The following post is part of my account of the fairy-tale that I was lucky enough to have my friend share with me earlier this month. If you’re so inclined, please feel free to start at the beginning: Tuna Cavatappi Be Damned (6/6/12), Unintentionally Apt (6/7/12), The Demon Known as Self-Doubt (6/8/12), Time Present and Time Past (6/11/ 12), Enjoy the Ride (6/15/12), At the Gates (6/18/12).
Rare are the times when the reality of a situation far outstrips the fantasy of a potential one. When it does, bask in it.
Friday, June 1
We were poised at the top of a fantasy rollercoaster. Up until now, the shopping, packing, making appointments at the spa, and even flying and driving to the resort were nothing more than the long, slow, agonizingly fun ride up a very long hill. Now we sat at the precipice waiting to see where things would go from here. The great thing about this ride, though, was that we weren’t just passengers, we were active participants. After all, who wants to be just a passenger in her own life?
We were standing at front door of the Lake Austin Spa Resort, a place Cheryl and I had only viewed pictures of online. We were here being welcomed by the staff and being ushered through the door, feeling a warm wave of graciousness sweep over us.
I do not kid or even exaggerate when I say that for the last eighteen years I have lived in or in close proximity to one of the most polite cities in the world. It’s documented. Here in the South, we say, “Yes, ma’am” and “No, ma’am”; it’s how we’re raised. And even though polite doesn’t always mean nice (we’ll rarely tell you to your face that we think you’re being an ass), not liking you doesn’t necessarily mean that we won’t treat you well. I had a server in a restaurant in DC ask me where I was from solely because I responded with a thank you every time he refilled my water-glass. When I told him I was from Charleston, South Carolina, he told me that made sense because most patrons would never say thank you so often. I was taken aback. Completely. I guess in my limited experience I had always thought people were polite most of the time. Saying thank you had never once seemed excessive or unwarranted until that very moment.
My point—I did have one, I promise.
Even living in the most polite city in the nation, I have never experienced a welcome such as the one we received at the Lake Austin Spa resort.
Inside we were greeted by name. We hadn’t even said who we were. How on Earth? The driver. Okay. The driver and the luggage he’d brought in for us. We were offered drinks that we thankfully accepted immediately– Texas is hot, y’all—and were brought ice-cold water with lemon and mint in tall clear glasses with straws that wore little paper caps (Too chicken to ask for a trash can, I stuffed my paper cap in my pocket. Aren’t I worldly?). And we were checked in by one of the friendliest staffs I have ever, ever, ever encountered.
Then as if by magic, standing in front of us, welcoming us, hugging us, smiling and laughing as if they were meeting old family friends were Claire Cook and her daughter.
I thought Cheryl was going to melt in a puddle right there on the floor.
Just in case you aren’t sure of exactly who she is, let me tell you the very little I now know about Claire. Truthfully, not a month and a half ago I didn’t know who she was either. I mentioned back in my first post that when Cheryl invited me on the trip, I had to Google her information. When I did I discovered that she was a former yoga instructor turned teacher who’d written her first novel when she was forty-five years old while sitting in a mini-van during her daughter’s swim practices. Her second novel was made into the movie Must Love Dogs, and since that time, she’d written and had published seven more novels—the ninth being the one we were at the spa to celebrate.
Back in May, I devoured her website for three days straight, reading all of Claire’s tips for aspiring writers, soaking in her story about how she reinvented her life, watching her interview on the Today Show about how she was enjoying the career that she almost didn’t have. I wasn’t star struck, I was fascinated. Once again, I was looking at someone who had done what I wanted so desperately to do, but had spent so many years actively fighting against. She was living her dream.
And here she was standing in front of us, talking to us as if she was really excited to have this opportunity to meet us, like she’d been waiting for this day just as much as we had. And you know what? I believe she really had been.
She told us how wonderful the spa was, how fabulous the food was, and how much fun we were going to have, and then she was off to get some lunch and some work done. She was going to get some work done. A writer. Did that mean she was going to write? The idea was ridiculously appealing to me. Frighteningly appealing.
We finished checking in, got the tour (dining area, drink bar, gym, how to sign up for classes and events), picked up our blue and white spa sandals from the sassy little boutique, and then found our way to our room with our sandals, water, and room keys in hand.
Despite my limited travel range—as I have said before, I’ve only traveled about as far as two states in any direction—what I didn’t say was that I am a frequent traveler to those states, and one thing I love to find is an amazing hotel room. I don’t do Motel 6. I prefer Marriott. Renaissance if I can get it, Courtyard if I can’t. This room, however, was like a mini villa, an oasis, a calming getaway that was so country-chic and relaxed that it was easy to forget that I was really just standing in a hotel room. But then, of course it should be this way, right? It is a spa resort. They’re supposed to be relaxing, right?
There was a television, a satellite box, and a DVD player (none of which was turned on by either of us the entire weekend), and behind the television hung a large quilt. The two queen-sized beds were made up with fluffy pillows and duvets, and on each bed was a tote bag emblazoned with the spa’s Monarch Club logo and clipped with a pretty wildflower hair clip.
The tote bag was full.
In each were two copies of some of Claire’s books—a hardback and a trade paper (the big soft back books that are larger than a paperback). I suppose I should say at this point, especially since I’ve pointed out that a month prior to the day I had absolutely no clue who Claire was and had only barely heard of the movie Must Love Dogs, that I didn’t stop at just Googling her name and devouring her website. I had the county library system transfer a copy of each of her books to my local branch and the movie went straight to the top of my Netflix queue. I was able to read five of them and see the movie before the trip. One of the books that resonated with me most, Wildwater Walking Club, was in my stack. Once again, fate, kismet, really good fortune, something was telling me this was the way things were meant to be.
We explored the rest of our room—there was a bathing section, a dressing area, two side-by-side closets (where our luggage had already been stowed by the staff), a vanity, and a water closet. I didn’t take pictures of them. Perhaps Cheryl did. I’ll have to ask her, and if she’s willing, I’ll share them here with you. There were long, horizontal, rectangular windows at ceiling height, which were perfect for letting in the light. While we were there, the only time we ever turned on a light was when it was dark outside. The light the windows allowed for was sufficient to perform any task that we needed to do during the day. I love that kind of eco-friendliness.
The bathroom was supplied with the spa’s signature products—little dark blue mini bottles of lavender shampoo, conditioner, body wash, and lotion. There were also facial soap and bath crystals, both lavender-scented. Up until that moment, I’d never smelled anything lavender in my life. I don’t generally do floral scents. Call it a by-product of being a seasonal allergy sufferer to the nth degree. These, though. Oh…oh, my. So…oh, my. I didn’t know soap—especially flowery soap—could smell so good.
So what did I do?
Took a hastily staged picture, of course.
And after that?
We went to lunch.