October 25, 2020

Finally Fully Prime Foliage


 For the past two weeks or so, a friend and I have been taking short scenic drives for leaf peeping as the colors finally had begun to reach their peak stage of brilliance. One morning, we drove to a state park in the region with a scenic overlook near the area's highest elevation toward the northernmost tip of the Catskill mountain range. Not as dramatic as the high peaks of the Adirondacks, across the Mohawk River valley below and to the north.

 

 

 View north to the Adirondack Mountains on the horizon, far in the distance, across the Mohawk River basin.

There are lots of opportunities to see the array of colors that Mother Nature provides during October in my region of eastern upstate New York, but, after some study, it became apparent that not only were the colors this year particularly loaded with brilliance, the best times to see them at their most intense and striking were early in the morning and late in the afternoon. Those were the day parts when the sun's rays illuminated the leaves at a more acute angle than during the midday hours when the sun was at its highest in the sky. The leaves simply were far more dull in the middle of the day. So not all jaunts were as satisfying as others - time of day and the availability of sunshine were key factors for the most satisfying views of autumnal leaf splendor.

This is a fleeting time in autumn, when the leaves are changing so dramatically, before they fall to the ground and leave us with the stark landscape of winter for the next several months thereafter. If you're able, and you have access to such a stunning display where you are, go out, see the beauty that surrounds you before it's gone for another year. So few sights are so dramatic and so gratifying...and don't cost anything to enjoy.

 

 

 




 

 

 

      

September 29, 2020

Okay, Autumn, come ahead


With the official arrival of autumn on September 22, the leaves on the trees in my area of the Northeast suddenly responded as if a switch had been flipped and the change from varied greens to blazing oranges and brilliant reds began to evolve right on cue. I was lamenting the sudden rush into autumn on September 1, the start of meteorological autumn, but we had a bit of a roller-coaster of a weather month along with this wacky pandemic year. It was warm, then it was cool and slipped quickly into downright frosty at night during one weekend mid-month. Then, as if to say, "Sorry, we didn't really mean for that to happen just yet", the cold snap faded and the perfect mild late summer/early autumn air that makes for glorious balmy days and nights just cool enough to afford the most comfortable sleeping slid into the mix.

We've been half-way out and half-way into autumn for most of late September, but we're nearly all in now. Mild days, cool nights and leaves changing all around. In another week, things will be more reds, oranges and yellows than greens and with a good rain and a bit of wind, those leaves will be hitting the ground and going all golden yellows and, before we blink, it'll be November. Until then, I'm savoring all we get in this most fickle but beautiful of seasons of the year...welcome, autumn. So glad to finally see you.


  

 

 

 

September 2, 2020

Not so fast, Fall!

 

What's the rush to get to autumn? It'll be here in just three weeks, but I'm in no hurry to break out the fall decor and change over from summer. I'm just not, because here in eastern upstate New York, this is the best time of the year for perfect weather - mild, not horribly hot or outrageously humid. It's simply  lovely, so I revel in this time of year and am planning to make the most of it, even though travel and access to some of my favorite activities are more limited than ever, thanks to that dreaded virus.

I've been fortunate to be able to enjoy good health after an issue earlier this year. I'm so glad that's behind me and I can do all of the things now that I was able to do before that annoying health hiccup. Phew! So, I'm taking advantage of this prime time to get outside, deal with some maintenance issues around the house and just be glad that we've got a few more weeks of great weather before things start to get a bit nippy. Mind you, I do love autumn here, as seasons go, but I'm in no hurry for its arrival. I'm still in a bit of disbelief that it's already September. How did that happen? The summer - that glorious season that couldn't get here soon enough back in mid-February - literally flew by this year! It's beyond crazy.

So, even though travel has been severely constrained this year, I have stayed busy with tasks at home, fun things (and a few not so fun things) all has kept me busy. I guess that's how the summer season flew by so quickly when I was busy doing other things. So, for the moment, I'm taking a few days while it's beautiful outside and am just enjoying these golden days of the late summer season before the colors start to change and remind us all that the frosty, snowy winter is not all that far off... 

 

August 4, 2020

Hello, August!

