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


  1. Fascinating post. I should have realized that Sarasota Springs involved something like that!

  2. It's so much fun to revisit our adventures through your marvelous photos. I love all of them, but especially the ones that capture the crystal drops in mid-air. I hope Orenda's waters helped you to feel better fast.