Spring Weddings

In spring, it’s not uncommon for a young man or woman’s fancy to turn to love and then to marriage. So many couples are planning to wed between now and the end of June, that we encourage the bride to wait no longer to choose the destination for the happy event.

Family and friends who visit Newell Lodge for the weddings held here tend to enjoy the relaxed, rustic yet elegant landscape and lodging that feels like home. The 300 year old oak grove at the heart of the lodge is a picturesque symbol of the enduring love to which newly married couples aspire. Beautiful by day, the grove is particularly enchanting at night, offering an affordable option for a quality destination wedding and unforgettable celebration of love.

If you or someone you love hopes for a Newell Lodge destination wedding in the near future, we encourage you to reserve a time to talk. As the on-site wedding and event coordinator at the lodge, it would be my honor to learn more about the bride and groom’s vision for their special day.

Here are a few hints about making it real:

  1. Timing is Everything - During this peak time of year, brides will want to reserve their wedding and reception sooner than later. Waiting too long means the choice venues, lodging and weekends will no longer be available.
  2. Involve the Decision-Maker Up Front - if someone else is paying for the wedding, having their buy-in at each stage of the planning process ensures there are no surprises.
  3. Budget Bodaciously - Know that one’s vision can withstand a smart planning strategy. For example, when planning the reception, a budget-conscious bride may opt for a buffet or barbecue as a crowd-pleasing dinner option. Or, she might consider a cash bar instead of unlimited pours, if she’d like to serve alcohol without blowing the budget.
  4. Destination First - The place often influences the theme and decor of the wedding. So choose your destination early, then explore the expression of themes with the on-site event manager and preferred florist.
  5. Experience Is Everything - A destination wedding is not right for every couple. However, local or regional ties plus the arrival of out-of-town guests suggests that planning around one destination is on the right track. At Newell Lodge, we help plan romantic, family style adventures that bring the people you love closer together.

If I can be of service, please do not hesitate to ask.

 


The Mother of the Brides: A Tale of Five Sisters and My Mama’s Wedding Woes

To be “mother of the bride” is a daunting role, at best.  Maybe you’re the mother of a cherished daughter or even two.  But, imagine being the mother of five girls!  

If there was ever a perfect role- model for the mother of the bride, it was my mother, Gladys Clark Carter. To play the part of “mother of the bride” is daunting, at best, and downright impossible at worst.  Maybe you’re the mother of a cherished daughter or even two.  But, imagine being the mother of five girls! I now wonder, “How did Mama do it?”  

Please enjoy these short tales of five beautiful daughters, their elegant weddings, and the Mother of the Brides.

Daughter No. 1:  Phyllis Anne

my eldest sister, and the opening act to our five-act play

In the 1960’s,  Amy Vanderbilt dictated the scene: the church, the flowers, candelabras flanking both sides of the podium, an ordained minister and the bridal party.

My mother and sister had worked together, making the most economical decisions while maintaining simplistic beauty.

The big day arrived on August 5, 1966.  Finally, everything was in place.  

My sister was getting ready in one of the Sunday School classrooms and crying.  She cried as much as she did the awful day Snowball, the family dog, tragically died.  My mother and her sister, Aunt Mildred, were there. Tears streamed down their faces.  

My three sisters and I cried because it seemed the thing to do under the circumstances. The situation seemed dire.

Finally, someone had the good sense to send for our Daddy, who was the most loving, patient and understanding man I have ever known.  Never raised his voice, slow to anger, a man of few words. Until That Day.    

 He stepped into the room and with one quick glance at my mother, who was sniffing into a Kleenex and said, “What’s wrong?”  

We all looked at the Bride, with enormous, black tears (from the Maybelline Mascara) running down her face.  

“What’s the matter?”  he asked.  “I don’t know,” Phyllis Anne muttered through sobs.  

“Do you want to do this?”  he asked again.  

“I don’t know,” she answered again.

“Stop crying, because I’m calling this thing off.” He said, as he turned toward the door.

“But I love him”, she said.  

“Then, dry it up,” he said.  

Everyone heard that. It was like someone had flipped the light switch to the off position.

Blessed quietness, except for a few leftover sniffles.  The wedding went on as planned.

