Like so many sophisticated adventure-seekers before us, we were driving around Cattaraugus County, admiring the cows.
There’s a lot of them.
Restaurants, movie theaters, gas stations, people…not so much.
Eventually, a small sign told us we’d arrived in East Otto.
Apparently, we’d passed through West Otto, and Central Otto, without noticing.
Soon after, my cellphone found a signal again, and it could pull up a map.
We discovered that we were southeast of Bagdad, Gowanda, and the Zoar Valley.
And due east of Persia.
Strangers in a strange land.
I hadn’t known our state had these places, in such a pastoral setting, but I liked the idea of eating cheese from such exotic locales.
Bagdad Brie, Persian Pecorino, Gowanda Gorgonzola.
And yes, as you may have guessed, we’d gotten off the interstate, decided to go home cross-country, no GPS, and were a bit lost.
The endless herds of Holsteins were the only familiar faces we’d seen. It’s possible we’d seen some of them more than once, as we zigzagged around.
The roads wandered through pastures, woodlots, little hills. We passed an old guy cutting hay, wearing a wool plaid jacket in August, and as we went around the bend, and up a little hill, we realized there was something strange about our surroundings.
There were no cows to be seen.
No cows whatsoever.
Finding ourselves in a landscape totally vacant of cows made us uneasy.
There didn’t seem to be any roadblocks manned by the Children of the Corn, so we kept driving, and found we’d driven into the Griffis Sculpture Park.
A rusted but fantabulous remnant of an ancient but very groovy time, called “The Sixties”.
The wonderful man who created this place was named Larry Griffis, Jr.
He came back to Buffalo after serving in WWII, and started a business making nylon stockings.
During a visit to Italy, he fell in love with sculpture.
I saw a picture of him on the internet, and he reminded me a bit of Van Morrison. His son, and now granddaughter, have kept his workshop in Buffalo going, and the park in East Otto is now hundreds of acres of fields, ponds, and woods, full of sculptures, by Griffis and other artists.
Some are pretty literal creations, like this giraffe, peering into the woods.
Or this giant mosquito.
The woods are full of meandering paths, with abstract creations scattered about.
A pond is surrounded by flying metal geese, and rusted obelisks, which resemble small cellphone towers, as woven from rebar by a cargo cult — some overgrown, some toppled over, and merging into the undergrowth.
A shrine-like creation, marked “Santana,” held an offering of a dozen half-eaten acorns.
Statues and shapes are cast in bronze and aluminum, but most seem to be weathered and rusted iron.
One group resembles chess pieces, another, industrial elements.
We’d arrived quite a distance from the main entrance, where a series of fields and woods harbors some hands-on creations, that you can climb on, and in.
My favorite resembles the conning tower of a submarine, surfacing in a meadow.
My snapshots only show a fraction of the collection. You could easily spend the better part of a day, hiking around and discovering things.
Some of these creations, as the day got close to sundown, seemed a bit spooky, even foreboding.
But the overwhelming vibe of the place is of whimsical creativity and happiness.
We’ve had plenty of rain in Upstate New York this summer, so the countryside is lush and green.
A steady stream of storms hanging over our heads. A summer flooded with talk of swollen swamps, mushrooms and clouds.
And now, talk of mushroom clouds.
The sound of running water fills the damp woods, and I’ve been taking photos of pretty rivulets, graced with ferns and arching tree limbs.
But yesterday, while listening to the news about Korea, I saw this shot, of black shale in an unnamed stream, and it suited my mood.
A geology website informs us that this little waterfall runs through a “dissected plateau” – – layers of shale, sandstone, and limestone.
“Dissect” always has an unpleasant connotation to me, of high school biology class.
Personally, I like my frogs live and hopping.
The rocks are dull-colored and lifeless-looking, but if you pry open some of the layers, they’re teaming with fossils.
The ancient creatures embedded in the rock, probably thought things were going ok, and went about their business, but in some layers, the density of their remains, speaks of mass die-offs.
These were lower lifeforms, I guess they never saw it coming.
Sounding a bit downbeat! So what to do?
I suggest…go take a walk. Enjoy the green woods and the sound of waterfalls.
One of my favorite presidents, Harry Truman, used to walk two miles every day.
Following his walk, he then had one shot of bourbon.
If you feel an affection or need for clubs, ok, do your walking on a golf course.
Harry did not play golf. He just took a brisk little hike, and shook hands with people he met.
He used an old-fashioned word to describe his walk: his morning “constitutional”.
These are clearly winning concepts: Take a walk. Take a drink. Shake hands. Constitutional.
I don’t think there’s too many people, after more than sixty years, who care deeply about MacArthur’s dismissal. If you’re not a student of history, MacArthur was our top general, when we were fighting in Korea. Truman decided he’d gotten too big for his britches, and we couldn’t have a military leader who was arrogant, contemptuous, disrespectful and reckless. Korea was a bad place to be reckless.
And Harry sent him walking.
A walk in the woods today, turned out to be a macrofungi field trip. Still very damp, even mucky in places, after getting eight inches of rain in recent weeks. All these pictures, with the exception of the second one, were taken within a few hundred feet of each other.
Some towns to our west, in Cayuga County, have had flooding recently. Eight inches of rain over two weeks, and the woods are filled with fungus. I know little of wild mushrooms, so no one should rush out to eat this on my say-so, but I think this is what the old folks call “sheepshead”. You can get an idea of size from the oak leaf in the top right corner, of the first photo. Kind of sloppy ground for walking, but also kind of neat. So many fungus, almost glowing in the dim woods, it struck me that a coral reef was taking root. While I was away last summer, there was a drought, and everyone reported on all the little streams that pretty much dried up, but they’re now going full tilt.