Two tiny hummingbirds buzzed toward my feeders quite early this morning. I'd actually heard my first birdsongs around 4:30 a.m. After a good soaking rain overnight, the sun was shining on the green treetops, and chipmunks darted along branches of the apple trees outside my window. Our animal neighbors don't miss a beat. They must eat, and at this time of year they have a long active day ahead in which to dine.
Early risers like me enjoy the time of year when it is daylight at 5 a.m It feels correct, with our biological tendencies to be up early validated by the sunrise. I also enjoy the magical time in early evening between 6 and 9 that now offers us opportunity to go for a long after dinner walk or spend a day climbing a bigger mountain that might require 12 hours of light to navigate. We can paddle longer, bike farther, or merely more easily keep our promise to be home before dark.
From the dark time to light
These are our weeks of greatest light from now until a few weeks after summer solstice, daylight is king. In the cold dark winter, this is the time I tease myself by remembering. We all have the ability to experience that sort of minor time travel. We all can hold more than one time in our heads simultaneously. Last fall as the winter solstice drew closer, I walked quickly down my road at four in the afternoon. The sky was darkening and the passing cars' headlights made me squint. I was mentally planning what to prepare for supper, and how much schoolwork I could get done before falling asleep in my chair before 9 p.m.
As I looked at my watch, I flew six months into the future when the sky wouldn't grow this dark until 8:30 or 9 p.m. I knew when that happened the trees would be green again, leafy and full of promise. It would be the same road I'd be walking down, and likely I'd be wearing the same shoes. I could almost feel the warmer air, but not quite. This was an easy version of Adirondack time travel, based on years of experience, with the wisdom of having paid attention to the patterns in my natural world all this time.
From then to now
Another version of Adirondack time travel requires holding on to memories of people and places. As I pulled out of the Grand Union parking lot in town the other day, I could almost hear Bruce McNamara's voice saying "See ya later" after my weekly visit to the laundoamat. I could see my old red VW with flower decals on the back parked in front of the tall windows, and I could smell that wonderful smell of fresh-washed clothes being tossed in the dryers. "Mr. Mac" was a part of my orientation to Saranac Lake back in the day. He was a funny and sarcastic guy, running his business in the heart of my new hometown, and he always made me feel like family while I was pouring my Tide into the washers and giving him my saved-up quarters every week.
Now there is empty space in the parking lot where those memories are. But a moment every now and then is so real that sometimes I think I could step back in time and carry my duffle bag of dirty clothes into the Church Street coin-op and have a cigarette with my old friend.
What used to be
I have not lived here as long as many people have, and I tip my hat to the natives who have been here their whole lives. My memories are shorter than theirs. But my time-travel is earnest. I remember things like Muldowney's, the Coach and Four, the Yum-Yum Tree, the Store, the bakery on the riverbank across from Dew Drop Morgan's, Newberry's and its lunch counter, Meyers and its lunch counter, the Pontiac Theater, Altman's, Alice's Restaurant, the Berkeley and the barbershop in the Hotel Saranac lobby. A few of these places have vanished. Most are recreated as places we see today ... Tissot's Construction, the Enterprise, the Left Bank Cafe, Sears and Nori's, Goody Goodies, and Pink ... new ideas are growing in the old sites. At times, my memory can make me shake my head and time travel as I walk by these places ... if I touch the window or reach for the door handle, I can almost see the old storefronts, or hear the music coming from behind the door.
A memory can be a time traveling gift to yourself, an acknowledgement of what you've seen and where you've been and who you've known along the way. You carry these invisible photo albums inside your head and you should make a point to enjoy them once in a while.
For me, now is the time of year I time-travel to when it is cold and days are only eight hours long. I'm enjoying every second of this June light and this late spring greenery. And I'm storing up more memory of time and place every chance I get while I do.
(See bunksplace.com for more great memories of old time Saranac Lake.)
Randy Lewis lives in Paul Smiths, and is the author of "Actively Adirondack: Reflections of Mountain Life in the 21st Century," Adirondack Center for Writing's People's Choice Award for Best Book 2007.