Kaatscast: the Catskills Podcast
Jan. 5, 2021

Reservoir Year: A Walker's Book of Days

Reservoir Year: A Walker's Book of Days
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Happy New Year! This week's podcast is a celebration of our annual spin around the sun, and a book by local author Nina Shengold on her 365-day walk along the Ashokan Reservoir. On the eve of her 60th birthday, she decided to walk the reservoir every day for one year and to chronicle the journey. We produced an audiobook in collaboration with Syracuse University Press, and in this podcast, you'll hear excerpts from the book, along with reflections by some of the creative Catskillians -- narrator, musician, writer -- involved in the process. 

Thanks to the Catskills Visitor Center and the 52-mile Catskill Mountains Scenic Byway for their support.

For more on Nina's book:
For the audio edition:
And for the locally orchestrated soundtrack:

--- Support this podcast: https://anchor.fm/kaatscast/support


Happy New Year from cats cast, your bi weekly podcast highlighting history travel arts and culture, sustainability news and local interviews from New York's Catskill Mountains and Hudson Valley to celebrate our yearly trip around the sun. This week's show features reservoir year, a new book by local author Nina Shen gold. Describing a year of daily walks alongside the ashokan Reservoir. We worked with Syracuse University Press and a team of creative Catskill Ian's to produce an audio book addition. Following are excerpts from the audio book and reflections from the author, narrator, musician and others to kick off the new year. This is narrator Kathleen McNerney, reading a new year entry from page 66 of Nina Shen golds reservoir year, a Walker's book of days. Day 109 January 1 2016. Midnight, we failed to travel mugs with mold ciders spiked with jack daniels, and drive to the reservoir just before midnight. layered in long johns and scarves and Karen's new fleece lined Ugg boots were the only car they're soft clouds scrim the sky, which is lighter toward Kingston, a pale smear of gray on the near black horizon. There's new snow on both sides of the pathway. Some of it mounted up into a snowman that looms like a guardian. We head into near dark adjusting case flashlight tucked into my pocket. When we hit the bridge, a realization strikes. Karen Have you got to watch? No. A cell phone? It's in the car. How will we know when it's midnight? We look at each other and break into laughter This is so us. Karen chance. 10 nine, eight, and I joined her on 321 Happy New Year. We toast with our mugs inhaling warm cinnamon, Apple and bourbon. Thought drink feels great in my throat. Karen says Okay, can we leave now? We can. But I'd rather not. I've never been here on a cold winter night at the start of a who knows what this will bring year with a friend and the glow of warm liquor. I don't want to give this up yet. But I am Karen's host and their champagne in the fridge and a fire in the woodstove. As I take a deep breath. I hear a faint popping of fireworks from several directions at once. It really is midnight. We toast again joining the rest of the world. We can see the fireworks go up. But they're reflected light pulses and glows beneath the dense cloud cover. greenish and pink in the distance like Northern Lights. It's lovely and kind of surreal. I think I see an owl flying over the bridge, a pale streak from darkness to darkness. But it's hard to tell. When we reach the far side, the sound of the waves returns and we both fall silent, standing and staring at opposite shores. I know Karen is thinking of Tate and I think of my parents and wonder how long we all have. There's a random scatter of lights across the near hillsides. cell tower radio tower mcmansions no moon and no stars. From a hillside somewhere in olive bridge. Actual fireworks. backyard edition. A volley of red and white spark patterns pop pop up pop up. On September 15 of 2015 Nina Shen golde set out to begin her journey of walking the ashokan Reservoir every day for an entire year. No camera, no notebook, just her and her senses. Despite her doubts, she succeeded and is here to share with us her journal of notes and observations of this beautiful Catskills landscape at the windy evening shores of the shokin she expresses her excitement on the creation of reservoir years audio book. I'm Nina shingled. I'm the author of the book reservoir year Walker's book of days just published by Syracuse University Press. And I am delighted that it is now an audio book I got to work with James O'Connor from sound beat access audio and Brett Barry from silver hollow audio. Kathleen McNerney, the wonderful Narrator And Steve caster who wrote music for it. We all met on zoom call with David Ross, one of the students on the access audio team who Had