Thursday, October 17, 2013

Cobbling Together





Beautiful soft light last weekend in Bartholomew Cobble, a marvelous Trustees of Reservations property in Sheffield in the Berkshires "South County." The reservation is named for the big mound-shaped pile of stone and accompanying geology and topography notable for the holes in its exposed limestone, called a "cobble" by those who name this sort of thing.
            We have visited here numerous times, it's a standard destination on our Columbus Day Weekend itinerary. But for some reason this year when we walked the Ledges Trail, looping along the exposed rock beneath the trees and looking down on the river, we were absolutely alone. As if everyone else who parked in the lot by the headquarters building had wandered off and taken their walks on some alternative cobble. The air was soft as well, the day fairer and warmer than predicted. Even the curious holes in the steel-gray walls of rock exposed by the eons were filled with the day's benevolence.
            The river below our trail, that even, fat, slow-winding ribbon, a typical coil of the Housatonic, the stream that runs everywhere in this part of the state, a gentle mirror of time, was doing tricks to amuse us (or itself). A steady breeze along its surface sent the mirrored skim of its reflections flowing in the opposite direction from the current, so that its freight of fallen yellow leaves, heavier apparently than some top-side impression of sunlight -- a skin of light slimmed down to mere perception: how much could that possibly weigh? -- traveled one direction along the river's surface while the wind carried the idea of water, that weightless layer of pure perception rippling along its surface, briskly along in the opposite direction. The wind, the breeze, blew less strongly than the current, a thing in itself of no matter, no weight at all, no substance -- a kind of idea in the mind of water physics -- but a wave of invisibility moving through the water, the way time moves through out lives.

            So that the fallen leaves, freshly fallen on the stream's surface, heavier (though lighter than almost everything but air) than some mere topside impression rippled by the wind: the yellow leaves of the surrounding forest unleaving in shades of yellow and brown in a great near-unanimous hurrying of time and weather -- proved more substantial than mere reflections.

             Along the river we found new plantings of scores of trees, mixed deciduous trees planted this spring with wire guards around their vulnerable lower trunks (see the fourth photo down). They're part of a project to restore a natural flood-bank woodland. They survive the occasional flooding from the river and, according to the Trustees, provide an unusual habitat for some plants and animals suited to survive better there than in riverbed, forest or grassy field.

             Later I got us off the trail that takes visitors uphill to the site's famous view, Hurlbert's Hill. We had to retrace our steps back to the trail I lost, where I eventually remembered, oh, yeah, I get confused here every year. We found the wide path that leads upward through an ascending close-cut hay field to the observation spot, where an explainer board points out (with illustrations) the migrating raptors and broadwings we can see gliding over the mountains from here, only today we couldn't. 
           The sky clouded over and did not recover. No matter, we have had the best of this day by the soft breezes and gently flowing waters of the autumn stream.