Monday, January 26, 2015

Ice, Thrice

January 3, 2015
Moreau Lake State Park

Part Two : The Lake

Two days later, having a weekend day available,
I returned to Moreau Lake and met Jackie there.
I wanted to show her those cool formations on Zen Brook.
It was a cloudy, still morning, damply cold, but we were bundled up tightly, prepared to stay out for a few hours.
The Warming Hut would be our final stop. 
We parked our cars in the main lot, and walked down the hill –
and lo and behold  --the Big Lake had finally frozen over solid !

Zen Brook would have to wait.
Who can resist being able to walk on water?

The pond had in the meanwhile skimmed over
 in the shadiest and shallowest coves,
some days or even weeks
before the general freezing.
The first ice is especially interesting and perfect,
being hard, dark, and transparent,
and affords the best opportunity that ever offers
for examining the bottom where it is shallow;
for you can lie at your length on ice
only an inch thick, 

like a skater insect on the surface of the water,
and study the bottom at your leisure,
only two or three inches distant,
like a picture behind a glass,
and the water is necessarily always smooth then.

There are many furrows in the sand where some creature has travelled about
and doubled on its tracks…

But the ice itself is the object of most interest,
though you must improve the earliest opportunity to study it.

If you examine it closely the morning after it freezes,
you find that the greater part of the bubbles,
which at first appeared to be within it,
are against its under surface,
and that more are continually rising from the bottom;

while the ice is as yet comparatively solid and dark,
that is, you see the water through it.
These bubbles are from an eightieth to an eighth of an inch in diameter,
very clear and beautiful,
and you see your face reflected in them through the ice.

There may be thirty or forty of them to a square inch.

There are also already within the ice narrow oblong perpendicular bubbles
about half an inch long, sharp cones with the apex upward;
or oftener, if the ice is quite fresh,
minute spherical bubbles one directly above another,
like a string of beads.
     HDT, Walden “House-Warming” 1854

Our pal Laurie appeared, having walked in from her house at the north end of the Park. 

She, Jackie and I spent quite some time admiring the various textures on the surface of the ice

(click to see detail in all of these)

... and the assortment of bubbles and cracks below, 

(champagne, anyone?)

(galaxies of tiny bubbles)

(X marks the spot)

(side fins in a crack)

(like silvery foil)

(and combinations thereof !)

                                      (how did this even happen?)

We are so easily entertained ... 

On the way out, we stopped back at the Warming Hut.
Laurie, ever-prepared, produced a surprise from her pack -- some delicious foil-wrapped goodies that she had brought to toast in the fireplace there.

More from  “House-Warming”:
The next winter I used a small cooking-stove
for economy,
since I did not own the forest;
but it did not keep fire so well as the open fireplace.
Cooking was then, for the most part,
no longer a poetic,
but merely a chemic process.
It will soon be forgotten, in these days of stoves,
that we used to roast potatoes in the ashes,
after the Indian fashion.
The stove not only took up room
and scented the house,
but it concealed the fire,
and I felt as if I had lost a companion.
You can always see a face in the fire.

Thursday, January 22, 2015

Ice, Thrice

January 1, 2015
Moreau Lake State Park, NY

Part One: The Brook

In this lonely glen,
with its brook draining the slopes,
its creased ice and crystals of all hues,
where the spruces and hemlocks stand up
on either side,
and the rush and sere wild oats in the rivulet itself,
our lives are more serene and worthy to contemplate.
     HDT A Winter's Walk, 1843

After getting comfy at the Warming Hut (It should be called the RE-Warming Hut), I went out again with the idea of stopping back at Zen Brook to see if it had settled down. 
Back on Christmas Day, I had gone there with Rick, who was visiting for the holiday. Usually, at this time of year, the brook slows to a trickle, and freezes most wonderfully.
This year, after the very un-usual Christmas Eve rains,
it had come to life again and was churning down the hillside in a torrent. No ice !

A week had gone by, and on this New Year’s Day, the weather had definitely turned much colder. Having the whole day at my disposal, I turned back from the Warming Hut and headed up to where the Red Oak Trail crosses Zen Brook.
I call it Zen Brook because it is a place of meditation, at any time of year. 

It's amazing how many varieties of ice there are --
what fantastic shapes and shadings have formed
out of almost nothing ! 

Thoreau mentions "chandeliers" and "organ-pipes" in his Journal,
in an attempt to describe some of the kinds of ice he observed
on the rivers and brooks. 
Later that night, I open his Journal,
and it's as if he was there beside me,
with his notebook out:

At the fall on Clematis Brook
the forms of the ice were admirable. 

The coarse spray had frozen as it fell on the rocks –
& formed shell-like crusts over them,
with irregular but beautifully clear & sparkling surfaces like egg-shaped diamonds 

each being the top of a club-shaped & branched fungus icicle –

This spray had improved the least core
as the dead & slender rushes drooping over the water & formed larger icicles about them …

on similar slight hints then were built out from the shore & rocks all sorts of fantastic forms

with broader & flatter bases from which hung stalactites of ice 

and on logs in the water
were perfect ice fungi of all sizes
under which the water gurgled flat underneath
& hemispherical. 

A form like this would project over the water
six or 7 inches deep by 4 or 5 in width & a foot long held by the rocks but with a slight weed for core. 

