These bicycles are a nice bit of color in a time of brown and gray.
Along a road winding up into the hills and the Finger Lakes Forest.
A largely agricultural area north of Watkins Glen, now being “built up” with houses, summer cottages and of course, more wineries.
And gift shops. I’d thought macramé plant hangers were finally extinct, but turns out, they were just tangled up somewhere and have now reemerged in the world of stained glass candleholders and bracelets made from bent spoons.
Putting this photo on WP, I was thinking how, when I post these snapshots of the Finger Lakes region, or wherever I’ve been, there’s an impulse to try to show the place in a flattering light.
Sometimes the photos have been cropped to remove what seem like distractions or what strikes me as just plain ol’ ugliness.
It somehow feels almost like disloyalty to do otherwise.
But perhaps that’s my sentimental streak creeping in again and something to avoid – -not just to steer clear of kitsch and superficiality – – but also in favor of clarity and honesty.
Well…likely it’s also good to not to overthink this or take it too seriously!
Somehow this crop seemed to stick in my craw, so here’s a photo that wasn’t cropped.
A no doubt tackier scene, kind of fun and definitely a bit weirder.
Although, I think if I ran out of gas, I’d probably knock on someone else’s door, there’s just something about headless mannequins.
After a lot of unusually warm weather in December and January (at least, warm by northeast standards), the falls were behaving like it was spring.
The turbulent water undermines the stone walls along the creek, the remnants of old mills. More blocks have fallen into the water every time I visit.
The Universal Friends, a religious sect similar in some ways to the Quakers, built the first grist mill here in 1790.
The Friends also added a second mill, this one for linseed oil, and eventually there were dozens of places – – grinding grain, making paper, paint, etc.
When all those industries eventually ground to a halt, for a time, the falls generated electricity for the village.
The mills have all disappeared over the years, with the exception of the Birkett Mill, grinding buckwheat since 1797. Starting near that mill, in Penn Yan, there’s a seven mile walking/biking path on the old railbed along the creek.
The trail association has put up some excellent new signboards, where I learned a new bit of local history.
I was curious about those oldtime Quaker-ish folks and why they were making linseed oil, instead of say, oatmeal.
I knew it can be used in paint and wood preservative but didn’t realize just how many uses it has.
As “flaxseed oil,” it’s a dietary supplement for people, cows, pigs and chickens. And used in soap and face cream, medicine, salad dressing, etc. It’s rubbed into cast iron pans to season them and into people’s faces to prevent wrinkles. And as a base for liniment, I guess to rub on a sore head when someone criticizes the cook and gets whacked with a cast iron skillet.
It can also be flammable – – which brings us back to the local history.
I mentioned one time, in a post about Lafayette’s 1825 visit to the U.S., that the celebrations in my hometown resulted in at least one death, when a cannon exploded and killed the local militia captain.
When the Marquis visited the little mill town near the falls, their militia unit turned out to fire salutes with their black powder muskets…and managed to set the linseed and grist mills on fire.
I’m now wondering just how many fires and fatalities were involved in Lafayette’s Farewell Tour and the attendant pyrotechnics and 24-gun salutes. (Not 21-gun salutes, the “National Salute” in this country used to be one bang per state, until 1841 when they had 26 states, more on the way and decided it was getting out of hand.)
He was on the road for thirteen months so there were plenty of opportunities for mishaps. Although certainly the toll was far less than some of our time’s crowd disasters at soccer matches, rock’n’roll concerts, dance clubs, etc.
I did read that after visiting Andrew Jackson in Tennessee, Lafayette’s steamboat sank on the way to Louisville, with no drownings but some loss of money and property.
Mostly it was thirteen months of parades, ceremonies, dances, and stuff being named for him, like the park in my hometown.
He received an honorary U. S. citizenship, too, although the paperwork wasn’t completed until just a bit after his visit.
(“Bureaucracy” was adapted from a French term, and first used in English in 1815. And so Lafayette’s citizenship didn’t come through until…last year?! July 22, 2022).
He did return to France with at least one souvenir – – snow globes hadn’t been invented yet, so he took a trunk full of dirt instead.
(It was soil from Bunker Hill and in 1834 was spread on his grave as he’d requested.)
Wikipedia has assembled a long list of places named for him – – streets, squares, towns, counties, etc. I don’t think there’s a city in upstate NY that doesn’t have something to memorialize him. But none I think with his full name:
La vache! How I’d like to see that on a road sign.
Over the holidays, I visited Corning, NY – – famous for its glass museum, the largest collection of historical and art glass in the world.
But the town also has another excellent art museum, the Rockwell.
It’s not on the scale of the glass museum (where the gift shop alone is literally seven times bigger than my house) but it’s well worth visiting.
