Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Our Trip to Palmyra

Early morning mist. August 21st 2009. Art and I took off for Palmyra, New York. Art's happy because he flipped an apple and won driving duty. The main event of the trip was performing temple ordinances for some very dear family members. The Palmyra temple is so small you have to make an appointment. But it is doubly sweet to attend a temple so close to a significant landmark in the history of man's relationship with God. We arrived at night, and the first thing we did was visit temple grounds. The windows of the Palmyra temple are made with stained glass in a "grove-like" motif.  This view was, in itself, worth the eight hours of travel. The cicadas were clicking in the stiffling hot night. It is an eerie sound to those of us who have not grown up hearing it.  The next day was our temple appointment. Temperature in the 90s, yet we still donned our nylons and wool suit.  This was a lovely couple from Montreal. The parking lot was filled. Most license plates from New York, but a good many from the northeast. The dressing rooms were crammed with people. Of course, this location is the site where many events in the life of Joseph Smith happened, and it was such a humbling experience to walk where he walked, ponder where he pondered. To think of historic events in the very location where they happened.  This photo was taken just a few hundred yards away from where this event happened. We were on the old Smith Farm in Palmyra/Manchester. 100 acres of soil where, "You could put in a plow and not bring up a rock." The Smith's logged out thirty acres the first year! This is a reconstructed log cabin built on the actual foundation of the one the Smith family built the year of their arrival in Palmyra. This window to the upstairs loft area would have been like the one from which Joseph, Hyrum, Samuel, Alvin, William and Don Carlos greeted the new day.  And it was from this log cabin that Joseph would have walked when he determined to pray in the nearby woods early one spring morning. This is the actual frame house Alvin began constructing before he died, and in which the Smith family was living when Martin Harris reported that he had lost the 116 pages of manuscript. This is the actual hearth neath which the plates were at one time hastily buried to protect them from being stolen by bad guys. This is the room in which so many hours of sharing took place. Lucy Mack Smith wrote, "I presume our family presented an aspect as singular as any that ever lived upon the earth - all seated in a circle, father, mother, sons and daughters, and giving the the most profound attention to a boy, eighteen years of age, who had never read the Bible through in his life...." This is the window through which Joseph watched Martin Harris pace in agony, after having lost the manuscript pages which he had written at Joseph's dictation. "Have you lost those pages, Martin?" These are beehives in the old hollow log style. I didn't see any bees flying in or out. Deseret is hurting this year.
We walked together through the pastureland that lead to the timber stand on the west of the homestead. It was a beautiful, sunny day. 
There were lovely places to sit and contemplate in the cool glade.
The thoughts of awe and gratitude are almost overwhelming. There are trees in the grove that were alive at the time of the 1820 event. They are called "Witness Trees." They are not marked, because experience has shown that people try to take home a piece, or even carve their initials, as has been done here. But if you look with a careful eye, you can pick them out. 
The tale this tree could tell.
Or this one...
And the canopy is breath-taking. We heard sounds I'm sure Joseph never heard; the distant hum of traffic on I-90; the sound of car doors shutting in the parkinglot, the sound of a plane flying overhead.... but for a few brief moments Art and I were alone in the grove.
Arthur and Heather Makechnie - 2009 and Eternity.
"Since these miraculous interviews occupied most of the entire night, it is no wonder that Joseph became faint while attempting to cross a fence the next day......" 
Eggbert B. Grandin, privileged to publish the Book of Mormon. The recreated type-setting station in the actual publishing house in downtown Palmyra, where the first 5000 copies of the book of Mormon were printed. Here is where the signature pages hung to dry. Here is the counter where Grandin's other publications were sold. These are the actual floor-boards where Grandin and Joseph Smith and Hyrum and Martin and Oliver and Samuel stepped, as they transacted the business of getting the book published. In the E. B. Grandin building is a recreation of the setting in Harmony, Pennsylvania, to which Joseph fled to be away from the mobs which daily attempted to a take the plates from him. Here is depicted the scene where Emma, and then Martin Harris, and then finally Oliver Cowdery wrote the words which flowed from Joseph's mouth, as he dictated the translation shown him by the Urim and Thummim. In the E. B. Grandin building was some amazing original artwork.  This is the actual oil painting.... And this...... And astonishingly, this. What is more astonishing is that we were allowed to photograph these gems. And here, under laser alarm system, was one of two copies of the original printing of the Book of Mormon which are housed in the E. B. Grandin building where they were published. There are also two original copies housed in the Visitor Center at the Hill Cumorrah. "Each one was worth two day's pay," at the time. Now they are worth millions. But even the simplest paperback copy given to a newly baptized Primary child is worth incalculably more than that when Eternity is considered.  Here is an upstate New York "potato stone" house, built on the site of the Martin Harris farm. Like the Apostle Peter, who had a "fisherman's mouth", and was so, so human, Martin Harris will always remain, for me, a hero of human proportions. He was, indeed, so human. And yet he is one of the Three Witnesses, and like the other two, went to his grave attesting to the reality of what he saw, heard, smelled, felt and experienced. He went through different stages in his human journey. He lived through many heart-breaking scenes. He made courageous decisions that caused him much hardship.  He was in and out of fellowship with the church. But he never, never, never denied his testimony.  And here are our travelers standing in front of the Erie Canal. At the Muddy Waters Cafe in Palmyra. We met this couple, the Hubners, at the cafe. They are Rochester residents, just in Palmyra for the day. LDS members. Just to show how small the world is, they are very good friends of the Menders. Here is the menu board of the Muddy Waters cafe. It is based on old Erie Canal language. We ate the "hoodledasher" which refers to when the empty barges were all hooked together like a train and brought back to the original port. We will have to back again sometime to taste the "bowsman," "corkorum," "packet," "fardowner," "rudder," aqueduct," and "trism." Missy was with us for the trip. There has never been a more patient dog. She is a great traveler. This is the sign that greets modern day arrivals at the Palmyra dock on the Erie, which is still a very viable and active waterway. When we went to the Hill Cumorrah it was in the upper 90s. "No!" I answered Art when he asked me if I wanted to climb the hill with him. So he set off on his own and soon waved to me from the top of the drumlin. He is 72 years old. Please notice that he is wearing one of his kitchen shirts.... his uniform of choice. 
