Sunday, March 1, 2015

Springs of Life

January 25, 2015 
Saratoga Spa State Park

If you would get exercise
go in search of the springs of life.
Think of a man’s swinging dumb-bells for his health,
when those springs are bubbling up
in far off pastures unsought by him.

     HDT, Walking 1862

 One morning in January, while deep in the clutches of that nasty cold virus, I awoke suddenly from a vivid dream as I heard a single word spoken: “Orenda.”

I knew from my re-enacting days, when I did lots and lots of reading and research on the Native people of New York, that the word was vaguely Iroquoian.  I went online and Googled the word.
According to one online source,

With regard to spiritual beliefs, the Iroquois believed that all living things were filled with an essence called orenda.
Dreams were the main form of contact between orenda and human beings. Individuals would fast and pray to obtain a vision.
Dreams expressed the desires of the most inner realm of the soul.
The fulfillment of a dream was absolutely essential. …
In mid-winter, the Iroquois would hold a dream festival.
During this time, old fires would be put out and new fires would be lighted.

 Hmm,  I wondered.  That dream must have just been a flashback to those days, inspired by that bedtime dose of Robitussin.
Nothing more.

Weeks pass. I am feeling much better, and ready to go out in the winter air again. It’s a cold and windy day in late January, when Jackie suggests a new place to walk, one that is a little sheltered, and ideal for this sort of weather.
This winter, Jackie and I have managed to explore three aspects of ice: the lake, the brook, and the river.
Today would be a fourth variety:  springs !

Fortunate are we to live near Saratoga Springs, New York -- fabled home of an assortment of mineral springs.  Native peoples cherished this area and protected its springs, centuries before the European settlers arrived.  Since then many health-seekers have come to drink from the springs or even bathe in the waters. Most of the Bath Resorts are gone, but the springs themselves remain. 

Many can be visited in what is now Saratoga Spa State Park.
Jackie is amazed that I have never been there, and she lives right around the corner, so she is my cheerful guide today.

We enter a ravine trail that follows a small brook. It’s pleasant and sunny, and we are out of the cold wind here.

The first spring we encounter (they all have names) is a short spout of ice-cold water, arcing over its iron-colored outflow.

The next is a tall thin and delicate stream that would erupt sporadically, straight up out of the ground.
It’s fun trying to capture it with the camera.

Another is known as “The Geyser,”  though not really a geyser at all. (Geysers are caused by deep sources of heat forcing steam to escape the earth’s crust;  all the springs here are agitated by gases.) It erupts like a miniature version of Old Faithful.

Nearby, Geyser Brook flows heartily despite the frigid air. It is good to see life and movement in the water.

The next is Hayes Spring, one that Jackie recommends for its hearty flavor and healing qualities. Someone has channeled it so that it comes out conveniently from four metal  spigots.
Yes, I could certainly use some healing, so I take a sip --- ohhh it has a very strong mineral taste !
Reminds me of something… hmm.

Time to re-check the information on that sign. Uh-oh !

We enter the Vale of Springs. 

One look at the map tells me I just HAVE TO see the next spring - check out the name of Number 5 :

It is mid-winter, dream-fulfillment time.

We walk upstream along the brook.  
I am in a slight daze,
passing a mountain of tufa. 

This is made of minerals that precipitate
from the outflow of certain springs.
It looks fuzzy and pink, but is as hard to the touch as coral.
It's the crust of the earth, reshaped and re-configured.

We shuffle up some icy steps, the trail swings back, and there it is :

The spring of my dreams – 

of course I partake of this one too,
its earthy iron taste almost overwhelming.

In the layers of iron oxide and tufa forming in the overflow,

I find a heart-shaped leaf.

You must love the crust of the earth
on which you dwell
more than the sweet crust of any bread or cake;
you must be able to extract nutriment
out of a sand heap.
You must have so good an appetite as this,
Else you will live in vain.

  HDT Journal, January 25, 1858

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Ice, Thrice

January 17, 2015
Ice Meadows on the Hudson River

Part Three – The River

Ice is an interesting subject for contemplation. 
  HDT Walden, The Pond in Winter

It was one of those perfect winter mornings.

Clear and cold.

Two weeks had passed, and I was finally feeling like venturing outdoors again. 

Jackie suggested a drive up to the Hudson River Ice Meadows, where we could observe yet another form of ice, making short forays from the warmth of the car. That suited me fine !

You have to wait until the coldest days of January to see the frazil ice, and then you have only days in which to see it in best form, before the next snowfall covers it over. (here’s a link to Jackie’s explanation of the unique nature of this type of ice.) 

Today’s conditions were favorable, and so off we went, sniffles or no. It’s becoming a midwinter tradition of sorts.   
I was so bundled up that my arms and legs didn’t bend very easily.

We drove up the east side of the river, where you could see the ice piling up in gleaming plates.

Stopping where the road crosses the river

We ventured out onto the bridge, despite a chill wind from the northwest,  and the bluster of cars and trucks speeding past us,

To see where the frazil ice begins to form,
in the mist of rapid water just upstream.
It forms large rafts

that drift downriver, toward the Ice Meadows

Even the clouds directly overhead were delicate frazil-clouds

We then headed down River Road, which follows the west side of the river closely.

We visited the spot where we find orchids in July

(Can’t find any at the moment !)

