Y’all, I completed my Summer Wish List! I am so grateful to all my friends and the fam who helped make it happen!
The final item was visit Storm King. Originally, I had two reasons. The first was to make new memories because the last time I was there, the wasband was also there. We had a great time, for sure, but new memories would be nice, too. The second was because a guy I was recently seeing suggested that we go there, and then he suggested we not date anymore, so I went with both suggestions, changing the first to singular: I go there, not we.
Then the reason changed. I really like public art, and I hadn’t seen SD and BS in a while, and with the semester closing in, this would be a really nice way to catch up before the nonsense begins.
Tickets kept selling out. Finally snagged some for a week out, and we hoped for no rain. The day came, and not only was there no rain, but the weather lady called it a gem of a day. It truly was. Perfect outdoor art weather.
I left my house a bit on the early side to make sure I got there on time, so I was able to stop along the way when I passed by two places.
The first is a bookstore pit stop for NYS. It was closed, but I bumped into an old friend.
The second was Fort Montgomery, where I was a few years back for a Sibling Adventure day. I pulled over because I couldn’t not gawk at how pretty Bear Mountain Bridge was. Seriously, a gem of a day.
I did get to Storm King a bit early. They let me into the parking lot. They scan tickets through the window, so when the woman pointed in a direction for me to go, I wasn’t sure what she meant, so we wound up miming and pointing a few more times. Really, there was only one way to go, but my directionally challenged brain wouldn’t allow it to be easy.
We all met up after parking, put our masks on, and off we went to see the art. It was large art. There were pieces that puzzled us. There were sections where we asked, Is that art? Later on, in the vending machines, we found a book called Is It Art? So I suppose we aren’t the only ones who ask that.
The grounds are sprawling. We ventured up and down hills. We checked maps and couldn’t figure out where exactly to go. We became very focused on finding the North Woods. We did go into them a bit but not on purpose. Every place we went was pretty much accidental.
While I couldn’t find the man coming out of the ground that I saw the other time I was there, we did see a plethora of sculptures. We decided some were put together with pulleys, some with glue, and some with magic.
What a way to end a summer. What a way to complete a wish.
Since I’ve begun getting my nature on, I’ve been rained on. Actually, I also got rained on a whole bunch when I went to Portland and took myself on a municipal fountain walking tour and figured since it rains there all the time, this is what people do—look at fountains in the rain. Anyway, what’s relevant here is I go outside now, and it rains outside, and I am sometimes in that rain.
However, the forecast said that the rain would not come down on my head when I hiked at Cold Spring Harbor State Park. It was raining on my way there, and it stopped as I arrived after taking the scenic route courtesy of my GPS and a street sign not agreeing which way a certain road runs. And I added an extra three minutes to my arrival time after taking a detour into the library parking lot, which is where the Captain and I wound up to start anyway. The parking lot has gravel and no bathrooms, so we went up to the very fancy library to use theirs.
Then we doused ourselves in Deet and hiked. But first, we waited for the two ladies on the path to go ahead of us. And then we went ahead of them. I’ve never seen anyone hike in this way—they would go a little bit and then stop to have a conversation. They were talking while walking. They weren’t stopping because they needed a break. It was almost as if they forgot they were on a hike. So strange. Eventually, they caught up to us and passed by. Then they went right and off the Greenbelt, and we went left to stay on.
Yes, again with the Greenbelt, but also no. This is a different Greenbelt. It’s the Nassau Suffolk trail. Also, it’s different because it’s not exactly a trail but steps built into a mountain and then no steps only inclines and wishes for good luck not falling on your ass. Since it had rained, the terrain was a bit wet. Thankfully, I had my hiking shoes on.
Side note about the hiking shoes. I didn’t buy them for hiking. They are shoes my mom bought for me a few years ago to wear in the winter when walking across campus. I’ve worn them a few times, but to teach in them proves a horror show on my feet. To hike in them is not the most comfy thing, either, but now that I’m breaking them in while walking in the woods, they may start to give way to more comfort.
So we were taking some time on some of the up and downs. It was a trail that required a bit of concentration. And then there was thunder. And then there was rain. Since we were in a rather woodsy part, the rain had no effect at first. Then I saw people coming down. Then I saw people continue to go up. Then we got to a point that was rough to climb at the same time some rain broke through. I was like, Should we keep going?
Captain was like, What do you want to do? I was like, I want to keep going. He was like, so let’s keep going. I was like, But I think we shouldn’t. He was like, then let’s head back. Then I was like, But I don’t want to. Then he was like, So let’s keep going. Then I was like, I’m a bit worried about going down if it really gets wet. He was like, I think you’re right about that part.
Then the rain really broke through, which decided it for us. We headed down, and it wasn’t easy in some points. I followed the Capt. towards a different trail. He found a flatter way for us to go, which circumvented some of the rougher hills down. I was like, Do you know where you’re going? He was like, Sure. I have no idea how people do that—like know where they are at all times.
Then we came upon a house in the woods and a lawnmower. Not creepy. At all.
For a feather in my cap, when we made it almost back to the beginning, Capt. make a left, and I was like, Nope, we came from the other way. Now we have a rule that I put in place since our trek in Caumsett—when I have ideas about paths and choices, he needs to overrule me because I don’t have any sense of spatial recognition. So at this point, he looked at me and was like, Are you sure??? I was actually sure of it because when we’d come down from the beginning hill, I saw this path and thought, Where does that go?, and we passed it by. So yup, I was right this one time. Solidifying that I made the right choice was a few yards further along when I saw a piece of a Snickers wrapper on the ground and said, Yes I remember that!
When we got to the beginning, it was pouring down rain. We hung out by the trailhead map and saw some groups who had passed us going up start to come back down and run to their cars. I don’t know exactly how far we’d gotten, but I know they didn’t get much further. Which means we made the right choice and no one fell. The End.
