Tuesday, September 4, 2012


After a few recent trips my biggest impression is how very varied the country is.

Some of that difference is geologic: the steep glacier-carved ravines of upstate New York and the abundant! water of Niagara Falls versus the endless rolling horizon of the Great Plains and the muddy almost-dry Red River.  But more of the difference is the climate.  I've just witnessed how lush and green upstate New York is (even in a dry summer) compared to the thirsty landscape of North Texas and the drought-parched pastures of Oklahoma and Kansas.

In New York cottonwood trees must be 60-80 feet high, with huge trunks and lush foliage riffling in the breeze; their cousins in Texas - even on the banks of a creek - are at most half that size and their tired leaves hang limp or fall.  In Oklahoma, the cottonwoods look smaller still and are losing big limbs to the drought.  Many look dead.  Southern Kansas, though very very dry, looks a bit greener than Oklahoma.  Along the drive you can see swaths of burnt grass alongside the road and sometimes singed trees.
Public domain photos of Oklahoma and upstate New York

Other notable things?

I visited several historic sites in New York, including East Aurora, which was a Utopian Arts & Crafts community founded by Elbert Hubbard in 1895.  There are few craftsmen now - just a gift shop -  but the gorgeous Roycroft Hotel still showcases lovely interiors filled with Arts and Crafts detailing and furniture, plus murals by Alexis Jean Fournier.  Now a restaurant and a hotel, I'd love to spend an evening here soaking in the atmosphere of William Morris and the American Craftsman Movement.

Public domain photo courtesy of Wikipedia

From about the same period, Rochester's Mount Hope Cemetery is an interesting place to walk around.  Okay, hike around. Victorian funerary monuments are often interesting and this cemetery's sometimes rugged and often wooded terrain makes it especially picturesque.   

I spent a few minutes sketching (often as I walked, which explains a lot about the quality of these sketches!)  There are several famous graves - most notably Frederick Douglas' and Susan B. Anthony.  The sketch above is one of the prizes of the cemetery: a marble monument to a young girl, carved by many of the leading stone carvers of the day.

This is one of the mausoleum entries that lead to tombs cut into the side of the rocky hills.  Nicely creepy.

This is another landmark, a tomb with a Victorian-Gothic canopy reminiscent (though much smaller than) the famous Albert Memorial.

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