River Summer 2010 Photos and Reflections - Module 3

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Module 3 - Poughkeepsie, Kingston and Catskill

July 19-23rd

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Read committments to sustainability participants made.

Monday, July 19, 2010

Core Participants: Rob Buchanan, Jennifer Berky, Heather Hall, Cathy Vaughan Green, Lisa Phillips, Jingyu Wang, Tim Kenna, Margie Turrin. Day Participants: Dean Goddard, Chris Browser and a group of Marist students

Kathy Hattala and the trawling team
  Day One of Module 3 began in the Queen City of the Hudson, otherwise known as Poughkeepsie. We found the Seawolf tied up at Waryas Park, just downstream from the Walkway over the Hudson, the recently-restored railroad bridge. After making introductions and sandwiches, we gathered under a maple tree to hear from our first presenter, Kathy Hattala of the DEC’s Hudson River Fisheries Unit.
Kathy’s job largely consists of looking after the stocks of the five principal anadromous fish in the Hudson. Those are the striped bass, the Atlantic sturgeon, the shad, and two other members of the herring family, the alewife and the blueback. All of these species begin life in fresh water, then disappear into the ocean, sometimes for many years.

Just figuring out how to monitor the life cycle of these complex animals is a daunting challenge, and Kathy filled us in on some recent technological advances, including the introduction of sonar tagging. But the toughest part of managing these fisheries, she suggested, was figuring out how to work with public agencies in other states, and with the federal government, to develop rational, species-specific fishing policy.
Kathy covered a lot of ground, from the current 40-year moratorium on Atlantic sturgeon (that would allow two generations to spawn) to last year's complete closure of the shad fishery. She also spent a lot of time on the topic of Hudson River power plants and their impact on juvenile fish stocks via impingement (squishing them up against screens) and entrainment (sucking them right through the plant).

Her talk ended with a brief discussion of the new state salt-water fishing license requirement, which she explained as a critical part of the DEC's information-gathering mission.

Student preparing to release Atlantic Sturgeon
After the talk, we were joined by Hudson River educator Chris Bowser’s Marist College environmental studies class.

Half of our combined group walked to the Children’s Museum pavilion at the other end of the park to seine and do fish identification of the shallow-water edge species, which included lots of sunfish, shiners, and herring, along with an eel and a molting blue crab.
The group seining
Do two small samples constitute 'evidence' of any statistical significance? Probably not. Still, it was an encouraging sign—at least in one place, on one day, the Hudson River sturgeon population seemed to be doing very well indeed.  

The molting blue crab

Stuart Findlay talks about the marshes of the freshwater Hudson
  The first spatters of an approaching squall drove us into the galley, where the Cary Institute of Ecosystem Studies’ Stuart Findlay presented a provocative powerpoint (yes, it is possible!) called 'Wetland Effects on Water Quality.'

According to Stuart, there are more than 200 tidal wetlands on the Hudson between Piermont and Troy, which together constitute about 8 percent of the river’s surface area. Together, he said, they receive about three times as much freshwater input as enters the tidal Hudson at Troy. In order to measure the effect of these wetlands on water quality, Stuart installed sondes (clusters of automated probes) and also used manually collected water samples at the entrances of various wetlands. He showed us data sets for dissolved oxygen and nitrates at one particular location, the railroad trestle at Tivoli Bays. Since both varied with the tidal cycle—more at high tide, less at low—it was hard to avoid the conclusion that the marsh acts as a net consumer of both oxygen and nitrates.
The larger significance of this study? Stuart suggested the ‘ecosystem services’—the economic and social benefits provided by this natural resource—might be much greater than most people realized. Those benefits, he went on to say, might be even more important considering the sea-level rise resulting from climate change that we are likely to see by 2080—somewhere between 80 and 90 centimeters, he said. One major concern, however, is that many of these Hudson River wetlands cannot migrate because, as he put it, “there is nowhere for them to go.”
The Hudson River skies
At about 7 pm the Seawolf departed Poughkeepsie and steamed (well, dieseled) north on the flood tide. A thunderstorm swept over us at Esopus Meadows, then rainbows and a Hudson River School-worthy sunset over the Catskills as we entered Rondout Creek in the King City of the Hudson, otherwise known as Kingston.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Core Participants: Rob Buchanan, Jennifer Berky, Heather Hall, Cathy Vaughan Green, Lisa Phillips, Jingyu Wang, Tim Kenna, Margie Turrin. Day Participants: Kelsey Jordhal, Kingston Community Members: Rebecca Martin - Executive Director Kingston Land Trust, Steve Noble - Forsyth Nature Center, Hayes Clement – Kingston Alderman Ward 9, Emily Hauser – Community Recycling activist, Mariel Fiori – Founder/editor La Voz, Betsy Blair – Board of the Hudson River Maritime Museum.