Phyllis Anne was beautiful, even with the swollen, tear-filled eyes and no mascara.

Thankfully, we must have gotten it all out of our system, as no-one cried during the wedding.

Daughter No. 2: Glenda Sue

Also known as the challenging, get out of my way, sister

Sue didn’t mind a good fight or pulling pranks on us kids.She never took her turn doing the dishes, refused to participate in household chores, and (when she chose) made our lives generally miserable.  

As Sue was always a source of concern for my mother, she felt it necessary to have a lengthy discussion with her fiance. In Mama’s infinite wisdom, and from her experience, she suggested that he call off the wedding.  

She underscored for him the above stated reasons, plus a few more for good measure.  

But her efforts were without avail. The young man couldn’t be swayed.

“But I love her,” he said.  

The wedding day arrived, and remarkably, not a tear was shed. (We clearly remembered the preamble to the 1966 wedding.)  

My mother whispered to the soon-to-be brother-in-law, as we waited outside the church.

“Remember what I told you.”  

Again, he ignored her.  He was in love.  

Fast forward to the second year of marital bliss.  An argument erupted between the husband and wife.  He was leaving. After some settling down and apologies, he thought better of his departure.  

“Where were you planning to go?” my sister later asked.  

Without hesitation, he replied, “To your Mama’s!”  

He knew Mama would understand his plight.  My mother and brother-in-law would maintain a strong bond until her death decades later.

To this day, anytime he needs extra ammunition, he reminds my sister, “Your Mama told me not to marry you.”

“Then why did you?” she responds. And the rest, as they say, is history.

Sister No. 3.  Kay

The sweet one.  That’s me.  

The wedding was lovely: beautiful bride, handsome groom.  My two younger sisters, Grace and Kathy, were the bridesmaids.

Evidently, they were so young in the ‘60’s that they didn’t get the memo. Let’s just say that the no-crying mandate did not carry over into the ‘70’s.  

By the time to walk down the aisle arrived, they’d cried so much that both Mama and Daddy, had tears in their eyes.

“You don’t have to do this,” my daddy gently said. 

“But I love him”, I said.

So Grace and Kathy sobbed. Before the wedding, and during the ceremony, no less. Heart-rending, nose blowing sobs. With buckets of tears.

There were times, when the pastor paused because he could not be heard.  

Despite the overflow of emotion, the wedding was splendid. Amazingly, the photographs were also fantastic, despite my sisters’ swollen, tear filled eyes. After the wedding, they continued to weep, even as the cameraman tried to coax smiles.

Sister No. 4:  Grace

The dynamic, “I’m in charge” sister

If you know Grace, you know there’s no stopping her, although my mother tried, bless her heart.

“I don’t think this is the thing for you to do,” said Mom.  

“But I love him,” responds by sister.    

Grace, the fourth sister married shortly after our Daddy passed away, with an unenviable result: Mama had no backup on this one.

The wedding went off without a hitch, except for one small detail.

A well-meaning friend of my sister decided to stitch the fly of the groom’s trousers closed, a bit of a practical joke. A short delay ensued in the opening of the ceremony.

Everyone, with the exception of the groom, of course, thought the innovation hilarious.

Sister No. 5:  Kathy

The baby. Her wedding would be the grand finale.  

Mama wanted this wedding to be perfect in every way.  Maybe, because she had learned from the last four, and she knew this daughter’s marriage would be the last she’d orchestrate.

Phyllis Anne and Sue, my two older sisters, worked tirelessly alongside my mother.  Months were spent in preparation. Though, breaking with tradition, no advice was given to either the bride or groom.  Maybe, my mother decided there was no need to try, after four failed attempts.  

The wedding was perfectly peachy. No tears were shed. As the newly married couple finally pulled away from the church, tin cans clinking from the rear bumper, the entire family breathed a deep sigh of relief.

“Thank goodness,” said Mama. It was over.

What I learned about the qualities of a Mother of the Bride from my Mama:

A well-prepared mother of the bride is a godsend at a time when emotions run high. She fulfills many roles and performs numerous responsibilities.

As needed, she’s the driving force who makes it happen, with a smile on her face.

As the problem solver, she’s the go-to person for decisions and implementation.

