I once had a professor, who was fond of criticizing uninspired, half-hearted student efforts as “pedestrian,” in the sense of humdrum and unimaginative.

That’s actually the original meaning of the word, back in the days of the Roman Empire, where I think the professor lived his happiest days.  Dull and drab.  Just your basic wage-earning proletarians, plodding along, rather than the patricians and equestrians, racing on horseback to the Colosseum or an uptown bacchanalia.

In Boston, my recent home, I learned that “pedestrian” is also synonymous with “victim,” in the sense of someone mad enough to venture out on foot, among the city’s psychopathic drivers.  Stop signs mean nothing to these people, sidewalks do not curb them, you cannot claim sanctuary, you’re always fair game.

To be on foot in Boston is simply asking for it.  Like the poor schmoes with walk-on roles in Ben Hur, getting shoved in front of a chariot race, or tipped into the lion’s den.  On foot in Boston traffic, you’re just dipped in gravy and dropped into a cage of weasels.

So walking is not the relaxing pastime it used to be.  Sometimes in the parks around Upstate NY, we’ll be the only ones walking – –  jumping off the path as off-road bicyclists race past, with helmets and carbon fiber chariots.  OK, to each their own.  They’re having fun, non-motorized, so happy to see them enjoying the outdoors.  We look for trails that are too narrow and strewn with fallen tree trunks for bikers, and continue on our plebian way.

And the stretch of woods we walked through, here at summer’s close, was pretty “pedestrian,” – – just middling-size maples, average ash, basic beeches, a handful of hemlocks, hummocky swamps with ferns beginning to turn brown.

 

 

 

But when we took a break and sat down, there were wonderful miniature landscapes of moss and fungi.

It was getting toward sundown and the tiny mushrooms seemed to glow.

 

 

 

 

Well, speaking as a groundling, worm’s-eye views are sometimes pretty neat!

 

 

 

Although, I guess technically, these are more bird’s-eye views.

I mean, if the bird was walking, not flying.

 

 

And we’re not talking ostrich or heron, maybe about grouse-height.

Next week, we’ll address “perambulate.”  Class is dismissed.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Finger Lakes, FLX, Nature, Uncategorized, Upstate New York

Walks Around the Finger Lakes. Late August, Early Evening, Finger Lakes Forest

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The Black Diamond Trail is for walkers and bikers in the Finger Lakes, near Cayuga Lake.  It’s a new railroad bed conversion, running eight miles between Cass Park in Ithaca, NY and Taughannock Falls Park, in Trumansburg.  Eventually it will continue south to Treman Park, another eight miles or so.

The trail’s name refers to coal – – the north-south railroads in the Finger Lakes generally ran coal from Pennsylvania, to ships on Lake Ontario, and thence to sooty places around the world.  This particular route of the Lehigh Valley RR also had a luxurious “Black Diamond” passenger service from NYC to Ithaca, and then on to Niagara Falls.

 

 

 

 

 

 

I’ve sometimes been, well, not entirely complimentary about sumacs. In autumn, they’re quite often looking like the tattered and hungover remnants of a Mardi Gras parade. But they’re unfailingly colorful in the fall, and can look pretty darn elegant in summertime, too.

 

 

The south (Ithaca) end of the trail is a bit dull.  Some tiny rivulet-size waterfalls, blackberries, raspberries, Joe Pye Weed, and sumac alongside.  A powerline is overhead for a mile, and the cars on Route 89 are visible through the trees.

Serious bikers streak past, unsmiling, bug-eyed goggles, spandex and sinew, their tee-shirts advertising an obscure microbrewery in Rochester.  The beers and ales are a bit too hopped-up, and the cyclists too – – pretty much oblivious to the waterfalls, wildflowers and views of Cayuga Lake.

 

 

 

 

The aged hippies from Trumansburg glide by at a more sedate pace, on recumbent bikes or ancient Schwinns, “Uncle John’s Band” and “Jack Straw” audible from their headphones.  They wave, stop to look at the little streams, comb a few bugs out of their gray beards, and offer you a sip of homemade kombucha.  They’re nice, but I don’t drink, afraid I might wake up under a tree, like Rip Van Winkle, a few decades in the future, a rusty  peace medallion around my neck, wearing mossy old bellbottoms, and “California Dreamin” running through my head.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A mile or so north of Ithaca, the trail becomes nicer.  Most of the pastel-jumpsuit-joggers turn back toward the city.  The powerline decides to head west, and it’s just trees overhead.  The trail moves farther and farther from the highway.  An unmarked but well-beaten footpath goes up the hill, alongside a nice stream with lots of little falls.

 

 

 

 

After a while, as we go up the hill, a sound like passing trains or traffic starts coming through the trees.  Past an old picnic area with stone tables, and we’ve come out behind the county hospital.  Huge air conditioners are making the rushing sound.

