The Hudson


Summer View from My Front Stoop


All five of the homes I’ve lived in since I was 9 have been just a few blocks from the Hudson River — four apartments in the Spuyten Duyvil section of the Bronx from 1962 through 1987 and our house in Hastings on Hudson since then.

The river has been my muse, mistress and teacher. As I stand at my desk and write, I can see just a  patch of its brackish waters and rectangular slab of the Palisades. That is sufficient. I know it the shoreline is a 10-minute walk away. Teeming. Saucy. Humbling.

The spring of my 10th year, before I read Huck Finn, I got the idea of building a raft with a buddy and crossing the river to the beckoning Palisades. Our carpentry skills were as lacking as our access to materials; whatever collection of nails and boards we cobbled together never left the rocky banks off W. 232nd St. 

Since then, I've grown more cautious. I admire friends who blithly paddle kayaks diagonal to a channel that routinely carries tugs, barges and the occasional oil tanker that, I imagine, would swamp me in an instant if it didn’t first slice cleanly through me. Like finishing a novel, though, I know paddling across the river is a challenge I will meet someday. And surely I will chronicle it when I do.

When I first started taking photographs as a college student, I was, of course, drawn to the river.  One of my favorite shots from that time is a black-and-white photograph of a sundown off Spuyten Duyvil dated 11/11/74. Three years later to the day, I married Deirdre Drohan, who was a professional news photographer. As she puts it, once we started going out with each other, "I stopped writing and Thom stopped taking photographs."

Well, we’re not afraid to step on each others turf after 40 years and since I got a pocket digital camera, and then an iPhone, I find myself shooting a lot of the river. 

I not written much about the river, perhaps because it’s too elusive for words, but a recent poem and a seven-year-old reflection on the Rowley’s Bridge Trail, which runs parallel to the Hudson in Hastings, follow the photo collections below. 

The Rowley's Bridge Trail

The Rowley's Bridge Trail is an amazing and magical place to be, so close to New York City that you could see the skyline if it weren't for all the trees. A brook wends though the ravine in the heart of the property, burbling at several small waterfalls. It then takes a precipitous drop down a bank, disappears into a culvert that runs under the track bed built by the Hudson River Railroad Co. in the 1840s, and empties into the Hudson at a point directly across from the highest point of the Palisades of New Jersey.

The sounds of chirping birds, rustling leaves and foraging animals are continually punctuated by the grunts and groans of mechanization. Cars rumble by on the stone Rowley Bridge, which has traversed the ravine since 1898. Planes on an east/west path to and from LaGuardia Airport, or the north/south route to Westchester County Airport, roar dully overhead, their engines sometimes screeching as they gather momentum or slow down. Helicopters hug the shoreline, while small planes cruise the middle of the river, propellers clopping on the air. Trains travel through all day, from the swoosh of commuter expresses to the rhythmic clacks of the freight cars that rumble through every night about 12:30 a.m., gently shaking houses like mine that are close to the riverbank. The river bears its own traffic, of course, from kayaks to tugs pushing barges to huge tankers, which can slip by with less fuss than the Jet-skis that seem to rip apart the twilight on evenings in the summer. You have to decide to listen to hear most of these sounds, however, because they have blended so seamlessly into our lives.

January 10, 2016


All these photos were taken between 3:42 and 4:12 p.m. No filters were used. It started out dark and misty, got light for a bit, poured for a few minutes while my granddaughter, LiliSimone, and I  took refuge in the train station, then came the sun and a double rainbow.

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