Thursday, July 11, 2013

Travel Journal: July 5, 2013: Connecticut

Friday, July 5th.
Sue suggested we go into New Haven CT, which is pretty close to Wallingford, and there we could visit her office, visit a museum and see Yale University, where my dad's father attended college way back when in 1907.
I got a chuckle at the name of a Chinese restaurant we passed on the way.
"Blessings II Go".
That pretty much summed up how it was going with us: We were busy going, and we were definitely getting blessed along the way.

Sue wheeled her car into her usual assigned parking place and surprised everyone at her work by showing up there on her day off.
Her employer:
The Knights of Columbus.
In the building's courtyard was the statue of Christopher Columbus standing in a six fountain design.
Bamboo grew luxuriantly behind Columbus.
Who knew bamboo could so easily grow in Connecticut?

I knew that Sue was the organization's archivist.
Silly me...I hadn't studied up on the organization ahead of time.
In fact, over breakfast I had told her that I thought the Knights of Columbus was some kind of organization of Catholic guys who pledged to defend visiting Popes, in a mostly symbolic way.
I had seen a bunch of them outside a Catholic Church once, wearing feathered trimmed hats and red capes.
My guess...was not even close.
More on that later.
The Knights of Columbus (KOC) have a museum dedicated to their history, and currently there is also an exhibition of  about 230 Russian icons on display as well, on loan from a private anonymous collector.
Sounded awesome to me;  I was quite interested in seeing the KOC history and the Russian icons too.

After checking in at the front desk, Sue pointed out what looked to be a large rather plain cross hung on the wall.

It was once part of a statue of Christ holding his cross at the Vatican.
Pope John Paul II gave the old copper clad cross to the KOC after the KOC underwrote a considerable amount of Vatican restoration work.

Once into the Museum proper I was "introduced" to Father Michael J. McGivney, the priest who founded the KOC.

In the late 1800's Father McGivney recognized that the Irish Catholic immigrants were unable to join organizations that provided insurance.
At that time, Masons, Foresters, and other "brotherhood" groups banded together, created ceremony, costuming, and spawned identifiable cultures and insurance opportunities.
Father McGivney chose Christopher Columbus (who came to the "new" world much like the Irish and other immigrants had done) for his new organizations symbol, then named his organization "The Knights of Columbus"; a group that was created and dedicated to protecting Christian Family Life.

He himself died rather young.

Inside the museum there were two tiles from the real Christopher Columbus's ship.

If I recall correctly, the tiles were used as part of the ship's ballast.

There was an extensive collection of Columbus art.
This "picture"...

was actually....

a weaving!

A photo of the Knights in full regalia.

And an example of one of the feathered hats that I had one time seen on men outside a Catholic church.

The Knights of Columbus, which became a global organization, later faced great persecution in Mexico during the Bolshevik era.
A movie was made about it, and Sue's archives were used for the documenting of the movie's script.
The Knights coffers are used not only for insurance purposes, but also to support military member's religious and personal needs, as well as assisting in education, blood transfusion, medical care, orphans...there is a lot that the KOC do behind the scenes.

They are stanchly Pro Life and support the fight to save the unborn from destruction.

A statue erected to honor those children who were killed in their mother's wombs.

Two interesting sculptures...

Which are actual girders from the wreckage of the World Trade Center.

The KOC "Hero Fund" was established two days after 9/11.
Each family of a fallen first responder received a check for $3,000 immediately thereafter.
There were so many ways that the KOC has funded assistance to needful situation over the years.
A handwritten note from Mother Theresa was in the museum thanking them for their work.
Lots of memorabilia...lots of interesting history.
I walked and read and learned a lot. 

A stunning mosaic of the Virgin Mary was impossible to capture photographically.

I could only get bits of it to show how beautiful the tile work was.

Sue showed me the handwritten pages that were the records of the original members of the KOC.
Several Brosnan men, family members, were signed up in the very earliest records.
The digitization and preservation of all such records is an on going work.

