An Apology to My Readers

 

IMG_1482This Autonomous Traveler is behind in her blog posts because she traveled autonomously this week!

I went to Ottawa, Canada to see a special exhibit of impressionist artists at the Canadian National Art Gallery.

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As usual, I immersed myself in this travel experience. On one of the gallery walls was a quote from the French artist, Jean-Baptiste-Camille Corot (1796-1875). “Reality is part of art, feeling completes it.” A woman I met this winter, Inez Bracy, a self proclaimed “audacious living coach” (inezbracy.com), told me to write from my trance. I didn’t know exactly what she meant until I saw Corot’s quote.   Our true power  is something beyond reality, science and reason. It is the unexplainable light that moves us outside ourselves and toward something higher and creative. I am so glad I believe.

Corot’s words sums up how I feel about traveling and what I want to convey in my blog postings. I write about the reality of the places I visit but I also want my readers to know what I learned, what I felt, and what I have become because of the journey.  I want to convey the essence of my experiences  with something more than just the five senses. I want to reach hearts and souls and encourage people to go on their own journeys of discovery and not only see the world but feel it.

 

Mayfly-A Fly Fishing Woman’s Tale

I am reblogging this once more for two people I recently met who fly fish.

 

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When I was newly divorced and my kids were off to college I used to go to a place with a band every Friday evening with my single female friends. Heads up and stomachs sucked in, we pretended to be aloof.  Neon beer signs, the tiny red dots on the sound equipment, and a street light through a grimy window provided the bar’s main illumination.  But dragged down by disappointment and gravity, we welcomed the dim lighting. We always chose a table close to the small stage thinking that proximity to the band increased our chances of being asked to dance. We deemed some of the males unsuitable and rejected them. And since there is justice everywhere, even in a place that served draft beer and cheap wine, the men that we saw as desirable rejected us.

I would sip coffee in my living room the next morning hoping it would take away my feelings of defeat. The things I had worn the night before were crumpled like discarded love letters in piles across the floor. The once clean and carefully chosen clothes reeked of cigarette smoke and stale beer.

Sharon, the  librarian at my school who was also divorced, asked me if I would like to go fly fishing with her in The Adirondacks. She knew I loved the outdoors and camping.  But I stubbornly clung to the hope that the bar with the loud music would bring  me love and romance if I just kept trying.

One day Sharon asked me to pick up my second graders outside after her library class.  When I did  Sharon was decked out in a green vest and a hat with several  tiny feathery things attached to it and one of my boys was waving a fishing rod in the air.

“Good cast”, she old the 8 year old as she took the rod from him.  “Remember, you don’t need a lot of force. Let the line do the work”

Gentle as a tree in the breeze, she moved the rod forward and then positioned it upright and back. The line, an elongated twenty foot inverted “c” sailed behind her forming a string of translucent light against the sky.  Reversing the direction of the loop, Sharon placed the tip of the line thirty feet away.  She did it once again.  A perfect beginning, middle, and end.

“Don’t you think your teacher should try?” she asked my class.

“Yes’, they all shouted.

I always told my students  that new things were always hard and to never give up. I didn’t want to cast  but I knew, as a teacher and a constant role model,  I had to.

Sharon handed me the rod. I took a breathe, hesitated and then flung the line backwards and then whipped it ahead with a smack. My students laughed.

“Okay, kids,” Sharon said, ” Let’s help your teacher.  What does she need to know?”

Ten o’clock, Two o’clock,” they said in unison and they all demonstrated with their arms

“Okay, relax,” added Sharon.

I focused on my arm. I let the line stretch out behind me like wings, and then as I shifted I felt the power of momentum as the line raced over my head. It landed not as far as Sharon’s  had but just as gently.

“I did it,” I yelled and my students clapped. Sharon gave me thumbs up and we all went back into the school, smiling.

At the end of the day, Sharon stopped by my room. ” Have I convinced you yet? Do you want to go fishing?”

“Okay,” I replied.

On the next Friday at the end of the school day, we drove east to the Adirondacks. As we traveled, the villages became smaller and smaller and some buildings stood as shabby monuments to battles against The North Country winters.