A lot of the art relates to the American West.
Frederic Remington, one of the most famous artists of the American West, was a New Yorker. He grew up in the “North Country” near the St. Lawrence river, so he knew a thing or two about cold weather, and that came to mind looking at these cavalrymen huddled around a fire in the snow.
His scenes and sculptures of the West were created in his studio in New Rochelle, about ten miles from Irvington, where Albert Bierstadt had his studio.
They have a big (I guess the only way he did things) landscape by Bierstadt, nearly 6′ x 10′, in place of pride on the top floor.
I suppose these formal landscapes in the “Hudson River School” style have been out-of-fashion for a long time, but personally I love them.
The collection is housed in a former city hall, a big brick-and-stone pile, done in a stalwart Richardson Romanesque style, almost medieval-looking.
It was built in 1893 so a contemporary of some of the paintings it contains.
There’s a rooftop terrace, which is where I took this cellphone picture of the slate roof.
I was thinking about the saying “clean slate,” to start off the new year.
I know the expression refers to chalk & blackboards, students’ handheld slates (and 19th c. bar tabs!) but these roof shingles are made of the same stuff after all.
Some of the other expressions that are almost-synonyms, like “square one,” seem like they’re usually used in a more negative sense, like “here we go again, having to start all over.” “Breaking new ground,” speaking as someone who’s dug up sod and a few stumps, is just plain backbreaking.
“When one door closes, another opens” can be very true. I grew up in a drafty old house built in the 1860’s, and that kinda stuff happened, until we got storm doors and better weatherstripping installed.
I remember some teachers were fond of using tabula rasa, but they always seemed to say “blank slate” when they were looking straight at me. With the emphasis on blank, as I looked back at them blankly. So I never much liked that. And it seems a bit fancy and pretentious.
When I looked it up, the dictionary has rāsa as “scraped, erased,” and of course the Romans were using wax tablets, not slate. (I guess in a pinch, they could toss incriminating evidence onto the nearest brazier or flaming martyr.)
And speaking of Roman gladiatorial-related stuff, Webster’s tells us “start from scratch” meant “show up for a confrontation,” like “step up to the plate” and they also see an origin in sports – – a line in the sand – – for a race, cricket, boxing, etc. So that all sounds horribly athletic and combative, so let’s skip it.
“Reboot,” which the Help Desk people probably say in their sleep, is kinda nice – – at least you have the mental image of applying the sole of your boot to the soulless stubborn computer.
But I like best “clean slate,” “fresh start” and “new leaf,” they’re positive sounding, aren’t they.
And “Start afresh” just has a nice sound to it.
So that’s all, no profound thoughts, just Cheers, here’s to a fresh new year.
New York State has decided to allow a “Holiday Deer Hunt” (seriously).
Seems like a great way to promote the great outdoors, alfresco Nativity and peace & goodwill to all.
If you’re not a hunter,
looking forward to some family time and a walk in the winter wonderland,
a snowmobile jaunt, a cross-country ski trek
we have some new slogans:
Not just Icy, Pretty Dicey!
See Some Wildlife? Duck!
Nothing says holiday cheer like shooting a deer.
And here’s an old Chuck Berry tune for the new festivity.
“RUN RUDOLPH RUN”
Billboard’s S’Hot 100, Number Six with a Bullet
Out of all the reindeers you know you are the mastermind
But run, run Rudolph, hunters ain’t too far behind
Run, run Rudolph, Santa’s gotta make it to town
Santa, wear an orange vest and you’d better keep your head well down.
Run, run Rudolph ’cause they’re loaded up and shootin’ all around
Said Santa to a boy child, “What have you been longin’ for?”
“All I want for Christmas is a semi-auto BAR.”
And then away went Rudolph whizzin’ like a shootin’ star
Run, run Rudolph, you’re called fair game in this town
Santa, make him hurry, we don’t want your sled shot down
Run, run Rudolph, I just heard a .30-06 round
Run, run Rudolph, the Grinch has got a compound
Santa, make him hurry, tell him we all got guns and beer,
Run, run Rudolph, I’m strappin’ on my bandolier.
Said Santa to a girl child, “What would please you most to get?”
“A little baby doll with crossbow or Barbie with a bayonet”
And then away went Rudolph, zippin’ up his Kevlar vest
‘Cause we leave the house without a rifle, we just feel undressed.
Run, run Rudolph, gotta make it to town
Santa, make him hurry, tell him he better stay in the mall
Run, run Rudolph we don’t want your antlers on the wall.
apologies to Chuck Berry
NY is not only allowing deer hunting until New Year’s, they’re also allowing hunting for a half-hour after sundown – – Rudolph, with your nose so bright, you’re sure to be in someone’s sights by night.