We stepped into Sue's office space where I kidded her about not having a picture of her cat Murray on her desk.
She showed me the photo above, that was taken by Father Aquinas.
Murray...clearly praying to Jesus.

Next I took in the Icon exhibit.
 Like most exhibits,  it had strict prohibition against any sort of photography. know how much that KILLED me.
I left my camera with Sue so I wouldn't be tempted to sneak in a shot or two.
Click on the camera next to the picture on the left side to see some of the icons.
(Icons number 5 and 7 in the slideshow are favorites of mine, number 7 was maybe 2 ft by 3 ft in size and just stunning.)
A quote from the exhibit's web page:
When Prince Vladimir of Kiev converted to Christianity — along with his country — in 988 A.D., iconography was introduced as a means of fostering religious understanding and devotion among the people of Kievan Rus (present day Ukraine, Belarus and northwest Russia). It followed the strict models and formulas of the Byzantine practice from which it originated but, through time, developed its own distinctions and styles. Today, Russian Orthodox icons are renowned throughout the world.

As a form of sacred art, iconographers historically prayed or fasted before and during the creation of an icon. Traditionally, icons were painted in egg tempera on wood and often accented with gold leaf or covered with ornately gilt metal covers called rizas. Rich in symbolism, they are still used extensively in Orthodox churches and monasteries, and many Russian homes have icons hanging on the wall in a “beautiful” (or prayer) corner.
(Pictured above and below are Modern icons from Russia on sale in the KOC gift shop. They were NOT part of the exhibit.)

One of the things that I thought were most elegant in the exhibit were the rizas, or icon covers.
They were usually made from metal or wood but some in the exhibit were beadwork.
Riza cover all but the faces of the icons and sometimes are jeweled or enameled.

About a third of the icons were of Christ alone, with another third of Christ and Mary together or with His disciples.

(The gift shop icon prices were quite reasonable I thought...especially compared to the price of 19th century icons.)

I have to say that while I was looking at the icons I was thinking of my friend Ellen, whose own heritage is Russian, and whose ancestors may have likely been from the Kievan Rus area where icon "writing" originated.
I read that there is no word for "paint" in that area's language; the artist fasts and prays, then carefully "writes" the faith story in icon form.
Sue left me to wander through the exhibit at my own speed while she caught up with her office emails.
When she joined me she told me she had been in and out of the exhibit while the icon expert spoke and lectured about the icon.
Talk about making me jealous...
I wondered if anyone had bothered to audio record the talk.
She wasn't sure.
How cool would it have been to be able to listen to the expert speak about the icons on a head set as one went through the exhibit?
We kept our voices low as the exhibit was more than just an artistic and historical collection.
It was also a place of worship for some people.
A window to heaven for them.

After I had lingered as long as possible in the museum and exhibition, we were ready for lunch.
Would you believe we went just a block or so away over to IKEA for their $1.99 on Friday special of fish and chips?
It was yummy...and fast.
After we gotten our tummies tanked up a bit, we went down the street to the KOC main building.
It used to be the tallest building in New Haven until just recently and is affectionately known as the Tootsie Roll building.
You can see why...
I was astonished at how big was the headquarters the KOC organization.

Security in the building was tight.
Why, I wondered.
Because some people are pretty upset with the Catholic Church stance on several hot button issues facing our country right now.
Threats are made.
Security must be high.
Sue planned to take me up to the top of the building so I could see out across the New Haven area.
But first...she took me to the KOC chapel.
Explaining that it was a space redesigned in 2004 by Jesuit Father Marko Ivan Rupnik, the same person who designed a Vatican chapel for Pope John Paul II, Sue let me in through the double doors and let me be astonished. 

I couldn't stop looking at the Mother's natural gesture here.
I also wondered if the placement of red on the child's brow, hands and side were designed to be foreshadowing.
(Of course it was...)

I also loved the little donkey face (more foreshadowing...) and how the artist used tile as well as natural materials in his design.

