autumn- in the hudson valley

Returning home after my journey along Maine’s rugged coast,  I settled into the business of preparing for winter in my Catskill mountain home, which means getting wood, stacking it, and hauling it indoors. It is a task I have come to accept as ritual. Once the wood heat ambles its way through the house, there is no other source of warmth that equals it in comfort and a sense of calm. So, settle in I have done, and continue to do, for I treat my home as a living, breathing organism. I give thanks every day that I have this small, unique 1880s farmhouse.

The photography projects I had on the back burner while in Maine were, of course, waiting for me. One is a year-long Art + Wine Celebration sponsored by Hudson Valley Wine Magazine www.hudsonvalleyartandwine.com. Nineteen Hudson Valley artists have been paired with twelve specific wineries in our region to create, in whatever medium is theirs, two works for a grand gala in May 2011. The Brotherhood Winery and Vineyard is my partner in this endeavor and I consider myself very fortunate. Not only is Brotherhood the oldest winery in the United States with its ‘otherworldly’ cellars that date back to the 1800s, but its vineyards overlook the Catskill Mountains and Hudson River – views considered by many to be unequaled.

It rained steadily for what seemed more than a week after my arrival home. I finally took to the road on a drizzly morning and drove to Columbia County with the promise that the clouds would depart and allow some rays of sun to spread across our landscape and into our bones. Just as clouds were abandoning their seemingly relentless grip on our sky, wind gusts of more than thirty miles per hour accompanied the changing weather. This “collaboration” created amazing hues, shadows, and drama, especially on one of Columbia County’s rolling hillsides. Color, no color. Existing one moment; changing the next.

 

As the Sun Broke Through © 2010 Lee Anne Morgan

 

I drove towards the Vineyard through this convergence of light, shadows, and changing color but when I arrived, the Catskill Mountains remained overcast. However, while I hoped for sun and the surprise of an unknown drama, I could not resist this gossamer view.

 

 

As the Hudson River Flows © 2010 Lee Anne Morgan

 

At the top of the Vineyard is a meadow. In that meadow stand two willow trees. This meadow is one that Frederic Church painted from the south lawn of his home, Olana. The angle at which my camera was focused shows young Riesling vines and their remaining leaves concede to the wind’s force. The wind was strong enough so that it was difficult to hold on to my camera. And, a tripod would have been swept away. I was firm in my resolve though to capture, albeit from the opposite perspective of Church’s paintings, the two willows and some of the tender vines. And, forgive me, but I could not resist the title …

 

 

"Wind in the Willows" (Brotherhood Vineyard) © 2010 Lee Anne Morgan

 

I turned around to find that the conspiracy of the week’s endless rain, the day’s forceful wind, and the persistent sun punching through the clouds, brought a peak of autumnal color to our mountains. These are views of our “blue” Catskill mountains with their soft, sensuous Rubenesque shapes reaching as far as Ulster County, twenty or thirty miles away, perhaps more.

 

 

Catskill Mountain View No.1 © 2010 Lee Anne Morgan

 

 

Catskill Mountain View No.2 © 2010 Lee Anne Morgan

 

I began my day in gray drizzle with almost a monochromatic landscape. It concluded with the sun clearing out the dark shades and shadows that prevailed all week, exposing the culmination of nature at work: autumn in the Hudson Valley.

More to come.

Namasté

leaving – and arriving

Leaving Bass Harbor early Saturday morning in clear, cool air and the brightness of sun that eluded us all week helped lighten my somewhat saddened heart. I love this part of Maine and have romanced her in these writings. It was not so much leaving for I know I will return, but the shadow of the “stuff of life” waiting for me at home that weighed on my heart.

The brilliant sun and dazzling, deep blue waters so clear that they reflected the sky and every single thing in close proximity, prevailed throughout the day as I drove south through Maine’s small coastal towns: Bucksport, Searsport, Belfast, Camden, Damariscotta (where I consumed a giant  cup of freshly roasted and ground Sumatra coffee plus one of their world-famous sticky buns just out of the oven… oh my), Wiscasset and more, until I reached Kennebunkport. I settled into the motel I stayed at two weeks ago and knew I was really, really tired. Every bone ached and I barely made it to dinner, where I almost fell asleep at the table. My camera never left its bag all day. I watched a movie, “The Green Mile”, and was reminded how Stephen King can be a very fine, elegant writer and, then, fell fast asleep. It was eight o’clock.

