The Lake Champlain water level is ever-so-slowly dropping, but it’s premature to rule out the possibility of hitting (or even exceeding) flood stage. At present, there’s about a foot of clearance between the bottom of Rosslyn boathouse’s cantilevered deck and the glass-flat water surface. Windy, wavy days are another story altogether.
With the first impossibly green asparagus and precocious yellow narcissus, can summer be far off?
For now, at least, Rosslyn’s boathouse is safe.
Safe, but not dry. The boathouse, house, carriage barn, ice house, yards, meadows, gardens, orchard, and woods are soggy. Persistant showers with insufficient soaking up / drying out time has resulted in waterlogging. My bride catalogued current circumstances (see video below) including a row of cedars that were destroyed in late winter when an old, rotten maple tree fell down, crushing the hedge. And the vegetable garden has finally been tilled once, at least a week or two later than ideal.
The final images offer a nice balance to the spring rain, rain, rain. With the first impossibly green asparagus and precocious yellow narcissus, can summer be far off?
Welcome to spring in the Champlain Valley. And to Rosslyn’s annual spring drama: the Lake Champlain boathouse blues!
Over the last month lake water level has been rising, rising, rising. And rising some more. In fact, it’s even risen since I started drafting this post. (Current level a little further down.)
Boathouse Blues Begin
Until recently I was singing the end-of-ski-season rag and the dandelion ditty while quietly hoping that Lake Champlain water levels would rise enough to hedge against last summer’s all-too-low water levels.
And then I received this recent message and photo from Essex friend and neighbor Tom Duca.
“The lake was superlow last year, but now it’s moving right up… Most of the snow is melted in the higher elevations, so I don’t think the lake will get much higher than this…” ~ Tom Duca
Nerve wracking, right? Hopefully Tom’s snow melt assessment is accurate. And hopefully it’s not an overly rainy spring.
My mother was the next boathouse blues melody maker. Here are her updates.
“Water much higher, you’ll be glad to know!” ~ Melissa Davis
So I suppose my wishes for higher-than-2016 water levels weren’t as quiet as I had thought. And initially Lake Champlain’s spring water level increase did relieve me.
And then my mother sent me this.
“Water rising! Almost even with Old Dock dock.” ~ Melissa Davis
She was referring to the Old Dock Restaurant, located just south of the ferry dock. Time to start monitoring the official Lake Champlain water level.
Boathouse Blues Reference & Refrain
For the official Lake Champlain water level, I turn to USGS.gov and pull up a one year retrospective that reveals the lake is much higher than last spring.
See that red line marking 100′ above sea level? That indicates flood stage. Yes, we’re pretty close. In fact, as of today, April 24, 2017 the most recent instantaneous “water surface elevation” is 99.74′ above sea level. And by the time you read this, it may be even higher. Check out the current Lake Champlain water level (and temperature) if you’re curious.
Until then, here are couple of additional glimpses of Rosslyn boathouse struggling to stay dry. This latest refrain in the Lake Champlain boathouse blues was photographed by Katie Shepard.
Great angle, Katie! You can tell that even on this relatively placid day, a medium-sized wave or boat wake would likely inundate the floorboards.
Looking down on the boathouse gangway reveals flotsam and jetsum that have already washed up on the decking.
And Katie’s last photograph shows the water level almost cresting Roslyn’s waterfront retaining wall. Fingers crossed that we won’t experience flood stage this year!
It’s time travel Tuesday! Gazing through the time-hazed patina of this vintage postcard I’m unable to resist the seductive pull of bygone days. Whoosh!
I tumble backward through a sepia wormhole, settling into the first decade of the 20th century. It’s 1907 according to the postal stamp on the rear of this postcard.