The consummate wedding hostess, the mother of the bride must maintain her composure and listen to ideas from everyone.

Checking her list twice, she makes certain that Aunt Marthie and Uncle Arthur are on the guest list.

She navigates the emotional and financial roller coaster and smooths out rough spots.

Finally, she bears joyful witness to her beautiful daughters’ lifetime commitments to their new husbands.

Blessings to all Mothers of Brides. May they be as beloved as my own.


Twinkle and Shine! Join Us at the 2nd Annual Newell Lodge “A Country Christmas” Celebration and Festival of Lights, Saturday, Dec. 22

Are you ready to get your “Twinkle” on?

This week, the Newell Lodge elves are busy hanging thousands of twinkling lights throughout the beautiful, ancient live oak grove at the heart of this special place. The horses are being brushed, and Santa’s wagon is at the ready, polished and shined.

Won’t you please join us this Saturday, Dec. 22, from 6-8 p.m. for our 2nd annual, family-style “A Country Christmas” Celebration and festival of lights?

In this unique region, we’re woven together in an intricate basket of friends and family, faith and friendship. It’s a joy and pleasure to share the uplifting spirit of this season and this beautiful landscape with our community.

Christmas in the Okefenokee is always special – and a little bit different than anywhere else in the world.

At the Lodge, we celebrate this difference with our Festival of Lights. Children of all ages will want to greet Santa Claus, the guest of honor, who will be available for family photos and selfies. Festive seasonal music and “twinkle-toes” dancing will be hosted in the Pavilion.

Smoky oak embers await in the firepit, with marshmallow roasting and hot chocolate by the fire for children aged 12 and under. The curious who wish to explore will enjoy an open house in one of the guest cottages with servings of hot cider.

Plus, there will be short horseback rides under the twinkling skyscape for children. And family friend food and beverages will be served at Swampfire, our “backwoods bistro.”

Christmas at Newell Lodge is a time of great joy and connection to family and friends, across the generations. Though we’re a bit off the beaten track, the drive out here is worth it.  Without city lights to distract visitors, the overall effect of the lighted landscape inspires a sense of wonder and adventure.

Please join us to create wonderful memories to last a lifetime.

Glad Tidings of Comfort and Joy,

Kay

“A Country Christmas” Celebration and Festival of Lights will be Saturday, Dec. 22, from 6-8 p.m. at Newell Lodge, 661 Ozzie Rowell Road (try ‘Firehouse Road’ on GPS). Admission is $5 per person at the gate; children 12 and under receive complimentary marshmallows for roasting and their choice of hot chocolate or hot cider. Email newell.lodge@gmail.com for more information, or call Newell Lodge at (912) 496-2838.


Counting Our Blessings: A Simple Family Tradition Renewed Our Faith at Thanksgiving

Count your blessings, name them one by one,
Count your blessings, see what God has done!
Count your blessings, name them one by one,
And it will surprise you what the Lord has done.

-Joseph Oatman, Jr. (1857)

Several years ago, in 2015, I ordered personalized coasters for our family Thanksgiving dinner.  As each family member or friend arrived, they were given a coaster and instructed to write on the back of coaster something for which they were thankful.  

The older children, already young adults, moaned in despair.  

“Why are you doing this, Me-me?”

My reply, as I handed them a marker, was “Just do it.”  

The comments ranged from reflective and serious to hilariously funny. Not everyone wished to have their comments read aloud and those were simply set aside.   It was a wonderful day. There was so much laughter and happiness, that I remember it as one of the best Thanksgiving Days ever.

The following March, my niece, Melissa was diagnosed with cancer at age 39.  We were devasted and for the next five months, we all fought a battle that could not be won.  Finally, August 24, 2016, was the last day with our wonderfully beautiful, intelligent and vibrant Lissy.  

Our grief was overwhelming.  How would we go on from here?  

We made ourselves prepare for Thanksgiving and when the personalized coasters were passed around, there were tears and quietness as we looked at the picture of Melissa on the coasters. We missed her.  

“Do we have to do this, again?”

“Yes.”  

So, we did.  We read the new comments and decided to re-read the coasters from last year, since some had been so funny.  The first one on the stack was Melissa’s.