My brother and I got to partake in two sibling adventures this summer! If you’ll recall, the first involved finding a large boulder at the top of a high hill. This time, we drove up to Nyack to take in a lake and some artwork.
It rained. The weather report said the rain was going to stop by the time we got to Rockland Lake. It still rained. Before getting out of the car, I was like, I guess I’m finally going to use this poncho. As my brother enumerated all of his poncho complaints from the days he wore one at the Army Navy games, I unfolded a large piece of thin plastic from its plastic pouch. And kept unfolding. And unfolding. Then I thought I ripped it only to find, no, I had to unfold more. With every unfold, I shouted and laughed with glee. I was gonna wear a poncho! (Later on, my brother commented that he was getting a little worried about how giddy I was. He simply doesn’t understand the joy of life’s little pleasures).
Getting out of the car, I draped myself and my backpack in plastic. The wind kicked up, and the plastic billowed all around me, and I laughed hysterically. I was like Glinda The Good Witch in my own plastic bubble, only instead of a poofy pink dress, I had on my hiking shoes and high socks. My hiking fashion is on point, yo. My brother opted for his orange rain coat. I have a matching one, but it’s too hot for summer attire. He took one look at me and was like, I don’t think I explained this park well. I understood why when we walked to the water. The path was paved and flat, and I was ready for the woods and the beach like on my more recent outdoorsy adventures. It didn’t matter. Hiking is hiking is walking is poncho-ing.
Clouds rolled over the lake. Purple flowers grew from the muck. We saw deer! When we first came upon them, one was on his hind legs, biting into some tree leaves. Then he stopped and stared at us as his deer friend did. We stared at them. They won the staring contest. We kept going and found a garden with a scary scarecrow. Like, scarecrows are supposed to be scary, but this one was jacked up scary. And then I found a flower that was glowing.
We made our way out of the unwoodsy park and towards the Edward Hopper House. I love Hopper’s stuff. I love the empty rooms, squares of light through door frames, lonely women in badly fitting outfits. I used to have a version of Nighthawks hanging in my college dorm room—the version where the people in the poster are James Dean and Marilyn Monroe and such. Why is that a thing? I don’t know what that’s a thing. Is that still a thing? College kids buying posters with James Dean and Marilyn Monroe? Anyway, Hopper. He’s great.
The woman at the Hopper House is also great. She was so welcoming. I think she was simply happy there were people there—it was us and another woman. A bit later, an older couple showed up, and though they hadn’t gotten tickets in advance, they were allowed in. We all had our temperature taken. The woman gave us some history of the Hopper family. When we got to a room that plays a film on a loop, she started it over for us and was concerned that we were not sitting to watch. It was a short film. We were fine.
My brother and I like to read almost everything, so we were there the longest. Actually, he reads everything, and I read almost everything. Some things I skim. And when we’re at the Baseball Hall of Fame, he reads everything all day long, and I go get ice cream after making an ass of myself by staring down statues. [Caution: Link contains photos of the past, which I don’t mind but you might].
Anyway, the exhibits were fabulous. A contemporary photographer found locations of Hopper’s painting subjects, and the photos and picture of the paintings were hung side by side. Hopper’s drawings and doodles were on display along with his paints and palette. A lot of the film and some of the drawings were about Hopper’s focus on water. I never think of him as an artist who painted seascapes, but apparently that’s half his career. I always think of the houses and rooms. My mom requested a postcard of a Hopper lighthouse; we found a bookmark instead. There was artwork inspired by Hopper. The second floor recreates his bedroom where the lighthouse light shines in at night and the Hudson is on view. The floors are magnificent.
The rain stopped by the time we were finished with the museum and said goodbye to the nice lady. We took a map of a walking tour of Hopper’s Nyack and went up and down the streets to find places he painted and views that inspired him. Then on the main drag, we went into a new agey shop (my brother was like, You can go in without me, and I was like, Really you’re not going to go in? He went in.) Then we found a bookstore, which meant we had to go into the bookstore. It was the kind of store where you can’t find anything but the guy at the counter would know exactly where it was. It’s also the kind of store that will bury you in books if there’s even a hint of an earth tremor or maybe a vibration from a large truck passing by.
While the museum taught me about Hopper’s history, my brother taught me about ice. That’s right. We had an impromptu chat while walking around the lake about the ice industry. This is what it’s like having a sibling adventure—you learn stuff. He told me he learned it because there’s a sign in the park somewhere that he read. Aha! So he doesn’t just know things. He reads them and retains them and then shares at pertinent moments that seem random. My fun facts usually are a bit more random, like Tesla had a thing for pigeons. And this is why we get along. Facts.
PS All the sepia pictures and some of the better pictures were taken by my brother, whose work can also be found here.
More hiking means more summer wishes came true on a rather lengthy excursion to the end of the North Fork. As a South Shore gal, I know Montauk as The End, so I wonder what everyone on the North Shore calls Orient. It’s also an end. It’s a really far end. Along the way, I saw farms. It’s that kind of far.
Upon arrival at Orient Beach State Park, a lovely woman in the booth gave me and the Captain the rundown of what to expect in the park. She told me to drive really slow because there’s no rush. It’s two miles from the booth to the parking lot, so we could look out the windows to take in the scenery. She showed me a map of how we got there from Riverhead to the point. Then she showed me another map with the park trails. When we looked at the trail map, we saw really it’s only one trail, and the map shows it magnified at several levels. We made our slow drive the two miles to the lot, and we found that the day was already heating up.
We hit the trail where it was marked Start and End. That seems surreal, but it’s not because the trail isn’t a loop. When you walk towards the booth end, you’ve gotta walk back unless you plan to walk home. We took a side nature trail for a moment and read about a guy who was there once in history, and then we went back to the normal trail because I wasn’t wearing high socks and I’d refused to put on bug spray. So onto the paved path we went.
