Friday, July 18, 2008

Excerpt: A Few Summer Days in the Adirondacks

Author's Note: The tone of the book vacillates between naturalist and philosopher, mostly leaning towards the naturalist. Here then is a rough excerpt from the philosophical perspective.

JULY 18, 2008

The air is heavy with moisture, the sky hangs low, an unbroken plain of phosphorescent grey clouds. Thunderstorms roared through at daybreak, continuing for several hours. Now, at 1:30 in the afternoon, after breezy quiet, thunderclouds pop up across the Adirondack plateau, their red-hot intensity magically appearing on time-lapse radar screens where moments before only clear terrain existed. Here in the corner where Franklin County meets Essex County, two angry storm systems have appeared, forming in place and announcing their presence with rumbling ferocity. The old dog, Bruiser, looks anxiously out the window, nervously licking his lips and preparing to pant & shiver, while the young pup, Sadie, sleeps soundly, splayed out on her side in the middle of the passageway between the living room and great room. Storms, to Sadie, are non-issues while old Bruiser frets each rumbling wave of sound.

The Adirondacks are home to quick, fierce storms of wind & rain in the summer, ice and snow in the winter. Between days of exquisite climate are days of ferocious weather. And the change from one to the other can come quickly, a fact sadly attested to by the number of drowned paddlers and frozen hikers we see each year. While the land appears tamed and differing only slightly in population density and lack of cluttering signage from the urban/suburban villages of the typical visitor, the Adirondacks are indeed still wild by nearly any definition of the word. Our homes and hamlets sit as frontier outposts in a land whose flora, fauna, and climate still carry the wilderness that generations of settlers have yet to tame.

Sadly, however, our presence is not without impact. Invasive species are threatening its waters. Pollution is detectable in the remotest of lakes and ponds. A century or more of fisheries manipulations has altered the population dynamics of nearly every waterway. Native strains of trout exist in but a handful of ponds, finally carefully managed and protected so they may continue to thrive.

And as I muse about this landscape, the sky continues to toss an errant rumble against the verdant, windswept landscape. Forests tremble beneath an incessant breeze. Old Bruiser pants, young Sadie climbs into her kennel, her womb of safety ingrained into her psyche since young puppyhood. But as I pass and catch her attention, she exits kennel and lays out on her side to sleep, uncaring of the jarring rumbles, at my feet. Bruiser coughs nervously, instilling some of his unease in Sadie so that she gets up and paces between living room and great room, pausing to lay her chin tail-wagging expectantly on my knee as she passes my chair.

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