Very old and very new in Easton, MD
On a beautiful summer day at the end of June, ten members of the Chestnut Hill Meeting community met at our parking lot at 8:30 to undertake a trip of about 125 miles and 331 years. We took a look at our almost-finished brand new meetinghouse, and then drove in a rented van to Easton, MD. Our first destination was Third Haven Friends Meeting, the oldest Quaker meetinghouse in continuous in the country, built from 1682 to 1684. We were met by Candace Shattuck, clerk of the meeting, who gave us a most informative tour of this beautiful old white wooden building. She pointed out a number of places where renovations and reinforcements had been made, but our sense was clearly that this was a building of great age that has been lovingly cared for. As it lacks electricity or heat, it is only used from late Spring through early Fall; through the winter the Meeting uses a "new" brick building that was built in the late 1800s.
The old meetinghouse was built in the days when men and women had separate business meetings, and the worship room can still be divided into two separate chambers by closing sash-weighted wooden panels that still operate. Candace assured us that only business meetings were segregated by sex; meetings for worship were held with everyone together.
The grounds of the Meeting are shaded by wonderful trees, some of them very old. A graveyard on part of the property contains the usual low headstones, but Candace told us that they have learned that in the very early years of the Meeting, Friends were buried there with no headstones at all, as they were considered inappropriate at that time.
We left Third Haven to drive to nearby Oxford, MD, where we had lunch in a seafood restaurant where the outdoor seating juts out over the waters of the Tred Avon River.
Our third stop was back in Easton at the Academy Art Museum for its current exhibit of recent works by James Turrell, who keeps a home in Oxford. We saw holographic images that are quite new, never having been exhibited before. The largest work in the show occupies an entire room; the piece is called St. Elmo's Light. As is true with many of Turrell's works, it both defies description and being captured photographically. Here is what the museum's own website has to say about it:
The first part of the exhibition will be an “Aperture Installation” entitled “St. Elmo’s Light,” constructed ex-novo in the Museum’s Lederer Gallery. This new installation belongs to a category Turrell calls “Space Division Works” and is the third in a series that began in 1992 to examine the quality of light. Viewers will experience an interplay of space, forms and tone in a carefully crafted projection of light. The projections work on visual perceptions and the sense of light as a real physical material. Turrell comments about his installations, “I love making spaces that change as your looking changes, it’s not quite as if something’s looking back at you, but it’s about something that has a presence equal to yours, because the light inhabiting that space has a ‘thingness’ of its own.”
The museum's director, Eric Neil, showed us around and commented on the works. In addition to the holograms and the aperture installation there were also numerous photographs, models and drawings of Turrell's most ambitious (and as yet uncompleted) work, Roden Crater in Arizona's Painted Desert.
The Chestnut Hill travelers you see in the photo in the slideshow are (left to right, back row): Mary Day Kent, Diane Dunning, Howard Lesnick, Ann Jones, Phil Jones; front row: Carla White, Iyanna White, Irene McHenry, Randy Granger and Patsy Conway.