Friday, August 14, 2009

Lake Canandaigua

SVH knew exactly what I needed: relaxation. Our trip, first to Lake Canandaigua and then Niagara Falls, was as near to a perfectly restful holiday as I have ever had. She planned everything, from reservations to driving directions, so that when we landed, I didn’t even know the name of the lake we were heading toward. I cannot thank her enough for that. We drove around looking at all forms of nature, and we saw everything from domesticated alpaca to Amish girls riding downhill on bicycles while holding onto their bonnets blowing in the wind. We ate brunch one morning at a lovely restaurant on Main Street called Simply Crepes, and stayed at the swanky Miami Motel, a 1950s-style motor inn that the owners are renovating (alas, the jacuzzi rooms were booked already). I was amazed that there was hardly anyone at the lake (then again, my threshold of comparison to the number of people in NYC means that anything more than five feet between me and the next person is the equivalent of a mile). Lake Canandaigua (here's a map) is large in length and skinny in width. One of the group of elongated Finger Lakes in upstate New York, it is simply placid and beautiful. The picture I took above shows you the mountains around the lake and how tranquil the water is, providing everyone with opportunities for boating, fishing, and swimming.

We also took a day trip to Sonnenberg Gardens & Mansion, the c.1890 summer home of Frederick Ferris Thompson and his wife Mary Clark Thompson. He was a director of a bank that eventually became Citibank, and she was a socialite who traveled the world. Their Queen Anne-style home is decorated in the eclectic Aesthetic style popular at that time, incorporating everything from beautiful Asian ceramics and Native American basketry to ever-disturbing taxidermied birds (including not just one but two requisite stuffed peacocks). The numerous gardens are lovely, including a formal Italian garden and a Japanese garden with a tea house. The house eventually became a hostel for employees of a nearby hospital, and the pictures in the house showing nurses in the 1940s and 1950s wearing bathing caps and modeling with the ancient statuary were a hoot to look at.

But of course we traveled to the Finger Lakes specifically for the wedding of my dear friends DG and RL, fellow Brooklynites. The bride’s family lives around Rochester, which is why the wedding was upstate. The ceremony and reception was at Bristol Harbor, a rustic lodge and country club that overlooks the lake from the hills above. Their ceremony was simple yet elegant. They wrote it themselves, respecting the faiths of both families, but focusing foremost on their own personal beliefs. I was honored to be asked by them to do a reading during the ceremony. They wanted me to find one myself. It wasn’t easy. I didn’t want the typical love stuff or rehash the same old sentiments. I wanted to find something that was special for my friends, yet could transcend the idea of a wedding so that it had a message for all. Finally, I found it, and when I showed it to them, they agreed that they loved it. The reading is called “Unlimited Friendship,” by The Buddha. I’ve transcribed the passage below, but first take a look at this great picture of us from the reception. Don’t we look fabulous?

by The Buddha
Translated by Edward Conze
From Into the Garden: A Wedding Anthology, edited by Robert Haas & Stephen Mitchell

This is what should be done by the man and woman who are wise, who seek the good, and who know the meaning of the place of peace.
Let them be fervent, upright, and sincere, without conceit of self, easily contented and joyous, free of cares; let them not be submerged by the things of the world; let them not take upon themselves the burden of worldly goods; let their senses be controlled; let them be wise but not puffed up, and let them not desire great possessions even for their families. Let them do nothing that is mean or that the wise would reprove.
May all beings be happy and at their ease. May they be joyous and live in safety.
All beings, whether weak or strong--omitting none--in high, middle, or low realms of existence, small or great, visible or invisible, near or far away, born or to be born; may all beings be happy and at their ease.
Let none deceive another, or despise any being in any state. Let none by anger or ill-will wish harm to another.
Even as a mother watches over and protects her only child, so with a boundless mind should one cherish all living beings, radiating friendliness over the entire world, above, below, and all around without limit. So let them cultivate a boundless good will toward the entire world, unlimited, free from ill-will or enmity.
Standing or walking, sitting or lying down, during all their waking hours, let them establish this mindfulness of good will, which is the highest state.


Sherman Clarke said...

The Finger Lakes are gorgeous. I spent a few days in Ithaca last week, to bid adieu to a friend laid off from Cornell and to hit some bookshops. And just be in Ithaca. I especially like the back road between Alfred and Ithaca, probably South of your route to Canandaigua but close.
xo Sherman

Sherman Clarke said...

Oh, I forgot to mention that I got a message from Paul R who is my most similar library on LibraryThing.

bklynbiblio said...

I still haven't been up to Cornell, but I've heard it's beautiful up there. Maybe I'll visit you in Alfred one day too!

Dana said...

We were so honored to have you be part of our wedding. Not to mention that you upped the handsome boy quotient there by a hefty percentage. So glad you loved upstate NY too! Maybe we could go back for another vacation to a different lake sometime soon. xoxoxo