Author: Nina Shengold
Title: Reservoir Year: A Walker’s Book of Days
Publisher: Syracuse University Press
ISBN: 978-0-8156-3696-0 (hardcover)
Release Date: June 15, 2020
Cover Painting: Kate McGloughlin
Map and Line Drawings: Will Lytle
Hand-Colored Linocuts: Carol Zaloom
Catskills author Nina Shengold’s latest book Reservoir Year: A Walker’s Book of Days will be released by Syracuse University Press on June 15, 2020. Reservoir Year: A Walker’s Book of Days chronicles a year in Shengold’s life, from September 15, 2015 to September 15, 2016, when the author took daily walks along the Ashokan Reservoir, a place that she describes as “an ideal reflecting pool for the Catskill High Peaks.” As she was approaching sixty, the author embarked on a journey of self-discovery and re-connection with nature no further than her own backyard, where she finds the Ashokan Reservoir – throughout the book she fondly refers to the reservoir as “the res”.
In Shengold’s own words:“My reservoir year was a treasure, a gift that keeps giving. I didn’t know it at the time, but that sweet span of days from one September to the next was the only year I could have fulfilled the commitment I made to myself, a restorative pause between wearing the mantles of caregiving mother and caregiving daughter. The Ashokan landscape is a part of me now, a deep well of peace I return to in times of stress and hold in reserve for the times I’ll go back there to grieve; a reservoir in every sense of the word.”
Partly meditation and partly nature diary, the book highlights the importance of being outdoors and re-connecting with self. The author took her daily walks regardless of weather and mood, holidays, birthdays, and celebrations. Sometimes she was accompanied by family or friends, but most of the time she was alone. From time to time she encountered other strollers which she meticulously describes in her book. Shengold’s daily recollections depict nature, people, moods, thoughts, and errands and activities that are on Shengold’s timetable at the time, as she goes about her daily life; the experience is juxtaposed with intermissions to take trips to New York City or attend other social functions, all between taking care of aging parents and spending time with a loving daughter. Adventures and unexpected turns intercede, as it often happens in life.
The book is structured as a chronicle of 367 days – fall, winter, spring, and summer. “The Ashokan is a different kind of gorgeous in every season, in every kind of weather and light,” Shengold recollects. Without taking any pictures or notes, the author immersed herself in this daily experience, only to write about it later. In her diary, some days are full of observations, whereas others are reduced to one single line.
The Ashokan Reservoir was built in the early 1900s when twelve local communities were displaced to make room for this wondrous construction needed to bring mountain water to New York City. The Ashokan is one of several such reservoirs built in the Catskills. The name “Ashokan” comes from Algonkian and can be translated as a “place of many fish.”
Shengold’s observations from Day 9, on September 23, 2015 at 6:50 pm include: “Sun already behind the ridge, air cool and breeze up. I notice the curves of the mountains, even the distant ones, are saw-toothed with individual treetops. But the star attraction tonight is the eastern sky, in soft rainbow stripes—indigo, lavender, pink, amber, gold—and floating above all that color, a startlingly bright moon, already past half.”
Another day reads like this:
“Day 11. September 25, 7:25 pm I drive to the res straight from teaching. Two roller-derby girls in full combat gear—sleek black catsuits, sculpted helmets, red knee pads—sail off the path and circle the empty parking lot, using the wide space to practice. They skate backward, drop into low crouches, do lunges and tango-like dance steps. Both of them laughing, enjoying their badass moves. Then they step out of their skates and remove their protective gear, loading it into the backseat one piece at a time as they chat about haircuts, blow dryers, and Rite Aid reward cards. They get smaller and blander as each piece of armor comes off. Come back, roller ninjas!”
On Day 14, September 28, 6:20 pm, Shengold explains her method: “I don’t have many ground rules for this, but I don’t carry paper and pad when I’m walking. I notice whatever I notice, and memorize a few keywords to help me remember. Here are today’s: heron cloak veil stillness alchemy. Which is either a very short poem or dialogue you might hear from a tarot reader at a Woodstock bar.”
A single line describes the day of October 3, 2015: “Day 19. October 3, 9:55 am Ghost mountains, gray on gray. Cold, wet, and blustery.”
Day 173, March 5, 2015 at 6 pm includes a visit to John Burroughs’s log cabin at Slabsides, a National Historic Landmark:
“Born in Roxbury, high in the Great Western Catskills, the young Burroughs taught in a one-room schoolhouse in the relocated village of Olivebridge, less than a mile from the Ashokan dam. He went on to write hundreds of essays on nature and literature, publishing twenty-three books between 1861 and his death in 1921. It occurs to me for the first time how he saw these valleys change, as one reservoir after another was built on the fast-moving streams he had paddled and fished.”
