I spent the last week back home on Long Island visiting my family and going to my sister's graduation up in Ithaca NY. I had a great time as usual, and it was nice to relax for a bit. There were still vestiges of springtime up in Ithaca, while spring had passed into summer on Long Island. I saw red-winged blackbirds in the cattails each morning we were there. For some reason, seeing a red-winged blackbird makes me happy. Maybe it's because they seem so plain at first, but when you look closer there's that bright red and yellow spot on their wings that makes them so special. The dogwoods were flowering. We drove along Cayuga Lake, one of the Upstate NY Finger Lakes. That got me to wondering - how did the Finger Lakes actually form? Although we learned a lot about the glacial geology of Long Island in middle school, I forgot if we learned about what happened further up north. I noticed that Cayuga Lake has no sandy beach like most lakes do - the "shore" is almost like a riverbank; there's no sand, only cobbles and jagged shards of slate. It drops off a bit precipitously into the water... not much of a beach. That's interesting. Then the narrowness of the lakes if you look on a map is also really interesting. They almost look like fragments of rivers. My initial theory didn't involve rivers at all though, but instead I just figured the steep sides bordering the lakes were moraines, and the lakes were valleys or low-lying pre-existing channels. Well, it turns out that the Finger Lakes were actually originally northward-flowing rivers, and were further gouged out by the Pleistocene glaciations. So the steep sides weren't moraines or remnants thereof, but just pre-existing strata (which makes a lot more sense now).
I didn't really have much time to explore Cornell unfortunately, since graduation festivities took up pretty much the whole weekend. Maybe I can go and visit in more detail some other time. Then when I was back home at my parents' house on Long Island, I woke up early a few mornings and just took long walks around the neighborhood. Reminded me of when I used to go on long bike rides, sometimes miles away from home, just to be away and alone. It's amazing, but that was only 10 years ago, and there were still farms and lots of undeveloped land in our part of LI. Now nearly everything is developed, there aren't many farms left, and the traffic is getting pretty bad.
There was a field of buttercups next to the shed in our backyard. Buttercups are very interesting - relics of an ancient angiosperm lineage. Our yard is full of trees and pretty much wild... so these buttercups were kind of hidden away in a little thicket. I like the light through them.
I also went took a much-needed visit to the Robert Moses Beach, which is right next to the famous Jones Beach. Ahh... fond memories of playing all summer, sitting on the lifeguard tower waiting for the moon to rise, digging pits in the sand and burying each other in them. My mind clears when I stand next to the ocean for a while. The feeling is one that can't be described, but is familiar to all of us.