September 26, 2012

Hay, It's Apple Day!

An apple. It is the original forbidden fruit. It is William Tell's favorite target. It is the poisonous sedative given to Snow White by the Evil Queen. Rumor has it that one of these eaten every day has the power to repel health care providers. It can go by the name Granny Smith, Braeburn, Cortland, Fuji, or McIntosh. Some are called Delicious. Others Honeycrisp. When cut crosswise, it has a star in its center.

Last Sunday, the historic Sherwood-Jayne Farm in East Setauket hosted the 23rd Annual Long Island Apple Festival. This day was dedicated to all things apple. There were apple pie contests. Apple relay races. Booths were set up selling apple sandwiches, warm apple crisp, caramel apples, apple bread, and homemade apple sauce. Another booth offered samples of hand-pressed, unpasteurized apple cider. At first sip, I found it to be a bit tart and pulpy, though not at all in a bad way. It definitely got me thinking about one of my autumnal favorites -- hot mulled cider. Yum.

The fair also offered a relaxing hay ride that rolled by a group of horses grazing in the field. While waiting in queue, I got the chance to be a little silly and give myself a head full of hay hair. I also enjoyed the Colonial campfire cooking demonstrations and the folk music on the barn stage. The performers, Larry and Mary, I know from poetry events at the Whitman Birthplace. I really like to hear Larry playing his hammered dulcimer. One other sight that I thought was really great was a Noah's Ark that I found at a woodcarving booth. Impressive detail.

Another highlight of the afternoon was the sheep shearing demonstration. As the buzz of clippers pervaded the September air, I watched the thick fleece of a large ewe coming off almost in one piece. Within five minutes, the animal was shaved clean. It looked kinda refreshed to be free of that heavy coat. I wondered if maybe a little bit of hay hair would be in order, but the sheep seemed much more interested in eating it than wearing it. May this week be the apple of your eye. Cheers!

"See to it
that no one misses the grace of God 
and that no bitter root grows up
to cause trouble and defile many."

~Hebrews 12:15


September 22, 2012

Down On the Farm

After my very eventful ride east, the rest of my birthday was an absolute pleasure. Under azure skies streaked with wispy clouds of white, I rolled my wheels on to Sound Avenue. The row of farms and wineries that make up this strip of road were all very lively with weekend activity. It seemed that there were festivals and live bands everywhere and it all looked fun, but my GPS was set for the Hallockville Museum Farm for their 32nd Annual Fall Festival & Craft Show.

Upon entering the vast grounds, I found myself smack in the middle of a good old-fashioned country fair. There were craft vendors selling everything from jewelry and candles to baked goods and kettle corn. In the Naugles Barn, the Peconic Ruggers Guild was showing a display of their fine rughook work. There were antique car exhibits, livestock pens, and hay mounds filled with romping children. There were demonstrations on decoy carving, basketweaving, quilting, and boat building. There was a bumpy hayride that took its guests on dirt roads through sunny fields of wildflowers. By the picnic area, the East Bound Freight Bluegrass Band entertained an audience with music that featured fiddle, mandolin, banjo, guitar, and thumping bass. I really enjoyed the whole setting.

The festival also offered free tours through the 1765 Hallock Homestead and Barn. I always get a kick out of seeing surroundings from a different period in time. 

My favorite part of the festival was the Tractor Pull & Show by the Long Island Antique Power Association. These old machines roared into life and showed that they could still pull up to 9,000 lbs of blocks across a field with ease. It was exciting!

To finish up my birthday, I had a delicious platter at a sushi restaurant and a cake. It was a very good day. Cheers!

"Let us not become weary in doing good,
for at the proper time we will reap a harvest
if we do not give up."
~Galatians 6:9


September 15, 2012

Tamara and the Shadow Theatre of Java

This week, the Northport Arts Coalition presented a very unique theatrical experience at the public library called "Tamara and the Shadow Theatre of Java." Classical Javanese shadow theatre is called "Wayang Kulit" (pronounced y-young-coo-kut) and presents the history, culture, and mythology of Java through storytelling, puppetry, and music. Stories are relayed by using the shadows of puppets cast on to an illuminated cloth which represents the universe.

The performer for the evening, Tamara Fielding, came on to the stage a little bit after 7:00 and spoke to the audience for quite a while about the art of Wayang Kulit, the making of puppets, and life on the island of Java. She was very jovial and entertaining. I enjoyed hearing the story of how she became interested in shadow theatre. When she was a little girl living in Indonesia, her father hired a dalang (shadow master) to perform for her birthday. The entire community showed up for the event. The show lasted from dusk until dawn (10 hours) and featured over two hundred characters, each with a different voice. All of this was done by the dalang alone, showing some very impressive stamina. It is easy to see why the art form is so fascinating. Tamara Fielding is currently the only female dalang living outside of Indonesia.

After her introductions, she performed a shortened version of the Hindu text "Ramayana." The puppets look very elegant against the sepia glow that filters through the cloth. I've been to many performances at the library, but this one was definitely one of the most beautiful and unique. Very much enjoyed. Cheers!

"Therefore if you have any encouragement
from being united with Christ, if any comfort from his love,
if any common sharing in the Spirit, if any tenderness and compassion, 
then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love,
being one in spirit and of one mind. Do nothing out of selfish ambition
or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, 
not looking to your own interests but each of you
to the interests of the others."

~Philippians 2:1-4


September 10, 2012

Feeling Very Grateful

Only once did I get the chance to experience the phenomena of a Grateful Dead concert. It was the 1980s. The venue was Madison Square Garden. I recall Jerry Garcia being a huge presence on the stage. The show was great, though the thing that I most enjoyed about it was the carefree dancing of the tie-dyed audience. The moment that I saw the aisles filled with people moving to the music and being absorbed by it, I was completely into the scene and I danced the night away. Of course, the Deadhead subculture has always been very well known for its marijuana smoking, but I didn't embrace that part of it. When someone tried to pass me a joint, I quickly passed on it. I've never had any interest in doing drugs. I was there to dig the music.

While I won't call myself a devoted Deadhead, there are a several of their albums that I adore. I have long considered one of their greatest musical achievements to be 1977's "Terrapin Station." Among my favorite songs from the album are the moody, funk-flavored "Estimated Prophet," the haunting "Sunrise," and the epic masterpiece of a title track. I also love the albums "Shakedown Street," "Blues for Allah," and "Wake of the Flood." As for a live recording, I always liked "Europe '72."

On Sunday, the Vanderbilt Museum in Centerport hosted a Grateful Fest - several Grateful Dead tribute bands along with artists doing live painting. The sound was really good and I definitely enjoyed hearing the classic songs being played again. The Vanderbilt grounds provided an ideal setting for a festival atmosphere. Thousands of people showed up and the party spread out over the entire estate. There were plenty of Frisbees and Hula Hoops, children playing in the grass on the rolling hills that overlook Long Island Sound, people lounging on beach chairs and blankets, artists' easels set up everywhere. It was a beautiful aura. Most importantly, I got to experience that carefree dancing once again. And, just like I did back at Madison Square Garden in the 80s, I danced the afternoon away. Cheers!

"The Lord thy God
in the midst of thee is mighty;
he will save, he will rejoice over thee with joy;
he will rest in his love, he will joy over thee with singing."

 ~Zephaniah 3:17