Sunday, October 12, 2008

A Trip Back in Time

In my church there is a group of (mostly) women who play recorders. We play all kinds of music, and we love to play for church services and concerts in the community. We've played for Madrigal dinners at Christmastime and we play several concerts a year in local nursing homes and assisted living centers in the area.

The recorder is an ancient instrument, predating the modern flute. Much of the music written for recorders dates from the 15th, 16th, and 17th centuries, the Renaissance period. Several years ago the members of the group decided we would acquire period outfits to go with the Renaissance music. Yesterday we played (by invitation) at the Renaissance Fair sponsored by the Episcopal Church in Paducah, KY. Paducah is about 80 miles from Carbondale, so we left early in the morning to arrive just before 10 am.

Weather permitting, the Fair is held on the grounds of this beautiful old church. Inside the church, which is a lovely, ornate and traditional sanctuary with marvelous stained glass windows, tapes of Renaissance music played in the background. A short prayer service was held every hour on the hour for anyone who wished to attend.

This year the weather cooperated beautifully! The skies were mostly clear with just a few white wisps of clouds high overhead. The temperature started out in the 60's and by midafternoon, was in the low 80's. An occasional breeze whirled leaves around and had the bright banners and flags fluttering and snapping.

The shadowy looking fellow in the foreground was dressed as as medieval "inquisitor" type. He roamed around looking for people to "put under arrest" and eventually had one fellow in "the stocks". (I didn't even see the stocks until we were packed and ready to leave, so I didn't unpack my camera to get a shot of that, more's the pity.) When I shot this picture I didn't realize he had walked into the foreground, which is basically what he did all morning, slinking around in that creepy looking garb.
On the grounds booths and tables were set up with displays of ancient crafts, including basket making and some sort of threadwork (which my friend L would recognize immediately, but the name of which I can't recall). A magician performed for the children, and he seemed to be a big hit with the young ones. A lot of items were for sale, including home made soaps and sachets, homemade bread and cookies, jewelry, and the aforementioned baskets.

The portly gentleman making the baskets pointed out to me that they were all made of leather! I've seen many lovely wicker baskets at craft fairs, but I'd never seen any like these. I was quite taken with them and bought one for my daughter for Christmas. (Kim, if you are reading this, you still have to act surprised at Christmas.)

I didn't buy any cookies from this lady, but one of my friends did and she said they were delicious!
A lot of people were in costume, and visitors as well as performers were constantly snapping pictures.
The blue striped tent in the background was set up with games for kids. Quite a few youngsters were running about the grounds, some in costume, some not. All of them seemed to be having a terrific time.
A bagpipe player wandered through the crowd. He stopped to chat with us and told us he could only play for a few minutes at a time, since the instrument takes so much wind to play. Our group decided to alternate with him to keep the music flowing. We would play a half dozen songs or so, and then the piper would play for a few minutes. Sometimes he switched to a stringed instrument that looked a lot like a mandolin, but had a different name, one I hadn't heard before (and can't recall, of course.)
Many people stopped by to listen, take our pictures, and tell us how much they were enjoying the music. (Of course, we hate hearing stuff like that--NOT.)
There are usually 8 or 9 in our group, but only 5 of us could make it to the Fair this weekend. Below is a snap taken of our group by the huband of one of our members just as we began to play.
I am on the far right playing the soprano recorder. If you think by the time it hit 80 degrees I was roasting in that burgundy satin dress and hat, you would be right! Thank goodness for the slight breeze. And thank goodness I had braided my hair and tucked it up under the hat. When it's down it feels like a "shawl" on my neck and shoulders. I'd really have been uncomfortable with "flowing tresses."
Tables were set up near the food booth so patrons could purchase their wares and sit in the shade to eat while enjoying the music and the ambiance.
The sign above the food booth says, "Ye Olde Sausage Shoppe". They were selling bratwurst sandwiches with toppings of either kraut and apples or caramelized onions. Yum! There were two kinds of soups, butternut squash and creamed leek, and also hot or cold cider as well as coffee or soda. After playing for an hour and a half we broke for lunch and enjoyed some of the delicious food. We resumed playing after lunch and played until nearly 2 pm. It was getting pretty warm by then, and all of us were tired and ready to head back home.
The Fair is still small, but is growing every year. This was our second year to be invited to play, and we had such a great time, we're already looking forward to next year.

