Monday, November 30, 2009

A New Room

It is surprising how simply a little organizing and cleaning can transform a bedroom. I don't simply mean that the room looks nicer, but that it now feels hospitable, as though I have "marked it" in some way, and it is mine. While it is a work in progress-- a few boxes along the walls still in need of decluttering-- for the first time, I am beginning to use my room for more than just sleeping. There was a feeling of comfort here last night, as I caved away in the evening with an open notebook and a book about Thoreau. I have not had this feeling about a bedroom in a long time. As electronics--tv watching and video games--seem to have seeped into other quarters that I had claimed for book-reading and tea-sipping (thanks to laptops and wireless), I am now very appreciative of an additional haven to escape to with my books and pens. There is creative energy in need of tapping. There is a world--both internal and external--that desires artists' eyes.

This house-cleaning from top to bottom yesterday was an essential clearing of the land-- a ritual perhaps-- to begin the work of making my home an artist's studio. And what is my canvas? Like Thoreau, I have endeavored to make an art of living well....and also to carve out a present place in this landscape--to know the deep roots of history, the story of a place, and to sculpt a new way from the shell of what remains.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Re-membering History

Traversing from past to present seems a precarious occupation for one prone to losing herself in pages and imagination. It seems I have unearthed all that can be found on the Internet, via google books, etc. While those early records of the 1830's offer first hand proof of the existence and establishment of that first congregation, the story of the Unitarian church in Fishkill Landing, NY seems to fade from the books with the arrival of Christopher Pearce Cranch. His letters name this congregation, even name himself as preacher to the gathering of members in a schoolhouse in 1841. Yet, love and beauty it seems, in sweeping aside his vocation, have also swept the church under the rugs of history.

Of course, much has been lost in fires--first of the DeWindt estate, and then of that fire three years ago in Rock Tavern. And yet, I feel these bits and pieces exist still. I know there is more that can be found that is not published on the world wide web, so the next step in this process is to begin the real research.

The real research is a compelling vocation--but where to begin? Yesterday, I walked Dennings Point for the first time-- a remarkable proof of what can be done with connecting history and our future. This small peninsula has been known by many names--DePeyster's Point, Presqui'le, Allen's Point, and then Denning's Point. Life can be traced back 4000 years here. This was the place where both Henry Hudson and George Washington once landed and walked, and where Alexander Hamilton laid the groundwork for our financial institutions. And yet the place is remembered most for its brick-making factories, as though history were eroded in the removal of all that clay. Still, those DPBW bricks are the foundations of homes and buildings worldwide.

Maybe there are spiritual foundations to be found here too--and throughout the land now known as Beacon. I have felt a certain spirit here since my own arrival; it seems, that the fading of that early church from records gave way to a greater spirit. It was the spirit of transcendentalism and social reform-- with figures like Christopher Pearce Cranch, Margaret Fuller, and William Henry Channing finding there way through these parts--finding and losing love, communing with nature and reveling in the hospitality of friends. The history of the "church" then moved from institution to "retreat center" where lives were changed and callings to justice realized. Margaret wrote nothing of an institution while here, though she does speak of a willow tree at the Dewindts...yet her praise of mountains and river views, her eye-opening experience at Sing Sing with WH Channing, and the remarkable work of her hands that came out of this 'retreat' speak of all I could ever envision any 'church' to be. (Note: Margaret Fuller wrote 'Woman in the Nineteenth Century' during a seven week stay at Fishkill Landing. This was described as a most pivotal year of her life, and letters chronicle the transformative experience.) It is perhaps this inspiration that I have felt here too.

So, these are the connections I am unearthing. It is a remarkable connection really--whose details I will need to flesh out. It seems that my own dreams are revealed in this history, and there is the connection I am still trying to figure out-- what does this past reveal about the future? And what role am I to play in that future?

What I know is that in order to discover this new vocation (or is it an old one?), I will need to write, to process this place--both past and future. So, my morning pages begins, and my artists' dates, too.

I have an essay or two to write....