• susan petrie

Rain, root plates & rivers

Last week even though it was rainy, dreary, cold, I had a picture in my mind that I wanted so I took off to find it. Driving down the eastern side of the Hudson, I pulled in at the landing in Stuyvesant. The image I was hoping for wasn't there, but I noticed the tide was low. So I got out and decided to pick along the shore for awhile to see if there was anything interesting. Evidence of the past is all around (particularly at low tide) if you know what it looks like, and I quickly noticed the exposed pier pilings and scattered bricks - standard stuff along the Hudson. Evidence of ferry crossings or docks. Evidence of a 300-year-old industry gone silent.


As I continued on, I came to a long sandy beach that would be covered when the tide rose in a few hours. Taking advantage of what the low tide left me, I kept going. The area was particularly quiet, only the hush of lapping water and light rain. As I got into it, I realized how weird the scene was. Most of the trees that had once lined the shored were now upturned, their root plates lifted and exposed to the weather. One tree had bricks nested in the roots, another - out at the point - looked like it was trying to sneak off into the water but was being held back by a half dozen sculpted tendrils. There were close to a dozen different types of upturned trees. Erosion had completely exposed their long finger-like root masses, some were covered in moss, some were a dense woven tangle, some still had vein-like fibrous roots in tact.


I was the only person on an empty beach and for a brief moment I felt like I did when I saw the final scene of "Planet of the Apes." I felt a tense excitement inside, like I had landed somewhere forgotten and that I was going to find evidence of another time that explained everything, only there would be no one there to validate it, to see it, too.


These are the moments I live for. The excitement of not-knowing. The child-like feeling of discovery. Seeing things that others have overlooked or forgotten. A feeling for a few minutes that they belong to me because I found them.


After an hour mucking about, I decided to break the spell and turn back. My hands, red and numb and my insubstantial raincoat soaked through.



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