 

 

 

 

Going back down the hill toward the rail-trail, a side trail is covered with matchstick-sized fungus.  Tiny but creepy.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

They’re unmoving, but we walk around them, just in case.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Finger Lakes, FLX, Ithaca, Nature, NY, Railroads, Uncategorized, Upstate New York

Walks Around The Finger Lakes. August. Matchstick Army on the Black Diamond Trail

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In a state chockablock with wonderful parks, Fillmore Glen is one of the best. It’s fairly small, under a thousand acres – basically a cool, shady little gorge, with a series of waterfalls and miniature bridges. Millard Fillmore, our 13th President, was born near here, and there’s a replica of his log cabin birthplace. He grew up dirt poor, son of a tenant farmer, and the park was constructed by other poor folks, in the Civilian Conservation Corps during the Great Depression. They did an amazing job – picnic pavilions and a lot of the stonework retaining walls, etc. have survived from the 1930’s, despite a number of floods over the years.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The woods reflected in a pond. It was very still, but there are small ripples throughout the picture, if you look closely.  Last year, they gave a Nobel to some scientists who were able to detect infinitesimal ripples – apparently just good vibrations are surfing through the whole darn universe all the time now.  I have sometimes felt a tingling sensation up my spine, and thought it was the anticipation of eating a jelly doughnut after the hike, but it could be Einstein’s gravitational waves.  Far out, dude, feeling totally amped about this whole ripple thing.

 

 

a picture of exuberance

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

OK, not taken in August, but the only picture I could find of the first bridge.

 

 

A close call, encountering the dreaded Dark Newt of Doom, and barely surviving. “Only these marishes and myrie bogs, In which the fearefull ewftes do build their bowres, Yeeld me an hostry mongst the croking frogs …”  (The Faerie Queen)

 

 

Seriously, can you imagine this little creature inspiring dread? Shame on Spenser for kicking up a skink, perhaps he was thinking of Warty Newts, or had a bad experience with salamanders, after a night tossing back mulled wine.  I know Renaissance folks associated newts and efts with sorcery, but personally, I’m always delighted to spot these cute little guys, and the Eastern Newts really are this bright and colorful, almost fluorescent.

 

 

 

 

 

Fillmore Glen is just outside of Moravia, NY, at the south end of Owasco Lake, one of the eastern Finger Lakes.  It’s a sleepy little village, but it produced the industrialist John D. Rockefeller, a U.S. President, and the first president of Cornell University.

 

 

 

 

Finger Lakes, FLX, hiking, Nature, NY, Upstate New York

Walks Around The Finger Lakes. August. Fillmore Glen

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Have you ever experienced a recurring dream?

I have one, that comes to me during ragweed season.

I find myself walking and walking in the country.

Trees and plants, woods and fields, hills and dales.

There are people with me, walking and talking, talking and talking, talking of stalking, pointing and gesticulating.

In the dream, I don’t know the time, but I know it’s very early.  Too early for all this gesticulating – I can’t even say that word, at this early hour.  Hand-waving, then, and sounds like they’re speaking in Latin.  Are we monks??  I don’t understand any of it.

Then I hear a voice say clearly “…The F Stop…” and I look around for a bus.  But there isn’t any, so we keep walking.  I don’t know what time it is, but I know somehow, that it’s early, and we’re rambling in the grayness of Pre-Noon – that horrible, fuzzy zone that exists before lunchtime.

Without looking, I can tell my socks don’t match.  One feels like it’s wool, knee-high, and itchy.  I don’t own any socks like that.

It’s at that point, the slow dawning horror comes over me, as I become aware, that I’m not dreaming.

I’m actually awake, out and about at this ungodly hour, hiking apparently, and have fallen among  some roving cult of naturalists, botanists, forest-bathers, and photographers.  Why does this keep happening.  Apparently sometime last night, once again, I agreed to an Early Morning Nature Walk.  Don’t remember.  Don’t remember if anyone thought to give me breakfast first, or brunch, like decent, civilized people.  Don’t remember signing on to wander around in the shrubbery and thickets of binomial nomenclature.

But that explains the people in my dream, talking in Latin.  And the “F Stops” – the photographer has us straying through sodden “Depths of Field” or suchlike, and my socks are soggy.

Ragweed Season.  I don’t sleep well, and I don’t do awake so well, either.  I’m stumbling along, coked to the gills on antihistamines, Echinacea, Sudafed, Mucinex.  Just let the mosquitoes drink as much of my blood as they want.  They try to fly off, but then the Benadryl hits, and they drop from the sky like stones.

Walking at breakfast time.  Dogwoods, but no doughnuts, fritillaries, but no frittatas.  Someone offers me a handful of Dragon’s Tongues.  They’re surprisingly tiny and green.  It seems like the dream-state is resuming.  But “dragon’s tongues” turns out to be a mixture of grape vine tendrils and the leaves of a flowering mustard plant, they call “wild arugula.”  Not bad!  The grape tendrils are delicious, kind of lemony.  Someone pulls out a thermos and gives me some coffee.

I open my eyes, and it’s a pretty nice day!   Nature’s not so bad, really, as long as the plant life includes coffee beans and tea leaves.

 

x

 

 

Pollen thy name is Legion

 

breakfast, Finger Lakes, FLX, hiking, Nature, NY, Uncategorized, Upstate New York

It’s always a cakewalk in ragweed time.

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Finger Lakes, FLX, Frostbite, Ithaca, Nature, NY, snow, Things to Do When Your Water Crystallizes on You, Upstate New York

Walks Around The Finger Lakes ~ March ~ It’s Spring! Breaking Out the Lawn Furniture

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Finger Lakes, FLX, Frostbite, Nature, NY, photography, snow, Things to Do When Your Water Crystallizes on You, Upstate New York, Winter

Walks Around the Finger Lakes. January. A frozen stream in Sugar Hill Forest

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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.

 

 

 

1980's, Art, Finger Lakes, FLX, NY, United States, Upstate New York

Walks Around The Finger Lakes. Corning Glass Museum.

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