Friday, April 10, 2015

Going back in time to childhood, the world as it used to be, and a song of Simple Pleasures!

The days of simple pleasure have dwindled for most of us.  Cute pictures up on line for National Siblings Day bought back many memories of growing up in a world not inhibited by Television news, Facebook, video games, hand held devices, and the music and media riot of today.

Getting up early we delivered newspapers, which are now delivered most often by the Internet.  We walked to school... with no worry of molestation or drug soliciting.  We played outside in all kinds of weather and looked forward to visiting relatives for holidays and birthdays.  The phone was a luxury that we only used occasionally and then when we could get on… as we had a party line.

Now fancy clothes, expensive jeans and sneakers are needed to stay in vogue…my sneakers cost 50 cents at the five and dime.  Kids have their own cars to drive to school…we had one used family car and thought that was great.  Chores had to be done...lawns mowed, and driveways shoveled in the winter…shoveled…I still do…no snow blower or plowman.

I have been doing research on the Shakers this month and I was amazed how much I missed the simple pleasures that as children we took for granted. Their song Simple Gifts says it all. It certainly has been made recently iconic by Ken Burns in his documentary on the Shakers…and the story of the song is a great bit of history…yes, another of my “history quests”.

The “gift”of the song, as these inspirational things were called, was given to Elder Joseph Brackett who lived at the society in Alfred, Maine in 1848.  It was meant as a statement of what the “Believers” were striving for.  A sentiment of what was important in life…shunning the “Worlds Ways.”

‘Tis a gift to be simple, ‘tis a gift to be free,
‘Tis the gift to come down where we out to be,
And when we find ourselves in the place just right
‘Twill be in the valley of love and delight.

When true simplicity is gain’d
To bow and to bend we shan’t be ashamed
To turn, turn will be our delight
Till by turning, turning we come round right.

With many other verses added!

Composer Aaron Copeland picked the haunting melody up 100 years later and turned into a score for Martha Graham's ballet named “Appalachian Spring”.  It was performed in 1944 for the first time at the Library of Congress.

It was originally scored for only 13 instruments and won the Pulitzer Prize for music in 1945. The dance won for Graham the “Outstanding theatrical work of the 1944-45 season” award.

Everyone from Judy Collins to Yo Yo Ma and Alison Krauss have recorded the song in recent times…a song that is a tribute to simplicity in this rather schizophrenic world of money seeking and daily clutter.


Thursday, April 9, 2015

Special historic event to take place in the Morrisville-Eaton Schools tomorrow!

Today more and more colleges and schools are recognizing the important of graduates of their school who are leaders, mentors, and successes in particular fields... who because of their success in their communities and outside their communities in the world's arena, should stand as an inspiration to young people.  

These programs are called Legacy Programs in some schools... and Wall of Fames in others.  One of the most important parts of growing up in a school system is focussing children on the fact that even your small local school and your high school educations are be enough to open a world of great achievements for you.  

Some of course stress all those letters after your name...academic achievement...but many successful people are leaders and contributors with just a simple education and the help of mentors and role models that showed them that inspiration and perspiration are indeed the stepping stones to success.

In our small community we have had many successful people who have worked their way to the top and others who have just reached out to our town and extended a hand to lift children and their neighbors into a level of small town success.

The MECS Schools have turned out many stellar citizens, citizens who have proudly worn their school name and their school letters to make the world a better place and to enhance this area.  So tomorrow night a special Wall of Fame induction ceremony will take place and the Middle - High school.  It will be adding the first names to its newly formed "Wall of Fame". Please reach out to these people by attending and showing your thanks and support for them and MECS!

The inaugural Wall of Fame Induction Ceremony - 6:30pm April 10

To annually recognize outstanding Morrisville-Eaton alumni who have achieved distinction in their lives and chosen field after high school through significant contributions to their career, community or through personal achievements.  This honor is meant to stand as a model and incentive to current and future students, and to recognize the foundation that a quality public education at Morrisville-Eaton played in each recipient’s success.

·      Welcome – Superintendent Drahos
·      Singing of the Alma Mater – Mr. McCarthy and the Morrisville-Eaton Chamber Choir
·      A word from the Morrisville-Eaton Board of Education – Mr. Goodfriend
·      Recognition of Thomas and Mary Clark
·      Recognition of Philip E. Jenks
·      Recognition of Owen Corpin
·      Chamber Choir – “Scarborough Fair”
·      Legacy Clips – Explanation and two examples – Superintendent Drahos
·      Recognition – Patricia Vaughan
·      Recognition – Steven Jones
·      Recognition – Matthew Episcopo
·      Recognition – Meredeth Rouse
·      Group Recognition and Final Words – Board President Jackie Groves

Please join us in the north cafeteria for a reception for our Wall of Fame inductees.

Saturday, April 4, 2015

Blood Moon Rising....Shakers...and this week in Easter & Passover time!

I have been enjoying reading about the Shakers and their history this week.  In actuality we (History Star Productions) are going to tour on the Shakers of New York and Mother Ann Lee next year…but this year they make their way into my lecture on both the Sodus Lateral Canal that I am delivering at the Camillus Canal Society meeting on Saturday, April 18th and the related story of William Pryor Letchworth and Letchworth State Park on April the 26th at the Solvay Geddes Historical Society.

