Farmers’ Market Mercantile on Main Street, Q. Cassetti, 2012Grassroots came and went. It was a few hot days and a few moderate days with nice music, an opportunity to visit with Kitty and Alex and friends, and the chance to see some of the sidebar activities which I now think improves the Grassroots experience (at least for me). I met a lovely person new to the community who knew me from my blog and work (which was a bit undoing as she had the pulse on the here and now of what was going on with my life). We saw all sorts of old Trumansburg friends, and made friends with folks we knew but really had a chance to talk and engage on a different level. The Horseflies were amazing as was Jenny Stearns (with Leah and Amelia being part of the Fire Choir). We loved Mary Lorson’s set in the Cabaret Hall…and the pick up music in the new beer garden (for this year). The Stringbusters arrived on their own and played an unscheduled gig to all of our delight. Plus, it was really nice just hanging out with my boyfriend…and taking it all in. I am so blessed with such a great companion and hubby.

I am immersing myself in folk art. Gotta get going on some images, and need a trigger, a push to get it going. I have been sidetracked by the cameos and plan on getting them to Etsy soon to move it from a crazy obsession to a cash factor. They are beautiful and by combining different charms, they begin to tell little stories that I am enchanted by. Stupid, I know, but none the less charmed.

I am looking at Alexander Girard and books from the Girard collection of the Museum of International Folk Art in Santa Fe and hoping that this will force my hand to move and ideas to flow. We will see. If not, the funny tattoos I am doing for a few bands will have to be the trigger to do more work…even if it is a body of tattoos just to get really good at it. They have been fun as I can use all the cool tools I love in illustrator, and work with making the type really sing. Who knows, I could be on the train…and not realize I have left the station. Plus, there are more 1 hour portraits to do. The newest Lincoln is at the top of the page here>> Next one, Susan B. Anthony.

Another flurry begins tomorrow. Just to confirm, no one ever said this was going to be the most relaxing summer on the books. Matter of fact, it is right up there with the nuttiest.

Alex and Rob leave tomorrow p.m. to pick up Kitty to evacuate (“check out”) of her dorm in Manhattan. The FIT folks were inflexible (but maybe that is okay as Kitty didn’t get clarity on when she needed to be gone. The last thought she had was well into August, so we planned accordingly). Kitty will be sitting in the lobby with her stuff until the boys can come and get her after the ribbon cutting Rob is participating in at the Museum tomorrow a.m.

I will follow end of day on Friday on the sublime and fabulous Cornell bus (Campus to Campus), getting into NYC at 10:30 p.m. We will have the weekend in NYC with Kitty and Rob working on Governors Island with GlassLab. Alex and I are free so we may do a little “be in the city” tutorial with map reading, location identification, and subway/bus riding. I offered up a few options and surprisingly, this was the one that struck Alex as fun…or maybe not fun, but the right thing to do given his new status as Hofstra student. Then Monday, get Alex out to Hempstead to have a 3 day orientation at Hofstra.

We will bring Kitty home—and have Alex take the coach back from Long Island to Ithaca for the first time. He is not liking that idea very much…but hey, we cannot be a prince forever.  Time to grow some wings….who knows, he might like it. There are direct buses from Hempstead to Ithaca…so it cannot be that bad..unlike the chutes and ladders Kitty needs to climb in order to get home to Central NY.

We will all be together again next Thursday/Friday…and maybe we can have a few weeks of being together, enjoying each other’s company, the lake, the cloud bowl, our pets, our ideas and thoughts. This time will be a treasure…bliss. Looking forward to it.

little chrysalis

Kitty and Robbie at the Haunt, July, 2011, Q. CassettiWell, the new year according to the Empire of Q. started this morning with a Shaggin’ Wagon dead battery—key in, no results. But, Alex got to school on time, empty bookbag, gym clothes, a check for lunch and his favorite greasy breakfast (at school). Mr. K from AAA came before 9. to give me a jump and I did a bit of driving over to Peach Orchard on Seneca Lake to get some peaches to peel and freeze, to make a cobbler, and to make more peach/ginger jam (freezer jam).