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Florida visit, second half--finally!

Let me think...where did I leave off? We've looked at animals and the yard and grounds--did I get to the geese? I think not, so that's where I'll pick it up.

Since they've lived in Florida with a pond on the property Kim and Ron have had a number of geese and ducks, as well as the chickens. Currently, they are down to one duck, but several geese glide around on the pond looking picturesque.

There is one goose who is extremely friendly, and is aptly named, "Friendly Goose". He likes to be petted, and especially likes having his long neck stroked.

This is "Friendly Goose", coming up to me for a little "necking".

By contrast, one of his companions is somewhat aggressive and loves to nip and peck at people--hence that one is "Naughty Goose". It's interesting that "Friendly" will get between a human and "Naughty" to "protect" the human.

"Naughty" would cheerfully have pecked my ankles and knees, but "Friendly' got between us and fended him off. What a guy, er goose!

One of the fun things we did while I was in Florida was to go to the "Butterfly House", which I think is in Destin, but don't quote me on that. (My daughter can't understand why I get all the little towns down there mixed up and can't remember what is where. I tell her, wait until you're in your 60's--you'll figure it out.) Anyway, the Butterfly House is small, but very beautiful and worth a stop. This is one of my favorite pictures from there. Many of the insects are so well camouflaged that it's difficult to get a decent picture, but this one shows up well.

Here's another one, but it doesn't show up quite as well. Luckily if you stood still they would often light nearby so you could see them.

There were several children at the butterfly House when we were there, and they were entranced with the colorful insects. It was fun to watch the kids watching the butterflies!

One evening we went to a restaurant in a rural area, sort of out in the boonies. It's called "Gator's", and justifiably so. Much of the seating in the restaurant overlooks a large pond which is swarming with "gators". The food was so-so, sort of heavy and home style, not my favorite type, but filling. The ambiance, however, was fascinating. You could see the scaly critters cruising around in the pond. I expect they are well fed, but after dinner when we went outside to take a closer look, I decided to respect the sign!

I didn't use a zoom on this, so you can see I was pretty close to the gator. There is nothing but the yellow rope to keep stupid tourists from getting closer. I don't know if they've ever had anyone dumb enough to try it, but I was very happy to stay well behind the rope. I've watched enough "Animal Planet" to know these critters can move fast when they want to. Besides, I kept thinking, that gator could easily go under the rope if he took a notion. So I snapped this shot and returned swiftly to the car, happy to have all my toes intact.

No trip to Florida is complete without at least one trip to the beach, and we made several. This beach is at Destin, on the Gulf. This area is known as "The Emerald Coast", due to the color of the water in the shallows. In the distance beyond the surf line you can see some "dots" that are my daughter, SIL and a friend of theirs getting ready to SCUBA dive near the old pier. Lots of critters live around the pilings, including octopus and colorful fish. Occasionally larger fish will come in to feed, so you never know what you'll see. Although I am a certified diver, I didn't dive on this trip. My back was bothering me some, and it was better not to push it.

Another beach pasttime that the kids have taken up recently is kite surfing. This is way beyond flying the kites I knew as a kid. These babies go for hundreds of dollars, and additional equipment, such as as multiple lines, a harness and specialized board are needed. It's kind of a cross between water skiing and flying a kite and takes a great deal of skill to learn to control the kites with their multiple lines. Then one has to learn to get on the board while flying the kite and attempt to stay up, allowing the kite to pull you along the water. Sounds like fun, but it's also a lot of work!