“I am thankful for my faith, my grandmama’s prayers, and my family.”  

Too often, it’s the simple things in life that we take for granted.  Things like our faith, the prayers that are prayed on our behalf, and our families. However, these are the things that give us hope, courage, and a reason for being. How wonderful is that?  

So, when the coasters are passed around this year, I will share a heartfelt sentiment.

“I am thankful for my faith, my mama’s prayers, and my family.”  

That’s really all that matters and of course, don’t forget the turkey.

Thanksgiving Blessings,

Kay

 


Togetherness Is an Old Worn Out Atlas and a First-Rate Parking Space

Learn how navigating quality time with one’s spouse has its own set of challenges before you even get where you’re going.

A while back, my husband, Harvin & I decided to take a much needed get-away in Hilton Head, South Carolina.  We drove my car, which is equipped with the On-Star Navigational system.

As we prepared to leave, Harvin threw a worn-out atlas into the backseat.

“Hey, you don’t need that. I have On-Star”, I reminded him.  

He replied, “I really don’t want to ride all the way to Carolina, with ‘those’ people in the car with us. I’ll just use the atlas, if I need it.”   

We made it to Savannah, without incident.  

He said, “Start looking for a sign because I need to cross that big bridge.”  

I asked, “What’s the name of it?”  

He answered, “I can’t remember, but, it’s that big bridge. You know the one I’m talking about.”

As we approach the intersection, a quick decision must be made, because there are no bridges in sight.  So, Captain Kirk takes a sharp right and turns the Starship Enterprise into the old downtown section of Savannah. No bridge in sight.  

” We need to be on the other side of town, to cross the bridge.  And, I need to find a gas station. How far will this car go on empty?”

We found an undesirable convenience store and he pumps the gas.   “Lock the doors, while I go in and pay.”

As he gets back into the car, he reaches for the atlas from the backseat.

“What about On-Star?” I suggest.

No answer. He begins flipping pages.   After several more failed attempts, we cross “The Bridge”, which he knew was there.  

I never doubted the bridge existed, we just couldn’t find it.

As we see the sign for Hilton Head, Harvin says, “None of this looks familiar.”  

I don’t bother to comment.  I’m saving my breath for something important, like screaming in frustration.  I suggest we call On-Star for directions to the hotel.

His response, “Just give me a few minutes to get my bearings. I’m pretty sure I can find it.”  

And, he did.  Nearly an hour later and several wrong turns, circling around numerous blocks, and pulling over to read the atlas, we see the hotel.    

“Who lays out roads, like this anyway?”, he asks.  

“The Department of Transportation,” I answer.   

“Well,” he says, “they don’t know what they’re doing. It looks like they could have put a little thought into the construction of these highways. Nobody wants to think, anymore. That’s the problem.”

Then, he asks in frustration, “Can I move over to the next lane?”

When we arrived at the hotel, Harvin remarks, “I thought I remembered how to get here.”  

Sure, you did, Daniel Boone.  

We check in and order room service, because we’re both exhausted.  Plus, we parked near the building and he really doesn’t want to leave and relinquish the prime parking space.

The next day, Harvin decides to relax in the room.  I spend the day at the beach, where no one recognizes me in my bathing suit. The following day, he lounges in the room, I return to the beach.  Instead of going out for dinner, we choose the hotel restaurant, so we don’t have to move the car and loose our first-rate parking space.

“No telling how far we would have to walk to get back to the car, when we check out in the morning,” he says.

Inwardly, I scream.

The third morning, the trip is over.  We walk the short distance to our car. As we cross the big bridge, without the atlas, he said, “I have it now.”  

Finally, we arrive home.  

Maybe, it was a good thing we didn’t use On-Star.  Otherwise, we wouldn’t have spent all that time together… in the car.


The Russians Are Coming

Summer 1961.  

My summers were endless days of playing with my sisters, with nothing more urgent than deciding what we wanted to do next.  Playing on the old grapevine, which never bore any grapes but was filled with masses of heart-shaped, green leaves, was usually our first choice.  We had constructed a “house” beneath the grapevine, taking advantage of the cool shade and fashioned furniture out of stumps, old buckets, boards, and concrete blocks, if we could carry them.  

