Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Spring, Squall and Orogeny

     I spent the last week recycling, aka spreading manure. The pile loomed large in back of the barn and dry conditions allowed me to get at it. Like everything in nature, the past feeds the future. Last years crops, slightly used, nourishing this years. You spread it lightly and early on hay ground, a little thicker and later where you plan to grow corn.
     I made good progress until much needed rains came and the ground got soft. Time to take a break, go on a parts and supplies run and maybe do a little exploring. My initial direction was Argyle where I was curious about the location of Lick and Vita springs, both known for their mineral waters. A helpful woman at the Town Offices pinned down Lick but she'd never heard of Vita. It's supposed to be in nearby Durkeetown so the quest will continue.
     Next I drifted north on Rt. 40 with the Taconic Front looming large on my right and a dramatic front of clouds slowly engulfing the Adirondacks hills up ahead. First the Buck range disappeared, then it was the Putnam Mountains turn and finally the easterly Vanderburg ridge got swallowed. Soon enough I found out what was eating the mountains as big snow flakes plastered the windshield and a mini-blizzard ensued. Within an hour the ground was briefly whitened before it all blew over and melted.
     The rest of the day folks took great pleasure in talking about how tough it is to live in a place where it snows in late April. The smug belief that only a hardy few have the steel to endure such conditions is very gratifying.

     I had nebulous plans involving flowers, birds and rocks but I didn't have the clothes or the desire to deal with an unexpected snow squall. Plan B was a stop at Hermit Hill Books in Poultney, Vermont just over the border from Hampton. Patty runs a great used bookstore and you're guaranteed the company of her dogs and cats as you wander the stacks. It's a fine way to spend a snowy afternoon and I came away with some treasures including a new copy of Jan Albers Hands on the Land perfect in every respect except that the printer had put the cover on upside down and backwards!

     Then it was back out of town, past Green Mountain College and across the Poultney River where a pasture full of Belted Galloways with their newborn calves made a bucolic scene. The evenings entertainment was to be a geology lecture at the Slate Valley Museum in Granville. I had a little time to enjoy the Mettawee Rivers lively show and the interesting exhibits inside the museum before the talk began.
     Professor Helen Mango learned her stuff at Williams and Dartmouth and now teaches at Castleton. She gave a retro presentation with just a few hand-drawn and colored maps and cross-sections to illustrate her animated story of 700 million years of local geology. The audience responded with enthusiasm, laughter and lots of insightful questions (in Granville they know a thing or two about rocks).
     The maps rainbow bands ran North - South recording multiple episodes of plate collision, volcanism and mountain building. But it was the Taconic event that stood out. That was the slate-maker. Our orogeny.
     Mango was quick to credit nearly 150 years of study by countless workers that led to an understanding of what's happened here. Her point was reinforced by large maps on the museum's walls. They were drawn from investigations by T. Nelson Dale who did early science on the slate belt over a hundred years ago. Mango talked about wanting to write a book on Vermont geology for the general reader. She has a gift for presenting complicated concepts in simple everyday language
( "The rocks bulldozed their way here").
     On the ride home I was feeling good about the days bounty: books on forest geography, landscape history and Native Americans in Vermont plus an enlightening talk that made sense out of the chaotically beautiful country I was traveling thru. Add the possibility of a book giving further insight and top it all off with a dash of wild spring weather.
     For relationships with other people  and with the divine there's plenty of help: counselors and therapists, rabbis, priests and ministers. And those of us building a relationship with place don't have to go it alone either. We have geologists, botanists and ecologists along with historians, poets and artists to light the way. All have enriched my connection to this sweet little slice of the world and for that I'm grateful.

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