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Friday, November 11, 2011

Beacon Bits -- Doing Good

Some people are amazing. And many amazing people do so many good things. This past weekend brought me face to face with amazing people doing good things in and around Beacon: the volunteers, organizing committee and donors for the Common Ground Farm annual harvest celebration and fundraiser auction on 11/5 and Jim Heron, who presented his last BIRE authors' talk on 11/6.

'It takes a village' to put together a well-planned event and that village included local vendors such as Homespun, Tas Kafe, Hudson Beach Glass, Beacon Pilates, Dance Beacon/Ballet Arts, Isamu, Sukothai, and Dia Beacon, The Roundhouse Beacon, Hudson Valley Shakespeare, Manitoga, Boscobel, all of whom generously donated goods, food and services for the benefit of our local CSA. The bidding wars for the silent auction occurred while patrons sipped on cider and spiced red wine and listened to Tiki Daddy play instrumental background music (jazz, Hawaiian, swing) that inspired serious auction bidders to mingle and weave in and out of hay bales and candlelit tables in time to the music to seek out special selections. The live auction, hosted by Mark Roland, was fast paced, but focused on getting the best bids for items as unique as a house and garden blessing by the priest from St. Nicholas Episcopal Church and a hand-powered lawn mower donated by Mark himself. I got involved in the fun by having a volley of bids for a glass bowl with a beautiful blond model who hails from Venezuela but now lives in Wappingers; the bowl went for $370, well over the $200 value, all for a great cause! Since I hadn't gotten to last year's auction because I got a flat tire on the way north, this year's involvement as a farm member volunteering some hours to help serve potables more than made up for last year's loss. And with a winning bid on the private Pilates lesson, I'll be inspired to get ready and be in tip-top shape for next year's event.
The highlight of the weekend, though, (as if the auction weren't enough joy) was being present for Jim Heron's last talk about his historical research, resulting in the published book, Denning's Point, A Hudson River History,  since he is now retiring for the second time after ten years of service to BIRE. Many Beaconites know of his 'discovery' that Alexander Hamilton resided on the peninsula during the Revolutionary War. But those who were present heard about his deeply moving, very personal and spiritually-healing work for the last decade; you see, Jim is an Episcopal priest who worked for a year in the morgue, blessing the remains of bodies found at Ground Zero following 9/11, during his tenure as chaplain in NYC. He retired from his work as a witness to the consequences of terrorism and walked into the caverns of museum archives, archaeological digs, and historical document searches in the Vassar stacks to find liberty, resurrection, and new life blown into the 'old bones' of Dennings Point. He told his truth about a wonderful journey of grace and healing for a wounded healer; his honest reflection was most touching. He says he is now ready for his next project, rising from the ashes and remains left behind; he knows it's time to move on with faith and continue the journey into the future.

East to Dennings Point
(Taken on board the Mystic Whaler, May 2011)
Some food for thought: I started to muse about Jim's resilience, optimism and persistence and wondered about this balm that is found in the Hudson Highlands and its affects on so many of the residents in the area who have been true beacons of hope like Jim. Those we can name, like Pete Seeger, Fanny Reese, Samuel Morse, Madame Brett, General Howland, and those who remain anonymous, like the countless volunteers serving our local communities, schools, conservation projects, social justice initiatives, all for the sake of doing good. Volunteerism and finding passion in life is not only psychologically rewarding, but it is physically invigorating as well. Health effects of volunteering have been documented. Findings suggest that older volunteers, starting at ago 60, benefit more than younger individuals, but all individuals who volunteer service to two or more organizations, or 40-100 hours per year (i.e., 1-2 hours per week), have health benefits such as personal well-being, increased social networks that buffer stress, lower rates of depression and a longer lifespan. Taking time to engage in meaningful ways and taking on a project, like working with a CSA farm or asking 'what can I do to help', like Jim heron did when he first walked into BIRE, can become part of a positive reinforcing cycle that leads down the paths where others have walked, but also where you can blaze new trails of life sustaining work. For those of us heading towards age 60, it's time to reach out in our communities and start to build our very own and new, passionate road for the future.

"One for the Road"
Spiced Red Wine
1 bottle red wine
1 cheesecloth bundle of mulling spices *
(*1 cinnamon stick, 6 whole cloves, 4 black peppercorns, 4 cardamom pods,
1 slice of orange peel, 1/3 vanilla pod, 1 piece crystallized ginger*)
Pour wine into stainless steel pot. Tie spices into cheesecloth with a string. Wet spice bag under running cold water. Place into pot with wine. Bring to simmer. Serve warm.

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