The motto of Shengold’s book is in fact a quote from John Burroughs’s Signs and Seasons: “The place to observe nature is where you are; the walk to take today is the walk you took yesterday. You will not find just the same things: both the observed and the observer have changed.”
Burroughs, the founder of nature writing in America, is best known for his collections of nature essays Wake Robin (1871), and Signs and Seasons (1886). He is also known for his friendship with President Theodore Roosevelt, industrialist Henry Ford, inventor Thomas Edison, and poet Walt Whitman. Burroughs is buried at Boyhood Rock, next to the Woodchuck Lodge, which served as his summer residence in Roxbury from 1910 until his death in 1921.
In the Afterword, Shengold reminisces about how the reservoir had changed her over the course of one magical year of daily walks: “I’m calmer. I found an oasis, a daily routine. In the same way I once used to walk my dog, I walk myself. I’ve learned that the days I resist going out are exactly the days when I need it the most. I lost some, not all, of the “pregnancy weight” I’d carried for twenty years. My eyes opened wider; I pay more attention to details. I can find more constellations in the night sky. I recognize more plants and birdcalls, the flight silhouettes of different raptors. I’m better at guessing how soon it will rain, what kinds of clouds will yield what kind of sunset. I’ve learned that dawn, sunset, and twilight unfold over time. The practice of learning to notice goes on and on. It’s connected me to this particular place, to the cycle of seasons, and to the earth we all share.”
Shengold’s previous books include the novel Clearcut (Anchor Books), River of Words: Portraits of Hudson Valley Writers (SUNY Press, with photographer Jennifer May), and fourteen theatre anthologies for Vintage Books and Viking Penguin, many coedited with Eric Lane. She won the Writers Guild Award for her teleplay Labor of Love and the ABC Playwright Award for Homesteaders. Her plays are published by Playscripts, Broadway Play Publishing, and Samuel French; War at Home: Students Respond to 9/11, written with Nicole Quinn and the Rondout Valley High School Drama Club, has been produced around the world. Shengold has profiled more than 150 writers for Chronogram, Poets & Writers, and Vassar Quarterly. She’s a founding member of the theatre company Actors & Writers, author series Word Café, and Hudson Valley Writers Resist. A graduate of Wesleyan University, Shengold has taught at Manhattanville College and the University of Maine, and currently teaches creative writing at Vassar College. She was born in Brooklyn, grew up in New Jersey, escaped to Alaska, and now lives and works in the foothills of New York’s Catskill Mountains.
Reservoir Year: A Walker’s Book of Days expounds the transformative power of making a commitment and sticking to it. There is reward in that, as the author herself discovers throughout her journey. The book is an invitation to find our own “Ashokan Reservoir,” a place of magic that will engage our senses and awaken our spirit.
To purchase the book, visit Syracuse University Press.
First published by The Overlook Press in 2017, The Quarry Fox earned rave reviews. From the New York Times: “A poignant and modern reminder of untamed creatures so close to home.”
From Library Journal: “This engaging portrait of the Catskill wilderness will appeal to nature enthusiasts of all stripes.”
Silver Hollow Audio will be releasing the audiobook edition of The Quarry Fox narrated by the author herself in June this year.
Leslie T. Sharpe is an author, editor, and educator. She began her editing career at Farrar, Straus & Giroux and is currently an editorial consultant specializing in literary nonfiction, literary fiction, and poetry. A member of PEN American Center, she is the author of Editing Fact and Fiction: A Concise Guide to Book Editing (Cambridge University Press, 1994), which is regarded as a “modern editing classic” and “On Writing Smart: Tips and Tidbits,” featured in The Business of Writing (Allworth, 2012). Leslie has been a regular contributor to Newsday’s “Urban ‘I’” column, and her essays and articles have appeared in a variety of publications including the Chicago Tribune, Christian Science Monitor, Global City Review, International Herald Tribune, New York Times, New York Tribune, Philadelphia Inquirer, San Francisco Chronicle, and Village Voice; The Villager; The Writer; and Psychology Today. Her latest book The Quarry Fox and Other Critters of the Wild Catskills, a lyric narrative look at the wild animals of the Catskill Mountains, was published by The Overlook Press in the spring of 2017. Her poems for children have appeared in Ladybug Magazine. Leslie has taught writing and editing at Columbia University, New York University and the City College of New York.
Where Space Bends by Anique Sara Taylor will be released in May by Finishing Line Press.
