Sunday, September 15, 2013

Life in the Slow Lane

One of the joys of life is taking time with friends and new acquaintances to quietly talk and reflect on life in general. Such was the case one recent evening at Reflections Inn, when all of our guests gathered in our covered patio overlooking the Clearwater River to chat over a glass of wine before bed.

This spontaneous gathering included couples from Bismarck, North Dakota, La Rosa, California, and from (somewhere near) Worcestershire, England. The discussion ranged from "A European's Perspective on the 2nd Iraq War and Terrorism", to gun control, shale oil deposits and fracking, and the historical treatment of America's indigenous people (Native/Indian Tribal People).

During this discussion there was no yelling, no confrontations, just people talking quietly, in a respectful manner to each other. It turned out to be a delightful evening! It makes one wonder why more civil and respectful conversations can't be held at all levels of our society?

At the end of the evening I walked back to the main house of Reflections Inn thinking to myself that what happened that evening had been foretold over 25 years ago by Ruth, my wife. Back then, she described this evening when she wrote that she wanted to create a country inn with an atmosphere that encouraged relaxation, reflection, and respectful conversation. And that’s what we did.

It's feels good when a plan comes together; particularly a plan that has been in the making for 25 years.


Tuesday, September 3, 2013

The Mysterious Huckleberry Pie

One morning, after over 10 years of return visits, I learned about how one of our favorite returnees ended up divorcing her first husband.

It turns out her husband loved huckleberry pie. So, as a devoted wife, she would bake him a huckleberry pie every so often just confirm that she loved him. Then one day she found a huckleberry pie in her freezer that was not her pie! When confronted, her husband claimed he knew nothing of the pie in the freezer nor who had baked the pie.

Not long afterward, she found a second mystery huckleberry pie in the freezer. By that time the handwriting for the marriage was written on the wall, or in this case, in the freezer, so they divorced. (As it turned out, she admitted to not only walking out, but before leaving taking the second pie and turning it upside down in the freezer). She later found out that the mysterious huckleberry pie maker was a woman 20 years younger, whom her husband married after their divorce. Then he divorced again and married a third time to an even younger woman. However, "None of them could bake huckleberry pie worth a darn", she said.

I really don't know what lesson to take away from this little story, but I found it interesting. I like huckleberry pie, a lot, but I don't ask my wife to make it for me nor do I ask her to iron my shirts, because she won't!

I do, as does Ruth, recognize that everyone who comes through our door as a guest is a unique person, who has their own story. It's that uniqueness, that one-of-a kind value, we attach to our guests that helps to us see everyday and every guest as fresh and new. It's this view that has made it possible for us to have operated Reflections Inn for 18 years - and still look forward to many more years to come.


Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Making Memories

This summer I made a trip to Ohio, to attend my 50th high school graduation reunion. The trip turned out to be much more nostalgic than I imagined it would be. I am pleased that the passage of time has helped make my memories more gentle and kind!

I imagine time has a way of distilling out all the petty grievances and worries we all carry with us and we come to a point when life itself - and the shear joy of living it- overshadows most other concerns. That may not be true for everyone, but it's true today, for me.

And, of course, since this is a blog about the Reflections Inn, I ultimately draw all lessons about life and human relations back to that beautiful place in the Bitterroot Mountains.

I've notice more recently that my close friends are also focusing more on making beautiful memories, as well as celebrating the lives they've lived. I could sense this last night at my reunion. There was a kindness and gentleness in the way we approached each other, it bordered on being almost reverential!

I've promised myself this morning, as I write this blog, to redouble my efforts to promote kind and gentle memories with each new guest contact. It may be a stretch, but Reflections Inn is much, much more than just a nice place to stay in the mountains overlooking the beautiful Clearwater River - it is a place in which memories are made and, perhaps even, lifetimes celebrated. It's true for Ruth and me, our family and close friends, but we want it to be true for other people who visit us and their families too!


Thursday, August 15, 2013

Summer Travel - It takes courage and patience!

This summer I flew to San Jose, California to visit my sister while she was on temporary assignment there for her company. I flew in the middle of the summer - on a Saturday no less - need I say more! I fly what I call the "Funny Skies" of Southwest Airlines. That way, if the travel experience is bad, at least with Southwest I can usually laugh about it!

Traveling on a Saturday during the busiest part of the summer season, caused me to think more about what our Reflections Inn guests go through before they arrive at our doorway.

Although I managed to upgrade to a "Business Elite Class", it did not save me from experiencing the annoyance of having the back of my seat kicked intermittently by a 5 year old during the first leg of the flight. Nor did it protect me from the spillover into my seating space of a 300 pound plus man who sat next to me on the same leg of the flight. The complimentary cocktail helped (it came with the ticket upgrade), but I was still left with a slight facial twitch for a couple of days after the experience.

My mid summer trip reminded me of the importance of genuine, sincere, and heartfelt hospitality. The kind of hospitality that is based in the knowledge that travel today isn't always a pleasant, nor easy, experience. I came home from my trip thankful to be living in a relatively uncluttered, free of excessive noise and chaos (and, sorry, absence of precocious 5 year old children) world. Living in the beautiful Clearwater River Valley, in north central Idaho, is a true blessing - a blessing you fully realize when you travel outside the valley.

My wife, Ruth, showed a great deal of foresight 30 years ago in seeking out this beautiful place we've called home for the last 18 years. And thank goodness she not only had the vision, but her vision included the desire to share this experience with other people who seek out and find Reflections Inn.

Jim May

Monday, July 29, 2013

My Empire for a Nut and Bolt

Operating an Inn along the Wild & Scenic Clearwater River involves more than cleaning rooms and mowing grass. It involves a lot of “people work”. Our guests bring with them, along with their luggage, their own unique stories and set of needs. And sometimes their requests are unusual.

