An Unexpected Visit to a Heavenly Resting Place - Oakwood Cemetery

Sunday, October 27, 2019

Just when we think we've seen it all, we find out we haven't.  Certainly no one really believes they've seen it all in the literal sense, and realistically speaking, life isn't long enough for anyone to really see all there is to see.  Once in a while though we are lucky enough to happen upon something in life that we never thought we wanted to see but once we saw it, we immediately felt grateful we did.  That is what happened to us yesterday when we paid an unplanned visit to the Oakwood Cemetery in Troy, NY.

Founded in 1848, Oakwood Cemetery  (a nonsectarian cemetery) was designed by Philadelphia engineer, John C. Sidney with the help of Garnett Douglass Baltimore, the first African American to earn a degree from RPI.    The 352 acre property is long and thin, running north and south along Oakwood Avenue in Lansingburgh.  Although Sidney was the engineer, it was John Boetchner who gave Oakwood its charm.  Boetchner incorporated rare and foreign plants to fill the rolling hills and flowing lawns making it look more like a beautiful park than a cemetery.  The cemetery features four man-made lakes, two residential structures, a chapel, a crematorium, 24 mausoleums, about 60,000 graves and about 29 miles of winding roads throughout the cemetery.  I was shocked to learn that last fact, but then again, we spent nearly two hours exploring the cemetery.  We would have stayed much longer had the sun not set.  The cemetery offers a famous panoramic view of the Hudson River Valley that is said to be the "most concentrated and complete overview of American history anywhere in America" (Wikipedia)

While Oakwood is the resting place for a number of notable people, perhaps the most well known is Uncle Sam, Samuel Wilson.  Other notables include educators Amos Eaton and Emma Willard, financiers and business leaders George M. Phelps and Russell Sage, community founders Abraham Lansing and Jacob Vanderheyden, and civil war heroes Rice C. Bull, Joseph Bradford Carr, William H. Freeman, George H. Thomas, and John Ellis Wool.  Fourteen members of the House of Representatives are also buried herhe.  While all those distinguished people certainly make Oakwood impressive, what I loved about it was the elaborately sculpted and carved exquisite for the time.  Unlike other cemeteries of the time where stones are normally very thin and simple, so many of the gravestones here were massive, thick and ornate.  Many towering, reaching to the sky, some holding intricate human forms with expressive faces.  Oakwood Cemetery is the 'museum' of resting places, at least in upstate New York.  It was Oakwood was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1984.

The cemetery on its own is probably beautiful at any season, but it was particularly breathtaking yesterday with the blazing foliage.  The mature trees, setting sun, hawks hovering above, even a lone deer pausing upon our approach all made for something out of a beautifully penned novel.  I'm not sure I could imagine a setting more peaceful.  It's no surprise we saw a large number of folks walking their dogs.  One car came through with it's passenger window open and a hound-type dog riding shotgun, head out the window, howling the entire visit....for a good 15 minutes.  I couldn't help but wonder why, perhaps he knows someone laid to rest here?  If only dogs could talk!

The only thing that could compete with the scenery may have been the mausoleums scattered throughout.  I admit I'm no cemetery expert, but Oakwood Cemetery is definitely the most beautiful I've ever seen.

The largest structure on the property is the Gardner Earl Chapel and Crematorium. The chapel's namesake, Gardner Earl, was the son of a wealthy Troy shirt collar maker, William S. Earl.  Gardner learned about cremation when he visited Europe and left a bequest to be cremated upon his death.  Sadly Gardner died young and because cremation was not yet popular in the U.S., his parents took his body to Buffalo to be cremated.  When they returned, they hired Albert Fuller, a well known Albany architect and "asked him to make the building the most modern, artistically beautiful and enduringly strong crematory in the world."  He succeeded and hopefully I can dedicate another post to just the chapel.

Beautiful, right? I'm both thrilled and ashamed to say this is only a fraction of the photos I took. I will be posting a complete collection of them on Facebook in a day or so.  I apologize for the seemingly endless scrolling this photo-packed post caused.  I hope in the end you found it worthwhile.  Neither John nor I are 'cemetery' people.  In fact, I'm pretty sure I don't want to be taking up space someplace for all of eternity and the idea of cremation seems even more appealing after visiting Oakwood Cemetery.  I might be making an appointment for a tour of the crematorium soon to check it out.  Regardless of how you feel about where your remains will be after you've passed, you've got to admit Oakwood is a beautiful place.  Thanks for coming along for another adventure at Life As I See It.  You never know where the road will lead, but you know for sure I'll have photos to document where we've been.  Have a great week.  I'll leave you with this quote:
 "Every man should keep a fair-sized cemetery in which to keep the faults of his friends." 
- Henry Ward Beecher

Hanging On or Hung Up? You Are Not Alone!

