Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Kites at Gunston Hall

Saturday was a beautiful bright sunny day and a perfect day for flying kites. Gunston Hall was having a Kite Day so off I went.
I had never visited the home of George Mason before and felt a little guilty at not knowing who he was. He wrote the Virginia Declaration of Rights  which the Bill of Rights was based on. There are many places including George Mason University named after him, and of course now I know why after taking it for granted for so many years.
There were period displays around the grounds and these ladies were cooking up wonderful dishes from George's day. I tried some ham and a biscuit and also a cookie. The carrot cake had just been removed from the fireplace where it had been cooking but good manners stopped me from hanging around to sample that too otherwise I'd be walking out oinking.
I watched this gentleman for a long while as he prepared moistened oak strips to weave baskets. He was very skilled and carefully split one piece of wood, then split it again and again. Each time I held my breath praying he wouldn't break one and he never did. He then smoothed them down to remove splinters and passed them over for us to examine. I marveled at how thin he had got each strip.
There was also a little school house where children (and adults) were invited to sit and learn how to pen in cursive script using a feather and bottle of ink and then blot the writing with sawdust. I remember similar exercises from school. I'm sure they're not done now in an era where handwriting has all but disappeared. 
I took a tour inside the house and was immensely miffed to learn that I couldn't take photos. I considered taking some surreptitiously with my cell phone but decided against since the tour guides were so nice and polite. The architecture inside was breathtaking with beautifully carved handrails, pillars and ceilings. There was a wonderful pineapple hanging from the center of the entrance hall. You can see this top right of the Gunston Hall website.
After the tour, I walked over and chatted to some archeologists who had unearthed various treasures from the grounds. One, a fellow Brit, invited me to join the group, which I shall give some consideration. I then sauntered over to the grass where people were starting to fly kites bought from home, from the gift shop or made at the workshop.
There was a nice breeze and the kites were flying well. There is usually a Kite Day down on the Mall each year which I've always missed. I hope to make it this year as the pictures I've seen show a sky filled with bobbing and ducking colors and shapes. There were not many folks here but I did notice an immature flying among the few kites in the sky. Nobody here had noticed it which surprised me since this area is a refuge for the Bald Eagle. An immature's feathers bear little resemblance to an adult bird so they're not easy to identify.
The fire brigade were also here so the camera came out again. I then went back to the gift shop and bought some bits and pieces as well as grabbing ideas for things to make. It was one of the best gift shops I've visited in a museum/attraction and I could've spent a small fortune. One of the things I purchased was a Bayberry soap which I couldn't stop sniffing on the way home.
As I left I spotted a curly willow tree tucked behind the visitor center with catkins hanging down and gently swaying in the breeze. I left having loved this place immensely. I shall watch their calender of events and readily return before the year ends.

No comments: