January 25, 2015
Saratoga Spa State Park
If you would get exercise
go in search of the springs
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
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. …
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.
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.
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
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
We walk upstream along the brook.
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
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
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