painstakingly gone through the whole book and highlighted all the unusual words place names, people surnames, strange foreign words, I had somehow dropped into the text without realizing it. And we sorted out all the pronunciations a show can reservoir. This is the ashokan Reservoir in the Catskills and I am very, very glad that reservoir year is now an audio book. I've always been moved by art that revisits the same subject again and again, over time. Monet's water lilies and studies of Ruin Cathedral, Nicholas Nixon's photo series of four sisters ageing. Could I do that with words? More to the point? Could I do it at all? What about weather and travel and getting sick? What about willpower? I'm not a person of discipline. New Year's resolutions head south before Groundhog Day. diets disintegrate. Writing regimes have so many words per day dead end The first time I don't make my quota. As soon as I made the decision to walk every day for a year, I felt a familiar shiver of doom. But the thought of it wouldn't let go. reluctant or eager. I had to keep going. I got obsessed. My intent was to write about what I observed to be a camera not subject. The my daily walks conjured all the back roads that it brought me to this one. As a kid growing up in an orderly New Jersey suburb. My favorite book was Jean Craighead George's, my side of the mountain, about a teenage boy who lives off the land in the Catskills sleeping inside a hollow tree and training a peregrine falcon to hunt. I want it to be Sam Gridley girl version, I hungered for life in the wild. At 22, I took a radical swerve from my Urban career goals, and spent a year living out of a backpack with no fixed plan, wandering through the Pacific Northwest and north to Alaska. In my 30s, I bought an old farmhouse in the Catskills and became a single mother forging a warming fire of creative connections with my new community. Who would I be at age 60? I was going to find out come hell or high water. When I told people what I was doing, their first response was nearly always, are you taking pictures? It was often asked anxiously, as if the experience wouldn't exist if it weren't recorded in pixels. Nope. I would tell them. I'm doing it old school. I didn't even take paper and pen on my walks. I wanted to train myself to experience things with my senses, and carry them back in my mind to hunt and gather unarmed. There's a kind of surrender in this, trusting the sieve of memory to strain wheat from chaff. In a world where we stare at computer screens for hours every day, and carry our cell phones and digital cameras wherever we go. It's good to remember that we are recording devices, our eyes, ears and noses. Our tongues and our skin take things in, and it's good to be fully awake when it happens. When a bald eagle flies over your head, you don't want to miss it because you're hunched over your notebook. Walking in the ashokan Reservoir every day in all kinds of weather was no easy feat for Nina and neither was recording an audio book amidst the covid 19 pandemic. Both projects however, proved to be worthwhile experiences for the Catskill based creative team. Narrator Kathleen McNerney, joins us from her she shed, where she recorded reservoir year to share her thoughts on working with Syracuse University Press, and silver hollow audio entirely from her home. My name is Kathleen McNulty, and I was the narrator of this beautiful book. I am very lucky to live just down the road from Brett Barry. And he's who's bought me for this job, I was not able to go and go to his beautiful and amazing soundproof studio and do all my recording there, because we were all in quarantine. And so I had to record in my she shed. Now the she shed is not a regulation proof of Sound Studio. So when it rained out, I would have to stop recording if there was too much wind, I would have to stop recording. So those are some of the challenges that I faced just because I was not in this amazing studio that I normally would be working in. The other thing that made this process really so so pleasant was that normally a narrator has to do all their own research. So I would have had to track down all the pronunciation of all of the rivers and towns and things around here that I would not have known how to pronounce. And so David Ross had done all That worked for me. And so we got together as a team when night we went through the whole book. And I wrote down all the pronunciations and was recording and keeping track of everything. So by the time that I would finally God today, 364, and Sunday would show up that I didn't know how to pronounce. I had all the notes already there ready to help me out. So that was a joyful thing not to have to do. And then the other thing that was incredibly, incredibly pleasant was that because I recorded this during COVID, in