“Stop Children What’s that Sound?-Traveling with Forrest Gump

” Paranoia strikes deep
Into your life it will creep
It starts when you’re always afraid”

Song by Stephen Stills

Single released by Buffalo Springfield in 1966

This is the song on The Forrest Gump soundtrack that made me tear up.

“There’s battle lines being drawn
Nobody’s right if everybody’s wrong”

53 years later and turmoil continues. I’m more afraid because I have grandchild now. We still have divisions but they seem to becoming worse as time goes on. We have angry conflicts within groups and with other nations and increasing incidents of extreme weather events. Income inequality is growing and so is nastiness and name calling. Drug and alcohol use is skyrocketing and there is an uptick in suicides. Mass shootings in schools, places of worship, and in the workplace are are becoming more and more common.

“There’s something happening here
What it is ain’t exactly clear”

We are evolving as a species in the realms of technology and innovation but there are deeply embedded quirks in our nature that haven’t advanced since our cave days. Does the “fight and flight” trigger continue to make us wary of those around us, especially those who are different? Is self preservation and self interest overriding empathy? Do we accumulate money not only to enjoy material things but to have power, dominance, and superiority over others?

I’m not absolved from this. I have done my share of bad things as a human being. But in this last chapter of my life, I’m searching to find the best in myself and in our species. I’m encouraged by those through history who believed “that injustice to one is injustice to all.” I pray that we can work together to guarantee that our common destiny is one filled with positive energy and purpose. This is my hope, especially for my grandkids.


“Stop, children, what’s that sound
Everybody look what’s going down”

Copyright 2019@theautonomoustraveler.com All right reserved.

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, an abolitionist, 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

Hints for Women Travelers #6-The Devil is in the Details

Try not to be picky. Please don’t evaluative every little detail of your trip. Think globally, life is a movie not a snapshot. Over the course of my life, I have come to realize that joy is enormous and being joyless makes us small. Joy is about getting out of  ourselves, being with people, trying new things, going outside, enjoying nature, exploring the world through travel. It pushes us toward creativity. It’s ideas and hope. It is seeing the big picture and realizing that all knowledge is connected.  History is shaped by economics, sociology, and psychology but also by art, music, literature, and philosophy. When you travel look for the bigger themes.  Be curious enough to ask “why”.  You may be amazed to find out how much you are a part of the beautiful grand design.

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

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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.

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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.

Copyright 2018 @ The Autonomous Traveler  All rights reserved