It was New Year’s morning. Jim, my fiance, had gotten us a room at the Junipine resort outside of Sedona so that we could spend New Year’s Eve in a cottage by a creek and a crackling fire inside to cozy up to. We really love Flagstaff so we decided to drive up and have lunch and maybe head back to Phoenix after. We knew that a storm was coming but we figured we could beat it but we also both knew that it’s always been my fantasy to get snowed in and be forced to not have to do anything or be anywhere for at least a whole day. I grew up in Northern Arizona so I grew up with snow every year but once I was no longer a child I always had work or something that kept me from being able to enjoy the snow. My inner child (and very Aries self), fantasized about having an excuse to play in the snow. I grew to hate the snow after years of struggling to live in it and I just wanted to fall in love with it again. There’s a solemn reverence to a snowstorm. Everything is quiet and peaceful when sandwiched between the fluffs of clouds and snow.
We got to downtown Flagstaff around lunchtime and I was really craving the London Fog from Tourist Home and it did not disappoint, it was even better than I remembered it. The roads were covered in sleet by now so we decided to check the hotels to see if there were any available rooms at reasonable rates so we wouldn’t have to drive down the mountain in the storm. The hotel we last stayed at was busy checking in some guests so we looked down the street and saw this monumental hotel, The Weatherford, so we braved the sleet and ran inside. The moment we opened the door the lobby had three employees and the manager there that all greeted us in perfect unison, as though it was scripted for a cheesy Christmas movie. Two people were trimming the Christmas Tree, one was on a ladder, the manager turned to face us as he was overseeing the work, and another young woman was standing at the hostess podium to the restaurant, Charly’s. We inquired about available rooms and the manager introduced himself as Drew and took us to the front desk so he could go over the rates with us. We were most interested in having a room that had a view of downtown so Drew offered to give us a tour of the available rooms so that we could pick which one we wanted. I don’t think that has ever happened to me before. Drew took us to a King Room, room 39. It had an elegant, vintage feel to it. The room was spacious and the exposed brick and pipe on the wall behind the bed added a warm feel in cozy contrast to the snow falling much more heavily now, neatly framed in the windows facing downtown. Jim immediately said, “We’ll take it!” and we were told that we could bring in our luggage at 3:00pm once the room was finished being cleaned and prepared for guests as it was only about 1:30pm.
We spent the next hour and a half wandering around downtown Flagstaff as the snow continued to steadily come down in large, fluffy flakes. It was mesmerizing to look up and see nothing but grey clouds seemingly so close you could reach up and touch them and white flakes floating down towards your face like tiny, white feathers gently floating to the ground. There were so many families wandering around the streets and in the square and everyone seemed to be filled with a sense of wonder and peace. We passed little girls singing Christmas carols just because they were full of joy. If anyone or any group of people looked as though they were struggling to get a selfie or group photo, a passerby would cheerfully offer to take their picture. We met so many different people this way, most of them visiting from out-of-state or even from other countries. I was enamored with how much something so simple as a snow storm could unify so many different people who spoke different languages and would seemingly have not much in common. I had that warm Hallmark movie feeling again and I decided to just embrace it.
After checking in, Jim and I went back out into the snow to just run and explore and get more photos. We live in the desert and it’s a rare occurrence to be able to just play in a snowstorm with no concern over needing to be somewhere or be doing something. We took a break from the cold and had a lovely dinner at Charly’s and then went back out to take a few more pictures of the snow after dark. There were still so many Christmas lights up and Christmas trees lit up we had to capture the snow and the lights. The entire day and night felt like its own kind of present. Interesting that it seemed to make me feel more present. Nothing seemed to matter that day. Any worries or mental to-do lists vanished, like those things floated away on each snowflake and we felt lighter with each step.