High socks and bug spray were not necessary on the pavement. After walking a bit, we went down onto the beach. Yup, this was pretty much a trip to the end of the earth, and it was heaven. Also, there was red sand. I’ve got a penchant for any sand not sand colored.
Then I tried to make a bird friend again. Why do I stalk the birds? I don’t even like birds all that much. Captain and I even talked about how I know a lot of birders and am not into birds. He considers birds dinosaurs.
We skipped rocks. That’s right, we. I got some skipping to happen. I’m heading for the Olympics soon.
After a bit more walking, Capt. was like, This is the hottest and sweatiest I’ve ever been. I was like, Oooh look at how the sand is so pretty. He was like, Let’s find some shade. I was like, Everything is so pretty! He was like, There’s shade over there, so let’s sit. I was like, Why are you so hot? He was like, It’s boiling out here. We climbed up between some boulders and got into the shadows of some trees. Then I felt sweat literally pouring into my eyes, and I had to use the flap of my backpack to wipe it away. Actually, yes, it was very, very hot. It kind of snuck up on me.
We rested and agreed to keep going at least to the next half mile marker. But first, we broke some rules.
A breeze kicked up as we ventured to find a lighthouse. We saw one, but it didn’t look like the one on the cartoon map. I thought the one we were looking for was on the other side of the beach and the marsh. We headed back, this time taking the paved path and reading the signs along the marsh. Everything felt cooler until we hit the patch where it was maybe 20 degrees hotter. I have no idea how that happened, but for a stretch, we were drenched again. I made a plan: get to the car and blast the A/C for at least five minutes while downing lots of water. I’d brought my insulated cooler bag packed with water and coconut water that I’m drinking because I have dehydration issues lately and I don’t like drinking it but I am because I have to.
Next, we walked the beach. Captain spotted a kayak at the lifeguard station and offered to grab it so I could sit in it. I declined, pointing out that it was daylight, there were lifeguards around, and they probably wouldn’t want us to do that.
Why the kayak? I cannot quite explain this. For the past year, almost every new person I’ve encountered has talked to me about kayaks. This prompted me to remember a found poem I wrote called “Survey” that lists all the weird questions I get when I take surveys to get free stuff. One of the questions for quite some time was “Do you own a kayak?” (The poem got published in an anthology put out by one of my favorite journals, and now that journal has closed indefinitely because the editor decided to be a terrible human towards a writer and then shuttered everything. Sigh.) The surveys also asked, “Do you own a crab pot?” What the hell is a crab pot?
Anyway, the kayak thing. I decided one of my summer wishes was to sit in a kayak on land. When I shared this on Instagram, I got a slew of replies about how to possibly make this wish come true. This bolsters my point: I know kayak people. The universe is telling me something.
I can’t swim. If you are saying to yourself right now, Everyone can swim, stop that thought immediately. I get told this often. I know how to swim. I can do the doggie paddle across half a six foot pool. I do not float. Accept this, and let it go.
Therefore, I’ve never understood kayaks. I refer to them as Little Boats of Death. They are cousin to the Canoe, The Boat of Death for Two.
I learned some things walking at the beach at Orient. First, we found ourselves at another body of water. When you’re out on the end of the fork, there’s water everywhere, and we found what seemed to be half-beach-half-marsh. People were paddle boarding and kayaking. We skipped some rocks. That’s right. We. Olympics here we come. I learned that skipping rocks does not make people fall off of their paddle boards.
I also learned that some kayaks are open. I didn’t know this. I thought you were basically in the boat as part of the boat. Thirdly, some kayaks fit two people. My mind kept exploding.
Then we saw them. Kayaks on the shore. Captain sat in one. He was like, It’s a good fit. He got out. I got in. And there ya go. Wish granted.
After kayaking on land, we went around through another path and found the parking lot again. We looped back onto the beach for a final shot at rock skipping and ocean watching. Then we were done with the park, which had been filled to capacity. We never found the bug lighthouse. On the way out, I pointed out a replica of the lighthouse we did see. Turns out it was the Orient Lighthouse, which seems appropriate.
On the way back West, we stopped at The Candy Man. We got candy.
Then we stopped at the Lighthouse Museum. It was closed. We found a set of steps down to another beach. So we took them. I lost count of the steps when I saw seashells in the trees. After a few minutes of beachiness, we headed back up. I took breaks every landing because I knew if I didn’t, I’d keel over at the top. I know this because once I decided to take the stairs instead of the escalator at that subway stop where the E and the F meet and it’s vertical and maybe the equivalent to climbing a mountain, so I took my time.
We tried finding some art galleries on the way back. Whatever we found was closed. I found a library for a bathroom break, and the librarian was like, We have an art gallery upstairs. I love serendipity. And apparently my new thing is taking pictures of signs in bathrooms. You should know that I sanitize my phone a lot. Like a lot a lot.
And I love Long Island. I love that I can drive out to the ends of the earth and make my way back all in one day. I love that I can see different kinds of water and beaches. I love that I can pass by real farms and vineyards. I love that roadside stands have hand-painted signs to sell corn and honey and pie. And you can bet I’ll be heading back to have some corn and honey and pie. And there’s a whole community of kayakers that I still don’t quite understand, but I have somehow become adjacent to, and it’ll be fun figuring out why. Whatever the universe has in store for me, I’m ready for.
Post Tropical Storm Isaias on another rainy morning, Capt. and I decided it was a good day to go hiking again. The plan was Blydenburgh, which seems to be the middle of the Greenbelt. I got there and found it closed. I remembered that I had the Parks By Me app, so I searched and found Caleb Smith was nearby. We met there at the locked gates. Another park down. Capt. was like, “You wanna go to Nissequogue? I know it’s open.” And that’s how we decided to take a hike along the mighty Nissequogue and whatever else we could find that was open.
