Living Well

Inside the Blue Line*: Spiritual Reflections on Life in the Adirondack Park

The first day of Spring was a few days ago. And like many (or most) people, I’m hungering for warmer days, lots of sun, and an ease that comes with release from the cold. That said, there is still a part of me that will say goodbye to winter with sadness.

SpringDespite the joy and relief that comes with Spring and all of its primal energies, there is something about winter that is deeply ‘home’ for me. In the dead of winter, when the air is icy and the ground is white, there is a quiet and peace that prevails for me. Sounds are muffled by the blanket of snow. Colors are sharply diminished to white and various shades of grey and black. Rather than being distracted by sights and sounds and smells, I breathe deeply into the simplicity of vision – shapes and shadows, light and lines, softness and stillness. I can gaze endlessly into this monochromatic scene and receive it with wonder. How many intricate and detailed ways can the complexity and diversity of creation be expressed in black and white?

Spring’s joyful exuberance will come. The snow will melt, the trees will leaf out, the wildlife will make itself known in sight and sound. I will celebrate with the best of them when this happens. And even still, in the deep recesses of my soul, I will nurture a quiet longing for the peace of winter, trusting that for it to come, Spring, Summer and Autumn will have to show their glory as well.

*The Blue Line is the term used in New York state for the boundaries of the Adirondack  (and Catskill) parks, within which can be found the state’s Forest Preserve. The state constitution requires that any property owned or acquired by the state in those parks “be forever kept as wild forest lands” and prohibits it from selling or transferring them in any way. It is so called because blue ink was used when they were first drawn on state maps. 

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Living Well

Inside the Blue Line*: Spiritual Reflections on Life in the Adirondack Park

The East Branch of the Ausable River runs through our town, and is a prominent feature and consideration in our community’s life. There is a 2 ½ mile walking loop that traverses the River by bridge. When I was young, you could drive across the bridge that spanned the river. It was a ‘rickety-rackety’ bridge, and over the years, car traffic was banned and it became a pedestrian bridge.

When Hurricane Irene blew through in 2011, the River flooded in many areas, destroying property and livelihoods in just a few hours. Among the losses was the ‘rickety-rackety bridge.’ It was completely destroyed, a twist of metal beams found downstream in the days after the storm. While the town was working to restore itself in a variety of ways, a small group of people began to investigate how a new bridge could be built to replace the one that was lost. A repurposed bridge was installed in 2015, and the walking loop was open again! There was a festive dedication ceremony, complete with raffle tickets to win the chance to be the first to walk across the new bridge.

for community.jpegI walk this loop regularly, and while I am delighted to have this river crossing restored, what stands out to me most, is this. In the middle of the bridge is a bench, with a plaque that says ‘for community.’ Alongside the bench is a snow shovel. In the winter months, when snow is on the ground much of the time, I have yet to cross this bridge when someone has not already shoveled a path. I don’t know who does it; is there one person who does it all or most of the time? Is it the first person who happens to cross just after a snow? I only know how grateful I am to have a path already cleared so I can continue walking the loop.

Care for community – which for me is an element of the spiritual life – is visible and enacted around here all the time. I think, when the weather grows warmer, I will stop to sit on the bench, take in the amazing beauty all around me in sight and sound, and give thanks for community.

*The Blue Line is the term used in New York state for the boundaries of the Adirondack (and Catskill) parks, within which can be found the state’s Forest Preserve. The state constitution requires that any property owned or acquired by the state in those parks “be forever kept as wild forest lands” and prohibits it from selling or transferring them in any way. It is so called because blue ink was used when they were first drawn on state maps. 

Living Well

Time to Go 

Marcy FieldLabor Day has come and gone; and I am back in Massachusetts. I have spent the last 7 weeks (with a few brief stints on the road) in the high peaks of the Adirondacks, my heart’s home. I have enjoyed visits from my family and friends, and have deepened into the quiet beauty through days of solitude and reflection. It is a time of melancholy – I know it is time to let go and re-engage in life ‘back home’, but I will deeply miss the friends, the community, the pace, the silence, the joy I so cherish.

One of the things I enjoy the most in the summer is worshiping at Keene Valley UCC church. The congregation is creative, warm, vibrant. I know I am worshiping in the midst of both ‘summer people’ and year-round folk. The transition that happens on Labor Day weekend impacts us all. So to honor this time of letting go – for all of us – we heard these words on Sunday, penned by the Keene Valley UCC minister, Rev. Milton Dudley. They capture the experience for me.

The Summer Cycle

Two weeks, four weeks, eight weeks, twelve. Black letters sitting flat on the page; no meaning – just words.

Your name, my name, old friend’s names, new names, forgotten names, names not coming this year, or ever again. Oh the melancholy of these names. 

Arriving with great expectations, for sure, but first opening, and discovering treasures and trash left behind in the rush to leave last year. Not too bad, it’s seen much worse.

Opening smells and waves from afar. Not yet ready for a conversation or visit. It will come. I will come.

First night sleep; dark, quiet, not silent, but the sounds are of the earth and its creatures in the wilderness; no airplanes, sirens, nor droning trains from the abyss.

First cocktail hour: pick a little, talk a little, who, what, when, but why? say that again, pick, pick, pick, talk-a-lot, talk-a-lot

Artsy, artsy, shows, galleries, theatre, performances, something every evening, no two things, no three . . . the summer war of choices rages in our lives.

Farmers, farmer’s markets, farm store, eat local, eat healthy, support the zealot young farmers and the old ones who have planted, harvested and fed us for years. Boycott Kettle Korn.

Friday traffic. Sunday traffic. Ha, ha, ha, I’m already here and I don’t have to go home . . . ah . . .

Children running free and squealing with freedom. Dogs on long walks, swimming in the river, deer at dusk. BE AWARE, bears, and foxes and turkeys, oh my!

Sunday morning worship, guest artists, wonderful choir, where’s Betsy?, oh, I didn’t know. As a faith community we share the highs and lows. We revel and mourn. There is truly something to the corporate nature of a worshiping community that cannot be found on the trail.

Warm summer nights. Humid summer days. The energy drains out of me and I head to the sleeping porch for a nap.

The wispy clouds dance in, out and over the mountain’s contour. A symphony without music, a prayer without words, an epiphany of the continuing act of Creation.

The children run screaming when I taunt them with, ‘Back to School Sales.’ They remind me of all the packing I must do. I run screaming with them.

THE date looms and the pace quickens. Must be mindful of the moment or it will be missed. Must face the yearly reality of things not done, attended, experienced.

One more hike, one swim, one concert, one dinner, one porch nap, all those ones add up to ‘too much.’

That day arrives. Depression and tears arrive too. A great summer full of the cycle of life . . . but over. As we start the car and head east to the freeway we sing . . .

Happy trails to you, until we meet again.

Happy trails to you, keep smilin’ until then.

Who cares about the clouds when we’re together?

Just sing a song and bring the sunny weather.

Happy trails to you, ‘till we meet again.

 

Sniff, sniff . . . See you next summer.