Monday, May 31, 2010

My holiday weekend continues well. I had a long bike ride with Rob Solomon around the Virginia Tech campus and we saw many flowers (speedwells, many clovers, oxeye daisies, crown vetch) and saw and heard a number of birds (robins, blue jays, catbirds, pee wees, cardinals, song sparrows, chickadees, red winged blackbirds, bluebirds, mockingbirds).
Later, I played golf (my new plan to protect my knee is to do only two major things a day) and though my score wasn’t exceptional—mainly due to my many three putts—the effects of my lesson with Jimmy were evident: I hit the ball rather well..
I ate a small bean and a dish of lettuce and spinach as part of my dinner last night, and this morning I ate some tart cherries from the orchard and cleared around the solar fence with the electric trimmer. I also emptied the compost bucket and filled in the hole where one of the trees died. Now I can drive right over it with the lawn tractor.
The heat in the house is becoming a problem. It was 63 outside this morning at 7 but 73 inside, which is a little too hot for me. With the doors and several of the windows opened, the temperature remained tolerable but hot spells will be rough. Fortunately, I can go to my semi-air conditioned office and work there in the afternoon.

Saturday, May 29, 2010

Maymester is going well, but I will be glad when it ends, at the end of next week. Fortunately this is the Memorial Day weekend and I have three days off, and I am using them well. I woke at 5:45 and had a great desire to kayak so I packed up my gear and by 7:30 I was trying to surf the lower waves at the Bluff City Bridge. The water was a little too high to sit in the wave but I got in the bigger ones a number of times before I called it quits. It was a great workout and reminded me how much fun kayaking can be. I was going to go fish Wolfe Creek but it was very muddy where it entered the New so I headed for Big Stony and the water there, though higher than normal, was pretty clear. My attempts with a wooly bugger and a bead head nymph brought no action but I thoroughly enjoyed it.
Over the past few days, I cut the bushes and trees that were encroaching on the solar panels and now they should be fine through the summer. The green house is still producing although the lettuce and spinach are about done. The first tiny beans are out and the tomatoes are about the size of a quarter. I should have some before I leave for the summer trip.

Monday, May 24, 2010

I drove up to the Peaks of Otter yesterday and the views were, as always, amazing. It always gives me great joy that so much of the forest remains. I took a few short walks to save my knee, and that paid off this morning when my knee was much better, less swollen and a lot less painful.
Yesterday I also took Jeff and Rachel out to dinner and continued our discussion about meditation. I do think that there are active meditations but I am not sure how meditative my activities are. Fly fishing and kayaking and nature walks perhaps, but golf isn’t meditative. I worry about making good shots and the score too much.
A deeper issue is the one of approach to life. Jeff, who is only a year younger than I, and Rachel are expecting, and they are both handling it very well. The baby will be coming soon and I absolutely think it is already making Jeff approach life in a much younger fashion. On the other hand, I am caught up in thinking about retirement and how long my knee will hold up and other aging concerns. I have no desire to have a child now, but when I played with Lucia, Kelly’s daughter, I felt much younger and playful. My problems were unimportant since the baby wanted to run around and have fun.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

