Saturday, July 22, 2006

A distant and surrounded place

I'm going on vacation in a couple of weeks. Every year I spend a week in early August in the Catskills. Taking the week off was one of the conditions of accepting the offer for the new job. That's how much it means to me. Not that I wouldn't have canceled the vacation and took the job, but I was willing to bluff.

Since my days in Arizona, I find it necessary to spend at least a week every year lolling under cold waterfalls on sweltering hot days. Back then, i.e. in the good old days, I only had to drive a couple miles to find waterfall paradise. Here it takes a couple hours and is complicted by the fact that I don't have a car. Still, I insist on once a year, minimum.

People who have never been to New York would likely be shocked by the incredible natural beauty that is so close to the city. A two hour drive to the Catskills will take you to scenery that is the equal to jut about anything out west.

I started exploring the Catskills because I became interested in the painters of what came to be known as the Hudson River School. These include Thomas Cole and Frederic Church, among others.

In one of those “victim of a series of accident” sequences, I became interested in the Catskills because of avant-guarde accordion music. One night I was trolling the radio channels and came across this incredible music on the classical station. I thought it was some kind of bizarre quartet, possibly playing music from the middle ages or something, never in a million years would I have guessed that it was one guy playing an accordion. But it was Guy Klucevsek and, coincidentally, he was playing at The Kitchen the following night.

So I went to the show. It was great, but that’s neither here nor there. The important part is that one of the segments featured the painting “The Heart of the Andes” by Frederic Church, which is a very interesting painting on several levels.

Anyway, even though “Andes” wasn’t set in the Catskills, I looked into Church and found that he was part of the Hudson River School, which led me to Cole and the other Painters and ultimately to the Catskills, where I have camped, hiked, and spent many good hours under cold waterfalls on hot days for the last three years.

I have yet to do any serious photography there, but perhaps this year. Since the kids are abroad and my wife would rather have her toenails ripped out than camp for a week, I will be alone, so I will be able to get up before dawn and hike up a mountain to get the early morning light.

But I have taken a few tourist pictures over the years. I don’t have the time or motivation to make a "best of" presentation right now, but if you are interested, here is last summer’s little slide show I put together for the family.