I was pleased to see Moroni waving to me, as well. 
Actually, there is a motorway going up the back of the hill, and we drove to the top. This is the base relief on the monument.  This is my exercize of choice. We stayed at the Palmyra Inn, right on the borders of the Church property. It was clean, quiet, and reasonably priced. I will not be the spokesperson for the "continental breakfast," as it leaves much to be desired, along with a sour stomach. If you do stay in Palmyra, be sure to visit one of the local restaurants for breakfast. The lobby was nice. The hotel is owned by "some investors from Salt Lake." I guess one of the more interesting aspects of the hotel is that the investors have dedicated one of the rooms to be a museum of sorts. There are some archeologists and researchers in the Church who believe that North America is the setting for book of Mormon events. They have written much, and their books and DVD lectures are on sale in the little store in the lobby. this particular poster shows that the "4th DNA haplogroup found in Native Americans is only found in two places in the world (or one particular clade of haplogroup X) and that is in the area of the Hopewell/Adena culture of North America, and in the Druze population of the MiddleEast." There have been Hopewell artifacts found that have Hebrew inscriptions. Remains of Hopewell temple mounds and fortified cities number in the thousands.  Great efforts have been made to show that the narrow neck of land in the Niagra Falls area comports exquisitely with the narrow neck of land in the Book of Mormon. There are some really cool artifacts on display in the room, many of them are not replicas, but we are not shown which, nor are they labeled, and many of them have been deemed to be fraudulent by other eminent scholars.  The DVDs and books,, however, are very detailed and enthusiastic, and I might say, convincing. This is amongst the most controversial of the books. Well, after reading all that research, Art and I decided to do some research of our own. There are two ice cream places in Palmyra, on opposite sides of the main street. Brad's and Dad's is famous for their homemade ice cream. Here Art tries the cookies 'n cream.  Across the street on the other hand, the Chill and Grill is famous for the size of the cone. We were the only customers at Brad and Dad's. But here at the Chill and Grill it was mobbed; very telling. 
The size of the ice cream was obscene. The size of many of the patrons was also obscene. We got a dish of Heavenly Hash that had to have been at least a pint. The fact that Art ate most of both dishes was also obscene. I think Art enjoyed the Heavenly Hash the most. It cannot be denied that Art loves a good deal. That is what made our visit to the Reebok outlet in Manchester, New York, such a treat for Art. He really loves his Reeboks. But he really loves paying an outlet price for his Reeboks even more. And he was positively floating when he learned that this particular outlet was being closed, and everything in the store was an additonal 50% off.  We were on the look-out for a farm stand to buy our first corn of the season. We were blessed to find this one in Clyde, New York. We have been spoiled for corn for the rest of our lives. No corn could ever be as good as this was. We ended up going back and buying another dozen to take home. As we shucked the corn and then drove down the highway gnawing the raw cobs, juice flowed like eating a ripe peach. We were drenched in sweet juice bursting from the perfect kernals. Heavenly, heavenly, heavenly. Along the way we sampled the goods at a number of fast food restaurants, too. Here Art continues his quest to master the skills involved in maximizing the utility of a cell phone. "So, okay, tell me again. Which button do I press to get my voice messages?" Everywhere we looked there were sunflowers, and Malvacea. At Seneca falls, New York, we stopped to get out of Hurricane Bill's ferocity. We visited the National Historical Park where the Women's Suffrage movement began. These bronze castings are 5% smaller than when they were sculpted, because they shrink when they cool. But they were still taller than I am. Frederic douglas (second from left) was 6' 4". Art is not. One of the graces of our trip was meeting Grant Swaardos in the rest stop near Oneida. He had just finished cooking for a summer at a Jewish camp in Maine where he served about 500. During the summer the camp experienced an epidemic of swine flu (or H1N1). 85 people were sick, no fatalities. He was on his way to set up housekeeping in Buffalo.  We also met up with another of Art's old friends. They exchanged pleasantries.  Serendipitously, we got off-track near Herkimer, New York, and wound up stopping at this famous landmark. It was open, but abandoned, and we had free access. It was amazing to stand in the presence of all those generations of history. but I kept looking around nervously for Mohawks. Right across the road was the location of Van Rennselear's Camp.
We slipped into Syracuse on our way. We hadn't been there since 1971, when Art was doing research for his doctorate. While there we lived at 751 Allen Street in an upstairs apartment. We actually found it after a bit of trouble. It was so SMALL. In memory it had achieved gargantuan size. We got brave and knocked on the door. It was a total stranger who answered, but when we explained our quest she invited us in, and we had the loveliest time speaking with her. THEN she led us upstairs to see the apartment. Oh the memories. 

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