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.
I 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.