Those of you following my blog know I’m spending some time this summer at one of my favorite places, Chautauqua Institution in Western New York. Chautauqua is unique in many ways. The grounds are both historic and lovely, the lake it sits on is picture perfect. And in addition to the usual summertime pursuits, Chautauqua is and has historically been a center for lifetime learning. Each week of the nine week season has a theme, and Monday through Friday, a world class lecturer addresses an outdoor amphitheater filled with thousands of people eager to hear his or her take on that week’s subject.
The subjects for the past two weeks have been “On Cinema” and “Imagine,” tailor made for a novelist. The morning lecture is only a portion of the program, which also includes a wonderful symphony in residence, opera and theater companies, chamber music and various soloist concerts, and additional lectures all over the grounds on a number of subjects. In fact one of the things I had to learn twenty years ago when I first experienced this amazing place was to schedule “porch time,” into my daily equation. This year I’ve scheduled a LOT of porch time.
Chautauqua is also a place of wonderful “serendipities,” things that just come together as if by magic. “Lagniappe” a New Orleans term for that extra “something” shopkeepers used to give customers, is also a daily experience here. I find lagniappe every day, in something that’s said in a lecture or worship service, or in a performance, something I wasn’t expecting but turned out to be a special gift.
I experienced both serendipity and lagniappe last week when during cinema week here Frank Buchs of Polyphon Productions–second from the right in the photo above–contacted my publisher and asked if he could visit me on a quick trip to the US. Frank produced the two German television films that aired in May from my novels Out of the Ashes and Smoke Screen. When I explained that I was not at home but he could visit here, he did, bringing with him Barbara–far left–and Carsten–far right. Barbara Engelke is the production company’s head writer and Carsten Kelber their creative producer. I’m the shrimp in the middle (at nearly 5’8″) beside my husband Michael in the red shirt. We’re standing on the steps of the historic Athaeneum Hotel, where we ate lunch on the porch overlooking Lake Chautauqua.
What a special event to meet the team that produced my movies, then to find out what great people they are and how in sync we are about the prevailing themes in my novels and how they translate to film. I had the joy of seeing both movies on DVD with English subtitles before Frank and friends arrived, and it was fun to discuss what they did and why.
A delicious meal is always enough of a reason to call an afternoon a success, but there was more besides. It looks like there will be additional movies in my future. I’m overjoyed to tell you that, even as I’m scared to say too much until we’ve finished our discussion. I’ll only say that we had a lovely afternoon, and Frank liked Chautauqua so well he’d like to shoot a film here someday. Who could blame him? It is, after all, a place for serendipities and lagniappe. Who knows what might come of that lunch together?