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Posts Tagged ‘North Country Druid’

The view from Wellesley Island, NY. Photo by Weretoad, 2014.

Like most people in America, I spent some time outdoors with my family this Labor Day weekend. We decided to explore one of the larger islands in the 1000 Islands – Wellesley Island. We chose to take a late afternoon hike on one of the shorter trails at the Minna Anthony Nature Center. We arrived shortly before the building closed, but we were able to take a quick peek at the butterfly house. There weren’t many butterflies in there, but we did enjoy what we saw. Honestly, the highlight for me was finally seeing a positively identified nettle in person. There’s a world of a difference between looking at field guides and live specimens. Now I have a better sense of what to look for when I go foraging again!

Since we had toddlers with us and none of us were dressed for a longer hike, we decided to take a short trail. You can lengthen your hike by continuing on to a lookout over Eel Bay, but we turned towards a dock*. All the while, the St. Lawrence River was just visible through the still green trees, it’s gentle waves hushing the chattering squirrels. There were several large oak trees near the path. We stopped to admire them – even hug them. I’ve been teaching Bee that trees are important Nature Spirits. We say hello to them, and I teach her their names as we do this. “Hello oak!” She always waves.

We were delighted at how quiet the dock was. Perhaps it was the time of day, or perhaps most people were busy swimming or having picnics. Had it only been myself, my husband, and daughter, I would have asked for some quiet time to meditate. It’s a great spot for just that. We put our feet in and caught some sun on our faces. Land, sea, and sky – an island is a great place to connect with the Three Realms.

Weretoad and I intend to return on our own in the future. We want to hike the longer trail to Eel Bay, and I would like to do some meditation. It’s a large state park, and there seem to be plenty of quiet areas where a Druid or even a very small group could go to meditate.

*We discovered afterwards that the dock is also accessible via an even shorter trail right behind the center itself.

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One of the many benches at the Zenda Farm Trail. This one happens to have a great amount of shade in the late afternoon. Photo by Grey Catsidhe, 2014.

In an effort to exercise more, as well as easily and safely enjoy nature with our toddler, we took another nature walk on a local trail. If you’re spending time in Clayton, NY, be sure to stop by the Thousand Island Land Trust’s Zenda Farm Trail.  (Officially, I guess the trail is called the LoisJean and John MacFarlane Trail, but that’s a mouthful.)    It’s called a farm trail because it literally was a farm.  The well-maintained gravel walking path loops around a pasture that has returned to a vibrant, ecologically diverse meadow, an excellent habitat for a variety of song birds and insects.

We went in the late afternoon/early evening.  Since it’s summer, the sun was still out.  It was quite warm and wasn’t much for shade on this trail.  Definitely dress appropriately and bring plenty of water.  Even though it’s short, you’ll want it!  There are plenty of benches around the trail, but, unfortunately, most were out in the sun, so sitting in them at the time we went was completely undesirable.  I imagine they would be more comfortable places to take in the scenery and relax when it’s cooler out.  Perhaps an autumn walk, when you want the sun’s warmth?

There was a bench near the heavily forested section, and that was perfectly shaded when we were walking.  We stopped there for a bit so that I could meditate.  I only did some breathing because, with a toddler along for the ride, I’m very likely to get interrupted.  So I just focused on my breath and let the smells and sounds of nature fill me.  It was really relaxing.  I imagine it would be a great place to do deeper meditation provided you didn’t mind the possibility of other people staring at you.  (There were a couple women also walking the trail with us.)  I don’t see myself doing any rituals here, but I could see basic prayer and energy work done on my own or with a few people – nothing that involves a lot of obvious tools.  Something about the trail strikes me as a very quiet, and open place.  I like some privacy.

One thing that really struck me was the sky energy there.  Because the trail loops around an open field, the sky is very prominent.  Song birds, dragonflies, bees, and other winged creatures arched through the air from one end to the other.  It is a great place to contemplate that energy.

Nearby, there’s the Zenda community garden and a play area for kids featuring natural wooden stumps to climb and balance on.  This is a shaded area.  If you bring a blanket, it would be great for a family or group picnic after a nature walk.

For mor information about the Zenda Farm Trail and Preserve, check out this pamphlet.

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We weren’t the only family enjoying a nice walk by the pond on the trail. Photo by Grey Catsidhe, 2014.