Steve Schimmrich gives an overview of New York State Geology
  Day two of module three began with a brief walk through the geologic history of the Hudson River by Steve Schimmrich of SUNY Ulster. We learned about the past lives of NYS state, which include being located south of the equator, covered by the ocean, and several mountain-building episodes.  

The deserted Hutton Brick Factory
We also learned about the ways in which NYS geologic past have affected economic development. For instance, glacial clay resulted in a thriving brick industry. Here’s a picture of the now-deserted Hutton Brick Factory, located near Kingston Point.

Room and pillar limestone mining @ the Widow Jane mine.
The presence of limestone also led to the fortuitous discovery of natural cement in High Falls. Mines and kilns from the cement-making period are located throughout the area. We visited the Widow Jane Mine in Rosendale. You can see the support pillars in the picture above.   Steve was interested in mapping the locations of kilns and mines in order to retain some of the region’s cultural history. A picture of a kiln is above.

Lock 5 of the D&H Canal

The success of High Falls’ cement industry was closely related to the construction of the D&H canal, which was first built to transport coal from Pennsylvania to New York City.

Kingston bluestone

Bluestone forms many of the walkways, patios, and decorative fireplace pieces in the area. A picture of a blue stone is above.

The Ashokan Reservoir

River Summer participants meet with Kingston community members
We also visited the Ashokan Reservoir, which supplies New York City’s water and played a major role in the expansive development of that city.   Our evening involved connecting with some of the Kingston community leaders to view the movie “Two Square Miles” about the mobilization of the Hudson community against the Saint Lawrence Cement Company. After a nostalgic day viewing old cement mine ruins it seemed somewhat surreal to view a documentary that looked at the stark realities of the effects of that industry on the environment and the community workers. The days of old are often remembered more wistfully than they should be.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Kingston – The City of Superlatives
Core Participants: Rob Buchanan, Jennifer Berky, Heather Hall, Cathy Vaughan Green, Lisa Phillips, Tim Kenna, Margie Turrin
Day Participants: Meryl Nadel, Lucy Johnson, Ashley O’Neill, Chloe McGuire, Robin Embick, Jerry Gilligan, Barnie Malloy
  Day 3 began with an overview of Kingston's urban morphology and a presentation by Jennifer, Deputy Director of Planning for Ulster County, of a tale of "resistance and resilience." We learned about the development of three separate areas of the city: Uptown, Midtown, and Downtown and the challenges with trying to unify these neighborhoods. Kingston, as we've come to discover, is also a city of superlatives; it was the first capital of New York State, has the oldest public building in the nation (the Senate House), and the most artists in residence.
We then met Steve Noble from the Kingston Forsyth Nature Center who led us on a kayak tour up the Hudson to look at the changing landscape from brick factories (once a major industry of the region) to the shoreline now reclaimed by nature.
Kayaking by the old brick factory

Steve Noble from Forsyth Nature Center

Brick Drying Houses

The group at Kingston waterfront
  We saw the site of Kingston Landing and Sailor's Cove, 1650-unit and 400-unit respectively, proposed housing developments along the shore of the Hudson River just north of the city and pondered over who would actually live in these miniature cities, where they would work, and how this would affect the existing population of the town. Given all of the effort to unify the existing districts, is this truly the right direction for a city and its community?
We toured Kingston's City Hall, built in 1872, a symbol of the city's efforts to build momentum to revitalize itself, which was constructed under the leadership of a visionary mayor, TR Gallo, who died prematurely at only 41 years of age.  
Moving to the Uptown district, the oldest section of the city heralding to the 17th century Dutch settlers, we visited the Persen House. This opened a discussion about the nature of conservation versus preservation, as we uncovered layer after layer of the different phases and uses of this space, from a family residence, to a tavern, to more recently headquarters for the local 4H club.