We got off around noon on Sunday to get to Amherst around 6. We stopped at Kitty’s new abode and ran into a bunch of her friends. So, we left her to catch up and did a little tootling around with Alex to see what was new and where we might have dinner (Mission Cantina, a new Mexican place on West Street—just steps from Hampshire). We then got Kitty and a friend and had a nice dinner watching Alex reel from the great music they were playing on the overhead combined with a double love of fresh fish tacos that he consumed happily (in hindsight, we should have ordered him two plates…he loved them soooo much). Then, off to the hotel for sleeping before a big day on Sunday of moving Kitty in, going to Target to get stuff to make her life a bit more liveable and then back home in the afternoon.

It sure felt like the brave new world. Kitty was ready to shoo us out the door when we  started getting in her space trying to help but making her crazy. I am the queen of noodlers, so I fear I made her the craziest. So, going to the store to buy olive oil, honey and peaches, fresh tomatoes and bread got me out of her space but alllowing me to show the love as the pseudo italian housewife I am. She is in an onward and upward mode versus the poor little lonely girl we left—a girl filled with fear and trepidation. We left  a far more confident young women this year with more of a grasp on what she is about, what she loves, where she is pointed. Her work this summer along with living in the house of the Lost Boys give her a boost that was happily unexpected—along with the mental and emotional sorting that coming home often initiates. After she showed us all around to the wonderful round room in the center of her Greenwich mod to the other mod with the cutest little student run library—I feel that this year our little chrysalis  may begin to notice her wings this year with new friends and acquaintances, new opportunities and studies, new learning around how to live on your own and with friends, and the raft of other things that just happen in college. I am not sulking and mooning over my little girl albeit she is on my mind as we had such a treasured time this summer. She is back with her tribe—with a desire to learn more about fashion, clothing, sewing, decorative arts and fashion.

So, it really wasnt much of a weekend….but the beginning of the new year for all. Rob is off to Miami later this week/ back Saturday—so I will be handling the XC breakfast solo. which is no biggie. I will be making little Granola/yogurt and fruit parfaits (so peeling and prepping the fruit will happen Friday night (more peach use). I am going to do a Tuesday pick up at the CSA now that school is back in session. Oh my.

Alex is back to running full time. We have so much to do with him!


To give thanks

Cross walk, Q. Cassetti, 2009, vectoThanksgiving

For each new morning with its light,
For rest and shelter of the night,
For health and food,
For love and friends,
For everything Thy goodness sends.

- Ralph Waldo Emerson (1803-1882)

Happy Thanksgiving! I love this holiday. Its all about the food, the fireplace, the cozy hearth, the happy voices. I am gloating over how smart I was to freeze and prep over the course of the month so that today I can ice cakes, cook the bird, and set the table without going insane. It is all ready to go. Thawed out last night (but not the gravy which needed a bit of help from the microwave). So, I am writing a little entry while there is a minute.

We drove to Amherst and back yesterday. Wasnt too bad. Thank goodness for cups of savory black tea….That kept the brain turned on and the eyes from shutting. We had a quiet time on the way over, and then after Albany, Rob took to the backseat and Kitty and I caught up from Albany to Bainbridge when Rob woke up. We had a nice evening at home catching up, hearing about gender identity and seeing videos of animations made by women (I promise I will share). Then it was off to dreamland to wake up to be Thankful.

I have so much. I have a wonderful husband and children. I have a happy life with friends and family. I We all have our health and vigor.  I have a beautiful place to work with projects and ideas and clients who are a blessing. I have a new set of skills that gives me joy with illustration and visual story telling. I have a venue to focus research and reading on…and all of these are great gifts of happiness and joy that I daily am grateful for. I have a rich life with people I love…in a community that I embrace fully…I have no end of blessings. For this and so much more, I am Thankful. We all need to look across the table at those that surround us and count the many things we take for granted, and nod…and account for those gifts.