The old Xmas postcard is from the Library of Congress
This was taken on an overcast day, and the leaves were obviously suffering from tar spot after a humid, hot summer, but I liked the rich color.
Pretty much the last to fall, the maples and ash trees are already bare.
I’ve posted a few pictures from this place in past years.
The Sterling Preserve is not far from Oswego, NY, and about an hour’s drive from Rochester (maybe 45 minutes if you skip the leaf-peeping and drive down Route 104 like a bat out of hell, which is generally the custom in these parts).
In the 1970’s, a utility company acquired thousands of acres to build a nuclear power plant – – there were/are such plants near Rochester and Oswego. However the plans for this Sterling plant fell through and there’s now roughly 1400 protected acres of fields, wooded hillocks and marshes . And almost two miles of shoreline along Lake Ontario, all cobble beach.
The woods are nice – mostly maples, oaks, tulip trees and beeches. Along the eastern edge of the preserve, remnants of a stone boundary wall and an old apple orchard are visible, now overtaken by native trees. Near the marshes, there’s more buttonbush shrubs than I’ve seen anywhere else in the region.
WP seems to be doing that thing it does – – some of these photos fuzzy to me, I fiddled with them but no improvement. They seem to look ok when you click on them.
A shot of the lower half of the falls.
I did very little editing, mostly just made it a bit brighter, and didn’t fiddle with the balance or boost the “color saturation,” or whatever it’s called.
I think the color comes from minerals and perhaps fresh-water algae. Pale blue? Pale turquoise?
The Crayola box (the big one, my go-to reference for art stuff) indicates “aquamarine,” but when I look online at a color chart, that’s way too green.
“Bluish” will have to do.
As you head south out of Ithaca, NY, there’s a stretch of highway that’s one of the main commercial drags in that little city. It combines routes 96, 13, and 34 for a few miles, and it’s fairly hectic – – lots of banks, car dealerships, fast food, grocery stores, motels, etc.
And then you hit the city limits, and all that commercial stuff pretty much stops. The Green Party – Socialist State of Ithaca is behind you — the Asian and vegan restaurants, peace signs and rainbow flags are gone, and the pro-NRA banners begin. You’re now in the Southern Tier, and it’s shotgun racks, dollar stores, and Don’t Step On Me flags all the way to the Pennsylvania line.
But there’s a sweet spot, a DMZ between the two worlds, just as you leave Ithaca, and that’s two nice state parks — Buttermilk and Treman.
Buttermilk is the first, named for the whitewater of a big falls (165′ tall), very close to the highway.
It’s impressive in the spring, or after periods of heavy rain, but I think it’s more interesting than beautiful. Instead of a vertical drop off a rock ledge, it’s a tiered cascade, pouring into a swimming area.
The curved slope of siltstone and shale is shaped a bit like a section of a domed roof, or maybe a big hoop skirt, and the creek just comes down it in a pretty uninventive way.
The water doesn’t really leap from the rock, and go for it, take the big plunge, it just slides over it. Dutifully following the law of gravity, falling without any particular style, just like the rest of us.
If you or I were on that slope, we’d be sure to slide down it too, and we wouldn’t expect anyone to think that was very clever, would we.
It’s right off the highway, with picnic tables, a swimming area at the base of the falls, and playing fields close by, so it’s a bit busy.
I mean, it’s perfectly nice and has that pleasant bustle of people picnicking, dogs barking, kids happily hitting each other with sticks and rocks, etc. but combined with the rumble of motorcycles and trucks on the highway, the noise drowns out the water sounds.
So, why the heck am I talking about a spot that I’m not entirely keen on? Because if you cross the creek, on a little iron bridge built in 1881, and follow the steep trail up the south side of the gorge, it’s fantastic.
There’s a whole series of smaller but wonderful falls.
The water is having a wonderful time, whizzing through high-spirited chutes, swirling in circular pools, dividing and rushing back together in playful angles, and you’re right next to it all, you can stick out a hand and feel the spray.
The trail is rough and often slippery, but totally worth it. Once you’re in the glen, ferns decorate every crack and ledge, overhead are maples, beeches, and hemlocks. The highway noise disappears, and there’s just the sound of rushing water.
Get there early in the morning, or early evening, especially on a day when rain is threatening, and you’ll probably have the place pretty much to yourself, and can just soak up the quiet musical reverberations, and watch the acrobatics of the barn swallows, swooping and streaking through tight turns just above the water.
A disintegrating old barn, leaning six ways to Sunday.
I like the hand hewn beams & weathered wood on old barns, and this had the right stuff, but right angles, not so much. Nothing was entirely straight or plumb.
The light coming through the boards looked like some sort of coded message to me, but the first person I showed this to, saw a cityscape at night.
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