Water lilies and the Stockbridge Bowl

IMG_0555One of the largest and most beautiful water ways in the Berkshires, the Stockbridge Bowl was originally known as Lake Makeenac which means “home of the Mahekanus,” a tribe of Mohicans whose council fires once burned along its shores. Though the lake is now rimmed with over 450 cottages, Kripalu (the world famous yoga and wellness center), and Tanglewood (summer home of the Boston Symphony Orchestra), it’s still possible to slip away from it all — preferably by kayak — and float back into what feels like an ancient Indian hunting ground.

Photo by Anders Gyllenhaal

Photo by Anders Gyllenhaal

I’m talking about The Outlet which meanders for a half mile or so behind The Island, a protected nesting ground for Canada geese and frequently visited by blue herons, green herons, osprey, duck and other water fowl. Narrow as a canoe length in places, The Outlet opens up to a series of lovely lagoons, mostly covered with water lilies. On a sun-dappled morning last week, I kayaked through this serene, almost silent backwater where the only living things I encountered were turtles, geese, ducks, and a lone blue heron. Recent sitings also included an otter and a large black bear, loping along the shore.

Photo by Anders Gyllenhaal

Photo by Chris Cook

The Outlet ends at the newly installed diversion drain — the result of years of planning and effort by the Stockbridge Bowl Association — which will enable a draw-down of water from the lake, killing invasive weeds (including, sadly, the beautiful water lilies!) by exposing them to the winter cold.  Just this week the state of Massachusetts awarded the SBA a $600,000 grant towards their multi-phase campaign to rejuvenate the Bowl for generations to come. Here’s a poem by Mary Oliver about another morning, a different pond, but, I believe, the same “prayer heard and answered.”


Morning Poem
Every morning
the world
is created.
Under the orange
sticks of the sun
the heaped
ashes of the night
turn into leaves again
and fasten themselves to the high branches —
and the ponds appear
like black cloth
on which are painted islands
of summer lilies.
If it is your nature
to be happy
you will swim away along the soft trails
for hours, your imagination
alighting everywhere.
And if your spirit
carries within it
the thorn
that is heavier than lead —
if it’s all you can do
to keep on trudging —
there is still
somewhere deep within you
a beast shouting that the earth
is exactly what it wanted —
each pond with its blazing lilies
is a prayer heard and answered
every morning,
whether or not
you have ever dared to be happy,
whether or not
you have ever dared to pray.
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14 Responses to Water lilies and the Stockbridge Bowl

  1. Beautiful pictures by Anders!

  2. Carole Hansen says:

    Anders is quite a photographer! Kayaking is such a beautiful, non-invasive way to explore.

    • Liza says:

      Yes, Anders is becoming a remarkable photographer. He took some photos of butterflies earlier this summer that I’ll be posting soon — magnificent! Thanks for writing, Carole!

  3. Annette Shear says:

    the pond at Central Park is home to an elegant little egret and a proud blue heron,
    many ducks and lots of turtles…it can be peaceful in the noisy city and I don’t mind
    pulling weeds to help the ground cover grow.

    A lovely poem. Thank you.

  4. Lorraine Tinger says:

    I love Mary Oliver’s poem. Thank you!

    • Liza says:

      I love it, too, Lorraine. I was thinking that she often seems to capture the spirit — and spiritual language — of native Americans. In this poem, the opening lines, especially.

  5. Doris Van Ostenbridge says:

    Beautiful photos and inspiring poem. Reminds one to be strive to be happy and to appreciate the beauty all around us.

    • Liza says:

      Thank you, Doris. We spent the day driving up through the Berkshires into Vermont — which is just beginning to turn. Yes — beauty all around us!

  6. ruth woolfe says:

    you make me feel that it is possible to enjoy nature and beautiful poetry in a quiet, peaceful way here in the hide-away parts of the berkshires. i really enjoy your gentleness, liza.

  7. Beata M. Newman Scarpulla says:

    Dear Liza,

    The photos that Anders took are stunning. It says it all about end of summer with that
    gorgeous light.

    I love water lilies, there are some beautiful ones at Long House Preserve in East Hampton in front of Jack Larsen’s house, What a view for him. And I spotted a blue
    heron at Louse Point last week. How lucky can you get?!

    Thank you for this lovely blog.


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