Goals, Roles

Sushi for Breakfast, 10/17/2010, Q.Cassetti, 2010On the second of September, we left our daughter off at college, to start the next chapter of her life as an individual and a member of our family—with all of our respective roles tossed into the air to float and fly until we redefine ourselves. Here we are, a month and a half later and Kitty is settling into this next chapter with a spring in her step, an Indian story on her tongue and a giggle. She is delighted, as she always is, in the opportunities, the joy of new friends, new knowledge and in a community where play and adventure is valued. Even Alex, our skeptic, was swept away with the sense of play, and reaching out to others, and the fun that can be had within this sort of environment. These Hampshire students are not sitting in front of televisions in elegantly appointed home-like living rooms, or stretched in front of cracking fireplaces intent on beating the next guy to Law or Medical school. The Hampshire student is the child that finds joy in a piece of string…and shares that joy with his/her friends until they figure out something fun, fabulous or even additive to do with this thing. Case in point: There were these students who were standing in one of the quadrangles with a tarp. A regular tarp with people on each corner— moving the fabric to make it simulate waves. Other students saw this, and engaged in this activity with dancing through and around it. Skaters doing the same…and it was magic. It stopped time. Alex (and Kitty) were enchanted. And this sort of thing happens every day. This playing with ideas, playing and making, thinking and doing, engaging and laughing. It is a charmed place.

Back to roles. Kitty has found her path. We are forging a new team with Alex as the main man which is beginning to get some steam and we are all enjoying it tremendously. He is in the spotlight…and responding positively to having the center stage, our attention and pocketbooks. And we are loving it too.  We can tease him…and he teases back. He is not as reticent to be honest—blunt, with us. But where are we as parents to Kitty? We spent yesterday with her, feeding and shopping—just spending time. After a day of hanging out, she finally, after the moroccan sandwich, began to loosen up and tell us Hindu tales, which coming from her was a hoot and a half. As we got in the car, it dawned on me we had something we could offer her. “Kitty?” I asked….”would you like to come back to our room, take a bath and a little nap?” Yes. That would do. Our role has been redefined. We bring home with us…and we need to offer up the hot buttons and allow our girl a bit of time just to unwind….and veg….whether its here or there. Tubs and naps. Food and truly, unconditional love. That is our role. She also said that she approved of my asking her if she was drinking enough water? or  what about her hot room or humidity in her space. She is looking for her mommy to continue to be home and comfort. I can do that. I can help her be comfortable. I can be a support. i can listen happily to her talk about the nutty eye covered Hindu god, or about the four elephants that hold up the world. I can meet her lovely friends and not need to be anything but enchanted. I can help and hopefully be of value to her and her friends. I want to be relevant and helpful.  I betcha if I brought a feast in a cooler, that might rock a bit. We could cook for the troops…take the cast party to the cast…and meet these lovely playful folk.  New role we can fill. We are back to preSeptember 2. We have all been redefined. And, its all good…and all the same.

White Pumpkins at Atkins Farms, Q. Cassetti, 2010We met Kitty for Breakfast (sushi today). Alex and Rob bought a dozen doughnuts at Atkins Farms (a food we never buy…but AF breaks that rule). I oogled the piles of white pumpkins, the gourds, the halloween candy and finally bought a gigantic rosemary plant (bush sized) as I am weak in the knees with rosemary. There is something so happy about the bush, it’s lovely scent and its heartiness. I hope I can nurse it with humidity and happiness through the winter.

It was a long drive home. We do not need to go to family events any more now that we know our roles. We just need to get our girl, get a tub, find a stove and settle in.  I did remember that tubs are something that you can get in Noho. There is a hot tub spa that you can endlessly use on Saturdays for $10 per person, so that Kitty and her gal pals can do some fun soaking together to get the tub thing in between going home….unless we buy them a portable spa…? Plus, from the lovely coffee opportunities, the thrifting (she has figured that all out), and the stores…she doesnt need us to make home for her all the time!

I am currently home, roasting some chicken bones (to go into the pressure cooker tomorrow), and watching Alex watch a frightening show about folks overeating… somehow adding enormous amounts of bacon, cheese and meat…I am belching just watching. Ouch.

Napoleons for Breakfast

Napoleons for breakfast at Atkins Farms, Q. Cassetti, 2010\We got up very early yesterday to get Rob to a meeting at a bottle machine/bottle manufacturer company by 11. Alex and I were dropped at the Enfield Mall to buy new shoes at Mens at Macys and to go to Target to upgrade his phone, something I have been wanting to do for a while.  So, roughly two hours or so later, Rob was done and we could get up to Amherst to pick up one computer being fixed and the other dropped off. Then it was off to get and see Kitty.