My poem about solar power is taking some interesting turns and I am going to show the students in the poetry writing class both drafts. It should illustrate a few of the things the book recommends.
I am also working on my syllabi for the fall. I have a good plan for the Environmental Literature course, and I think I have fine tuned the poetry writing course to make it more effective for the students.
My knee is bothering me more and when I examined it this morning it was pretty swollen. Yesterday I did some work around the house, went for a pretty long walk with Rob, played golf and then went fishing in the New river just before dark. Duh! I guess doing all those things may have contributed to my swollen knee. Today I was going to go kayaking and then play golf but my knee is really a problem so I am going to do my best to take it easy. I am heading up to Roanoke and then to the Blue Ridge Parkway. I may take a very gentle walk. The good news is that my knee has swollen before and it has always recovered.
I was thinking about my “Rebirth in the Hollow” theme (which is the central focus of my blog). I certainly have taken a different attitude toward all the tasks in the hollow. Before I would have my ex-partner help me with many jobs—a role she didn’t like because I would often get frustrated since I don’t have all the necessary handyman skills—and now I have to do everything myself (except for a few of the bigger jobs that Mike has helped me with). It has taught me to be a little more patient, and that is a modicum of change. Spiritually, I still have a deep love and connection with the hollow—I spent several weeks agonizing over what would happen to my favorite white pine when I have to sell the property—and finally decided that the pine has to stay and I will deduct money to build the dirt road out a bit to protect the pine. But I wish I were a much more spiritual person or at least more meditative. My friend and quasi guru Jeff—who is a yoga instructor and very meditative—says that my writing, fly fishing, kayaking and nature walks are all forms of meditation, but I am not sure. When I was younger I always hoped for a visionary experience (I have done a couple of vision quests and I co-led a shamanic drumming group for many years) but none has ever come. My friend Judith who has studied the shamanic tradition and was initiated into certain African societies always said that that vision would come when I really needed it. I’m not sure.
I guess I have changed a little in terms of wanting another relationship. Previously, when a connection ended, I would be rather desperate to be involved, but this time I am much calmer. I went out with a couple of women but I could see that I wasn’t interested in either and I backed away quickly with no sense of failure. If someone comes around that would suit me—and I have to say that my ex-partner was a terrific fit in many ways—I will explore the situation. However, I am glad that I will be able to travel this summer without rushing home. Last summer’s return was awful for it is now clear to me that my ex had already decided before I returned home that she was leaving and so my joyful homecoming was anything but. Again, I hope she is happy and with someone who treats her better than I did.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Since I have returned I have been eating from the bounty of the greenhouse. Lettuce and spinach for salad, crispy sugar snap peas, and a bunch of large bright red strawberries. I took the watering tubes out now that I am back and I won’t plant anything more till I return from my summer trip. The peas will produce for a couple more weeks, and the tomato plants are doing well, both with fruit on them. I should get some fresh tomatoes before I leave.
I worked on a poem about solar power this morning and want to write many before I return in the fall. I talked to Bill Rudge at the New York DEC and told him I would be willing to do another article on a pressing issue. He welcomed my offer and he said he would get back to me.

Friday, May 21, 2010

The end of my trip to the New York finished with a visit to my friend Kelly, her husband Alfredo and her daughter Lucia. I have known Kelly for twenty years and I am so happy that she has married a fine and decent man and that she is now blessed with a sweet and lovely daughter. I had a wonderful time playing with Lucia, who is one and a half, and I can’t wait until she is able to speak coherently so I can start telling her stories. Once I told my little niece Jenny, when she couldn’t see where I had parked my truck, that I had traded it for 2000 jelly donuts. She ran to my mother with the news and I have rarely seen such genuine enthusiasm. I let Lucia open the various spice jars and smell them and she seemed to really enjoy that. Later, Kelly, Lucia and I went for dinner and Lucia was very pleasant and I was able to catch up with Kelly and spend a little time entertaining Lucia.
My first week of classes has gone very well although I am exhausted. Five straight days of nearly three hours classes took a lot of energy, and reading the poems and journals and preparing for class kept me very busy. I have two more weeks and then I am off until late August. The class is a very good one and the work in groups is particularly good. They spend ample time on one another’s poems and they all seem comfortable with my feedback.
This week was also extra challenging because I performed this evening with Justin Craig and Luke, a young piano player. We had rehearsed last night but four of the songs I had not played in ten years. The performance went pretty well, particularly since Justin and Luke are very good players. I played a couple of nice blues licks.
I have decided that I am going to work on poems this summer instead of undertaking a major project. I have a lot of things to write about and the “Rebirth in the Hollow” theme will be the prevalent one.
My ex partner removed the hot tub while I was gone, and she sent me back the main gate key. I had offered to let her keep it and visit to pick berries and relax while I was on my summer trip, but I guess her feelings toward the hollow have changed too much for her to enjoy it. I hope the many years she spent there while I lived in my cabin and then in the log house will bring her some good memories.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Joey was able to come but Rebeka decided to stay at the house and study. Although I would have been glad to take them both, having a single student would be easier, I knew. We went to the pool by the horseshoe turn, and after an hour Joey had a pretty good roll cast down, certainly enough to catch fish with a wooly bugger. He attacked the pool pretty well, but there were no results so I told him we might want to try up above, where there were several productive runs. However, when we go to the top, I noticed that the water was pretty low and that Joey might be able to wade it in his hip waders. My assumption was correct and we worked out way to the top of the long deep pool there. Fish were rising and I got one on a Royal Wulff, then another in the enticing smaller pools above. Joey had a few hits, first on the wooly bugger and then on a Royal Wulff but no trout. Still, we both had an excellent time and if I returned in August, I told him I hope we could continue his lessons.
The New York City part of the trip turned out very well. It was a comfort to see Gabe and Francesca and Herb and Susan, and walking around the city was rewarding as always. The LIRR trip out to visit my Aunt Rose was less pleasant as she is declining rather quickly, and the therapist at the rehabilitation hospital thought she would not be able to return to the assisted living facility since she was unable to get herself out of her wheelchair. My visit to my Aunt Marie was much different. She is still living by herself and after she fed me a delicious meal of shrimp, rice and green beans, we went for a long walk (perhaps three miles) in the county park and bird sanctuary. There were killdeer and mallards, and redwing blackbirds and ringbill gulls, and Canada geese with goslings. She is so focused and intelligent, just the kind of person I like to spend time with.
Tomorrow I will be back teaching and after a very rewarding break I am ready to be in the class room.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