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Vistas revealed miles of tree going up and over large hills and small mountains. The forest squeezed the highway. Small bushes and thick brush discouraged entrance into the interior.  As we  went higher, stacks of mountains receded from dark green to the palest of blue. Hardy collection of daisies, buttercups, and purple lupines played among rust colored rocks.

 

Like the pop of a Jack-in-the -Box, the village of Lake Placid exploded out of the trees, a  collection shops and restaurants,  an open air mall between  mountains. We kept driving. The sidewalks ended and a golf course took the place of the concrete and brick. The high peaks reveal themselves above the chemically treated turf. The road continued up and down, over and though, as if frantically trying to escape the man made insanity. The green intensified and soon we saw the Ausable River shyly peeking through the leaves.

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Further on, two grey cliffs appeared on each side of the road. A small man made wall protected us from the river that jumped over rocks and boulders.

We arrived at Wilmington Notch Campgrounds. I had been there many times.  My family and I camped there when I was a little girl.  Not far away, The North Pole still exists and after all these years Santa still makes his summer home there.

A thick canopy of leaves above the cleared sites offered a sense of order. All the white birch trees I remembered from my childhood were gone. Sharon and I set up our tents, arranged air mattresses and sleeping bags and ate a one pot stew warmed over a fire. She went through her stuff and pulled out a bottle of wine.  As our woodland retreat lost its vivid colors and faded into the black of the evening, the light of the campfire enclosed us in a sphere of orange light. Beyond our source of illumination, the world disappeared as we drank sweet wine out of paper cups.

Sharon told me about artificial flies and knots for tying  line, leads, and hooks. She talked about pocket water, pools, and fish spit which she insisted was the foam that sometimes appeared in the water.  I learned about the three types of insects that trout feed on. Stoneflies, caddis, and mayflies.  I marveled at the fact that the caddis make  a tiny cocoon shelter out of small stones.  And that mayflies live as ugly nymphs under the water until one day just before they die they become creatures with  lovely shiny wings.

Sharon and I talk and talked and she told me stories about fishing The Ausable with her daughter and about Fran Betters, the writer and legendary trout fisherman of the Adirondacks.

It was getting late. We threw water on the fire. The stars leaped into the sky and the gray steam from the embers kissed their faces goodnight.

We got up very, very early the next morning.  With no makeup or coffee or breakfast, we drove out of camp  in the sweatshirts and sweatpants  we had worn to bed.  Sharon had extra waders for me and a rod. We fished for hours and didn’t catch anything. But  it was wonderful being a part of it all, the greens, the sound of the flowing water, and the peace.100_2140

I loved fly fishing with Sharon because we developed our own female version of the sport.  After morning fishing,  we stopped at a quick stop for cappuccinos and a pastry.  Back at our site we showered. There was time for a little reading and then a trip into Lake Placid to do some shopping! We went back to Wilmington to fulfill one of Sharon’s fishing traditions, a visit to The Wildwood Inn for clams casino and a glass of chardonnay. Who was I to argue?  Then more fishing until sunset and back to the evening campfire.  I enjoyed it all.

The next day we drove to a spot where the Ausable dropped over a dam. The falls filled its lungs with air as it exhaled a curtain of creamy foam. I listened to the rushing sound of gravity, feeling its pull as I struggled to navigate the steep, stony path to the base of the dam.

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The lower elevation allowed shadows to stretch across the river as the sun moved further down in the sky. At first a few flashes of reflected light appeared in air.  And then hundreds of bits of motion fluttered everywhere. Focusing on one, I saw an insect with a long graceful body and beautiful translucent wings. Its companions danced and swirled above the river as the fish came to the surface and jumped to get a better look. Abruptly it all stopped. The winged creatures disappeared and the fish swan below.  Sharon explained it was a mayfly hatch and I will never forget how so alive and beautiful  it was.

I fished with Sharon a lot in the next few  years. I remembered the moment I caught my first trout. I looked over the water and cast my line. A fluttering movement came up through the rod and I felt a life. The trout pulled and jumped in the air, gleaming green, pink, and white. I reeled it and took the hook from its mouth. And following Sharon’s example, held the rainbow like a precious jewel, lowered it into the water and set it free.

Sharon passed away several years ago.  She was a great storyteller, teacher, fly fishing woman, and a fantastic friend. I will see her again because I am sure there are trout streams in heaven.