Persen House

Persen House interior
Floor markings from prior use

Rebecca Martin and the community visioning results
  We met Rebecca Martin, Director of the Kingston Urban Land Trust and the leader of Ward 9, one of the city’s many diverse communities. She shared stories of community empowerment with us, and the process of transformation taking place by listening to the community. Her work catalyzed many projects, include community gardens, monthly meetings, and social networking among different wards.
In the evolving midtown community on a street more well known for crack houses than community buildings, we saw the land-marked Berger-Matthews House, an 1870’s farmhouse owned by Solomon Berger. Made up of a collage of styles from Victorian to Romanesque, this building was at risk for being bulldozed. In the face of considerable opposition from the local government, Jennifer stepped in and with the help of Greer Smith, founder of TRANSART, decided to transform it into an African-American community center. Mirroring the diverse styles of the architecture, once the restoration is complete, the new center will create a sense of place, reflecting the diverse community of the surrounding neighborhood.

Greer Smith describes her vision for the Berger-Matthews House

The group stops to see the Berger-Matthews House

Close up of the house which was bought for $1 and then donated to TRANSART
While we learned a great deal about Kingston's past, we were inspired by a new generation of leaders dedicated to building a sustainable future for this complex, vibrant city.

Thursday, July 22, 2010
Core Participants: Rob Buchanan, Jennifer Berky, Heather Hall, Cathy Vaughan Green, Lisa Phillips, Jingyu Wang, Tim Kenna, Margie Turrin

Gas tanks gleaming in the rosy glow of the Hudson early light
  The Post-industrial Landscape
Today we saw the expanse of the Hudson from Kingston to Hudson. The remnants of its industrial past stood along its shores – many of them long abandoned, some still in operation – as signs of the dilemma that faces these mid-Hudson communities as they ask themselves “what to become?” in their post-industrial future.

We got underway at 5:30 am, as the tide would be against us all the way to Hudson. In the early morning on the Rondout Creek, foxes ran along the length of the embankment. In the same view stood the gas tanks that had long ago replaced the pleasure boat pavilions at Kingston Point Park’s “Gateway to the Catskills.”
As many of the River Summer participants slept soundly in their bunks, the Seawolf passed the legacy of brickyards, cement plants, and lighthouses on its western edge. Across the way, the estates of the barons of this era – Rokeby, Montgomery Place, and Livingston Manor – overlooked their industrial counterparts from quiet, manicured lawns.  
Hulking carcasses of the brick and cement that built the country
As we passed the villages of Saugerties, Catskill and Athens, we noted how still their creek gates were awaiting only the pleasure boaters who might tool around later today.  

The lucky few who own the view

Arriving in Hudson
  We arrived in Hudson at 10am and ferried to shore on the Zodiac, as this once-bustling former whaling, industrial and manufacturing deep water port now has few spots for vessels like the Seawolf.
Professor Ted Eismeier introduced us to once would-be mayor Linda Mussmann. His studies of this part of the river ask us to consider her story in the context of a place that is struggling to define its transition to a post-industrial economy.


Ted Eismeier from Hamilton College
  Linda’s discussion opens up the complexity of this place for us. No longer the protagonist of the "2 Square Miles" story we saw on Tuesday, she recounts the epilogue of an ever-changing social mix. Mayor Scalera (who is now back in office) was replaced for a term by one-term Mayor Dick Tracy. Quintin Cross, the young African-American Hudson native, had gone on to become the majority leader of the Common Council. We were sad to learn that he ended up in prison on charges of credit card abuse.
Sam Pratt, the founder of Friends of Hudson who so successfully led the battle against the Saint Lawrence Cement Plant, had left the group, which later “dissolved” without the controversy that galvanized them. He is now active again in Hudson’s latest struggle to come to terms with the economic opportunities presented by the cement quarry just east of the city, which is connected by a railroad causeway that crosses Hudson’s South bay to reach the waterfront.

