and hanging in frames on the walls were the haunting pictures of G.I.s and their families caught in real-life situations during the war that was fought to preserve our nation`s freedom and freedom everywhere. These were boys of my own age who appeared on the cover of the nations most loved magazine. I held the original covers in my hands in those days as I awaited my own draft notice.

It was during that period the patriarch of our family observed his sixty-first birthday. The clan gathered at the resort town of Blowing Rock to celebrate that special day. Being a large family, it was the first time the entire family had been together at one time. The year was 1940, the last year of America`s innocence. The next year would bring the paintings of the G.I.s with their duffel bags slung over their shoulders waving goodbye. Year by year our family`s portrait has changed by additions and deletions, but the coming together has been an annual event since its beginning. Shortly, we shall all be leaving our own "Nashvilles" to return to a past era in the remote Eden of Dark Hollow, a place that has been barely touched by the passage of time, lying in the foothills of the Virginia highlands. This time only three of the original twelve will be present.

In Dark Hollow we will be participating in a tableau which has been re-enacted year after year. Reclining in the farmhouse yard, we will fill our plates with food chosen from an endless array of presentations. Soft drinks will be fished from a zinc tub filled with ice, and if custom prevails, a ripe watermelon will be broken open and smeared on our open mouths.

Hoping to ward off an afternoon of malaise following a heavy meal, we will climb aboard a flatbed farm wagon hitched to a vintage tractor, and wander over the hills and the valley, finally returning to the dirt road that meanders through Dark Hollow. We will follow the belt of dust until we arrive at a country store which never left the past. Here we will greedily search for candies and ice cream and drinks as though we had not just left a bountiful meal. Laughter in contrived awkwardnesses will accompany the revelers as we complete the loop and return to the farmhouse.

As dusk falls, a large bonfire will erupt from a pyramid of logs deftly placed for optimum blazing. Creeping close to the burning embers, we will extend thin poles with weiners or marshmallows attached, and continue our gluttony into the night. As the fire smolders, guitar players among us will serenade with familiar songs, oft-times the same songs our ancestors sang. Soon the fire will become a garden of ashes while darkness settles over Dark Hollow. As in the mythic Brigadoon, we shall drift into sleep.

Everyone needs a "Walden" ...

... for one day ... once a year ... this becomes ours.