I don’t ever mean to give the impression that my life is idyllic, far from it. I am striving in that direction, but it’s an ongoing quest. Whether it was car repair issues I had last Monday or trying to finish prepping my taxes Tuesday then cursing myself for procrastinating so long again, I don’t know… or Whether it was post-winter expulsion of collective angst between everyone in the family or what, I don’t know, but it was a conflicted week even halfway through it, and I was distracted from my business and ready to freak. So what does one do? I don’t have a handy shrink, no father-confessor to talk to, and in fact only rarely rely on a few close friends to vent to, but in the late morning wouldn’t want to bother them with my massive and petty troubles and traumas and dramas…they’ve got work to do too. So I left a terse text message first for my friend Carl, then a phone message to my younger sister down in Decatur, thinking she was no doubt doing something more important than me, or, having a normal lunch perhaps. I was digesting stress for lunch.
My assistant Beth or favorite lender rep Kristin, who both teach it, would suggest Yoga as an appropriate therapy, but I’ve never had the patience for that in the middle of a workday… Others would suggest a jog or a workout– my daughter’s favorite therapy– but I was not in the mood for getting sweaty, with pending appointments ahead of me. But I had to change my glum mood, so on a sunny Wednesday when one should really be in a better frame of mind, what does one do, I repeat?
Well in the vale of Saratoga Springs we have the option of letting the local geography take over. In fact, at the place I am talking about here, the Vale is what they call it.
I was between having to be in Geyser Crest and having to run down to Exit 10, but I pulled into the mostly empty parking lot on the west side of SPAC. When I say mostly empty, I mean like four cars where in the summer there can be four thousand. I turned off the motor, the radio, and rolled down the windows, opened the moon roof. It was in the mid-60s already and heading a bit higher, an absolutely blue sky above, very rare so far this year. I breathed deep and shut my eyes. I tried to turn off my torment for a moment, and thought of Michael Keaton with the masked Birdman’s voice behind him.
I could relate; I loved that movie. But that wasn’t my life, just a parallel in some ways.
My life wasn’t that of a former movie star who was relegated to art-house theater. I hadn’t even gotten to the big-time yet, and the clock was ticking. My anxiety was growing by the day as I approached my next decade marker.
It was quiet in the dead center of that parking lot. They had repaved the whole five-acre lot last summer and its potholes and raggedness were a thing of the past. At this point it was pristine and freshly lined and best of all the grimy snowbanks were finally melted away, flat and dry. This was the period of transition, from the somnolent winter to the active, heavily populated summer months. I felt like I was in a similar transition.
Took my water bottle and took off my tie and strolled across the lot to the path that goes down to the Orenda Spring, and below that, the mis-named Geyser Creek itself.
After sipping at the first spring I just sat on the southernmost end of a bench under a gazebo roof that had a corner of sun coming through. I basked in it for a full five minutes, which felt like a small eternity. I emptied my mind of fretting and it felt fine.
I listened as hard as I could to the fresh flow of that little dammed-up waterfall, fifty feet below. I tried to recall just how serene I had felt just four days before, just having taken a weekend training class from a great teacher I have up in Wilton, whom I might talk about on another occasion. At the time I felt my internal energy flow had been back-flushed like cleaning out your water lines, or pool. The physical equivalent of that would be drinking the waters that bubbled out of these springs that laced the length of this tight little valley. The phrase, It Restoreth My Soul….began to come to mind, as I sat in that sun, and absorbed a quick dose of it. The sound of the water before the taste of the water…
I drank a bit of the Orenda but then wanted to walk down the path to the Hayes anyway. There is an upper paved path that goes down to the road bridge a half mile down, and a lower one down the steep hill to the one that adjoins the stream itself.
I usually prefer the lower path, but not in dress shoes, which lack traction on the wet tufa flows. That could become ugly. I stuck to the paved path both ways. About two-thirds of the way down the hill you develop a nice momentum and get the heart rate up just enough to increase the flow. You can slow down enough to stare at the Island Spouter, shooting maybe ten or twenty foot plumes on a sporadic but constant basis. Here you can read the great informational sign that tells the reader that these Spouters are technically NOT actually geysers, which are due to heated veins of ground water that shoot to the surface; our water here is spouting due to its natural carbonation, from the limestone layer deep below.
So, in other words, Geyser Creek, Geyser Crest, Guyser Park, all are misnomers, in the geological, or even regular logical, sense. This was news to me; or rather, if I’d known that before, I didn’t register it. We have not ice cold springs, nor heated springs; we have 48-56 degree springs, which I guess is perfect for drinking.