Any items we couldn’t find, we used our imaginations and drew them in the dirt, with the longest stick we could find.  And, a long stick had many other uses. It could become a weapon, a broom, a blocked doorway, or it could just be a stick.  

The impressive part of our grapevine house was that second story! An old wooden ladder instantly became an elegant staircase which led to our bedroom.

We furnished this room with a hand stitched quilt smuggled from the house right before our Granny’s eyes.  The hexagonal chicken wire nailed across the top, protected with more of the lobed greenery, provided ample flooring, if we didn’t walk around too much. Everyone knew if you were in the middle you had to sit down. And, no jumping.  

As we sat in our “bedroom”, one lazy afternoon having tea (mud & water), my older sister, Sue then 9, decided to leave.  

“Are you coming back?” I asked. I have a fear of heights and needed her to hold the ladder while I climbed down.

She replied, “Sure. In a minute.”  

Quickly, Sue climbed down the ladder, leaving me and my two younger sisters alone.  I felt a little uneasy, already dreading having to climb down by myself because you never knew what Sue would do in any circumstance.

In a matter of minutes, her well laid plan came to fruition.   She came running across the yard, yelling, “the Russians are coming, the Russians are coming!”  

Simultaneously, an airplane flew overhead and maybe because we were on top of the grapevine, it seemed closer than it really was.

Sue looked into the sky with her eyes shaded and said, “It’s Khrushchev!”

As a seven-year-old child, listening to adult conversations, I had gathered that Russia’s Prime Minister Khrushchev was a cruel and evil man. In fact, we had a younger cousin who was so mean his own parents had nicknamed him Khrushchev.

Bad news all around.

The roar of the airplane, my sister screaming, “The Russians are coming” over and over, was too much.  Grace, Kathy and I scrambled to the ladder for an escape, hoping we were not in line of fire of the Russian airplane, with Khrushchev as the pilot.  

Yes, you guessed it. There was no ladder.

Obviously, life was over for us.  My two younger sisters and I were going to die on top of that grapevine, drinking mud and water. The crying was pitiful. The screams were worse.  

Evidently, the crying and screaming were effective. In a matter of minutes, Granny came to our aid, making Sue, who was laughing hilariously, return the ladder.   

While Granny helped us down, she spotted the quilt. “What’s that good quilt doing out here?”  

We were too shaken to answer, but simply pulled it down with us.  As badly as I hated to give up our precious quilt, I was happier to be off that grapevine and inside our real house. There, the threats of the Russians quickly disappeared as Granny served us sugar & butter sandwiches.


My Horse Heritage

“When I bestride him, I soar, I am a hawk.  He trots the air, the earth sings when he touches it.”              

William Shakespeare

 

“Put your foot in the stirrup.  Grab the saddle horn. Sling your leg over.  Take the reins. Hold on with your legs. Wait a minute.  Let’s untie your shoe strings.” Those were the instructions given to my sisters and me as we took turns riding our Shetland ponies, Daisy and Frosty.   Daddy insisted we untie our shoe strings whenever we rode a horse. When (being the operative word) we fell off, he didn’t want to risk having our foot caught in the stirrup, being dragged by a runaway horse.

There is nothing more frightening than a runaway horse, especially when you are the rider.  One late autumn afternoon, back in the 60’s, Daisy decided she’s had enough of me tugging on the reins and kicking her in the sides.  We did it her way. She took off at a trot, which escalated into a run. The reins were dropped, but not by choice. The only stationary item was the saddle horn, which I grabbed with a death grip, holding on for dear life.  It didn’t take long for Daisy and me to reach the barn gate. She went from a run to a dead stop. The sudden stop was my demise. Losing my grasp on the saddle horn, I toppled over and hit the ground. Daddy was there to help me up and find my Keds.  Before I could tie my shoes, my sisters had arrived, panting, out of breath, fear, and concern evident in their faces. I wanted to cry. The embarrassment and fear were secondary to the one option which remained to bring this riding fiasco to its conclusion.  Get back on that horse. Thankfully, Daddy led Daisy and me back to the barn, while I held onto the reins. And, the saddle horn.

Those were such great days.