As I drove south on Sunday afternoon I realized that I could pass by the Frost Valley YMCA, a rather remarkable place for environmental education situated on the west branch of the Neversink. I had met the head of the education program when I was doing my book, and I had always wanted to fish the river there—guests are allowed—so I figured that I would stay there for the night, since I knew they had rooms available. The weather was ominous as I approached the spacious grounds, but it was clear when I turned in to the main administration building at about 7 that the place really hadn’t opened yet. I finally saw one fellow walking but he couldn’t give me permission to fish so I gave up on the idea and went bike riding, the wind strong but the exercise needed. After that I drove back to Monticello to the Super 8.
Monday morning was glorious, a few scudding clouds contrasting the blue sky. My only task was to mail the photo disk to the editor of Kaatskill Life, and I took care of that in the Post Office in South Fallsburg. After that I went and played 9 holes of golf at Tarry Brae, a course I have challenged many times—it usually wins, I must admit. I was hitting the ball quite well and I enjoyed every minute.
Now it was time to head to the Neversink Gorge and see if I could catch a fish. In the past I found that in mid-May the trout usually became active in the early afternoon. I took a quick nap then got into my waders and walked down to the pool I had fished on Saturday. I heard black-throated greens and blues, and there were wild geraniums and field mustard along the bank. After trying a dry fly for a few minutes I switched to a black wooly bugger and very shortly caught a feisty twelve inch brown. I rested on a warm boulder for a few minutes reading the novel The End of Summer and munching on a granola bar. Then I went back down the pool and caught a solid fourteen brown. Two fish were plenty so I packed up my gear and headed back to my truck. I was driving slowly out when I encountered two hikers. They were new to the gorge and when I heard they hadn’t seen High Falls, I offered to walk down to the falls with them. They were both third year law students and they thoroughly enjoyed the stunning falls. They decided to hike some more and I offered to meet them tomorrow to give them a lesson in fly fishing.