Taylor’s work has appeared in Rattle, Common Ground Review, Adanna, Stillwater Review, Earth’s Daughters among others. She’s co-authored works for HBO, Scholastic, Simon & Schuster and a three-act play that was performed by Playwrights Horizons and Williamstown Playhouse. In 2014 her chapbook version of Where Space Bends was chosen Finalist by both Minerva Rising and Blue Light Press’ Chapbook Competitions. In 2015 her book Under the Ice Moon was chosen Finalist by Blue Light Press’ Chapbook Competition. She holds a Poetry MFA (Drew University), Literature Diplome (The Sorbonne, Paris), a Painting BFA (Highest Honors/Pratt) and Drawing MFA (Pratt Institute) and studied Literature at Antioch College. She studied Poetry at St. Mark’s Poetry Project with Alice Notley and Bernadette Mayer. She teaches/taught Creative Writing for Benedictine Hospital’s Oncology Support Program, the Phoenicia Poetry Workshop, Bard LLI and Writers in the Mountains.
To learn more about Taylor’s work, read our interview conducted in 2016: https://artinthecatskills.com/2016/12/03/featured-artist-anique-taylor/
Follow Taylor at https://aniquesarataylor.com/
Earlier this month the art world was shaken by news that a banana duct-taped to a wall sold for $150,000 at Art Basel Miami. Maurizio Cattelan’s installation called Comedian, that included, yes!, a real banana taped to a wall, has become some kind of a sensation with some calling it conceptual art and others calling it a prank (read the background story here). The fact that someone would pay $150,000 for a banana taped to a wall calls into question the value of art and complicates an appraisal’s work even further.
Cattelan’s created three editions of his installation, two of whom sold for $120,000 to collectors identified by Artsy as Billy and Beatrice Cox of Miami, and Sarah Andelman, founder of Colette concept store in Paris, and part-time Catskills resident. Andelman’s vacation home in the Catskills was subject to a feature in Architectural Digest in the summer of 2018.
But is it art? The perishability of a mere banana contrasts significantly with what artists have traditionally sought in art – immortality. And how about artistic skills? Is it really any artistry involved in taping a banana to a wall?
Brands have capitalized on this commotion by creating their own duct-taped “art,” anything from a sandwich to a bottle of water, and more. All there is needed is a random object and duct tape, plus of course access to a wall. Read full story in Ad Age magazine.
Artnet has covered the topic and made it easy for readers to access the coverage all in one place: “To document for posterity how this humble piece of produce became a global phenomenon, we have pulled together all of our coverage in one place.”
Defining art has always been both challenging and disputed. In the 18th century, philosopher Moses Mendelssohn, grandfather of composer Felix Mendelssohn, argued that art is the carrying forward of the beautiful, obscurely recognized by feeling, until it becomes true and good; the aim of art is moral perfection, he claimed.
In What is Art? published in 1896, Leo Tolstoy argued that art is the transmission of an emotion felt by the artist (joy, exaltation, anger, sadness, etc.) – not all beauty, but all infectious emotion that the common man can experience. Tolstoy’s argument was an attack on formalism and the doctrine of art for art’s sake, an attack on unintelligibility and exclusiveness. He did not believe in professional artists, who, he thought, perverted art; instead he argued that all men can and should make art, thus proclaiming the universality of art.
In the 20th century, Roy Lichtenstein defiantly declared that organized perception is what art is all about. For Wassily Kandinsky, making art was an internal necessity that impelled the artist to create as a spiritual impulse and the audience to admire art as a spiritual hunger. It was that simple.
Tolstoy didn’t think that taste was the final arbiter of what was good and bad art; he defined taste as the capacity of an individual to be aesthetically pleased by certain works and displeased by others. He conceded however that taste can be educated, and artistic activities can be made accessible to all.
We wish you an artful New Year!
The Hyde Collection Art Museum in Glens Falls, Warren County, includes a wide array of artworks and antiques – paintings, sculptures, pottery, books and furniture – spanning from the early Renaissance to modern and contemporary era. The collection was established by Charlotte Pruyn Hyde and her husband Louis Fiske Hyde, who acquired art from the Renaissance to the 19th century. Later on, the collection expanded to include 20th century modern and contemporary works.
Housed in the Hydes’ 1912 American Renaissance mansion, the collection includes works by Italian Renaissance masters Domenico Tintoretto, Raphael, and Sandro Botticelli; Spanish Renaissance painter, sculptor and architect El Greco; Baroque painters Peter Paul Rubens and Rembrandt van Rijn; French Neo-Classical painter Ingres; French Impressionists Edgar Degas and Pierre-Auguste Renoir; Post-Impressionist painters like Paul Cézanne and Vincent Van Gogh, as well as modern painters such as Henri Matisse and Pablo Picasso. American masters including Winslow Homer are also represented in the collection. In addition to its permanent holdings, the museum hosts temporary exhibitions and other educational programs.
