Saturday, September 29, 2012

First Morning

September 18, 2012
Rockport, Massachusetts


The sun rose visibly at such a distance over the sea,
that the cloud-bank in the horizon,
which at first concealed him,
was not perceptible until he had risen high behind it,
and plainly broke and dispersed it, like an arrow.
But as yet I looked at him as rising over land,
and could not, without an effort,
realize that he was rising over the sea.

   HDT, Cape Cod


6:17 a.m.
The view from our balcony, and moments later, from Front Beach.
There's no sleeping-late, on a morning like this !


Friday, September 28, 2012

To The “Other Cape”

September 17, 2012
Cape Ann, Massachusetts

Cape Cod is the bared and bended arm of Massachusetts:
the sandy fist at Provincetown,
— behind which the State stands on her guard,
with her back to the Green Mountains,
and her feet planted on the floor of the ocean,
like an athlete protecting her Bay,
— boxing with northeast storms …
— ready to thrust forward her other fist,
which keeps guard the while upon her breast at Cape Ann.
HDT, Cape Cod

John Smith's map of 1614
It’s that time once again, for my annual vacation by the Sea!

This year we are spending five glorious days in Rockport, Massachusetts, to stay in lodging which sits directly on the beach. It's at the easternmost tip of Cape Ann, known as "The Other Cape."

In one hot July day in his Journal, Thoreau wrote disparagingly of his neighbors who felt the need to “go to the beach.”
Here he is at his crabbiest, as he sweats it out back in Concord :

I hear that Mr. and Mrs. Such-a-one
are "going to the beach" for six weeks.
What a failure and defeat this suggests their lives to be !
Here they live, perchance, the rest of the year,
trying to do as they would be done
by and to exercise charity of all kinds, and now at last …
succumb and slope to the beach for six weeks. …
At length their season of activity is arrived,
and they go to the beach, they energetically keep cool.
They bathe daily and are blown on by the sea-breeze.
This keeps their courage up for the labors of the year.
   HDT Journal, July 11, 1859

Full of sour grapes, I would say !

Well, one might consider that when he wrote the above, it was just a few months since his father had died. Henry was busy running the family business, surrounded by the grey of graphite dust in the summer heat.
No six-week vacations for him.
And since I work full-time surrounded by the grey of an office cubicle, going to the beach -- if only for a few days -- sounds wonderful.
It’s been plenty hot, and dry too, in our neck of the woods this summer.

So it was with pleasant anticipation that we stopped in the Green Mountains of Vermont, and met with Rick, who would accompany us on this trip. While Mom and I would be staying in a cozy hotel room, he preferred to set up his tent at the Cape Ann Camp Site (Thanks to blogging friend TrashPaddler for the recommendation!)
We arrived by noontime, after taking a route through New Hampshire that avoids major highways as much as possible.
It is still summery green over there, except for a few swamp maples.
Mom and I unpacked a lunch, while Rick efficiently set up his little base-camp.
This late in the season, the campers were outnumbered by the local inhabitants.
The campground is within a mile of Wingaersheek Beach, a place I had never been to.
At this time of year, there was no one at the beach gate to take an admission fee. The tide was high, the sun was out – how could we resist?
O the beach !

This beach is somewhat different from Crane Beach, which continues on to the northwestward on the other side of Essex Bay. Crane Beach is four miles of beautiful, flat white-sand beach stretching on and on.

Wingaersheek, on the other hand, is full of tidepools and sandbars and rocks to clamber on.

To the east, there’s the Annisquam river channel.
Mom, happy in a sandchair, is watching kids and dogs play in the gentle surf.
Shoes are hastily ditched and jeans rolled up.
Rick and I wander about, a-marvelling at the scenery.

What a beautiful day to “get blown on by the sea-breeze!”

And on this breeze, away off on the horizon, appears a white triangular speck.

Binoculars reveal:


The Ardelle! The mystery schooner that I saw come gliding out of a fog bank in Gloucester Harbor last year --  like a phantom then, but very real today.

She comes toward us, passing Annisquam Light


And thence into the river channel, where she heads through the Cut, taking the river route to her port home in Gloucester, on the other side of the Other Cape.

