I’d heard for years about the town of Staunton, Virginia, and finally persuaded my reluctant husband to have a romantic getaway. Well, as romantic as it can be when you have the dog along. The focus of our visit was the American Shakespeare Center, at which we saw two plays, but the entire town is a jewel box of discoveries. Even more delightful, I’ll bet, on a fine spring day.
Because the weather has been unusually cool, spring is moving in slowly, so it’s not too late to stroll along the gorgeous bluebell walk at Riverbend Park. When we hiked the path Sunday, there were quite a few still in rose-colored-bud stage, and a dozen other less showy wildflowers opening up as well.
On Veterans Day my son and daughter and I made a visit to my father’s gravesite, a beautiful setting in all seasons but especially poignant in fall, when we recall those who have been willing to risk their lives for something larger than themselves. Veterans Day following so close upon Halloween, we took candy corn—one of my father’s Halloween favorites, which he enjoyed every year from the bounty of his children’s trick-or-treat bags—and tucked them invisibly into the grass, an offering which perhaps only birds and beetles will appreciate, but an offering nevertheless.
It’s the weekend of our church community’s annual retreat in Orkney Springs, Virginia, and, 2012 being the 50th anniversary of Vatican II, which helped drag the Catholic Church from the Middle Ages into modern times (well, at least into the 20th century), this was a natural subject for discussion. There were reminiscences by grandparents of growing up in the “Catholic ghetto”: gloomy churches, scary sermons about sinfulness and hell, and nary a non-Catholic to be seen… gradually replaced by Mass in the vernacular, greatly expanded participation by lay people, and reaching across the aisles, so to speak, to people of other faiths. What might be accomplished in the next fifty years? I’m sure MY to-do list doesn’t match that of the current Pope.
Accommodations at the retreat vary, and families with children are generally housed together, but rarely in Maryland House, pictured below. I learned this weekend that it’s an Adults-Only House, to which parents graduate when their children go off to college. Aha! That explains the singing, the clinking of glasses, and the boisterous laughter drifting across the lawn after the rest of us have put the kids to bed and crashed ourselves. And I thought it was coming from the Teen Camp.
Each year at this time, we head for the wilds of Far Western Virginia and our annual church retreat, some of the housing for which is depicted herein (which used to be pretty chilly digs but which now offers baseboard heaters for the 21st century camper).
It’s a weekend that is difficult to describe: certainly there is plenty of serious discussion, reflection, prayer, and singing; but interwoven are hiking, yoga, dancing, hay rides, sessions of watercolor painting and dream work, and time for the more lengthy, intimate conversations for which the Sunday coffee hour is too brief.
The children play community-building games and create spirited art objects that enliven the setting of our closing liturgy. For our daughter’s Middle School group, this meant building and joyously spray-painting enormous colorful internally-illuminated free-standing totems that would be perfectly comfortable on the floor of the Whitney.
Every single year, departure for home is poignant. I post this sketch-memory as a token of gratitude.
Today is the birthday of passionate and controversial itinerant poet Vachel Lindsay (1879-1931), and I post in his honor this poem, along with a sketch of a lone violinist my daughter and I encountered this summer during an evening stroll through downtown Charlottesville.Hungry for music with a desperate hunger I prowled abroad, I threaded through the town; The evening crowd was clamoring and drinking, Vulgar and pitiful—my heart bowed down— Till I remembered duller hours made noble By strangers clad in some suprising grace. Wait, wait, my soul, your music comes ere midnight Appearing in some unexpected place With quivering lips, and gleaming, moonlit face.
Today I celebrate the birthday of Dylan Thomas, who lived way too short a life (1914-1953), with the first verse of one of my favorites, “Fern Hill,” and a painting of the wonderful farm in Virginia that used to host our organic CSA. Not exactly Wales, but in the right spirit.Now as I was young and easy under the apple boughs
About the lilting house and happy as the grass was green,
The night above the dingle starry,
Time let me hail and climb
Golden in the heydays of his eyes,
And honoured among wagons I was prince of the apple towns
And once below a time I lordly had the trees and leaves
Trail with daisies and barley
Down the rivers of the windfall light…
This cartoon is bizarrely appropriate for today, because it is the birthday of the sculptor Frédéric Auguste Bartholdi (1834-1904), whose most famous work, Liberty Enlightening the World, is known to us as the Statue of Liberty. I plan a lengthier post about him in 2011. Thank you and Happy Birthday, Frédéric. May your sculpture continue her courageous task of enlightenment.
Below: Illegal immigration is an issue that apparently remains unresolved in Virginia. And elsewhere.