I was up early to pack and drive to Ocean Shore Drive, which is where the very wealthy live, the waves pummel the ragged shore line, and one sees the sun rise and set. I was there for the sunrise and I knew no one else would be around that early EXCEPT for an artist with his easel painting with great deliberation and fervor. He had a bumper sticker on the back of his struck, which said Artist for rent or sale. I loved it but didn’t disturb him as I carved out my own space much different from the view he was working on.

The sunrise, of course, was the first image. Sunrises and sunsets are irresistible to artists. That’s why we all do them. Why? They are miracles of nature, no two are alike, and they reach our souls like well-intentioned magic wands to heal and soothe.

Sunrise, Kennebunkport, Maine © 2010 Lee Anne Morgan

There was a house on the hill with Maine’s classic rugged coast line at its feet overlooking the seemingly boundless ocean. I had never noticed it in all the years I passed through Kennebunkport. This morning, it looked haunted yet beautiful in the first glimmer of morning light.

House on the Hill, Kennebunkpport, Maine © 2010 Lee Anne Morgan
House on the Hill No. 1 © 2010 Lee Anne Morgan

Grasses, limbs, twigs captivate me. They are are simple, unique, and are the ethos, the very bones, of nature. This was my last photograph in Maine.

The Grasses © 2010 Lee Anne Morgan

I said my goodbyes to the waitresses at ALL DAY BREAKFAST where I ate when I drove through Kennebunkport two weeks ago. I drove home making only one stop. Walking into one’s home after several weeks away, neglected yet familiar, stirred many emotions, not the least of which was a mild feeling of panic at all the unpacking I had to do, the gathering of food, the making of it … these simple things felt overwhelming for a few moments. But I summoned my will and strength to do what needed to be done. I heard the furnace pop on even though the thermostat was set at 55 degrees. So, I started loading wood in the house to build a fire in the wood stove, which comforted me as it warmed the house. The fire was a homecoming and I was finally able to renew “old conversations” as I investigated the corners, the shadows, the warmth, the light of my home.

Home, Sunday © 2010 Lee Anne Morgan

Home Again © 2010 Lee Anne Morgan

Thank you all for being there as my witnesses to this recent adventure. As always, when I write these chronicles, I feel each of you standing with me. This is a blessing and I say this with the deepest gratitude in my heart.

Namasté.

on the rocks of time

Yesterday’s specter-like fog thickened as it wove itself through the roads along the coastline so that in one moment an image was clear and in the next it had all but vanished. These were the conditions in which I drove to my beloved Schoodic Point. It was a bleak drive north on Route 1 and then 186 through Winter Harbor taking more than an hour. The fog’s mist was heavy enough that windshield wipers were needed, though it was not raining.

It had been twenty-four years since my last visit to Schoodic Point with my then husband, Arthur, who remains to this day one of my closest, dearest friends. Soon after we were divorced, I moved to Deer Isle, Maine for five years. During that time, I never returned to Schoodic. My first experience on the Point created a spiritual shift within that has only evolved and deepened over the years. However, I had a fear of returning for I knew it would have to be different as everything, in each moment, continues to change. Yet, I wanted it to be exactly the same as I remembered.

Rain poured in torrents the day that Arthur and I drove to Schoodic from  a small, hidden village, Castine, where we were staying. I was irritable and had no interest in driving a few hours each way on such a bleak, wet day. But Arthur is an explorer and was not daunted by the rain or my complaining. In fact, as I write, he is at the “roof top” of the world at the border of Tibet on a challenging trek, foot and horseback when required, to see a monastery once again that he visited years ago.

Schoodic Point has a Scenic Byway, which is a one-way road. When Arthur and I first entered we saw nothing but this dark, single lane road shrouded with pine trees on both sides. Then the vista opened and we parked somewhere that probably was not legal but there was no one, absolutely no one, around except for hundreds of seagulls meandering in the rain on the vast, huge rock formations that are, quite simply, the rocks-of-time.