Eleven decades ago a man rowed a boat past Rosslyn’s boathouse, from north to south, through waves larger than ripples and smaller than white caps. It was a sunny day in mid-to-late summer, judging by the shoreline water level. A photographer, hooded beneath a dark cloth focusing hood, leans over behind his wooden tripod, adjusting pleated leather bellows, focus, framing. And just as the rower slumps slightly, pausing to catch his breath, the shutter clicks and the moment is captured.
Perhaps this is the photographer who memorialized Rosslyn boathouse more than a century ago?
Or this well decorated fellow?
There’s so much to admire in this photograph-turned-postcard. Rosslyn boathouse stands plumb, level, and proud. Probably almost two decades had elapsed since her construction, but she looks like an unrumpled debutante. In fact, aside from the pier, coal bin, and gangway, Rosslyn boathouse looks almost identical today. Remarkable for a structure perched in the flood zone, ice flow zone, etc.
I’m also fond of the sailboat drifting just south of Rosslyn boathouse. Raised a sailor, one my greatest joys in recent years has been owning and sailing a 31′ sloop named Errant that spends the summer moored just slightly north of its forebear recorded in this photo.
Although the pier and the massive coal bin in front of the boathouse are no longer there, they offer a nod to Samuel Keyser‘s stately ship, the Kestrel, for many summers associated with Rosslyn boathouse.
Other intriguing details in this 1907 photo postcard of Rosslyn boathouse include the large white sign mounted on the shore north of the boathouse (what important message adorned this billboard?); the presence of a bathhouse upslope and north of the boathouse (today known as the Green Frog and located on Whallons Bay); and the slightly smudged marginalia referring to a small white skiff pulled ashore slightly south of the boathouse (what is the back story?).
This faded photograph kindles nostalgia and wonder, revealing a glimpse into the history of Rosslyn boathouse while dangling further mysteries to compell me deeper into the narrative of our home. Kindred sleuths are welcome!
One of the themes that I’m exploring in Rosslyn Redux is what I’ve loosely termed the archeology of home. It’s a misnomer really, an imperfect vessel that I settled on in the earliest days of renovation. Although my method was anything but scientific, I was mostly fascinated with the relics and artifacts we’d inherited. And before long new artifacts were being — in some cases quite literally — being disinterred. I was trying to decipher the practical and historic and aesthetic puzzle of an almost two century old property.
Soon the puzzle pieces included stories, memories, and anecdotes gathered from the people I met and recorded histories I read. As I sought to weave these various threads into a tapestry of sorts, I inevitably (and imperceptibly at first) began to insert my own wonders and hypotheses. Hopes. Confabulations. What-ifs…
And soon enough my own meditations on home, my own rucksack of patinated, nostalgia-filtered experiences began to infiltrate the tapestry.
My archeology of home had evolved into a wide-ranging contemplation of home-ness. So much more than a dwelling place, “home” is a psychologically complex and, I’ve come to believe, a profoundly important concept. I’m still trying to unpackage it, but my process has shifted somewhat from the more intentional, methodical, even quasi-scientific approach of my earliest inquiry toward the lyrical.
And so it is that I lament being unable to attend artist Helle Cook’s exhibition, Notion of Home, opening two weeks from tomorrow in Brisbane, Australia at the Project Gallery (QCA South Bank Campus).
Here’s what the gallery has to say about the show.
Balancing on the threshold of abstraction and figuration, Helle Cook uses painting as language to investigate a sense of home identity… In ethereal, bold fields of colour emerges a sense of imagination and memory. Eschewing traditional and inflexible notions of “home”, Cook’s concept of plurality opens spaces of multiple perspectives within and in between, and fuels a quest for multifaceted exploration. (Source: QCA Galleries)
This language, both verbal (“a sense of home identity”) and visual, resonates with my own personal investigation despite the fact that Helle Cook’s search appears to be more focused on geographic/cultural places (i.e. Denmark, Australia, and the interstices). I’ve cast around often enough for a better alternative to “archeology” for explaining my quest, but I’ve come up short. Perhaps I’ve been looking in the wrong place(s).