Tuesday, October 22, 2019

On a recent drive through Grafton Lakes State Park a couple weeks ago, I couldn't help but notice something.  All along the winter entrance road, through the woods, my eye kept spotting leaves detoured from completing their autumn descent.  Some, like the one above, got stuck in protruding branches of trees, others even in more precarious positions hanging from cobwebs.

As I spotted and photographed more and more of them, my mind (always thinking in analogies) began to compare these suspended leaves to people, specifically people in crisis.  At times in life we all find ourselves in a position of 'hanging on'.....days when our fears, our pain, our circumstances seem so overwhelming, so hopeless that we are barely hanging on...sometimes by what seems like a thread. 

Other times, we need propping up.  We need help.  We need the support of our loved ones, our family,  friends, maybe our clergy, our medical team.  Or perhaps they step in to help shoulder the burden, keeping us from falling into total despair.  They're there to cushion the blow and ease our fall.

Then there are other times when we aren't falling, we aren't desperate, but we get caught up in other people's drama.  I don't mean when we're being their support, I mean when we allow ourselves to get caught up in things that don't concern us, things we can't fix or control, situations brought on by someone else's bad habits or repeated mistakes.  We get sucked in, feeling the urge to help and soon we're frustrated and overwhelmed over a situation that is not our problem.  We're 'hung up' and we can't break free, even when we recognize we are in a toxic situation.

Whether we're hanging on by a thread or hung up, these leaves in their suspended descent,  remind me that we need each other.  We can't do this thing called 'life' alone.  We need to know when to reach out for a hand, a shoulder, an ear.   Like these fragile leaves, caught in precarious webs, life is fragile.  Too often we resist help when it's offered.  Too often we resist the outstretched hand.  Too often we find ourselves dangerously hanging by a thread fearing the one word that will be the final, deadly breeze that nudges us over the edge.
Just as we need to realize when we need help, we need to learn to recognize when our 'help' may not be helping others.  Sometimes our help does more harm to us than it does good.  Let's face it, some people actually thrive in chaos and crisis.  We need to learn to recognize when we are tangled in someone else's chaos and find our way free.   Co-dependent people spend their lives helping others, only what feels like 'help' to them usually isn't helping at all.  It's actually unhealthy and we all know you can't help someone who doesn't want help.

What I hear each week at church, and what I believe and was reminded of as I photographed these leaves in their various states of suspension is that when we are hanging by a thread, our sanity, our health hanging in the balance, or when we're stuck in a predicament we can't break free of, God is our support.  He is the thread that is preventing us from falling.  He is the obstacle that keeps us from crashing.  He is our soft place to land.  We are held in the palm of His hand.  When I look at this leaf, having landed on this soft moss, that is what I picture comes to being held in the palm of God's hand, safe from harm.
I hope that the next time you are hanging by a thread, stuck in a crisis or circumstances you can't break free of, feeling like your life is spiraling out of control, that you remember you are not alone.  Reach out.  Ask for help.  And know that you are held in the palm of His hand.

Marchaland Farms - Generations of Easton Family Tradition

Friday, October 18, 2019
work in acres, not hours. 
 They don't just work till the sun goes down, they work till the job gets done.

I got to see firsthand the truth to that statement this past weekend when we had the opportunity to tour Marchaland Farms in Easton, NY.  It may have been our first 'official' visit to the farm, but I've been photographing it for a few years as we traveled past it on Burton Road.  In July, Sue Marchaland, one of my devoted Easton followers, emailed me offering a tour of the farm.  Sue thought some of the views from the pastures might be 'picture worthy'.  Always excited about the prospect of new views, we enthusiastically accepted the offer and when Sue contacted me this past weekend to arrange the tour, we jumped at the opportunity.  I had no idea what adventure Sue's husband, Lou, had in store for us!
Marchaland Farms was founded in 1934 by Lou's grandfather, Louis Marchaland.  The farm began as a dairy farm and operated as such for three generations until 2012 when it transitioned to raising beef.  The farm is now in it's third, fourth and fifth generation.  As a young man, Lou would come to the farm before and after school with his brother to work on the farm.  When I asked him if he knew growing up that he wanted to be a farmer, he quickly explained that farming was really hard work.  in order too avoid that, Lou joined the Marines.  After the Marines and some civilian jobs, Lou came 'home' and back to the farm to help his brother, Dan, who is now running the family business along with a nephew and a very longtime hired hand.  

