Spent another delightful summer day in the Adirondacks, lazing in my hammock up by the tent, in the cooler shade of the forest. Yes, when dinner time rolled around, I started another small camp fire to cook some more hot-dogs. Why is food cooked over an open fire so delicious? Does it tap into some instinctive primal hunting urge? A vestigial remnant of evolutionary survival left over from our earliest ancestors. But oh yes those wieners smell good sizzling over the dancing yellow and orange flames. And they sear up nicely with a crisp outer skin that pops when you bite it. MMMM, that hot-dog goodness. Endless summer is here! Relaxing by the camp fire watching the forest get dark around me.
I started a small campfire up at my tent today. I walked all around collecting from the amply supple of burnable sticks on the ground. Most of it is damp from yesterdays wetness, but if I get a small hot fire going with kindling then it can dry out the bigger stuff and it will burn too. That is exactly what I did. Over the course of the afternoon, I managed to burn most of what I collected. This fire ring I built is small, about two feet in diameter, mostly for camping ambiance more than anything. Although I did cook some hot-dogs on a stick over it for lunch. I have found that a small fire needs more continuous maintenance that a larger fire. The smaller fuel sticks burn down faster and need to be replaced more often. It was kind of fun to keep the fire going; placing the wet wood around the small blaze to dry before pitching it in to burn. I sat in my camp chair warming my feet on the hot rocks, reading, and daydreaming. Then moved over to the hammock to swing and daydream some more while I watch the ethereal blue smoke drift lazily around the trees in the calm air. The tangy smell of burning embers made me feel tranquil and in complete harmony with the world around me. Watching the smoke waft around slowly meandering through the tree trunks, I felt as if I truly belong in this place, these woods, here and now; my being expanding and contracting with the smoke on the breeze, lingering and then swirling away into the heavens.
Another hot hot humid day in the Adirondacks. Another trip to Thirteenth Lake with an inner-tube. Solo this time. This place is like a dream world. Blue-grey water stretching to the horizon where it meets hazy blue- grey mountains. Dusty blue sky with wispy white cloud shards and a brilliant blinding hot white sun shining down. Green mountains towering along the sides of the lake and wetlands meeting forest along the shoreline. Sandy bottom gives way to deep water, warm at the surface but cools along a gradient as you dive down into the green abyss. I lay beneath the water looking up at the shining reflective surface, a mermaid in a mermaids world. Silver sparkling air bubble swiftly rise from my lips in a darting and twisting line. Out of breath I swim to the air, break through in a rush and gasping. Shake the water from my hair and lazily swim to the tube, clambering back on in a most ungraceful manner. I doze as the sun sets, shifting light rays steaming from behind the western ridge. Chilled I swim to shore to rejoin reality. Rocks and pebbles dig into my feet as I dry off on the sand beach gazing across the lake to the misty blue mountains, breath deeply. This is what summer is all about.
Today is the first day of a three day canoe trip across Lake George. I did this same trip last year and it was amazing, so I am excited about this year. Its a group of 15 and 16 year old teenagers from all over the world attending a Ukrainian cultural immersion summer camp. Great kids, awesome counselors, and a fantastic journey across the lake. It’s an overcast and misty morning as we gathered on the beach. The town of lake George is bustling in the height of summer tourism, but the lake itself is mostly quiet due to the (what some would call ) inclement weather. No wind, just cool mist hanging like a gossamer curtain, grey water, grey sky, with an indistinct horizon. It takes some time to get everybody settled and packed into their boats with a partner and gear. I go over some safety procedures and paddling instruction and push the boats off the sand into the mercurial mist. I am the last one off the beach, having taken a few moments to see how each team paddles together to see where I will need to do the most encouraging. I walk into the water pulling my loaded kayak. The water is warm and soft like velvet as the white sand swirls around my toes. As I sit down and adjust myself and gear, there is a moment of unreality, a vivid surreal vision of the lake open before me, the water and myself, the mist and timelessness. I push off and dip my paddle into calm water. It makes the slightest swishing sound as I paddle off to be swallowed into the vaporous mist heading toward endless possibilities.
