summer challenge

All posts tagged summer challenge

Summer Challenge: Point Breeze

Published August 31, 2014 by Susan Woodward

Being AloneSometimes I just like to get into my Hyundai, pick a direction, and see where I end up. Since I had already gone east when I went to the cabin, explored portions of the south in Canandaigua, and due west with all the time I have had the opportunity to spend with my family in the Buffalo area, my car decided to go to the northwest along the Ontario shoreline. I thought I might end up in Lewiston, but instead my car found its way to Point Breeze.

I do like lighthouses, so I was glad to find that Point Breeze had a lighthouse museum, and it was open to the public. Not only that, but I had the opportunity to climb up to the top to look out!

Point Breeze 1

Point Breeze 2

Point Breeze 3

Point Breeze 4

Point Breeze 7

Point Breeze 5

Point Breeze 6Because there were plexiglass windows at the top of the lighthouse, you can actually see me reflected in the picture! I am glad I was smiling because I was having a terrific time.

 

Bringing Walden Home: Building My Heart’s Home in Nature

Published August 31, 2014 by Susan Woodward

Cone Flowers 1In keeping with my Walden Experiment this summer, I took pictures of the beauty of Nature everywhere I went. These next few were in a friend’s garden, and we spent a good portion of the afternoon making pickles (something I had not done in over 15 years).

Garden 1Bees were flitting from flower to flower, and I tried to zoom in on them.

Garden 2

Garden 3

Garden 4Flowers are beautiful gifts of the Earth, and I just love the array of colors.

Walden Pond Park LancasterSo as I am heading to the Lancaster Arts and Music Festival, I happen to come along this sign, so of course, I had to stop in for a peek. It was on Walden Avenue, but seeing the sign made me want to check it out.

Walden Pond Park, LancasterIt was mostly wide open sports fields, but there was a pond. I looked for hiking trails and came up empty, so I continued on my way to the Arts and Music Festival.

PetuniasThese petunias and the following Rose of Sharon were all taken during the Lancaster Arts Festival.

Rose of Sharon

Rose of Sharon 2

Rose of Sharon 1

Rose of Sharon Awakening

I also took some water pictures while in Lancaster. It was a blistering hot day (for this summer in Western New York, anyway), and I found some cool relief by going down to the creek.

Creek in Lancaster 1 Creek in Lancaster 3 Creek in Lancasterv2

I have mentioned before that the song of moving water soothes my soul, and as a slightly cool breeze alleviated the ferocity of the sun, and creek melodiously serenaded me while I rested.

The movement of the water fascinated me, and I watched it move from what seemed to be a still pool through a narrow opening. As the water moved into the opening, I noticed the patterns in the current as it moved over the rocks. One rock just beyond the opening acted like a dividing surface, akin to a fork in a road. The water split in its path, creating a criss-cross pattern on the surface. My camera does not do justice to the movement of the water, but as I watched, it reminded me of the various paths we face in life, and how our forward movement is dictated by the choices we make along our path.

No matter which way the water moved around the rock, each “leg” of the current did its own little swirling dance before reconvening in the next pool beyond. Although unseen, the current still rides under the water, still moving it forward. And that is what I see in my life. I go off on my own path, then reconnect with others, all the while feeling the effects of my choices within me.

The summer draws to a close, and I begin to plan my new school year, hoping to take with me the tranquility of Nature as my soul attempted to Build It’s Own Damn House of Tranquility.

Summer Challenge: Sterling Nature Center

Published August 6, 2014 by Susan Woodward

“I left the woods for as good a reason as I went there. Perhaps it seemed to me that I had several more lives to live and could not spare any more time for that one” (Thoreau, “Conclusion”, Walden).

On my fifth day, it was time to pack up and leave the little cabin in the woods.

“The woods are lovely, dark and deep,

But I have promises to keep,

And miles to go before I sleep,

And miles to go before I sleep.”

         (Robert Frost, from “Stopping By Woods on a Snowy Evening”)

I knew that I had responsibilities awaiting me at home and that as much as I was loving my mini Walden Experiment, it was also time for me to return. At least I did not leave with a heavy heart because a line I’d heard somewhere kept running through my mind: “Do not cry because it’s over; smile because it happened.” And so I am smiling.

I took the long way home meandering along Lake Ontario (well, as best as the roads and shoreline would allow… the shore has SO many inlets to it that keeping the lake in view on my right was impossible), and I made one last stop to take a little hike before I had to get home and prepare for an appointment that evening.