And further downstream, we stopped at Snake Rock,

Where, in warmer days, we picnicked with dear friends
in the cool shade of the pines

It’s all coolness now
And the shady ice takes on fantastic shapes and colors

Near a little farm, at the end of River Road, where the Schroon River meets the Hudson,
We huddled in our coats for warmth, and with frozen fingers, snapped photos of untracked expanses of snow

and the ice-bright landscape where the two rivers join

As the residents looked on with amusement

Cold ? Who’s cold?

Saturday, January 31, 2015

Taking a Breather

Most of the rest of January, 2015
Mostly at home (when not at work)

Taking pictures of bubbles ... photo courtesy of Jackie Donnelly

Some who have lain flat on the ice for a long time,
looking down through the illusive medium,
perchance with watery eyes into the bargain,
and driven to hasty conclusion
by the fear of catching cold in their breasts,
have seen vast holes
"into which a load of hay might be drived,"
if there were anybody to drive it,
the undoubted source of the Styx
and entrance to the Infernal Regions from these parts.
HDT Walden, The Pond in Winter

The day after playing on the lake ice for hours,
I started feeling as if I was catching a cold.
I stayed home that Monday, thinking that bed-rest would avert the worst of it.

Nope ! By that Friday, I felt even worse, and stayed home again.

I have caught the “Coughing-Virus” that seems to be going around.
This is unlike any other cold I’ve ever had, you just cough and cough till your eyes bug out.

It’s a funny dry cough that leaves me breathless.
This cold is lasting a long time, and only time can cure it, since it’s a virus.
It’s hard to be patient, though.
After several weeks of moping around, and trying all the home-remedies I can think of, I finally feel like venturing outdoors again.

How terrible it must have been for Thoreau,
who contracted tuberculosis early in life.
He valiantly struggled with “the trouble in my chest”
throughout his life.

Having lost several family members and friends to this deadly affliction, he knew how it would end.
In the 1840s, there was no cure, and the disease was fittingly referred to as Consumption.

He was frequently ill for weeks at a time.
(Working in his family’s business -- grinding finely-powdered graphite – must not have helped !)

In between bouts of what he called “bronchitis,”
he spent as much time as possible outdoors, in all seasons.
Friends marveled at his strength and endurance.
He considered Nature the finest physician.

I am confined to the house by bronchitis ….
As soon as I find my chest is not of tempered steel,
and heart of adamant,
I bid good-bye to these
and look out a new nature.

   HDT, Journal, February 14, 1841

Monday, January 26, 2015

Ice, Thrice

January 3, 2015
Moreau Lake State Park

Part Two : The Lake

Two days later, having a weekend day available,
I returned to Moreau Lake and met Jackie there.
I wanted to show her those cool formations on Zen Brook.
It was a cloudy, still morning, damply cold, but we were bundled up tightly, prepared to stay out for a few hours.
The Warming Hut would be our final stop. 
We parked our cars in the main lot, and walked down the hill –
and lo and behold  --the Big Lake had finally frozen over solid !

Zen Brook would have to wait.
Who can resist being able to walk on water?

The pond had in the meanwhile skimmed over
 in the shadiest and shallowest coves,
some days or even weeks
before the general freezing.
The first ice is especially interesting and perfect,
being hard, dark, and transparent,
and affords the best opportunity that ever offers
for examining the bottom where it is shallow;
for you can lie at your length on ice
only an inch thick, 

like a skater insect on the surface of the water,
and study the bottom at your leisure,
only two or three inches distant,
like a picture behind a glass,
and the water is necessarily always smooth then.

There are many furrows in the sand where some creature has travelled about
and doubled on its tracks…

But the ice itself is the object of most interest,
though you must improve the earliest opportunity to study it.

If you examine it closely the morning after it freezes,
you find that the greater part of the bubbles,
which at first appeared to be within it,
are against its under surface,
and that more are continually rising from the bottom;

while the ice is as yet comparatively solid and dark,
that is, you see the water through it.
These bubbles are from an eightieth to an eighth of an inch in diameter,
very clear and beautiful,
and you see your face reflected in them through the ice.

There may be thirty or forty of them to a square inch.

There are also already within the ice narrow oblong perpendicular bubbles
about half an inch long, sharp cones with the apex upward;
or oftener, if the ice is quite fresh,
minute spherical bubbles one directly above another,
like a string of beads.
     HDT, Walden “House-Warming” 1854

Our pal Laurie appeared, having walked in from her house at the north end of the Park. 

She, Jackie and I spent quite some time admiring the various textures on the surface of the ice

(click to see detail in all of these)

... and the assortment of bubbles and cracks below, 

(champagne, anyone?)

(galaxies of tiny bubbles)

(X marks the spot)

(side fins in a crack)

(like silvery foil)

(and combinations thereof !)

                                      (how did this even happen?)

We are so easily entertained ... 

On the way out, we stopped back at the Warming Hut.
Laurie, ever-prepared, produced a surprise from her pack -- some delicious foil-wrapped goodies that she had brought to toast in the fireplace there.

More from  “House-Warming”:
The next winter I used a small cooking-stove
for economy,
since I did not own the forest;
but it did not keep fire so well as the open fireplace.
Cooking was then, for the most part,
no longer a poetic,
but merely a chemic process.
It will soon be forgotten, in these days of stoves,
that we used to roast potatoes in the ashes,
after the Indian fashion.
The stove not only took up room
and scented the house,
but it concealed the fire,
and I felt as if I had lost a companion.
You can always see a face in the fire.