By Mel Bellar

The saga continues and I am so happy to be where I am.   Often I am overcome by gratitude for the place that I live.  Life in the Catskills offers beauty and a lifestyle that is easy to appreciate and that is particularly poignant right now.  No doubt, many of you are feeling the same way about now.  If you aren’t, hopefully this little trifle will help you reflect.  Allow me to engage in some fluff.

It is simply beautiful here and I am particularly lucky; I wake up to views of the hills in the distance and chirping birds with only the faintest hint of traffic on Route 28 (¾ or a mile away), and only if I listen really carefully.  Many of you probably wake up to some view of the hills, our beautiful woodlands, or possibly rolling fields.  Regardless, it is not likely that you open your eyes to a billboard, an apartment building or a McMansion. Thankfully, most are not hearing sirens or garbage trucks or the annoying beep beep beep of delivery trucks backing up.

Occasionally I hear someone complain about “how far everything is up here” and having to drive for 30 minutes to get anywhere.  I quickly retort that I love to have an excuse to go anywhere here because there is no traffic and it is beautiful and peaceful to drive around.  For me, it is part of the joy.  It is fun to take different routes and just embrace the experience.  And then there is the joy of the podcast! Yes, not everyone up here has smart phones; they are expensive, and we still have terrible cell service coverage…  however, if you have one you should consider exploring the vast array of podcasts.  My favorites have made my time in the car even more enticing and it more than makes up for the lack of good radio reception.

Another inspiration: our prominent and dramatic seasons here in the Catskills (although I was very disappointed in this Winter).  This Spring despite its fits and starts (more snow on the ground this morning, formerly tax day) has been and continues to be beautiful. I complain about the “fits and starts” but I do love the slow rollout of Spring we get here as opposed to those years when everyone complains that “we went from Winter to Summer just like that (harrumph)”.  The red maples are in full blush right now giving the hills a reddish scrim and the sugar maples will follow shortly.  The snowdrops still look pretty good and the daffodils have only started on their journey toward total exuberance.  There is a lot going on and I love to go out and look for new signs of growth, in the garden and in the wild.  And as always, I am looking forward to the evergreens putting on their bright new growth which may be happening by the time you read this.

I hear reports from friends and see what is going on in other places during this social distancing time, and I am ever so grateful for not standing on lines for over an hour to pick up groceries that I ordered online. Thanks to our local supermarkets who make things relatively easy.  And we have the added pleasure and benefits of great local products from Good Cheap Food and Catskill Regional Harvest.

And are we lucky to have relative ease of our social distancing by the very nature of living in a sparsely populated area where there is plenty of great outdoor space to explore (and garden!). Last month I talked extensively about the availability and joy of gardening during these times.  I would also like to put in a plug for the numerous hiking/walking trails in the area that provide a great way to explore the outdoors, get some exercise and maybe to get some time away from whomever you might be trapped with at home.  Within the Andes area, there is the Andes Rail Trail (easy with a moderate add on), the Shavertown Trail (a little more challenging with a big payoff at the end) and Palmer Hill (fun with long views).  I haven’t been on the trails in Delhi yet or the Bramley Mountain trails but I am looking forward to adding those to my experiences. There are many others that might require you to enjoy more than a 30-minute drive.  Please check out the Catskill Mountain Club’s website to get a lot more information about various options:  This website is so cool.  Please look at the wildflower section if you are at all interested in learning about what you can see on the hikes.  It is very comprehensive and just fun to explore.

I am keeping my fingers crossed that my next column will not be at all about this pandemic.~

Mel Bellar is the owner of Zone4 Landscapes and a passionate Andes gardener.