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David Nightingale: Pool in the Woods

A hot humid day, and as I walked through the forest toward the pool I saw someone was already there -- but I could only see the head and a small hat. Perfectly motionless.

Turned out though that the head was a rock. Someone had wedged a long rough flat stone into a niche of the base rock, and this served as a platform for five exquisitely-chosen smaller rocks -- balanced artistically as body, two arms, head, and flat stone sombrero hat. The result was a work of art, and to my pleasure there wasn't a human around.

Just 9:30 on what was to be a gorgeously hot day. Mountain water was running in rivulets over and through the clefts. A foot above the flow was the stationary sculpture, the little man safe and dry and steady. Around the pool were rhododendrons, in full white blossom. Many of their petals now covered the surface of the honestly clean mountain-brown water, floating as an armada of little upturned flowers.

The sculpture hadn't been there when I had made a previous visit, and I feared that if children or dogs arrived there was a danger this beautiful statue-person might get knocked over. But he was risk-free for now, and all was silent, save for the gentle runnel of the stream.

We can talk about beauty, the beautiful music of Mozart, a stained glass window, a magnificent stone castle, the perfection of, perhaps, a young human body, but here nature had yet again outdone itself. The privacy of creation's enclosure in the woods, full summer foliage, blue morning sky, these rich ripe decorations of white -- and as I stood on a shady  section of slightly sloping rock, I revelled in all that beauty, stretched, breathed it all in, and knew I would soon plunge. But before that, the beautiful silence; an almost extinct quality, lack of which we have brought upon ourselves every day everywhere. Now, not even a jet passing above. Perfection.

And in case it be thought that the sculpture was yet another human interference, it was so simply and elegantly assembled from just five stones that in no way did it intrude.

I plunged in. I had plunged in in the middle of an autumn month once before and that had been painfully cold. But today was all right. And I could linger.

I swam gently towards the opposite side, and, with my eye now level with the pool's surface, the little boats of rhododendron petals took on a new aura -- I was one of them, floating in the sunlight.

Emerging then onto a far rock I sat looking back. All was still quiet. Nature's paragon continued.

If people were to ask me the highlight of summer, I think I would have to say it was that one morning.

And finally -- no, I cannot say if this was the Adirondacks, Catskills, Sierra Nevada or perhaps Canada. No, I am absolutely not saying where it was ... that would be a crime against nature itself.

Dr. David Nightingale is Professor Emeritus of Physics at the State University of New York at NewPaltz and is the co-author of the text, A Short Course in General Relativity.

The views expressed by commentators are solely those of the authors. They do not necessarily reflect the views of this station or its management.

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