Protecting the South Bay has become the divisive issue in the city’s current effort to create a Local Waterfront Revitalization Plan (LWRP). Mussmann described her role as the chairperson of the LWRP committee, for which the NY State Department of State requires a broad community participation process. "For some, I became a traitor – speaking with the enemy." According to Mussmann, as the railroad causeway from the waterfront to the quarry was pre-existing, the DEC had approved its use. Next to her sat a 3-inch thick binder of painstaking research for the 2008 draft plan, which has yet to be approved by the Common Council. "No one was prepared for what was after the cement plant," the issue that kept the Friends of Hudson together was gone. Either "we can fight forever, or we can each experience some pain as we move toward solutions together."

Warren Street – the main downtown street

Hudson Library
Our walk around the city took us up Warren Street, with its astonishingly intact spine of beautifully revitalized storefronts and apartment houses. One block over, as we turned north to visit Mussmann at Time Space Limited (TSL), the arts center she and partner Claudia Bruce have created, we passed a very different reality: a community of dilapidated homes, a beautiful public library whose façade is failing for lack of care, public housing, and empty lots.
State Street with its worn appearance Trucks move supplies right through the middle of town – 150 round trip loads per barge
Art projects from TSL – Young community members build art, teen art, and living art   An art piece that integrates living history into a map to remember those service-people killed in the Iraq War.
TSL uses every inch of its former industrial space to create opportunities for the community, and especially its kids, to learn new forms of expression: theater, cooking, building models, creating conceptual artwork, and being a part of Mussmann’s vision of a community of connections and reconciliation. Says Mussmann, "I’ve studied a lot about wars. Recounting the surrender at Appomatox, she said "Grant didn’t kick Lee in the face. He said ‘take your swords and your horses, go home and farm…" as if to say, we have to live in this community together, we need to find a way to take care of it, to stay connected to one another. One of the artwork projects at TSL that was particularly moving was the large wall maps of the United States with blue ribbons attached with the name of every casualty in the first years of the Second Gulf War. This way of connecting the kids at TSL from the individual to society as a whole was very fitting as an example of TSL’s work. We bid farewell to Hudson and wrapped up the morning with Ted by speculating on the city’s future.
Our homes as ecosystems
The afternoon gave us an opportunity to learn about a technique of teaching one another to observe a house as an ecosystem by asking the questions: "Will this house-as-ecosystem (including the property and building) run out of water?" Is it a "carbon source or sink?" and "is it a biodiversity hot spot or cold spot?" In teams, we reviewed how sustainability could be achieved at this human scale, debating the questions of the larger responsibility we have as educators to help make connections from the individual to the larger ecosystem.

Swimming at the confluence of the Hudson and Catskill Creek
  Before dinner, some of our intrepid members ventured over to the Catskill Creek for a swim. After discussions of water quality and the Hudson's history of contamination and compromise, this was like a "leap of faith" for those of us who are trying to reconnect with the river.

Friday, July 23, 2010
Core Participants: Rob Buchanan, Jennifer Berky, Heather Hall, Cathy Vaughan Green, Lisa Phillips, Jingyu Wang, Tim Kenna, Margie Turrin.
A response to William and Billy
A Scene On The Banks Of The Hudson
William Cullen Bryant (1828)

Cool shades and dews are round my way,
And silence of the early day;
Mid the dark rocks that watch his bed,
Glitters the mighty Hudson spread,
Unrippled, save by drops that fall
From shrubs that fringe his mountain wall;
And o'er the clear still water swells
The music of the Sabbath bells.

All, save this little nook of land
Circled with trees, on which I stand;
All, save that line of hills which lie
Suspended in the mimic sky--
Seems a blue void, above, below,
Through which the white clouds come and go,
And from the green world's farthest steep
I gaze into the airy deep.

Loveliest of lovely things are they,
On earth, that soonest pass away.
The rose that lives its little hour
Is prized beyond the sculptured flower.
Even love, long tried and cherished long,
Becomes more tender and more strong,
At thought of that insatiate grave
From which its yearnings cannot save.

River! in this still hour thou hast
Too much of heaven on earth to last;
Nor long may thy still waters lie,
An image of the glorious sky.
Thy fate and mine are not repose,
And ere another evening close,
Thou to thy tides shalt turn again,
And I to seek the crowd of men.
Billy Collins (2002)

As I sat on the sunny side of train #241
looking out the window at the Hudson River,
topped with a riot of ice,

it appeared to the untrained eye
that the train was whizzing north along the rails
that link New York City and Niagara Falls.

