HALCYON (hail’-see-on): calm, peaceful

We are Adirondack people.   Oh, we love Martha’s Vineyard, New York City, the Rhode Island rocky coast, and cruises.  But our hearts are in the Adirondacks, where we spent many years owning and occupying lakeside cottages while our children were smaller.  It made for summer and winter vacations that were halcyon in the best sense of the word.

Lying on a lounge chair  while the ripples of Silver Lake lap at the dock beneath us.  Watching an eagle soar above the small mountain on the eastern end of the lake.  Hearing the sound of loons in the ebbing evening and as dawn breaks over Upper Saranac Lake.  Attending a local band concert on the lawn overlooking Mirror Lake in the middle of the village of Lake Placid.  Taking a picnic lunch and hiking the short trail into the midst of the heavily forested land at the foot of Whiteface Mountain. Attending the Fourth of July parade in Jay, where the Brownie Troop, a couple of local politicians  and the fire trucks dominate the parade route.

The gentleness of the day and the natural sound of birds and breezes combine to make the word halcyon a term you don’t have to work at.  It just trips off the end of your tongue.

Writers tend to use the word halcyon frequently, far more than one might expect with it being a word that doesn’t look very common.  But it is so expressive of those Adirondack moments that it is hard to find other words to match it.

One of the characteristics of the Adirondack Mountains is that they are old.  That’s almost a dumb statement, since all mountains are old in one way or another.  Mountains don’t just appear over night.   But there’s a different sense about the age of the Adirondacks.  They have retained their aged characteristics even as modern technology and development have occurred.   There is an unwritten partnership among the developers and the people of the mountains.   It’s not that development can’t take place, but that any development is supposed to retain the quaint, rustic quality of the huge Adirondack Park.  The word “Adirondack” means “bark eaters,” making the point that the focus of the place is upon nature the way it existed when the Iroquois wandered the land four hundred years ago. For the most part, that quality has been preserved, and those places that have chosen to ignore the agreement find themselves in short-lived enterprises.   People come to the Adirondacks for a halcyon experience … not for something they can find in Las Vegas or Atlantic City.

For the most part you can get your cell phone to work, but you might have to walk up to the ridge to experience it.   Television is restricted to two local stations for the most part, unless you install a satellite system.  There are a limited number of movie theaters for those rainy days when the lure of a screen fantasy fills the bill.  But don’t expect I-Max or even multiple options.  The “supermarket” may be the size of your produce section back home, and there may be only one brand of peanut butter on the shelves.  You almost have to take a ticket to use the laundromat, as there are only three or four washing machines and there are a lot of campers needing the smell of fresh laundry.

But when you drive back toward your home in the city there may well be a tear in your eyes as you leave the halcyon peace in your rear-view mirror.   The deer beside the road, and maybe even a bear or two on the ridge may seem to wave goodbye to you.  You may be surprised to discover that you have driven a hundred miles or more before you find yourself turning on the car radio.  Then the traffic begins to pick up, the evergreens beside the road have turned to billboards and illuminated signs, and the golden arches begin to appear with greater regularity.  You’ve left the Adirondack Park and the halcyon experience of peace and restoration.

Photo Credit: Silver Lake

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