The farm is home to about 140 Black Angus brood cows and 2 Holsteins.  The Holsteins are great surrogate moms for the calves when Angus moms are lacking that motherly instinct. The Holstein takes over and nurses and nurtures the babies as her own.  Calves weigh between 35-55 lbs when born and eventually grow to around 1600 lbs.  Cows are butchered between 16 and 18 months of age, depending on weight and size.  In order to produce high quality beef, the cows are raised on grass and finished with GMO-free corn silage and haylage that is grown on the farm.  Speaking of the farm...originally the farm consisted of 160-180 acres. It now consists of over 1000 acres between what they own themselves and land they rent from neighbors.   With all that land, it is fortunate that modern technology and equipment can help with the workload.

Replacing silos today are these long sleeves for holding silage.  Lou explained how silage is loaded into the expanding sleeve and how it is later removed in portions and resealed again for storage.  
During our three-hour long tour, Lou educated us on practical details about cows, feed, breeding, hay, and the economy of farming.  John feverishly took notes but me...well I listened and photographed as I sighed over the breathtaking views from Dan's pastures. Sue was correct.  Every view was picture worthy and breathtaking.  Our mode of transportation for the afternoon was a big golf cart-type vehicle (the formal name escapes me) which not only mastered the terrain we traveled, but added a bit of amusement park thrill to our commute.  And this commute was unlike any we'd ever experienced with views surpassing any I could have imagined.

After our lesson on silage, Lou headed up the hill behind the farm with our first stop in the pasture amidst the cows.  If you aren't familiar with cattle, or if you haven't had the pleasure of meeting them (many of them) up close and in person, let me tell you they are curious and least the Marchaland cattle anyway.  Within seconds of Lou stopping our chariot, we were surrounded by black and sometimes red, wide-eyed, shiny nosed cows, large and small sniffing, licking and hoping we'd stopped for something more exciting than conversation.  I wish there was a way to insert video into this post because the serenade we got was loud and enthusiastic.  Even when Lou turned the engine back on, no one budged.  These beautiful cows were obviously used to machinery and not afraid of humans.  Their size and number may have something to do with it.  Lou did explain that despite how close they were, catching a calf over a day old is nearly impossible, explaining why it's important to tag and care for babies soon after birth.  

Here is Marchaland Farm from our view atop the mountain.  While the view was no doubt enhanced by the peak foliage, I cannot imagine it being any less awe inspiring at any season.  We could see for miles and miles and though I've referred to Easton as God's country many times, on this day atop the mountain, I swear I had a glimpse into the window of heaven.  All that was missing was a reunion with loved ones.

We traveled over the hills and down the road to one of the farms the Marchaland's rent land from.  Again we climbed the terrain (well, not we, just our limousine) and soon we were once again on the edge of heaven overlooking miles and miles of God's green earth in Washington County and beyond.  As the afternoon progressed, Lou made his way over the hills and past ponds, down worn paths we'd only seen in passing, from pasture to pasture giving us a glimpse of where the cows spend their grazing time.  If beautiful surroundings made for delicious beef, these cows would provide the best on earth.  These are some lucky cows!  

I didn't get to meet Dan Marchaland that day but after touring his farm, I feel I know a little about him, and his family.  One might imagine that sharing a family business with a stranger, even a little photographer/blogger like me, might have something to do with pride, but it was abundantly clear that what this farm is about is not just pride in having a successful business.  It's about heart and it's about the love of family and the dedication and hard work that goes into keeping a family business alive and successful generation after generation, even through hardships.  It's about a family that knows the value and rewards of hard work and the determination and drive to carry on what started before you.  It's about the accumulation of knowledge and expertise, and the application of years of experience.  It's about elbow grease and sweat, long days and short nights.  It's about commitment and it's about family.  And that is what pride is about on Marchaland Farm....pride in their family business and maybe a little in their spectacular views.

I fell in love with Easton for the first time in 2017 and I've been falling in love with the people who live there ever since.  There's something genuine and welcoming about the folks in Easton, people who love their land and appreciate when others love it too.  The Marchalands are no exception.  We are blessed to be able to meet and hear the stories of so many folks in Washington County who have reached out when I've shared photos on Facebook.  I guess it's rural hospitality and I'm so grateful to be on the receiving end of it so often.  Thank you Dan for opening your family farm to us and thank you Lou for sharing your afternoon and extensive knowledge and passion about farming.  

For more information about Marchaland Farms All Natural Meats, you can follow them on Facebook at: or at their website:

Thanks for stopping by Life As I See It.  Come back soon to see where life takes us.  To see more of beautiful Easton, check out my blog Directory under the category, Destinations-New York.


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