By Nancy Sorbella
We are all just trying to find our way, with more than enough uncertainty to go around.
It has been a lost year, one of challenge, to be sure, but in many ways a time of discovery. Personally, I feel more connected to my inner circle than before. Time spent together, whether socially distanced or digitally, is more intentional, and ironically, feels as though we are more “present.” I am acutely aware of the take-away from each day, because I am not rushing around doing a million things, and am able to spend that elusive quality time doing the things I must, and those that I choose.
I did my time mourning what I took for granted, debating what matters and to whom. Done. As restrictions have eased with each reopening phase, I am all in for living my best life with new parameters.
I am excited that it is fall in the Hudson Valley. I’ve already been out and about more now as my daughter’s activities have been canceled. I no longer catch a 6 a.m. train on Monday mornings and we are more flexible and eager to be outdoors. I do believe that the best is yet to come, but for now we will be making the best of what has come. I hope that these detours along the way will make that path smoother.
The summer was all about gardening for me – experimenting, learning and letting my landscape “speak” to me. There have been some surprises. The pumpkin seeds I planted didn’t deliver. However, in the middle of the hosta, somehow pumpkin seeds were sown, and I now have a robust small sugar pumpkin patch. A few dwarf Alberta spruces and some bearded Iris left with “free” signs on the roadside were a win.
Next up, more native plantings, so next year, when things return to normal (as I hope), there will be less garden maintenance.
So, it is no surprise really, that my recent detours have been outdoors, and in gardens and natural spaces. Visiting them has been inspirational, aspirational and accessible.
Wethersfield Estate & Gardens
I so love experiencing something magnificent, yet at the same time finding that point of connection where I can get ideas, imagine them coming to life in my world, or in this case, on my property.
Wethersfield is one of those magical places. The estate is over 1,000 acres, the legacy of Chauncey Devereux Stillman, who created a cultural, equestrian, intellectual and agrarian space that is open to the public Friday through Sunday from 12 to 5 p.m. There are formal Italian gardens, colorful seasonal plantings, fountains, water gardens, statuary and uncompromised views of the lush hills and valleys of Dutchess County.
What not to miss: Walking your dog, horseback riding or carriage riding (yes!) on the trails. Keep this in mind for next year. Guided tours are suspended because of the pandemic but so are the entrance fees, making Wethersfield the ideal spot to enjoy the natural surroundings to meditate, resuscitate and reset.
Wethersfield Estate & Gardens is located at 257 Pugsley Hill Rd., Amenia, N.Y. 12501. Info: Visit www.wethersfield.org.
Dover Stone Church
Unless you are looking for this hidden gem, and maybe even if you are, finding it can be tricky – but worth it. Identified only by the New York State blue and yellow historical marker, this ancient cave and trails is the perfect pandemic diversion.
It is not a real church, but rather a natural cavern with a history that dates to the 17th century and includes exquisite rock formation and outcroppings, a peaceful habitat for native flora and fauna with hiking trails for most abilities. It is dog-friendly and free, open daily dawn to dusk. Parking is available at the nearby Dover Elementary School when school is not in session, Tabor Wing House and Freshco 22 Deli. The “entrance” is at the historic marker, between two private homes.
What not to miss: Viewing the 30-foot natural waterfall that can be seen from inside. Hop over to the Appalachian Trail for more hiking but nothing compares to the contrast of the rugged water/rock hiking and the long nature trails and views of the West Mountain ridge.
Dover Stone Church is located at 3128 NY-22, Dover Plains, N.Y. 12522. Info: 845-832-6111 or visit https://www.doverny.us/dover-stone-church-preserve.
Innisfree Garden, another Dutchess County horticultural treasure, is just the balm we need to get through another season of pandemic isolation. Often considered one of the world’s best gardens, Innisfree is a remarkable example of American environmental sustainability, design, artistry and conservancy.
The 185-acre historic natural resource provides a unique experience, especially as seasons change. Created by a nearly 50-year collaboration between the legendary landscape architect, Lester Collins, and owners Marion Burt Beck and Walter Beck, Innisfree is designed for sustenance, to maintain the ecosystem, beauty, artistry and the personal experience between each of us and nature.
Included in the garden’s mission is the encouragement of visitors to “find beauty, inspiration, mental respite and healthy activity surrounded by art and nature.” This couldn’t be more appropriate today.
Due to COVID-19 restrictions, reservations are required, Wednesday through Sunday, for slots from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.
What not to miss: A visit to Innisfree Garden is best enjoyed every season to experience the changing shape, color and view and from each unique cultivated space. Also, take in the water sculpture. There is nothing like it.
Innisfree Garden is located at 362 Tyrrel Rd., Millbrook, N.Y. 12545. Info: 845-677-8000 or visit www.innisfreegarden.org.