If you live in the Watertown area of Jefferson County, NY, and you’re looking for an easy hike to commune with nature away from the crowds that usually populate Thompson Park, I highly suggest the Calcium Trail.  Right off Rt. 11, it’s very accessible and relatively private.  There’s a parking lot and the trail is very well-maintained.  We went in the early afternoon.  While there were a few other people jogging, it was a very quiet place.  Several markers line the gravel path indicating the length you’ve traveled or highlighting the biodiversity.  There’s a lot of that: wildflowers, songbirds, squirrels, waterfowl, and rodents (we saw a few dead voles… were they hit by bikers in the dark?  Kind of weird…)

The Calcium Trail is 2.1 miles all the way.  Since we’re getting back into shape and had Bee with us (snug in her carrier), we decided to walk half the trail and turn around.  In total, we walked roughly 2 miles.  It is not a loop, so you’ll have to plan on turning around regardless of whether you walk the whole length or not.  Along with the trail makers, there are some places for you to stop and enjoy the natural surroundings – wooden bridges, benches, and a gazebo area with picnic tables.  If you are in the Watertown area and seeking a quiet place to meditate or commune with nature that isn’t very busy, this seems like an excellent trail to visit.  While we just went to walk and enjoy nature, I definitely want to revisit and do some meditation.

A few caveats:

1) There wasn’t a restroom at the end we explored, so make sure you take that into consideration.

2) There is also a very small playground at the gazebo area, meaning you may go expecting quiet and discover some noisy children playing.  That said, there are plenty of other quiet areas to enjoy.

3) There isn’t a lot of shade on the Rt. 11 end, so dress appropriately, especially if you’re bringing a little one along for the ride!

4) Fire is not allowed.  If you are hoping to do a private or small group ritual, you’ll need to find an alternative to bonfires or candles.  Given the picnic table, a small birthday cake style candle probably wouldn’t attract much negative attention.  Otherwise, don’t forget that the sun is the Earth’s original sacred fire!

5) Similar to the fire rule, visitors are asked not to leave anything.  This is a conservation area, so keep that in mind if you intend to make an offering.  Consider charging some water with your gratitude so as to not disrupt the environment.

 

 

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When I first started this blog five years ago, it was originally called “North Country Pagan” because I wanted it to reflect my experiences finding things relevant to Paganism and Pagan culture in Northern NY.  My blog title eventually changed because I wanted to narrow my focus more on my spiritual path of choice, but I’d like to revamp and revive it as a subtopic within my blog.  As the Druidic community here grows, I thought it would be nice to discuss different events that are not organized by Northern Rivers Protogrove but, nevertheless, relate to, nourish, or engage us as Druids in training.  Much of what I discuss will likely be relevant to other Pagan paths as well.

Like many good little Druids in the modern era, I was called to my path out of a deep love and reverence for Nature.  I’m naturally drawn to organizations and activities that also embody that love and respect, regardless of religion.  The Thousand Islands Land Trust is such a group.  They work hard to put aside and preserve land along the Thousand Islands, build and maintain trails, plant trees, and install nesting grids for common terns.  They have also organized hikes and kayaking excursions.  Over the last few years, they have expanded their selection of community activities to involve people who may not be willing or able to engage in such physically demanding activities but still want to learn and engage with the local environment.  They now offer children’s programing, a community garden, yoga for all levels along the river, and now – “green movie nights!”

The first featured film was called “Chasing Ice.”  Part of the synopsis reads:

In the spring of 2005, acclaimed environmental photographer James Balog headed to the Arctic on a tricky assignment for National Geographic: to capture images to help tell the story of the Earth’s changing climate. Even with a scientific upbringing, Balog had been a skeptic about climate change. But that first trip north opened his eyes to the biggest story in human history and sparked a challenge within him that would put his career and his very well-being at risk.

 

The film was exciting as it sounds and did not dissapoint. It was emotionally moving, intellectually stimulating, and visually spectacular.  The icy, glacial landscapes he and his team visited were as magical as they were distant to me.  It’s amazing how the glaciers are all at once mighty and fragile in our changing world.  Even if you are already convinced of global warming and of the urgency for us to make changes in our lives, the film is still worth seeing as it demonstrates the possibility for skeptics to change their mind which is uplifting.  If you consider the Earth your mother, you won’t want to miss seeing a side of her most of us take for granted.

I hope the Thousand Islands Land Trust hosts more green movie nights, and I hope that more Pagans in the area take advantage of them to expand their knowledge and awareness.  After all, our devotion to the Earth Mother shouldn’t stop with ritual.  We must remain educated on environmental issues and make practical changes in non-ritual contexts.

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