Because there’d been storms, getting there proved to be a puzzle. Trees were still down everywhere. Fortunately, the park was open and the rain was letting up. Unfortunately, there’s a lot of construction going on, and the only bathroom was a portapotty. My need to pee outweighed my aversion to moveable toilet rooms, so I held my breath, whined a lot, and succeeded in not giving myself a UTI. Then we were off! (Yes, I practically bathed in hand sanitizer).
Because there’d been storms, I was on high alert for tree branches coming down. Capt. was like, “They cleared the paths.” I was like, “There can still be falling branches.” Here’s how that works: Tall trees have lots of branches, and if a high branch falls, it could land on the lower branches, and then it teeters until an unsuspecting little lady walks under it, and then blam! Lady down.
That scenario did not play out thankfully. Instead, our hike took us to the beach.
ONCE MORE WITH FEELING: WE WERE IN THE WOODS AND THEN WE WERE AT THE BEACH!!! Gotta love Long Island.
The first thing I saw as we made our way to the river shore was an army of hermit crabs scurrying from the water into the high grass. [Note: I learned after posting a short clip in my Instagram story that they were fiddler crabs, not hermit crabs, and that I might enjoy a field trip with Professor Zito when he looks at marine life. Instagram is a wealth of information. P. S. I do not know who Professor Zito is.] I told the crabs they didn’t have to run away, but they did not listen to me. Then I pointed out to the captain that we were near water and rocks.
Here’s the third installment of Christina Skips Rocks.
Capt. handed me a rock. He was like, “I guess I’ll go first so you can see how low I get to the water.”
I was like, “My entire life is low to the water, Captain.”
He skipped a rock, and it jumped twice and sank. I threw a rock, and it kerplunked. Round 1: Unsuccessful.
He skipped a rock, and it jumped twice and sank. I threw a rock, and it jumped once and sank.
Let me say that again: I skipped a friggin rock!!!!!!!!! I did it!!!!!!!!
The two of us kind of stared at each other for a moment. Then he congratulated me, and I did a happy dance. Then I was like, “You know I can never skip a rock again, right? Like, I did it, and now that’s it for me.” I was like this when my brother and I won music trivia as Sip This. The host was like, “You have to keep coming,” and I was like, “Nope, we’re going out on a high note.” We kept going to trivia. I did win another time. So here on the beach, I decided to give it another go.
Let’s say that Round 3 proved unsuccessful.
From the beach, we went to the bluff. We stopped for snacking and watched the fishermen. Along with the fishermen were four young boys doing what young boys do. At one point, three of them were right near me waving around a detached fish head. I pulled my mask tighter around my face; forget germs–fish heads smell. From below on the pier came “Boys, get down here!” and then, “Sorry, you can yell at them.” The guy in charge of the boys wrangled them back and then continued to scold them every few moments for the next few minutes until they decided to calm down and fish again.
From the bluff, we went to the woods. From the woods, we went to the beach. From the beach, we went to the bluff. And then somehow we wound up back on the path where the crabs were. I have no idea how we did it, which is why I don’t hike on my own. Since we were on the beach again, we gave rock skipping another go. I skipped another one! We ended on a high note.
On the other side of the park is the closed down mental institution that is now a park. We walked that, looking at the abandoned buildings and taking in more downed trees. Because I didn’t think I could face another portapotty moment, we walked to the library and used their bathroom. Their song of choice for hand washing is “Over the Rainbow,” and the sign says to sing it twice. I wasn’t even through the first few lines when I knew I’d already hit twenty seconds, so either they don’t know the tempo of Judy Garland’s melodious tune, or they are aiming for a super long hand washing session. Outside, we passed a garden, and I snapped a butterfly landing and leaving. I also made a new friend.
Then we saw a dinosaur. On the way back through the mental institution grounds, I thought I was seeing things at first. I saw what looked like a T-Rex bobbing its head around. Finally, after squinting and doing my best to decipher what was happening, I said to the captain, “Hey, what do you see up ahead?” And he was like, “That’s a dinosaur.” If this had been one of those heat wave days, I would have chalked it up to hallucinating, but the two of us were both hydrated and well. We were indeed seeing a dinosaur.
I’ve been manifesting things lately. My energy and the world’s energy is totally in sync. Case in point: on one of my walks, I was mentally composing a text message to someone I hadn’t seen in a while. A few moments later, she appeared on the path walking towards me. Yeah, I know. Trippy, right?
So a little bit before the dinosaur sighting, Capt. and I were talking about Old Bethpage Village. I was like, “Adults in costume sometimes make me uncomfortable.” Then I described the hierarchy of discomfort. The most egregious are the characters with the big heads that don’t say anything (Mickey Mouse at Disney; the Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup at Hershey Park). Under that are people in costume who never break character, not even for a second (the knights at Medieval Times; colonials in every colonial village).
Now here I’d gone and done it again. I’d manifested myself a dinosaur. Had I been alone, I would’ve backtracked and circumnavigated the park back. And I would’ve gotten lost doing so, and it would have been worth not being near the dino. Since Capt. was there, I didn’t think he’d want to take the trip, so we gave the dino a wide berth as we passed by.
Then we debated a bit about the kayak plan. I have this plan that I want to sit in a kayak on land before the summer ends. There’s a long explanation behind this desire that I can explain another time. We saw below us at the water people near some kayaks. The launch where we were was roped off, so to get to the guy, we’d have to drive somewhere. I was like, “That’s too much kayak effort.” So Capt. decided to let it go for now. However, he’s been kayaking, and he may be able to hook a gal up with one. On land. With a life vest. Because as much as this gal is learning to love nature, this gal is also still highly aware of all the dangers that are the reason it’s taken so long to get out in nature. I like being alive. I plan to keep it that way for a while longer. Which is why I wore appropriate attire to ward off slipping and lyme disease. I even put on a hat.