Sharon taught me the lesson of the mayfly, a little bug who struggled and struggled  most of its life to leave the dark bottom of the river. And just when it thought its life was over, it got a second chance.  It became lovely and magical and free.  I have had many hard times and disappointments in my life but things don’t seem as bad anymore.  I finally have my wings.  Thank you, Sharon.

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Copyright 2018@ The Autonomous Traveler

Travel Camera(s)-My Opinion

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I have three cameras, two identical Canon Power Shot 1300s and a Cannon Power Shot 570. I  purchased them all on Ebay and I took all the pictures on The Autonomous Traveler with them except one picture for my story about Poland. I had to get that picture from the internet since all my Poland pictures were taken with film.

Why this choice of cameras?

(1) I wanted a camera with a viewer window.  In bright sunlight,  I can’t see what I am shooting.

(2) I wanted something small so I would always have one with  me, either in my purse or in my pocket. You never know what you are going to come upon.

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(3) I always keep the silver A570 in the car.  I have a spare 1300 because I am always leaving a camera at my grandkids’ house.  I love taking pictures. When I am cameraless, it always seems like I’m missing out on some terrific shots.

(4) I stretched my travel budget by buying used on Ebay. I rather spend my money on experiences instead of things.

(5) All three cameras are battery operated. I have never had a problem getting more batteries in other countries but I have fried a few of my devices in foreign electrical outlets.

(6) I carry extra SDHC cards in my wallet.  This grandma tends to leave them in the computer when she leaves the house.

I know there are much, much better cameras than mine but I like to travel light and ready.

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      Show geese going to a competition by way of  The NYS Thruway.  October 2015

Copyright 2018@ The Autonomous Traveler

 

 

Going to India

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India has been on my list of trips for awhile but what finally made me decide to go  was a Hindu celebration held  in St. Augustine in April.  I loved the color and joy I witnessed.  I told one of the participants about my travel list and was given prayer beads and enthusiastic encouragement to choose India.

I am a lifelong learner who knows little about Hinduism.  I have paid my deposit and reserved my place for “The Mystical India” tour with Odyssey Tours. I will be going in the fall.  After my 17 day trip, I will have many pictures and observations to share on this blog.

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Lies in Paris

It was a “someday’’ experience. “Someday I will go to Paris and it will be warm and sunny and it will be perfect.” And as I glided along the Seine, it was.
I smiled, not a young artificially enhanced smile, perfected with caps and chemical whiteners. My grin, weathered by too many sweets and the wrinkles that come from too much laughter, was that of an older woman. But the rapture I felt went beyond the cosmetic. It started in the center of my body and traveled up to my eyes where tears would have gushed forward if not for passing witnesses. I was a participant in a reality that all my life had only been a dream.
My clothes felt loose from daily sessions of urban hiking from my hotel near the Eiffel Tower. It was a good hair day. I felt chic in my L.L. Bean “guaranteed never to wrinkle” travel blazer and the French scarf that I had purchased from a street vendor for a euro and a half. I wrapped the black and white cloth around neck with avant garde carelessness and it advertised haute couture with tasteful starts and stops like a painting by Matisse.
Walking through a canyon of Monet color on an avenue of flower stands, I hear the French accordion music in my head as I suddenly became the star in a foreign movie. I strutted as my heels clicked on the concrete sidewalk. I was magically transformed into an accomplished actress playing the role of a lovely Parisian woman.
The script directed me to do the obvious, stop at an outdoor café for a cappuccino. I sat at the table, legs crossed and one of my arms draped over the back of the chair in expectation of the next camera shot.
I presented my deep smile as people passed, boldly looking into their faces. A group of Americans hurried by and stared. A man in the group turned and smiled. I returned the acknowledgment. Did he realize that I was a counterfeit? The director yelled, “Cut!” He reminded me that a Parisian woman would never return even a glance of reciprocity.
I got back into character and the scene resumed. Stage right a couple conversed; they repressed any temptation to touch as they traversed on their paired journey. She was a young pretty blonde with perfect wedged hair, a lovely red coat tailored like a dress, and black heels. Like a crow drawn to shiny objects, I coveted her handbag, deep purple leather with four acorn sized rhinestones at the closure. The essence of the purse skimmed the dirty water of gawdiness but the magical configuration of its elements pushed it toward good taste.
The man swaggered, playing a role much younger than his years. The movie’s makeup department had colored his grey hair black. Wardrobe had dressed him in a costume of wealth; polished shoes, a grey tweed sport coat enhanced by a crisp white shirt, tie, black trousers and a vest.
It was two o’clock and I as a watched the couple stop at the corner, I sensed that their midday lunch break had involved more than eating. They beheld each other with deep intensity that alternated with shy withdrawals and awkward propriety.
They finally parted, she proceeded to the north, he chose a perpendicular trek toward the subway. They pivoted several times, waving, smiling, peeking. Their paths drew an “L”! Love, lust? They thought that their lack of proximity would hide their passion but the theme of the play was apparent.
One last gesture and when the man was sure he was out of sight he scurried not down the hole of the subway but behind a nearby newsstand. He dug out his cellphone and made a call. My director loved the uncertainty of this scene. Was the man calling his secretary, his wife, or still high on adrenaline and Viagra, another lover? I pitied the girl with the purple purse, her someday experience now overcast.
Like an elevator walled with mirrors, lies go on and on until the image of the original truth disappears. Like the couple, I had devoured lies in the exhilaration of a Paris moment. It was wrong and sinful but so delicious.

