Sunday, June 23, 2013

Summer Quest: Beginning at Yaddo

Hallelujah! I just completed the most physically, mentally, and emotionally draining year of my teaching career. It was a year stacked with personal challenges, as sometimes happens. However, at the same time, changes in public education this year were so dramatic that it feels as if the career to which I had intended to devote my life no longer exists. The switchover to the Common Core curriculum at the kindergarten level, combined with New York State's new teacher evaluation system and lack of funding to adequately support these new mandates seemed to increase my workload - including testing, paperwork, and stress - threefold. I am not exaggerating. It feels as if the career for which I trained and invested so much money and time is a rug that has been yanked out from underneath me this year. No, actually it's more like the whole floor has caved in, and I'm falling like Alice down the rabbit hole wondering where I will land. And how long it will last.

The bottom line is that I survived. And now it's time to rebuild, recharge, and recreate. My summer goals are to make fitness and relaxation top priorities. I am also on a mission to steep my spirit in inspiration, beauty, and peace. One of the ways I intend to accomplish this is by visiting beautiful, inspiring places. Plans to visit Ithaca, the ocean, Lechtworth State Park, and Omega Institute are in the works. Since there is so much work being done on the river this year, it's a good year to explore.

Today, I began this pilgrimage close to home, in my native Saratoga Springs at Yaddo, a private retreat for artists, writers, and composers, with gardens that are open for free to the public. 

It's probably been 20 years since I've visited Yaddo to sit by a quiet pond and write. Today, I went with camera and tripod in hand and spent at least two hours meditating on beauty, stopping literally to smell the flowers, along with many others who had the same idea. Everyone strolled around smiling and emanating peace. The energy and aesthetics of Yaddo have that effect on you. They uplift the spirit.

At first, I was drawn to the 180-foot pergola in the Rose Garden. I adore its geometry and Italianate elegance.

It must have taken me an hour to walk the entire length, stopping to photograph blooms and buds that caught my attention.

There were lots of pale pink and red roses in bloom.

Then I meandered through the pine-shaded Rock Garden.

The lush ferns and deep turquoise pond give this area a tropical, otherworldly feel. The colors are vivid and breathtaking.

This view (below) - so shimmering and colorful - felt magical, like a scene from the movie, Avatar. (Click to enlarge!)

Following the Rock Garden trail, I wandered upon some beautiful doors separating the public gardens from the private grounds where artists are in residence.

And then back to the terraced Rose Garden, with its four beds, central fountain, and marble statues representing the four seasons. A fifth statue set back amidst the pines memorializes the four children of founders Spencer and Katrina Trask - all of whom died in childhood.

An elaborately engraved sundial graces a balcony between the lower garden and the pergola.

Heading back to my car, I stopped to photograph the Yaddo Mansion (former second home of the Trasks, located in the private section of the estate) and large fountain.

The energy at Yaddo is legendary. It is believed to be a visionary place of "mystical creative power." (For a more paranormal treatment of Yaddo, click HERE. They even offer docent guided ghost tours in the fall.) According to Yaddo's website, artists in residence collectively have garnered "68 Pulitzer Prizes, 27 MacArthur Fellowships, 68 National Book Awards, 41 National Book Critics Circle Awards, 108 Rome Prizes, 52 Whiting Writers' Awards, a Nobel Prize (Saul Bellow, who won the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1976), and countless other honors." It must be incredible to spend time in residence on the other side of the signs and gates. 

But for me today, returning to Yaddo was a spiritual homecoming of sorts, a place to connect with creative energies and begin again. And so begins my summer quest for inspiration, renewal, and direction.
"We shall not cease from exploration, and the end of all our exploring will be to arrive where we started and know the place for the first time."  -T. S. Eliot, Four Quartets
© Susan Meyer and River Bliss, 2012-2013. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material, including all photos, without express and written permission from this blog’s author/owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Susan Meyer and River Bliss ( with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

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