Friday, May 28, 2010

Notes on a Nature Walk : May 20

One of my favorite walks is along the Mohawk River in Niskayuna on the Mohawk Hudson Bike Hike Trail, created out of an old railway line. It’s a popular park and it was busy today, with many people walking, running and biking. People older than me were roller-skating and roller-skiing. Two men were on the shore fishing. Another woman walking wore a black and white print blouse, a black skirt and bright red socks. I didn’t feel as though the place were crowded, though.

People in this area have to loosen up, smile and say hello more. Only about 25% of the people I encountered in the park and later in the supermarket greeted me. It’s very sad to experience. According to an U. S. Army veteran friend, it was expected of him to greet the other person in the foreign countries where he was stationed. Friendliness to me is a virtue. Why can’t people here be friendly?

I think of the place more as a park than a trail. I like to go there because of the natural landscaping on both sides of the trail. I’m in contact with Mother Earth and the Animal People. There is always something to pay attention to and learn from. I don’t need to take an MP3 player with me.

I love listening to the many varieties of bird calls and songs and trying to figure out what birds are there and what they’re doing. I saw two birds that were orange variants of scarlet tanagers scraping. I surprised two chipmunks on the grass shoulder alongside the path. They both scurried back into the bush. Since moving back into an urban environment in 1996, I rarely see chipmunks anymore. I always found them very appealing little creatures.

On my return back to the car a bullfrog began calling. I don’t recall hearing one since I left my hometown of Philmont in 1985. There I lived next to the reservoir and one hallmark of spring was the loud chorus of bullfrogs that I grew up loving. I’ve been looking for the Abenaki story about Gluskabe and the magical frog Oglubemu, but haven’t found it. Joseph Bruchac includes it on a storytelling tape.

My last trip to the trail was in late March when plant life was just beginning to wake up. It was nice to see the changes. My very first impression walking to the trail was that it smelled so nice there. The pendulous clusters of creamy blossoms draping the black locust trees were no doubt responsible. Blooming wild honeysuckle bushes were scattered alongside the trail, as well as deciduous trees with tiny pine cones. They’re a type of alder. There was a couple clumps of bright white bloodroot and Dame’s Rockets, or wild phlox. They are so pretty and fragrant. If you looked carefully there were beautiful yellow iris filling the mud flats along the river banks. The flowers were shaped like Siberian or Japanese iris, not bearded. They’re naturalized invasives from Eurasia.

For the past week I’ve had trouble getting to sleep. The day before I didn’t fall asleep until 6 a.m. I only had 5 hours of sleep. It was a beautiful late spring day. I made myself go out to the park. I started walking with more energy than I’ve had for ages and walked farther than I ever had. I thought I was staying awake because of my antihistamine. After enjoying this walk so much I think it’s safe to believe that I’m finally getting the help I’ve craved from my allergy shots.

I was distressed to see that there was a new roadbed cutting across the trail. It seems that the powers that be decided it was cheaper to build this than replace the bridge that crossed the trail. However, I don’t like seeing the environment further disrupted by the roadbed cutting across the river channel, the ugly riprap and knowing that pollutants will flow off the surface into the water. It was bad enough that the railroad was built along the river shore to forever alter the ecosystem in the first place. At least nature was allowed to refresh the area and it’s open to the public to enjoy, unlike the New York state parks that have recently been closed.