Thursday, May 10, 2012


One of the loveliest jewels in Saratoga’s crown is the beautiful artist retreat, Yaddo. While the buildings are off-limits to the public, the gardens, and surrounding ponds, as well as some of the trails around them, are available for the public’s use, and many times I have made good use of them. Whether I go for a stroll in their beautiful gardens (to enjoy, not only their famous roses, but also the exquisite classic Italian sculptures, and marble fountains) or simply to sit in the sun on the vast lawn, I always come away renewed.
The estate was purchased in 1881, by financier Spencer Trask, and his wife, Katrina. They first fell in love with the property when they had previously spent summers there, at, what was then, a famous Inn, which used to be located on the grounds. Edgar Allen Poe, supposedly wrote The Raven here, and Katrina, a poet, herself, had said that his work most influenced her own.
The first mansion burned down in 1893, at which time they built the current edifice. The mansion is located on a 500-acre estate, with rolling lawns and pine groves. The gardens are modeled after classic Italian gardens, which the Trasks had admired in Europe.
After the tragic premature deaths of their 4 children, they decided to turn the estate into an artist retreat. With the financial help of philanthropist George Foster Peabody, they made this vision come true. The retreat’s mission was to  “nurture the creative process by providing an opportunity for artists to work without interruption, in a supportive environment.” Artists from a broad range of artistic disciplines have been nurtured within these walls, including choreography, literature, sculpture, musical composition, film, printmaking, and performance art. Over the years, the retreat has played host to an impressive list of artists, including, Truman Capote, John Cheever, Katherine Anne Porter, Sylvia Plath, Langston Hughes, Leonard Bernstein and Aaron Copeland, to name but a few. Over 6,000 artists have stayed here, and many have produced works of art, which won major awards, including 66 Pulitzer Prizes, 61 National Book Awards, and even a Nobel Prize (Saul Bellow.)
I am grateful that this lovely place exists!

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Magical Waters

Apple Blossom Time

Swimming Practice

Nettle Unfolding
Magical Brook

Tussock Flowers

Wild Blackberry Flowers

Wild Geranium

Today, all is hushed with rain. But yesterday, before the clouds rolled in, I took a paddle on the creek, and I was delighted to find the lovely changes that are unfolding on, what seems to be, a minute-to-minute basis! I was delighted to see that that some of the resident Canadian Geese have expanded their families, and they were all out for a swim. I also surprised a muskrat; it was on land, and when it heard me, it leaped headlong, into the water. I’ve yet to see my beloved Great Blue Herons, but I’m sure they will be making their debut on the creek soon. I did delight in discovering that our annual visitors, the Least Sandpipers, are making their way back north, and showing up on our banks. I love to watch their meanderings, as they run helter skelter, weaving back and forth, tails bobbing, while, all the while, their peep-peep-peeping fills the air with the announcement of their arrival. Also, one of my favorite spring flowers, wild geranium is in bloom. What a delight! But my favorite springtime sight of all is the view of an apple tree bedecked in pink and white blossoms, while a carpet of yellow dandelions loll at its feet!

Saturday, May 5, 2012

Cinco de Mayo

Cinco de Mayo
 I am so grateful for the improved weather! I hadn’t gotten out in the kayak in weeks, due to cold/ wet/ rainy weather, and I was really missing it. However, I am excited because all that rain helped to turn everything green, so the landscape has been transformed since I was out last. Leaves are unfurled and flowers are blooming! Ahh, Spring; my favorite time of year!
I am being optimistic in posting this photo of the yellow iris (Iris pseudacorus) however, for I have yet to see it in bloom, but my journal from last year records they were in bloom the 1st of May, so it should be any day. I believe we had a warmer spring last year though; this year has been unseasonably cool, perhaps that’s the reason for the delayed blooming.
I did notice chickweed in bloom, however; my friend Mira, who is quite knowledgeable about wild foods, extols the virtues of this humble plant, as does “Wildman” Steve Brill (Identifying and Harvesting Edible and Medicinal Plants.) Brill is an authority on edible and medicinal plants, and he refers to it as a “nutritional powerhouse”
“It provides vitamin C, rutin, biotin, choline, inositol, PABA, vitamin B6, B12, vitamin D, and beta carotene. It’s also an excellent source of the minerals magnesium, iron, calcium, potassium, zinc, phosphorous, manganese, sodium, copper, and silicon.”
I was also thrilled to see a thick carpet of dandelions, violets, yellow mustard, and gill-over-the-ground, for they were covered in painted lady (Vanessa cardui) butterflies today! The sun shone briefly, and they were in great abundance, but when I went back a short while later, and the sky had clouded in the interim, they were nowhere to be seen! Where must they hide? Are their wings folded and tucked discreetly as they cling below a blossom? I waited ten minutes or so, hoping the sun would reappear, and with it the painted ladies, but my wait, alas, was unrewarded!
The redwing blackbirds are in abundance, though; their sweet trill is such music to my ears, not because it is a melodious call, but simply for the association it represents: happy memories here on this lovely creek!