Sunday, November 15, 2009

Shall We Turn Back the Clock? A Visit to the Martyn Farm Fall Festival

And yet there was a time, not long ago and not ideal like some imaginary Arcadia, when our very real grandfathers lived for something other than themselves, and life was more honest, much more hard and worth living. Shall we turn back the clock? --John Senior, The Restoration of Christian Culture

A cozy farmhouse with a wraparound porch, a Jersey cow with a voluptuous udder, dulcimer music in the air--these are just a few of the things we enjoyed Saturday at Armand Bayou Nature Center's Martyn Farm Fall Festival.

We arrived about 8:45 a.m., and Emma slipped past ladies in pretty bonnets and long flowery aprons to open the front gate and enter the farmhouse yard. It might as well have been a time machine, with the gate hinges moving the gears of time. They creaked, turned, and meshed at 1900 A.D. Emma was transported back and was immediately at home. She set up her spinning wheel on the back porch, breathing deeply and admiring the view of the bayou.

She would fain have stayed and stayed, but she had to go to another part of the park to dance. Starting at 10:00, her Scottish Country Dance group performed six dances.

In the meantime, I learned that the spinning demonstration was supposed to be in the pole barn, not the back porch, so after the dancing, we hurried back to the farmhouse and hauled everything to the new location.

There Emma contentedly demonstrated spinning on her Ashford Traveler. Two ladies were spinning with drop spindles, and two were quilting. Quilts hung on the walls, and several antique fiber arts machines lined the back of the room: a spinning wheel, a small floor loom, and a tapestry loom.

Lots of families visited. As Emma taught little girls how to spin, I remembered how an older lady at a sheep shearing taught her. I wonder if some mama got an earful of drowsy spinning wheel chatter-- interspersed with yawns--on the trip home, as I did so many years ago.

Several of the Scottish dancers came by. Luckily, the McClarens were there when Emma realized that she had lost her threading hook. Mr. McClaren and his oldest son improvised one out of a paper clip. They bent. Emma tried. After the third or fourth adjustment, they had the bend just right, and it worked. It's so nice to have a man (or two) around the pole barn!

Emma also got to help some ladies spin and enjoyed it thoroughly. One of them was so excited after she tried it, you would have thought she had just won her dream vacation. Emma told her that next she needed to go to Upstairs Studio and talk to Clarice. In the picture below, Emma helps Mrs. Dugas, who had some previous background with spinning.

Sam, Scottish dancer and wandering fiddler, tried the spinning and quickened the atmosphere with his lively tunes. He suggested that Emma was remiss in not having completed projects to display. She obliged as best she could by switching to knitting, though she expressed disappointment that she did not have any wooden needles. (She also thought that the plastic chairs detracted from the atmosphere, but she remained cheerful.)

As the clock neared 1:00 p.m., I sent Emma to enjoy the festivities with the rest of the Scottish dancers. Here's some of what she saw:

Thomas, a Scottish dancer with a pocket knife and a sugar cane, generously sweetened Emma's afternoon!

We returned to the pole barn around 3:00 for Emma to do some more spinning. I noticed that Thomas's brother Aaron was fascinated with the rhythm of Emma's pedaling. He put his foot up to one of the pedals and thoughtfully mimicked the movement until he was actually pedaling with her. Emma said that he was right on time.

Aasron's desire to synchronize with the spinning rhythm reminded me of my longing for the Catholic agrarian lifestyle--a lifestyle dependent on the rhythm of the seasons and the liturgical year, a lifestyle that best prepares one to pedal with God.

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