But as the winter light glared
off the white river and the snowy fields,
I knew that I was as motionless as a man on a couch

and that the things I was gazing at—
with affection, I should add—
were really the ones that were doing the moving,

running as fast as they could
on their invisible legs
in the opposite direction of the train.

The rocky ledges and trees,
Blue oil drums and duck blinds,
Water towers and flashing puddles

Were dashing forever from my view,
Launching themselves from the twigs
Of the moment into the open sky of the past.

How unfair of them, it struck me,
As they persisted in their flight –
Evergreens and electric towers,

The swing set, a slanted fence,
A tractor abandoned in a field –
How unkind of them to flee from me,

To forsake an admirer such as myself,
a devotee of things –
their biggest fan, you might say.

Had I not stopped enough times along the way
To stare diligently
Into the eyes of a roadside flower?
Still, as I sat there between stations
On the absolutely stationary train
Somewhere below Albany,

I was unable to hide my wonderment
At the uniformity of their purpose,
At the kangaroo-like sprightliness of their exits.

I pressed my face against the glass
As if I were leaning on the window
Of a vast store devote to the purveyance of speed.

The club car would open in fifteen minutes,
came as the announcement
Just as a trestle bridge went flying by.
Blue-Green-Brown River Flow
Lisa Phillips

River nature, River people,
Life beyond in the mountains, valleys, centuries pass in a geologic nanosecond of time.

Visiting interlopers, tourons wistful nostalgia of a by gone era – no point of return, how do we go back to the future?

A plague slowly creeps along the shores of this vein – a heated battle often hidden from site – but measured and calculated through scientific instruments.
A train glides northward along the shore, cutting a path through dense Eastern forests, on a sliver of ground; the people inside unaware that they are passing over hallowed wetlands, by faded empires annihilated by their own inventions,
and soon to be reclaimed by the trees, by the river.

Shimmering patches of green, innocent looking on the surface – slowly strangling, suffocating the life below.
People remember when I was a boy….
Stories of my grandfather
Precious rainwater, grey skies, all things connected. We travel back to the city where we’ll walk on cement, enter our brick houses, what do we make? What will we leave?

Oh Ancestors, oh future civilizations, descendents caught in between my grandchildren’s grandchildren – what will they remember me by?

Manufactured obsolescence – built to fail
Preserve at all costs
Wash away the detritus
Wash the streets clean, hide your dirty water – take it away from our beautiful canopies, archways, mansions,
Make it disappear
Out of sight
Out of mind
But where does it go?
A deep body of blue-green-brown
will swallow it up,
Inhaling the bad, with the good, sweet rain

A pleasure boat goes by
Catch any fish today?
Don’ t eat more than one.
this one’s too small,
this one’s endangered.
this one’s too old,
this one taste’s bad,
this one wears a gold collar –
chained to a monitoring device to track it’s every move –
a sea of ankle bracelets, the tide ebbs, the dials move

Swaths of manicured lawns through the forest, homes perched high with their views of blue-green-brown, golden flow.
Fool’s gold?
The next great thing
nature isn’t enough of a draw –
can’t feed a family –
no fishing allowed.

Inventors of advanced technology, designed to eliminate people, clean waste, so sterile.
Give me the dirt, mud, grit, sand, rocky, buggy, slimy, crumbling, churning, rising, falling, rainbow-making, mountain river flows.
  Rob Buchanan

Coming around Esopus Meadows, 10 knots over the ground, on the last of the ebb. A slight list to port not caused by speed or centripetal force, but by 3500 gallons of diesel – that’s $10,000 – loaded yesterday into our port fuel tanks. We’ll level out, Captain Dave says, once we start to fill the sewer tank, and once the generator has run for a day or two. Is there any place on the river where the throb of the diesel is far away?

Captain Dave
There was a moment of Bryant – like evanescence last night, might at sunset, when the aging hipsters from Bard approached in their Hamilton Beach toaster of an aluminum speedboat. Stillness of a summer evening water glassy flat, that “peculiar Hudson River light” that maybe isn’t so peculiar – you imagine the same in Scandinavia the Baltic States Mother Russia – no one in a particular hurry to get away. White wine might have had something to do with it. The bar is open…

As for bard Billy I don’t know – poet with nose pressed to window, yeah I guess it’s a big piece of glass, like speeding by receding into the past. But it’s a place too, water that is or isn’t dirty, bulkheads and causeways and rail-beds that hem the thing in, channelize it, kinda frame it for your viewing pleasure but kinda kill it too.

