You know how you look forward to an event, planning & preparing, only to have things fall flat?
Well, that is not what happened this weekend!
The carpets turned out well; not brand-new by any means, but definitely an improvement. Chris did a great job with his list- the walls were clean, the windows sparkling, & not a speck of dust to be found (at least not downstairs.) He even took the initiative & cleared off the shelves in the laundry room, hung a wreath on the front door, & recreated a votive log he saw in a catalog to put in the fireplace (which is more decorative than functional.)
Since everything was done, we all slept in Saturday morning, enjoyed a leisurely breakfast, & then drove into Livermore for the decorating party at Ravenswood. As we drove down Arroyo towards the house, we were treated to an amazing sight. In this part of town, the city of Livermore has flanked the road with conservancy lots, an acre deep & planted with olives, fruit trees, & in the area across from Ravenswood, grapevines which mirror our own heirloom vineyard. Imagine our surprise when we were greeted by this sight:
There had to have been at least 50 of these turkey vultures, each 3 foot tall with a wingspan of 6 feet, perched on the ends of every row & lining the fence between the vineyard & the bike/walking path. Everyone traveling down the road, either by vehicle or by foot, came to a stop at the spectacle & we saw several people return with their cameras.
We had about 10 people turn out to help & we completed the decorating within 2 hours, even with frequent breaks for tea, coffee, & carrot cake or apple crisp. I was told that the ornamentation was scaled way back from previous years, mostly because of the lack of hand-on volunteers to do the work; but I was pleased with the understated results, which didn’t compete with the artifacts in the house & the wonderful scaled miniatures of the Cottage, Main House, & the Pleasanton Hotel being showcased.
While we were finishing up, the president of the Ravenswood Progress League (aka RPL) & my tour-day partner, told us about a flock of wild turkeys that hang out at the Veterans’ Hospital just down the road from the house museum, so we decided to see if we could find them before driving back home. The property is quite extensive, almost park-like, with plenty of trees, trails, & ponds scattered around; sure enough, after only 10 minutes, we were greeted by several groups of toms & hens- most of whom are camera shy- & got a few shots before being driven off by some truly insufferable peacocks screaming just for the heck of it.
We were home by noon, had the potatoes & chutney prepared before 2:30, & even had time for a little snooze with the girls before it was time to do a last minute wipe down, set the table, & start the ribs on the grill. It began to sprinkle as the guests arrived, but our back porch is covered, so everyone milled around inside & out, enjoying cider & Curried Olive Dip, & chatting. I had chosen to honor Martinmas, or the Feast of St Martin, (who was the patron saint of the homeless, the destitute, & beggars) by asking everyone to bring some non-perishable food to be donated to Interfaith Ministry, which provides food, clothing, & shelter to people in need. After dinner (which turned out great), instead of playing games or watching movies like we have before, everyone gathered around the table to put together gift jars- layered soup mix or cookie mix in one-quart glass containers. I wasn’t certain how well this would go over, especially with the guys, but everyone seemed to have a great time, putting together 2 or 3 jars apiece, decorating them with circles of fabric & ribbon. We sat around chatting while we had coffee & dessert (cheesecake, which was awesome with the chutney on top) & called it a night around 9:30, the latest any of these evenings have lasted.
It stormed & blew all night, & Sunday dawned cloudy & cool. The guys headed off to church & I drove back over to Ravenswood for what I figured would be a day of sitting, since most people don’t come out in the rain. As I pulled into the property (the vultures were gone), the sun broke thru the clouds & I was treated to a sight that stirs my heart:
This place is my personal playground; I dress in my Victorian finery & wander around the grounds,
drinking in the silence, searching for hidden treasures in the herb & flower beds, & imagining myself as mistress of the manor. I only gave two tours that afternoon, but they were the kind I enjoy- just a couple of people, who are interested in what I have to say & ask lots of questions about the family history, the house & the grounds, & appreciate the work of preservation we are trying to do here. The rest of the day was spent here,
& enjoying the views spread in front of me.
It is a good life & I am blessed.