A voyage of the mind; a voyage to a lake – Kinderhook Cr. Kinderhook 9-15-16

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A voyage of the mind, a voyage to a lake

Windows Through Time – May 21, 2009

Robert Titus


We are the mind’s eye, the human imagination, and we are drifting high across the Hudson Valley’s sky, exactly 14,000 years ago. Our present location is northeast of Chatham in the middle Hudson Valley. Below us should be Kinderhook Creek and indeed, way down there we can see a fine flow of water but something is dreadfully wrong. We drop down to get a better look. Stretching behind us, to the northeast, and before us, off to the southwest, is something that cannot be Kinderhook Creek. This flow is a great, thundering, pounding rush of water. To call this a “creek” is just all out of proportion. It is a sideways waterfall, a foaming, raging, gigantic number six cataract of water. It is a tumultuous cascade, and it is heading towards today’s Chatham Center.

We are the mind’s eye, the human imagination. We can go anywhere and we can do anything. We can fly high and we can fly low and we can fly fast and we can fly slow. Right now we drop down and follow this grotesque caricature of a river. Just above the flow, we can feel a fine spray of water rising above it. When occasional glimpses of sunlight occur, we see rainbows, many of them. But mostly it is a gray sky above. We are nearly deafened by the sound of this torrent. It is an incredible vision.

Is this really the Kinderhook Creek? It seems impossible to imagine it as being that usually lowly flow of water. We are the mind’s eye and we can find out very quickly and very easily. We rise up thousands of feet into the air and look to the north. We find what we expected. There we spy another landmark familiar to those of modern times. Out there is Valatie Creek and it is flowing south toward today’s town of Kinderhook. But even so far away, we can see that it too is another pounding mega-stream. We are drawn towards this vision of Valatie Creek with a strong, almost magnetic fascination. We descend and find our way to the canyon that, in modern times, marks the western edge of the Valatie business district. In modern times, most of that canyon is visible and has only a relatively small stream flowing at its bottom. On the day of our mind’s eye journey this canyon is filled with something akin to an enormous fire hose. Again, it is as if we were looking at a sideways waterfall, compressed by the narrow, rocky canyon walls. The canyon is filled to the brim and, here, the power of the noise is worse than deafening.

Now we are most extraordinarily curious: What has caused all this? Where did all this water come from? What are the explanations of the mysteries we have seen today? We are the mind’s eye; we can, once again, rise up high into the air and that is exactly what we shall do. Soon our mysteries will be solved.

To the north we see a distant mass of whiteness, stretched across the entire northern horizon. We advance towards this new puzzlement; we are perplexed, but we soon see what we need to see. We are approaching a great glacier. It extends off to the west as far as we can see. It also extends an equally far distance to the east. This is the Hudson Valley Glacier. Once again we succumb to a state of overwhelming, compelling curiosity. We are drawn north and closer to the ice. At this time, 14,000 years ago, it is closing in on the end of the Ice Age and, on this day, it is remarkably warm.

The end of an ice age can be a violent time. The glacier is not just melting; it is falling apart. From time to time great masses of ice collapse into heaps of white rubble at the base of the glacier. Huge volumes of water are gushing out of the glacier’s front and flowing on, as a single great torrent, into our prehistoric Valatie Creek. We turn and follow that flow.

Soon, to the west, we spy an enormous expanse of water. We rise up again and it spreads out before us. It is a huge lake; it is a full nine miles to its western shore. In the very far distance we can see the Catskill Mountains rising above that distant side of the lake. This is what future geologists will call Glacial Lake Albany. What an experience! In the distant future geologists will only be able to imagine what the lake looked like, but we are privileged to see it in person. Contact the author at titusr@hartwick.edu

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