a time when really I arrived to my quarantine, feeling scared and a bit nervous, and very much out of my body. It was a bit overwhelming. And then this beautiful book came by. and this book is about getting out in nature and walking every day and just breathing and being present with yourself. And I found that as Nina was taking her walks and as I was narrating I got to take those walks with her. And I found myself resettling in my body and calming down and by the time I finished that book, one of the first things I did, I knew I was going to do it about halfway through I thought, I'm going to get my car and I'm going to get up early before the sun comes up and I'm going to go to the reservoir, and I'm going to take a walk and watch the sunrise and I hope I see an eagle and I did and and it was a beautiful, wonderful experience. light rain left a low lying mist Brigadoon in the draws, with a twist of fog creeping over the lemon squeeze like something alive. One part floats out over the water, and the second lies down over the treetops and Creek far below. I lean on the cement wall for a long time watching it swirl. When I look up, a doe has stepped onto the path and stands staring at me. I hold her gaze for a long time watching the fog shift around her. Suddenly she vaults the guard rail and dashes back down the embankment passing a two point buck and a second doe grazing. They both raise their heads. The mist muffled sound at the crest of the rise. I turn and look back down the mile long straight away. No one inside. Then I see something gliding behind the trees. Huge wingspan white head, a bald eagle eye moved to the edge of the woods craning my neck to get a clear view. The wind comes up ruffling my hair as the eagle soars over the water. Hang Gliding updrafts, then loops out of sight. When it reappears bursting out of the pines on giant wings, my chest expands. A second Eagle glides over the trees on the opposite side of the walkway. One disappears low on one side, and the other appears from a much higher angle a split second later, an elegant dance in the darkening sky. It feels like a blessing. The air Thrums with power, feathers and mist. Working with sound beat access audio in Syracuse, we collaborated with Syracuse University's inclusive u program, bringing students with intellectual and developmental disabilities into a fully inclusive experience. Jim O'Connor, producer of sound beat access audio tells us more about working with such a passionate and hard working group during this difficult time. Hi, I'm Jim O'Connor, producer of sound beat and one of the producers of access audio. we're engaging students and alumni in storytelling projects through a few different formats, from interviews to narrated journals, documentaries, and as you'll hear about today, audio books, sound beat and access audio are proud to serve as models of inclusion here on campus and beyond. We're also not aware of too many other programs like this on college campuses throughout the world. So we're very grateful for the support we've received from the libraries from our friends at the inclusive u program, W AR and our various partners at falck. Newhouse arts and sciences and VPA. Thank you very much. I don't have many ground rules for this. But I don't carry paper and pad when I'm walking. I noticed whatever I notice, and memorize a few key words to help me remember, here are today's Haren, cloak, Vale, stillness. alchemy, which is either a very short poem, or dialogue you might hear from a tarot reader at a Woodstock bar. I came to the rez and an awful mood, two weeks into this practice and already resentful and bored with the notion of doing it over and over again for a year. What's the point can this really Make one bit of difference. My house is too empty to stay in alone. I walk out to the stone bench and sit watching the sunset glow. Turn the cloud wisps from Turner pastels to a brief sudden flooding of neon bright coral, then lavender gray. As the water gets calm, so do I. When I finally stand to walk back, a great blue heron angles over the water, it's heavy big body and silent glide to land at the water's edge. Thanks to interns David Ross and Ian CO from the inclusive view program. The production process was made more efficient. David Ross researched word pronunciations, while he and co collaborated with composer Steve caster to create a mood for reservoir years original music. Here Steve talks about his collaboration with Ian and his creative process for enhancing the adventurous field of Nina's book. I'm Steve caster. I'm a songwriter and producer. I live in the Catskills. I recently worked on a project that created some music that was inspired by the naturalist in Catskills ready john burrows. That's how I connected with Brett Barry, who brought me on to this fantastic