The new succession of signs throughout the park that were augmented in 2010 I can say have greatly improved my understanding of what had gone on in this valley over the past two hundred-plus years. There was no guarantee that it would be kept this pristine, given the exploitations of the late 1800’s and early 1900’s, when the carbonation was extracted to the point of depletion. Only in 1910 was this 2,500 acre plot guaranteed to be preserved for State, nt private, use, and all commercial uses ceased. The centennial of that event was the impetus for extensive improvements that have been a boon to this sacrosanct place– it seems cleaner, at least at this early spring juncture, than I remember after other snowmelts.
People were just starting to come out of hibernation, not just me. It wasn’t crowded though. A calf-tatooed dad pushing his son in a stroller. A mom with a son who wanted to be carried as she also had a dog on the leash. Another mom walkin her maybe two year old daughter down the path in small steps. A solo dude, college age or so, hands in pocket, looking pensive. A well-tuned 20-something couple and their dog, strolling like they both had the day off together, nice. A younger girl shasayin along in flip-flops, heading up the lower path, good look with that, I thought. Then me, just silent and trying to be inconspicuous… because I am in a purgative phase of clearing my head, and none of them are in the mood for small talk or nods either.
We all thought we’d have the place to ourselves, just this once.
I filled my glass Snapple bottle with the Hayes Spring water, which was a far less steady flow than the Orenda Spring up the hill. It sputtered and gushed in spurts unpredictably, while the Orenda was pretty much a firehouse. So I figured the Haves was more rare and that’s what I’d take in the car with me as my medicine du jour.
Then I said my thanks and sat on the stone wall overlooking the bridge for a few more stress-less sacred minutes. Just what the Druid doctor ordered.
When I snapped out of it, I began the hike back uphill as the parking lot down across the bridge had way too many people in it, unlike the upper area at SPAC. So I avoided that and returned up the footpath, where vehicles could not follow.
I was feeling more energized and less depressed. By the time I angled up toward the SPAC entrance, I was even more en-tranced by the lack of people around (I have photos to prove it–stay tuned). I took some shots of the ticket windows with no one there, and the entry stations, which currently allowed free passage. The bridge over Geyser Creek is somehow more scary to a landlubber like me when no one else is on it, not sure why. I took some shots looking down, but that eighty foot drop into two feet of rushing water does not convey the sense of willies which it caused me at the rail. I shot and backed up quickly, chicken landlubber that I am.
The grounds at SPAC looked like an empty church to me (again, see the pix, when I pop them in). The lawns were what I would call incipient green, not quite real new grass yet. The food kiosks, the brick buildings out in back, still empty, but the faint hum of generators or something, like they were cleaning out the water lines or the bathrooms, was humming in the background, but no sign of the workers.
Interestingly, there were a guys in hardhats walking on the roof of the Pavillion at SPAC, the cool rolling valleys of the crown of the building apparently being checked for any winter-left leaks. They paid no attention to us underlings on the ground.
I shunned the benches for the center lawn between the ramps, in search of another dose of sun. It was not exactly sunbathing weather yet, but I thought the lawn would be well drained, and was wrong. I laid back for awhile as if DMB was already in town, but that fantasy didn;t last too long. Just slightly damp I sat back up and realized I’d better wait for another dryer day for that kind of rhapsody.
I just love the place when I (mostly) have it to myself. In fact there may have been a total of ten or twelve people quietly milling about and checking the place out. Then a solo biker goes through, yellow uniform but mountain bike tires. A casual mutual wave, like we caught each other playing hooky from school, and I began winding my way back to the car.
I was feeling better, I guess, at least not as obsessed with my various slumps in business and in life. A couple of 0-for-four days in a row, to use baseball parlance, weren’t going to kill my season. But still it was distressing to be almost hitless in spring training and the first two weeks of the real games. I would get my swing back, however, it was all in my mind, or at least used to be, till I cleared it. The vale of the spring had helped loosen my stuck cogs, as in cognition. I needed to walk out here more often. I hope some of you reading this, do too. But not all of you at once! Till summer comes, then it’s the More the Merrier.
I started the car, beamed in the sunbeam, exhaled deeply, and took off south, for my next appointment of the day, with a slightly damp back of my shirt. I took a sip of Hayes Spring water and thought: It restoreth my spirit…
I texted my sister before I took off, and my buddy Carl as well…. told both of them–
“Forget my last message from an hour ago:
I’m ok now I think. I went to the park. Talk soon.”
Was it the waters, the walking, the moments of quiet, the suspension of thought, the soaking of sun, the deeply exhaled breaths, or all of the above… whatever it is or was, this is why we need parks, if not the deep woods themselves. I was back on the road, and feeling relieved.
Take care and be well.
More to come, thanks for reading,
Copyright Wayne Perras 2015 — for WaynesWord2