Kitty is in wonderful form. Learning and growing. Working hard on her work—but needing to get help with her writing and projects (or at least that is what is being said). I need to see if we can get permission to see what the professors are saying about her/ her work as I want to keep tabs on her progression without putting thumbscrews on her. She has made some very good and interesting friends who are motivated to do things, try things, grow and develop. Rob took a nap in her room, while Kitty took Alex and me on a walking tour of the other dorms and the little stores, shops and classrooms that fill her day.

Kitty Loved the polka dotted Dr. Martens I got her and immediately shut the door to try on the black Gothic Lolita dress, shoes and striped stockings she has for Halloween (a big big thing at Hampshire with lots of excitement around it). The boots went on immediately (ie, she sat down on the cement outside of the minivan and put them on!). Kitty was delighted with the offerings.

We took a minivan of friends out for dinner at a lovely fresh asian restaurant in Amherst and were entertained by their high spirits, their supportive attitude towards each other and the funny things they have rattling around in their heads. We left Alex with Kitty for the night…(they stayed up and saw the comedy troupe and then Alex paired off with other friends and ended up going to Amherst on the bus, coming back, hanging out for an impromptu dance party at the Yurt). Alex was up early to run (and if you havent figured it out he is currently taking a nap—sleeping the way he does when he is uber tired (with his eyes open)>We took Kitty to breakfast and whimsically she decided that it was a Napoleon for Breakfast! Which even for the sweet toothed one, was too much.

We went back to Hampshire to collect Alex (and wait for R under a tree with Kitty and Alex snacking on sushi). We took a walk down to the Hampshire farm—through the fields of greens and kale, by the exotic belted cows to the farm festival with horse drawn hay rides, soup, crafts, cider making, popped corn and livestock. A pair of students were making bread in a cob oven which was impressive. It was very much in the “try it try it try it” thinking of  Hampshire which is continually reinforced every time we bump up against it. The clear eyed response to that  is “whynot” from glassmaking to pizza ovens, from learning arabic to reading the Ramanya, from Kabuki to Timpani. The cry of Why Not, Try IT inspires me to forge ahead with my friends and supporters cheering me and mine on. What an environment to grow.

It was a clear blue sky day with plenty of wind and moving clouds. The trees are brilliant and the hills surrounding us in the Pioneer Valley are purple blue, shadowing the asters by the roadside. Pumpkins are everywhere (cheap) as are bird feeder/goose necked gourds, popped corn, indian corn and more.They have spectacular rosemary plants at Atkins Farms for $10. each…so one may be coming home with us as I am a big sucker for rosemary in the wintertime. And winter will be here before we know it.

Sagamore: Day One

We had a great visit with Kitty over the weekend. Saturday, we met her on campus and went to pick up some of the computer stuff we are having repaired in Amherst (great resources at a great prices that we do not have in Ithaca). Then we took her and a friend to the Korean Restaurant to have dinner and catch up.

She is in fine feather—all is right with the world. We are delighted as she has settled and is herself again. Not fretful and finicky (the pronouncement day one that she will need to change dorms) has dissolved and she is loving every minute of work and play that is being handed her way. Surprisingly, her favorite course is the Indian Epic course (The Ramayana) with the Penguin book translator (abridged) as her professor. She cannot get enough of it…and she is reading and recounting, talking about mythology and culture…alll those things that makes me crazy with glee. I love the stories but even more, I love the nutty pictures that depict all this Indian Superhero on steroids type of content. It will be interesting when Kitty gets around to thinking across topics from Indian Epics to animation. This is when the real fire will engage. She was quite pointed about ideas and points of view she has developed over the years on the topic of art which really lights her fire…and she will take no prisoners when it comes to that. So our girl with no opinions might have a few of her own. It is wonderful to see our girl blooming in this new culture of growth, learning, talking, trying. I know its premature, but it feels like great things might happen out of this experience. You all know that I certainly hope it does…but it really has energy behind it.

Yesterday, before our trip, we had breakfast with Kit at Atkins Farms, the wonderful grocery store just across the cornfield from Hampshire College.  They have a great breakfast, plus we get a chance to poke around the store and buy great stuff we cannot get at home…so a gigantic bottle of maple syrup on special, some bee capsules (magic feelgood energy etc…I believe!), some gourmet pancake mix for competitive discussion on a project, and a brine for pork and/or turkeys that came in a really nice, basic foil pillow pouch (two color label on matte silver).  It was nice sitting outside and watching Kitty talk and update us on the wheres and whatfors of her friends and life while watching something go on that we do not have in Central NY (and seems to be a waaaay easy way to fundraise).