We’re all moving through, getting back, pushing downtide or up, riding on the violence of that propeller. For a good cause, of course! There goes another helicopter – is there anything more odious? It’s criminal!
  Jennifer Berky

200 years, nearly, on this river of tides, has flowed by between you – William of measured lines and Billy unbridled in your gaze – and the train that hustles up and down this mighty corridor is like a window on time. One either end of this window, 200 years of endless movement and change, first nourishing then ravaging its inhabitants, now leaving us to adapt, repair, reconcile and reconnect, the two of you observe the movements of men, the devotion to the purveyance of speed, the yearnings of love that cannot deny the “insatiate grave” – not only love, William, but the crowd of men that Billy no longer sees at the other end of this ever-changing ride; we sit at the mercy of her tide, yet we seek still to dominate her as she rises. So now where shall we go?
I look up and see my home. A place that was never really mine – a gypsy as my people are, as so many of us have become trying to find our place. We settle and we move, we migrate as we seek the resources and energy we need to give our lives meaning and satisfaction. Adaptation is the watchword now. No longer can we reverse the spontaneous, unknown sparks we have ignited. No longer can we stop the unleashing of forces that humble us to the magnitude of geologic phases.

Yet we try. And as long as we are here we will believe in our perspective, as small as it may be, on the windows of the Earth’s rapid transformation, of which we are inextricably a part. A fingernail’s pace – the speed of a tectonic plate – without the nostalgia of “traditions”, as fleeting as they may be, cannot measure up to the movement of mountains, the spontaneous serendipity of life forming over the millennia, the torrents that formed the Catskills – not mountains – no – a “bisected plateau” worn not by the hemlock –hungry hides of tanners or nature seeking hikers or thirsty New Yorkers – but by the torrents of melting glaciers, once a mile high, now trickling through the cloves, deep cuts in our nature, reminders of her power, impediments to our own.
  The Rushing
Tim Kenna

River Summer six years now. I’ve been able to get off Billy’s train for what feels like the briefest of moments – All stop – feel the cool moist air as we travel on the Hudson the spatter of raindrops on dry AM pleasure. On this last day all passing too fast - I know soon that the announcement will come pulling me back into the race. Poor William, were he here, without iphone or planner would be spinning, and rightly so - his message is just as relevant as when he wrote it. All stop, all stop, we must not pretend to look or be seen looking we must both look and see. The announcement is coming that will force any of us from the misty lazy, stormy landscape. My ears hear the rushing water, my skin feels the tingling coolness and spatter. All stop, all stop, I become more emphatic and William agrees the quiet is vital, but I catch Billy’s eye and wink as William nods off. Billy just got a text and I am late for a meeting.

Green fabric, rough ribbons gently playing out – our snout pushing a wave ahead few are out in the mist - this time is important. It opens me up – I can’t believe we can’t see. We fear, we avoid, we tame We need to learn, reflect and be.

Is our time of crisis upon us? Can we rise? Are we destined to become a thin layer in the world of colliding continental subducting plates and eroding mountains? I wonder how many generations to forget our connection to the green fabric and the blue water? Still I hope the connection is only strained, perhaps it is.
  Heather Hall

Billy Collins, William Cullen Bryant and I have shared our moments of river time, when only the river, its banks, its flows, its life are important to us; when the 'crowd of men' is left behind.

This is necessary for me. It clears my head, redirects my focus, reminds me that life exists beyond “the club car”.

Last module I discovered the river. This module I am seeing my land-connections to it. Passing those who’ve made their homes near the river has inspired me to get in my car and drive the river, keep my land-connection to it.

The river doesn’t have to be something I leave when I return to my “crowd of men”. I can return to it from shore just as I sought the ocean shore when I needed to clear my head as a kid. Only this time let my seeking be joyful rediscovery and reunion with the Hudson.

Let me become an observer of the Hudson as it renews me, keeping me connected to myself, and not the clutter around me.

