Sunday, May 5, 2019

The Stories that Shape Us

This weekend the Sag Harbor Cultural District sponsored a three day series of arts and history-related events. The event's theme was, Sag Harbor: The Stories that Shape Us; highlighting the communities extensive literary history. I was able to enjoy a few of the events.
The John Jermain Memorial Library offered a self-guided audio tour to "Explore the library through the stories of local authors, musicians, and artists." Twenty-four artists and authors were featured. Check out an iPod at the front desk and take an audio tour. I need to return as I didn't listen to all twenty-four.
One local author, Emma Walton Hamilton, described how Sag Harbor was inspiration for Dumpy the Dump truck's village of Apple Harbor. In the book series that she co-wrote with Mum, Julie Andrews Edwards, illustrated by Dad, Tony Walton, Pharaoh's General store is modeled after the Umbrella House, reputed to be the oldest building in Sag Harbor. In Dumpy and the Firefighters, a fire threatens the town. Unfortunately, fires have been a too true part of Sag Harbor history. Luckily Pharaoh's General store is saved. Those who look closely may recognize other familiar landmarks or even a neighbor. 
Umbrella House now Cavaniola's Wine Cellar
I wonder if this little guy has read any of the Dumpy series?
The Sag Harbor Historical Society hosted a reading of letters between the daughters and sister of local whaleboat builder William Cooper written from 1830-1880. The presentation entitled,  "Voices of the Past: The Isolation of the Western Expansion," captured the worries and joys of women pioneers separated by great distance. William Cooper's daughers (Aunts to Annie Cooper Boyd) moved from Sag Harbor to other waterfront villages, the furthest away being Pomeroy, Ohio. The cosy front room of the Annie Cooper Boyd house was filled with a rapt audience entranced by the rhythm of each letter telling a story of lives lived over 150 years ago. 
Inspecting Haven's Beach treasures at Annie Cooper Boyd House.
Robin Brown reading poetry by Olivia Ward Bush-Banks

Drifting
by Olivia Ward Bush-Banks
(1869 - 1944)

And now the sun in tinted splendor sank,
The west was all aglow with crimson light;
The bay seemed like a sheet of burnished gold,
Its waters glistened with such radiance bright.

At anchor lay the yachts with snow-white sails,
Outlined against glowing, rose-hued sky.
No ripple stirred the waters' calm repose
Save when a tiny craft sped lightly by.

Our boat was drifting slowly, gently round,
To rest secure till evening shadows fell;
No sound disturbed the stillness of the air,
Save the soft chiming of the vesper bell.

Yes, drifting, drifting' and I thought that life,
When nearing death, is like the sunset sky.
And death is but the slow, sure drifting in
To rest far more securely, by and by.

Then let me drift along the Bay of Time,
Till my last sun shall set in glowing light;
Let me cast anchor where no shadows fall,
Forever moored within Heaven's harbor bright.
American writer Olivia Ward Bush-Banks was a poet and playwright best known for celebrating both her African-American and Montauk heritages in her works. She founded the Bush-Banks School of Expression in Chicago to foster emerging African-American talents.  via
Listening to Bush-Banks' poems, I was struck by her lush descriptions of nature and knowing depictions of the heart. Truly an artist of timeless imagery. 
Afternoon Remembered by Michael A. Butler
Another storyteller, in paint, Michael A. Butler's work was still up on the Eastville Community Historical Society walls. Afternoon Remembered” is a painting that I fell in love with. When I spoke with the artist, Michael described the inspiration for this painting as though in a dream, “My mother, brother and I were walking to the beach along a wall of phragmites when a flock of goldfinches flew up. My mother did not have her camera with her, but I painted this scene with her holding a camera. She brought her camera to the beach every day after that, but we never did see another flock of goldfinches. “ (my paraphrase) 

What a wonderful day spent listening to the voices of my community, I am so grateful to live here.

Links
New Audio Tour at John Jermain Library Highlights How Writers Work
Sag Harbor Retold in Images and Letters
The Stories that Shape Us in Sag Harbor