Monday, June 30, 2014

To Float Thus

The Fen, Queensbury NY
June 19, 2014

To float thus on the silver-plated stream
Is like embarking on a train of thought itself.
You are surrounded by water,
Which is full of reflections;
And you see the earth at a distance,
Which is very agreeable to the imagination.

   HDT Journal, August 14, 1854

The second day of my small vacation promises to be clear and sunny,
with less wind in the forecast. 
I hastily fetch my boat from the storage bin, and am on the waters at The Fen by 8 a.m. 

The Fen is hardly wilderness; it’s right off the road to Glen Lake, and within earshot of the Northway.
At its southwest end, it brushes by a huge amusement park. Later in the morning you will hear the muffled roar of roller coasters, and faint screams carried on the wind.
But at this hour, I have the marsh all to myself.

Among the Leatherleaf and grasses at the put-in,
a tiny spark of pink catches my eye  - a Rose Pogonia!
This one is still curled in sleep and covered with morning dew.

I’ve seen this small and elegant native orchid in places further north – is this just a fluke, or are there others back in the fen? I vow to keep an eye out for more of them.

Pushing off  – ah that moment when gravity drops away, and I am floating.
The still water reflects the clouds, and the boat is a bird in the sky.

It’s early yet; the white water-lilies are still nodding their little heads.
When morning sun shines upon the water, they awake, enlightened.

One can never take enough photos of water-lilies.
I am strongly attracted to my name-sakes.
Each one seems more beautiful than the one before.

A superb flower,
our lotus queen of the waters.

How sweet innocent, wholesome its fragrance.
How pure its white petals,
though its root is in the mud.

    HDT Journal, June 26, 1852

Paddling against the sluggish current, I pass several small forks in the stream.
I take one of them back into a wider pondy section.
Suddenly I see more Rose Pogonias, blooming delicately amid Leatherleaf, Bog Rosemary, Water Willow and all sorts of grasses and reeds.

Another bit of color are the dainty beaks of cranberry-flowers.

Sprinkled here and there, floating on underwater leaves full of tiny air-pockets, is Common Bladderwort.

The young leaves of Pickerelweed poke up out of the water, but there are no flowers yet. When they bloom, the shore will be lined with purple.
Arrow Arum is not blooming yet either, but the foliage has a splendor of its own.

On little islands, the flower-stalks of Pitcher Plants stand alert
like so many pinwheels.

I float along, hearing the creech of a Broad-Wing overhead and the sad whistles of an Oriole from the oaks above the cove.

I'm sad too, to find a little orange symbol flashing on my camera, telling me it's time to replace the battery - and the spare battery is back at the car !

Not until I turn about for the return do I meet anyone else. I can hear them long before they come around the bend.
It's the happy chatter of three friends who are out paddling the Fen for the first time.
I show them where to find the Rose Pogonia.
They never knew that orchids grow in New York, and are delighted to see it. 

This is a good time to come here. Soon there will be many more lily-pads stretching across the narrow channel, making it too difficult to paddle.

I drift back slowly. There’s time to think, and not-think.

The sun’s glare coats the pads with silver,
and lights up the lilies like candles.


  1. Looks like a wonderful paddle, and excellent pictures!

  2. Looks like a wonderful paddle, and fabulous pictures!

  3. "The still water reflects the clouds, and the boat is a bird in the sky." Ah, how perfectly, in both words and photos, you have captured the joys of moseying about in a fen. Thank you!

  4. "The still water reflects the sky, and the boat is a bird in the sky." Ah, how perfectly, in both words and photographs, you have conveyed the pleasures of moseying about in the fen in your canoe. Thanks for bringing us along.

  5. mind easing photos take us to a place all our own. Photo no. 6 - the leaf below the lily looks like a face. Eyes, nose, chin, ear, forehead, all discernible. So much to see and wonder at if we only take the time to stop, look, and listen. Thank You for continuing to share your journeys and thoughts with us.

  6. And the lily leaf in the sixth photo looks like a ninja turtle or a happy face, or both. Nature was indeed smiling on you.

  7. thank you F. Gnome, I've enjoyed some of your photo advice over the past years as shown by excellent examples on your blog -
    and Jackie - well you talked me into that black bird and I have not regretted it !
    Bernie you are right there IS a face there in the lily pad - wow.
    I hope to paddle in southern Vt this weekend (Bratt area "the banana belt of vt")

  8. Two faces in photo no. 6, the one above the flower looks like a smiling turtle or a happy face. Nature smiling back at you.