Thank you River Summer. The travels have been so much more than I expected. But then the Hudson, itself, is so much more than anyone knows. Continue to surprise us, Hudson, like the seal seen north of Hudson, NY, or the deer along the shore or the sturgeon, etc, etc, etc.
  Two Williams on the Hudson
Margie Turrin

Two Williams have traveled this very path (can we call a river a path I wonder?) and yet the journey is larger than a path – it beckons and calls as a sense of purpose, a reverence of spirit, a relationship of ‘man’ with nature. Williams both, and yet so far removed in time. William I what would you think if you came back to travel with William II? How would your relationship with the river be affected by the bullet-like travel and the steady pulsing of the daily trains? Perhaps that is why William II has slowed his travel to allow a stationary moment along the river as all else whizzes by? But can we slow our travel? Can we stop the whizzing of sights, sounds, experiences that bombard our senses every day?

Have we saved the little nook of land upon which William I has taken up a stand? Which one was it I wonder? Did it have the same appeal to others? This might be cause for preservation, or for certain doom. Some come to preserve and protect, others to own and alter. Different values, different times, different relationships? Perhaps. It is hard to be certain. It is hard to know what is the best way to save William's nook of land. Should we save it as a park to be used and enjoyed by many? Should we leave it unexplored so we can travel by as William II and gaze upon it with love and longing. Some would say we need to be in it to know and love it. Some would say the mystery of looking from afar is enough. So Williams, I would say our Hudson needs us to be a part of it. We need to swim its waters, breathe its dampened air, rock in its gentle waves. We need to clamber on its rocky ledges, peer from its craggy peaks and tell its lengthy tales so that others will grow to know it and will cherish it just as I who travel along its waters today – longing to be here tomorrow and the next day.
  Jingyu Wang

Collecting water samples in the Hudson River on the Sea Wolf from Catskill to Poughkeepsie on a cold raining summer morning.

Sitting on the boat I enjoy the beauty of the Hudson. Saw a cargo ship containing oil, with a flag of toxic chemicals. Two motorboats passing by faster than our boat.
  Cathy Vaughan Green

OK, so the William Cullen Bryant poem is super romantic, a little schmaltzy, but there are places on the river where you can understand the sentiment. Where the blues and greens blur as the hills rise from the water and the sub breaks through the clouds and you think, "Wow this is gorgeous".

And then, of course, there’s a cement plant or a loading dock or something else that breaks the magic with unsightly industrialization. And I’m sure William Cullen Bryant felt the same way in 1828, when the river was probably both more pristine (or, well less populated) and more active at the same time.

And then there is this feeling that I guess we’re all prone to, which makes us want to conserve beauty and freeze time – or go back in time – and I guess in a lot of ways we’ve talked about that sentiment while on the trip as well.

But I guess the ambivalence is also here. The whole third stanza seems to be about how things are more precious when you lose them. Also, this last sentence, “Thou to thy tide shalt turn again, and I to seek the crowd of men.” Also seems to speak to the ambivalence of wanting to protect the River, and at the same time to go with the flow, as it were, with regards to our culture and society.

And so, yeah, the romanticism of this poem might be a little anachronistic, but as for the sentiment I think it is pretty spot on with regards to a lot of the issues we explored during the trip, and with regards to the different relationships that people have had with the river throughout the years.

As for this other poem. Albany, I’m a bit less clear on what it’s trying to say. The part I like, I guess is about how things are moving while we’re standing still and while I don’t really know what the author meant by all of this, I like to think it’s about how everything we make and do is transitory, obsolete as quickly as it is acquired, and how dizzying that can sometimes be, always trying to keep up as things go flying by.

Also – I don’t know is this super hackneyed? – but when I apply this to the river it makes me think about how quickly things have changed, ebbed and flowed, and how as soon as we solve one problem there are 56 others springing up along the way. Also, I guess how any one movement in the river’s history is in some way irrelevant, transitory, just whizzing by.

If I were going to push this interpretation further I’d say that this line about how unfair it is that things persist in flight could be connected, for instance, to what Linda Mussmann said about how things change and how people change, and about how no matter how hard you work to fight the cement company you still end up sitting across the table from them. And about how no matter how hard she and Sam Pratt worked on that together they were still now not on the same side.

And what else? I guess the only other thing is that even if everything is whizzing by us with kangaroo-like sprightliness, we’ve still got the chance to grab one or two things and affect their course slightly, and how little efforts to do that make up the meaning of life.
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