My love affair with the mountains

I can't imagine living anywhere but here. I might go away for a month or two when I can no longer take the long winter, or my joints ache too much with the cold, but I know my roots are deep within the shale and dirt of the Catskills.

Though I am not a native (I moved from Long Island in '69 when I was 12) I consider myself pretty darn close as I had been coming up to the mountains since I was a baby. My grandfather had bought a little cabin which used to be a gas station after the depression, and an acre of land which bordered the Esopus Creek.

After my grandfather died when I was very young, my grandmother had a stroke. Though she could have learned to walk, her heart was broken, and she lost her will to walk and "live". My aunts would bring her up with my grandmother's two sisters, and they who would spend the summer in the little cabin, away from the heat and chaos of Queens. Being the oldest of all the grandchildren, I would get to stay in the cabin with them for periods of time. Ah those were heavenly memories, as I was nurtured, loved, and protected, a far cry from my own family life.

I remember many a day and evening on that porch, rocking, reading, crocheting, meditating on the "lone pine tree", a tree that stood at the edge of a ridge and looked like a cartoon character. I watched the kayakers come down the stream battling the white water in the spring races, caught fire flies in jars at night, played marathon croquet and badmitten games, ate concord grapes while catching snow flakes in my mouth in early October, fished in the creek, lay in the grass and breathed deeply of the earth.

When I moved upstate in my early teen years, I would hike deep into the woods, sit under a tree that was MY tree along an ancient stone wall, and write poetry and sketch. My first kiss was deep in the woods, as I got older I would hike along the railroad tracks picking blackberries then ride to my friends house on my bike to ride her horse, or gather with friends to party up on a trail.

Once I got married, had kids, then divorced shortly thereafter, I lost touch with the mountains and all they had meant to me for a very long time. My life was buried in working, being a mother, going to school and just trying to survive.

As my children got older, and relied less on me, I returned to the mountains where I again fell in love with their ever changing colors and shadows, intoxicated with the cool deep pungent scent of old conifers, the crisp autumn leaves on the ground, or tender green mosses. I returned to my painting, and took up a new interest under the tuteledge of a friend...hunting morels. (mushrooms).

In my fantasy world I am both a wood sprite and an eagle, untethered and free to soar above the earth. I wish for a cabin in the woods, one of my very own, where I escape to for solitude, healing, and art. Perhaps someday I will have that. In the meantime I painted my colonial revival cedar shake home a barn red, trimmed with earth colors of gold, green, and burnt orange. The informal cottage gardens caress the sides of my paths and house. Sculptures are scattered through the trees and gardens, and my studio overlooks it all. Though I live in the city just a hop from the mountains, I have made it my own mountain retreat in the valley.

This is a photo of the side of Olana looking towards the Hudson. I am in love with the blues of the sky and mountains and cold cold snow in the shadow. Next time there I will bring my toboggan!

May you too be touched by the magic of nature, Patti

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