A road less travelled

Note: Skidaway Institute volunteer Nancy Tennenbaum wrote this account of her recent trip to Lake George, NY with Skidaway Institute professor Marc Frischer.

Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,

And sorry I could not travel both

And be one traveler, l stood

And looked down one as far as I could

To where it bent in the undergrowth;

Seasons descend.  New friends are made.  Life as I know it

becomes a new path not well previously traveled.

Rensselaer Institute, home to the Darrin Fresh Water Institute (DFWI), rests peacefully on a wooded hill top overlooking, the cold, sparkling waters of Lake George.  Fall has worked its secret magic here on the aging leaves dwelling in a silent woods. 

Intense yellows and reds paint the landscape.

A nature concert, a continual sound of bubbling water, rushes past.  Footsteps to the main lodge on an inclined leaf scattered path measure time well spent.

I breathe in slowly so poetry of the moment can seep in by osmosis. The importance of why I have traveled here is

clear and uncluttered. This is the road less taken.  

I am just its fortunate visitor.

Sandra Nierzwicki-Bauer, the director of DFWI, is an individual pulled in a thousand different directions.  She is in fact the embodiment of this institution. 

Who she is can be summed up by the motto, I will not take no for an answer.  And of course she would be naked without her three adorable pugs who follow her around as if she were their super hero.

Paradise is at her doorstep, yet there is with not enough time in the day to enjoy it.

A shadow hangs ominously over her life. Her treasured friend, Sharon, who is battling cancer, has consumed the existence of Sandra. There are endless phone calls to her doctors and relatives. Sharon’s horses must now be watered and fed twice a day. The incomprehensible fact is that there is nothing fair about life.

Five undergraduate students are doing a semester here. As most 20 something’s, they are fun and crazy, filling the lodge with a fresh perspective on life.

Marc Frischer, is here to collaborate with Sandra on papers needing to be published.

Steve Resler and Dan Marelli are scientific SCUBA divers here studying Asian Clams that recently invaded the Lake and threaten its fragile ecology.

Yet, despite the time stress, Sandra carves out time for me every day as if nothing could be important than poring over the phytoplankton photos from an August 2009 mesocosm study that we are analyzing.

You might wonder what we have accomplished here and what we leave behind.

At the beginning of the week I spent the days gathering information on the phytoplankton of Lake George that SKIO did not have. The library was searched for reference books and manuscripts. The brains of many patient staff people here were cross-examined in an attempt to uncover additional reference material.

The most important source of expertise is Sharon who is receiving chemotherapy and was unavailable.

On Wednesday, I was drafted quite by surprise to participate in the DFWI Asian Clam eradication project. I found myself in a kayak on Lake George collecting water samples from SCUBA divers, Steve (aka Captain Seaweed) and Dan (aka Diver Dan).

The best part of the day was dinner when Marc was the chief cook.  As the lodge has an enormous industrial kitchen having several assistants was the norm.  Being a rather picky eater I am happy to say that everything Marc made was delicious. 

Saturday, as I sat in the library, writing this blog, I had to remind myself that were leaving that afternoon.  It is easy to fall in love with this place, therefore I leave reluctantly. 

Two roads diverged in a wood, and I

took the one less traveled by,

And that has made all the difference.

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