Because of its growing collection, in the 1980s the Museum expanded with a large Education Wing, comprised of three galleries, an auditorium, an art studio as well a storage and visitor amenities area, complementing the adjacent historic Hyde House.
In 2015 we interviewed Erin Coe, then executive director at The Hyde Collection – Coe is currently director of the Palmer Museum of Art at Penn State. In 2013, while at The Hyde Collection, Coe organized the acclaimed O’Keeffe and Lake George exhibition in association with the Georgia O’Keeffe Museum in Santa Fe, New Mexico, which brought together 58 paintings from public and private collections, created between 1918 and 1934, when O’Keeffe summered at Lake George in the company of Alfred Stieglitz and his family. In fact, Coe co-authored the book Modern Nature: Georgia O’Keeffe and Lake George, which presented groundbreaking scholarship that shed new light on O’Keeffe’s work.
Painters affiliated with the Hudson River School of Painting, founded by Thomas Cole in 1825 and considered the first authentic American art movement, had painted at Lake George, including Thomas Cole, Asher B. Durand, John F. Kensett, Sanford Gifford, and others. The Hyde Collection’s most significant Hudson River School painting in its permanent collection is a painting by Albert Bierstadt, who did not paint at Lake George, however. His Yosemite Valley oil on canvas, painted in 1865, is on display at The Hyde Collection in the Downstairs Guest Room. Because of his interest in the West, Bierstadt is often grouped with the Rocky Mountain School as well. In the 1850s, he studied in Düsseldorf, under the influence of the prestigious Düsseldorf Academy, characterized by detailed, plein air paintings in muted colors. Düsseldorf School exercised influence over the Hudson River School.
In the summer of 2015, The Hyde Collection hosted the exhibition The Late Drawings of Andy Warhol: 1973 – 1987, organized in partnership with The Andy Warhol Museum in Pittsburg. Drawing was critical to Warhol’s development as an artist from his early years as an art student to the last few days of his life in 1987. The show included fifty large drawings from the artist’s late period. It was a prolific time in Warhol’s life, when the artist used as inspiration celebrities, flowers, and ads, as seen in his most iconic works. Some of these drawings were shown for the first time at The Hyde Collection. The show drew visitors from all over the world and across the United States.
Currently on view is a modern art exhibition dedicated to Pablo Picasso, Georges Braque and Fernand Léger, which explores exclusively the three artists’ work as printmakers. Organized by Contemporary and Modern Print Exhibitions, the show includes Picasso’s print series Suite des Saltimbanques (1904-1905) and Le Cocu Magnifique (1968), Braque’s L’Ordre des Oiseaux (1962), and Léger’s Les Illuminations (1950). The exhibition will remain on view through January 5, 2020.
The museum is open Tuesday through Saturday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., and Sunday from 12 noon to 5 p.m.
For more information about The Hyde Collection, and current hours of operation, visit http://www.hydecollection.org/.
161 Warren Street, Glens Falls, NY 12801
“David creates a seamless rapport with each artist, drawing out their individual personalities with meticulously researched questions. Her interviewing style is so natural and unobtrusive that the reader feels like “a fly on the wall” privy to the authentic, unrehearsed lives of the artists. They divulge their thought processes, creative developments, media, materials and muses, but David evokes them into sharing a glimpse of their souls.”
The Zadock Pratt Museum’s 2019 History Award Recipients are: Janelle Conine Maurer, Donald B. Teator, Kevin Berner and Ginny Scheer, all recognized for their outstanding work in the local and regional history of the Tri-County area of Delaware, Greene and Schoharie Counties.
The Award Ceremony took place on September 28 at Villa Vosilla in Tannersville, New York.
This year marks the Zadock Pratt Museum’s sixtieth anniversary. Located in Zadock Pratt’s Greek Revival home built in 1828, the museum opened to the public in 1959 as a research and historic preservation center. The founders, which included Hilda Moseman and Brayton Thompkins, envisioned the place as an edifice to honor Pratt’s legacy, recognized by then as a national leader and the founder of Prattsville, one of America’s earliest planned communities. Severely damaged by Hurricane Irene in 2011, the museum recovered remarkably with great support from the community and generous benefactors, which included The A. Lindsay and Olive B. O’Connor Foundation and Nicholas J. Juried Foundation.
Learn more at zadockprattmuseum.org.