Fee: $15. to get a pair of used pants, old shirt and all the hay you can stuff into it. There were hats (fromWilliamsburg Snack Shack, Q. Cassetti, 2010 Oriental Trading Company or the like) for the scarecrow’s head. No huge skills out there for the making and stuffing of these hay beings. And little and big around here cannot get enough of this entertainment. The local fire departments (as posted at the Williamsburg Snack Shack) even get into this holiday offering fun. Lunch was good at the Snack shack. So, this sort of selling seasonal fun hasnt crept into Central New York. People were tying corn sheaves onto their roofracks yesterday along with the odd carrying of these haymen under calm daddies’ arms…limply wiggling, deadweight figures that were a bit eerie in  their likeness….but well worth considering to do in our Tburg Farmers’ Market space.

We visited The National Yiddish Book Center at Hampshire. The Book Center is remarkable from the moment you park in front of the asian inspired facility, framed by beautiful gardens with meaning with comfortable places to park yourself with in the sunshine or in the soft pine woods with adirondack green chairs in a circle around a generous table. There is a pond and an orchard with a garden devoted to Yiddish literature and writers. There are performance spaces that we saw peering in through the windows. Combined with the Eric Carle Museum, the book world, illustration, imagery, photography, storytelling all hugs our little Hampshire giving the students an amazing source for their own work, their own stories, their own images and illustrations.

Sagamore Rooftops from our room, Q. Cassetti, 2010We drove across Massachusetts and up 87(?) to poke into the Adirondacks at Exit 23. It was a beautiful blue green drive with golden light and trees beginning to turn. There were ski gondolas as lawn ornaments the minute we turned off. The drive was inspired into and up the mountains to arrive at Sagamore just in time for dinner, a gathering of all the interesting people on the Museumwise board and then cold, cold sleep.

Today has given us blue skies and a cool day. I am surrounded by historians, curators, conservators, preservationists, organizers and planners. It is a most wonderful group of active minds, passionate about their topics, their work, their learning, this group. There is such vibrancy that there are glimmers of the travel with Hartford and Syracuse. I have needed some time to think and reflect. As much as I have brought project work to do, which I will do, it is nice to have an expanse of time to think, to do, to draw. Tonight there is a “meet up” at the Adirondack Museum (which I love)—and more ideas and interesting people.

One more thing>> take a look at this>> the Eye Fi>> too cool for school.

The Verge of Fall

owl sketch, Q,Cassetti, 2010, digitalNelly Charbonneaux featured me on her blog, “Nelly’s Blog” today. Nice write up. Nice exposure. I am very grateful to her attentions~! And further down on her list is another Syracuse ISDP MA in Illustration graduate, Dave Devries. Connecting again…The marvel of the web, it’s reach and the new people I have met through this wonderful connective medium is truly amazing. I can live in the country and reach the world. This is from the girl who, when graduating from college, used a miraculous machine called a fax that we had to shave our mechanical artwork off the boards to then wrap the art around this large glass cylinder to then have it scanned (took hours) to send to another place. Faxes are so passe with the internet and mail. No more high jinx like that!

School started yesterday as did yearbook. It was great seeing the teachers who I love and the new faces around the room. This year it is going to be tough going (100 pictures a week edited to 10 for presentation to the room)…with cameras we are providing. I bought some refurbished Olympus cameras for DIRT Cheap from Bargaincell.com over the summer to contribute to the pile. And, the Day In The Life books are there too—as a source of inspiration and ideas for good pictures and how to just keep shooting. Every other day from 8-9 is the class. We will see….we also have homeroom which means I get to hear the daily events (and menu) to my delight. It was pizza yesterday.

Alex is back in the swing of things. He proactively got in front of his schedule and switched out his English for a more advanced one as well as pursuing AP Music Theory in one of his two study halls. Impressive. We are bidding on a synthesizer on ebay for composition and fun—and I have his attention fully on that.

