Monday, October 29, 2012

New England Vacation Day Five

We are home from our vacation. For some reason on day five of our stay in New Hampshire, my laptop lost the ability to connect to the internet. There seemed to be some conflict with my laptop and the resort's wireless router. We could get online with Grandad's computer, with our smart phones, and with my Kindle Fire, but not with my laptop. Unfortunately, the photos were all on my laptop and I couldn't get them from here to there. That said, now that we're home and all my connectivity problems are behind me, I'm going to continue with our vacation story.

On Day Five, we visited the Enfield Shaker Museum in Enfield, New Hampshire. I have heard of the Shakers for many years and we were already familiar with Shaker-style furniture. But, only a few minutes after arriving, we realized that we really knew nothing at all about the Shakers and their lives.

The Museum is located in the Great Stone Dwelling, which is the largest Shaker dwelling house ever constructed. We started with a short film about the Shakers and were then taken on a guided tour by a museum staff member who was very knowledgeable and clearly loved to tell the story of the Shakers.

The Shakers were a communal group who practiced equality of the sexes and races, celibacy, pacifism and communal ownership of property. They are widely believed to be the most successful communal group ever.

I was interested to learn that they did not believe in God as the Trinity. They believed that since God created man and woman in his image, God was two-parts, man and woman. They did not recognize Jesus as part of the Trinity, but they recognized him as God's human son. They believed that Ann Lee, who founded the Shakers, was God's human daughter.

They were called Shakers because they believed that they could "shake off sin" by spinning and dancing in their worship. Men and women lived separately but equally. Woman were full partners in both preaching and worship. There was no marriage and no children were born. The sect grew through recruiting new members and through taking in orphans and raising them in the Shaker way. When families joined the Shakers, the children lived apart from their parents and only saw them on Sundays. When the children became adults, they chose whether to become Shakers or go back into the world. After the Civil War, the Shakers took in orphans in hopes of increasing their numbers.

The work that the Shakers did became their offering to God, so they believed that it had to be perfect to the best of their ability. The tools that they used to make brooms are on display. The women gardened, cleaned, cooked, and sewed. The men made brooms, built furniture, worked as carpenters, and farmed, among other things. It's also interesting to note that the Shakers pioneered the modern seed business.

We spent several hours walking among the buildings in the land that the Shakers called the "Chosen Vale." The Shakers once farmed 3,000 acres of land in this beautiful valley. They educated their children in model schools, and worshiped in "The Shaker Way." Sadly, there are only four Shakers remaining today and the sect will likely vanish from the earth when they die.

The Shakers moved away from Enfield in the 1923 because their numbers had declined to the point that they could no longer sustain the community. It sat idle for four years before it was purchased by the La Salette Order of the Catholic Church. The La Salette Missionaries used the property for a seminary and, with the help of a generous benefactress, constructed a beautiful chapel right next to the Great Dwelling House. I must say, the austerity of style that the Shakers built creates an interesting juxtaposition next to the ornate architecture of the Catholic church.

Unfortunately, the number of seminarians also began to decline and the seminary closed its doors in 1974. The church has been de-consecrated and you can go in, wander around, and take pictures. Today, the church is occasionally used for weddings. It still contains a beautiful pipe organ and the stained-glass windows are exquisite.

We went back to the gift shop in the Great Stone Dwelling where I bought one of the few souvenirs of the trip, I treated myself to a beautiful Shaker-style pin cushion, made by a local artisan.

We asked the ladies who staffed the museum to recommend a nearby place for lunch, They sent us across Lake Mascoma into Enfield to Mickey's Roadside Cafe where we enjoyed really good lunch. I had seafood chowder and Grandad had clam chowder with half a tuna sandwich. After lunch we drove through the town which was decorated with scarecrows everywhere. And I do mean everywhere. There were scarecrows in front of the churches, the police station, on porches, in front of businesses, and even on both ends of the bridge.

While at Mickey's we asked the waitress if there was anything else we should see in the area. She suggested a visit to Quechee Gorge, which is known as Vermont's Little Grand Canyon. So, we made that our next destination.

The best view of the gorge is obtained by walking across a bridge on Highway 4. The bridge is 164 feet above the  Ottauquechee River. As you stand on the bridge, you can feel the vibration of the bridge as cars pass. Let me just say that I walked across the bridge to take pictures, Grandad did not. He suffers from acrophobia which means, he really struggles with high places. He was, however, game for a hike along the trail that leads back to the dam. It's less than a mile round trip and was a pretty easy trail.

After the hike, we stopped at Quechee Gorge Village. The Village is basically a shopping center featuring all sorts of souvenirs, antiques, wine, toys, pewter, candy, and cheese. There is also a toy and train museum. For Grandad, cheese was the main attraction. They had samples, lots and lots of samples. We both had a few samples, then I left, went to the ladies' room, shopped a little and came back. Grandad was still sampling cheese when I got back. I've been teasing him that after we left they probably put up a photo of him with a notice that he's not allowed to come back. The man ate a lot of free cheese.

By this time, it was getting late so we headed back to our condo. Tomorrow, we're driving to the coast. I need to eat some lobster while we're in New England.

1 comment:

  1. Your trip has just sounded amazing! I love that you have left it up to the locals to help you explore and enjoy! Great pictures and that gorge is amazing! I would have been out there with you -- Grampy would have stayed behind and kept Granddad company! Thank you so much for this!