In his novel The English Major, Jim Harrison describes a character who departs for a cross country road trip. He brings with him a fifty piece wooden jigsaw puzzle featuring the United States. Whenever he crosses a state border, he tosses the piece for that state out the window. I have no such puzzle, but today I viscerally tossed New Hampshire and Vermont. I left home early Sunday morning. It was a soft and clear sunrise. It's difficult to leave when each Spring day brings a new landscape surprise.
Every fifteen minutes I'd wonder about something I might have left behind. There are so many ways to manifest separation anxiety!
However I was soothed by a wonderful radio interview on the NPR show "On Being" between Krista Tippett and the physicist, Leonard Mlodinow. They were discussing "randomness and choice" a subject I think about regularly. There are so many twists of fate that contribute to your present actions and future outcomes. I've always taken a Taoist view on this. There are waves of events that are mainly out of your control. The challenge is in knowing how to ride the wave. Strange advice from someone who has never ridden a surfboard.
Within an hour and a half I was high in the Vermont hills. I got out of the car briefly during a cold front squall, a vigorous atmposheric wave. I was pelted by small balls of ice. The hills are still surprisingly bare, but the first signs of vernal photosynthetic wildflowers are beginning to show. I love the concept of vernal photosynthetics, the Spring wildflowers that appear before the canopy shades the I forest understory.
My inclination was to stop at Little Falls, New York where I would ride the Eric Canalway, a long bike path that is mainly complete between Albany and Buffalo. However I was deterred by a driving rain. Once the shower passed I began checking my maps for another likely place to ride. I chose the section between Weedsport and Jordan, a nondescript, but interesting section of the trail. I was delighted to discover several fields of white trilliums, interspersed with pockets of skunk cabbage.
I stopped at a sign post. It turns out that Jordan, New York prior to 1910 was a bustling town. Barges would line up on the way through the canal. But the canal traffic demanded a deeper and bigger channel, so the canal was rebuilt several miles north of here, and the town of Jordan lost it's mojo. The bike path runs parallel to the old canal and you can see the beautiful and ambitious stone walls that line the canal, and the abandoned channel is filled alternately with grassy parkland, swampy wetlands, and cultivated gardens. I can see how much fun it would be to bike the length of the Canalway, as there is such an interesting mix of old towns, ecology, and history.
I continued my drive and decided to stop in Alfred, New York for the night. Alfred is a pleasant university town with two colleges, Alfred University, a statuesque campus with exceptional brick building and several small castle like structures, and SUNY Alfred, with sufficient brick, but built in the 1960's SUNY style. Does anyone like 1960's architecture?
I gave a talk at SUNY Alfred two summers ago. It was a sustainability conference that attracted folks from all over New York and Pennsylvania.
Alfred is in the Allegheny foothills, with long sweeping plateau-like hills, converging around plush valleys.
I watched the last few innings of the New York Mets and Colorado Rockies (Let's Go Mets) and then began reading Wallace Stegner's 1953 classic, Beyond the Hundredth Meridian, the story of John Wesley Powell and the "second opening" of the American West. I'll be in the west soon and there can be no better guide than Wallace Stegner.