I'd love a poster of this...wish the gift shop would sell posters of each wall.

Eventually Sue mentioned that I should look up at the ceiling too.
The small chapel space was richly designed no matter where one looked.
Sue is able to attend a noon time Mass there during her work week. 
I forgot to ask if the public can attend too?
I hope so...
You can read more about the chapel and see better wide angle shots of the chapel mosaics here.

Eventually, reluctantly, we pressed on.
Back lit flags...always a visual delight.

We went up to the top floor of the KOC building, which is a cafeteria and has glass walls.
The view is amazing.
Isn't that wonderful for the employees?

Sue was rattling off the names of everything...
I was shooting pictures.
Oh boy...what was the name of the river again?
The river was high, so high it was over its banks and so the river color was more muddy than usual.

The park square in the middle of Yale University was bordered with steeples and bell towered topped churches of many denominations.

Yale was founded with deep religious principals and religious studies was part of every student's life.
I think Yale has lost its way a bit in that department, as have most of America's most noted modern universities.
Pity, that.

After gawking out the window awhile, we rode the elevator back down to the main floor, turned in our security badges and walked back down the street to the KOC museum building, where I looked around the gift shop a bit more.
I took the picture above just in case anyone is headed to New Haven during the next ten months...

Now I have always dreamed of walking around Yale on a crisp cool autumn day, exploring the buildings and imagining what it must have been like for my Leavenworth Kansas born (in 1889) grandfather to come out from there and into such a tradition steeped east coast school.
Sometimes reality trumps dreams: it was incredibly hot and humid, the traffic was horrific as the area streets are in disarray and so a quick drive through the main area streets (in the AIR CONDITIONED car...) served just as well as a stroll.
(I did mention my grandfather graduated from Yale, right?
I like to think he was smart if he got into Yale, and that I am smart enough too, to at least know when not to leave a cool comfortable ride on a hot day!)

I didn't even roll the windows down for the photographic quality.
Yeah, it was THAT hot.

Isn't that a gorgeous building?
My parents still own the top hat that my grandfather wore while he attended school.
I can picture him in the high collared shirt with coat and tie and top hat, dashing to his classes so attired.

If you look closely at the center of the small book on the shield, you will notice it has Hebrew letters.
It is the logo of Yale University.
In 1777, Hebrew was a required language for all incoming Yale freshmen.
The commencement address of 1781 was delivered in Hebrew, Aramaic and Arabic.
A history of the Hebrew language and Jewish influence on Yale can be found here.
I was keen on getting a photo of the Hebrew letters on the logo because I have had conversations about how Yale and Harvard both had deep appreciation for Hebrew and the study of the Old Testament.
If we had only had more time...a visit to the Yale art gallery would have been interesting too.

I wonder if one can get a guided tour of Yale?
Maybe some other time.

The logo again...interesting that the classic blues associated with Israel and Judaism are part of the logo's design.

I do love a delicate lacy iron gate.

And gothic diamond paned windows.

A whole day just visiting the campus churches would be wonderful I bet.

I was happy to see that this business was in business when my grandfather was attending Yale, around 1907.
The house that my grandfather and great grandmother rented while he was attending Yale still stands.
Sadly it is in a rather dicey area now and the street is torn up right now.
I was able to see it on Google map-earth view however.
Cute little white Victorian with lots of lacy trim.
Good enough for me just to see it on line.

(Can you believe we are STILL going?)
Next Sue drove me to the coast.
I had hemmed and hawed about adding a swim suit in my suitcase as I packed to leave SLC, and had decided we would have no reason to go swimming on Connecticut.
I kind of regretted that decision once we got to the over 90 degree air temperature beach.

So I rolled up my capri pants and waded in at least.


The sand was brown, so different than the silver grey powder like sands on my beach in San Diego.

The Atlantic...doesn't drop off quite as quickly as our Pacific beaches do.

