David Barto – Friday, October 28, 2016

      The other day I talked about the importance of experience in folk’s everyday lives to the good people at the Ooltewah/Collegedale Chamber of Commerce. A good experience, a memorable experience, a real experience, the authentic. This is what folks truly want in there day to day lives and are not getting the more addicted to technology we all become. It’s the old adage, the more “connected” we are, the more disparate we are becoming, so it’s a bit of a round robin.

      Surprisingly enough the architects who designed the great old lodges of the American west figured this out and figured out an answer to this problem over hundred years ago. Every year our family visits and spends time in the grand Old Faithful Inn at Yellowstone National Park. The “Inn” is not known for its great rooms, since they are chilly, the beds are bad, if you are allergic to wool – good luck, that’s what you get, and you trapes down a hallway to a common bathroom. The inn wasn’t built for you to hang out in your room though, it was built for you spend time in the grand common areas. Upon entering the inn you walk into a massive foyer that rises into the air over seventy feet around a great stone fire place built of boulders. On the ground floor as well as the two floors above there are rockers, couches, and writer’s nooks and everything is oriented towards the four sided fireplace. During the day and in the evenings folks gather in the foyer, watching the fire place and folks pass by, enjoying hot chocolates, a wine or a bourbon and pretty typically talking to someone they have never met before. Because that is the design of the architects, to get folks to sit amongst others and visit after a long day in the Park.

      On the evening of October 4th Aurelia and I had one of those experiences that you will only have in a place that was built to bring folks together. We had spent the day in the Park, in fact we were darn lucky to be in the Inn to begin with, since snow had moved in that day and the road over Blackburn Mountain had been shut down after we had gone over it. Our dinner reservations in the dining room of the Inn were not until 8:15 pm so Aurelia and the boys and I had an hour or so to wait. The boys grabbed their cameras and headed outside to take night pictures of Old Faithful going off. Aurelia grabbed her new coloring book and markers and we found her an empty writer’s nook on the second floor of the foyer. I had the barista make Aurelia and I hot chocolates and then I settled in to a big rocker overlooking the foyer’s ground floor and the fireplace. Several folks sat down in the other rockers around me and like always a conversation was started about the joys of travel and what animals, especially wolves and bears we had seen. Near the second floor overlook into the dining room there was a lady playing a Steinway grand piano to entertain the several hundred folks in the dining room and another several hundred relaxing in the foyer. After several songs the lady started to play that old favorite “Edelweiss”. From behind me a little soft voice started singing “blossoms of snow, may you bloom and grow”, from across the foyer “bloom and grow forever”, over about 10 more seconds more and more voices were added to what was becoming a chorus. By the time the song ended I would swear that just about every voice that had voice in that 108 year old Inn was singing Edelweiss. From the dining hall, to the gift shop, from the ice cream bar to the porters all the voices came together. I am sure the architects never envisioned hundreds of people coming together to sing a song written for Broadway by Richard Rogers, but here we all were coming together and doing just that. But they did envision folks coming together and talking about their day in the Park because they designed this grand old Inn to facilitate those kinds of interactions.

     That was an experience that will live in the hearts of everyone involved until the day they pass and one my daughter still talks about. That is the kind of experience we are building The Commons for here in Collegedale and why we are building a place for folks to come together in, in the heart of our regional community. When you and your family have spread out the old quilt on the grass with your neighbors to enjoy a Blue Grass concert, you are making memories. When you strike up a conversation with the old gentleman who harvested the honey you are buying, you are growing as a person. When the potter shows your child how she makes her art, and the little child leaves with clay mudding her hands and clothes that is a memory for that child that may affect her purpose in life. As you shop for your organic arugula you may look up and see an old friend across the way buying squash and tomatoes and you will have a chance to reconnect in person and not just on Facebook. Folks will see each other, they will meet for the first time, they will meet again, and they will come together in that great circle, which is The Commons here in Collegedale. Maybe one day, during a farmers market a grand piano will be playing on the stage and the person playing will start to play Edelweiss. My hope would be that from the wooden toy maker’s stall a soft little voice would sing out “blossoms of snow, may you bloom and grow” and then from the hot dog stand “bloom and grow forever” and by the time it is all over every voice shall come together to sing a little song about nothing really.

Thoughts on Experience

David C. Barto Director, CTF

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