Posted April 9th, 2012 by Candice


We’d only met once, at my house for lunch.  Before that we’d only “talked” by e-mail.  I first read about Donna in our local paper, a story on her family’s restaurant in Colonial Beach.  The article used her photographs.  From there I found Donna’s gorgeous blog and wrote to her.  As it turns out, we live only a few miles from each other!

Over lunch we found so many shared connections (reading, junkin’), we wondered how we hadn’t bumped into each other in the last 15 years.  Donna Hopkins, clearly my long-lost younger sister, suggested a girl’s day out.  Donna is a professional photographer and she offered to give me pointers.  I leaped at the opportunity.

It was windy but sunny-bright that day.  Because we have the same priorities, we first went to a new-to-me Goodwill where Donna bought a dress she could have worn to a U.S.O. canteen and I nabbed a 1930s Universal sewing machine.  By then we were feeling peckish so we had lunch at Goolrick’s,  fountain cherry Cokes and chicken salad on toast. 

We chose Chatham Manor for our photography session.  Overlooking the Rappahannock River, Chatham commands Stafford Heights.  Robert E. Lee proposed to his wife in the gardens.  Years later, in 1862, he stood on the opposite shore as Burnside, who took the mansion as Union headquarters, shelled Fredericksburg. 


I’ve always loved Chatham for its air of melancholy, sad statuary in slightly bedraggled gardens.  Spring softens the edges of Chatham’s brutal history with wisps of wisteria and bouquets of forget-me-nots.  We took pictures of cherry blossoms and bleeding heart and grape hyacinths poking through dead oak leaves.  Thanks to Donna, the statue photo above and the bleeding heart shot below are straight out of my camera! 

But as much as I love taking flower pictures, I felt that restless tug toward the unexpected.  Something not so polished and pretty.  We found it–a storage shed.   Nothing like a bunch of rusted tools and oddments to get us excited.  We weren’t exactly trespassing, an employee let us stay (after we’d barged in).  Donna and I snapped away, giddy over measuring spoons leaning against patina-painted beadboard . . .

. . . a tangle of mousetraps . . .


. . . a family of rakes . . .


 It was one of the best days ever!  We decided to write about that day on our blogs.  Here is Donna’s perspective.  I’ve always been grateful to the blogosphere for a chance to keep a sketchbook of my life, to connect with like-minded people, and to find new friends, some literally just down the road. 

Amazed we hit it off so quickly, Donna and I are still a little solicitous of each other (“What do you want to do?”  “No, what do you want to do?”)  There are heaps of places to go, things to do, pictures to take, cherry Cokes to sip.  We have loads of time to settle into our new roles as almost-sisters.