“Birdsong And Blue Skies” | Blog #45

“Birdsong And Blue Skies” | Blog #45

The little town of North Creek is coming alive as I sit at the table in the side-yard overlooking Main Street, enjoying my first cup of tea, and greeting the morning. Occasionally you can hear a car drive by or a car door slam, but the loudest, most dominant sound is birdsong. It is cool and blue-sky sunny and a gentle breeze is ruffling the leaves on the beautiful flowering plants that ring the yard. These days here have been restful and rich, and I am deeply grateful for the gift. Yet, I know it is quickly coming to an end. At church yesterday I will be in the pulpit next week at the Presbyterian House in Chautauqua Institute, which marks the beginning of my last week of sabbatical. That realization made my pulse quicken.

You who have followed and read my blog will, no doubt, be glad it is nearly over! Even so, I continue to find remarkable discoveries daily and revel in the chance to read, write, reflect, and pray. What has been different over this last period in the Adirondacks is that I’ve been alone. Amy hasn’t been with me, nor do I have friends to visit. The absence of companionship has afforded me the chance to reflect on the gift others are to me, while also experiencing the blessing of solitude and silence. It has also allowed me to let out my inner history nerd – ok, some of you will quickly say there is nothing “inner” about it. Fair enough!

These last three days have been spectacular weather-wise. On Friday I drove about 40 miles east to Bolton Landing, a community about half-way up the west shore of Lake George. During the cruise up Lake George last Sunday the beautiful Sagamore Resort was pointed out, dominating a little island one could reach over a small bridge. Founded in the Gilded Age as one of the great Adirondack hotels, it continues on as a magnificent destination. Indeed, as I was finishing a late lunch and reading on the veranda, a Friday afternoon “destination wedding” was coming together. I was tempted to ask if they needed a minister, but then I saw a Roman Catholic Monseigneur decked out in his liturgical finery and realized they were all set. Seeing the Mohican, the boat I had taken on the tour, sail by was a fun surprise.

Saturday, I drove about an hour in the other direction to Raquette Lake to tour the Great Camp Sagamore (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Great_Camp_Sagamore). Purchased by Alfred Vanderbilt in 1902, it pretty much invented the term “glamping” allowing those who visited to experience and engage nature without missing any creature comforts. Originally 1,500 acres, the property is now just 14 acres that includes all the buildings, including the Swiss Chalet style main house, cabins for Vanderbilt children and their families, the Wig-wam (a guest house), dining hall, game “shack”, and an open-air bowling alley. Vanderbilt died, tragically, on the Lusitania when she was torpedoed and sank in 1915. His wife continued to run the Great Camp until 1954 when it was sold to Syracuse University who later sold it to the State of New York. New York turned all the acreage back into Forest Preserve except for the small parcel that includes the buildings that now are run by a non-profit that interprets the history of the camp, all those who worked there, and provides in-depth teaching opportunities for educational small groups. It was such a fabulous afternoon exploring and learning in a jewel of a setting.

Yesterday I awoke early and drove a half-hour east to the little hamlet of Warrensburg, NY, to attend worship at First Presbyterian Church of Warrensburg. While waiting for the tour to start at the Great Camp I skimmed an excellent book on The Churches of the Adirondacks, which provided a wonderful history of the development and architectural styles of churches in the region. FPC Warrensburg was the closest PCUSA congregation to me, so I was there at 9:20 for a 9:30 start. There were eight of us in the congregation, six in the choir, an organist and the pastor. I was glad I went, if for no other reason than to remember how much I am fed by worship at Westminster!! Since I was on the way to Bolton Landing, I decided to drive over there and make a plan, since I hadn’t really thought about what I was going to do. When I arrived in Bolton Landing awash in mid-morning sunshine, I decided to drive to the north end of Lake George, simply to enjoy the clear light on the blue water surrounded by the dense green of the tree-filled mountains and pastures. I was surprised when the road took me to the town of Ticonderoga and led me to a museum in a beautiful old building with flags advertising that it was open and free to the public. I mean, how could I not stop? Turns out the building was the old accounting office for the paper mill and the museum was dedicated to the different industries that provided the wealth and jobs in the region, including Dixon-Ticonderoga pencils (graphite mining was big). 

The docent was very talkative. She must have either been lonely or felt she had a “live one” because she followed me through the small building explaining each of the exhibits, as if I couldn’t read. Nevertheless, I found her accent interesting, and discovered, as I had suspected, that she was Quebecois. She made it very clear that her people were Italian immigrants, but the accent couldn’t be hidden! When I asked about Fort Ticonderoga, she reminded me that it was only about 4 miles up the road.

I had known Fort Ticonderoga was nearby but hadn’t planned to visit. You see, I’d been there before…in 1969! It was one of the stops we made on the family vacation I’d mentioned before when we drove up the Hudson River Valley to Montreal the year after Expo ’68. What I remembered most from visiting the fort was catching a frog just by the entrance! Well, that and all the cool swords and cannons. It was good to visit again as an adult with a greater appreciation for history and to read about how many times the fort changed hands during the vicissitudes of the French and Indian War and the Revolution. There were a group of serious historic interpreters working the crowd, but I chose to explore on my own and was impressed to see how the collection had grown over the 53 years since my last visit. 

When I arrived back at the Air B&B I was surprised to find the whole side-yard filled with people having a picnic. The folks who own the house had many family and friends over for a bbq and I found myself anxious to get inside! Although an extrovert, after a week of solitude I didn’t want to engage so many folks so quickly. Later, after they left, I came out to enjoy dinner on the porch and enjoy the “golden hour” in the cool of the evening listening to the songs of the birds. One more day here and tomorrow I pack up and head back to Albany to pick Amy up on Wednesday. Already starting to think about closing the chapter on the sabbatical and re-engaging, grateful for this time to explore through the gift of solitude and silence. Sola Dei Gloria.