My next few posts are going to be pictures from the Corning Glass Museum.
This is part of my series “Shameless Plugs for Upstate New York” – – my icy, crumbling, semi-medieval homeland.
The museum is a highlight of the “Southern Tier.”
This is the area along the Pennsylvania border, more often synonymous with job loss, aging population, and population loss.
Unless you’re making cheese, or meth, you’re often unemployed.
So Corning, NY, about four hours from New York City, seems a strange setting for a huge, rich treasure trove of ancient and modern glass – – that symbol of beauty, fragility, and civilization.
The explanation is the Corning Glass Company — operating here since 1868.
They’ve made glassware, windshields, Pyrex, Corelle, the telescope mirror for the Palomar Observatory, photochromatic lenses, and the glass for Edison’s light bulbs.
One of their offshoots, Steuben Glass, now defunct, made engraved pieces, for more than a century, that the White House used to present to foreign dignitaries, etc.
More recently, the company’s invented catalytic converters, touchscreens, and fiber optic cable.
But getting back to the museum.
Artists make pilgrimages here from around the world.
The bowl in the photograph has been on display, I think, since the 1980’s, and has always been one my favorites.
“Cityscape” is by Jay Munger, a California artist.
A Pyrex bowl, cut, sandblasted, and painted.
I figured everybody’s seen a million photos of Niagara Falls, by better photographers than me! So these are mostly snapshots of the area around the Falls, taken on Saturday.
The freezing spray glazed our coats, so they crackled when we took them off, and added layer after layer of ice to every non-moving object in the area, making a walk kind of tricky, but it’s always very interesting and beautiful to visit the Falls in winter. Until your blood begins to gel, of course.
1,2 = Coin-operated binoculars, coated with ice and turned into friendly-looking robots.
3-6 = Trees and shrubs covered with ice on Goat Island, in the middle of the Niagara River, and the American side of Falls.
7-13 = getting toward dusk, near Horseshoe Falls, on the Canadian side. The Falls are illuminated with colored spotlights.
I hope everybody out there has a wonderful New Year’s, and best wishes for a peaceful, happy 2018.
I just ran across this poem, “A Crystal Forest” by William Sharp (1913), (and quoted by Emma Watson as Belle in Disney’s Beauty and the Beast)
|The air is blue and keen and cold,
With snow the roads and fields are white;
But here the forest’s clothed with light
And in a shining sheath enrolled.
Each branch, each twig, each blade of grass,
Seems clad miraculously with glass:Above the ice-bound streamlet bends
Each frozen fern with crystal ends.
The next statue in our history tour, is of the indomitable P. Eckel.
Now largely forgotten — but in the final decades of the 19th century, he was known to every resident of this city.
A quintessential Victorian reformer, and, I am obliged to point out, a figure attracting considerable controversy.
Had he remained satisfied with his campaign to create a dog park in every neighborhood, he would, to a certainty, be better represented in the annals of American history.
His inaugural Canine Green (1876) was opened with considerable fanfare, and proved an instant success. As reported in the Post:
“Dog fanciers, sportsmen, and courting couples have flocked to the park. The upper crust rubs elbows with the humbler sort, those who must toil to earn their daily crust, and the Social Register’s pureblood hounds mix in perfect cordiality and democracy with their less-distinguished mongrel cousins…”
Based on its popularity, Eckel was appointed the city’s first Dog Warden — considered a rising political star, being groomed to run for mayor.
Eckel believed there were no bad dogs, only dogs hadn’t been properly instructed on the proper locations to relieve themselves. His philosophy was embraced by adherents of the Aesthetic Movement, the Domestic Animal Welfare Reform societies, and all those grounded in the essential Victorian faith in Doing Your Business.
But his single-minded resolve to place his Patented Canine Sanitary Stanchions, on every street corner, without the blessing of the city council, cost him his job, and extinguished his dog park crusade.
Careful study of the Sanitary Stanchions (seen surrounding his statue in the picture above) reveals to the observant, one of the issues with his invention.
Because they so closely resembled hydrants, the fire brigades were constantly attempting to hook hoses to them.
When, as the result of this confusion, the city morgue burned to the ground, with tremendous loss of bodies, if not lives, the city fathers had had enough, and his political opponents unleashed their resentment.
Eckel, who only wanted to provide hygienic relief, was relieved of his position. Hounded from office, and every one of his stanchions was dismantled and destroyed.
But P. Eckel was not someone to roll over for a pack of ward heelers, or sit idle, or take this lying down.
In his self-designed uniform, he continued to stride along the thoroughfares, up the town and down, six days a week, shouting through his speaking trumpet at miscreant curs befouling the footpath, and sometimes their dogs, too, but sadly, without the authority to collar wrong-doers.
Reading through his voluminous papers, laid down in the archives of the Eastminster Kennel Club, he comes across as well-meaning, but somewhat monomaniacal.
It’s sad to see this forgotten figure, in a park that no longer allows dog-walking.
Carved in stone, his features weathered by a century of rain, he stands forgotten, passed like water through our collective memory.
You know when you’ve reached the point of post-Thanksgiving saturation.
Walking near a beaver pond, and seeing turkey noodle soup.
And what looks like one stray cranberry.
Yesterday we walked by plantations of white pines and spruce, remnants of old apple orchards, lovely red sugar maples, beeches, hornbeams, and hophornbeams.
Those last two trees are pictured above.
Of the two, I prefer the hophornbeam.
I mean, who wants a hornbeam that just sits there?
I find it’s true that Nature abhors a vacuum – –
ambling along, pretty much totally vacant of thought,
so Nature provided a little wake-up call – –
two ruffed grouse, alway wiseguys, suddenly shot up,
like whirring rockets.
I’ve never gotten a picture of a grouse,
just a few minor heart attacks,
when they suddenly blast off,
three feet in front of my face.
We’d gone into a stretch of hemlocks, where it’s always a bit darker,
and getting along toward sundown,
so we’d decided to head back, while we could still see the trail.
But first we walked just a bit down the hill,
to listen to the creek,
and look at the tiny waterfalls.
And found a shrine-like assemblage of pebbles on the bank.
Little heart-shaped stones were tucked every which way into crevices.
I know, damn hippies.
This won’t gladden the hearts of most hikers I know,
who are fundamentally opposed to leaving any alteration or trace of human activity in the woods.
And humans being humans, they kinda overdid things,
maybe just a tad,
so it ended up looking like a Neolithic dump,
just after Valentine’s Day in the Stone Age.
But there were no beer cans, cigarette butts, or shell casings,
and to be honest,
I kind of got a kick out of this particular little display of weirdness.