Saturday, April 09, 2016

Morning walk, Stockbridge ...

It was 26 degrees outside this morning, but after a week of snow, rain and harsh winds, it was a relief to walk with the dogs under a clear blue sky and no breezes.  

Saturday mornings give us a time to explore Stockbridge while the town is mostly asleep.   

Today, I walked with my dog Sean and our dog friend Frankie, an old family dog friend whose is staying with us while her owners are vacationing.  

Between Main Street, where we live, which runs east-west, and the two streets behind us, also parallel to Main Street along the slopes of the hill behind us, are a series of woody marshes, common to the Berkshires. 

A woman who grew up on Main Street told me that when she was a child, one never saw wild animals such as bears or wild turkeys in town. She thought it was because local farming, more predominant then, meant there was less woods and wilderness, which is more predominant now. 

And now wetlands, the catch-all phase for water places, whether formed by flowing, gathering run-off or fallen logs and beaver dams, are protected.  

We left Main Street, walking through a large wooded area at the back of the St. Paul's property. Shamrock is the next street behind is.  There may be 15 or so houses located on one side or the other.  

On the south side there is a large swath of woods, thickets and marsh.  As we got close to the end of the street, the land rises sharply up, and a brook carrying spillover water from higher up the hill winds back down to the woods we just passed. 

The water was gurgling and splashing, thick with runoff from melted snow and rain from this past week.  Dogs and I stood and listened for a few minutes. 

Shamrock Street dead ends into Vine Street, which arcs along the hill from Main Street at its east end up to Pine Street at the other end. Vine Street has fewer houses, a pond, woods, marshes. 

On the north side there is a dense wood that may have been the edge of an estate garden. Above the road there are rock walls and terraces that poke out of the vegetation.  

There are water sluices directing water from above, perhaps from a pond.  And then we saw the turkeys, large, tall, black and gray, moving out of grasses and other foliage, like ghosts, 

When I was in the first grade we colored pictures of turkeys around thanksgiving, with their round fan tails.  I have never seen that traditional turkey in real life until this year, walking the dog in Stockbridge. 

They float in out of these woods.  

Something disturbed them and then they started a schreeching  gobbling, as loud as dogs barking, and then quiet. They float back into the woods. 

Before the road gets to Pine Street, it rises steeply. As we turn on Pine to descend back toward Main Street, we can see the bluffs on Monument Mountain south of Stockbridge, St. Paul's bell tower, the tops of trees and houses along Main Street. 

Thursday, September 05, 2013


This spring, I left Harlem at 125th Street on Metro North "Hudson" Line and rode the train to Poughkeepsie.  Since it was early Saturday morning, there were only a couple of people in the car as we rolled along the Hudson River, quickly leaving the city behind.  The tracks are built at the river's edge along its eastern bank, and soon, and as we glided along, and I had a private view out of the large glass windows, I began to imagine Henry Hudson and his crew when they first sailed up this river.  By the time I arrived at Poughkeepsie, I was in the mild bliss I usually feel as soon as I see the high banks, massive river and the hills proceeding from it.

This is perhaps one of the most beautiful areas within the United States.  It's scale is grand, but human, not alpine, and its overwhelming green must increase my dopamine levels, because I often has the sense that this is where I want to be.

Saturday, April 14, 2012

Perfect Day

Sean the dog and I walked with our dear friends on our regular Saturday morning walk in the northern end of Central Park. It is our Saturday morning tradition, meeting in Harlem with our terriers, and walking the ten blocks or so to the Harlem Meer corner of the park.

The sky was entirely blue, and the temps chilled enough to stretch out another day of blooming trees and bulbs. In a more normal spring, there is a rhythm and order to the cycle of blooms, but this early season has managed to almost simultaneously open everything at the same time. So as cherries are still in bloom, redbuds and lilacs are also opening up, and daffodils continue to bloom along with the tulips.

There are moments in New York, when one has a chance while looking out at the window in a tall building, or from a passing car or train outside of Manhattan, to see the full sweep of human density in the width and depth of the city, and wonder how it all works. That people with foresight chose to stake off before the Civil War such a large space as Central Park and designed it with a sense of imagination and understanding of natural beauty still boggles the mind. The garbage regularly gets picked up, millions make their way more or less in and out of the city to work, and in our midst is a human Garden of Eden with room enough for sports crazed bicyclists and runners as well as strollers, tourists and dog walkers.

Sunday, July 05, 2009

Beautiful Day

Perfect weather in New York in July. Who knew? After a month and a half of almost daily rain, cool breezes brought a blue sky into town. People abandoned Manhattan in droves over Thursday and Friday, and the city was eerily quiet and peaceful.

Partner and I joined our friends Tex and Cheryl to see a documentary called Afghan Star about an American Idol like television show on a fledgling network in Afghanistan. From 1996 until they were overthrown, the Taliban made illegal music and singing in that country.

Even now, there is some concern about the program which had over 2,000 contestants from all over the country. Two of the finalists were women, and one of them allowed her hair to be uncovered, and when she lost and sang her goodbye song she swayed and skipped a bit, shocking everyone. Dancing, women dancing, is considered obscene. She should not have done that, said the other contestants.

