Sunday, August 7, 2011

Chautauqua!

I heard, of course, from multiple people that Chautauqua is a magical place, but hearing alone wasn't enough to convince me.  Call me a doubting Thomas, if you wish, but now that I'm here, I am pretty impressed with the place.  There is something a bit magical about it, in the meaning of the magic as simplicity.  Having never grown up in the supposedly idyllic 1950s, I can't confirm or deny that this place is like stepping back into that decade; but, based on the number of elders summering here who probably did live during that time, I'm guessing it is true.
Let's start with a look at the houses:
This blue house, 48 Foster, is where my mom, dad, sister, daughter, and I are staying.  The house, known as Sunrise Cottage, is divided into two apartments, and we are in the upstairs one.  Not exactly made and furnished with a baby in mind, but there is a baby gate at the top of the stairs, so it's all okay.  The houses here are far from cookie cutter, but many do seem to have a Victorian feel to them.  There are two bedrooms, a bathroom, a kitchen, living room, and of course a lovely veranda to sit out on.



The lefthand door on the first floor of this next house is where my grandma, grandpa, and great aunt Marsha are staying.  It is on Janes Avenue somewhere, and only a few blocks from our house.










  Ruby is sitting astride the eponymous Cow of the Cow House, where my great aunt Betsy, her daughter Pam (my mom's cousin), and Pam's kids Haley, Brittany, and Jackson (ages 14, 12, and 9, I think) are staying.  Ruby's great-great aunt Marsha is steadying her while her great grandparents look on.  The Cow House is on Waugh Avenue but it is famously decorated with cow things and so everyone in Chautauqua just knows it as the Cow House.  It's a few minutes of a walk from ours, too.
Last night (Saturday) we ate a scrumptious pizza dinner there that Dad, Pam, and Betsy worked together to make.  While there, Ruby got acquainted with the cousins (they probably have some fancier title like second cousins once removed, but oh well), especially Jackson.  She took quite a shine to him.  I think she would be very happy to have him as a doting older brother.  He was really sweet with her, and would occasionally call to me, "Ruby sure likes pink lemonade!" and "Well, Ruby should be happy, because I gave her my straw to play with."

That's Brittany in the background.
Another charming thing about Chautauqua is that everyone rides their bikes to get around.  Many people rent bikes from a local shop and just tootle around on them to get to and fro.  Chautauqua Institution is a gated community, and once inside, people don't really worry about theft.  People hop on their bikes, ride down to the bookstore or the library or the beach, park any old place, and go off to have fun.  You can get bike locks, but I haven't really seen them used.  People don't seem to worry too much about locking doors.  The campus is pretty small, probably not more than two miles in either direction.  You'll always see people out on the porch, chatting or reading. There is a lot to do.  Last night was an opera pops concert in the amphitheater.  I went to part of it but left early because it was late.  
The mighty amphitheater before the pops concert started
This morning we attended the church service at the amphitheater.  Chautauqua Institution was founded as a religious camp, and still has a strong religious tradition.  It is ecumenical now, and even holds Shabbat and Jum'a services on Fridays.  Every week of the 9 week program has a different theme and a different pastor from a different denomination who leads the spiritual services.  This week is Rev. Jon Walton of First Presbyterian Church in NYC.  To preach here you probably have to walk the sometimes fine line of ecumenism, and he did so, but it was an interesting sermon nonetheless.  The best part was the music, though.  It was fun to be part of a huge crowd in a big outdoor space singing old hymns along with a splendid and sonorous pipe organ.  
Rev. Walton is seated on the left, with the organist/choirmaster standing next to him.  Then is Rev. Campbell, the pastor at Chautauqua, and the scripture reader of the day.

I took this at the end after a lot of people had left, but the organist was playing a Bach fugue.
Ruby sat in church with us for a little while, but she kept wanting to touch the other parishioners in the pew below us, which might have been a bit distracting to them.  After a little while, she took a walk with her grandma.  After the service Rachael came over to say hello; I had run into her husband and kids the day before while out for a walk.  She looks fantastic and it was fun to see her.  She and Philip are teaching at Chautauqua this week; sounds like quite the gig!  Classes start tomorrow.  I'm excited to learn some new guitar skills.  Right now, Mom and Dad are off on a walk, Ruby is supposed to be taking a nap, and Sarah was whisked off to the beach by Haley and Brittany.  The perfect time to blog!  I had a nice morning nap, too.  Vacation is great!  Thanks to all who made it possible!
Notice Sarah's new 'do?  Pretty short and sweet!

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