View to east of Atlantic Ocean from north side of Rockport, Massachusetts (c)

Given that 2020 has been an unusual year, to say the least, it's no real surprise that it's already August - the "dog days of summer", as the saying goes. After nearly two months of warmer than usual temperatures, including several heat waves where temperatures hit the 90s routinely, it's finally more typically summer, with warm days (not so scorchingly hot) and less humidity that could be cut with a knife. I'm hoping that we've seen the worst of summer and we can relax and savor these perfect summer days. Even if it's raining, I don't mind. We do need the rain and, for the mos part, my lawn looks reasonably healthy thanks to the rain we seem to get weekly. It's a good thing.

I confess, having endured an unexpected health issue (not COVID, fortunately) that emerged unexpectedly in late May, I am finally feeling like myself again, with the issue now resolved - hopefully never to return. It does take a sudden reminder that one shouldn't take good health for granted. I have to admit that I haven't assumed my health would remain as reliable as always - I do remind myself that I've been very lucky to have avoided major issues over the years and have enjoyed fairly good health, but the moment one's health is compromised, everything seems wildly out of whack. I am glad my issue ultimately was resolved, but it took some doing to get there, so I'll be keeping an eye on my general state of well being to help ensure I remain well, as I really dislike having my good health compromised.

So, now, the first half of summer has passed, so I'm taking full advantage of August, glorious August, to enjoy the summer season to its fullest. I'm attending to my much smaller garden (a casualty of my earlier ill health), and reveling in the warm sunny days and gradually cooler nights to celebrate the best part of summer for the next six weeks before the winds of autumn push us toward the year's next season. Admittedly, early fall is my favorite time of year - the coolere weather and beautiful changing colors, but late summer is second best. Before the stores start loading up on Christmas items. (I heard one local crafts emporium already was breaking out the holiday decor - noooo!) As a teen, I remember being so annoyed that the stores started breaking out the autumn fashions - the woolens and plaids that were unthinkable in early August...Christmas in August is downright heresy!

Enjoy these wonderful weeks of August, as they, too, will be gone before we know it and we'll be wishing it was still June and we could have a do-over!  

July 3, 2020

An Atypical Fourth of July Holiday in the Pandemic Era




As the coronavirus pandemic marches on, there has been much progress and effective "flattening of the curve" here in New York State. Other parts of the country, where residents have been far less vigilant in adhering to the recommended safety protocals, are now experiencing a resurgence in the virus. Why is anyone surprised by this?

At the risk of sounding heartless, what did folks in the south and southwest expect? Honestly. This isn't brain surgery. It's NOT a hoax. The virus is real and it can be deadly. Many thousands of people already have died. How hard is it to wear a mask or appropriate face covering to help ensure that you don't infect others? It's a no-brainer, but so many people are simply in utter denial about the seriousness of this pandemic, and it's simply beyond comprehension.

Understandably, many annual fireworks displays have been cancelled and other seasonal July 4th events also will be deferred until 2021 as mass gatherings are still too risky. As an alternative, I've posted my watercolorized photo of a display of small flags in a planter sitting on top of a bridge barrier in a small community in my area as my summer season header. I've also pulled out a few of my own small flags and have put them in my own planters for a little traditional all-American holiday color.

Enjoy the holiday and, if you can, stay home and be safe until it's no longer necessary! 

June 15, 2020

The Uncommon Triple Crown

A contemporary watercolor interpretation of William C. Robertson's 1868 historic print "The False Start" features the grandstand of Jerome Park in New York in the background. Jerome Park, no longer in existence, was the first site of the Belmont Stakes in 1868.


As everyone knows by now, thanks to the global pandemic that has plagued much of the world, this is a year like no other when it comes to traditional sports. That includes the oldest organized sport conducted in the US: Thoroughbred horse racing, which dates back more than 300 years in the Colonies.

Racing's renowned Triple Crown, a concept focusing on 3-year-olds running "classic" distances between 1 3/16 miles to 1 1/2 miles, was established relatively recently (in the early 20th century vs. the 18th century).

