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A Very Beautiful Sabbath Day

September 4, 2014


What a glorious day!

I began my sabbath late last evening. A friend had lent me a copy of Sailor Twain, or The Mermaid of the Hudson, an award winning graphic novel by Mark Siegel. The story weaves together sea myths and legends of the Hudson River to tell a story of desire and obsession that lingers long after the telling. It is a story of the place I now consider home. I read it straight through before bed, dreaming, I think, even before I fell asleep.

I would love to know what others have thought of this story.

My sabbath day proper began with getting up early to prepare for a long day of hiking, and dropping August off at school on the way. Yesterday was his first day of school, and his assessment that first afternoon was simply “Best. Class. Ever!” He was enthusiastic to go back this morning.

I am nearing my goal of hiking all of the Westchester 100 by the end of this October, but I have to make tracks to do so. I began today at Muscoot Farm in Somers. Those familiar with the farm and nature center may not know that there are more than six miles of hauntingly quiet trails behind the farm. The dew was still on the grass when I set out, but the colors were brilliant.

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I hiked for almost two hours, and then moved on to Lasdon Park, Arboretum and Veteran’s Memorial, also in Somers. This immediately went to the top of my list of parks to bring August and a few of his friends back to. Apart from the several miles of hiking trails there are the

* Chinese Friendship Garden (complete with ornate pavilion);

* Trail of Honor (memorializing each war with unique sculpture);

* Monarch Meadow (with interpretive signs);

* Lilac Garden;

* Veteran’s Museum;

* Memorial Garden; and

* Historic Tree Walk.

The latter tells the story of our nation on a series of story boards, from the origins of American botany in Philadelphia to the revolutionary war and on through two centuries of American history. At each point the story is marked by a different tree: an offshoot of the tree planted by George Washington at Mt. Vernon in 1786; a growth from the tree in the field at Antietam; a tree grown from the one shading the burial place of Clara Barton; and a “moon tree” grown from a seed carried to space by astronaut Stuart Roosa in 1971. (You would think I would remember each tree type, but I have already forgotten. The whole story/list will be online later this year).

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Lasdon Park also has a unique grove of American Chestnut trees which were thought, not long ago, to be extinct as a result of the accidental introduction of a deadly fungus on this continent. It is now a site of research by the American Chestnut Foundation, seeking to understand and restore hardy chestnuts in North America.

The Muscoot River runs south past the Arboretum, and two trails accompany the river on each side as it wanders down toward Angel Fly Brook and the Muscoot Reservoir. Each is about a mile long, and make a nice loop. On a hot day like today, the temperature drop upon entering the shade of the river walk was considerable.

On my way to the next park, Baxter Tract in North Salem, I stopped at a deli for a giant BLT, something I have not indulged in years. Baxter Tract in unlike anything else I have hiked in Westchester. It is not forest, park, or sanctuary, but a series of open fields clearly used by neighbors with horses. Almost seven miles of paths are cut in the meadows, at the center of which is a lovely lake (below). Walking through the woods with just a bit of trail visible up ahead is one thing, as is stumbling through a forest searching for the next blaze. But walking through fields where one can see three-quarters of a mile ahead is another thing altogether. I am not used to seeing the vastness of where I am. It was overwhelming.

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As I said, this was an ambitious day of hiking. My final stop was the Franklin-Fels Nature Sanctuary in North Salem. I just had time to make the large two-mile outer loop before racing home to get August at school. Yet here I met rabbits, snakes, spiders of all sizes, squirrels, mice, and two large somethings that eluded my sight. The trails were not a highlight of my hiking year, but a good reminder that large tracts of greening-former-farmland exist all over our county, often tucked in between and behind developments. And not at all easy to find.

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This would have been a full enough day, but it was not over. Hiking was followed by two hours on the playground with August (and with other parents), an Oktoberfest dinner with friends at Dunne’s Irish Pub, and an outdoor jazz concert at White Plains City Center. This was the final night of the summer concert series as well as part of ArtsWestchester’s 2014 Jazz Fest. A little Harry Potter before bed, and this day was full and complete.

A glorious day!

May you experience sabbath for yourself sometime this week. Shalom.



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