For many years, I have driven to Sterling, NY to go to the Renaissance Festival. Every time I drove there, I’d noticed the signs for Sterling Nature Center, but I had never stopped by. Today I did.

Sterling Nature CenterI am sooo glad I stopped! The wooded path took me directly to the lake shore so that she could sing to me a “so long” song till we would meet again.

Sterling ShorelineWhile strolling along the beach, I was surprised at the bluffs that appeared around a bend. At first I thought I must be at Chimney Bluffs, and I had to do a mental calculation of how far along the 104 I had driven for that to be true. Turns out that these are different bluffs, but just as magnificent.

Lakeshore Sterling Nature CenterI sat down to rest and to just listen to the shore-song, all the while thinking about how much I loved the sound and feeling of the breeze. Breathing deeply, I looked out on the water that was dotted here and there with sailboats, and looked up to watch the gulls circle lazily back and forth, almost in rhythm with the boats. I was again filled with gratitude at being able to just be here at this moment. I really did have to pull myself away because I knew that I had “promises to keep.”

heart stoneAs I stood up from the large rock I’d been perched upon, I happened to look down at the rocks that were immediately next to me…and I saw it. It was my final gift for this sojourn- a heart shaped rock that had been worn and shaped by the lake herself.

Refusal to Let GoJust before I turned away from the shore to take the path through the woods to return to my car, I noticed the trunk of an old tree still clinging to the edge of the lake. That is how I felt about my heart; even though the rest of me had to leave this place, my heart belongs to the song of moving water. Whether it is a creek, a waterfall, or the lapping waves of the oceans and lake shores into which I have been privileged enough to dip my toes, that call of the water sings to my soul.

“I learned this, at least, by my experiment: that if one advances confidently in the direction of his dreams, and endeavors to live the life which he has imagined, he will meet with a success unexpected in common hours” (Thoreau, “Conclusion,” Walden).

I hiked with MapMyWalk! Distance: 1.28mi, time: 45:45, pace: 35:41min/mi, speed: 1.68mi/h.
http://mapmywalk.com/workout/678847473

Summer Challenge: South Colwell Pond and Black Dune Wetlands

Published August 5, 2014 by Susan Woodward

“What do we want most to dwell near to? Not to many men surely, the depot, the post office, the bar-room, the meeting-house, the schoolhouse, the grocery, Beacon Hill, or the Five Points, where men most congregate, but to the perennial source of our life, whence in all our experience we have found that to issue, as the willow stands near the water, and sends out its roots in that direction” (Thoreau, “Solitude”, Walden).

After being serenaded by the melodious waves on the shores of Mexico Point, I decided to seek out what other songs the lake might wish to sing to me. I peeked at my map of the area and found a large inlet up near the Jefferson County line and decided to explore.

I meandered for a bit on the pretty drive along Route 3, turning in here and there to see what I could see. It wasn’t till I got to the Black Dune Wetlands along South Colwell Pond that I decided to get out and explore. I found a trail in the woods and could not believe how lush the color was.

Green CarpetEverywhere I looked seemed to be carpeted with soft green leaves.

Fern GullyThe further I walked into the woods, the more dense the carpet became. The short green foliage morphed into a shag carpet of ferns. I tried to be so quiet as I walked because I felt like an intruder. Even so, I accidentally spooked a family of deer out of their resting place. All I saw was a flash of brown movement followed by four white flags disappearing into the distance.

I continued for a bit until the ground became to wet to continue walking comfortably in the woods. No wonder everything seemed so lush…the plants had plenty of water to keep them going!

As I exited the wooded area, it seemed that Mother Nature felt that the wetlands were in need of more watering. The rains came down, and so I headed back to the shelter of my cabin to spend the remainder of the day with my books.

“A single gentle rain  makes the grass many shades greener. So our prospects brighten on the influx of better thoughts. We should be blessed if we live in the present always, and took advantage of every accident that befell us” (Thoreau, “Spring”, Walden).