Afternoons with Daddy taught me something important about the heart and soul of the horse.  If we quietly listen, the Horse will tell us that we are loved, we are accepted, and we are needed.

Those were qualities my Daddy had, too.

As humans, we have a long-standing relationship with the illustrious horse. In poetry, horses embody the freedom, spirit, and sense of adventure for which we long. We admire their drive and perseverance, their ability to combine high performance and graceful effort.

More personally, I have always found that the qualities of life for which we search are seen much clearly on horseback. Horses, like our dear Tuff, offer the gift of unconditional love. In his day, Tuff listened intently, sharing thoughts, dreams, hopes and life’s troubles.   He was never judgmental. Tuff was gentle, loyal, and a beautiful friend, the kind everyone should have.

Thankfully, you do not have to be a skilled rider, to bond with horses.  Riding is but one aspect of the horse relationship. If I fell off my horse today, it is unlikely there would be anyone there to pick me up and find my shoes, so I choose to spend time just being with the horse.  Grooming his silky coat, brushing tangles from his mane, smells of the barn, a 50-pound bag of sweet feed, and the leather in the tack room… these things have a deep, calming effect upon me.  

Time spent with a horse is never wasted.  These treasured opportunities allow you a sense of peace, a reflection of who you are or who you want to be. Time spent with a horse offers a time of understanding and acceptance of ourselves, for with horses we enter a rare relationship that becomes the mirror to our souls.  We can unleash within ourselves the grace, the beauty, and the spirit found within our horse.

Natural horsemanship trainer John Lyons said it best.  

“When your horse follows you without being asked, when he rubs his head on yours, and when you look at him and feel a tingle down your spine…you know you are loved.”

Don’t worry. If you don’t have a horse, I’ll be happy to introduce you to mine.

 

.  


A Love Story For the Young At Heart

The bride had a special request. Would I leave our horses out during the ceremony? You’ll never guess what happened next!

One brisk February day in 2015, the phone rang. And, as so often occurs, on the other end of the line was a bride who would like to get married at Newell Lodge.

But this lovely bride was in her mid-70s, and the groom, in his early 80s. She had been widowed for many years, and likewise, the groom was a widower. Living together without being married was out of the question.

“I need your help,” she said. “I’m quite sure things have changed in the last 50 years since my first marriage.” She and her first husband had been married in Kingsland on a spring day half a century ago.

“Yes, ma’am,” I said. “Things have changed somewhat.”

Together, we covered the important issues: the marriage license, the minister, the guest list, the lunch menu, wedding décor, and reception – a nice meal, with wedding cake for dessert. The two would wear their Sunday best.

The live oak trees with swaying Spanish moss provided the simple outdoor setting for their wedding day.

A few minutes prior to the ceremony, the bride had a special request. Would I leave our horses out during the ceremony?

“My siblings and I grew up on a farm, and I would love to have the horses in the background,” she said.

“Sure,” I said. “No problem.”

Soon, it was time for the ceremony to begin, smiles and laughter all around.

Sometimes, my husband, Harvin, cannot leave well enough alone, bless his heart. He decides that he will “drive” the horses a little closer to the ceremony site, so guests will have a better view.

So thoughtful of him, don’t you agree? With this end in mind, he approaches the horses on the golf cart.

Understandably, the mares were startled and took off toward the ceremony, galloping right up to the minister!

The guests jumped up, moving as quickly as older folks can and managed to clear the way for the horses. Thankfully, the whole thing was much ado about nothing. A few chairs were overturned by guests, and a couple of horses stopped to graze nonchalantly nearby.

Much to my relief, the wedding party loved the adventure. Family and friends were laughing, taking pictures, and thought it was grand. Eventually, everyone settled down, and the ceremony took place. The lovely lady and her gallant groom were married.

Their “Simply Beautiful” wedding ceremony proceeded, a heartfelt expression of who they were as a couple: simplicity, nature, family, friends, and their love for each other.

The sweetness of it all brought tears to my eyes and joy to my heart. In one moment, Nature’s beauty and their Love was combined to create a magical atmosphere, horses and all. Thus, began their love story as man and wife.

