Tuesday, May 21, 2013
My Mountain Home
Let's see if I can stay awake long enough to post a blog tonight. I just got home from spending two days and one night at Pyramid Life Center, a retreat center on one of the loveliest lakes in the Adirondacks, Pyramid Lake in Essex County. I had the whole place to myself, not another soul around except for a pair of loons and a couple of Barred Owls calling throughout the night. But I wasn't exactly on retreat this time. Every year, I volunteer to clean all the center's guest rooms in the Lodge, a rustic old 19th-century hotel with around 30 rooms, not counting the common areas. It's mighty hard work, but a task I'm delighted to do for this place of peaceful retreat in the mountains, my home away from home. Where else would I, a person of modest means, have access to such a place of exquisite beauty and quiet tranquility?
Usually, I perform my work during Memorial Day Weekend, together with a whole campful of other volunteers, all working hard to prepare the center for a summer filled with interesting programs relating to nature and spirituality. But because I'm having guests at my home this coming weekend, I went up to the center early to do the work I normally do. I missed the camaraderie of working and eating and conversing with my fellow volunteers, but it's another level of experience altogether to be all alone in such a place, to enter silence and solitude as I watch the moon rise over the still, dark forest at night, or the morning mist rise from the glassy lake up into the mountains at dawn.
I didn't have much time for paddling or hiking, but I did stop along the center's mile-long entrance road to see what was blooming by the roadside. I was especially delighted to find Rose Twisted Stalk growing right at eye level out of a steep rocky bank, so that I could see the charming little pink-spotted bells dangling down from the leaves, without me having to lie down on the forest floor to peer up at them.
An even more exciting find for me was a profusion of Purple Virgin's Bower, a native wild Clematis that likes to grow on lime-rich rock. I have never found it blooming anywhere but here, and many years I search and search for it in vain, even though I know exactly where it grows. This was a banner year for it, and I happened upon it just in its prime. Unlike the horticultural varieties of Clematis, this flower never opens its sepals wide.
I did take a little time to go walking in the woods, searching for Painted Trillium and Bunchberry, two of the flowers I hope to show to my friend Andrew, a young botanist coming all the way from Ohio next week in hopes of photographing some of the plants he rarely, if ever, finds in his home territory. Sorry, Andrew, I haven't found those two flowers yet. But I had to step carefully in my search to avoid stepping on the dainty white blooms of Goldthread that were scattered all over the forest floor.
With my nose to the ground on my flower hunt, I almost walked right through the web of this diminutive spider, which was maybe a quarter-inch long, not counting its stripey legs. I'm glad I didn't inadvertently destroy this orb-weaver's handiwork.
I drove through the village of Schroon Lake on my way home, looking for the cliffs full of Columbine that my friend Sue had told me she saw when she traveled this route last week. Sure enough, there they were, hundreds and hundreds of this vivid red and yellow flower, nestled among craggy cliffs that rise vertically right by the roadside a couple of miles south of the village. Although the Columbines were starting to fade a bit from their previous glory, they were still quite impressive, especially when complemented by a burgeoning patch of yellow-green Cypress Spurge.