Didn’t somebody say, “Every word’s worth about 10,000 pictures”? Well, they should have, if they didn’t, and it would really apply to one of my favorite spots in the heart of the heart of this County. I don’t have to think about the little Town of Hillsboro very long before I’m inundated by images, images, images: the narrow “Main Street” lined by historic homes, a curiously picturesque cemetery on the edge of the community, the landmark Old Stone School, and the reassuring shoulders of the nearby hills themselves.
It’s a good place to take time to reflect and to assess where one’s sentiments lie. If you can’t afford a two-week vacation in the Caribbean, and if you feel the ol’ Northern Virginia stress levels are reaching straight-jacket proportions, you could do far worse than spending a quiet Sunday morning in the hush of little, old Hillsboro.
It may be because I’ve compiled such a trove of good memories in this small space, but here, I always feel at least a bit of the “Balm of Gilead” for the soul (chicken soup, for you non-historians), even if I’m just rushing through on my way to further deliveries on a postal route. Kinda like a quick visit to Granny’s house. Or a shot of your favorite elixir, whichever’s handier.
See, I’ve visited, or passed through, Hillsboro literally hundreds of times since I moved to Loudoun in 1997: I covered events here as News Director for Wage Radio (like the time Secretary of State Madeline Albright [who has a place up on Harpers Ferry Road] paid a visit to the Elementary School, and talked to the kids about how to get along with world leaders- or anyone else, for that matter). I directed plays at the Old Stone School (I probably staged the most commercially unsuccessful show in Loudoun County community theatre history – Sam Shepard’s True West, in 2001– but I was very proud of its artistic merits) and watched many others here. I toured private art galleries in some of the stately homes along Charles Town Pike, and attended many to-do’s at friends’ houses in and around this memorable community.
And, speaking of Route Nine, I know – I know – many of the residents of Hillsboro will wonder at my choice of their home town as a spot for solitude; anyone trying to get from one end of this tiny ‘burg’ to the other on a late weekday afternoon would have cause to wonder at my sanity. No, I didn’t choose Hillsboro at rush hour as my place for peace; I’d rather get up before dawn on a Sunday and experience the day’s awakening here – even if it means I need to shake a few cobwebs as I tool up the “Pike” – than get caught along a busy Charles Town Pike. Been there, done that – I’ve tried to deliver mail along the stretch from Hillsboro to the West Virginia Line on late (dark) after – noons, and it’s no picnic, I assure you; I do empathize with those who probably think about selling their beloved homes every time an oversize truck rumbles through town and shakes the plaster from the walls.
But that’s not my Hillsboro. My version is always quiet, uncrowded, filled with the friendly pastel colors which would have possibly been selected by a visionary such as Maxfield Parrish – or maybe even Claude Monet. The images I’ve been blessed to experience in and around Hillsboro are truly worth more than a moment’s pause.
But understand, these peaceful micro-seconds that I cherish exist in stark contrast to the greater portion of my (at least, adult) existence of regimentation, self-sacrifice, frequent turmoil, and near-constant work – and perhaps a lack of the sublime – or maybe just my ability to make it so. I’m glad I’ve always been able to muster the feeling of magic in Hillsboro. It lives there.
It’s the wonder I imagine Thomas Wolfe felt in the times and places which inspired works like Look Homeward, Angel, or Of Time and the River. I hope I’m being neither evasive or obvious when I say the sparkle is on the trees, in the sky, the rocks and rivulets of Hillsboro. At least in my version.
You’ll have to find – and write – your own. It’s right there – just up Route Nine from the Route Seven Bypass- about 11 miles west of Leesburg. But I also hope that you find that it’s much further than the mere physical distance – make it a journey for the heart, for the soul; you won’t find a straight line to take you there – or directions from MapQuest. You may never get all the way to the heart of the heart, but, at least you’ll know when you’re on the way. You may even see me.