In the beauty of the lilies Christ was born across the sea,
With a glory in His bosom that transfigures you and me:
As He died to make men holy, let us live to make men free,
While God is marching on!


Tuesday, November 16, 2010

. . . On the Erie Canal

And you'll always know your neighbor
And you'll always know your pal
If you've ever navigated on the Erie Canal.

from the song Low Bridge (1905)
by Thomas S. Allen

Well, I've never actually "navigated on" the Canal, unless being a canal boat passenger once or twice qualifies. But the Erie Canal--located, as the crow flies, only a couple of hundred yards from our house in Brockport, New York-- is an ever-present feature of our lives. My bus crosses and re-crosses it several times a day between home and work. My office window, in a 122-year-old building in downtown Rochester, looks out over an old aqueduct, on which a street now runs, that once carried the Canal across the Genesee River.

My office is on the second floor from the top of that red brick building at the left, about the fourth one in from the corner above the river.

Indeed, Brockport--the town we live in--is known as "The Victorian Village on the Erie Canal." It wouldn't be much of a place without the Canal.

Under construction from 1817 to 1825, the Erie Canal was the first transportation system between the eastern seaboard and the western interior (Great Lakes) of the United States that did not require portage. Cutting transport costs by about 95%, the Canal fostered a population surge in western New York, opened regions farther west to settlement, and helped New York City become the chief American port. It's no longer a commercial artery, but is still a recreational and historic treasure.

Currently, the Canal's chief role in our family's life is as the ultimate place to walk our big greyhound Frank--he loves all the trees, bushes and rocks lining the sides of the gravel path that runs alongside the waterway. For us, walking him there is a chance to get much-needed exercise, to chat and bond, and to enjoy a scenery that's both constant and ever-changing with the seasons--for example, the water freezes in winter, making a great surface on which ducks can land and "surf" to a stop on the ice, one of the funniest things you'll ever see! In the spring, the banks are crowded with brilliant wildflowers, and the chorus of frogs in the marshes along the path makes a compelling music. In the summer the path becomes a busy thoroughfare for joggers and bikers (the latter including me). And our fall season, my favorite, is just coming to a close. The air is clear and cool with that spicy/smoky aroma, and the trees and bushes are (or were, a couple of weeks ago) ablaze with red, orange, and gold leaves. I wanted to share with you some photos I took on several recent excursions along the Canal near our home.

The following two pictures were taken on a recent bike ride along the Canal heading west from near our house and toward the village of Holley. If I kept going this way, I'd eventually find myself in Buffalo!

The picture below was also taken heading west, but from the village of Brockport looking toward the SUNY Brockport campus and the vicinity of our home on the other side of that.

The next set of pictures, on the other hand, were taken just across the Canal from our house and headed east, toward the village of Brockport. This is the part of the Canal where we most often walk Frank. You can see him and Melany in the first picture below!

If you keep going east along the Canal from near our house, you approach the village of Brockport. Even here on the edge of "civilization," foliage beside the path can be almost as dense and colorful as you might find in a rain forest!

Nevertheless, if you look closely, you'll catch sight of a little house nestled amidst the boughs and fronds--almost looks as if a hobbit might emerge from it at any moment!

One of my favorite things about the fall in these parts are the little purple flowers--I don't even know what they are--that abound along our roads and pathways, including the Canal. They make such a contrast with the greens and golds about them!

Sadly, now that it's mid-November, our autumn brilliance is past. In about 10 days, the people who run the state canal system will draw down the water to almost a trickle, just enough to create an icy surface in December for the ducks to skate on. Fine entertainment as we walk Frank along the path in the bitter cold!

And I aint prevaricatin' 'bout the Erie Canal.


The Tom and Donna Johnson Family said...

Thanks for sharing some of the history as well as the photos- it is certainly beautiful!

It's A Wonderful said...

What beautiful photos! I do believe that one day Jason and I may be joining my brothers in tne Northern I long for Fall! I just love this post, Tom. I'll never forget our visit when Jonathan was a baby and we went to the corn maze...what fun that was! Love you, big brother!

Donna said...

Beautiful pictures dad! I miss the canal. Maybe when I come home we can go for a walk.. and take Frank of course!

JoJo said...

Beautiful pics! Especially the one with that pretty lady walking the dog that's almost as tall as she is! :) I am really intrigued about this duck landing/sliding thing. You'll have to show me at Christmas time! We can't wait to be there!