Tuesday, I decamped the Adirondacks during a gully washer of a rainstorm. By the time I got into Albany it was sunny and warm. Circling the State Capitol looking for a parking spot I cruised past Westminster Presbyterian Church and saw about a handful of senior citizens out front protesting with signs proclaiming, “Black Lives Matter,” “Economic Justice for All,” and “Pro-Choice for Women.” The church is about a block up the street from the Capitol and, providentially, there was a free parking space. I walked back and engaged these wonderful Presbyterians, thanking them for their witness, finding out two were retired Presbyterian ministers, and discovering that a certain Bob Hudnut had once served that church. Small world indeed.
Long have I wanted to visit the NY State Capitol which played such an important place for both Teddy Roosevelt and FDR. Moreover, its famous central “Grand Staircase” took 14 years to hand carve and is a wonder to behold. It is a glorious building but what was a special surprise was lining the walls of the 2nd floor were stunning landscapes of New York. I felt like I won the lottery hitting both amazing architecture and stunning paintings all in one.
Wednesday Amy was flying in, but I had the morning and early afternoon to explore, so I first went to the Albany Institute of History and Art (https://www.albanyinstitute.org/), which had a current exhibit on early cartography of the region (You Are Here: Mapping Our World) and a sumptuous permanent collection of Hudson River School paintings (some 70 of them in one large room. From there I crossed town to the State Historical Museum of New York (http://www.nysm.nysed.gov/) that was equally impressive with large collections explaining the social history and peoples that populated New York and New York City, like the Mohawk Steelworkers that built so many of the skyscrapers. For lunch I stopped at an old English Pub that dated from before the revolution and advertised being the longest continuously running pub in the country. I cannot attest to the veracity of that claim, but if you are hankering for excellent fish and chips and a pint of lager, I’ve got you covered!
By the time my late lunch was over, I needed to head out to pick Amy up at the airport. But who knew that right next to the airport was the remains of the first Shaker community in the US and the cemetery where “Mother Ann Lee” – the founder of the Shakers – is buried. It was sad to see the grounds falling into ruin, especially after having visited the beautiful Shaker site in Hancock, MA just a few weeks ago.
Seeing Amy again was a delight and we drove from the airport to Cooperstown, NY which lies on the southern point of Otsego Lake. Known best for being the home of the National Baseball Hall of Fame (https://baseballhall.org/), it is so much more than that. I had been through Cooperstown back in ’93, but could only stay for about 2 hours, as I was on a tight driving schedule and needed to be (if memory serves) in Boston for dinner! I made a promise that I’d go back to this gorgeous town and spend a few days. We bunked into a B&B in close walking distance to downtown and first thing on Thursday morning we were among the first group let into the baseball HOF. Even though Amy is a Braves fan, she was, it would be fair to say, wondering what the big deal was about the HOF. But she warmed to it, and we made a full morning of it. After lunch we caught a shuttle that took me to the Fenimore Art Museum (https://www.fenimoreartmuseum.org/), which features American fine and folk art and gardens with stunning lake views. I had forgotten Cooperstown was founded by James Fenimore Cooper’s father and that he spent his last years writing there, including The Last of the Mohicans. Amy and I reconnected on the shuttle and went to the massive Otesaga Resort (https://www.otesaga.com/), which fronts the southern tip of the lake, and were able to find two Adirondack chairs in the shade and just enjoy the beauty of the day and the end of another wedding! Why do I keep bumping into these weddings?
A serendipity happened while we were in Cooperstown. I found out from reading a friend’s Facebook post that he was also in Cooperstown. Paul Thwaite, and his wife, Jan, were in from Pittsburgh where they recently relocated after he retired as pastor of the Orchard Lake Presbyterian Church in suburban Detroit. I have not seen Paul in at least 40 years, even though we grew up together in youth group and youth choir at First Pres Bethlehem. Although four years older (and about a foot taller!), Paul was an important part of the leadership team in our youth program when I was coming along. We were able to visit at our B&B and bored Amy and Jan silly as we spent the time reminiscing about the glories of growing up at the home church. It was such a special ending to a wonderful, relaxing day with Amy.
Yesterday was a long travel day as we drove from Cooperstown over mostly state highways and back roads to Lake Chautauqua in the very southwest corner of the state. We chose to take the northern rout through Syracuse, Auburn, and Seneca Falls, which played such an important role as the location of the first woman’s rights convention in the US (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Seneca_Falls_Convention). Driving out of Seneca Falls I couldn’t resist calling Dr. Carole Bucy to tell her that she was in our thoughts as we drove through town. We finished the night in the little village of Bemus Point where we had booked a room at the 140-year-old Hotel Lenhart. My friend, Rev. John Morgan, who arranged for me to be chaplain here at the Presbyterian House, Chautauqua Institution, suggested it. One of the features is a wide, front porch filled with brightly colored rockers, that face west over the lake so you can watch the setting sun. So, another day was spent enjoying “sitting at the dock by the lake” even though it was a different lake!
Today we checked into the Presbyterian House, met up with our WPC friends, and I will preach in the morning…if I can remember how. More on that tomorrow!