project and introduced me to Jim and Nina. And they asked me to create some songs for the audio book version of reservoir year. I read the book and was incredibly inspired by Nina's vignettes about walking around the shokin Reservoir used her writing as well as some of my own wanderings over the past 10 or so years in the Catskills as a basis for putting together some songs and song lists for the project. Jim introduced me to Ian. And so Ian went through the book and he marked passages that he thought would work well with some music. And he noted the paragraph in the sense and pulled out some key phrases and then gave me some excellent notes on kind of what the emotional feel of the music for that passage might be. The notes were really helpful in guiding my process for putting together some songs and I ended up writing mostly instrumental pieces that were pulled from those passages. One was called freckle of stars, there's lemon squeeze, and there's pine, SAP and honeysuckle. And these were all kind of phrases that were in the book carrier grabbing nervous plates and fiddle and Joshua brown played Banjo and mandolin and lap steel and Jason Mills did some percussion. And so at the end of the process, we had eight or 10 of these pieces. And the book also had like the seasonal progression to it. But Ian was helpful in sort of bringing that out in the music too. I thought was a great project. I really loved collaborating with Ian and Nina and the whole team really cool learning experience for me and I'm assuming kind of for everybody involved. to end our first podcast of the new year and entry about witnessing nature's fireworks. a meteor shower. I step out of the car. It's dead quiet. The skies clear overhead, still covered with clouds to the east. I can't see Cassiopeia where the shooting stars are supposed to originate. I set out in the dark. Within seconds I see a short streak. And yes, I do gasp a small voice in my head says okay, you can go home now. A larger voice tells it to shut up distant flashes of heat lightning. Cool night air moving around me a soundtrack of bullfrogs and Katie did scrape another small streak. I stopped walking and crane my neck scanning from side to side. I tell myself I'll go home after 10 shooting stars or 12. I just want to see one really big one. One domed horizon white trail streak streak, one after another 910 Okay, maybe 20. And I get this crazy idea to stay here until I've seen 60 for my 60th year. The clouds are beginning to break up. The newspaper said there could be up to 200 per hour 60 Meteor sounds impossible. But when I get up to 30 I realize I'm going to do it. Come stiff neck come boredom come yawns and long pauses. Every time I think this is stupid. You've seen enough. I spotted another I hear a trout jump aboard our calls over the water again and again. Then another hour we'll hire a tenner ish per constellations and stardust. It's not about meteors is it? It's about being part of the universe, letting things go because loss is enormous. But love is infinite. read or listen to Nina's entries, one for every day of the year in the newly released reservoir year, available wherever books and audio books are sold. Places like the Catskills Visitor Center, a program of the Catskill Center and the official Visitor Center for the Catskill Park and the gateway to the entire Catskills region located on Route 28, and Mount tremper. The visitor center offers the public resources to learn more about the Catskill Park and explore the region's natural resources, outdoor recreation opportunities, and communities. Visitor Center staff are on hand to answer questions and help plan adventures. The visitor center 60 acre site includes walking trails, a pavilion for picnics, and an 80 foot fire tower you can climb for Valley and mountain views. Learn more at Catskills visitor center.org This episode is also sponsored by the 52 mile Catskill Mountains Scenic Byway following New York State Route 28. Through the heart of the central Catskills for maps, itineraries and links to area restaurants, shops and accommodations. Visit scenic catskills.com to hear the music inspired by the book, go to too dark birds.com slash reservoir. This episode of cats cast was written and produced by our production intern sky rousse. We have a strong slate of podcasts for 2021 that you won't want to miss. So if you haven't subscribed yet, be sure to click that button. It's free and you'll get a new episode every two weeks. Next time. An interview with Dean Sai Khan of Dean's beans organic coffee company. If you're a coffee lover or interested in sustainably produced food, be sure to tune in. Cats cast is a production of silver hollow audio in the heart of the Catskills. I'm Brett Barry. Thanks for listening and Happy New Year. 

Transcribed by https://otter.ai