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. 

11 Responses to “Serendipity”

  1. Melodye says:

    It’s a miracle, truly–magic that the two of you helped bring into being. I’m so glad you’ve discovered your almost-sister, and can’t wait for more stories (with photos, please!) about all the simple pleasures/Grand Adventures you’ll eventually share. Maybe someday I’ll be so fortunate as to tag along… 🙂

    • Candice says:

      You meet the best people in the blogging world. Like you! I never would have known Melodye Shore was out there if we hadn’t connected through our blogs. Yes, I do hope you can come along on one of our jaunts…you’re clearly one of us, too!

  2. Oh, this is great. Gorgeous photos. I love that you have someone to not-exactly-trespass with!

  3. I’m jealous! Would like to go junkin’ and photographing too.
    Have fun!

  4. Melissa G says:

    Serendipity certainly is the word of the day. Your photos are lovely. Isn’t it nice spending the day with someone just taking photos. A few months ago I spent a few hours taking photos with my Dad in the city. It was an extraordinary event because he could get us access to the rooftop of a skyscraper. It was one of my most favourite days. But I digress…
    I like the imperfect look of the gardens. Gardens that are a little rough around the edges remind me of The Secret Garden, a book that I adored when I was a pee-wee.

    It has been quite an unconscious development. But over the years I have been attracted to writers of America’s south, or in the least those who have written about the south [whether it be fictional or not]. I cannot really explain why that is though. It all began with Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil. Years later I realised I was completely hooked on authors based in Louisiana and Virginia. Perhaps it really began with you.

  5. Candice says:

    Melissa, this is one of the nicest things anybody has EVER said to me. It took me years to realize I was sitting on the greatest story-telling region, that those stories ran in my veins, and I didn’t even know it! It really is all about Place and American Southern writers tap into it. Underneath the sweet tea and porch swings we have a turbulant history.

    I could give you a list of more Southern writers (I’m partial to Virginia, Louisiana, and the Carolinas). And I’ve been on a tear to get to Savannah since I read Midnight. Maybe one day…

    I love your photo-shoot with your father, and taking pictures in a place only he could take you, the top of the world. And yes, the gardens at Chatham are very much like The Secret Garden. That’s one of my favorite books, too, and probably why I like those gardens so much. I never realized that either!

  6. Melissa G says:

    Yes please! I would love to have your list of Southern writers.

  7. joni lewis says:

    You do not have enough time to listen to me rave about Donna!Puhhleeezze let me tag along on your next day out!

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