A clam shell was rolling about in the surf.
I asked Sue if people clammed on the beach.
She said it wasn't allowed at this particular beach.

So we stood in the water, and I looked at the ever changing mosaics being tossed up on the sand.

A quiet spiritual moment for me...

I think such arrangements are made for God's pleasure and mine, just to enhance the moment.

I knew I would never be able to say  or remember the name of which beach we were at.
This post about the salt marshes around the beach was a big help.

It was so hot!
We walked along the cliffs...

above the rocky shore...

until we came upon a bench where we could sit and catch the slight sea breezes and talk.
Remember, while Sue and I are distant cousins, prior to this day we had only had two days together in our whole lives.
We had a lot of catching up to do.
Just the way women who are related always seem to share when they get together.

We talked about our families; about relationships and challenges within families.

The good and the sad.

Just the way women who are related always seem to share when they get together.

Because family...
both by blood and by faith...
 always is a subject close to our hearts.

By now it was getting on towards evening and Sue had been invited to drop by another cousin's boat at a nearby country club boat dock.
As we drove in to the area her cousin's wife was driving out and was quick to direct us to where the boat was docked.
The cousins and another couple and a friend were just finishing up some appetizers and drinks.
Would I like to take a seat, and would I like anything to drink?
Yes please, I sure would!

Eventually there was seven of us around the table chatting away, catching up on life and such.
I got a big laugh after Sue explained that we had been at the Knights of Columbus earlier in the day.
One of the guys quickly quipped that the wives of the Knights of Columbus are called "The Ladies of Columbus", because none of the wives wanted to be known as "The Ladies of the Knights".
Well yeah...
I have to say that everyone I met while I was in Connecticut was so friendly and made me feel like I fitted right in.
That was so refreshing to me.
Confession time:
I've lived in several places in my life and usually I have felt like a total outsider.
It was so great to feel so welcomed in some place new for a change.

Boats names can be quite funny...

or clever!
(Now I am racking my brain trying to remember the name of Sue's cousin's boat.)

He took us on a little tour of the country club grounds.
Who wouldn't want to hang out there on a warm summer evening?
Or go for a swim in the river?

Apparently lots of folks routinely go there for picnics and get together time with friends.
I was thinking they must really enjoy watching the sunset over the water, but then I remembered I was on the EAST coast...where one watches SUNRISES over the water, not sunsets!

Sue and her cousin Jeff.

Dinner was next.
Sue drove us over to a cute little town called Chester, and we lucked out enough to find parking!

Flower boxes rioted under each store window.

Petunia fragrance filled the warm evening air.

The restaurant menu included a quick history of the town.
1692 the founder came down from Massachusetts.
My dad's family was in Massachusetts (Haverhill) from about 1640 on.
I wonder if my ancestors knew Mr. Andrew Warner.
There were not a lot of people in the area back then.
It wouldn't surprise me if they did.

There was no question in my mind about what I was going to order for dinner.

For several years now I have been hearing about the traditional eastern seaboard treat known as "Lobster Roll".
Sue's cousin had instructed me on the variations:
Hot lobster dipped in melted butter in a toasted bun or cold lobster made into basically a lobster salad.
I was told to go with the hot version.
And so I did.

No wonder it is a regional treat!
I used to eat Pacific lobster a lot down in Mexico where the lobster tail is the where the lobster meat is found.
The Atlantic lobsters carry their meat in their giant claws, and are definitely have a sweeter flavor.
I enjoyed every bite, along with a generous serving of sweet potato fries (a southern invention; the combination of lobster rolls and sweet potato fries might have ended the Civil War had each side know about the other side's treat.)

Good food is definitely to be had at the Pattaconk 1850 Bar and Grill.
After we had finished dinner and turned down dessert (recalling that we still had left over apple pie and ice cream at home) we headed back to Wallingford, and settled in on the glider in the breezeway where we sat together as we ate dessert and talked some more before finally turning in for the night after another delightful and full day.
To be continued...