Some of the Pleasures of Blue Mountain Center

The pleasures of Blue Mountain Center are many and some can be organized by water, land, the mind, and….drum roll….the kitchen.

All images can be clicked on for an enlargement.


The lake is the place for exercise after those hours working on the manuscript OR a place for working on the manuscript.  Or it is just the place for cooling off.


A few hardy souls swim the third of a mile across the lake — accompanied by a canoeist so as to be protected from the occasional motorboats.  A few days ago we held our collective breath for 3 of our aquabats when a speed-happy Mr. Toad of Toad Hall appeared at the far end of the lake.  Ann was in the canoe and acting mother duck, but we think it was Henri’s fluorescent pink swim cap that saved him.

There are plenty of opportunities to exert oneself on a path through the woods, or on a scramble up a mountain.  But my favorite part of the land is the BMC garden.

The deer are not afraid of humans.  Mike said he bumped a deer with the kitchen door this morning.  The deer stayed in place and kept munching on a tasty tree.


FOOD!  Not only food to remember, but food as an art of the highest order.  Fresh, original, health-minded fare — each meal a surprise to the palette. Allen is the amazing full-time cook, but the love of one’s heart goes to Sis and Diane in the morning. They ease you into the day, always with good cheer and sometimes with motherly promptings.

Diane, morning cook
Diane, of the famous duo, SisandDiane

Twice a week the dinner meal is prepared by the staff and volunteer residents.  Last night we made pizza — six different kinds of pizza, some gluten free, some vegetarian, some with outstanding salami and not-your-run-of-the-mill olives.  I counted 4 varieties of cheese on the chopping table — nary a Cheddar or a Jack in sight.  Homemade pizza dough.  I am getting so spoiled!

Huzzah! For Colette and Hannah, the staff members who lead the team.  And to Ben, BMC co-director, who skillfully scrubbed the kitchen dishes.

Delivered on time and (presumably) on budget, this meal impressed me because it was prepared by very competent amateurs for 26 people.  BMC had extra guests last night, including writer Oliver Sacks, the author of The Man Who Mistook his Wife for a Hat, Musicophelia, and more.

Oliver Sacks
Oliver Sacks. photo from Oliver Sacks website.

Dr. Sacks has been a resident at BMC many times over the years and said that he has done much of his writing here.  After the meal he gave a reading of his recent essay about turning 80 and facing death.  He was wearing a tee shirt displaying the emblem for Mercury, the number for which is 80 on the periodic table of the elements.  His reading was spoken in a gentle, honest, direct, and uncomplicated voice.  It is an essay for the ears as well as for the eyes. It was published recently in the NY Times.  You can read it here.  Such a joy and unexpected privilege to hear him!

BMC is a place filled to the brim and overflowing with the pleasures of Learning.  The house is full of books and art.  The residents volunteer to give readings or demonstrations about their work.  (After each event I come away feeling both awe-struck and as though I have a new sibling.)

And Ashley just might teach you how to sail.

Learning to sail on Blue Mountain Lake
Learning to sail on Blue Mountain Lake

The problem is that there is so much to see and do here that one might never get any WORK done!

Going to Blue Mountain

If anything could teach one the cost of attachment to worldly goods, a backpack containing a 17” laptop, 2 professional cameras, plus all necessary peripherals will do it…or at least it will slow you down.

On the other hand, an artist needs her tools.  Did Georgia have to pack her stuff around?  Then again, I’m not Georgia!

at SF airport
Flight 88

It’s Thursday evening.  Oola and I are on the red eye to Blue Mountain Center in the Adirondacks, upstate New York.

There had been a moment when over three hundred people wondered why we were not taking off.  It seems that a lady had put her two dogs on the plane, and then she did not show up.  There was a kerfuffle as to what to do about the dogs when finally she, the owner, materialized and was escorted – eyes lowered, cat in tow – down that long, narrow aisle, under the curious if not hostile gaze of 600 eyes, to the back of the airplane.  Oola and I were divided as to whether we should curse or pity her.  Maybe she enjoyed being the center of a drama.  Let’s hope there was a worthy story to accompany the display.

There would be no sleep this night.  I would watch a map of the United States unfurl below me.

Lifting off from San Francisco in the growing dark was an enchantment in itself.  I saw a soft layer of fog illuminated from below by the multi-hued lights of the City.  A large moon was climbing a ladder of protracted clouds.

Cities appeared like distant fireworks.  Most amazing was to witness the emergences of quicksilver snakes in the blackscape below.  These were, of course, rivers illuminated by that big moon which accompanied us through the night.  Most stunning were the shimmering disks of lakes, especially in the Illinois area.  As we passed over them, the moon would add a special phosphorescent glow to their borders.

My only regret was that the tiny iPhone camera couldn’t capture them.

At one point, to the south, Oola witnessed great flashes of lightening.  She displayed a wisdom unusual to her nature by not shouting “Did you see THAT?!”  All fellow travelers were at least trying to sleep.

Flying into the dawn we watched trails of clouds define the contours of hill country.

above the clouds
Above the clouds

Much good art to see in the airports.  For example, this spectacular piece by William Wiley.

art by Wm Wiley at SF Airport

At the Albany Airport we saw a small show – “Where the Boundaries Fade” –  of exquisite collage/paintings by Robert Gullie.  Somewhere between folk art and surrealism, his images brought to mind both renaissance tales and the spare perfection of a Japanese floral arrangement.

Robert Gullie, title unknown

It is so easy to make a cluttered collage.  Guillie’s compositions go straight to the visual point: Just enough to bring the narration together and no more.

These were digital reproductions of the originals, something I would normally question, but the quality of the prints were such that I was fooled into believing the tiny edges of glue around the assembled elements.

Robert Gullie, title unknown

Apologies for the reflections in the glass.  They were unavoidable in the circumstances.

Now I am at Blue Mountain having recovered some of my lost sleep.  The air is warm and it is raining a beautiful soft rain.  This is the view from my studio back window.

Apologies for the reflections in the glass.  They were unavoidable in the circumstances. Now I am at Blue Mountain having recovered some of my lost sleep.  The air is warm and it is raining a beautiful soft rain.  This is the view from my studio window.
Back view from my studio at BMC

Feeling much gratitude here.

Love to all, More to come.