Oh, also, happy birthday, capt.
Remember when I was inside a museum? Guess what. I was inside another museum! Art and writing have always coincided for me, so getting back into the groove of visiting museums and galleries is getting my writing brain back into gear. All art one art.
BG and I met at the Heckscher Museum of Art. We’d reserved our slots in advance. Also important to know: admittance was free! They took our temperature and opened the door for us to go inside. Then we saw the art. Most of the museum was artwork by local students. When I started commenting like, “This is eleventh grade” and “This is twelfth grade,” BG didn’t realize I was reading the descriptions. Then he was like, “Oh! Like these are literally students!” I was like, “Yeah, I wasn’t being judgey about their abilities.” We both agreed that these students are super talented. Also, their artist statements sound like they have been making art for the past two decades.
We were allotted 45 minutes to take in the entire museum, which is plenty of time for a museum of that size. I think we actually spent an hour inside anyway. There weren’t a lot of people, though the two of us managed to create a crowd as we got enveloped in conversation and someone on staff had to remind us to stay away from other people. We were acting like there was nothing wrong in the world even though we had masks on and had had our temperature taken.
Sidenote: I call this the abnormal. It’s not the new normal. There’s nothing normal about having to wear a mask in public and not be able to jostle your way to the artwork when someone tall is taking too long and refuses to move.
Sidenote to the sidenote: I didn’t jostle anyone. We simply got too close. However, in normal times, I may jostle a few people.
Sidenote to the sidenote to the sidenote: Jostle is a fun word to say. Go ahead and say it out loud. I’ll wait. Okay, done? Wasn’t that fun?
After the museum, it was gallery time. We headed over to B. J. Spoke Gallery, a haunt for us when we go to poetry readings. This time, it was all for the art. One of the newer artists is a collagist, and so is BG, so we dug her work a lot. The artist behind the desk told us about her own artwork when we commented on her photograph. She was like, “I snuck into that guy’s backyard to take that shot.” It was well worth it–some rusted out trucks in a yard filled with vibrant green grass entitled Retired. Loved it.
Up next, all the books. Book Revue has all of them. However, BG was like, “Food?” I was like, “I brought some.” He was like, “Really?” I was like, “I don’t go anywhere without food.” I grabbed my food and met him outside Burgerology where we also met up with VS and stayed for hours with the danger of people who don’t know how to parallel park always at our backs and falling leaves from the trees above landing in our laps. Worth it. P. S. the staff there worked their asses off, and their bathroom was immaculate.
Up next, all the books, round 2. Back up to Book Revue. An hour of book browsing and asking, “Hey have you read…”, “If you like that one how about….”, and “Did you see the new….” We devoted a lot of time to boxes of books that were 1 for $3 and 5 for $10. I found a novel I’ve wanted to read that my library always says is on the shelf but isn’t. Then I found another book by a poet I’ve wanted to read. I grabbed a third book, another poetry collection, because I liked the cover and the shape of the poems inside. This is definitely how you should choose books, covers and shapes. VS combined ours into 5 and then BG created his own little haul.
The sun had begun to set, and it felt like one of those summer nights when the world is normal and you’ve done all the things you could possibly have wanted to do. With the crosswalk voice urging us to to wait and then move, we found our way back to the glitter of the parking lot and headed home. Summer days. Summer nights. Art. Books. Friends. Perfection.
I had one of the best dates of my life back in February on Leap Day when I took myself into the city to go to a bunch of galleries, walk the High Line, and then visit the Rubin. It. Was. Glorious. And then the world shut down not even a few weeks later.
I’m happy to report I had another glorious art experience. The Nassau County Museum of Art opened, and I was INSIDE a MUSEUM again!! What’s better is that I went with my friend BG, and he’d never been there before, so it was as if it were the first time I was there, too. New eyes on new art. Hooray!
The main exhibit right now is Blue. I don’t know if I didn’t get the memo or if it was just coincidence (if coincidence is a thing) or maybe serendipity (which definitely is a thing) that almost everyone there but me was wearing some shade of blue. I was decked out in a brown skirt, purple shirt, and pink heart-shaped sunglasses because I’m an 11 year old. I noticed the blue phenomenon when BG walked up to a painting, and I was like, You match! The security guard got a kick out of me, offering a chuckle behind his mask. Then I looked around the room–everyone was in blue. Such is life; I’m always the non-fitter-inner, and it’s taken me a while, but I’m super okay with that. Here are some shades of blue in the art.
The most striking pieces in the first room were by artist Antonio Santín. Three pieces looking like rugs, bejeweled and wrinkled up, dazzling and beaded. The claim on the placard was that they were each oil on canvas to which I replied, Nope, this is magic! I don’t know about painting or how paints work, so maybe someone with more expertise would understand how these paintings were made from oil on canvas and not a hot glue gun and a fabric store inventory. I’m convinced it’s magic oil on magic canvas, which makes sense because their descriptions compare them to flying carpets.
The next room had a punching bag hanging in the center. It had fringe and bedazzlement as well, a found/repurposed plus mixed media piece. My first instinct was, I wanna punch it. There was a little rope tied in a square around its base, indicating that maybe we’re not supposed to punch it. BG pointed out a sign that said Please do not touch. We agreed that punching would be a violent form of touching, so it was a no-go.
However, that room also was full of magic in a different way: a surrealist piece that had children seemingly floating over mountains (by Christopher Winter called Huxley’s Guide to Switzerland) and other pieces that had glittery goodness. There was also a huge untitled piece that was clearly a cow print, and why it wasn’t simply called Cow we couldn’t figure out.
We then got into the section based on Wallace Stevens’s “The Man With The Blue Guitar” and exhausted our wows. There were instruments deconstructed and painted. And then, right there on a wall, was a Lichtenstein, so I immediately texted my brother a picture of it because, you know, Lichtenstein.
