Maps and Waterways

Day 351

It was a holiday weekend. I hope you all had a wonderful time.

Me? I was lucky enough to be with my family — sister and nephews included — in a cabin along the Hudson River. We were overlooking a marina. At night we heard the gentle music of the rocking boats and clanging halyards, and saw a tapestry of constellations in the deep summer sky.

Sunday morning Frank and I went out for our big walk along the craggy riverbank. It was absolutely peaceful and quiet. The hawks were circling the treetops in the distance, and the river current appeared to be running north toward the river’s origin even though we knew that all rivers pour toward the equator. Frank and I came to a bend in the Hudson where we could see in both directions. A monastery was nestled on the opposite shore but otherwise there was nothing on the horizon.

We’d already been walking for some time. I had my camera on my shoulder. We stopped on a windswept ledge above a tree that had grown strong and beautiful as it reached toward the sun even as it clung to the shore. I took a deep breath. Everything felt perfect — in motion, and at rest. Rugged, and beautiful.

“Don’t you wish you could stand here forever and forget everything that’s ever happened to you?” I asked. “Forget everything good, everything sad, everything that you’ve ever felt. Don’t you wish you could just be here and not think about anything?”

Frank looked down at the river. He looked at the twisted branch. He looked at me.

“Not really,” he said.


I looked down at the ground where we were standing. It seemed like we’d found a lovely pocket of beauty and solitude. A place where we could stand in one place and be happy about it.

“Forget everything — like  who am I? where am I? How’d I get here, where am I going next?”

I was starting to see his point.

“No thanks,” Frank said. “I’ve had a concussion like that, and it wasn’t any fun.”

We laughed together, and he took my hand, and he led me from the windswept ledge. By the time we got back to our camp the coffee was ready. And I was damn glad to have it.


Day 265

I lived in New York City HOW many years and didn’t  know this helpful tip from MyBigWalker Robin?

Follow San Remo Apartment Towers to GO WEST

Helpful secret I learned on a walking tour of Central Park: there are numbers embossed on the lampposts that indicate the nearest cross-streets–the first couple of digits tell you what the cross streets would be if they extended thru the park, and some are even marked with E or W.

I checked out a walking tour site, Forgotten NY / Street Scenes, and found this:

There’s really no excuse for getting lost in Central Park, if you know where to look.

Cast iron lampposts designed by architect Henry Bacon (who also designed the Lincoln Memorial) in 1907 are standard issue throughout Central Park, as well as in parks citywide. They occasionally even make appearances on side streets for atmosphere. For thicker, expanded versions of the Henry Bacon theme, check out the new lampposts along Brooklyn’s Eastern Parkway, which used the Bacon posts as a template during the Parkway’s renovation in the 1990s. The distinctive new luminaires were designed by Kent Bloomer and Associates of New Haven, Connecticut.

For some years now, the city has marked most of Central Park’s lampposts with embossed numbered metal plaques. The first two or three digits correspond to the cross street you would be on if that street extended through the park. So, the post above is located where 61st Street would be.

The park’s 1960s-style octagonal poles
and Deskeys have been given the same treatment, as well as a green coat of paint (unique in the city). In addition to the cross street, some of them also bear a W, C, or E, corresponding, respectively, to the western, central or eastern part of the park.

Who knew?!

Day 228

Entrance to Clinton Walking Trail

When we walk, are we walking toward something, or are we walking away from something?

May be the answer is that we are doing both, simultaneously.

There’s an old saying among writers that there are only two stories to be told — A man goes on a journey; (or) A stranger comes to town — and every book or short story we write is really a variation on one of these two fundamental plot structures.

Sculpture outside the Hunterdon Art Museum

It seems to me, though, that each of these is really the same story, told from a different point of view. If a man goes on a journey, he will surely arrive somewhere as a stranger.

In that way we’re always taking part in the human story of seeking and finding, or leaving or arriving, and the daily walk is one of those times we are doing, physically, what we are always doing metaphorically, simply by being alive.

We may find something, we may lose something; we may discover something, we may unburden ourselves of something. Whatever it is, the daily walk can take us there.

While we’re on the subject of a daily practice, I’m pretty excited about the visual artist Linda Stillman, who I discovered this week on an impromptu curator-guided walk through the Hunterdon Art Museum in Clinton, New Jersey.  Come back tomorrow and I’ll tell you how a serendipitous meeting with a local curator Mary Birmingham led me to several wonderful discoveries on the banks of the south branch of the Raritan River.