Copyright@2018  The Autonomous Traveler

 

Vermont, A Work Of Art

“You use a glass mirror to see your face, you use works of art to see your soul.”                  -George Bernard Shaw.

I leisurely drove through Vermont last week…Bennington, Manchester, Burlington, North Hero.  I had escaped some bad weather in Connecticut and Massachusetts and my days in Vermont were sunny with wonderful springtime temperatures.

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As I  passed through Bennington,I remembered an earlier trip when I accidently found the gravesite of Robert Frost.  I loved his epitaph, “I had a lover’s quarrel with the world.” Visitors before me had left coins or or small pebbles in tribute.  I quickly wrote a note on a scrap of paper. “The woods are lovely , dark and deep but I have promises to keep. And miles to go before I sleep. Please help me to be a writer.” I carefully folded my request, placed it under a small stone, and smiled. I once heard there can exist a strong bond between the words of an author and the person who reads them.  I  have always felt a connection to Robert Frost and his poetry.  I will always remember that moment in Bennington.

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While I drove, I listened to beautiful music, and almost felt like I was in a movie.    But the experience was not  virtual reality.  It was real.  It was a travel adventure in which all my senses were rewarded.  Like a painting, the world around me had color, texture, contrast, a range of values, and, most important, meaning.  As I passed stone walls and lovely restored old buildings, my subconscious released lessons once learned in school.  I understood more about the story of our country.

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There were many  quaint country stores and markets where visitors can buy maple syrup, pottery, cheese, furniture, candles, and crafts all made in the state. I enjoyed great food, wonderful bookstores, and lovely coffee shops.

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The state is more than a place, it is a spirit.  Vermont is and always has been a place of thoughtful action.  I passed solar panels  being used to make clean electricity and a sign that cautioned me to be careful not to harm turtles crossing the highway.  In Burlington, I enjoyed talking to volunteers from Common Good Vermont, “a statewide organization dedicated to uniting and strengthening all of the mission organizations that serve the Green Mountain State.”

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Vermont is a wonderful experience. It is a place of history and tradition. A state composed of a million shades of green, many lakes, and magnificent mountains.

Art is anything that brings about a response.  For me, Vermont was an experience of pure joy.  Vermont is a work of art.

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Copyright 2018@ The Autonomous Travler

It’s All About the Math-Hiking in the Adirondacks

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One day when I was 46, I decided to hike all 46 of The High Peaks of the Adirondacks. I tend to live out my life in headlines, always proclaiming a new interest with passion and bursts of wild enthusiasm. So 46 at 46! The coincidence had a certain mystical quality to it and I was convinced that it was a personal thumbs up from Mother Nature herself.

My odyssey skyward started slowly. Having been recently divorced and with my two children away at college, I suddenly had time for myself and took up walking. It was good exercise and a way to manage my weight. But most of all I loved the freedom to finally be a self-contained unit moving forward in the the direction of my choice under my own power. I found peace in the rhythm of my steps and breathes. I enjoyed the smells, the green flutter of trees, and the ever changing perennial garden of wildflowers along the sides of my quiet country road.

