Storm King

Storm King Mountain
Storm King Mountain

Storm King is a big round mountain that hulks above the upper Hudson River.  It is an imposing presence, even if it’s tree-covered.  The romantic-sounding  Corwall-on-Hudson is the nearest town.  At first look, the Storm King Art Center is a normal farm with a fancy house on a hill.  The grounds are pretty, with many pieces of  sculpture scattered around the lawn.  Interesting, but not spectacular.  Except for the columns.  I love outdoor columns, and I hightailed it over to them right away. The valley below is lovely, and there was a tractor bailing hay and –surprise– some giant and amazing pieces of modern sculpture in the distance.

Storm King Art Center
Storm King Art Center
Columns on the lawn at Storm King
Columns on the lawn at Storm King
Looking down on the valley
Looking down on the di Suvero valley

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Obviously, there is much more to this place than meets the eye alone.  There’s a convenient tram, or you can just start wandering.   There are 500 acres of trees and hills and woods and mowed fields and wildflower meadows and sculpture.  Lots of it–over 100 pieces, some of it gigantic.  You  can take a walk a see a huge head of Buddha on its side. Or find yourself dwarfed by an elaborate concoction of huge metal beams painted scarlet.  Or you come over a rise and see a simple stick house that seems to float on air.  And then there’s a long and beautiful serpentine rock wall that emerges from a lake like a dragon.

Andy Goldsworthy
Andy Goldsworthy

We loved our day there with our son and daughter-in-law, Jordan and Julie, but in writing this blog, I realized how hard it is to describe Storm King.  Previously,  I associated sculpture with cities.  In front of museums and office buildings, or in them.  Or in gardens with urns.  And part of me thinks that after you’ve seen The David by Michelangelo, the rest is downhill.  (That was 44 years ago, but I remember.) Storm King sculptures are all modern, many by living artists.

It was perfect weather , and by the end of the day I was grateful for letting the forms and movement and colors catch my sense of sculpture and turn it upside down.   I became involved with the pieces. I wanted to see more, and I wished I could see them every day, in every light and every season.  I loved being outside and being amazed by 20th Century sculpture.  There, I’ve said it .  This was something new.  A new place. A new way to view art and to watch others view it.   Here’s my slide show, meager as it is (artists are credited when I can figure it out. Here’s a tip–write stuff down when your memory is fresh ):

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My advice:  go see this place.  It’s like no other and so worth the trip.

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Day Five in the Galapagos: Santa Cruz Island and Daphne Major Islet

Etime

johnswankphotoblog

September 18, 2013

Our fifth day’s adventure began with a walk on “Dragon Hill” on Santa Cruz Island.  More amazing flora and fauna, including more flamingos, this time quite close.  Then more deep water snorkeling — this time the water was rather rough, but I got to try out my underwater camera again. Then extended zodiac rides and a shipboard cruise around Daphne Major Islet.  In the evening: champagne on the bow, a stunning sunset, dolphins by the hundreds playing in our wake, and a full moon.  I’ve included the daily program at the end of the gallery.

Hard to imagine a better day, but we were not though with the Enchanted Islands yet.

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Skaneateles, Ontario and Green Lake

Skaneateles looking north
Skaneateles looking north

Skaneateles is another lake near Syracuse.  A Finger Lake.  I learned to swim in another Finger Lake, Canandaigua. It was cold. Finger Lakes are stoney, long and narrow, deep, and if you had a map, they look like fingers. They are beautifully framed by long hills,  and home to a burgeoning wine industry.  It used to be that NY State wine was basic rotgut, but that has changed big time.  Read  Summer in a Glass by Evan Dawson, and you’ll be running out to get some.

Beloved cousin Alan's place on Lake Ontario
Beloved cousin Alan’s place on Lake Ontario

Another lake that features in upstate New York topography is Lake Ontario.  It’s a Great Lake.  My cousin lives there most of the summer and delighted us with descriptions of the ice caves that form from wind action on the shoreline in winter. Big ice caves.

Ice Caves are big
Ice Caves

As a child, we went to Lake Ontario to experience big waves in the summer.  Maybe they just seemed big, but that was our little ocean, complete with sunsets from the bluffs of Fairhaven State Park.

Ontario
Ontario in summer

Another exciting topographic feature Upstate is Montezuma Swamp.  It’s a national wildlife refuge, close to my heart because I volunteer at Ding Darlilng NWR here in Florida.

Montezuma, named after the Aztec Emperor
Montezuma, named after the Aztec Emperor

Montezuma is  a great birding spot, especially during migration, but July wasn’t bad either.  We saw black terns (I hesitate to call it a life bird, but it was one, see my post  “A Crow Gets Even”  http://wp.me/p3cJ8X-bd) and many other shorebirds. Great to see birds in their proper colors, unlike the drab plumage we experience during Florida winters when the birds spend their time with us.   Topping off the trip to Montezuma, we counted 22 great blue herons in one spot. That would be a Battery of Herons.