This is Kim and Ron's friend, Russell, who is still learning to control his kite. In the distance you can see Kim and Ron's kite (in the middle) and another kite even more distant. Ron and Kim were flying so far out I couldn't get a decent picture of them. However, I could see pretty well, and Ron was able to get up on the board and stay up for several seconds. Kim can control the kite really well, but is still struggling to get up on the board while flying the kite.

At one point the kite pulled Ron way down the beach and Kim was irritated that she had to jog nearly a mile to help him put up the kite when it was time to leave. The trouble is, so far Ron has only learned to go in one direction. Getting the kite to pull you back and forth takes a lot of practice. There were some other kiters getting lessons from an expert, and it was cool to watch that guy do summersaults and other tricks on the kiteboard. He had total control of his kite and could make it take him any direction he wished.

Some of you may have read about the guy who was kite surfing during one of the recent hurricaines and got smacked into the side of the building. Doofus. All he had to do was let go of the kite bar and hit the release on the harness. I expect he was trying to avoid losing his expensive kite. As I said, doofus.

Kim and Ron met in college when both were members of the "Marching Salukis" band. Both play trombone, and have continued to play since college. Shortly after they moved to Florida, they joined a community swing band. The band is surprisingly good and also has a wonderful vocalist, who is married to one of the trumpet players. The band had a paying gig one evening during my visit. We hurried to change clothes after a day at the beach in Destin and drove into town to the concert location. After the band got set up, I snapped some pics. My son in law is the guy with the mustache, peeking out from behind the railing on the right. Kim is on his right, essentially invisible behind the railing and a music stand.

The venue was a pretty large grassy area in the middle of an upscale shopping center. My guess is around 200 people were seated in the white chairs, or milling around the edge of the lawn, drinking wine and eating canapes. Each member of the band got a ticket for a free drink. Gina, the singer, gave hers to me, since she is enciente and can't drink alcohol.

Attractive young people dressed in "zoot suits" and "flapper dresses" circulated, giving away beads, chocolate cigars, light sticks, and feather boas. Their attire was inconsistent with the
band's music from the 40's and 50's, but who cared?

A portable dance floor was set up in front of the band, and many in the audience, including several kids, had a great time dancing . The program lasted for over two hours and all of us were really tired by the time we started the drive back to Crestview.

One day we rented a pontoon boat and spent the day tootling around in Destin Bay. We anchored off the beach and Kim and Ron spent some time messing with the kite again. The weather was great, the sun was hot, the water was salty and warm, and I enjoyed myself thoroughly--except when Kim and I got stuck in the shallows and had to be pulled out by a passerby. (Ron was way down the beach with the kite and didn't see what had happened.) Kim at the wheel of the pontoon boat. Next time remind me not to say, "Smile!"

Daisy Dog went with us on the pontoon, of course. This Mama's girl goes nearly everywhere with Kim. Dogs aren't allowed on the beach, but she behaved very well and stayed on the pontoon with her water bowl and occasional trips to the nearby scrub brush to use the "doggie ladies'."

Ron, managing to get it up. Um, perhaps I should rephrase that. Ron flying the kite. Better?

For lunch we docked at a local wharf and disembarked to the restaurant just above the wharf. Yum, fresh seafood! The boat above was moored nearby and I like the way it looked against the background. I plan to paint it. I took a snapshot and did a painting of another boat, a much older derilect fishing vessel, moored at about the same place when I was down visiting several years ago. That boat, however, along with part of the restaurant, disappeared in Katrina. The restaurant survived and has reopened. Who knows where the old boat ended up? But it's immortalized in an oil painting that I plan to give to Kim for Christmas.

It was a wonderful trip, full of a lot of fun activities, but also with lots of time to spend with my daughter, something I don't get to do near enough of. I'm glad it was a great trip and I got to relax, because the day after I got back, my mother went into the hospital. The next 6 weeks were difficult, but I was well rested with a fully charged "battery", and both Mom and I came through it just fine.