17 April 2010

Long Island Watershed in Springtime

As one travels further and further from home, its often easy to forget how special the place you left behind really is. Its been probably 15 years since I've seen springtime on the east coast of the US. This year I was lucky enough to be with my family on Long Island from the end of the winter snows through the full riotous bloom of spring.

Long Island is a crowded place - there's no doubt. But only 25 miles from Manhattan, tucked away on the north shore in my home town, there are a few pockets of woodlands that run behind backyards down into ponds and wetlands which connect through spillways under roads to estuaries that eventually lead to Long Island Sound.

On this visit I actually met a gentleman in the swamp back behind my house who was using a clinometer to measure tree heights. My curiosity piqued, I asked him what he was up to. He had come down from upstate NY to this very spot after reading that the tallest trees on Long Island were the tulip poplars towering above us. How cool is that? How many years had I walked below those giants with no idea how special they were?

Another day I met Kenny, fishing at the pond in a little estate-turned-preserve just down the street. The area only opened to public in 2008 and I had never been there before. But thirty years ago Kenny and his friends used to ride bike from his hometown 12 miles away and trespass here to fish the private, stocked pond. The landowners caught on after a while, but Kenny and his friends got sneakier, started fishing in camouflage. That worked for a couple years till a friend lit too big a campfire and the police started spotlighting them from the road. This day was his first time back to the pond since he was a kid - finally fishing legally.

Its easy to overlook the significance of open spaces like these - especially the tiny bits left amid Long Island suburbia. But having access to these areas is something I never truly appreciated till after I moved away. And as I return to visit my folks year after year, I treasure the simple routine of taking the dog for a walk in the woods by my house.

When the red-breasted robins and magnolia blooms first arrived you could still peek through the hedgerows at the houses beyond and the air still nipped your cheeks. Yet within a single breath, a span of days, the sun brightened just enough and suddenly the cherry blossoms popped, the first ospreys could be seen prowling the bays, and pollen dowsed the cars all yellow speckles. Springtime in full swing. So before the crispness in the air and the all-round brilliance faded away into the haze and fat greens of summer - really, though, before I left to return to Tasmania - I grabbed a camera.

Funny enough, the one I found immediately handy was my old Olympus OM-1 in the closet, probably older than me, and a couple rolls of kodachrome sitting in my dad's dresser drawer. The colors are faded, the grain outright palpable, but the prints just ooze nostalgia. I took the camera for a day or two to try and capture a few springtime moments in the watershed where I grew up. From the woods above my house, through the swamp (home of the giant trees) and to the estuaries which meet the sea. Hope you enjoy and I wish everyone a lovely, lovely spring this year.

the woods

cherry blossoms by a school field

fresh flush of leaves

leaves just starting to show

Kenny's pond

skunk cabbage in the swamp

causeway over the estuary

saltwater marshes

toby appreciates open spaces too.



ahhh the ole' skunk cabbage.

Mike D. said...

Thanks Clay, Long Island is special. I am still a member of the Long Island Botanical Society even though I so rarely get to botanize there...

Achilles 10-6 said...

Thanks Clay, it really brought back memories for me too. Carol and Parker are very lucky to have you and Billy. Be good and don't get dizzy playing upside down there!


Will said...

Sorry, I didn't sign out of Achilles account. Let me try this again.