MAY WATER EVER FLOW – Marilyn Armstrong

WATER EVERYWHERE


There’s a lot of wetness when you live in a water shed. It flows over rocks and down the dams. It runs into little rivulets and bigger streams and sometimes, into the old canal. We have some lakes, too, including a very large one that has a Native American name that no one who didn’t grow up in this area can ever pronounce. Webster Lake, for Anglophones.

For valley natives,  it is Lake “Chargoggagoggmanchauggagoggchaubunagungamaugg” (/ˌleɪk tʃɚˈɡɒɡəɡɒɡ ˌmænˈtʃɔːɡəɡɒɡ tʃəˌbʌnəˈɡʌŋɡəmɔːɡ/). This is a 45-letter alternative title is frequently called the longest place-name in the United States. If there’s a longer one, no one has yet told me what it might be.

It is also one of the longest place-names in any language.

Tall Ships, Boston 2017

I grew up in New York. The city part of the state and the nearest “water” were the docks along the horribly polluted rivers. Thank Pete Seeger for helping fix that so that the Hudson River is no longer so polluted you could actually develop film in the water.

I lived in Queens and if we wanted to see water without someone driving us, we got on our bicycles and rode for a couple of hours to whatever were the nearest docks. There was a tiny little lake right by my high school, though. Beaver Dam. I’m assuming that once upon a time, there were beaver there. I suspect it is gone. It didn’t seem to have any inlets or outlets and that’s usually the end of a body of water.

We never had flowing water locally. No streams, no rivers. We did have some large puddles and named them as if they were lakes, though we knew they were not. Still, they were the only thing we had, so we had to make do.

If we wanted an ocean, someone’s mother or father had to drive us to the beach. Mine was not a beach-going family. My mother had cancer in her 40s. Too much radiation, so she could not go into the sun. When she had no choice, she wore caftans and huge hats. They hadn’t invented sun-screen yet, but later, she would wear that, too.

Sunset at the marina

I liked the beach because my friends liked the beach. I loved the ocean itself and that crazy feeling of standing in the oceans, feeling the sand moving under your feet as the wave pulled out before the next rolled in. Otherwise, I never liked sand. It always got into places I thought sand didn’t belong.

Woodcleft Canal, Freeport

I remember burning my feet trying to walk barefoot to the car through the parking lots of Jones Beach. We didn’t have flip-flops then. I don’t think anyone had invented them. I don’t remember owning sandals until I was an adult.

I liked the ocean off-season better. I liked the mist on the ocean and an empty beach. No umbrellas, no couples rubbing each other with oil. No endless smell of hot dogs.

Those were the days when everyone wanted a tan. I never tanned. I got more and more freckled though and you’d think eventually they would meld into a tan, but nope. Once, I get a slightly orange hue to my skin I thought was my best tan ever. Garry — to whom I was then married — laughed hysterically.

He used to have a contest with another Black friend about who could get the blackest over the course of the summer. Garry never won because there’s a lot of red in his skin. Probably those Irish grandparents, but Michael got really dark. I was this ghostly little thing and any attempt I made to get a golden tan resulted in days of pain and peeling.

Eventually, I gave up. I did get a sort of tan the year we went for our first cruise. Garry talked me into spending a couple of hours a week at a tanning salon so at least I would look tanned. It turns out those fake tans don’t keep you from burning, by the way. I got a terrible burn on a beach in Haiti even though I was wearing a t-shirt AND a hat — and had that fake tan. Water reflects sun upwards. Live and learn.

Local tame goose looking for something to eat

Those tans weren’t “real” anyway. They faded fast, but at least they weren’t as ugly as the spray. I did try one of those and it looked like I’d been heavily involved with orange paint I could not wash off.

Photo: Garry Armstrong

Living here, in the valley with the rivers, dams , waterfalls plus all the woodland … this suits me well. The rivers are shady and cool. Not for swimming, mostly.

There is either a minor pollution problem dating back to when the Blackstone was one of the most polluted rivers in the world … or there are so many snapping turtles if you treasure your toes, don’t dangle your bits in the water.

Photo: Garry Armstrong

That’s okay. It’s great watching the herons, eagles, egrets, geese, ducks, swans and other waders pluck fish from the water. It’s sad when we have a drought and all you can see is mud and you wonder what has become of all those turtles and fish … and where have the eagles and the herons flown.

Yet the fish and the turtles and the water fowl come back, despite the bitter cold and the endless winter storms. They make new life and so far, the world spins on in the valley.

THE DAM AT THE POND

Dam at Whitins Pond

This is a dam that’s hard to find. You can hear it from the road, but you can’t see it without going around the big brick building that was formerly — you guessed it — a mill. A cotton mill, I believe.

A perfect water lily
A perfect water-lily

Funny to finally discover this dam after passing so near for more than a dozen years. You really can’t see it from the road, which is where we usually shoot from and I probably heard it, but didn’t pay attention. It’s an interesting dam, not like any of the other local dams.

It’s not very tall, perhaps 10 or 12 feet. Water doesn’t flow over the dam as much as it comes through holes in the dam, set at various heights in a long crescent.

The waters spits out and onto a plateau of flat rocks. I’m not sure what this design was intended to accomplish, but there must have been some special purpose in the design.

Close up at the dam

The old mill used to be an antique cooperative until last year. They recently converted it to an adult activity center. The senior center in Uxbridge is tiny, so this is definite upgrade. The building has been beautifully restored and its location, adjacent to the river and Whitins Pond … well, it couldn’t be lovelier.