Kitty starts classes today: Dance, Theatre Production, Women in Animation and Indian Epics. She is doing swimmingly well and talks about the insanity around how everyone is befriending each other in an extremely competitive way. She calls is “competitive friending”. The dorm is great. The dorm friends are great and they all love tea….so there is lots of tea drinking in the hallway (and an opportunity to provide biscuits for this event). She sounds tired…but good and fully ensconced. Loves her room, her sanctuary. She has made a few “go to” friends and hopes to find more. This is all good given her quiet year here in the burg….a shot in the arm. More on her as it evolves.

The Fire Commissioner is enjoying that role. The Museum’s attendance has been very good (to his delight). He has dinner out tonight (for me to sketch and bake), a village meeting tomorrow and then the antique car show at the Glen on Friday with Bruce and Alex (no thanks!)….So, I have some me time in the near future to make stock, make soup (mushroom on the stove today using up all the slippery leeks and celery on the edge). I think a trip to Sauders in the near future will be on the list. Maybe Friday night?!

Holiday card for my big client to go out today. Need to talk to my contact at the Cornell Vet School about the Feline Health Annual Report and the Baker Annual Report. We are doing both books and I have some content ideas that should be interesting to push around with my associate.

Was talking with Deirdre C. about tees and a totebag for the Tburg Farmers Market using the derivative illustration from the work Durand did with the weathervane. We are pushing around an idea to celebrate the people who contributed (time/money) to build the market and bandstand…for sometime in October. More on that later. I need to wrap up a sketch for her today for the shirts.

More later>

Momento! Memento!

Kitty before the Prom, Q. Cassetti, 2010It’s funny that life is this long strand of time that sometimes just keeps going on it’s own without a definite time or date to tag things around. There are dates that are significant that one really doesn’t have any control over.Your birth and death happen outside of your control. But some you can impact and fix a time and date to. The day you enter college and graduate. The day you got your first apartment. The day you were engaged. The day you were married. The day you gave birth. The day your child went to school. Every Christmas, Thanksgiving, Easter and birthday. Each date a thread that twined with the next to infuse the continuum with color and note, annual comparisons but blending with the main thread and becoming one with it.

Then there are the times that things change significantly. Deaths change lives of those left behind for good or bad. Births do the same by changing the family dynamic through causing everyone to budge up and make room (in their time, pocketbooks and attention) for the new member. This new one, a child leaving home has for me, caused the clock to stand still. She is gone from us. Not for summer camp but has crossed the threshold into her own life independent of us. Sure, she will always be our daughter and one of our most amazing God-given treasures , but she will not be late for breakfast every morning or floating in the bathtub late at night. She will not be singing at the top of her lungs as she walks the dog at night. She will not be here every day to tease the cats and cheer her brother. The wild,extreme outfits and hairdos every morning and the wonderful, kind humor every night. Her insights and observations, her ability to see the good and obvious, her delight in everything and everyone is no longer here. Our dancing girl, our laughing princess, our gentle girl has gone to grow and expand. She has moved forward to be her own person and to infect the world with her kind, rational spirit—and we have been bumped out of her direct sphere of life to another ecliptic path that has the occasion to be in her vicinity versus daily or hourly to monthly to an occasional week here and there. We have to share now, whether we like it or not…there is no choice in this matter. 

We can fix a date to this change (09/02/2010) which none of us saw coming. No preparation, no warning but this sort of thing can creep up on you. And it did.

And left us all winded as our light moves on. 

Group Hug

Kitty at the Parade, Q. Cassetti, 2010Wow. What a last few days. I do not think I will not run down the blow by blow as it seems irrelevant other than we got to Amherst, stayed at a Holiday Inn Express (thankfully with comfy beds and air-conditioning), and were embraced by the spirit and community of Hampshire College, its friends, families, faculty, staff and the blooms of this wild rose, the lovely, bushy tailed students. 

