Book review by Peter Vankevich
What’s it like to run a bed and breakfast? This is a thought that many have fantasized over. Ann Ehringhaus provides the insider’s view of her place called Oscar’s House Bed and Breakfast, built in 1940 by Capt. Joe Burrus.
If this was a book about running a B&B in a location like, say, Boone, this would be an interesting read. That the B&B is on Ocracoke and the book covers a period of more than 30 years and written by an extraordinary person who first arrived on the island as a 22-year-old grad from Chapel Hill to teach at the school makes this an essential book about gaining a perspective of a part of the cultural life on Ocracoke.
Ten Thousand Breakfasts chronicles the evolution from a traditional B&B to one that also serves as an informal kind of retreat house where both creative conversations and silence are equally respected.
As one can gather from the title (which derives from Tao Te Ching where “ten thousand” things is a term referring to all of phenomenal reality, i.e., everything physical in the world) breakfast is the magic of the B&B experience.
This is the time when everyone gathers for a great meal and strangers get to know each other. Advertising that Oscar’s House will accommodate special diets including macrobiotic and vegetarian has its benefits, and she devotes a chapter that includes several of the house recipes many of which were passed on by her guests.
Ehringhaus is a professional photographer, a practitioner of Chinese acupressure and Rosen Method Body Work, a Reiki master teacher and has a doctorate in ministry. Clearly she has long been fascinated with the spiritual/mystical side of life.
This comes out in many ways in the book, starting early on with her discovery of Reiki from a guest visiting the island for a Japanese cooking class. Reiki, which means Universal Life Force Energy, helped her create a peaceful energy for herself and the B&B.
The book includes poetry by Michele Maria Surat, a writer and teacher from Richmond and long-time visitor to the island, and Adam Schonbrun, a prolific writer who spends time in Brooklyn and Tel Aviv.
It is loaded with photographs and brief quotes gleaned from guests made over the years relating to the theme of each chapter.
I found myself surprisingly captivated by the acknowledgements of those who took the photos, many by Ann, and others by her guests. I particularly loved the image on page 45 by David Crosby from Appalachian State University of a white Persian cat in the kitchen with the door open and light filling a rectangle on the floor.
This is far more than an insider’s view of running a B&B. It is also a reflective memoir of an extraordinary person who wishes to pass along the wisdom she has gained on a long spiritual journey. It is a book written with a little help from her guests. Make that a little help from her friends.
The book is available on the island at Books to be Red, the Variety Store and the museum gift shop of the Ocracoke Preservation Society.
More information about Oscar’s House Bed & Breakfast can be obtained by calling 252 928-1311 or http://www.oscarsbb.com.