That night the heat had stopped working in our room but Drew brought us up a small heater which kept the room quite warm all night. Everyone was very accommodating, making sure that all of our needs were met, even with the challenge of losing heat on an evening when maintenance was off and there was a snow storm outside. We were warned about the sounds the pipes make as well so the sounds didn’t really bother me since I was prepared for them. When you go to a historic hotel, you need to be prepared for sounds in general. The walls are usually thinner, or the windows aren’t as thick, there are creaks and any number of potential sounds. That’s all part of the experience you sign up for when spending time in older buildings. They have noises but with it’s quirks comes so much more character; you can almost feel the stories in the halls and rooms as you pass through and by them. The next morning, Drew was there and promptly offered to help JIm get the snow off of his truck. I can’t say enough positive things about our time at The Weatherford. The entire experience was magical because it was the culmination of so many perfect components, including an incredible hotel and staff. Definitely a dream came true that weekend.
Some of my favorite images Jim took while we were at The Surgeon's House in Jerome, AZ.
Photos featured in the above slideshow are by Jim Hesterman .
Let me begin by telling you that this is exclusively my personal experience and opinion. I believe wholeheartedly that each person that visits this space will get something that they didn’t realize they needed and that will be unique for each individual. One of the other guests that joined us for breakfast both mornings and has been visiting The Surgeon’s House for years, even having gotten married there nine years prior said the same thing at the table on our last morning there. I knew I needed to get away and regenerate my mind and spirit after not being able to take any real trips for two years due to circumstances beyond my control. The following is the experience I had.
It was the second week of October when my fiancé, Jim and I first got to the property I was thrilled to finally open that gate I’ve passed for years. As an Arizona native I have visited Jerome quite a few times but I never stayed overnight. Opening the garden gate with a sign stating that only guests were allowed through made me feel like I had a golden ticket in my hand. I worked hard at tempering my excitement however, because the more excited I am about something the greater the disappointment I experience later. Having too high of expectations can often do that. We walked through an archway of Morning Glory vines that crawled around signs reminding us that there are bees hard at work on the property. Basically, if you leave them to do their work, they’ll leave you alone. I’m allergic to bees so I’m particularly mindful of their presence but have found this to be true throughout my life. I had no issues with the bees while I was there, they preferred the patches of flowers to the humans, (can’t say I blame them).
They were quite friendly. We made our way past two Coy Ponds up a walkway and entered a side door to the house which was the wrong way to enter. We went through the wrong gate. Oops. I guess my excitement wasn’t as tempered as I thought. A surprised helper named Bonita heard us come in and greeted us kindly after confirming we were there to check-in, a question only raised because we just came in the side door instead of the main entrance. Bonita was so pleasant and enthusiastic in telling us the history of the property that you would think that it was her first day on a job she had always dreamed of having. She told us about how the building was built 105 years ago “this year” (2022) by the mining company that essentially ran the town back then. It was built as a perk for surgeons and doctors who agreed to work at the nearby hospital which is now The Grand Hotel just on the top of the hill we were at the base of. She told us about how Andrea bought the property from the original mining company almost 30 years ago and pointed out a stack of binders dedicated to documenting every renovation Andrea made to the property over the years.
The detailed binders were not our first introduction to Andrea’s love for the property, we had already begun witnessing it as we looked around the grounds as well as inside the few main rooms we had already seen. As a matter of fact, the lush gardens hiding the property has been intriguing me since my first visit to Jerome years ago. We saw that love and care in the face of the beautiful young woman tending the garden as we came in; she looked up and greeted us with the brightest and most sincere smile without ever wavering from the task at hand. Then as Bonita approached us in the main part of the home she had the same glow about her. I must say that how employees present themselves in any place of business speaks volumes about how the business treats them and whatever you purchase and experience is infused with that energy. My hopes were already being exceeded here.
