Wednesday, July 24, 2013


July 23, 2013
Meadowbrook Road, but not for long

A man is rich
in proportion to the number of things 
which he can afford to let alone.
   HDT Walden, “Where I Lived and What I Lived For”

For the next couple of weeks, things will be pretty busy for me – we are moving !
A month ago, we had no such plans, but life sends you on little detours sometimes.
It’s just a local move, and to a nicer apartment, so it’s a positive thing. 

However, when it’s time to pack things up, THAT’S when you realize how much dust and clutter is in your life.
My mom, who lives with me, is pretty much ready to go. She is a good example for me, as she has ever been.

For me, it's been like going on an archaeological dig.
I’ve been in this apartment for twelve years, and am finding things I didn’t know I had.
Today I found some rocks in a bookshelf – picked up and toted home from some important pilgrimage -- or maybe they were from just up the road -- but I have forgotten just where each came from. Time to set them free !

In the past two weeks, I have been getting rid of things, recycling what I can – to friends, to charities, or straight to the trash. It feels great to do so.

Despite my efforts, there is still an awful lot of stuff that I feel I cannot live without.
There is a whole bookcase full of Thoreauviana to move, enough to fill five boxes worth of irony.

I’ll be here for another two weeks, weeding out what I can, so as to not tax the kindness of friends who will be helping to lug the smaller boxes across town. At the last, we'll be hiring help to carry the furniture on moving day. 
A copy of Walden rests on the night-table – it wouldn’t fit in the last box.

I had three pieces of limestone on my desk,
but I was terrified to find
that they required to be dusted daily,
when the furniture of my mind was all undusted still,
and threw them out the window in disgust.
   HDT Walden, “Economy”

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Only a Hat

Mid-July, 2013
Meadowbrook Road, Queensbury NY

We are in the middle of a heat wave, a normal mid-summer occurrence in this part of the Northeast. They usually last for 3 or 4 days, but this weather has gone on all week without a break.
When I arrived home from work last night – at 11:30 p.m. – it was 82 degrees
I had stepped outside for a break at eight o’clock, and was amazed to hear cicadas up in the trees, lazily zzz’ing to each other in the thick-aired twilight.
It is a high-noon sound that makes me think of days long ago, 
swimming in a shallow river to cool off.

It gets plenty hot this time of year in Concord, too. Even back in Henry's time.
Bear in mind that in those days, there was no indoor plumbing.
Men would go bathe in the river on summer mornings – some of them more regularly than others. Thoreau knew some old farmers who avoided water at all costs.
Only young boys played in the river.
Lord knows what women did to cool off, being draped in yards of fabric, and for them, going for a swim was not even an option.
Proper male attire, even on the hottest days, included a hat, long sleeves, a high collar and a neck-cloth.
Whew ! I'm roasting just thinking of that. Time to walk over by the river.

 Sudbury River in Concord, Massachusetts

July 10, 1852
Another day, if possible still hotter than the last.
We have already had three or four such, and still no rain. …

2 P.M. – To the North River in front of Major Barrett’s.
It is with a suffocating sensation
and a slight pain in the head
that I walk the Union turnpike
where the heat is reflected from the road …
I have to lift my hat to let the air cool my head.

We undressed on this side,
carried our clothes down in the stream
a considerable distance,
and finally bathed in earnest from the opposite side.
The heat tempted us to prolong this luxury.
This river here has a sandy bottom
and is for the most part quite shallow. 

I made quite an excursion up and down it in the water,
a fluvial, a water, walk.
It seemed the properest highway for this weather …

I wonder if any Roman emperor ever indulged in such luxury as this, -
of walking up and down a river in torrid weather
with only a hat to shade the head.
What were the baths of Caracalla to this?

