Summer lull

Green Man 10, Q. Cassetti 2011, pen and ink.Yesterday was a day of shuttling and shopping, cooking and floating, revelations and quiet. Rob went sailing with our friend Peter and our friend John on the prettiest little wooden sailboat on Cayuga Lake.

I took Kitty into her job by noon with a stop at the fabric store to buy fake fur to make  hats out of. We looked and touched pretty much everything in the store, ending up with a yard of tone on tone spotty cheetah type stuff that she was delighted with. I then did a little grocery shopping (for the crowd of 10 for lunch everyday) coming home to marinate chicken, brown a big hunk of beef for spaghetti sauce, and a mamouth pork butt into the crockpot for pulled pork (the crew loves it, its cheap and in the crockpot, not a lot of heat is generate). After all of that, I glanced at Alex and Jacob looking glum and uninspired, so I suggested I take them to Jacob’s favorite music store to see what there was to be seen. I dropped them off, and ran to TJMaxx for wrapping paper and thises and thats. Then, my phone rang and it was time to pickup the boys. With more time to kill prior to picking up Kitty, we went to the new Trader Ks to find some really great things for the boys. We took a long and neighborhoody drive down the hill to gather our girl and go to the lake for swimming. But that changed as Kitty went off to the last Blue Stockings game (one of our rollerderby teams) and Jacob and E. stayed chez camp for music and such.

So, Alex, Shady, Rob and I were lakeside and talked about how maybe Alex would like to spend a year (maybe Rotary) abroad to experience all of that. Bless him! He finally heard me…! How great would that be? and what a great calibration for him out of high school and into a world that loves him and that he can grow and expand in. This is so so great. He would so love it. Now, to  make it happen.

Today, we had a quiet morning with coffee and swimming.  Once Rob started to mow the lawn, Kitty and I went to pick peaches and raspberries. I have about 3 quarts of raspberries in the freeze with many many more planned (seeing the abundance of green berries ready to go in 10 days or so). The peaches were sublime with soft fruit on the ground with tremendously happy bees scavanging for the sweetness to take home to the hive. Maybe some bees and fruit need to become integrated into the greenman project.

New Hampshire

I can see why we were sent to the University of New Hampshire. Land grant college vibe like Cornell. More affordable than Cornell. Beautiful setting like Cornell with nature inching onto the campus. Lovely rocks, trees, small brooks--missing the gorgeous quads and views that Cornell has, but same sort of proximity to nature and greenery. Some amazing new facilities from the dining rooms and dorms to the gym, the campus center/student center, the amazing library and computer clusters to the Bio facilities and the amazing (truly) Engineering labs with all sorts of machinery to make and do with. Very sustainable in their speak (but unlike Emerson who's new rennovations do more than speak about sustainable, they are detailled into every aspect of their new buildings. Beautiful new halls that really are designed to be state of the art, beautiful and clean, good use of color to designate areas..wonderful windows again to bring the pine trees and rocks into the building. Inside out.

We did the tour and info session which is pretty much the same template that most use. The big room with coffee and some sort of thing to eat. Then, the slide show about what it is to be part of the community, the classes, the greek system, the international programs, the majors/minors/programs they offer. Then, the smiling person who talks about financial aid, the fees and tuition and the grants, scholarships and loans available. Then we are always broken into groups for the tour which always consists of dorms, food, entertainment and the gym, and then a classroom or two. This tour is always for the "moms' who are just this side of suicidal about where the baby will eat, what they will eat, when they will eat, how they will eat, sleep, with who, how and when, security, and how they will be entertained (as there is so much free time in college, you barely know what to think). However, at the gym there is this amazing room you can rent mountain bikes, skis, cross skis, gym equipment, tents, sleeping name it to use. Free. Additionally, you can rent/borrow a computer the same way so they make the aspect of owning a computer is a nice but not necessary. There are quite a few things like this that pushes the student a bit out of their corners to try stuff.

So, we toured the art building, the bio building and the engineering facility independently. We were constantly surprised at the nice faculty members who took us to the side to explain something, point us in the right direction--interested in Kitty and our quests. It was slow to warm up to but with the offering in biology, the nature and location, the price and proximity to Boston (an Amtrack train hourly goes through the campus taking you further up the coast to Maine or within an hour, close enough to make an urban experience doable and affordable. It was much less our tribe and Kitty's tribe...but it is an option not worth discarding. What with some 2000 classes offered to the community of 12000 students, there must be a range of things to study and engage in. The student body seemed nice but a bit like as Kitty put it "high school". However the facilities belie that. I still think Hampshire is our first passion for now...but a revisit will be needed to my thinking. New Hampshire is not to be ruled out as an option as a place to apply.

