Mother Nature. We Give.
Snow, even big
snow being a fact of life here, we still may get dusted or
even dumped on one final time. And though it's been the first
winter in memory without a single sub-zero night in our valleys,
most of us we figure, have had enough and are ready for spring.
But first, the winner of the best end-of-winter-storm-story
we heard is Ben Smith of Lanesville. Four-wheel drive got
him almost to the top of the Notch on Route 214 but the snow
was just too ridiculous and he finally had to stop and walk
down to the nearest phone for some help. By the time he got
back, his pick-up was buried under 12 feet of snow. Now we've
all had days like that, but the avalanches are usually - you
know - metaphorical. When the snow actually crashes off the
mountain and buries your truck, it's usually time for a new
truck or to thank your creator you weren't in it.
The truck we hear, is fine which is way more than most us
can say about our favorite trees. All the ones we been lovingly
tending...the fruit trees, Japanese maples, redbuds, all our
little flowering treasures, they're now, well, depressingly
battered is a gentle way of putting it. And maple syrup this
year? Fuhgetaboutit. The sap barely ran long or hard enough
to warrant firing up the sugarhouses. And scarcity being the
mother of astronomical price increases, we figure syrup at
retail should easily top $120 a gallon before long, a decent
portion of what it actually costs to make the stuff, as if
one could put a price on that. So our prediction is that real
maple syrup will soon join caviar as a treat of choice exclusively
on the world's least affordable tables. But up in Canada where
sugaring is a state-sponsored national industry, it could
take all the country's Alberta oil money to keep its eastern
maple industries afloat. So yup, if you liked this winter
you're going to love global warming but it might require some
extra income for pancake toppings.
On the bright side for two-cycle engine buffs, this year's
spontaneous sounds of spring chainsaw festival should have
an especially large number of entries. And brush-pile aficionados
will have lots of viewing choices, particularly since new
state regs say we can't even think about burning them till
mid-May at the earliest. In forest fashion news we're hearing
all the really smart guys this year will be wearing their
orange hardhats because they realize the forest hasn't finished
falling down yet from this last storm. So looking up in the
woods isn't just a nice thing to do this spring, it's the
And speaking of looking up, we do think things are looking
up. Phoenicia's gallery and alfresco dining scenes are off
to an early and promising start. Almost eight hundred people
turned out for the big dodgeball tournament which raised over
$4,700 toward a new wind turbine to supply energy for Bennett
Elementary School. Pianist Justin Kolb gave an extraordinary
concert at Onteora's stunningly tasteful new auditorium -
not by the way, paid for with local tax dollars - same night
as the Olive Rec basketball playoffs just down the hall, which
even included the Shandaken Eagles. Soccer registration is
solid and with good reason. Little League's opening day is
April 15, and all our district's kids can now play in the
same league based at Woodstock's beautiful Ric Volz field.
Anyone who hasn't signed up...it's a great league.
You need more good news? Local realtors, for the first time
in three years, are reporting a very busy early spring across
all price ranges for residential property. Aligning beyond
the usual seasonal stars to help this along are the lowest
interest rates in years and an April 30 contract deadline
for first-time buyers to qualify for an $8,000 federal tax
credit. What we're hearing is that interest for properties
in the $200,000 to $400,000 price range appears significantly
improved over the past two years.
More things looking up? On the cultural scene, three of our
local international opera stars, Maria Todaro, Louis Otey,
and Kerry Henderson are planning a first annual major 3-day
event for mid-August, The Phoenicia Festival of the Voice,
featuring world-class operatic and other performances in the
Parish Field Park, the STS Playhouse, and at local churches
and other venues. Kicking off the Festival March 28 at 3PM
will be a Gala Concert at St. Gregory's in Woodstock, contributions
and pledges gratefully accepted.
Also in Phoenicia's Parish Field, the next few weeks will
see the installation of the big rope "Starclimber,"
a 38 x 40 X 12 foot-high children's play structure paid for
jointly by the town and by funds raised from volunteer efforts
including a bake sale and last summer's movie night and "Opera
in the Park." And in the woods right behind the playground,
the region's best semi-secret dayhike, The Tanbark Trail,
will be formally reopening later in the year, although it
is fully marked and usable now. Volunteers working through
Shandaken's Rec Committee have rebuilt and expanded the trail
to nearly two miles in length, with some of the best views
for a short hike anywhere in the Catskills.
Examples like these are just a smattering of course, there's
plenty of great community projects going on we've undoubtedly
failed to touch on here. Maybe it's that depth of our communal
giving that defines who we are together, but also makes it
hard to keep track sometimes. But we are looking forward to
a great spring, and hope to see everyone out there... somewhere...
enjoying themselves and one another... soon.