There is something breathtaking and spectacularly dramatic about fiery mountain sunsets. The swell and peaks of the shadowed landscape so solid in their blues and purples, violently contrast with the ethereal nature of the cosmos as it erupts in vibrant glowing oranges, pinks, reds, and yellows. The sun itself silently slips out of sight leaving behind a coral and magenta afterglow that settles along the ridges and slowly, almost perceptively, fades to darkness as the stars peek out one by one. I breath in these sunsets, hold them in my lungs until they have merged with my being. I am the air on fire, dancing over the mountain tops, rushing into the valleys with glorious splendor, then calming to softly mingle in tangled loose hair trailing out over the water. I am of this world, in this world, one with this world. I am the golden sunset, spirited and unrestrained.
Headed back to New York today. The drive south was cool and rainy, the drive north blindingly sunny and hot. The drive home always seems longer than the trip out, probably for a variety of reasons like not wanting to leave where you were, being tired from all the fun you were having there, and knowing just how long a drive it really is going to be (the road trip novelty excitement is not as strong when you’re on the way home). As I was packing the car I noticed in the neighbor’s yard a Mimosa tree in full bloom. The tree itself has a widely branching dome like canopy with tiny oblong dark green leaves that dance in the slightest breeze. From a distance it almost looks lacy. The flowers are fist sized puff balls (like one might find on a hand knit hat); delicate tendrils almost feather like anchored in the center, white shifting to bright pink around the edge, a lot like an air based sea anemone. The scent these flowers gives off is heavenly. Usually stronger at night, it is a delicate floral embrace that sends my mind drifting back to sweet summer childhood memories. Later while driving slowly through town, a blooming Magnolia tree catches my olfactory attention. This scent is cloyingly sweet, heady and overpowering but lusciously floral and also brings back summertime nostalgic reminiscence. As I drive north I keep a look out for these two flowering trees as they flash by at highway speed. Eventually my journey takes me too far north for them and I will have to keep them in my mind’s eye, their fragrance lingering just below my awareness.
My parents live about an hour from the ocean. Whenever I visit, I make at least one pilgrimage to the beach to watch the sun rise. In June, close to the solstice, that is really freaking early in the morning. However, I believe it may be a biological imperative ingrained in my system. It is like an instinct that I must follow. It is always worth it. It was still dark when I left the house heading east to the Atlantic Ocean. The sky got lighter as I traveled closer to Fernandina Beach. A lilac sky fading into pastel pink and blue as the early morning sunlight grew brighter and stronger. This early in the morning I am able to park right next to the beach entrance and only a few other people are out and about. A cool brick breeze whisks over the sand and the surf sighs in and out, small waves breaking just off shore. I sit and watch. The horizon is a flaming red orange cloud bank, reflecting on the surface of the ocean, as fast endless sheet of florescent pink and orange. The few storm clouds rising up from the horizon have dark grey interiors, outer edges constantly moving, glinting with blinding gold light. My breath catches in my chest and I sigh with happiness as the top edge of the intensely bright glowing pink coral sun disk flows into view above the watery horizon. It shimmers and wavers, its boarder shifting, diffused through the cool morning air. My eyes water at its brightness as it grows larger, the earth spinning, bring more of the sun into view across the water. The top edge disappears into the cloud bank sending yellow, pink, orange, and gold sunbeams streaming from the top of the cloud against the faded light blue of the lightening sky. As the sun climbs, the cloud bank on the horizon started to dissipate, burned off by the intensity of our nearest star. The storm clouds turn billow white and fluffy as the sun emerges in its full sun strength, dazzling orb, too bright to look at. The colors quickly fade as the sky turn daylight blue receding away to infinity. The sand and air warm quickly in the morning sunshine. It will be another perfect summer day.