When I saw all the publicity on the Blood Moon of April 4th, I was brought back to another history story…New England’s Dark Day!

Yes …Dark Day…May 19, 1780.  In a book of stories on Ann Lee founder of the Shaker Religion, I found a wonderful story on her and her followers being threatened because of their beliefs.  Many times they were beaten and or threatened with bodily harm because of their missionary work among the “World’s People” while  they were looking for converts.  This one story has them in New England threatened by a crowd when suddenly the sky became black and the sun was completely obscured.  The crowd disbursed hurriedly…thinking that the end of the world was at hand!

There are hundreds of stories relating to tales of this day that is well documented in history and it wasn’t until recently, using timing and accounts of the event, that science answered the reason “Why and How” it occurred.  Answer…huge forest fire in Ontario Canada.

By studying the rings on trees scientists were able to pinpoint …via damage to the rings… a date which indeed corresponded to the times listed in newspaper and diary accounts.  The huge black mass of smoke moved via wind south and east.

I loved some of the quotes listed about the event, an event that many thought was God’s work and a symbol of the end of times.

One quote became the fodder for a poem by John Greenleaf Whittier called “Abraham Davenport" a Connecticut legislator who said when the session was set to adjourn because of it….”I am against adjournment.  The day of judgment is either approaching, or it is not.  If it is not, there is no cause for adjournment; if it is, I choose to be found doing my duty.  I wish therefore that candles may be brought it!”

So on this special Easter weekend, with the Blood Moon rising….think about how times have removed superstition and how events are no longer seen as dire warnings from God but explainable events…

Rev.6:12 13 …and there was a great earthquake. The sun became black as sackcloth made of hair, and the whole moon became as blood.

Sunday, March 15, 2015

A cold wintery Sunday with thoughts of the Shakers and life that has passed me by!

Brooklyn Street this winter
The lesson I have learned this winter is that without money…you are stuck wasting your life...yes really.  I watched via social media people who could go skiing, go to a vacation spot, go to the Syracuse basketball games, attend runs and walks, go to fund raisers. go shopping to malls, go out to eat or go to concerts...what if you have  no family that is close, and no money…?

If you are struggling to stay warm, to eat, to keep things together, to pay ridiculous energy bills… is this called living?

I had someone say to me well you can watch TV or go to the Library and get books!  With no TV because of the cost of it and no local service, with no car or bus service to get to a library…what do you suggest then?

The fact is everything costs so much money today that staying alive could take all of your funds and more. 

So in reading research I am doing on the Shakers for next year’s lectures, I was struck by what actually was their demise.  Many would think it was celibacy…but no, it was modern times and money.  

Success and wealth allowed them to become part of the “World’s People”.  They no longer were happy with the simple life of growing, working, keeping busy, praying and living separate from the world, no they now saw the need for expansion and progress…the cost…cost them everything.

They could no longer make everything to sell and had to hire workers who never provided the quality of “Hands to work, Hearts to God”.  As people left for the world they had to hire people to grow food or to buy it. Dissention reined as some want this, some that, none were really happy just staying put away from the world and all of the things they originally thought were repugnant to God.  Even fellowship was lost in squabbles over money and investments...yes they had tons of money to invest at times.  As they saw more of the worldly goods they wanted more. As the number of Believers left they could no longer keep the communities clean and neat and working. The rules they lived by changed and then changed gain...they no longer went out to seek new members.

Sad actually… a way of life that brought people together who had fashioned a society that cared about one another, that was self-sufficient for the most part…fell to ruin.  The Shakers were the longest running (one group of which is still functioning at Sabbath Lake in Maine) communistic society in America.  Millerites, Oneida Community Perfectionists, and so many others are all gone because of religious beliefs…but Shakers kept their vision of God both mother & father and failed because of money!  Believers wanted to be part of what the "world" could offer! Modernization..

I guess that is us today…we all want what the world can offer us…but for some the world has passed them by and unfortunately, they cannot be self sufficient in today’s society without the money to make them that way!

I wrote poem when I was very young, when my mother died I found that she had kept it.  It was on life passing me by…and this winter it has…

Life Just Passed Me By
I felt the wind like the touch of Spring, /Gently passing in the glow of day./
I saw a scene so far from me,
/Yet passing just a foot away.
/I heard God as I walked the hill.
/I stopped to listen and to pray, /And time just passed on by.
May heart smiled, enjoyed, and cared,
/As my lungs filled with the sweet Spring air;/ And the breeze against my face wasnt even there,/ As life just passed on by.
They laughed at me for I beamed with love, /For the grass that felt like silken glove, 
/It gave me pleasure and just a bit of love, /And time just passed me by.
/I heard the call of the meadows lark,/
I felt the tree and its rugged bark,
/But time had passed me by.
For now Im grown and now Ive lost /The simple heart that would have bought,/ With a fortune or a ransom found,/
But not even that could stop.../Time from passing me on by.
Here is a video I did on the Shaker Settlement near Albany..their original settlement...