 

TWO BY TWO

THURSDAY’S SPECIAL: PAIR


From Paula: For previous Thursday’s Special we did trios, and this time I would like you to show pairs in a photograph. You may choose one pair or several, it’s up to you. The deadline is next Wednesday.
My example is a pair of pears 😀


Together forever, swans mate for life
They rarely leave each others’ sides — short of death

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TOWN AND COUNTRY – PHOTOS BY GARRY & MARILYN ARMSTRONG

A LOOK AT THE BLACKSTONE VALLEY


Photo: Garry Armstrong

We don’t get lots of visitors here, probably because we aren’t a major city and we aren’t — any longer — a place for tourists. But oddly enough, this was a tourist area not all that long ago. At some point, it was too close to Boston and became exurban rather than “tourist.” That being said, it’s a beautiful valley and for those who are interested in what country living is like — with access to major cities too — this is a pretty nice place to be.

Welcome to the Blackstone River Valley.

October on the Canal – Photo: Garry Armstrong

In one of the stranger coincidences of history, the Constitution went into effect on March 4, 1789 while simultaneously, the American Industrial Revolution took shape on the banks of the Blackstone River.

On the Blackstone – November

Moses Brown had been fighting his own war. He was battling the Blackstone. With a 450 foot drop over a 46-mile course — an average drop of about 10 feet per mile — the Blackstone River is a powerhouse. Not a wide river, its sharp drop combined with its narrowness and meandering path give it much more energy than a river of this size would normally generate.

It invited development. The question was how.

The Mumford River — full foliage 2017

Through 1789, as the Constitution was gaining approval throughout the former British colonies, Brown wrangled the river, trying to build a cotton thread factory in Pawtucket, RI at the falls on the Blackstone River. He was sure he could harness the river to power his mill, but as the end of the 1789 approached, the score stood at Blackstone River – 1, Moses Brown – 0.

Photo: Marilyn Armstrong

Roaring Dam Photo: Garry Armstrong

America had her welcome mat out in those days. We needed more people and especially people with industrial skills. We weren’t picky. All immigrants were welcomed. This turned out to be a stroke of luck for Moses Brown.

Photo: Garry Armstrong

In December 1789, Samuel Slater — a new immigrant from England — began working for Brown. Slater had spent years working at an English textile mill. He recognized that Brown’s machinery was never going to work. Slater had fine engineering skills. In under a year, he’d redesigned and built a working mill on the Blackstone River.

Photo: Garry Armstrong
Manchaug Dam

By 1790, Slater’s Mill was up and running, the first successful water-powered cotton-spinning factory in the United States. Slater’s Mill proved you could make money in New England doing something other than whaling, fishing, or running rum and slaves. Entrepreneurs hopped on the idea like fleas on a dog. Mills were an immediate success. New England was inhospitable to agriculture, but fertile for factories.

Mills grew along the Blackstone from Worcester to Providence, then sprouted by the Merrimack in Lowell, and eventually, throughout New England. Wherever the rivers ran, mills and factories followed.

Meanwhile, mill owners on the Blackstone urgently sought a better way to move their goods.

The features that made the Blackstone a natural for generating power made it useless for shipping. The only other choice — horse-drawn wagons — was slow and expensive. The trip took 2 to 3 days over dirt roads from the northern part of the valley to Providence.

February heat wave Canal – Photo: Garry Armstrong

When the weather turned bad, the trip was impossible. All of which led to the building of the Blackstone Canal. Meant as a long-term solution, it actually turned out to be no more than a short-term temporary fix … but it was an impressive undertaking.

All those mills brought employment to the north. It created a real industrial base that would give the north the ability to fight the civil war … and win. It started with a river, continued with a canal, expanded with the railroads.

Photo: Garry Armstrong

Which is why the Blackstone Valley is a National Historic Corridor and known as the birthplace of the American Industrial Revolution … a revolution that brought the U.S. into the modern world and positioned us to become a major player on the international scene.

Now, it’s a peaceful, quiet valley. The mills are gone, the river remains, rolling down from the hills in Worcester through Rhode Island to the sea. Come visit. We are still beautiful.

THURSDAY’S SPECIAL – ONCE AND AGAIN!

THURSDAY’S SPECIAL: ONCE OVER


Two pictures — the first way I published it and the redo, just accomplished. These are the rapids by Roaring Dam in Blackstone, Massachusetts.

Roaring Dam rapids … first try

Whether you like the first of the second depends on what you are looking for. The first is high contrast. The “wet” parts look wetter. The second one has more details in the water and the rocks and a slightly different color curve.

Next time around

I decided to do a second set because I wanted to show something different.

Bonnie and Gibbs
I do not believe my dogs are the cutest dogs on Earth, but really, they are

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PAST MEETS PRESENT

THEN AND LATER


October 2014 canal and river
February canal and river (2017)
May – Canal and river (2017)
August Canal and River – Photo: Garry Armstrong (2017)
Canal and river October 2012
April canal and river (2016)

I’ve been watching square sky flying past me and decided I would give the next challenge a try.  These are the rules:

  1. Post at least two pictures, they don’t need to be #square!
  2. One of them though must have been taken by you and the second needs to be of the same view (or similar) as the first but taken days, weeks or years before.
  3. The second picture doesn’t need to be taken by you it can be a postcard or a painting.
  4. Don’t forget to use the tag #pastmeetspresent, and to link back to here.

Here are my past and present photos. Considering that I tend to shoot the same places repeatedly, this is a really good challenge for us!

REFLECTING — THE YEAR THAT WAS

REFLECTIONS

A lot of us have a lot of things upon which we can reflect. Many of them are at the very least, unpleasant and many verge on Perfectly Awful and Deeply Depressing. I thought it was time to skip morbid and just run with beautiful, so this is a collection by Garry and I of our favorite reflections for this year.

Here’s hoping for a better year to come. May we all have a peaceful holiday or at least, a peaceful slide from darkest, longest nights of winter to the lengthening days of Spring to come.