The estate is 42-acres and contains five buildings, the most notable being Elstowe Manor and Chelten House, both Horace Trumbauer designed mansions. Elstowe Manor was the summer home of William L. Elkins, a prominent Philadelphian businessman who was integral in the formation of the Pennsylvania Railroad Company and the establishment of the Philadelphia Museum of Art.
I had gone with the beginnings of a play, which I read to the others in attendance and from whom I got some very good, and helpful, feedback. Proof, if any were needed, that even a solitary artist like a writer eventually needs another pair of eyes and/or ears to move forward.
The Gallery at Elstowe (© Nate Klett, Flickr)
But the most wonderful part of the evening for me was when we (there were eight of us all told) moved into what had once been Elkins' art gallery, an enormous -- make that cavernous -- space with paneled, brocaded walls and hand-painted beams twenty feet above. We each took one of the little gold-painted chairs that are used for the weddings that are held in the estate and sat in the gallery as one of the group, a young man who is also an actor, played the violin. A Bach partita. It might have been #3. No matter, when it was over the violinist was drenched in sweat (the air wasn't on in the gallery) and the rest of us were transfixed. To be so close to that music, live, transcendent, flawless... it almost literally gets inside you the way a recording, or even a performance in a concert hall can't. I really was filled with the sense that I was not just fortunate, but blessed to be there to hear it. To be a part of it. And more, to have the life I have, with its ups and downs and uncertainties, and my Head, which continues to do its best to keep me off-balance and anxious. It's difficult to describe, but that feeling has stayed with me, even as life has become a little more stressful (as I knew it would) after a period of relative peace and contentment. But only a little. And I can go back to that room at the Elkins Estate any time, to hear and feel the music and remember that I wasn't just blessed that Monday night. It's all the time.
All the time.