What defines the notion of home?
This is what Danish-born, Brisbane-based artist Helle Cook investigates in her painting practice… Drawing on interior and exterior monologues, Cook’s paintings explore home, identity, connection, culture and memories. Intuitive and imaginative, her work is an experimentation into the cognitive neuroscience of creativity, engaging both sensory and episodic memory to allow the paint to take agency. (Source: Cultural Flanerie)
Wow! Did you get all of that? Reread. Re-wow.
Let’s turn to the artist herself.
I use painting to investigate the notion of home… Is home a feeling. A sense of being present. Or does it connect us to particular place. A home with interior. Is home where we were born, where we live, can it be more places and anywhere in the world. And how is home connected to our identity and the sense of belonging. From the perspective that home is all of that and most of all a space in between, I explore the duality of my Danish background and my Australian life as an artist recreating my identity. In a space in between. With memories of the past, a sense of the present and ideas of the future, I create internal and external landscapes and fairy-scapes, symbols, nature, figures, creatures and objects of culture and design. I use my intuition, imagination and the slow process of painting to take agency. Creating the sense of belonging in a Space in Between. Home. (Source: Helle Cook)
Yes, “the notion of home” is precisely what I’ve been grappling with. It’s bigger than archeology, or different, despite that the reference served well initially.
I’ve discovered that identity and belonging are indeed intricately intertwined with the notion of home. Like Ms. Cook I find myself on an exploration of both internal and external artifacts, identities, terrains, narratives, and memories. And I’m increasingly discovering that my purposes are best served with a mix of inquiry (objective and subjective), imagination, and creative freedom.
Even this quick glimpse into Cook’s work has inspired me onward. Onward!
Griffin “polar bear plunges” in 35° Lake Champlain… mid-winter swimming bliss!
Griffin, our now almost nine year old Labrador Retriever, was thrilled with to chase some throw-toys in the chilly lake today despite the fact that it’s February 19 and the water temperature is exactly three days above freezing… 35° of mid-winter swimming bliss!
Here’s a fuzzy but joyful glimpse into one of about a dozen of Griffin’s “polar bear plunges”.
We just returned to Essex and were quite excited about the recent snowfall. Last year’s virtually snowless winter was a bummer. No skiing in winter followed by alarmingly low lake levels due to unusually low levels of spring melt and runoff. Up until the last couple of weeks this winter has been similarly snow-free, so having a chance to spend the morning cross country skiing around Rosslyn’s woods, trails, and meadows with my bride and dog was a welcome change. And the perfect warm-up for Griffin’s February swim…
This vintage photograph of Butternut Flats was featured on a photograph that I discovered on eBay. Serene. Placid. Mysterious. Who is that boy? What are those wonderful rowboats? Dories? Skiffs? And — most intriguing by far — where along the meandering lengths of the Boquet River is this inviting bend referred to as “Butternut Flats”?
Here’s all that we learn from the eBay auction description.
Vintage Photograph: Butternut Flats; Boquet River (Essex County New York) Mounted photograph 7 x 9″ show wear and age foxing/discoloration, affected with moisture but not easy to see in the scanned images shown here, but still a nice old photograph; notice young child next two boat in background. Backside with name “Rosamond Lobdell”. (eBay)
Having grown up along the Boquet River (see Homeport in Wadhams and Hickory Hill and Homeport) I’m easily intrigued. And slightly vexed that I can’t identify this location! Perhaps you can offer some assistance? All leads welcome.
Butternut Flats on the Boquet River (Source: detail from vintage postcard)
While returning to Essex from Elizabethtown this afternoon I spied this handsome bald eagle perched 20 to 30 feet above Whallons Bay. He was surveying the glass-flat, frigid (37° isn’t quite freezing, but it’s not far off) waters of Lake Champlain, head pivoting jerkily. Although he never took flight, never plunged down to grab a lake trout or a salmon, I’m pretty certain he was hunting for his supper. Or posing for passersby.