Not until a week later, back at home, did I read my friend TrashPaddler’s blog (here’s a link), only to learn that he had been at Cape Ann on that very same day, paddling in the river and past Wingaersheek Beach, and spending one evening at the campground!
Like ships passing in the night” I thought, in an appropriately nautical cliché … only it was a schooner that passed, and we each saw it from different sides of the channel.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

How Sweet

August 11, 2012
Hudson River, South Glens Falls, NY

How sweet is the perception of a new natural fact !
Suggesting what worlds remain to be unveiled.
HDT Journal, April 19, 1952

[These photos are from over a month ago... after this we will be zooming forward into the present time ! Sorry to say, that will mean skipping over some great times with my walking and paddling friends, but it's the only way I am ever going to get caught up !
Now, back to that warm day in August...:]
While paddling past the lily-pads, which are now quite torn and tattered,
I observed something new.

The pads are sprinkled with lots of gritty specks at this time of year  --  some sort of bug perhaps.
I never really looked too closely before.  

The new thing was, today I saw honeybees landing on the pads – the flowers themselves being few and far between now.


I stopped (as best one can on a moving river) and watched one bee to see what she was up to.

She scuttled around the surface of the pad, amongst the bugs.
Was she eating them?
Their numbers didn’t seem to be diminished when the bee lifted off and visited another pad nearby.

What was going on?
I noticed other honeybees landing on other pads.
Were they drinking water?

It wasn’t till I got home and looked at the photos I had taken of this curious behavior.

After enlarging some earlier photos onscreen, the bugs resembled aphids. Hmm.


Ants will sometimes “milk” aphids, stimulating them to produce a sweet drop of liquid called honeydew.

After some internet searching, I came up with this link.
It’s been a very dry summer. Perhaps there are less flowers producing less nectar at this time of year.
So the honeybees go abroad, looking for sweetness wherever they can.

Wednesday, September 5, 2012


August 12, 15 and 19, 2012
Marsh, lake and river nearby

‘When the sun rises, do you not see
a round disc of fire, somewhat like a guinea?’

‘O no, no, I see an innumerable company
of the heavenly host crying,
“Holy, holy, holy is the Lord God Almighty”

                  ~ William Blake , 1810

In the days that followed, I went out in the new boat, determined to know her a little better.  She handles quite differently than the ol’ Swifty.

What more enjoyable way to do that, than to go out on the water with my two favorite paddling companions !

The very next day, I spent the morning paddling with Rick in Dunham’s Bay. It was a smooth journey into the marsh as far as we could go, before low water stopped us.
For once I could keep up with Rick, in his sleek 17-footer.

He likes taking photos too, and got a snap of me and my new boat.
It was a smooth and calm morning -- just us and the water-lilies.
A few days later, I dipped the glossy new hull in Moreau Lake, to play in the shallows -- and practice dumping !
What’s great is that you can pick the foundered boat out of the water, hold it up over your head and shake it out, and you are back in action.  Jackie, supremely at home with boats (and water,) chuckles at my experiments.  
Now we are a BlackJack flotilla !

After getting thoroughly wet in the warm water, I had just enough time for a short trip across the lake.
We went over to cozy Head Cove to visit the Sassafras Trees, which are still green but full of colorful fruits.
The bright scarlet stems attract birds, like this Pileated Woodpecker, who was so busy gobbling berries that he didn’t see us till the last minute.
Man, what a time to NOT have my camera with the zoom lens!
He's in there somewhere, if you look closely.

There were special things growing along the shore, like Closed Gentian --

and a pinkish variation of Blue Vervain, which I have only seen here at Moreau Lake:
All too soon, it was time for me to head back to that gentle shore and get ready to go to work.


The next Sunday, I went out alone on the Hudson River. It would be a good time to check on the Grass of Parnassus, which could be blooming now.  

Like Thoreau, (I thought smugly to myself,) I’d rather be out on the river than inside a church this morning.

Turns out that I got a little of both !

A short distance upriver from the put-in, there came the faint sound of singing from Haviland Cove Park, on the opposite shore.

My Confession:  My first thought was, “Who are these jerks, making all this racket?”
My Come-uppance:  It turned out to be an outdoor worship service.

I floated by, the boat bobbing gently on the river, and voices came across the water:

Holy, holy, holy! Lord God Almighty!
All Thy works shall praise Thy Name,
in earth, and sky, and sea ...


The slow tempo of the song seemed just right for this basking turtle.

The heron craned his neck as if listening.
Everything seemed to have a special sparkle this morning.

Everything, even the small things, seemed to be echoes of a great circle.

Up by the Black Shale Cliffs, the Grass-of-Parnassus was blooming
with a beautiful geometry.

If the doors of perception were cleansed
every thing would appear to man as it is,
For man has closed himself up,
till he sees all things through narrow chinks
of his cavern….
For everything that lives is holy.

~ William Blake