Instead of waves singing to me that afternoon, it was the patter song of raindrops dancing on the roof. Quite often when I was reading, I paused to lay the book on my chest just to listen to the rhythm of the rain. My heart swelled with gratitude as I simply closed my eyes, listened, and reveled in the present moment. For those moments, I was not bombarded with the sensory overload that is so common to us in this modern world of ring tones, buzzes, dings, vibrations, and the need to be available to the entire world 24/7. While some criticized me for keeping my phone on and actually using it in the evenings to upload pictures, the act of deciding which pictures I wanted to share and tagging their location helped solidify the experiences in my memory. How quickly, in our sensory overloaded lives, do our memories lose their retention as one experience melds into the next…rush, rush, rush turns the brain to mush, mush, mush. I didn’t want to take the chance of having these wonderful relaxing experiences fade away as soon as I left the woods and went home to prepare to return to work. The electronic gizmo will help with retaining this sense of relaxation as I can visit and re-visit what I have photographed and what I have written.

I can return to the woods in my mind…

I hiked with MapMyWalk! Distance: 0.63mi, time: 18:16, pace: 28:59min/mi, speed: 2.07mi/h.
http://mapmywalk.com/workout/677215469

Summer Challenge: Mexico Point Park

Published August 5, 2014 by Susan Woodward

“I walk out into a nature such as the old prophets and poets, Menu, Moses, Homer, Chaucer, walked in. You may name it America, but it is not America; neither Americus Vespueius, nor Columbus, nor the rest were the discoverers of it. There is a truer amount of it in mythology than in any history of America, so called, that I have seen” (Thoreau, Walking).

There is an interesting fact about New York State.  Did you know that while driving along the Thruway and the myriad expressways ending in “90”, you will come across exits for places like Troy, Ithaca (ask my students about those two and the New York Odyssey project we do!), Liverpool, Greece, Rome, or even Mexico, just to name a few? It’s as if I need a passport at the thruway exits…and how fun it would be to get my passport stamped at each place. It’s like going around the world without crossing a state line. I do have to say, though, that Las Vegas has us beat with being able to ride a Venetian gondola, nibble on fromage by the Eiffel Tower, and check out the missing chunk on the Sphinx’s nose all along one strip, but that will be another trip!

Today, I went to Mexico. No, not the country, the town in New York. Ironically, there is a hamlet WITHIN the town called Texas! Fortunately, I had no trouble with border crossings.

No matter where we go nor what a place is called by those who inhabit it, the place is ultimately Earth. No black lines can be seen from a plane or form space that divies up this planet, yet much violence and hatred is spewed over these imaginary lines. As inhabitants of this planet, we should be more united in our experience here than we are. This makes me think of Man’s dominion referred to in “To a Mouse,” the Robert Burns poem that I use when beginning to read Of Mice and Men with my students:

Wee, sleeket, cowran, tim’rous beastie,
O, what a panic’s in thy breastie!
Thou need na start awa sae hasty,
          Wi’ bickerin brattle!
I wad be laith to rin an’ chase thee
          Wi’ murd’ring pattle!
I’m truly sorry Man’s dominion
Has broken Nature’s social union,
An’ justifies that ill opinion,
          Which makes thee startle,
At me, thy poor, earth-born companion,
          An’ fellow-mortal!
I doubt na, whyles, but thou may thieve;
What then? poor beastie, thou maun live!
A daimen-icker in a thrave
          ’S a sma’ request:
I’ll get a blessin wi’ the lave,
          An’ never miss ’t!
Thy wee-bit housie, too, in ruin!
It’s silly wa’s the win’s are strewin!
An’ naething, now, to big a new ane,
          O’ foggage green!
An’ bleak December’s winds ensuin,
          Baith snell an’ keen!
Thou saw the fields laid bare an’ waste,
An’ weary Winter comin fast,
An’ cozie here, beneath the blast,
          Thou thought to dwell,
Till crash! the cruel coulter past
          Out thro’ thy cell.
That wee-bit heap o’ leaves an’ stibble
Has cost thee monie a weary nibble!
Now thou’s turn’d out, for a’ thy trouble,
          But house or hald,
To thole the Winter’s sleety dribble,
          An’ cranreuch cauld!
But Mousie, thou art no thy-lane,
In proving foresight may be vain:
The best laid schemes o’ Mice an’ Men
          Gang aft agley,
An’ lea’e us nought but grief an’ pain,
          For promis’d joy!
Still, thou art blest, compar’d wi’ me!
The present only toucheth thee:
But Och! I backward cast my e’e,
          On prospects drear!
An’ forward tho’ I canna see,
          I guess an’ fear!
And so on to the beauty of the Earth…

Mexico Point Park 1

I must say, this was a beautiful park. There was the ruins of what looked like an old church, but which turned out to be what once was an inn. Oddly, it’s called Casey’s Cottage…at least that is what the sign says.

Another interesting thing was the plethora of carved statues all around the perimeter of the park proper.

