For several months, ok maybe a year or so, I’ve been trying to get my lady Renee to take part of a day and visit Frederic Church’s Olana (https://www.olana.org/plan-your-visit/) over looking the Catskill Mountains and the Hudson River Valley.
As a photographer, I can appreciate the views so many painters painted before me. As a resident of these mountains, I can appreciate their beauty every day even while pursuing something as mundane as a trip out for groceries or a visit to the hardware store.
I often say, “We do live in a beautiful place.”
The summer has been hot, and like so many of our countrymen we’ve been a little cooped up of late. Finally, the heat broke and we’re enjoying those picture-perfect days the Catskills are known for. Perhaps this confluence of factors is what finally prompted the “OK” that got us across the Rip Van Winkle Bridge for a little socially-distanced sight seeing.
During these uncertain times … (bla, bla, bla), I never assume it’s business as usual anywhere – so we checked on Olana before pointing in that direction to confirm hours and availability. The grounds are open, the house is not. I like the grounds, and am always fascinated by the exterior of the house. Inside, well, it always seems dark to me.
We stopped along several of the paths, for different vantage points, and walked all around the house in both directions while I photographed a few keepsakes from the visit.
Renee observed a few backdrops she thought might be perfect for weddings, and we checked to see that as I thought I recalled, the property can be booked for weddings and other private functions. I’ve photographed weddings in and around Hudson, overlooking the river and in the shows of the mountains. One day, I hope to point my lens at a beautiful bride and groom that have selected this as their special place – or perhaps for an engagement session by an enterprising couple that loves the property but doesn’t see the need to bloat the budget by booking it for the big day.
Sharing a few of my photos from the visit with Renee to Facebook (https://www.facebook.com/JonathanMentPhotography) it struck me this had been a picture perfect day. Feedback on the post suggested I was not alone, among friends and followers, to find beauty and inspiration there. I was surprised in some cases, by the range and source of comments and feedback.
A few days later, another creative in my circle posted her photos from a visit, on another picture-perfect day, and offered a tip of the hat to me for inspiring her to make the trek.
Perhaps at its core, the purpose of art is to inspire. The landscape that inspired, Church’s Olana inspires me. I inspired my friend – which inspired me all over again. Not bad for a little real estate perched high on a Columbia County Hill.
I haven’t been to Olana in years. It’s the sort of place some folks probably visit regularly, but I typically only see when showing it to others for the first time – like the Statue of Liberty in NYC or Coit Tower overlooking San Francisco and the San Francisco Bay – which is dedicated to the volunteer firemen who died in San Francisco’s five major fires. (http://sfrecpark.org/Facilities/Facility/Details/Coit-Tower-290)
How many residents of Las Vegas visit the nearby Hoover Dam, do you suppose? Or those in Brooklyn, walk across the Brooklyn Bridge just because it’s there.
I’ve been to these places and more, sometimes as a local bringing visitors, other times as a visitor escorted by locals. (O.k. I’ve walked across the Brooklyn Bridge a few times solo, just because I love it, and the fact that it is my hometown bridge). Whenever I have visited one of these standout locations my hosts have said, “We don’t get here often enough.” In other words, folks tend to overlook or even take for granted that which could be a source of inspiration – simply because it’s well within reach.
As for my lady? Well, next up is Thomas Cole’s residence in Catskill, or one of the other local history sites or museums I don’t visit often enough.
One day, hopefully soon when the coast is clear, Renee will see the inside of Church’s Olana! I know it won’t be such a struggle to get her back, now that the outside and grounds have inspired her curiosity to see more…