The Washington Times - June 11, 2008, 11:10AM

By Cyndi Paxton Johnson


Photos by Johnson Pixels 

I don’t always take good care of myself. I get caught up in the 900 daily things I HAVE to do – and I forget to make time for ME! 

The BackCountry Cabin at Whites Mill
You probably do the same thing. It’s part of being a woman, we tend to put everyone and everything ahead of ourselves.

And then something wonderful happens, and we’re reminded how much we need to be nourished and nurtured, too.

In my case, I spent two incredible days and nights at the BackCountry cabin at Whites Mill, on the outskirts of Abingdon, Virginia.

To be honest, I was a tad nervous about taking my entire family to a cabin I had never seen.  Then we arrived and met Tracy Mitchell. She and her husband, Mark restored the cabin about five years ago, and their love and commitment to the romantic bungalow is evident in every corner.

The living room at BackCountry Cabin at Whites Mill

The hand-hewn front porch, the fireplace mantle, the wooden vanity and the kitchen island were all crafted by Mark Mitchell, currently serving in Iraq. The house is furnished and decorated with love – with handmade curtains in the two bedrooms and autographed local interest books on the coffee table!  Dishes and pans and a coffeepot – complete with coffee – were waiting in the kitchen. The television doesn’t get great reception in the mountains, but VHS tapes were abundant. It was the perfect tiny house.

But the spectacular views from the front porch answered the yearnings of my soul. The cabin is on a hill behind historic Whites Mill, and the front porch offers you a glimpse of the mill (complete with stream), mercantile store, and three or four adjoining mountains dotted with cows, sheep and goats. Spring flowers brightened the vision and pleased the senses. The call of the birds and calves entertained us far better than network television.  

The porch view from the BackCountry Cabin at Whites Mill

I could have stayed there forever. I could feel the tension and stress leaving my tired shoulders and neck as I relaxed and breathed in the serenity.

This is why people go on retreat – to relax and rejuvenate their spirits.

I had been denying myself this essential ingredient of spiritual health – it just didn’t seem practical.

I’ve learned my lesson. Regardless of the stressors of daily life, we need and deserve a chance to relax and rediscover the joy of living.

Abingdon, Virginia is an incredible retreat destination – far enough from home to feel different, but only half a day’s drive away. I look forward to revisiting her gracious bounty, and the BackCountry cabin with the best front porch in town!

Cyndi Paxton Johnson is a writer and blogger for Donne Tempo Magazine who is learning the joys of traveling for her own self nourishment.