Saturday, January 3, 2009

Graham Hills Country Park / Baltic Voices 2



By the time I got all my work done today, there were just a few hours of daylight left. I'd been couped up lately between work and this cold I've been fighting. It was time to get out and blow the stink off.

Graham Hills Country Park is less than a mile from my house. It's named after Dr. Isaac Gilbert Graham, a Revolutionary War surgeon who'd settled there in 1785. Throughout the park, numerous stone walls bear evidence of this colonial past. It's an oasis of woods, gratefully preserved amid the crowded, long established Westchester County suburbs.

I had about an hour before the sun was going to set - a short walk would be all I could afford. Although it was sunny, it was still quite cold due to 15mph winds. As I drove to the park, my mind began to envision what my experience would be like. There were still a few inches of snow on the ground and it was my hope that this might deter the yuppie mountain bikers who infest the park in nice weather. Ultimately, I was hoping for a solitary walk, amid dense, quiet woods. The ground would be white, the sky would be blue, the dark vertical barren trees would texture the rolling landscape, and the sun would achingly send me its final slanted afternoon offering.

In consideration of such a setting, I scrolled my iPod to Baltic Voices 2 as my companion for this walk. This album features religious and secular choral ensembles by the Estonian Philharmonic Chamber Choir as directed by Paul Hillier. I was first captivated by this spacious ambient music when WNYC was featuring Eastern European selections for its New Sounds program (http://www.wnyc.org/shows/newsounds/episodes/2006/12/28).
One track on Baltic Voices 2 particularly struck me. It's called 'Winter Hymn'. For me it was the center of gravity for this album, anchoring its mood. Geographically, this is music predispositions an association with desolation, cold and quiet. 'Winter Hymn' is a meditation and upon first hearing it, I wanted to experience it in a cold, snowy place all by myself. Perhaps it is this need to connect with this song in such a way, rather than my need to get out of the house, that brought me Graham Hills today.

In the last throws of sunlight, I'd made my way to the highest point in the park, having accended several hundred feet to get there. To the east I could see the towns of Thornwood and Hawthorne. To the South I could see Buttermilk Hill across the Taconic Parkway. To the north east, I could make out the hills buffering the Hudson. Their snowy flanks were turning blue in the cold twilight.

I got back to my car just as the last notes and the resolving 'Amen' of 'Our Father in Heaven' completed Baltic Sounds 2. I found it a jarring experience to be suddenly stripped from this contemplative winter cathedral that my walk had created for me. I took off my cap, scarf and gloves. It was time to re-enter my world and think about a hot cup of tea and this evening's NFL Playoffs.

1 comment:

  1. Beautiful.

    But... TEA? Watching football?? Seriously???

    ReplyDelete