Sunbeams Over Schoharie Valley

11-2-2017 Magic Moment:

Driving home through the wide Schoharie valley, near sunset on a cloudy day. I am in the passenger seat watching the grey day end as the hidden sun slips ever closer toward the indistinct horizon. I have many thoughts buzzing through my mind turbulent and troubled, mirroring the gloomy sky. My surgery was just over a week ago. It is healing nicely, still a painful twinge or two every now and then. I am still trying to grasp the enormity of this situation, how it will effect the rest of my life. My husband has told me (and friends) repeatedly that I am the poster child for early detection. I didn’t want to go back and do the second mammogram, but it saved my life. They found my breast cancer in-situ, which means small and right where it started. I may need radiation and or hormone therapy, but I will be okay when this is all over. There will be risk of recurrence, but that is a future worry. As I sit and gaze out at the darkening evening, contemplating the grey world, trying to keep the thought process in my jangled brain more positive than not, something on the horizon silently slips aside. The burning bright blinding sun escapes its grey cloud bondage, bursting forth it’s divine light, immense shining silver sunbeams radiate in all directions, illuminating cloud edges with intense fiery shimmering light. My breath catches in my throat, an audible moan of visual pleasure escapes my lips. If I could catch this on a canvas, hold it in my hand; here in my mind’s eye, I can keep it with me forever.


First Sight Of Home


The whirlwind tour is officially concluded when I get the first glimpse of home, near the New Paltz exit off the NYS Thruway. The highway (headed north) crests a hill and spread out before my eyes are the Catskill Mountains. The whole northern horizon is a hazy dark blue grey mountain range drawn with a child like hand, mounds and points contrasted against the bright blue evening sky. It is breath taking in its simple and elegant beauty. My mountains, my home.

Church Bells


Late evening, it’s been lightly raining all day, misty twisting fog curls around the trees. We watched it engulf the whole landscape, it creeped down the road, across the yard, up the hill, through the trees, obscuring all with a grey wet opaque curtain. I am standing on the porch, went out to get more wood for the fire, looking into the greyness. I hear the muffled roar of the high water creak and plaintive calls from unseen wet birds in the brambles across the road. Quietly, tentatively, spectral church bells sound, their chiming far off up the hollow on the other side of the woods. It has an eerie quality, mysterious, disconnected but beautiful. Is that what singing angles sound like? I do not recognize the tune, but stand and listen to the soft haunting enchantment until it goes quiet.

Snowing Up


Another whitish grey morning, overcast grey light illuminates an overcast grey landscape. Blustery, blistery wind throws biting stinging snow shards into my face and eyes as I carefully power walk for the car over the slippery, uneven frozen ground. Sitting in the driver’s seat, the heater blasting its first frigid air onto the windshield to defrost, the car is buffeted by ferocious gusts of wind. The sky itself seems mostly clear (it’s not actually snowing), but with an early glowing white color instead of blue; the sun is sleeping late today. Snow is swirling crazily, shifting one way, then another, then swooshing past in a furious gushing torrent. I start the drive to work. Passing an open field, I see the wind drunkenly running around tossing snow into the air ahead of itself. Snow devils, whirlwinds, mini tornadoes of snow spiraling up, long tangled tresses of streaming snow hair whip up from the field, diaphanous white sparkling veils of snow billow around up into the air, twirling gauzy snowy fabrics swishing in every direction at once. . Old man Winter’s gypsy daughter is dancing with abandon, throwing herself into the intense passion of the howling wind, embracing the chaos, deliriously loosing herself in the glorious glittering gale. “It’s snowing up!” I say out loud as the tremendous snow dance slams into my car, swerving me to the edge of the road and whiting out my vision. The mighty energy force of this tenacious dance is awe inspiring. I watch the wind and snow swing across the road and tumble up the hill disappearing between the dark trees. Wow!

Epic Snowshoe

This magic moment is long because the moment was several hours long adventure in my own back yard.


Bright beautiful golden sunshine streaming from a clear cerulean sky. The woods are calling! I bundle up, sit on the bottom step, strap on snowshoes, and start walking up the hill behind the house. Breaking trail, each step is an incredible feat of prowess, as I am sinking knee deep in the fresh powder. I take several steps and stop for a mini break, then several more steps and another mini break. Uphill is physically challenging, every step has to come straight up to clear most of the snow before moving forward. If not the snow bogs down the snowshoes and sinks my feet deeper and tries to pull me over. These are high stepping marching baby steps. Odd movement combination; takes me many near misses of falling down to get the hang of it.

Eventually, what seems like a hour later I leave our property, climbing higher up the hill. There are four of five ledges where the bed rock is exposed, old and tree covered, but cliff like in their impedance to uphill travel. At each ledge, I follow along the bottom until I find an area eroded enough to gain that ground as well. Soon my legs are physically exhausted, I can feel the muscles tremble with exertion. I take many breathing breaks. The cold air feels good against my sweaty skin. I need to find the delicate balance between covering exposed skin to protect it from the freezing air, and shedding layers so as to not overheat my core with this insane workout. Drinking from my water bottle, I notice the ice crystals forming in the liquid, they slide by my lips and melt in my mouth.

I am standing completely alone, near the top of the ridge. I have to stamp down the snow so I can turn to see where I came from, my snowshoe prints meandering through the trees looking for the easiest way through, and disappearing into the forest. I turn again to see ahead, flat smooth snow, creamy white and striped with blue tree shadows. I scrutinize the cliff ledge I have been following, I see a possible way up, but decide my legs still need to get me back home, so I don’t climb any higher.