It was hot going—with the temperatures in the mid to high nineties. But, as we approached Kitty’s dorm, a swarm of black shirted orientation guides, surrounded the car and deftly made light work of getting her stuff to the second floor of her dorm in short order. Then it was the fam doing the furniture re-arrangement, making of the beds, identifying the things to buy, and buying them, and finally leaving Kitty to empty her totes and really settle. She was worried and fretful, anticipating failure (my daughter, entirely). However, after the speechifying, the clapping and nice dinner under the big white tents in the central quadrangle (lets not forget the biodegradable corn starch cups filled with frosty water), and before her first floor meeting, we said goodbye and watched her introduce herself to a pair of women sitting outside who were formerly being chatted up by Mr. Younger Brother. After that, the texts got better and since then, silence. So, silence is good. I know she is happy and having a ton of fun.She might even have a few friends (do you think>?) and maybe not have to move out of her dorm (that was in the last hour of our visit). My guess is no change will be necessary.

 There were apple trees all over campus. Many dropping big red orbs (so early) that were rotting which scented the air from a sweet apple-y smell to the pungent reminder of vinegar…not all together unpleasant, but memorable. Many of the buildings and grounds had facelifts since the spring, so the property seemed really nice and tidy…a little less ramshackle and far more presentable if physical plant was key in the decision-making of future students and their parents. However, the spirit of the place was the same.

 There is something about the Hampshire Community, which I now feel fully entitled to talk about as I am now part of it. There is this ephemeral essence of smart, questioning, embracing and empowering. There is a push pull of ideas which can be (I am sure) strident (as with new ideas) to skills…and the approach that why not “try it”. Try philosophy, try rock climbing, try dance, try joke writing, try astrophysics, try it all, taste it all, question it all…and its all okay. There is no right way, its all right. There are no grades, but evaluations which can give you better feedback because it’s not about competition. The race is all between you and you (something I wish I had known sooner) and that the person you should concern yourself with is you. What makes you happy? What makes you think? What makes you expansive? What kind of person are you? How are you going to engage in your community and make a difference? This is what the Hampshire students learn along with the nuts and bolts of how to learn things, try things, grow and grow and learn until you are no longer. And these simple things are for me, a hallmark of an educated person. Empowered, confident, engaged in one’s community, growing personally, spiritually, physically and contributing with a happy heart—would be real lessons (the one’s without grades) that I would hope my children could learn and exemplify in their lives.

Kitty and Robbie at Hampshire, Q. Cassetti, 2010There is this embrace, as we experienced this weekend of students with students, faculty with students, staff with students, staff with faculty, parents with students with faculty and so on… which outwardly was expressed by the speeches and generous and thoughtful gestures on move in day. They had watercoolers in the quads and piles for paper recycling mid hallway for pick up. There were the onslaught of troops of happy helping new friends. We had visits from bouncy students just coming in to say hello and remark on something nice in Kitty’s room. We  met the new hallmates (kindred spirits to Kitty) and more upperclassmen who confirmed that this was her tribe. We were delighted by the details from the regular, vegetarian and vegan options for the nice lunches and dinners offered to the completed ID badge, kit and key that was easily handed over to Kitty hour one. The new president was enthusiastic as a new president and parent of a Hampshire student as well. Her remarks were thoughtful and meaningful. And no one felt the need to be a JK Rowling character from the Harry Potter books (thank goodness).

The next day was the beginning of orientation for the students and a full day orientation for families. I had signed us up “to be responsible parents”—and it turned out to be a pleasure without the least bit of pain And Mr. Younger Brother sat through the whole thing and was thrilled. So, much so, that he could easily see this sort of program for himself…so he can study music composition, film, and run cross country for the school. I think it def could be in the future mix too. He was on fire…and wanted to enroll for January term. I wish it could be that simple.

The family program had open panels on topics such as the program of study, of life beyond the classroom, ofNew Crew, Q. Cassetti, 2010 the dorm/dorm issues which were lead beautifully by members of the faculty with lots of question and answers with the parents. The families weren’t slouches with good questions (there were a few nervous nellies getting into the details of the bus routes etc as a for instance). We had a nice time during the lunch time meeting other parents and learning about their students (that’s what we call our kids)—their interests, backgrounds and where we all sit on the alternative scale. We are pretty mainstream/mild compared with the range. We will see these folks again in October and so on until graduation, so I know there might be some new friends in the bunch. If Hampshire pushes community, then we are there to embrace the whole thing.

 I just wish I could do it all over again on this campus, sitting between grain fields and the beautiful bowl of mountains that surround the school. The gold and pink, green, purple and blue were quite breathtaking now at the height of the season. I know October will be wonderful as will the cool winter. The opportunities and friends abound.