Saturday, July 13, 2013

Thoreau's Birthday

July 12, 2013
Various meadowy places nearby

Today is Thoreau’s birthday.
He never mentions any special celebrations in his Journal
(unlike our present-day custom of making a big fuss about it.)
Like any other day, he took his daily walk,
and on that particular hot summer day,
perhaps he thought, “these flowers are gift enough.”
Happy Birthday Henry !

from his Journal of July 12, 1856:

Red lilies in prime,

single upright fiery flowers,

their throats how splendidly and variously spotted,

hardly two of quite the same hue and not two spotted alike, --

leopard-spotted, --

averaging a foot or more in height,
amid the huckleberry and lambkill, etc., 
in the moist, meadowy pasture.

Saturday, July 6, 2013

50 Shades of Green

June 9, 10 and 11, 2013
Warrensburg, NY

How rarely a man's love for nature
becomes a ruling principle with him,
like a youth's affection for a maiden, but more enduring !
All nature is my bride.

That nature which to one is a stark and ghastly solitude
 is a sweet, tender and genial society to another.

   HDT Journal, April 23, 1857

Each summer, the Botanical Society of America (and northeastern afflilates) gather for a few days of Field Excursions. This year, our friends in the Thursday Naturalists were proud hosts of the group. They had been preparing for this event all year.

                                  Ed Miller and Ruth Schottman
                            of the Thursday Naturalists

They invited my pal Jackie to be one of the evening speakers, and she and I worked together to prepare her presentation. I was there mainly for moral support !
Thus, even though we were not official members of the Society, the TNs made sure we were welcome at all functions during the week.
Home base was at the beautiful Echo Lake Lodge in Warrensburg, NY.

From there, we would venture forth to explore the Ice Meadows, Pack Forest, Putty Pond and a trail at Tongue Mountain on Lake George.
We would meet experts in all sorts of things - ferns, grasses, orchids - and they were coming to our very own backyard !
We also met folks who didn't specialize in anything, but who were, like us, eager to learn.

It was great being out in the field (literally) with these folks -- I learned a lot.
I saw new things, and  gained new appreciation for those plants we consider "common."
They aren't, in the opinion of these pilgrims who came from afar to see them (possibly for the first time.)

Several of us were busy snapping photos of the plants we saw.
Three weeks later, looking back on the hundred of photos I took during those three days,
I found that the most interesting ones are of the Observers themselves,
Of the people who share an endless curiosity and boundless love for all things green.

So can I show you, in fifty photos, what a good time everyone had?

Day One: we gather in the morning at the Ice Meadows

And then fan out, finding all sort of treats

 Canadian Burnet

 What sort of orchid is it?

 Buxbaum's sedge

My kingdom for a loupe

 Time to reflect

 Whaaaat are all of these humans doing here?
Green Frog (male)

 That's the river behind them but they find the Harebell more interesting

 Carrion Flower (female)

  It was a day of grasses...(OK it's a sedge)

 ...and grass-hoppers

 Carol, Evelyn and Jackie

 Eastern Tiger Swallowtail

 Day Two: Morning at Pack Forest. 
Did I mention that it rained every day? But these folks are prepared.
Bruce, DEC Administrator, tells us of the history of Pack Forest.

In Link, I found another dedicated photographer friend


Even the non-green things were green

Someone was kind enough to turn the camera on me

Goodyera repens  (at left)

Oak Fern

Pink Ladyslippers, hangin' in there

Naughty bits of One-flowered Pyrola

Day Two afternoon: slogging about at Putty Pond

Shades of Green

Even the lichens wore green

Happy with wet feet

 Lee's Specimen Collection

Day Three: Clay Meadows Trail at Tongue Mountain, Lake George
Ed leads the way.

Goodyera pubescens

"Silent Jim"


View down the lake, from our lunch stop

Repens again

Al looking at ferny rocks

Being a herpetologist, he brought his snake-stick just in case ...
(Tongue Mountain is well-known as rattlesnake habitat)
instead of rattlesnakes, he found  ... rattlesnake plantains !

Goodyera tesselata

Why are these botanists so happy?

Moonworts !

Lots of them

This guy moved at a faster pace than us...
but how else to see all the interesting little things?

Thanks to all of you who came to visit, it was great walking with you !