October 29, 2011

Best Witches for a Boo-tiful Weekend!

Ah, Hallowe'en weekend! So much spooky fun. Today, I am going to spend the morning creating my Jack O' Lantern for the front doorstep. I picked up a new set of carving tools and I'm going to attempt a different kind of design this time out. I've always leaned toward the classic triangular eyes/nose with jagged mouth look, so this should be a fun change.

Every Hallowe'en night, I go to a most amazing party. Thousands of people show up to this event and it ends up taking over an entire block. The host spends months dressing up his entire lawn as an elaborate graveyard with animated ghosts and ghouls in every window of his house. An over-sized carport in the driveway acts as a walk-through haunted house with lots of creepy features and effects. A pair of sawhorses gets set up at the end of the street and cars line up for miles to stop in front of the house where a crew of excellently-costumed monsters converge to attack the cars. Freddy Krueger taps his metallic fingernails on a passenger side window as the girl in the seat cracks a nervous grin. A giant, 10-foot stilted creature reaches down through a sunroof to startle an unsuspecting couple. Leatherface chases a group of screaming kids into a neighbor's back yard, revving his chainsaw (no chains, of course). Every year, this party is an absolute blast. It really scares up the fun. May your Hallowe'en also be fang-tastic! Cheers!!! :D

"The lions may grow weak and hungry,
but those who seek the LORD lack no good thing."

~Psalm 34:10


October 25, 2011

All In a Day's Lunch Break

For as long as I can remember, I have been using my lunch breaks at work to engage in physical fitness activities. On Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays, I go to the University's Sports Complex to use the varsity weight room. What I will do on Tuesdays and Thursdays differs depending on what the weather is looking like outside. On cold or rainy days, I like to go to the mall to walk the long corridors. On warm, clear days, I prefer to get my cardiovascular exercise at a place called Avalon Park.

Avalon Park is a nature preserve made up of 140 acres of wooded paths, wildflower meadows, mossy pools, and lakeside boardwalks. Many bridges and benches dot the trails offering well-placed spots to rest and take in the natural beauty that is all around. The grounds look extraordinary during this season of year when all of the leaves are beginning to turn brown and the bushes are heavy with berries. I have visited this park many times. It is a great setting for my lunchtime walk.

Set in the middle of the park is a feature called the Labyrinth, a circle of stones that makes a single, non-branching path. The ancient symbol of the labyrinth has traditionally been used for meditation and prayer. It represents the spiritual journey within to one's personal center and then back out to the world. To walk the path is all about healing, discovery, creativity, intuition, and transformation.

Usually when I hike through the park, I have my iPod set on some form of world music (Hindustani ragas, Celtic folk songs, Peruvian classical music, Native American pipes, etc.). Such sounds are a great accompaniment to the wooded surroundings at Avalon. Though, lately I have been mostly switching between two classic Jethro Tull albums: "Songs from the Wood" and "Minstrel In the Gallery." Acoustic, flute-laden medieval themes. Both albums really capture the mood of autumn. 

While on my way back to work after one of my lunch excursions this week, I noticed a sign that read "Free Art Exhibit Today" in front of the Mills Pond House in St. James. With a few minutes to spare, I stepped into the gallery to find a display called "Midnight Oils." It is a fine art presentation for Hallowe'en that is meant to portray "frightening subject matter cast in a philosophic, romantic, or humorous light." It was a great thing to stumble upon during a work break. The exhibition will be viewable through October 31. Cheers!

"This is what the LORD Almighty said:
'Administer true justice; show mercy and compassion
to one another. Do not oppress the widow or the fatherless,
the foreigner or the poor. Do not plot evil
against each other.'"

~Zechariah 7:9-10


October 22, 2011

Fire Island Lantern Light Tour

Saturday, October 15, 7:30 PM: As I pulled my car into the empty, unlit parking lot of Field #5 at Robert Moses State Park, I had the unsettling feeling of being in the wrong place. Earlier in the day, I had made a reservation for a Lantern Light Tour and I was quite sure that I had written down the correct departure place and time, but the field for some reason appeared to be deserted. After a bit of unsuccessful searching, I took the long drive to the far east end of the lot where I finally caught glimpse of a few parked cars and a small group of people standing at a table with flashlights.

Once everyone was checked in, an escort from the Fire Island Lighthouse Preservation Society led the tour group on to the beach for a long walk. Just beyond the range of the lantern light, the mighty Atlantic Ocean pummeled the shoreline giving off a sound that was watery thunder. By starlight, I could make out traces of tremendous, foaming waves crashing down just mere feet from the very spot where I was standing. Every few seconds, the beam from Fire Island Light House would pass by to illuminate the intense surf for a moment before plunging it back into obscurity. It was a very humbling and scary thing to witness. The orange glow of the full moon phase further enhanced the eeriness of the scene.

Every half mile or so, a semicircle of lanterns was set up in the sand. At each stop there was situated a docent, ready to regale the group with stories of the geomorphology of Fire Island, the US Life-Saving Service (which predated the Coast Guard), lighthouse history, famous shipwrecks, rescue attempts, and local pirates. These tales were perfect for a full moon night on the coast.

From the beach, the escort conducted the group inland to the crumbling foundation of the original lighthouse, a structure that was raised in 1828 and stood at 80 feet high. Beside the brick circle is the Fresnel Lens House, which houses the lens from the first lighthouse. Weighing in at 9,000 pounds, it is a magnificent sight projecting its colorful prisms on to the surrounding walls.