In the modern era, the Triple Crown consists of the Kentucky Derby at Churchill Downs in Louisville, Kentucky, in early May; the Preakness Stakes at Pimlico Race Course in Baltimore, Maryland two weeks later in mid-May, and the Belmont Stakes at Belmont Park in Elmont, New York, on Long Island, three weeks after the Preakness. Held over a span of five weeks, the Triple Crown culminates with the Belmont Stakes. At 1 1/2 miles, it is the longest of the three races and is often referred to as the "true test of the champion." While there are longer races on the annual racing calendar in the US, the Belmont typically is the only one 3-year-old horses of either gender is likely to run and few of them ever race that far again in their careers.

Thanks to the coronavirus pandemic, racing was interrupted in most areas of the country for several months this spring, functionally eliminating many of the usual prep races that owners and trainers use to prepare and qualify their promising young horses for the Triple Crown races. As a result, racing was postponed at all three of the race courses that host each of the respective Triple Crown races.

The first to reschedule was Churchill Downs, which postponed the 1 1/4-miles Kentucky Derby from the first Saturday in May until September 5. Pimlico indicated they, too, would be postponing the 1 3/16 miles of the Preakness Stakes from mid-May to October 3. The Belmont Stakes subsequently was rescheduled for Saturday, June 20, instead of a week earlier, and it will be run at a reduced distance of 1 1/8 miles instead of its traditional 1 1/2 miles. So the Triple Crown race that usually occurs last and the longest in the sequence shall be first this year and will be the shortest this year only.  

In the meantime, a number of promising candidates for one or more of these races have fallen by the wayside due to minor injury or more serious ones that have ended their racing careers. One gets the sense that this year's Triple Crown will be like no other and it's anyone's guess which horses will emerge as the top three-year-olds in this very odd year of 2020.

Tune in and watch on June 20 to see how things will shake out at the Belmont Stakes and which other contenders might also move forward to the other two legs of the Triple Crown when they do occur in late summer and early fall.



May 21, 2020

Lilac Time Again

 


It's just past the middle of May and the lilac bush in my front yard is full of fragrant blooms. Oh, how I so love the scent of lilacs! These are the traditional, glorious lavender-colored ones - simply gorgeous and they smell divine! (The bees are enjoying them, too.) I've managed to maintain this long-established bush - in the years that I've been here, clipping the nearest branches loaded with blooms to ensure that more appear next year and beyond. They don't last all that long on the bush or in a vase full of water, but they are wonderful for the fleeting days they are here. They're just heavenly!



The coronavirus response marches on and I'm happy to report we're making a major dent in its progress in New York State. Some areas of life are being "re-opened" gradually and very carefully. We have only ourselves to blame if the virus cases increase as we slowly revert to a semblance of life as we knew it. Some industries and businesses have had their restrictions eased and are returning to operation, while others are taking incremental steps to get there - slowly, but surely.

Other areas of life as we knew it will not be returning this year - it's too soon and larger crowds cannot be accommodated safely, so no larger concert venues with extensive seating, and no audiences or fans at larger sporting events, though I'm happy to report that horse racing will be returning to New York on June 3 at Belmont Park after a six-week delay. Efforts also are underway to allow training in Saratoga, hopefully by mid-June, and eventually racing there, as well, starting as originally planned in mid-July through Labor Day if all goes well. Only essential personnel will be permitted on site - not even horse owners - but there is discussion on ways that owners might be allowed to attend when they have horses running. It would seem to be only fair as there is no racing if owners don't supply the horses to trainers to race them. Who ever would have imagined this would be an issue and needed to be carefully planned for it to occur? Wild, but very glad to see horses be able to race again.

Saratoga is known as a racing town and over the past 20 years or so the city and surrounding towns have enjoy a real estate boom, with properties values well outpacing the greater region. The good news this year is that with no fans allowed, the cost of hotel rooms and rental properties is expected to be a bit less costly because of the lack of demand compared to a typical summer racing season. That should bode well for those who must travel here for the racing each summer as it shouldn't be quite as costly for them. Either way, I'm glad the horses will be returning even if we can only see them from afar and on TV or online. 

Hi ho!

View east from the Whitney Viewing Stand, built in 2013 at the homestretch of  Saratoga's "Oklahoma" training track
 to commemorate the 150th anniversary of horse racing in Saratoga Springs
The training track  and barn complex is located directly across Union Avenue from the renowed race course.