New writing, old church

Today is another delicious writer's marathon, the COTA readings at the Walloon Church in New Paltz. Twenty minute meals of poets and fiction writers and writers of other ilks, boom boom boom, part of a whole art-filled day: dance, installations, sculpture, music. I'm reading at 1:40, one of the eager jets taking off from this literary runway.  Planning on reading Galletas, just because I hardly ever do, and it does that 20 minute thing with room to spare — possibly for a scene from the new book. Always look forward, someone once told me. And keep it neat.

What really gets me going is reading in this old church, on this very very old street, I mean back to the 1680s kind of street. Old French Huguenot and Dutch gravestones tilt and hunker and shrug at each other in the graveyard right outside. New Paltz was founded by the French Huguenots, and Huguenot Street has some kind of honor as the oldest continuously settled neighborhood in the country. That's hundreds and hundreds of years of tricycles, bread, money, old cabbage leaves, cars and horses and worn down boots, winters, falls, rain, heat.

Graveyard, Walloon Church, New Paltz
Ulster county has lots of traces of old Dutch around. The buffet at Eng's Chinese Restaurant in Kingston is called the Smorgasbord, and everyone, including three year old tow headed boys, knows how to say it. The Pine Hill Bakery has Dutch shoes decorating the corners, and one nailed to a tree, higher up than anyone could reach. The old French culture, les Walloons, the protestants — is right here too, but often overlooked. But New Paltz is named for a village in Germany that sheltered the Huguenots. It's not Dutch. The name DuBois, not the Blanche kind but the Louis kind — traces right back to one of the first French families. New Rochelle, down south a good ways, is Huguenot. Staten Island's south shore. History is a 9,000 layer cake, baked during endless arguments, conflicts, migrations — so often about the divine. Divine providence as persecution, as run away and settle, as make a deal with the Esopus and build a hut, build another. Hate to ship to water to shore and logs to stones to arts festivals. My mother hated organized religion, bless her atheist modernist soul. But without it, we wouldn't necessarily be here.

1 comment:

alexkeller said...

my mother loves organized religion, and i could never sit still at church. still can't. but i go sometimes, because even though i'm not totally convinced, i love the ceremony, the tradition, the art, and the peacefulness.
received your book in the mail yesterday :)