I was inspired to write this short piece musings on friendships and nature during solitary walks during the pandemic outbreak, and also by Henry David Thoreau. His writing on nature resonates with me even though he lived in centuries past. His reflections and observations of the natural world are more poignant than ever. In times when we as humans are under duress, and with limited social movements, nature has become a place to seek solace, which is ironic as our nature is dwindling piece by piece at a rapid pace. I hope this pandemic, if nothing else, will remind us to take better care of our natural world.
“Thoreau’s thoughtful observations remind us that our understanding of the natural world depends on more than an appreciation of vast, majestic landscapes. Nature, when viewed up close, displays some of its finer lessons and rarer beauties,” as quoted from the book Walking by The Nature Company.”
SAUNTERING IN WINDING HILLS – HUDSON VALLEY
Wide-brimmed sun hats, aviator glasses, tall boots, and big-wheeled strollers are some of my earliest memories from Winding Hills Park located in Montgomery, Orange County of New York. We discovered this unassuming, but a beautiful woodland park with its lake and ponds soon after we moved to the Hudson Valley, and because of its proximity soon became an integral part of our life.
I have fond memories of three friends pushing strollers through the woods, accompanied by a bundle of laughing children. We watched as our children became close friends and then starting school at around the same time. Our walks together have slowed down in frequency, but those walks over many years anchored a friendship now running deep and steady. I continue to meet friends there for walks, and during our social distancing, I found I missed them most of all. I go on solitary walks, with my son for a bike ride or hike, exploring and discovering the varied flora and groves that at times makes me think of the legendary Sherwood Forest.
Close to the playground at water’s edge sits a magnificent tree with a trunk split in three. The children quickly named it the fairy tree, and they were always forsaking the park’s playground to play by its side. With its hollow trunk, the tree offers endless possibilities for building fairy homes within. Last fall, I included it in a couple of family photoshoots. On lazy cold winter days, we like to walk around this pond, listening to the sound of cracking ice ricocheting and echoing around the hill. It lends itself to a piece of eerie, magical music. This winter, a beaver had built his home there too.
On hot summer’s day’s we would bike over to rent one of the paddle boats available on Diamond Lake, but last year they stopped this service to my son’s disappointment. It certainly was something to enjoy on a lazy summer’s day when we had not made any big plans. In spring, my favorite walk became the lakeside trail on Diamond Lake when I unexpectedly stumbled upon a field of periwinkle nestled between stony crags. A small stone ruin foundation remains as a testimony to bygone days. The park has campsites, and the boy scouts also have an area among the trees designated for them to camp out. We also like to hike on the upper level around the lake to visit the big rock, a boulder that lends itself to climbing.
With the pandemic’s stay at home order, the park became busier with people cooped up, socially distancing, and staying closer to home with not many other outlets. It suddenly became a place of refuge for people in the Hudson Valley. With its lakes and many trails, it has something for everyone. We have scaled back our walks there when we feel it too crowded, but we have stumbled upon small token of surprises that have brought smiles upon our faces. A tiny gnome tucked under some roots, a painted blue rock on the other. Unfortunately, the increased foot traffic has also brought with it litter-strewn carelessly beside the paths.
My writing on Winding Hills came about during the pandemic outbreak. I doubt it would have born fruit otherwise, but this time has shown that unassuming places also have their pearls. This particular park, to me, is the story of friendships born and countless treks with family. As a photographer, it has been an incredible discovery to find nearby picture-worthy beauty in ordinary places in my neighborhood while sauntering and quite literally stumbling upon them underfoot. It may not have the same appeal as the more grandiose landscapes in our nationals parks or the vistas from a mountain top, but it is a real woodland park filled with oak, maple, hickory, and cedar, and quite capable of holding its own with small gems.
The photos here are mostly a sampling of images from these last few months and last year’s fall. It also has a mood photo from when our children were smaller. I used my Fujifilm X100f and X-T3 cameras for most of these images.