Bonita led us up some small stairs to our room and the door was already open for us, windows were open, birds were outside singing, fans were circulating the air, and in an instant, I burst into tears. My heart burst open, it was like a warm hug from my grandmother. The energy, even the scent was EXACTLY like stepping into my paternal grandmother’s home. I haven’t experienced that feeling or known that scent since I was a young teenager still visiting her and my grandfather for about a week every Summer in Tucson. My grandmother was the one person I always felt I could be myself around. My grandfather and I would sit and watch the Monsoons together every day and he would tell me stories about working on the railroad which may be why they chose to live right next to train tracks, but he was reserved for the most part and kept to himself. My grandmother though, she was that one person who never told me how or who to be. She challenged me to think about who I was, what I wanted, what I liked and didn’t like. I never got that opportunity unless I was with her. The really interesting part for me was that I did a deep meditation on reconnecting with her spirit not even a week prior to stepping into this room. The feeling of relief I once got yearly as I stepped over her threshold came flooding back to me in that instant. Bonita was deeply concerned as I told her that it smelled like my grandma’s house and she said, “Oh no, is that ok?!”, to which I replied, “It’s perfect. It’s beautiful.” Jim reassured Bonita as I worked at composing myself that I had a deep connection with my grandmother and it was definitely a good thing. Bonita went on explaining the details of the room and everything that was there for us and I felt like I was being invited in to the home of one of my most loving relatives that had long since passed. Love had enveloped us.
Bonita left us to get settled and make us dinner reservations at a new restaurant on her recommendation and Jim and I began looking more closely at all the little details of our room. The entire home had every type of book stacked up, begging to be picked up and read, our room included. Above our bed there were antique lighting fixtures, marriage certificates from many years ago, and even a beautiful image of a woman with a license for prostitution included. There was history and inspiration scattered all around us and each item in every room was placed with such intention, you could feel it and not help but be moved with gratitude by the depth of love imbued in each meticulous yet casual placement. Everything was an offering for you to enjoy with the trust in your humanity that you would leave it with the same respect and dignity for the next person as it was left just for you.
Jerome is famous for its hauntings and I had actually, surprisingly, put that out of my mind as paranormal investigating was not on my agenda for this trip. After the emotional afternoon I was looking forward to some good sleep to go along with the sense of calm and relief I had already felt. I woke up around 2:30am that first night to use the restroom and got back into bed and as I waited to fall back to sleep, I felt a gentle touch glide across my toes. I dismissed it in the moment as the fan blowing the sheets but try as I might, I could not recreate the sensation for the rest of my stay. The touch was assuring and caring. I don’t know what or who that may have been but I later thanked whoever it was after getting a similar touch on the top of my head in the downstairs restroom. The downstairs restroom has had anomalies caught on camera with film that professional film developers have not been able to explain. This was the extent of my experience that would have had me question if we had experienced paranormal activity. I did bring an EMF detector but that only seemed to fluctuate when certain devices, such as lights, or kitchen appliances were on, although I did not feel like getting it out and testing in the middle of the night so take that how you will.
Something you must know, dear reader, before I continue, is that neither Jim nor myself have ever stayed at a Bed & Breakfast and we only just realized that’s what The Surgeon’s House was as we were on our way there. My introverted self panicked a little bit inside not knowing what to expect or how social I was going to have to be. Jim and I are in the habit of being early risers so I went downstairs to the kitchen to get us coffee and tea where I was finally able to meet Andrea as she was preparing our breakfast. She confirmed that we ate Gluten-Free and was already prepared, having cooked for people with Celiac disease in the past. Andrea introduced me to a regal cat sitting on a chair on the outside of the kitchen, patiently waiting for any potential scraps, his name was Roscoe Stanley. Roscoe Stanley was often particular about who pet him so I asked him if I may, he consented and from then on, he sat on his throne/chair each morning and meowed at me until I pet him. I later asked if I could get his picture and he obliged, then turned towards Jim’s professional camera and stood perfectly still, posing as though he was a professional model. He only moved his head after Jim had captured the image. Roscoe Stanley would dismiss himself and disappear for the rest of the day once the rest of the guests began to make their way downstairs.
