Monday, July 13, 2015

Thoreau’s Birthday

July 12, 2015
Hudson River,
South Glens Falls NY

I go to observe the lilies. …  
The pontederia is in its prime,
   alive with butterflies,
   yellow and others.
I see its tall blue spike reflected
   beneath the edges of the pads on each side,
pointing down to a heaven beneath
   as well as above.
HDT Journal, July 17, 1854

I wake to a clear sky on this warm summer morning.
My boat is already loaded on the car for a trip to the river.
It promises to be perfect weather for observing the birthday of a certain Mr. H. D. Thoreau.
On this Sunday, having the entire day at my disposal,
I could go anywhere.
Thoreau spent many happy hours on the rivers that run
right through his own little town,
and I decide that I would be happy doing the same.

With a shove, the little boat is floating free.

Now for the birthday celebration!

First ... to observe the lilies

And to check on our local specialties –
In the bay, Floating Bladderwort

And on the Hanging Garden Cliffs--

Kalm’s Lobelia

(The Grass of Parnassus is not blooming yet)

Some guests have begun to arrive

There are birthday candles

LOTS of them (for you were born many many years ago, Mr. T)

The birthday candles are lit with care

And there’s confetti everywhere !

Some things here also grow
along your beloved Concord River,
things more precious than silver or gold

Silver Maple

Golden Hedge Hyssop

Lastly, a card made from something that was floating in the cool shallows (thanks for the idea, Sophia!)

Would that I could tell you directly, my hero –
You’ve inspired not just me,
but many others around the world
to learn about this beautiful world of ours,
and to look after it in some small way,
with the hope that others may be able to do the same,
many many years from now.

Sunday, May 31, 2015


May 30, 2015
Moreau Lake State Park

[After a too-long absence, my blog has come to life again,
much like the butterflies we saw on our walk yesterday.
It was one of many walks this year with my dear friend Jackie,
who kept asking, "WHEN are you going to post another blog?"
It was she who, years ago, encouraged me to create this blog.
Her own blog is the fantastic Saratoga Woods and Waterways.

Less than 24 hours after our carefree nature stroll: while attending her grand-daughter's graduation, Jackie had an unfortunate fall.
She now faces knee surgery, and will have to forego woods-walks and paddling, at least for a while.

It was Jackie who pointed out these butterflies as we rambled along the lakeshore, telling me, "Be sure to look at the UNDERSIDE of their wings too."
We are blessed to be able to see such beauty flitting around us.
I am blessed to have such a friend.
I hope some of these quotes make her smile today.]

We accuse savages of worshipping only the bad spirit, or devil,
though they may distinguish both a good and a bad;
but they regard only that one which they fear and worship the devil only.
We too are savages in this,
doing precisely the same thing.
This occurred to me yesterday as I sat in the woods
admiring the beauty of the blue butterfly.

Red-Spotted Purple

We are not chiefly interested in birds and insects,
for example,
as they are ornamental to the earth and cheering to man,
but we spare the lives of the former
only on condition that they eat more grubs than they do cherries …

The catechism says that the chief end of man 
is to glorify God and enjoy him forever,
which of course is applicable mainly to God
as seen in his works.
Yet the only account of its beautiful insects, 
butterflies, etc. –
which God has made and set before us
which the State ever thinks of spending any money on
is the account of those which are injurious to vegetation!
This is the way we glorify God and enjoy him forever.

White Admiral

Come out here and behold
a thousand painted butterflies
and other beautiful insects which people the air,
then go into the libraries
and see what kind of prayer and glorification of God
is there recorded.
Massachusetts has published her report on
“Insects Injurious to Vegetation,”
and our neighbor
the “Noxious Insects of New York.”
We have attended to the evil
and said nothing about the good.
    HDT Journal, May 1, 1859

The butterfly counts not months but moments,
and has time enough.
--Rabindranath Tagore

White Admiral, adult lifespan 6 to 14 days

Once upon a time, I, Chuang Tzu,
dreamt I was a butterfly,
fluttering hither and thither,
to all intents and purposes a butterfly...
Suddenly, I awoke,
and there I lay, myself again.
Now I do not know whether
I was then a man dreaming I was a butterfly,
or whether I am now a butterfly dreaming I am a man.

    -- Chuang Tzu (Zhuangzi) 

The caterpillar does all the work
but the butterfly gets all the publicity.

   --George Carlin

Sunday, March 15, 2015

Frozen Dreams

February 21 2015
Hudson Falls, NY

The landscape covered with snow,
seen by moonlight from these Cliffs,
encased in snowy armor two feet thick, …
Who can believe that this is the habitable globe?

   HDT Journal, February 3, 1852

To be truthful, we have not had the heavy snows that have befallen the state of Massachusetts this year, so I really can’t complain.
What snow we have gotten has been fluffy, and in manageable amounts.

 HowEVER,  in my neck of the woods,  February has been the second coldest on record.
The average temperature this month in Albany, NY (an hour south of here) was 12.7 degrees.
Neverless, one must get out and walk, just to maintain one’s sanity until springtime comes.

Last night it went down to 12 below (again.)
Today, even though it was dim and cloudy, it warmed up to 19 degrees, and off I went for a short stroll over by East Field.
Summer dreams ...

Dreams deferred...

No one wants ice cream now (except me)

Some have given up the fight completely

Ice and Icicles everywhere

And the forecast of more on the way

It had started to sleet again, just as I returned home.
There’s only one thing to do on a day like this:

Bake bread !

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