My dark mood morphed to brightness when I saw the view. Arthur reminded me about something I planned to do somewhere in Maine and said, “Lee Anne you brought special crystals with you. Why not rinse them in the salt water here?” This ritual of rinsing crystals in salt water presumably cleanses their negative energy. I carefully unpacked them from my bag, unfolded them from their woven Indian cloth wrappings, knelt down at a safe, small crevice, and began my solemn ceremony. The gulls hovered around and barely moved while I gently rinsed each crystal. I felt ‘right-sized’ once again. Some thing, perhaps only a chimera, but I think not, changed the still-point within. I was different yet I could not define it. Nor, was it necessary.

As I entered  Schoodic Point  yesterday, I was flooded with these memories and inwardly smiled when I saw the first of many images and scenes from twenty-four years ago. My heart pounded as I wended my way to the rocks-of-time. Yet, I took time to capture the classic Maine beauty one encounters when first entering Schoodic Point.

 

Entering Schoodic Point © 2010 Lee Anne Morgan

 

Continuing on the Byway, looking away from the Gulf of Maine, one sees several miles of this.

 

Schoodic Byway No. 1 © 2010 Lee Anne Morgan

 

Schoodic is raw, rugged, and untouched except by the glaciers that carved, then smoothed, the rocks. At the main entrance to the rock formations and roaring surf, is this wide plateau of pink and red stone.

 

Rocks of Time © 2010 Lee Anne Morgan

 

The surf pounds the shore, again and again and again …

 

Schoodic Point Surf No. 1 © 2010 Lee Anne Morgan

 

 

Schoodic Point Surf No. 2 © 2010 Lee Anne Morgan

 

 

Schoodic Point Surf No. 3 © 2010 Lee Anne Morgan

 

 

Schoodic Point Surf No. 4 © 2010 Lee Anne Morgan

 

The rocks sit as architectural monuments to time and nature. When Thomas Cole created his first paintings of this area and Mount Desert, the critics in New York lambasted his work saying that everyone knows the rocks on Maine’s coast are gray, not red or of other hues. How right Cole was; how wrong the critics.

 

 

Architectural Monument No.1 © 2010 Lee Anne Morgan

 

 

Architectural Monument No.2 © 2010 Lee Anne Morgan

 

The seagulls are important to the energy of this landscape called Schoodic. They are calm, elegant, and love to perform and pose. They are often in abundance, but not so yesterday. Those that were around, strutted, bathed, and posed for my camera.

 

Bathing © 2010 Lee Anne Morgan

 

 

One Observes © 2010 Lee Anne Morgan

 

A soul-sister died a long time ago and was much too young. She loved the shore and particularly the gulls. I’ve waited many years to capture exactly what I wanted for her. These are for  you Carol ( and Jerry, for you too).

 

For Carol No. 2 © 2010 Lee Anne Morgan

 

 

For Carol No.3 © 2010 Lee Anne Morgan

 

I walked carefully over the slippery rocks back to the car to begin my journey around the single-lane road. The other side of the road, rather than the ocean view, presented a lagniappe. I was so startled that I stopped the car in the middle of the road. I believe that myths and mystery are in every bog hidden deep within the intimacies of this quiet, unseen space.

 

The Other Side of the Road © 2010 Lee Anne Morgan

 

 

The Other Side of the Road No. 2 © 2010 Lee Anne Morgan

 

I finally approached a two-way road just about to exit Schoodic and noticed the fog rolling towards me leaving this image in its path.

 

Through the Fog © 2010 Lee Anne Morgan

 

I felt relief, exhilaration, and exhaustion. I was now headed back on Route 1 south when I saw the sun struggling to come out. It seemed only to occur over this small Baptist church. What a peaceful gift at the end of a perfect day.

 

Birch Harbor Baptist Church © 2010 Lee Anne Morgan

 

I spend the rest of today packing, for I am on the road tomorrow for an overnight in Kennebunkport.  I hope you enjoyed my return to Schoodic Point as much as I did.