This was the case just recently. A young couple cycling from Portland, Oregon, to somewhere far off to the East, came walking up our driveway, pushing their bicycles. It seems that the young lady's seat would not stay in the up position making it uncomfortable, if not impossible, to pedal the 70 to 90 miles they bike in a day.

Note: For those who are not familiar with living in the more wild and scenic rural places of our country, you need to know that almost every rural household has its own hardware annex.

In Idaho we rarely throw stuff away, because we know that if we keep it long enough it will be of use someday, to someone. And if not, we can always bequeath the junk to our heirs. I don't know how many years I had been saving that particular nut and bolt combination (and an assortment of washers), but that day my belief in saving everything forever was borne out and my conviction reaffirmed for another 20 years or until I die. So the bicycle seat was fixed and in a short time the couple continued along their way, happily pedaling up Highway 12.

It's hard to hold onto a belief for a long time in the hopes that in the end you are right. I know that my wife, Ruth, and I have held on to our vision for Reflections Inn through difficult and life threatening health issues and during other times of sagging strength and energy. But we stuck it out and Reflections Inn continues to be a pretty darn nice place in which to stay.

We are not done growing and changing. We've certainly not perfected this vision of hospitality that Ruth first put into words nearly 30 years ago. We constantly strive to make Reflections Inn an even better place to visit - and for us, a better place in which to live.

And, so, we will continue our work and continue to save all our screws, nuts, washers and bolts for the next tired and hot cyclists who walk their bike up our driveway seeking help!


Saturday, July 6, 2013

Being at Peace

Not long ago a daughter and her elderly mother stayed at Reflections Inn. The roles of mother and daughter had clearly reversed, since the Mother, Edna, was celebrating her 99th birthday.

They were taking a road trip to visit old family haunts, a trip just to see a little more of the world and to see, maybe for the last time for Edna, part of this majestically beautiful country we are so fortunate to live in here in the Bitterroot Mountains of North Central Idaho. "This was something she wanted to do when asked", said her daughter. So they were here at Reflections Inn, relaxing and enjoying the view of the Clearwater River from our Guest House.

When in my youth, I used to look at my then late-50's step-father and whisper quietly to myself that I would never allow myself to age as he had. Now, of course, I laugh at that notion as I too face one old-age related ailment after another.

As I watched Edna, I was amazed, however, at how very much alive and engaged in life she was. Edna was at peace with herself. She had fought all the real and imagined existential battles we all face in a lifetime, and now, she was just at peace marveling in the simple fact that she was alive and content to sit in a chair and rock, look, and listen to life all around her.

Marveling at life, our own or life that surrounds us, is important. It's so very easy to lose a sense of peace when we are constantly shuttling through life attending to one (supposedly) important matter after another. It's a joy, though, to stop for a while and just 'Be' and that is why Reflections Inn exists – to provide a place in which one can be at peace, marvel at life, and just BE!


Thursday, June 27, 2013

Because Caring is Important

Recently I underwent hip replacement surgery. The operation was performed in a nearby community hospital, in a university town. It went beautifully and recovery so far is progressing at an astounding rate.

While the skill of the surgeon and the hospital staff was clearly appreciated, my wife and I were also deeply touched by the number of caring people we encountered during my time in the hospital.

At Reflections Inn, we recognize how important it is to care about others. Of course, being hospitalized and undergoing a major operation creates a situation of vulnerability that makes all of us more sensitive to and aware of acts of caring.

The teachings of major religions and the current writings of a number of modern day authors extol the virtues of caring. Even psychologists write that caring is a major part of our social genetic make-up (in spite of the many highly publicized acts of brutality).

Caring and kindness toward other human beings, and for that matter, toward all life, is prevalent and runs through the history and culture of all of humanity. We feel better when we are compassionate. In many ways, caring is a natural state for us as human beings.

At Reflections Inn we constantly strive to show others that we care about them, as whole people, not just as our guests. We're not perfect and we all sometimes have to remind ourselves about the importance of caring for others. When we remember to care we enrich our own lives as well as the lives of others and that makes our world a better place to live.

Jim May

Friday, January 18, 2013

One Pancake, Two Pancakes.........

A snug blanket of white snow lies on the ground this time of the year and we've entered the season of reading by the fire, snoozing more than we should, chopping and stacking fire wood, doing a little snow shoeing, and playing word games. That pretty much describes our winter months here in North Central Idaho. Up river folks, as we refer to ourselves, also take more time to socialize during the winter by holding pot luck dinners with friends and taking afternoon walks up the mountain side behind Reflections Inn.

This year one our talented friends engraved a 20 lb rock with two simple words on it, “One Pancake".   The idea was to place the rock along the walking trail that is located up the hill behind Reflections Inn. The engraved rock would be placed at the distance it would take a hiker to burn off the calories of one pancake.   After consuming a hearty brunch, a group of us installed the rock on New Year’s Day, at a location roughly a third of the way up the trail.   Ultimately we will place three "Pancake" rocks along the trail, which is a distance of a mile and a quarter one way. This should add a little more fun for our guests who walk the trail - a trail that leads to a beautiful overlook of the Clearwater River Valley.

Most everyone who is serious about the hospitality business puts their guests and service first, as we do at Reflections Inn. But Ruth and I strive to go a little deeper. We want to honor our guests as whole human beings and recognize and respect their distinct differences. By appreciating our guests’ uniqueness we have come to recognize the best that exists within each of us. This makes us happy and content - and we believe this view better serves the needs of our guest.

Many Well Wishes for a Happy New Year!

Jim May