Day 203

Here’s something fun! Shirley in Michigan is doing a virtual walk across America, with help and inspiration from a free government website. Shirley writes…

I’m doing a virtual walk across America.using the website It’s a free and easy way to stay inspired to walk. The site shows a map starting in Virginia and ending in Eugene, Oregon. After each walk I enter the milage and it keeps track of weekly and monthly distance and even emails me if I miss a couple of days in a row. There are logs for walking, running and biking.

Every time I enter my milage a picture comes up of where I would be if really walking there. I make that  my background on the computer as a reminder to change it every day. If the same picture is showing in 24 hours, I  get up and walk even if it’s doing figure eights through the rooms of my house. Once it showed a little dog in the road so I had to go an extra mile so he wouldn’t get hit by a car. The best thing about the site is how it’s stimulating my imagination.

I  passed the 500 miles goal last week and I’m now getting ready to enter Kentucky. I’ve been saying that for a couple of weeks now and  can’t seem to get there no matter how many miles I log. I believe the mapmakers are moving boundries just because they’re bored with the old ones. It  would be a lot easier to rack up miles if I’d stop putting my pedometers through the wash cycle. I average one every 2 months. I’m waiting for my 3rd to be delivered tomorrow — I hope!

If you’re looking for some new  Monday morning inspiration, I think this is a fun place to start! Shirley just bought a camera and promises to send us a photo, and an update on her walk, next week.

Day 191

It’s taken me 25 years to finally get a weekend away with Frank at his alma mater in Middlebury, Vermont. But it was worth the wait.

We arrived in town late Friday and set out just in time to see the last radiant rays of sun burning through the rain and lighting up the view from the Battell Bridge in a brilliant display of natural beauty.  Doesn’t it look like those buildings are glowing?

We didn’t need our umbrellas by the time the sun set but we were sure glad to have our warm jackets…and our camera phones!  In the heart of placid Middlebury the Otter Creek roars like a mighty river which is what it truly is — the longest river in Vermont. The energy of the falls was once harnessed by the Middlebury Electric Company, and it may one day soon be providing clean energy to the area if the town gives the green light to a hydroelectric project.

While the dispute over water-rights continues to rage, the bridge over the creek offers a stunning view of Middlebury’s mighty water works: a glimpse into the past and perhaps a look toward the future, as well.

Day 109

Ever feel like you’re skating on thin ice? Like maybe there’s only a few inches between you and the cold plunge into your own private, freezing cold hell?

Well never fear, Bob and Ed are here.  

These trusty men, employed  by the town, come out every winter morning with a drill and a tape measure to make sure the ice is thick enough for skating.  I have spent years of my life wondering exactly who hangs that green flag on the side of the road and posts the cheery billboard that says SKATING TODAY! My dad used to tell me they drilled into the ice to test it, but I could not really imagine such a thing. Having never seen it, and being a cheerful skeptic by nature — not to mention afraid of heights, thin ice, rip tides, deep water, mean people, big knives, horses, etcetera — I assumed there was some more scientific and therefore precarious measure of ice safety.

But as I was sitting beside the ice on Friday, wondering how I could be sure it was safe if there weren’t a dozen little kids already out there checking it for me, I saw two bundled men sliding across the lake in the distance.

“Well they didn’t fall through,” I thought. “So it must be safe.”

But they weren’t just ordinary men. They were Bob and Ed. Bob, with the drill. Ed, with the tape measure.  I watched them drill and measure about ten holes in the ice before gliding out there myself.

It was safe! Bob and Ed made sure of it!

Now if only I could take them everywhere with me to check the rip tides, make sure I don’t get too close to the ledge, and to drill for mean people in the supermarket and at school meetings.

Day 94

If New Year’s Eve is a time for revelry, then New Year’s Day is a time for reflection.  Since I’ve heard it said that what you do on New Year’s Day is what you’ll be going all year, I made sure I woke up without a hangover on January 1st, pulled up the window shade, got up on the right side of the bed, spent some time reading and writing, did a few sun salutations, and then set out for Round  Valley Reservoir recreation area in Hunterdon County.

Snow, blue sky, fresh air, my family (minus one), and a reservoir so big it filled the horizon — everyone and everything was in perfect harmony for walk #93.We had some uphills, some down hills, and some fanciful surprises. At the end of it all we had Rosemarie and Nana at the table, some red wine, and a delicious shrimp scampi. I sure hope that old adage is right, because my 1/1/10 walk was one of the best so far.

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