I walked and walked, some days listening to music. But many days ruminating about the past and pondering the future. Soon walking was not enough and when my neighbor jokingly told me I was making a rut in the asphalt in front of his house, I decided to upgrade to hiking The Adirondacks, a six million acre protected and “forever wild”park near my home.

I carefully prepared for my new hobby: New hiking boots carefully fitted by the staff at an outdoors store to prevent the dreaded toe jam, wool socks to ward off blisters, liner socks to wick moisture, a Gore-Tex jacket to keep out the rain while at the same time allowing the body to breathe, and a day pack well supplied for survival. The High Peaks are mountains over 4000 feet tall, some having very intimidating names like Big Slide and Giant. But I was equipped for the challenge and so I climbed.

But it wasn’t quite what I expected. I found that during the first few minutes of the first few hikes, I was immediately out of breath. I realized it was the mountain’s cruel initiation. I needed to establish a stride and when my pulse started to conform to the life of the mountain, things got better. I was also required to be a constant mental problem solver. The Adirondack Park is a dome of volcanic rock worn down by thousand of years of weather. The trails are littered with tens of thousands of rocks. Each footfall had to be carefully planned as I moved from step to step. Sometimes I came off the trail covered with mud. I slipped once and left some skin from my elbow on a mountain called Gothics. And one evening, I cried alone in the woods during a group hike when our leader told us, yes indeed, we would be hiking one more mountain the next day.

But there was joy, too. I saw peregrine falcons diving toward earth at tremendous speeds and heard their distinctive whistle. I met other hikers, people who, as Thoreau pointed out, lived life a deliberately as nature. They told stories of other mountains and at night identified the constellations for all  of us who hadn’t looked up at the stars in awhile. I was a part of the first all women trail maintenance weekend. Our group picture was included in a regional magazine and, as a result, I became part of  Adirondack history.

It turns out that I didn’t reach the mystical goal I though the universe had assigned me. I only did eight of the 46 peaks. On the eighth hike, I sat on a rock summit in total surrender, the blue pure sky above me and the dark green earth beneath. I was wearing a warm jacket in the middle of a hot summer but I only felt the wind and coolness of a mountain top afternoon. I observed the smallness of the vegetation around me. The trees were miniature versions of the trees that were lucky enough to grow further down the mountain. The sum of their lives had been spent in the harshness of many cruel seasons that offered them no encouragement to grow.

I understood the mathematics of their existence and had myself experienced the strong influence of both sunny days and damaging storms. I remembered all the bonsai tree constraints of my own life; the wrong choices and regrets that sometimes pushed my soul below zero. But I also took a moment to remember all the joy I had in my heart, too. And it was at that moment that I realized life is all about the math, about constantly striving to put more pluses in our lives than minuses.

I thanked the mountain and the little trees for their wisdom. Eight out of 46 isn’t bad, I told myself. It was time to get out of the wind and cold and go down the mountain. It was time to start growing again.

Copyright 2018@ The Autonomous Traveler

An Army Base as a Community Unifier-Fort Drum, New York

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For many of us civilian citizens who live around Fort Drum, an army base in northern New York State, this military reservation seems very mysterious and remote. We are familiar with the Army helicopters and jets, are used to the booms of practice maneuvers, and are no longer surprised by the red glow of flairs in the night sky. The soldiers and their families have become good neighbors and friends but we are still not quite sure what the 168 square mile military installation is all about.

In November 2017, I saw a notice for a free tour of the base titled, “Lost Villages of Fort Drum”.   I was aware that when the original Pine Camp was expanded in 1941 into what is now the fort, 525 families were displaced and five entire villages were dismantled.  Intrigued, I signed up for the tour.

On a cold,damp day, three bus loads of curious North Country citizens set out to travel into the interior of the base. I was fortunate to be on the first bus.  Our guides were Dr. Laurie Rush, Director of The Cultural Resources and archaeological operations,  and Commander General Piatt and his wife. The fort had done extensive work gathering oral histories and cataloging all the gravesites but General Piatt wanted to do more.  As a person who loves military history, he became very interested in the past of his new command. His goal was to build new connections between Fort Drum and the people of the community and help us know and understand the great heritage of our area. He talked to each one of us during the day long tour, eager to answer our questions and to see our reactions to what we were witnessing. The picture at the beginning of this blog post is of Commander General Piatt.  At the end of our tour he took the time to care for our American flag that had become tangled in the wind.