Further along there is a hemlock stand, I head for that. Climbing over a down tree, I notice a line of small tracks in the snow, traveling straight through, the prints themselves are unclear, just indentions in the snow where the animals feet sank. I believe it may be a coyote, they like to go in a straight line and often travel alone. I startled a coyote out of a thicket once on a snowshoe walk down in the creek. She took off faster than I could blink, tawny brown and grey, big dog and powerful. In that moment I was astounded by her wild beauty, later I was thankful she decided to run away instead of holding her ground. I would have lost that fight.

I tromp into the group of hemlock trees, shaded area is definitely colder. Tamp down the snow to look around, then gaze upward toward the sky. The dark green black branches of the hemlocks almost shine with glory against the impossible blue sky, most of which isn’t visible through the tall thick evergreen branches.

I take a step forward, loose my balance, try to compensate by shifting weight, feel my ankle and knee start to painfully twist because the snow blocks my feet from moving, so I let go and fall face first flat into the snow. That did not hurt, but now I am practically buried. I try to push myself up but my hands just post hole deeper into the snow. I try pounding the snow to pack it down, but my hands break through again. I try rolling around making my body shaped hole bigger (and deeper), I try sinking my knees in so I get get purchase with my feet but you can’t stand on tip toe with snowshoes on. Eventually I am able to roll completely over onto my back, then sit up. From there, with a great effort of rocking back and forth, I was able to get onto my feet in a squat and promptly fell over forwards… So again I rolled over and repeated the rocking trick, and this time was able to get just enough forward momentum to get on top of my feet but without falling over again. Then I had to stand from the squat, oh my aching leg muscles!

So I march myself over to a tree with a old branch knob in the perfect position to act as a seat and take another break, drink some more actively freezing water, and look up again. These bare branches are black against the brightness of the bluest sky. They make amazing intricate random patterns zig-zaging, criss-crossing, and waving in the blowing wind that is swooshing through the hollow. Snow drifts down dislodged from its height, swirling in the wind and sparkling in the sunlight. Its cold crystals sting as the hit my face and melt. I hear branches rubbing or maybe tree trunks rubbing against each other. It’s a rhythmic moaning creaking sound, soft and subtle, that quietly stops as the wind dies away.

I decide to continue instead of turning back to home. Once I see an easy way down, I can just go down to the road and walk home that way. High stepping stop, stomp, stomp, breaking trail, my tracks behind me fading into the distance. I come upon a giant white pine in the middle of a small clearing. The diameter must be over 4 feet wide. The lower branches in a whirl pattern around the trunk are all dead but bigger around than my body. Up high the branches are alive and reaching for the sky. How does a single tree grow to be this huge? Why wasn’t it cleared when this area was farmland 100 years ago? Fighting the desire to climb, I push on. Maybe I can come back later in the summer to try climbing this giant.

Now I am seriously looking for a way down, I have been traversing at a downhill angle searching for a less steep area to descend. I see a red house and the road and am completely surprised to realize I have gone half a mile and am at the new bridge. Wow! I though I had traveled about half that distance. It is late afternoon now and the sun is headed toward setting, the temperature already dropping. The tree branches loudly crack menacingly as another gust of wind blows through. Finally, a slope I can safely descend. Still I end up sliding (kind of like skiing) down a significant portion of the descent. Back on the road. Pull the snowshoes off and head home. Exhausted, elated, enchanted, my ephemeral spirit continues to fly through the snowy forest.

Barred Owl


Driving home form yoga class, taking the narrow steep road the goes over the hill instead of the longer one that goes around it. Dark overcast night, cold and breezy, I am climbing up the hill, headlights illuminating the trees above me on the incline. I notice something large on a limb just inside the circle of light. I slow down as I get closer and the grey lump morphs into a barred owl. I come to a complete stop and turn off the headlights, leaving the yellow running lights on. I open the windows and turn off the radio. The owl silently watches my car. I am sure the headlights have temporarily blinded it. It sits on the limb contemplating this annoying human who has disturbed it nocturnal hunting. In the dark the world is all shades of black and dark grey. The owl is fluffed up against the chill and its white and dark striped feathers almost glow in the darkness. I am in awe of its majesty, its beauty, wildness, and mastery of the night. I want it to call out but all it does is sit, still and silent. After a few minutes, or seconds, (its hard to tell how much time passes when time stands still), it takes flight. Just a flick of motion, wings open wide, fluffy legs askew, swoop, swerve, and gone into the shadows of the forest, all in absolute silence. As I turn my headlights back on and continue up the hill I think about owls calling in the night.



There is a tertiary road locally know as the Back Mountain Road (one of several) across from Windham. It has a name and a route number, but few people know them( me included). This road is the quick way down out of the mountains to places north-ish of here. It veers off route 10 and goes straight down a steep , narrow cleft, with a small stream at the bottom. I love this road and travel it often, even in less than stellar conditions. So this morning, I was careening down the middle of the road, maneuvering the serpentine twists and turns, feeling the centripetal force, not wanting to hit the brakes too hard on the wet slick road surface. The road breaks through the forest, opens into fields that drop off precariously to the valley floor. Only this morning, there is no bottom. There is only white glowing fog, swirling, undulating, feathery wisps dancing on mysterious currents. The cloud bank was below, I guessed where ahead on the road I would enter the grey mist, down, down, completely enveloped in the silent murky fog. Down through the mountain cleft, following the tiny piece of road I can see in the gloom, past the fields unseen, into a lower forest marked be a darkening of the surrounding cloud, down out of the mountain pass and suddenly back into the sunlight!