We are spending the night at the New England Center, right off the UNH campus. It looks like the "Ewok Hotel" as Rob calls it with a vertical orientation within a pine forest that you can look out the big windows at. The building is green colored and blends in with the trees, the rocks and the light green growth just beginning to peek through though there are still hillocks of snow still needing to melt. It is very nice and clean...with plenty of space for the home team to not be too crowded (yesterday at the Onyx was a bit tight, but the beds were prime...and with the lights off, no one would even know how small the space was...(and you can overlook it a bit as the Aveda soap and shampoo are a real treat!). Hopefully some seafood tonight!


Monday we had a day long session at Hampshire College. To put it mildly, we were blown away. And, after viewing it the night before, were not prepared to be so pleased. The evening before we had toured the five colleges in the area in the golden sun with the grass greening right in front of us. Kitty had been wowed by Amherst College's architecture and attractive students we saw walking on campus. We loved all the collegetowns. We loved UMass and the nice Studio Art building along with the offerings it had. Smith was quaint and beautiful...along with Northhampton filled with stores, restaurants and places to hang out. It was all pretty great. On the flip side, after entering the Hampshire Campus from the back side (or was it the side) from the perfect, small Eric Carle Museum, we were less sure about this place. It was shaggilly. It did not have perfect buildings. However, to see the students hopping around campus, it did reflect an eccentricity and diversity that was not evidenced at the former locations. So, we drove about...admired the woods, the grounds, the trees...and drew in our breaths for Monday. Looks arent everything!

Monday, we were greeted at their gymnasium by tables manned by smiling, attractive people with folders stuffed with information, tables adorned with tablecloths and flowers and coffee. And vegan coffee cake. There were banners in front of the impressive climbing wall that served as the background to a small stage and podium. The prospective students and ones who were making their decisions were all there...with parents and siblings in toe. And, they were our tribe! It was if the Tburg crowd from every state, and region had showed up with their eccentric child, their headsets all sync'd. So, we were in the right place. Then the adorable, and real admissions director stood up and gave us our schedules of tours, classes, and lunch--warmly suggesting we spend the day and come back at least five more times...

We were whisked off to a large-ish hall to have an orientation run by smart and very articulate students (and one new graduate). These people were funny, confident, engaged (!) and took us through the self-driven core of what it is that Hampshire does...essentially, using my phrasing "messing about" with focus. The Hampshire program mirrors what I have been doing during the last two educational stints in graduate work--classes that then form a small body of work that drives another body of work that forces re-education through reading etc. and then the cycle continues. Liberal doses of writing and talking and thinking. Math, only if you like it--or need it. The Hampshire diamond approach (explained to us by our first year tour guide) is that one takes a class...say in pond biology. You love it, and feel that you need more training in a you go do that either at Hampshire or any of the 5 other schools (a bus runs every half hour to all the other schools). Then, with the training, you study more either on that topic or something else. The path of learning takes you to where you either want to go, or find yourself going. And, this work is supported by panels of teachers--with the end product being a way to learn, a passion and a focus that is bespoke for each student.

They had me by the ears.

Then, the tour led by a very candid, funny first year. He was very honest about eveything from the bicycle repair run by students, to the Emergency Medical teams run by students, to the spring and Jan Term trips (run by students) in kayaks and canoes. No sports--except their competitive Ultimate Frisbee team. Man, having no sports changes the paradigm considerably. Rob reminds me that they do engage in dodge ball. We saw classrooms and most importantly, the shops. The biology labs, woodshops, art studios all were phenomenal messing about spaces. Room to work.Really work...and if you needed something you could get it, or build it yourself. The art barn had a nice small painting studio where a professor was critting a remarkable work done by a student. The cubbies/studios for the other students were great and the WORK. OMG. The work was phenomenal. This is a place (remember, this is self driven) where even the best artist gets better/stretched. We saw a student's work, Wilson Kemp, who had linoleum prints which were extrodinary, bold, and beautifully designed. He had come to Hampshire as a photography student (state of the art Mac lab with 3 enormous epson printers there for anyone's use)--and after his trip to Cuba (did I mention that their study abroad program really was about is the real thing with Cuba, China and one other place that Hampshire focuses on)--he came back and was taken with printmaking. He does all of his work at Amherst (knowing the riches that are there) and takes full advantage of the 5 college relationships. There were paintings better than MFA work from Syracuse that I bumped up against. Once again...each person with confidence, excellence and a work ethic that was beyond their years. We saw students working passionately, as if on deadline with themselves...and when Rob and I sat on the commons...what did these students talk about? Sex and parties? NO. Work, and their learning. So, when Kitty and Alex sat in on a class on Neurobiology (which they both loved), we went back to the shop to see about the glassblowing that was mentioned. We were given a tour by one of the shop heads who explained it was flameworking...but the santas workshop aspect of how they (the teachers) were there to help make anything happen. There was a tiny blacksmith kiln that had been rigged to take vegetable oil and the student could get it to heat to 2800 degrees. Another student was going to make a tabletop glass operation (inspired by the medieval furnaces) which was impressive.