The photo above and the video below were shot on my iPhone, so they’re grainy and don’t fairly capture the regal raptor. But they’re better than a flock of letters, “You wouldn’t believe the bald eagle I watched this afternoon…”
Bald Eagle Back Story
If you’re intrigued by bald eagles, you may enjoy a few of my earlier posts that showcase our local population of bald eagles (or semi-subtly incorporate “bald eagle cameos”). I suggest you start with these:
I love artichokes. Growing artichokes, eating artichokes, enjoying the magnificent bloom (like a purple sea anemone) when I fail to harvest artichokes in time,… I hold artichokes in extremely high regard. But I must admit that I’ve never, ever conceived of artichokes as sexy.
She starts in familiar if cleverly conveyed territory.
The first time I saw it, I thought what an ugly specimen. It looked like Grandma’s bathing cap, grown green and small after all these years. (Source: “The Artichoke” by Nin Andrews, The Paris Review)
But then she chronicles a veritable love (lust?) affair with the spiny vegetable.
I sliced it open and tasted the pale flesh. And gradually she offered herself up leaf by leaf… and she was irresistible… dipped in lemony butter, scraped carefully with teeth and sucked, the pale cream of flesh, the tender flower, her skirt held up like a cup, each sip bringing me closer to the moon, the vegetable pearl of her insides where the heart fans out fibrous hairs and waits a last mouthful on her green world. (Source: “The Artichoke” by Nin Andrews, The Paris Review)
Wow! It’s fair to say that my perception of artichokes has evolved. Dramatically. And though we’re only halfway through November, my mind is already dreaming of planting more Imperial Start Artichokes next spring…
[FYI, I excerpted some of the more salacious poetry from Nin Andrews’ poem, “The Artichoke”, but I’d strongly, strongly encourage you to read the whole poem. It’s short. And it’s thoroughly enjoyable. An artichoke will never be the same for you!]
I share with you a bald eagle omen, courtesy of my mother.
Bald eagle by your boat house. Saw this elegant creature as I went to massage and he was still there when I returned. May be a sign of something good? ~ Melissa Davis
Rosslyn’s boathouse is often frequented by bald eagles, hawks, and other raptors, but I’m choosing to embrace my mother’s most recent sighting as an important symbol.
When an eagle appears, you are on notice to be courageous and stretch your limits. Do not accept the status quo, but rather reach higher and become more than you believe you are capable of. Look at things from a new, higher perspective. Be patient with the present; know that the future holds possibilities that you may not yet be able to see. You are about to take flight. (Source: pure-spirit.com)
I’m digging deep, summoning courage, and shifting my perspective!
From eagle we learn that life looks different from an aerial perspective. We need to take a new view on the challenges in our lives. If we don’t readily find solutions it may be because our vision is too limited to see the solutions that are so glaringly obvious. ~ Ina Woolcott (Source: Shamanic Journey)
It’s time for a fresh vantage point — personally, professionally, politically — so I’m grateful for this bald eagle omen. I’m reminded that my vision may indeed have become too limited, too myopic. Time to shift and amplify the view. Time to prepare for flight!
It’s always a nice pick-me-up when a friend (or a complete stranger) shoots me a snapshot (or a painting, etc.) of Rosslyn’s boathouse. Tom Duca’s sunny snapshot this morning is no exception. Thanks, Tom!
Another… Autumn day, blue skies, geese bobbing on the lake beside your boat house. ~ Tom Duca
I chuckled when he responded to my request for permission to repost his photo with an apology that the photo is off kilter. Off kilter? Hardly. I chuckled because the boathouse that we inherited when we took ownership of Rosslyn a little over a decade ago was indeed off kilter. I mean, really off kilter. Ready to tumble @$$ over teakettle into Lake Champlain. What a relief that today this quirky little house on a pier is less likely to succumb to the wily ways of weather and time and gravity.