I know, I know...they come callin’ every year when the leaves begin to turn and there’s frost on the pumpkin. Mice. With apologies to Santa, autumn is (IMHO) “the most wonderful time of the year” and I spent the last week attending events throughout the Upper Delaware Valley, basking in the explosion of fall foliage that helps define life in the Catskills and the incredible bounty that Mother Nature provides.
Since I’m still unpacking (nesting comes next), I decided to schlep a box in from the barn before heading out to the Chapin Lake Club (www.chapinestate.com ) and the fundraising dinner benefiting the Sullivan County Federation for the Homeless (firstname.lastname@example.org ). “Wonder what’s inside?,” I whispered to the dog as she sniffed the cardboard and wagged in anticipation, hoping to unearth some of her still missing toys. “Surprise!” I cried and opened the flaps.
The first surprise was an alarmed mouse running up my arm, onto my shoulder and leaping to the floor. Shrieking (in typical manly fashion), I jumped up just in time to observe what appeared to be a living fountain of mice pouring out of the box, spilling onto the floor and scurrying (as only mice can do) under the fridge, under the couch and yes (oh, the horror!) under the bed, as Dharma raced to and fro, thrilled to have playmates in the house. Heart pounding (hey, there were at least a dozen) and clock ticking, I considered my options. I was determined to meet my commitment and attend the “silent auction and simple meal in a handcrafted bowl” that the fundraiser promised, which had been dubbed “Under the Harvest Moon” and was planned in conjunction with the Empty Bowl Project (www.emptybowls.net ).
My Internet research had revealed that “Empty Bowls is an international grassroots effort to fight hunger and was created by the Imagine Render Group.” The basic premise is simple: potters, craftspeople, educators and others work with the community to create handcrafted bowls. Guests are invited to a simple meal of soup and bread. In exchange for a cash donation, guests are asked to keep a bowl as a reminder of all the empty bowls in the world. The money raised is donated to an organization working to end hunger and food insecurity.
Clearly more important than a mouse in the house (and grateful that I have food in my pantry), I shook it off (literally) and headed out with the pup. Upon arriving, departing Federation director Stacey Bresky said a few words along with event coordinators Danielle Gaebel and Kathy Kreiter, who thanked the many participating local artists for their beautiful bowls and explained that the organization has lost all of its state funding. Statistics dictate the tremendous need for donations and support within the private sector. More than 8,000 dollars was raised and neighbors (once again) gathered to assist those in need.
Slightly creeped out by the image of an endless parade of mice scampering about while the cat (I mean dog) was away, I headed toward Livingston Manor (under the aforementioned harvest moon) and the Catskill Art Society’s (www.catskillartsociety.org ) 40th anniversary celebration and fundraising dinner party. The CAS provides great opportunities for artistic expression, supported by active community involvement, and I took part in a tour of the proposed new upper-floor space before a few speakers and director Ann Manby shared some thoughts. This was followed by ceramic artist Cecily Fortescue’s proclamation that “you’ve come a long way, baby!” while enthusing about the gallery, its supporters and the ongoing desire to include the community in the next stage of growth.
“CAS will become what you want it to be,” she said, “and we want this region to be a place where people want to stay—not one that they want to leave,” she concluded, before dinner was served and I headed home with my dinner date. It was a pleasure to check out the CAS website the next day and read that “It was a full house, more than 100 CAS members and supporters were here, and we hope that you enjoyed the presentations, dinner, wine and music!” and further, “We were glad to share some of the progress we’ve made since purchasing the Arts Center building in October, 2011”... but I digress.
I stomped into the house, flicked on the lights and watched them scatter while my pal nonchalantly snapped a pic of the tiny footprints left in the bowl of bacon fat that I’d stupidly left out on the counter. To be candid, the dog snagged a few mice and I admired her tenacity, skills and bravura, while apologizing to the critters and tossing them back into the field, where they belong. I prepared a few “snacks” for my new roommates and turned in, mildly disturbed by the scratching and squeaking that filled the night air. Making a mental note to check the contents of future incoming boxes, I informed the Icky Mouse Club that I’d do my best to spare their lives in the future. Why? Because we like you. “Live and let live” I promised, but please, not in the house.