We traveled down roads that may have looked the same way over a hundred years ago and saw the remains of mills and other structures in the abandoned villages of Sterlingville , North Wilna, Wood Mills and Lewisburg.

We visited cemeteries that were reverently maintained by the Fort Drum staff.  I was astonished to find out that African-Americans lived in Jefferson County in the 1800’s. Slaves lived here, also, until New York State emancipated them in 1827. The US Army honored William Anderson in one of gravesites. He was a  local African-American who served in the Civil War.

For me,  one of the highlights of the tour was seeing the remains of the Lewisburg Iron Furnace, a structure diminished by time but still large enough to be awe inspiring.

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At end of the day, we stopped at Leray Mansion. The second of two structures, the original built in 1808 burned and was rebuilt in stone in 1827. It was the home of James Leray who bought  large tracts of land and did all he could to promote the area to new homesteaders.  Leray established the Jefferson County Fair, the oldest continuous agricultural fair in the United States.

On May 2, 2018, I took another tour called “Historic Industries of Fort Drum”.  I learned that the main assets of the area were the abundant of trees and the many waterways which provided power for sawmills, grist mills and many other industrial endeavors.

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I was amazed  by the diversity of people who lived in this area during its development.  Our local history began with the Native Americans.   Many Iroquois artifacts have been found on Fort Drum including Venetian trading beads.  Early populations included African-Americans and French, Irish, Italian, Polish, and German immigrants. The people who settled here worked hard at a wide spectrum of trades in order to make a good life for themselves and their families.

Our bus took us to Bucks Creek Park, once a beach with a pavilion  It was built by the Civilian Conservation Corps.  President Roosevelt establish this program to employ young men during The Great Depression.  The park was a favorite recreation spot for the community until the expansion in 1941. On the day of its dedication on July 3, 1935, over 5000 people visited the park.

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The picture above is the remains of the Hanson Sugar Bush.  Mr. Hanson, a abolitionists , hoped that an increase in maple syrup production in the area would diminish the use of slave labor in the sugarcane areas in the south.

IMG_2096Quarry Pond was an old mining site that filled with water in 1931  It was rich in limestone and the primary source of lime for the iron furnace at Lewisburg.  Later its lime was used  in the manufacturing of paper and the making of steel.  Beautiful calcite crystals were found in a cave at Quarry Pond and for a time were displayed at The New York State Museum in Albany, NY.

During the tour, we saw the work of the present day Natural Resources Department that is doing the important job monitoring and caring for the forest land and wildlife on Fort Drum.

To me, the best thing about these tours was the new spirit of Fort Drum.  Because of the efforts of Commander General Piatt,  Dr. Rush and the Fort Drum staff a new connection is being made between our military base and the community.  Personally, I was proud to hear the story about a whole Polish village who came to work in the paper mills of Deferiet. My grandparents took that same journey when they came from Poland to work in the factories  in America. My dad was part of The Civilian Conservation Corps when he was young.  A quiet moment at Bucks Creek made me think of what he might have built. Many other local people have memories related to the lost areas of Fort Drum and the base is recognizing the lives lived there.  People are listening to the stories and preserving, what are to many, sacred places. The US Army has opened their gates to us.  They care about us, our history and where we come from. They want to know us, and, as a result, we want to know more about them.  The two communities are becoming closer.

Copyright 2018 @ The Autonomous Traveler

 

 

 

 

My Favorite Adventure-Barcelona, Spain and Antoni Gaudi

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I choose my yearly adventures in strange ways. I chose Barcelona (almost embarrassed to admit it) because I saw this city on an episode of “The Bachelorette”.  It looked interesting and I wanted a change from the sometimes dark and ancient history of some of my previous trips. I really had no idea that this chance destination would become my favorite trip.

I loved the sunshine, tapis, great wine, outdoor cafes, and the bright colors of Spain. But what really made an impression on me was the architecture of Antoni Gaudi who lived from 1852 to 1926. His art is imaginative and diverse. One of his instructors stated he was either a genius or insane because his buildings were so ahead of their time.

 

The two pictures above and the picture at the beginning of this post are of an apartment commissioned by a wealthy citizen of Barcelona.