Monday, May 10, 2010

My dilemma now was what to do. I wanted to get to Oneonta so I could go see Iron Man, but if the sky cleared I would still have some time to take a few more photos of the West Branch. I saw a sushi restaurant, but I wasn’t sure how good it would be—after all I was in Delhi, New York—so I started to drive out of town, then figured I should stay around just in case the clouds cleared. The sushi restaurant was a pleasant surprise, but the clouds remained. After dinner I drove to Oneonta, and saw the 8:15 Iron Man. A decent movie and I was ready to see anything.
I had thought to go to Bennington, Vermont, for a day, but after checking the weather it was clear it would be no better in Bennington. I decided to stay in New York, which would mean a lot less driving and I would be able to head back through the northern Catskills, an area I have always been fond of.
Sunday morning I practiced my sax in my truck for 20 minutes then tried downloading the photos to my computer and then to the disk I had to send to the editor of Kaatskill Life. It went surprisingly well and in less than a hour I had everything done, with the disk ready to mail tomorrow.
With my work accomplished, I went for a walk on the SUNY Oneonta campus and though it was windy and cold, I enjoyed the walk on the early spring grounds. After my stroll I went for lunch at the Autumn Cafe, savoring a salmon Eggs Benedict, then headed out of town toward the northern Catskills. The terrain was scenic enough, rolling hills covered with the early pastel green of spring, but the weather was very cold and windy. I had given up my hopes of playing golf, but to my amazement, I saw a place called Jams Indoor Golf. It was so unexpected that I had to turn around to visit and even then I was half expecting an indoor miniature golf course. However, when I walked in, it was clear that this was real video golf. No one else was there so the friendly owner stayed with me after setting me up and it turned out to be a very engaging experience. I shot poorly the first nine, but once I got used to it I was able to shoot a 46 on the back nine and I really got a chance to swing my clubs. It was my first time but I am sure I will do it again.
I am now watching the Celtics/Cavaliers game at the T-Bar Saloon and Restaurant and I may even try fishing for a while before it gets dark. When I was younger in New York, I fished frozen rivers, casting into ice-free riffles in January. In Virginia, I remember hiking up to the Cascades, a well know spot near Pembroke, in a blizzard in mid-winter. No one else was in the large parking area and when I got to the large pool below the falls, I put on my waders and cast away. I didn’t catch any but I had a thoroughly good time.

Sunday, May 9, 2010

My trip to the Catskills has been interesting. On the way up I fished a small tributary of the Shenandoah and then the main branch, working my way through a number of long deep pools but had no luck with poppers and wooly buggers.
When I got to Forestburgh, Ken Schultz and I went fishing in Gilman pond, where I have caught many fish, usually on one of Ken’s spinning rigs. Friday evening, however, I decided to fish with my eight weight fly rod. Nothing happened, despite a good hour of fishing hard with poppers and wooly buggers. When I finally switched to a spinning rig I got four or five good hits but no fish. Certainly, if I were relying on my fish catching skills to provide food, I would be very hungry.
The next day rain prevented me from fishing in the morning, but by noon I was at one of my favorite pools on the Neversink. I have caught hundreds of fish here, but I have also been shut out, so I was ready for anything. Even though nothing was rising, I worked my way up very slowly, placing my large Royal Wulff behind boulders, in current lines, in pockets near the bank. Nothing. I then worked slowly down with a black, bead-head wooly bugger and I knew that this technique would be my best chance. When things are slow a wooly bugger will usually give me some action, but nothing happened, not a single hit.
After that I began my drive up to the East and West Branches of the Delaware, for the beginning of my didymo photo shoot. Below the Pepacton dam near Downsville, I got a few photos of some DEC warning signs and later near Colcester, a few more pictures of a sign with the river in the background. The weather was again threatening and much, much colder and by the time I reached the West Branch near Walton, it was windy and the dark clouds were spitting rain. The river was also very high and muddy, not exactly the tranquil setting I had hoped for.

Saturday, May 1, 2010

My semester is almost over, with most of the papers graded in the Study of Poetry class and the movie question given in the 202s and the 203 (British and American Lit). I am excited about getting up to New York to finish the photos for the didymo article. A couple of fellows in DEC Region 4 have sent me some terrific shots, so I shouldn’t have much to do. I will see my friends Ken and Sandy on Friday afternoon, have dinner with them in the evening, and then I will be free for Saturday through Tuesday. I want to get up to Delhi and some of the other towns I am fond of and I may even make it to Vermont. I will bring my inflatable kayak and my bike so it should be a fun trip.
The greenhouse experiment is turning out well. Obviously there are limitations to how much you can grow in a six boxes, but I have eaten a few strawberries, some lettuce and a good bit of spinach. The peas should produce a lot but I am not sure of the tomatoes or the beans. I don’t know whether to leave the greenhouse door open while I am gone. That will assure pollination of the remaining plants but then I might come back to a small hornets’ nest and surely some wasp nests. Also, a cold snap would probably hurt the beans and the tomatoes.
I spotted a brilliantly colored scarlet tanager in the morning, and the parula is still around. A phoebe is nesting at one corner of the house, and a hooded warbler seems to be staying also.