Just a few of the 22 we saw
Just a few of the 22 Great Blues we saw

And then there’s my friend Lauren’s backyard.  She has transformed a  city lot near the University into a Garden Haven. (capitalization deliberate).  She has three ponds, bird feeders, lawn chairs and art shows  in her backyard…she is a ceramic artist who makes pierced  lanterns, dragons and other things, but many come by just to see the garden. You can get an idea why.

It's a narrow lot
It’s a narrow lot

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For our final day upstate, we choose a walk in Green Lakes State Park.  The lakes really are green, and very deep, so deep the bottom water never gets to the top, and who knows what lives down there. Stuff that makes it green, I think.

Green Lake in Fayetteville, NY
Green Lake in Fayetteville, NY
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There are fish in Green Lake

Next up, heading downstate…Stone Barns, Rockefellers and Roosevelts, Storm King and Tarrytown ahead.

Let’s Hear It for New York

Has to be one of my favorite songs of all time
Has to be one of my favorite songs of all time

An Empire State of Mind is required listening when you cross the border into New York.  If you have never heard Jay Z and Alicia Keys sing it, stop everything you are doing and listen/watch:  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0UjsXo9l6I8)  Of course, on this trip we were not headed for The City, not this time anyway.  But still, if you are on 81, a main north-south route, you notice the road is smoother. Second, the rest stop is newer. It’s New York.   Since we were heading Upstate, we enjoyed the big green rolling hills and laughed about times in the past we traveled  THIS VERY ROAD with snow falling like hell in all directions.

Route 81 in the snow
Route 81 in the snow

“Put the hazards on  and hope for the best,” my mother always said, and then she would light a cigarette and keep on driving.  Route 81 is notorious for snow, but in July 2014, it’s gorgeous.

Jim-Jim
That would be a Jim Boeheim moment

We were headed for Syracuse, smack dab in the middle of the state.  Its University is our alma mater and home of numerous friends and relatives on my side of the family. Everyone wears orange except on St. Patrick’s Day.

Wear the Orange
Wear the Orange

 LAKES RULE IN UPSTATE NEW YORK

Lakes  and hills play an important part in the life  and lore of Upstate New York.  There’s Onondaga Lake, for instance.  It is sacred to the Iroquois Confederacy of Native tribes, but was appropriated by white settlers as the main dumping ground for many things, including sewage, chemicals and other industrial stuff as the area grew.  When I was a child, it stank so bad that even truckers put their windows up when they drove by. Swimming in the lake was banned 75 years ago (1940), and still is. It has been called America’s Most Polluted Lake. (http://www.npr.org/2012/07/31/157413747/americas-most-polluted-lake-finally-comes-clean)

Waste ran from these factories into Onondaga Lake
Waste ran from these factories into Onondaga Lake

Almost a hundred years later, Onondaga Lake is being rehabilitated. Big diggers are still removing gunk from the bottom, and there is a walking  and biking trail around the whole lake.  Amazing. And it smells–like a lake. It also has fish and eagles. And other birds too. And a big shopping mall called The Destiny Center. Seriously, that’s the name of it.

Now a necessary digression.  As a child, every New Yorker learns about the Iroquois Confederacy.  I loved this stuff as a kid, and Native Americans still play a part in the culture and history of the area. In some areas of the state, land ownership is still disputed. The tribes involved in the Nation–Mohawk, Onondaga, Oneida, Cayuga, and Seneca formed a union for peace and against invasion.

Flag of the Iroquois Confederancy
Flag of the Iroquois Confederacy

The last hold-out was an Onondaga chief named Tadodaho who was finally persuaded to join on the shores of Onondaga Lake, sometime between 1450 and 1600, before major contact with Europeans.  The present day Tadadaho, who is the 50th chief and spiritual leader of the Onondaga Nation lives on the reservation, just south of Syracuse.  From what I’ve read, he is none too pleased with progress on the Onondaga’s sacred lake. I can see his point, but I did enjoy seeing birds there I never expected to see in my lifetime.

Sid Hill, Tadodaho of the Onondaga Nation
Sid Hill, Tadodaho of the Onondaga Nation

More New York lakes coming soon….Skaneateles, Ontario and Green.  And Montezuma. And Lauren’s beautiful garden. Re-reading this, I don’t know how a blog can go from a Jay-Z song  to the country’s most polluted lake, but it just did. The Onondaga Nation’s website is http://www.onondaganation.org/, but you can look up Jay-Z’s yourself.