Each morning Andrea would call us in for breakfast and then go into great detail as to what she was serving, the ingredients and what about each dish made her love it. This never sounded scripted mind you, it was just her passion for making healthy food that was delicious and easy to digest that motivated her. As she explained each dish you couldn’t help but be moved by the conscientious intention along with loving care that she imbued into the food just like every aspect of the property she cares for. The food was delicious and we both felt great after eating which can always be tricky, especially with me and the continual health challenges I have with my digestion. The different guests all engaged in light pleasant conversation — and not just small talk. Not one mention of the weather as a matter of fact. The space had a special kind of creativity to it which bore an interesting sense of comfort with profundity which would manifest itself in conversations with strangers at breakfast. Once we were all done eating we all went about our day and never really saw each other again which was also just fine. But in passing, we would see each other driving or walking around town and would nod in acknowledgement of a lovely shared experience.
That first morning I took advantage of all those books and beautiful couches in the atrium and dozed off reading a book even though there were workers outside doing some small repairs to the house. I couldn’t remember the last time I felt that relaxed, even around noise. I had a few more fleeting moments with Andrea which made the “mother hungry” girl inside me happy. Andrea would refer to herself as the steward of the property and home and she spoke of her “helpers” as though they were members of her family, not employees, She was just as intentional with how she communicated as she was with everything else. She was consistent and never chaotic and I think that also added to the overall assuredness of the energy of the home and property. She had healthy boundaries, because it was a business after all, but I was in awe of her ability to infuse every aspect of her property and your experience there with such a nurturing and intentional sense of belonging, compassion, and acceptance and create a thriving business with that care.
Jim and I ate dinner at Clinkscale that second evening and Bonita’s recommendation was perfect. Again, we were pleasantly surprised by the large portions for the price, (we’re used to Phoenix pricing and portions half the size of what we got at Clinkscale), as well as how good we felt even after overeating because of the portion sizes that we were not prepared for. The next day my parents drove from Prescott to visit and have lunch with us. We took them to Clinkscale and they too were impressed by the food. Again, consistency with the meals from lunch and dinner. Consistency is key and we had it in the food and service. We ordered a bit smarter this time knowing how much food we’d end up getting and the food and our planning turned out perfectly.
Let me remind you that I’m not normally prone to tears unless my heart is moved somehow. Tears flow easily when my heart and/or spirit is moved and I shed quite a few tears of gratitude during our stay. Awe was the theme of the trip for me, awe and gratitude. I saw gratitude when I looked at the large mural Andrea had commissioned when she had 13 of her Coy “babies” die, (it turns out that you can’t feed Coy Fish when it starts to get to a certain temperature which I didn’t know so Andrea asked me to let the fish know they would be fed later when I was leaving for my morning walk which they seemed to appreciate), when she pointed out a large Orbweaver spider guarding the side entrance, when she explained the food she made for us and why. I felt awe and gratitude to have a life partner that, regardless of the chaos he may be experiencing, he made sure we took some time away for ourselves. I was in awe and gratitude when I felt as though the person I needed the most, my grandmother’s spirit was blessing the entire time we spent there. I was in awe and gratitude when we were told about all the items laying around for us to enjoy as well as being told clear expectations so as not to upset the natural order of things. Interestingly, I find that I relax better when even the most minor expectation of me is laid out for me, this way I don’t have to wonder if something I do will upset someone because they already told me what would upset them. No unpleasant surprises for anyone later, you just have to hear it when it is presented to you. It may be delivered in a kind and loving manner but it’s just as serious as any expressed boundary… perhaps more so because when it’s delivered gently, that means the person is already trusting you and giving you credit for respecting them, not assuming you won’t respect them as seems to be the case when someone is harsh in their delivery of boundaries or expectations.
When different rooms were empty and open we peeked our heads in to compare them to what we saw on the website and each was accurate and unique. I couldn’t help but think that each experience at The Surgeon’s House will be as different as each room. Not only for each individual person but also, very likely, for me because I do plan on returning someday. This is a place of respite, to convalesce the mind and spirit. It is a quiet old house with a lot of stairs so not the best place for pets, small children, or anyone with physical limitations. If you keep that in mind and decide to go visit, be prepared to feel cared for and also be prepared for how you may respond to this experience. It may surprise you.
All images were taken with my cell phone not planning to share but my heart changed my mind.
Click here for The Surgeon's House site.