The second floor has smaller galleries, so there were signs about waiting for other parties to exit before you enter. We entered the first one, and I was highly disturbed by a photo of a girl sitting with an arm in her lap that was not attached to a body. The title was something like Girl with an Unattached Arm November something something (look up Andrew Sendor). BG suggested it was a story among the three photos–girl finds an arm, girl freaks out in Hallucination, girl has a dream to work it out. It was all a bit out there, and also very blue, and that’s what art is supposed to be. We hadn’t spent too much time in there, but apparently it was too much time for the couple who came barreling into the room after waiting in the doorway maybe one minute. Signs and Covid protocol be damned–they wanted to see the girl with the arm in her lap, I guess.
One of the other rooms had these ethereal blue hangings (cloth? paper? I don’t know because I’m not allowed to touch, or punch, things) with white silhouettes of people (the artist is Han Qin). One reminded me of that last scene in Ghost when all the demon souls come up and grab that terrible best friend, dragging him down to Hell. (If I just spoiled Ghost for you, for shame! You should have already watched that movie. Whoopie won an Oscar! And Patrick Swayze is in it). There was one in particular that I was like, I don’t like that one, and BG was like, it kind of looks like two people. And then it dawned on us at the same time: ohhhhh, that’s two people clearly having sex. So to be clear, the one I didn’t like was the sex one. Got it.
Then there was the Buddhist room with shiny Buddhist pieces by Bettina WitteVeen and a poem. So that makes it two poems in one art exhibit!
The back room on the second floor usually shows films, but there were no films. We checked out some paintings by Andrew Calder, Robert Rauschenberg, and some others. Then we found the best title for a painting: Large Head of Vincent. Do you really need the visual? The title itself is worth the price of the art. (if you really need to see it, here ya go).
We visited the gift shop, which seemed less cluttered than usual. Maybe Covid rules or maybe my misremembering. I asked the guy at the register if they’d been busy. He said they’d had some good days. A lot of people were coming in from the city, realizing that it’s not such a far leap. The musuems there are still closed, so this museum being open is a treasure.
Outdoors in the sculpture garden were sculptures and large flying bugs that I was terrified of going up my skirt. All that hiking has really changed me, huh? Outdoors art is fun because you can get closer to it, and also, the sky.
The world is slowly coming back to life. I know, I know, everyone I talk to keeps telling me, Just wait until November. As if November is a definitive date of requarantining. It could happen before that. It could happen after that. It could not happen. Maybe a huge lesson here is that life is completely unpredictable, so while taking precautions and planning carefully are important, also important is now, this moment, and celebrating it in the ways we live. That’s what art does; it shows us all aspects of life, and we get to share it and enjoy it and think about it and explore it and then go home happy.
Fifth grade meant an overnight field trip to Caumsett. Sixth grade meant an entire week of overnights to Ashokan. Bits and pieces roll around in my brain, both trips melding into one because they both concerned nature and both made me feel awkward. To be fair, everything made me feel awkward. To be fair, lots of things still do.
Here’s what I remember that I’m pretty sure is Caumsett.
- Sitting in a big room with a fireplace, listening to a man in a thick off-white crocheted sweater who was holding a replica of a baby alligator
- Being on the beach, watching the man, who had black curly locks to his shoulders, lick his finger and smear a rock, and then show how the rock became paint
- Going outside in the dark, sitting on the grass, looking up at the stars as the man shone a super-powered flashlight up to point to each one as they made constellations–and then hearing the story of how the stars were made:
- Something about a dark blanket being put over the earth, probably because humans were doing something terrible, or maybe the animals were being naughty. Then the birds flew up and tried to take it down, creating holes because their beaks weren’t strong enough to pull it. The holes allow light to come through. These are stars.
- Recently, I wrote a poem trying to express this sentiment. I don’t think it comes across at all. I don’t think the poem has any birds in it.
- Something about a dark blanket being put over the earth, probably because humans were doing something terrible, or maybe the animals were being naughty. Then the birds flew up and tried to take it down, creating holes because their beaks weren’t strong enough to pull it. The holes allow light to come through. These are stars.
- Ticks. Grassy land has ticks. Let’s all be aware of the ticks. They can cause disease. If you see a tick, light a match, blow it out, put the tip to the tick, burn it, lather it in Vasoline, and then pluck it out with long tweezers.
- This means that I’ve known about ticks since I was in fifth grade, so everyone can stop telling me about the ticks. They are the reason I haven’t ventured into nature all these years. (Okay, one of the many reasons).
Up until recently, I thought of Caumsett as a magical land, far far away, nestled in my childhood memories somewhere between coloring a Snoopy cartoon in kindergarten and receiving a dictionary on graduation night in the sixth grade. It was a place of wonder in nature far out there.
Then my brother brought up riding in Caumsett. I was like, What do you mean? He was like, I ride my bike there. I was like, What are you saying? He was like, You do know Caumsett is on Long Island, right? I was like, ? ? ? ? He was like, Caumsett is on Long Island; you can drive there. I. Was. Floored.
It’s taken a few years more, but I’ve found a hiking adventure buddy willing to put up with my tiptoeing into the land of tick-infested-tall-grasses and penchant for needing snacks and clear path to a bathroom wherever we go. I’m a fortunate gal.
Sidenote: I’m now incredibly aware that my first question to anyone whenever they ask me to go somewhere is, What about bathrooms? I have no idea when this new habit started, but I think it’s a pandemic thing. I drink a lot of water. I have already peed in one plastic container out in a park because there were no bathrooms. I’d do it again. However, I’d rather do it in a toilet, unless that toilet is the equivalent to the Trainspotting bathroom. P. S. The bathroom at Robert Moses comes pretty close to that one. Now this sidenote has taken a turn towards full tangent, so let’s get back to Caumsett, A Childhood Jaunt Turned Adult Realness.