Next, the group was led over a series of boardwalks to the current lighthouse, which stands at 180 feet. Its powerful, rotating beam is a very impressive thing to behold up close. The main lighthouse building houses a museum which showcases several pieces of rescue equipment from the past. An excerpt from a typed handout about the USLSS reads as such:

Imagine yourself patrolling a deserted open beach on a winter night with the sound of the surf pounding in your ears. Your job is to cast a weather eye upon the angry sea for any sign of a ship in distress. There is little light to guide you on your patrol. Suddenly, a sound makes you stop in your tracks. The cries of distress from a ship in danger is your call to action. As a United States Life Saver it is your job to get back to your station and alert the rest of the surfmen. You and the rest of the crew will do everything possible to save those aboard the periled vessel. This was the mission of the United States Life-Saving Service...

From this point, guests were given the option to climb the 192 steps to the lighthouse tower. It was a very steep and strenuous ascent and only a few people decided to brave it. Once at the observation platform, I was rewarded with a most spectacular view. I could make out cruise ships on the Atlantic horizon sailing toward Nova Scotia. To the west, I could see as far as the Manhattan skyline, the Freedom Tower, and the Empire State Building. All the while, I was being shaken by strong gusts of wind. It was such a marvelous thing to be experiencing that I stayed up there for quite a long time after all of the other groups had gone.

When I finally came down, all of the tours were over. Only the volunteers were still there waiting to close up the building. After I thanked them for a fun evening, I began the 20-minute walk back to the car over the long passages of boardwalk that bisect the swale. I was surrounded on every side by swampy ground and ghostly sea grass stalks that stretched as far as my eye could see. My only company was the circle of light from my flashlight; I never saw another person. This lonely night walk was very, very creepy and my nerves started to play with me. I kept waiting to see the Headless Horseman gallop out of the shadows to throw gourds at me. In hindsight, it was a pretty cool thing to do right before Hallowe'en. This scene was much scarier than any haunted house. I don't think I've ever walked quite so briskly. :)

"Jesus replied,
'What is impossible with men
is possible with God.'"

~Luke 18:27


October 18, 2011


There is a great quote by French author Albert Camus that says "Autumn is a second spring when every leaf is a flower." With just a brief look outside at all of the trees that are beginning to get dressed up in their rusty foliage, it is easy to see just what he meant. There is a special feeling in the air this time of year. To me, this has always been a season of unquestionable beauty.

October brings with it many activities that I look forward to every fall. I started off this month with a mandatory visit to the pumpkin patch. On a balmy Saturday morning, I watched the sun's rays breaking through the sky's few errant clouds as I lugged a wheelbarrow of pumpkins in from the field. I picked up five in all: two tiny ones, two medium-sized, and an extra large one that I will later carve into a Jack 'O Lantern for my front porch. This particular farm also had a corn maze, which I was more than happy to spend $3 for fifteen minutes of walking through the tall stalks. The ground was dewy and soft beneath my shoes which added to the spooky atmosphere that was perfect for this season of the year.

Hallowe'en crafts are always a big part of my October agenda and this year I was able to add a few new hand-made decorations to my front table. My first project was a model spider. After putting all of the parts together, I spent a few hours painting it to resemble a picture of a tarantula that I found in a book. I think it came out quite lifelike. I actually gave myself a startle one evening when I had forgotten that I left the spider sitting on my kitchen counter and I caught a quick glance of it in the dark. Whoa!

Another project that I did was to assemble a foam haunted house kit that I found at the crafts store. This was really fun and it came out looking cute.

This past weekend, I spent a day cooking up an autumnal dinner of pork roast w/gravy, acorn squash, corn, and mulled apple cider. It was a delicious meal and I got to enjoy it in front of the TV while watching the Hallowe'en classic It's the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown. One of those timeless cartoon moments comes when Charlie Brown reaches into his trick-or-treat bag and says "I got a rock." Hilarious!

For a definitive taste of autumn, try this simple recipe:

Cut an acorn squash in half and scoop out the seeds. In a small bowl, mix together apple sauce, raisins, cinnamon, and honey. Fill the squash halves with the mixture. Top it with a pat of butter and sprinkle lightly with salt. Bake it in the oven at 400 degrees until fork tender. About an hour. Yum!

Also, to get myself in a ghoulish mood for Hallowe'en, I started reading a book called "The Gates" by John Connolly. Barring the occasional tongue-in-cheek philosophical, theological, or scientific tangent, the story line of this book is witty and fun. A monstrously enjoyable and lighthearted bit of fiction. Great for October! Boo!

"For I command you today to love the LORD your God,
to walk in his ways, and to keep his commands, decrees and laws;
then you will live and increase, and the LORD your God will bless you
in the land you are entering to possess."

~Deuteronomy 30:16


October 15, 2011

Recycling & Reincarnation: Exhibition of Industrial Design, Installation, and Mixed Media Art

One of the great things about being employed by a State University of New York is that I am privy to a lot of cultural and artistic events that come through the college. During one of my lunch breaks this past week, I slipped over to the Charles B. Wang Center to see the current exhibit that is on display there. The Wang Center has long been my favorite building on the campus and its cavernous halls are an excellent place to showcase art.

As the brochure for this event cites:

"At a time when issues of sustainability and environmentalism are increasingly the focus of public attention, Recycling and Reincarnation: Exhibition of Industrial Design, Installation, and Mixed Media Arts features works from artists affiliated with East China Normal University in Shanghai, PRC. Recycling and Reincarnation explores the connections of recycling as an environmental or industrial practice with cyclicality of life, spirit, and history. Some works are artistic reflections or meditations on these themes, while others imagine creative sustainable technology."

This fascinating exhibit will be on display at the Charles B. Wang Center at Stony Brook University through November 6, 2011. Cheers!

"Jesus answered,
'I am the way and the truth and the life.
No one comes to the Father
except through me.'"

~John 14:6