 

Palau Guell was an apartment complex.  The grey structures that look like space soldiers are chimneys.  Notice that many of the lines in the building are curved rather than straight.

 

Sagrada Familia is his masterpiece. Before the advent of computers, Gaudi used chains over mirrors to explain to his workers the stress points in the construction. He also incorporated elements of nature into his designs. Notice the treelike composition of the pillars in the bottom left picture.

 

Park Guelle was to become a housing development and is now a beautifully preserved tourist attraction.

100_4904The Cascada Fountain was designed and built for the 1888 World’s Fair.  There are many more of his works in this Spanish city.   Because of him, I was introduced to The Age of Modernism, a fascinating time in history that was never really covered in any of my classes. This is definitely a city I hope to visit again.

Copyright 2018 @ The Autonomous Traveler

Traveling to the Past and Learning about The Present

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My trips sometimes don’t have objectives. I hear or read about a place and curiosity pushes me there. That’s how I got to Lily Dale, the Spiritualist Camp, in western New York State which was founded in 1848. I treated the experience with a lot skepticism and wandered through the little colony of houses with an air of amusement. I went to the shops that sold incense, books, and new age paraphilia. I went to The Stump, a outdoor gathering place with its tall, tall trees and long benches where mediums would make connections between people in the audience and their love ones who had died.  I even had a reading. I sat in a plastic chair in front of a small cottage until the medium summoned me in. She was nice but her vision of my grandmother as a tea drinker was all wrong. Coffee was definitely the drink of choice in my family. The medium, however, gave me excellent advice about letting go of some things in my life. Something I already knew but her pronouncement of it out loud was just the affirmation I needed.

During my winter in St. Augustine, the library system chose the book, Dead Wake, by Erik Larson as a community shared reading.  It was about the sinking of the Lusitania in 1915. Since there was a reference in the book about a séance, the library invited two guest speakers to give a talk about the Spiritualist Movement. They mentioned a village in  Cassadaga, Florida established in 1899. Like a child who one day realizes the random people in his or her life have deep relational connections, I was startled that this village in Florida was an off shoot of Lily Dale.

I decided to visit the town.  This trip had a definite purpose, it was a fact finding mission. I made a two night reservation at the Cassadaga Hotel. It’s original structure burned down and it was rebuilt in 1927. My room had two doors, one in the hall and one opening onto a long southern style veranda.

Being an early riser, I could sit on this wonderful porch and read undisturbed.  I wanted to know why this strange place existed. I had found a book at the St. Augustine library about Cassadaga published by The University Press of Florida. The first chapter was a great historical overview of the era in which Lily Dale came about. It was founded during a time in history known as the antebellum period, the years before the Civil War.  I hadn’t really learned much about this in high school. Maybe because when I was a teenager I didn’t think people in strange clothes who were recorded in spooky brown tainted pictures were of any of significance in my life.

But I realized that earlier in retirement, I had stumbled upon this time in history in other places.  I had visited the Women’s Right Museum in Seneca Fall where suffergettes rallied in 1848.  I  had sat in silence on Elizabeth Cady Stanton’s porch and thought about her courage. Many of the suffragettes worked with abolitionists who felt “injustice to one, is injustice to all.”

elizabeth c nps.jpgNational Park Service photograph of Elizabeth Cady Stanton’s House

I had once journeyed to Concord, Massachusetts and learned about the lives of Louisa May Alcott, Emerson, and Hawthorne who were great writers and thinkers during the antebellum era. I visited Thoreau’s Walden Pond where he wrote the book, Walden, or Life in The Woods in 1854

thoreu

As I walked around Cassadaga, I thought about how the first half of the 1800’s was a time of great change in our still new United States. The people of that era were innovative and inventive as they faced many social conflicts, new technologies and the ever expanding boundaries of our county.  And I think most of those people, like people today, sincerely wanted to make the world a better place.

2018-02-07 09.53.36

At the edge of the village of Cassadaga was a little lake. I sat there on a bench and was enveloped in the silence.  It gave me a sense of peace as it took me back in time, no sounds of cars or planes or lawn mowers or air conditioners. Did this kind of constant stillness allow the people of long ago to more easily contemplate what was important in life? Are we missing something in our noisy, somewhat staged existence?  I wonder.

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