I recently read this description in Colin Wells' Sailing From Byzantium about the conflict between the religious Hesychasts and the scholarly humanists in the fading days of the Byzantine Empire:

As their empire edged closer to extinction, the Hesychasts and the humanists became often bitter ideological enemies, in a spectacular clash of values and beliefs that frequently spilled over into politics. It was not a simple situation, and much of the time there was no clearly marked lines of separation between the factions. There was much common ground. Both were patriots who wished to save Byzantium and its heritage. The question, inevitably, became which heritage, classical or Christian, and at what price? With tragic inexorability, the antagonists came to act as if the price of survival for one tradition must be the death of the other. -- p. 45

The rest of our day was spent browsing books at Barnes and Noble at Union Square and then enjoying a lovely cookout on the Close at General Seminary. Quite a mix, seminarians and their families, some from out of town, people staying at the seminary during the summer, renters, bringing something to grill and something to share.

We watched the fireworks over the Hudson River, two blocks away, from the roof of our building. Across the early evening sky, rooftops and balconies were full of people cheering and watching the glorious fireworks, celebrating the country's birthday, the beautiful day and the 400th anniversary of Henry Hudson sailing up the river that bears his name.

Friday, July 03, 2009

The High Line

Partner and I took an early morning walk to checkout this great new park in our neighborhood.

On the edge of West Chelsea, an elevated rail track runs alongside and through several buildings. The tracks were built in 1929 to service the small factories and businesses along this formerly industrial area of the city close to what had been a series of working docks.

Last month, the High Line opened to the public, a public-private collaboration to turn the elevated tracks into a public garden, a large scale installation that along with the nearby Hudson River Park brings more green space to a part of the city lacking in parks.

In the beauty salon in "Steel Magnolias" there is a needlepoint that states "There is no such thing as natural beauty." The High Line preserves many of the original tracks as well as the weediness/wildness of the plantings that existed there before it was turned into a park. The architects also played off of the original wildness through plantings and hardscape features.

With all new plantings, the look as if these variety of plants just happened to sprout up on the old tracks.

A peak at the Hudson River and Chelsea Piers.

Walking above traffic, this is a much quieter passage for pedestrians. This spur shows how hard the designers worked to keep everything looking natural.

This amphitheater is where the highline crosses 10th Avenue. Glass plates were installed to allow pedestrians to sit and look up 10th Avenue. It sounds odd, but most New Yorkers do not look around when they are walking at street level. They are mostly moving while trying to avoid other pedestrians, bicyclists, automobile traffic, skateboarders and other potential dangers.

This is looking south. towards the Meat Packing District where the park starts.

Open areas on the highline looking north.

This is at the W. 20th St. Exit looking east on W. 20th. General Seminary is on the left side of the block.

This is where the park ends. Work will continue north between W. 20th St. and W. 30th St. There is some possibility that the extension between W. 30th and W. 34th will be included, but it is caught between the MTA and private developers who are planning a major development over the westside railroad yards.

Thursday, July 02, 2009


So I quit writing. I got tired of reading what I was writing. Partner was in Seminary for three years. We moved to New York for that, and I started a new job here. We left our home in Wynnedale (in Indy) for basically a two room apartment with a small kitchen, bathroom and one clothes closet in NYC.

I am not sure I ever realized it was ok to enjoy living here. Everything was so temporary at the time, so different. Now we are entering a new period ... partner will be starting a new job soon, my job responsibilities may be changing, and we may be moving within the City.

The preacher at his ordination preached on being a deacon -- we are all called by our baptismal vow to diaconal service to others -- and transitional -- we would like to think that life is about arriving and settling, but it really is about movement and change, and he encouraged us to embrace the unsettling, boring and uncomfortable.

I've thought about that as we start the next period of our lives, and realize more and more that life itself is not something that is infinite but very finite.

While the year 2000 didn't really feel that much different than the year 1999,I think it is becoming quite clear that by July 2009 we are leaving the 20th Century behind in the sense that everything is subject to being quite different than it used to be.

The 20th Century was full of change (cars, cell phones, man on the moon). But even as we drag all our 20th century experiences into this new period, feeling oh so not hip or cool or cutting edge, we have some obligation to note what it is like to live here and now. Not the royal we here, but rather the folk who write and think about our lives.

I feel a little like the voices in the Monty Python skit who make up outrageous stories about what they did when they were children (when I was a child we were so poor we lived in a shoe box in the middle of the road and licked peoples boots as they walked by followed up by the line, try telling that to people now days, they don't believe you).

It has been raining this afternoon in New York City. The holiday weekend started in early afternoon. Two friends on Facebook refer to the loss of their long-time pets. Another friend is getting a marriage license in CT and will soon legally marry his partner. I am going to General Convention in Anaheim next week. I doubt if I will ever be a twitterer or a tweeterer.

Thursday, April 30, 2009

Still the best...

Shelley continues to illuminate the beauty of the world, particularly the Missouri Botanical Garden, at her Missouri Green site.