Mexico Point Park StatuesThese are just a few of the many statues around the park. They depict famous people (like the Native American and the boxer, both of whose names I forgot to write down) or set the tone for a specific aspect of the park (hospitality, swimming, and fishing).

Casey's CabinWhen I first came across this building, it looked like an old church because of the shape of the stained glass windows. According to the website, it’s an old inn. I loved the style of the door here…

Casey's Cottageand check out the ornamentation around the windows. It looks like draped valences! I also do not remember if it is Casey’s Cottage or Cabin, so I shall refer to both…I have a 50% chance that one of them is correct!

Woodland BasiliskI saw this and immediately felt like I was in the presence of the powerful Woodland Basilisk, distant American immigrant cousin to Harry Potter’s foe in the Chamber of Secrets.

Mexico Pt Park 2

Beauty and the BeachThis lovely was growing out of the sand among a bunch of rocks… and the color stood out.

Mexico Point Shoreline

Mexico Pt Shoreline

Mexico Point MonumentI shall have to do some research on Ancestry.com to find out whether or not Silas Towne is related to the Medina, NY Townes. If so, then I have a relative who was a Revolutionary War hero!

I hiked with MapMyWalk! Distance: 1.18mi, time: 56:03, pace: 47:25min/mi, speed: 1.27mi/h.
http://mapmywalk.com/workout/677102767

Mexico Point Park was just the first stop today….

Summer Challenge: My Walden Experiment

Published August 3, 2014 by Susan Woodward

How perfect is it that I am able to combine my Summer Challenge with preparation for the upcoming school year?

When I return to work after this summer respite, I will be teaching juniors for the first time in my district. After looking at the curriculum possibilities, I have decided that I will begin the year with the Transcendentalists. What better time to read Emerson’s “Self Reliance” and Thoreau’s Walden? Thoreau, in particular, was fond of writing his essays as personal narrative. It is ironic that both Emerson and Thoreau fall into the list of Common Core works when the ELA author of the Common Core State Standards, David Coleman gave a presentation at the New York State Education Department in 2011 titled, “Bringing the Common Core to Life” in which he said:

Do people know the two most popular forms of writing in the American high school today? Texting someone said; I don’t think that’s for credit though yet. But I would say that as someone said it is personal writing. It is either the exposition of a personal opinion or it is the presentation of a personal matter. The only problem, forgive me for saying this so bluntly, the only problem with those two forms of writing is as you grow up in this world you realize people really don’t give a shit about what you feel or what you think.

I beg to differ.

The single most important piece that students will write is the college essay. It’s not a persuasive argument, and it’s not a literary analysis. It is a personal narrative about why the student wishes to pursue his/her higher education at a particular institute and what life experiences have brought him/her to the decision to apply. No matter how many arguments or analysis essays students produce, with no real practice in writing about themselves and what they really think/feel, the college essay will be an incredible source of stress for them. So in order to prepare them to write about themselves, we will look at essayists who did write about their thoughts and feelings. And what better place to start than with Emerson and Thoreau?

Because I will be asking students to write about their own experiences, I made an effort to model that behavior with my own Walden Experiment. To begin, I went so far as to rent a small cabin in the woods (yes, all by myself) and hiked about the area as much as possible. I recorded my excursions on MapMyWalk, a phone app that records your progress, and I took plenty of pictures, both of which I shared with my friends on FaceBook to whet their appetites for when I would write my blog entries.

You know…Thoreau would have LOVED modern technology. Oh, he may complain about man’s infringement upon Nature with his trains and fences, but as one who desired to share his Walden Pond experiences, I am certain that he would have blogged, tweeted, MappedHisWalk, and shared with the social networking cyberworld. As he said about his decision to live in a small cabin in the woods, “I do not propose to write an ode to dejection, but to brag as lustily as Chanticleer in the morning, standing on his roost, if only to wake the neighbors up” (Thoreau, “Where I Lived, and What I Lived For”, Walden).

This is Thoreau’s cabin:

Thoreau CabinAnd here is the cabin I rented for five days:Feeder Creek Cabin Framed

It may not have been as rustic a Thoreau’s little place that he built (yeah…it had air conditioning and DishTV, which I avoided using…well the TV anyway), but it WAS in the woods and on a pond. It was also extremely economical, of which Thoreau would approve. Personally, I highly approved of the modern conveniences rolled into my experiences in Nature. I was especially grateful for the WiFi that was available! No hating about electronic devices! Thoreau would have approved of the ability to get the word to the masses.