We met at Caumsett after my GPS took me past it. Getting there proves to be an interesting venture because you get to a point north on Long Island until you need to go across this little two lane thingamajig out in the water. Then you wind around and there are mansion-like houses and then the park that the GPS doesn’t recognize. I found the bathroom. Best bathroom I’ve seen in any park hands down! (See? Bathroom Awareness is a thing). Then I handed the Captain the map and was like, This piece of paper means nothing to me.
By the way, I call him the Captain after one of his characters in a story he was working on. Also, he can kayak, so, he’s like a captain for real.
Sidenote that literally just popped into my head: When I was planning my wedding, we found a guy who was a captain with whom I became obsessed. I totally wanted to have the ceremony officiated by a captain. That captain was busy the day we planned to get married. Then that captain kept emailing us about how he might be able to work it out. He had two weddings planned that day already, but he for some reason became reverse- obsessed with us. We stopped answering his emails and settled on Judy. Judy was the best. And now I’m divorced. Not Judy’s fault. The End.
The captain took us into the walled garden and remarked at how the garden didn’t really have much color. Being the height of summer, I suggested that maybe there were more bloomy things happening in the spring.
Out of the garden, we walked past the horsefly dragonfly things that I literally gasped at. We found raspberries. Okay, he found raspberries. I was like, Those are raspberries!?!? I see them all the time! Can they be eaten? He was like, Yes, you can eat a raspberry. He plucked a red one, washed it off with his water, and ate it. I was astonished. It’s as if I were back in fifth grade seeing the magical land of Caumsett for the first time.
We found a building that was maybe called the garage house. It looked abandoned but some sort of unit was chugging along inside the first floor. I wanted to climb the steps to the top, but I thought better of it, figuring if any of those large bugs came at me, I’d fall to my death while trying to swat them. Capt decided to give it a shot, so afterwards, I did, too. I expected great views, but mostly, I could see only the other part of the building and lots of trees.
We went around the building out to the back and Oh. Meee. Oh. Myyy. I grabbed my head, both hands on either side, stunned. The hill we were on was high and rolled down to a pond. Beyond that, the water went out way back to meet the sky. I couldn’t stop saying how pretty it was. Then from behind, I heard, You’re looking at Connecticut. An older man and a woman arrived behind us. I was like, Connecticut is beautiful!
Then Capt and I walked down the hill. I stopped to look back. (I did not turn into a pillar of salt. That’s a joke for all you myth-joke-enthusiasts). Up on the hill, the house reached towards the sky behind it. I did a happy dance. Everything kept being pretty.
Except the bugs. The dragon horse fly things that I’d panicked about before flew around the path by the pond. There were dozens of dozens. I repeated aloud many times, They aren’t real. They aren’t real. They aren’t real.
See? This is why I’ve always turned down offers to go hiking and camping. I know myself. For anyone who’s a nature person, like a real true camper hiker one with nature person, my behavior isn’t cute. It’s juvenile and annoying. I can’t help it. It’s my reaction to all things creepy and crawly. I don’t think these things will kill me, but I also don’t like them.
There weren’t too many in the little path under the trees to the water, so we went there and watched some fish jump up through the surface and splash back down. There were birds. There were flies. Capt talked about the British. This is very similar to the conversations I have with my brother when we go on Sibling Adventures. He tells me the history of a place, and I respond with, I totally did not know that.
We walked the rest of the path down to the beach. [They aren’t real. They aren’t real.] Yet again, Long Island does its thing. We were in the woods. Then we’re at the beach. How does that even happen? It gets me every time.
This beach has rocks because it’s the North Shore. That means it was time for the second installment of Christina Skips Rocks. Capt skipped a few, one leaping no less than five times before going under. I basically threw a rock into the water. Then he showed me how to hold it better. I held it differently and instead of kerplunking straight down, it went diagonally into the water, splashing straight to the bottom. He suggested I do a windup like a pitcher in baseball and then was like, Just throw it, like a ball. Explaining that when I throw things, they don’t go where I want them to, I threw a rock into the water as if I were throwing a ball. He was like, Yeah, so you do have the power to throw. That was never the question. I’m quite mighty. I simply have no skillz in aim.
I tried a few more times. I managed to throw a rock straight behind me onto the sand. Then I threw one in the opposite diagonal, which I have no idea how that happened because if my momentum is going left, how does the rock go right. Then I did another and it almost skimmed the water before drowning. The beach has many rocks. We could have stayed all day. Instead, I was like let’s do those little rock tower things.
The proper term is cairn. He’d never built one. I was surprised because he’s been on rocky shores all his life and can skip rocks. How could he never have built one? So we built them. Mine wobbled until I realized my bottom rock wasn’t built for foundation work. He built a mini-fort because he understands rocks.
In the shade, we took a break so I could eat a snack and we could both look at maps I’d bought from the Greenbelt hiker people. They are more maps with lines that I don’t quite understand. We also watched a few people arriving to enjoy the beach in beachy ways like tanning, picnicking, and swimming. One woman lay belly-down on a boulder in the water and made swimming motions with her arms and legs. This is my kind of swimming and next time, I’m going to suit up and dive in. Only I’m not going to do that because now I’m remembering there are animals in the water and so no thanks.
Capt was like, I think the path goes up there. I was like, there are people on the beach that way, so there must be a path there, too. He decided to follow my suggestion and keep walking on the beach. After a really really long walk and still not arriving to where the people were, I was like, You should know that when I make a suggestion that concerns anything about directions or spatial situations, you need to veto it. He was like, Good to know. We finally came out to some fisherman road that people drive on and took to walking it back.