You could take off the incrustations on the rocks – turn them up 
they were perfect shells –
      HDT Journal, January 26, 1853

Just before the brook reaches the Lake, it “disappears” underground.  In the dry pebbled bed,  there were forms even more fantastic. No obvious water formed them. The frozen breath of the Earth.

One imagines Ice Sprites, painting the night air with frost.

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Happy New Year!

January 1, 2015
Moreau Lake State Park, NY

 The Big Lake is finally skimmed over at one end

What better way to start off the New Year
than to go on the First Day Hike at Moreau Lake State Park?
Parks all across the state of New York are participating in this new tradition. We were even presented with spiffy little fleece hats with the NY Parks logo on them. 
Later I found out that this was a part of a national initiative from America's State Parks, with over 400 hikes scheduled this year in all 50 states.
There was quite a turnout at Moreau Lake. Group size had to be limited, and thus some folks were actually turned away.

The day began cold but sunny. We walked all the way around the lake, mostly along the shoreline. In a year of normal water levels, this wouldn't be possible.

Andy, the new intern, officially led the hike. 
Rebecca, the Park Educator, brought Abby along too.

Abby the chilly-dog

Besides myself, there were several other members of the Friends of Moreau Lake State Park. We took the opportunity to point out some of the great things about the Park, since for some of the hikers, it was their first visit.
At the end of the circuit around the Lake, Dave awaited us in the Warming Hut, with hot mulled cider and other treats, to be enjoyed by a toasty fireplace.

Volunteers keep the Hut cozy on winter weekends

Jackie and I visited here repeatedly in December ... waiting for ice to form so that we could see the bubbles in Bubble Bay, or for a good snowfall to reveal animal tracks. But so far, it has not been a typical Adirondack winter.
Temperatures so far this season have wavered back and forth between cold and unseasonably warm, with very little snow.
Although there is cloudy grey ice on the shallow and sheltered Back Bay, the Big Lake has yet to freeze over completely.

Today there was a fresh layer of skim ice over two-thirds of the lake, and a big area of open water by the Fishin' Bridge.

The rains of Christmas melted what little snow there was on the ground, making for a dull brown landscape.

  Huge frost crystals emerge from the earth

Maybe this year,  it's because of Global Warming, 
but there was a winter like this back in Thoreau's day, too. 
He loved to skate on the river, wade through the snowy woods, and admire ice along the brooks. You can hear his disappointment in a journal entry of December 1855:

No snow;
scarcely any ice to be detected.
It is only an aggravated November.

Nevertheless, it's great to be outside with other folks who can appreciate such a fine day.
And we look forward to better days to come.

Sunday, January 18, 2015


December 31, 2014
Near Cole’s Woods

As I was driving home from work on the afternoon of New Year’s Eve,
a list of possible resolutions was going through my head.
You know, all the usual ones - 
lose weight, 
exercise more,
try new things, 
manage stress better, 
etc. etc.
It's usually a pretty big list !
Where should I even start ?
Then I saw a sign - 
one that seemed to roll them all up into one.
The one that could best change my life:

 Nothing is so much to be feared as fear. 
    HDT Journal, September 7, 1851

Aeschylus had a clear eye
   for the commonest things.

    HDT Journal, January 29, 1840

The meaning I picked,
the one that changed my life:
Overcome fear, behold wonder.

   Aeschylus (525-456 BC), Greek tragic dramatist

Thursday, December 25, 2014

Comfort and Joy

December 25, 2014
Merry Christmas to one and all !

This year's Christmas carol comes from the mid-eighteenth century,with a tune first published during Thoreau's childhood. 
As with many carols, it came about as a festive alternative to the somber church songs of earlier times.
May you all be refreshed by the joys of the season!

God rest ye merry, gentlemen
Let nothing you dismay
Remember, Christ, our Saviour
Was born on Christmas day
To save us all from Satan's power
When we were gone astray
O tidings of comfort and joy,
Comfort and joy
O tidings of comfort and joy

In Bethlehem, in Israel,
This blessed Babe was born
And laid within a manger
Upon this blessed morn
The which His Mother Mary
Did nothing take in scorn
O tidings of comfort and joy,
Comfort and joy
O tidings of comfort and joy

From God our Heavenly Father
A blessed Angel came;
And unto certain Shepherds
Brought tidings of the same:
How that in Bethlehem was born
The Son of God by Name.
O tidings of comfort and joy,
Comfort and joy
O tidings of comfort and joy

"Fear not then," said the Angel,
"Let nothing you affright,
This day is born a Saviour
Of a pure Virgin bright,
To free all those who trust in Him
From Satan's power and might."
O tidings of comfort and joy,
Comfort and joy
O tidings of comfort and joy

The shepherds at those tidings
Rejoiced much in mind,
And left their flocks a-feeding
In tempest, storm and wind:
And went to Bethlehem straightway
The Son of God to find.
O tidings of comfort and joy,
Comfort and joy
O tidings of comfort and joy

And when they came to Bethlehem
Where our dear Saviour lay,
They found Him in a manger,
Where oxen feed on hay;
His Mother Mary kneeling down,
Unto the Lord did pray.
O tidings of comfort and joy,
Comfort and joy
O tidings of comfort and joy

Now to the Lord sing praises,
All you within this place,
And with true love and brotherhood
Each other now embrace;
This holy tide of Christmas
All other doth deface.
O tidings of comfort and joy,
Comfort and joy