Never judge a book by its cover...and at Hampshire, this is certainly the case. It's the beat..the passion, the love of learning and the entrepeneurism that comes from each student having to get out there and get what they need to fuel more learning. It is a fearlessness that I admire in people who are possesses and on a path which is rare in any academic environment--however at Hampshire, seems almost commonplace. I could rattle on forever but time is of essence.

We saw Emerson College yesterday. Emerson is situated at the edge of Boston Commons--an urban campus which has amazing facilities from the high tech studios and classrooms to gorgeous dorm rooms and library. The students are very focused (a professional program) on journalism, film, theatre, theatre production but have the ability to work in any of these areas with student run clubs and productions. This school runs and manages two theatres (beautifully rennovated, old theatres with gold leafed plaster putti and balcomies) with more than fifty productions a year. Everyone gets their hands dirty. They run a recognized radio station that broadcasts, raises funds and even is available on itunes. They run a newsroom and a t.v. station. It is very real. The students we met and saw were nice, focused and also driven by the work in a more conventional way. Not a place to find yourself but if you know what you want...impressive place.

We did a bit of walking around. A trip to the cemetery next to Park Church for me. Wonderful. Being with so many of these carved gravestones was amazing due to the liveliness of the cutting, the repetition of the imagery and yet so many derivations. The lettering was great--with ligatures and corrections to amuse everyone. Kitty and I spied a triple of a skull, a winged cherub and then another head on top of that. There were some other examples not shown in the Ludwig book...from flat stones cut like silhouettes of obelisks, to silhouettes used in the design of regular stones (an urn in particular which served as the base for the copy). Paul Revere was buried there with a column marking his grave where people left stones as tributes. John Adams was there with a rather monumental marker complete with an English style heraldic device with lions/griffins, swirlies, and hands. Will post the images later

We got a taste of Harvard in the morning...walking through the beautiful campus on a perfect cool spring morning. The buds are coming out...the students were on it really was quite a juxtapostion from Hampshire to Harvard. Cambridge was bustling. We had remarkable hamburgers for breakfast/lunch that made for some fun as it was very much a student landmark we ate at to the delight of the home team. We took the Hotwire lottery and spent one night at the Kimpton Hotel Marlowe and the second night at Kimpton Onyx Hotel in the Quincy Market area.
Both very nice, small boutique hotels that we have stayed in in San Diego and last Christmas in Westwood (LA) California.

Off to University of New Hampshire this morning. Should be interesting.

looks like rain, again.

Yesterday was a whirlwind. We packed the wonderbus with the stuff for 2 high school girls with all of us, A and the dog and drove 3.5 hrs each way to take the girls to their month encampment at SUNY Fredonia. To be honest, my expectations for the place were not high. Brockport was a great experience for K but the place was a bit run down and not special though their studios and art building were functional and a good working environment (better than SU). Well, we were BLOWN AWAY with Fredonia. First, it was the SUNY look and feel..small treelined towns that are pretty much of the industry driven by the college. With the proximity to the lake, at one point there must have been some wealth in this tiny town--so high victoriana was the reigning vernacular.Within a mile or less from the school, a little downtown thrives(complete with a pair of two parks with golden fountains in the middle, with the butcher, the baker and the candlestick maker (and a vintage clothing store and tattoo parlour to complete the program). Dunkirk was a hop and skip away with a harbor that reminded me of Redondo Beach only cleaner and better laid out. But the school. Its beautiful with well considered architecture, nicer dorms, a beautiful, real world arts complex with multiple theatres. The arts center feels very IM Pei-ish in it's design, the spaces and the way it opens to a green space (very Johnson Museum at Cornell). A brick building with classical details with two adjoining recital halls for the music program. The twelve over twelve windows were open with music swelling. There was sculpture everywhere. There is a student union with a Starbucks with outside seating and a bookstore that rivaled Syracuses only a bit smaller and much nicer and better laid out. Lots of pretty places to sit with pretty things to sit on. The gym seems new along with a swimming pool that is impressive. I know the NYSSSA program is fabulous--so combined with enhanced facilities, it should be a wonderful time for K. We were tearful (a bit) but not worried like last year as she said good bye with a song in her heart and not the agitation and worry last year.

We came back through Ovid. Did a bit of grocery shopping and then back to Sheldrake. We got into the frozen lake and paddled around a bit guaranteeing good sleep.

I am looking at a pair of bunnies outside the window chase each other. Somehow something crazy happened this year and the sheer number of rabbits we have have gone from rare to commonplace. There they go, chasing each other, round and round. Now look, there is a squirrel. The bunnies think he's a bunny too. Join us! Join Us! in the roundabout, run around, run run run. Wait! What happened to your tail? It's not like ours. Roundabout, run around, run run run. wait!