I thought I didn’t like the big dragon horse flies, but I started wishing for them as we made our way down this new path. It was like walking through a wall of gnats. We didn’t stop waving our arms the whole time. We stopped to put on another layer of deet to no avail. He veered us off to another path under different trees. For a few moments, it was better, but then, flies flies flies. So. Gross.
Thankfully, he can read a map and has a good sense of direction. We saw buildings. I get excited when I see buildings because that means we made it. Of course, I checked out the bathroom again, and we ate some more food. I kept happy dancing. The park is such a pretty place.
Then we hopped in our cars and drove down the road to Target Rock. There’s another history lesson here. Something about the British again. I’m pretty sure they would shoot at the big rock in the water for target practice. In the distance beyond the water, I was mesmerized by the smokestacks out in Northport. Something about smokestacks and electricity scaffolding sends me reeling.
Also sending me reeling, in a different way, was when Capt was like, Oh, there’s a tick on my sneaker. He flicked it off. I jumped up yelling, Tick Check Tick Check! And then proceeded to scour every inch of cloth and skin I could see. No ticks. And that’s when my bikini top closure snapped in half and my top fell off. This is how I hike.
We hadn’t visited Target Rock in fifth grade, so that was brand new. Caumsett now is a bit different from fifth grade Caumsett. The brick of the buildings, the red ink rocks, the tall yellowing grass, that’s all the same. Actually, it’s probably mostly the same. I’ve changed, not nature. I’m more inclined to actually go out into it. I actually enjoy it.
P. S. I wore knee high socks. Because of ticks. Quit your worrying.
About three years ago at Mind Over Madness: Summer Solstice Yoga In Times Square, I stood in a short line having arrived pretty early for my time slot to practice. Next to me and then in front of me and then behind me and then again next to me was a man who clearly was not there for yoga and was clearly high on something. I kept my nose in my book. Then a woman arrived behind me and wasn’t sure where to stand since this man was fidgeting between being in line and being on the other side of the barrier. I took my nose out of my book and stage whispered, I don’t think he’s on line. And that’s how I met my yoga gal pal. We chatted about yoga and working out and all other fun kinds of things. We put our mats next to each other and practiced together. We waved at ourselves as we were broadcast on the big screen overhead. We went through the yoga village together, and then we parted ways, saying that we’d get together again soon.
That was the year of my yoga teacher training. I had every intention of getting together again soon, but my hip labra had other intentions. Remember that time I couldn’t walk or sit up for two days?Yeah, that was fun. And then the next few years were all jacked up for various reasons including but not limited to death and disappearances.
This year is also jacked up (in case you haven’t noticed). I started having a really good year the second half of last year, and this year started out with such tremendous promise. Then the virus. Then the riots. Then the heartbreak. Then the descent into the deep dark times of Christina’s mind.
A really shining light are all the folks I know who radiate positivity. A lot of my yoga friends do just that. Scrolling through Insta, I saw my summer solstice yoga gal pal yet again posting something vibrant and fun, so I messaged her, told her I was down in the dumps, thanked her for being so positive all the time. She instantly messaged back–let’s get together soon.
Three years and a few rain dates in the making, we met up at Bear Mountain State Park. The sky shone gray, the mountain shone green, and we headed out to climb to the top. At first, we went down to go up, which we thought we had to do. Then we wound up on a road, so we went back to the parking lot booth attendant who pointed us in the opposite direction. I’ll reiterate that I’m directionally challenged and have no shame in it.
We had a choice of trails. We opted for the one where we wouldn’t have to bear crawl and scramble. This alternative is basically giant steps built into the mountainside. This is why the overcast sky was a plus. Climbing those steps in blazing sun would be more difficult. We climbed in humidity and heat, which was enough.
There were a lot of people on the trail in certain pockets, but for the most part, it was empty. Probably because we started out around 8:30 AM. This is my kind of hang. I love early. We took a little over an hour to get to the top. We’d stopped at certain points to look out over the landings and take in everything far and wide. The sun peeked out at times, so the rays came through like literal beams. Spectacular.
Then we made it to the top. Wind whipped up from time to time. Otherwise, it was so peaceful. Forget the mountain. We were on top of the world.
We sat for a while, and then it started getting crowded for real, mostly because it was getting to be later. Heading down, we encountered so many more people. It’s interesting sharing a path with people because some don’t want to lose momentum going up but going down is hard to stop momentum. We also noted the variety of clothing choices some hikers had made. I’m not sure why you would want to hike in a dress (my friend was like, It’s a photo op, and I was like, yeah you’re totally right).
It was about noon, so we headed to Peekskill to a coffee shop that we couldn’t find. We found Bean Runner Cafe that had a back patio so we could eat outside. That was a score. Their menu is Olympics themed, and as we all know, I love me some Olympics. Another plus was that the other people on the patio finished up as we got our food, so we had the place all to ourselves. Another plus–the food and coffee were delicious.
Next door was Third Eye Arts Studio and Gallery. We popped in, and the artist, Nadine Gordon-Taylor, showed us the artwork and said we could pull cards from her deck, too. This was our kind of gallery. Also, there was a Rumi quote on the door. Soooo much our kind of gallery. We each found a piece of art we loved. Then my friend pulled a card. The artist read what it meant. Everything about the card was everything we’d been talking about during lunch. Trippy.
Then I pulled a card. I’d been torn between two pieces of artwork. The card I chose was the other piece of art I’d been torn over. Trippy again.
We each got a piece of artwork plus a business card that had a mini version of the card art we’d pulled. This was a huge score. She’d told us how she had been running events in a loft for year that were now on hold. I told her I’d love to do a reading there, and so we all exchanged information. This is how to network during a pandemic. Hike up a mountain, go get coffee and lunch, and then stumble upon a groovy gallery.
In yoga, everything works out as it does. That’s all there is to it. So this day up on a mountain unfolded as a much needed perfect day for sure.