Of course, I have been fortunate to witness many lovely and beautiful weddings at Newell Lodge.  Families and friends come together to celebrate this special day with their loved ones. But among these, this sweet love story remains one of the most special of all.

I hope it touches you, too.


Simplicity That’s Here and Now at Newell Lodge

Remember when life was simple?

On a recent, warmish day following last week’s historic winter storm, I sat in the swing under one of the hundreds of old oak trees here at Newell Lodge. As I lazily pushed the swing with my foot, the creaking of the chain broke the unending silence of the morning.

In my mind, the screen door slams as my sisters and I hit the ground running. I can still hear my mother’s voice, “Don’t slam the door.” We did anyway, time and again.

We played outside most of each day we weren’t in school and enjoyed every minute of it.  We climbed on top of our old grapevine, played dolls, rode our bikes around the block, got stuck in the sand, and skinned our knees when we finally fell. Then, helped one another up, and tried again.

Nostalgic for those days, I realized that in this moment, sitting here, life is simpler.

Right here, right now.

That textured life for which we yearn is here, unfolded before me. The massive oaks dripping with Spanish moss, the horses frolicking in the pasture, the red headed woodpecker making his rat-a-tat music in the trees, the yard chickens walking around pecking, as though they own the place – each possesses a loveliness all its own.

Newell offers the splendor of the absolute silence.  Yes, a blessed silence, where I can remember who I am, where I came from, and allow myself the luxury of just being me.

If given the opportunity, each of us would weave beauty, simplicity, and nature into the fabric of our lives.. The naturalness found here, amid nature, offers hearts, souls, and minds a rest from reality, time to reflect and rejuvenate. Nothing presses upon us.

Then I understand. Perhaps Newell is memorable for what is not here: no high levels of excitement, no iPhone games, no email messages, no schedules, and no demands other than those we choose for ourselves.

In a word, simplicity.

When I try to convey the concept of Newell, I find I am not explaining a place, but an emotion.  Newell affects me, just as it affects each person who visits. Newell has a spirit, a desire to be, a presence. As our guests arrive and depart, I am saying all the right things, when I really wish to urge them to “capture the soul of Newell and see what I see, feel what I feel.”

Newell is more than land and cottages, it is a spirit of endless summers, bicycle rides, the slam of screen doors, the enchantment of fireflies, family bonfires, and the lure of Spanish moss.

Sharing the simplicity and renewal and joy that is Newell is my passion.

Perhaps it could be yours, too?

Kay Carter is a Southern hospitality consultant, hostess and owner at Newell Lodge and Resort at the Okefenokee Swamp. Email her directly at newell.lodge@gmail.com


Newell Lodge Hosts A Country Christmas

Ever wish Christmas still held that sense of wonder and awe? We hope you’ll recapture those memories and make some new ones with the Carter family this year at Newell Lodge.

This year, we’re hosting “A Country Christmas” Celebration and Festival of Lights on Saturday, Dec. 16, from 6-11 p.m. We’re getting ready for sleigh bells and fun!

This family style event is suitable for all ages who are ready to ring in the Christmas season. You’ll enjoy:

  • Thousands of twinkling lights outline the landscape, a beautiful live oak grove setting
  • disc jockey Brian Rauls of Under Pressure Sound & Productions will provide festive soundtracks for hoe-down style country dancing
  • marshmallow roasting and hot chocolate by the fire for children aged 12 and under
  • complimentary family photos taken on guests’ devices in front of the Lodge Christmas tree
  • festival style foods and hot beverages will be available from the concession stand
  • and more! Expect a few surprises!

Of course, the guest of honor is Santa Claus. He will be available for children to have their photo taken with him on the exact wagon the reindeer have pulled through the Swamp for generations!

We’ll also have a warm, kid-friendly activities space just in case it’s too nippy for the wee ones.

“A Country Christmas” Celebration and Festival of Lights will be Saturday, Dec. 16, from 6-11 p.m. at Newell Lodge, 661 Ozzie Rowell Road (try ‘Firehouse Road’ on GPS). Admission is $5 per person at the gate; children 12 and under receive complimentary marshmallows for roasting and their choice of hot chocolate or hot cider. Email newell.lodge@gmail.com for more information, or call Newell Lodge at (912) 496-2838.