Speaking of Chanticleer, I have been lied to my whole life about a rooster crowing at sunrise. Feeder Creek’s Chanticleer crowed ALL day and even into the evening! He, too, wanted to make his voice heard at every opportunity. So, like the rooster, I crowed on FaceBook and MapMyWalk every day.

And I kid you not, there were even bean plants growing in the garden right behind the cabin. As a place to partake in a bit of what Thoreau wrote about, I could not have found a better place without going to Massachusetts. And what was even better was that it was only about a two and a half hour drive from home. Because of it being in Upstate New York, I also was able to double dip the experience to include it as part of my Summer Challenge. I love how things work out perfectly.

Feeder Creek Cabin Interior

Feeder Creek Cabin Sitting Area

cabin kitchenette

Bean Fields

Even with all the lovely modern conveniences that made me feel comfortable, I still partook of the outdoors in Throeauvian fashion. The first place I explored immediately after unpacking was Grindstone Mill Pond. The owners of Feeder Creek Lodge and Cabin, Bill and Barbara VanWormer, offered me use of a canoe to aid in my explorations.

“A lake is the landscape’s most beautiful and expressive feature. It is earth’s eye; looking into which the beholder measures the depth of his own nature. The fluviatile trees next the shore are the slender eyelashes which fringe it, and the wooded hills and cliffs around are its overhanging brows” (Thoreau, “The Ponds”, Walden).

And so I hopped into the canoe…after first tipping it and myself with my first attempt to get going. Truth be told, I was afraid that there might be spiders in the canoe, and so I was tipping it into the pond to wash them out. Yes, that is the story I am going with! Thank goodness I had the foresight to put my cell phone in a plastic bag in my pouch…it serves as my camera. Once I finally got going, a huge spider DID make its way across the rim of the canoe, and I swear he was begging to join his friends for a swim. I was only too happy to oblige him. Thank goodness the remainder of the ride was arachnid-free! And was was glad to have sprayed myself with 85 SPF sun screed and Deep Woods Off. It really did make for a much more enjoyable afternoon on the pond.

Pond 3

Pond 5

 

View From a CanoeRather Monet-esque if I do say so myself…

pond 2

Canoe Ride on the Pond

And so, as the afternoon wore on and I returned to my cabin, I spent the remainder of the evening outdoors in my lounge chair enjoying the words of Henry David Thoreau and contemplating how I might experience the joy of Nature that he felt for myself.

And I am grateful the Deep Woods Off helped to make that experience more joyful! I do not know how Thoreau managed the bugs!

 

Summer Challenge: Seneca Park Zoo Cascade

Published July 17, 2014 by Susan Woodward

Seneca Zoo Cascade“My vicinity affords many good walks; and though for so many years I have walked almost every day, and sometimes for several days together, I have not yet exhausted them” (Henry David Thoreau, Walking).

Part of my summer challenge of “building my own damn house” has been to find local places of beauty to appreciate. I cannot tell you how surprised I was to find what seemed like an out-of-the-way hiking path smack dab in the middle of the city of Rochester! I knew that the Zoo was in the city, but the amount of land and hiking trails within Seneca Park was a shock.

The AllTrails app on my phone has been great for finding nuggets of treasure that I didn’t know were there so that I may better appreciate my own “house” or Upstate New York.

Last summer my challenge took me out of state and to both oceans. This summer I am concentrating on things closer to home. As Thoreau stated that there are many places to walk in our own vicinity, I am looking around Upstate NY for places to do my walking.

Another app that I like on my phone is MapMyWalk. With it, I can track the places I visit, and it will provide me with more information than I ever thought I could know about my hike! It also allows me to send a post right to my blog:

I hiked with MapMyWalk! Distance: 3.00mi, time: 01:09:47, pace: 23:17min/mi, speed: 2.58mi/h.
http://mapmywalk.com/workout/650877871

Boardwalk

A Boardwalk out to the Genesee River

Broken Shells

Those white things on the ground are broken sea shells…and they were all over this part of the trail. It is quite a distance up from the river, as you can see through the trees, and I wondered how they all got up here. Perhaps seagulls had their own version of a clam bake!

Fairy's House

I am thankful that I happened to be looking down at the point I came by this Fairy’s house.

Genesee River 2

The Genesee River

Genesee River

The Genesee River at the base of the falls.

Zoo Falls

 

%d bloggers like this: