August 28, 2014

Woven In Time

Woven In Time
By John R. Greenwood

Click Here:
Window of the Dubois House on Huguenot Street, New Paltz 

my stories come to me

I go to them

they weave themselves into my day
and night
always forming something more grand
than the last

I carry them with me 

my stories come from 
other stories
other places
other beings

like antique baskets 
yet strong enough to 
support the past

each life entwined  
touches another
hand in hand
arm in arm
in towns
thru villages 
along a river's edge 

the time has come
to return there
to witness those 
who never left 

August 26, 2014

Dina Dubois: Found By Phone (Part Two)

Dina Dubois: Found By Phone (Part Two) 
By John R. Greenwood

Click here: The Dubois House on Huguenot Street 
 Google provided the number. Experience and a passion for story telling and writing provided the courage. It was a good thing I had taken a couple of extra days off this week because this story couldn’t wait. If you read my last post you will enjoy this one more. If you are new to the blog you may want to go there, then come back. Either way it’s an interesting package that continues to provide joy to the author. 

So, I find a Dina Dubois listing and phone number in Vermont. This must be the person I'm looking for. Dina was referenced in a book called The Hudson River by Jack Lewis. He self published the book in 1964. The story that mentions Dina was written in 1962. My hope was to find Dina and ask her if she recalled the meeting with Jack and see if she may have any related material on it. He mentions painting a picture of her wrapped in an sari. My thought was maybe, just maybe, she might have that painting? I was close but no cigar. 

Port holes as described on the sign
I mustered up the courage and dialed the phone. A male voice acknowledged I did indeed have the home of Dina Dubois. He was gracious and friendly. He said that Dina was out for a walk with friends and that if I could call back in about 45 minutes, he was sure Dina would like to speak to me. I had briefly explained the reason for my call and when I mentioned Huguenot Street and the Bevier-Elting house he assured me she would want me to call back. It was like a teaser on the nightly news, I was riveted to the phone. When I told my wife I had actually made contact she said the polite thing to do was give her at least an hour so as not to be a pest or intrusive. I complied but before the hour was up my phone rang and I recognized the number to be the one I had just dialed. I nervously fumbled with the handset. 

“Hello”, I said, loud with anticipation and little boy excitement. 

“Yes, is this John?”

“Yes, Dina Dubois?” 

“Yes, I’m Dina Dubois and my grandfather Jesse did live on Huguenot Street.” 

Bingo! The connection was complete. 

After politely correcting my mispronunciations of the names Dubois, Bevier, and Elting we took off on an hour long conversation that I’m sure could have continued into the wee hours of the morning had we not both been so tired and drained from the excitement of relaying both of our stories to each other. She was a delight to speak with and her interest in history and the stories that help keep it alive only made our phone time more special.

Dina was surprised by how I found her. She couldn't believe she'd never heard of Jack’s book and that he'd written about her specifically. As we talked more about the time frame and the one paragraph in the book that spoke of a woman from New Paltz College arriving to instruct others on painting she became silent. You could sense that she was rewinding a fifty year movie in her head. I was reading the passage to her over the phone and when I got to the part where Jack describes the instructor from India wrapping Dina in, “yards and yards of the loveliest of colored cloths.”, she uttered an “Oh my.” She went on say that she was certain she had a picture from around that time period that shows her wrapped in an Indian sari--a colorful one. She said she was tempted to start looking for it right then and there because she was so taken by the passage. She also recalled attempting a couple of paintings using a palette knife at the time. She couldn’t recall if those paintings of hers still existed but she wasn’t counting out the possibility. After reading the text and hearing her describe her extroverted father being there, we came to the conclusion that maybe he mentioned his daughter's paintings and asked Jack if he might take a look at her work. It’s pure speculation but when you put all the pieces together that scenario seemed to make perfect sense. She admitted that she was consumed with many things at the time and probably didn’t pay much attention to the visiting watercolor artist. 

Dina was quite curious about the book. She wondered how I discovered it and what connection I had to the Hudson River. She was surprised she had never heard of Jack Lewis. I explained that Jack Lewis was from Delaware and that he had done a similar book on the Delaware River. Eleanor Roosevelt was so impressed by his book of that river that she invited him to their home. It was there that she asked him to do a similar book on the Hudson. When a former First Lady asks you to compile a book of writing and painting about ‘her river’ you don’t ask questions, you simply say, “Why of course.” and so he did. I told her the story about me finding the book in the Lyrical Ballad Bookstore, a used book store in Saratoga Springs. I told her how I walked in the door and it was the first book I pulled from a stuffed shelf full of musty gold. The book changed my life in some ways I told her. It has given me a path to follow. 

I told her that I learned to swim and fish in the Hudson. My friends and I would camp along it’s banks in damp sleeping bags under the stars. We’d free float the waters above Luzerne with no boat or tubes, just a half dozen teenagers clad in cut-off Levis, heads bobbing in the water, free-spirits drifting down the Hudson. That’s why I fell in love with Jack’s book, his stories and his paintings. 

When Dina and I were done reminiscing and comparing notes we exchanged contact information. She provided a couple artist’s names she thought might like to learn more about Jack’s book and his work. I can’t wait to meet her in person so I can thank her face to face for responding to my phone call. 

Today, I found Dina Dubois, and we both found so much 

Here is an added surprise for Dina. I did not notice this before but as I was finishing up this piece I opened Jack's book and looked at the Acknowledgements in the back. There I found one more thank you, one more piece to a fifty year old puzzle. 

August 25, 2014

The Bevier-Elting House or Finding Dina Dubois

The Bevier-Elting House or Finding Dina Dubois
By John R. Greenwood

New Paltz, New York 
I’ve found myself entwined in another curious Jack Lewis, Hudson River connection. 

My job is in transportation. I work in the Hauling Department of a local convenience store chain with locations throughout New York State. Many of them can be found in the small cities, towns, and villages along both sides of the Hudson River, from Lake Placid, which is within a few miles of the source of the Hudson, to Newburgh just a few miles north of it’s final destination New York City. Since my initial discovery of Jack Lewis’ “The Hudson River”, I have found and documented many of the same places Jack included in his 1960’s journeys. Some of them are actually visible from the parking lot of places I’ve delivered to hundreds of times. 

On August 22, 2014 I visited Historic Huguenot Street in New Paltz, New York. Twelve Huguenot families settled here in the late 1600’s. By the 1700’s many of them had built stone homes. Many of those homes remain today. They are well maintained and beautiful to behold. Although these homes are along the Wallkill River and not the Hudson, they were of special interest to Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt. Franklin’s childhood home, Springwood Estate in Hyde Park, is just a few miles south on the banks of the Hudson. Since Eleanor Roosevelt is responsible for asking Jack Lewis to do his Hudson River book of paintings documenting places along the Hudson, I’m certain she felt it was important to include some references to the stone homes on Huguenot Street. It’s well documented that the Roosevelt’s had a special love for the stone homes in the area. 

On this day I planned to ride with one of my drivers on his route in the New Paltz area. When researching the location of Huguenot Street I “Googled” it. It was then that I realized that Historic Huguenot Street is only a block away from the New Paltz location where we would be making a delivery. I made sure I had my Jack Lewis book and my camera tucked away in my day pack. I met my driver at the Distribution Plant at 3:30am. The only thing left was to pray for the rain to stop and for the sun to come up early enough for me to catch a glimpse of one of the historic homes Jack painted in his book. 

When we exited the NYS Thruway at New Paltz the rain had stopped and it was beginning to get light out. I’d been on this route dozens if not hundreds of times. This store was actually on my route back in the 90’s when I was still driving and making deliveries but today had a special feel to it. 

I was like a little kid about to pull into the parking lot at Disney. It’s funny how something as simple as finding places another man painted fifty years ago could give you such an adrenaline rush. As we turned onto Route #32 I saw a sign I had passed one hundred times before and never noticed. Historical Huguenot Street was within my grasp. I asked my driver Pete to pull over to the side of now quiet Route #32.  I jumped out before he realized what I was doing. I yelled back to him, “I’ll meet you at the store!” I was grinning from ear to ear. 

My legs and joints were as stiff as a dry board from our two and a half hour ride, I hobbled down the street like an injured Harrison Ford with the Lost Ark in view. In less than 100 yards all I could see was historical markers and stone houses--some dating back to the late 1600’s. In the morning light I’d found my Holy Grail for the day. The Bevier-Elting House stood there with open arms welcoming me and my camera. She stood there strong and proud, in all her grace, staring back at me as if to say,”Where have you been? I’ve been waiting for you!”

I was so excited that when I tried to pull Jack’s book out of my pack, I dropped my camera and it bounced across the pavement. I wanted the book out so I could compare the 1962 painting to the 2014 version that I was looking at. When the camera skidded to a stop, my heart did the same. If my camera had broken at that moment I may never have been heard from again. I lifted her gently, said a Hail Mary, and checked her vital signs. She's a tough little SONY. I patted her scratchy viewfinder and began clicking away.  I was in writer-photographer-historian-artist-heaven for awhile. The street was eerily silent, I was screaming for joy.

In this post I included various shots I took that morning comparing the book’s black and white photographs of Jack’s watercolor paintings done in 1962 to the photographs I was taking at 6:30 in the morning in 2014. 

I would tell you that discovering Huguenot Street and the Bevier-Elting House made my day but that would be lying. As if finding another connection to Jack’s Hudson River book wasn’t enough I later found yet one more that has me ready to set out on another story-mining expedition. In Jack’s book he speaks of a young girl whose painting he’s asked to critique. 
Here is an excerpt from the book where he describes the meeting:

"The Hudson River" - Jack Lewis 

I said to myself,”What are the odds of finding Dina Dubois, that young women from 1962?” It seemed reasonable. Google, now being man’s second best friend might provide some assistance. I sat down at computer, took a shovel full of dirt, tossed it over my shoulder, and began digging once again. Look out Dina Dubois where ever you are! 

 "The Hudson River" - Jack Lewis
One day later, the male voice on the phone responded to my question, “Is there a Dina Dubois who lives at this number who might have a connection to Huguenot Street?” 
The man said, “Why yes there is, but she’s out for a walk with friends right now.” 

He said, “She loves talking about her history with Huguenot Street so if you could call back in about forty-five minutes I’m sure she would enjoying speaking with you.”

As an old timer once said to me, “Wouldn’t that dunk yer hat in the creek!”

Did you ever notice how time drags when Dina’s out for a walk.

Tick tock

Tick tock

Tick tock

To be continued...