A Gorge Trail Summer Standout

Use it to make a refreshing summertime tea.

Monarda didyma is also known as crimson beebalm, scarlet beebalm, scarlet monarda, Eau-de-Cologne plant, Oswego tea, or bergamot. A wildflower native to the Finger Lakes, Crimson beebalm is extensively grown as an ornamental plant, both within and outside its native range; it is naturalized further west in the United States and also in parts of Europe and Asia.

It grows best in full sun, but tolerates light shade and thrives in any moist, but well-drained soil. As suggested by membership in the Lamiaceae (mint) family, Beebalm, as an aromatic herb, has a long history of use as a medicinal plant by many Native Americans, including the Blackfoot. The Blackfoot people recognized this plant’s strong antiseptic action and used poultices of the plant for skin infections and minor wounds.

An herbal tea made from the plant was also used to treat mouth and throat infections caused by dental caries and gingivitis. Beebalm is a natural source of the antiseptic thymol, the primary active ingredient in modern commercial mouthwash formulas. The Winnebago used an herbal tea made from beebalm as a general stimulant. It was also used as a carminative herb by Native Americans to treat excessive flatulence. As a matter of local interest, Iroquois of Oswego, New York, made the leaves into a tea, giving the plant one of its common names.

It is 9:30 am on a July morning Robert H. Treman Park, Ithaca, Tompkins County, Ithaca, New York,


Wikipedia, “Monarda didyma”

“The Botanical Garden, Vol II” Roger Phillips and Martyn Rix, Firefly Books, 2002. Page 284

Copyright 2023 All Rights Reserved Michael Stephen Wills

Big Bend

A tripod and Neutral Density filter

Winter 2020 I posted “Winter People Watching” featuring the Sony F828 and candid street photography.

What I love about this place, a unique feature, is the size and different vantage points making it possible to view the same place from different angles. November 2019, readers were shown “The Bend,” a place with Taughannock gorge makes a 90 degree turn, changing from a southeastern to an eastern flow. Here are photographs from spot overlooked by that post.

Here the camera faces away from the sun, the graduated neutral density filter allowing me to capture the cloudless blue sky, a little milky the way it is here February with a hint of spring.

This little one is studying the information placard with rapt attention, learning how the African continent, pushing against North America, across the eaons, formed the right angle fractures mirrored by this dramatic change in Taughannock Gorge. For the Big Bend photographs I was standing behind them, along the stream bed.

Here is a broader slice of that sky.

Can you see the tiny figures of hikers, dwarfed by the frozen cliff?

Copyright 2023 All Rights Reserved Michael Stephen Wills

A Little Water Fall…

…and Gorge Cliffs

Purling of the water beneath this foot high waterfall was enhanced by reducing ISO to 100, tamping down the aperture to f/22 resulting in an shutter speed of 1/10th second. I set the graduated Neutral Density filter to shade the left side.

On the cliffs ahead is where the observation platform is cut into the rock. It has a great view of the waterfall, in some ways the experience of the falls is enhanced, compared to hiking the 3/4 mile path and standing below.

A marvelous forest grows on talus from the high gorge walls.

A sign on a disused pier warns waders to leave the creek bed. Ahead the gorge walls tower above the creek. Rocks dislodge and crash down unexpectedly, crushing foolish waders. It is appalling to see, in warmer months, people walking below those cliffs gathering the fallen rocks to make delicately balanced cairns.

Copyright 2023 All Rights Reserved Michael Stephen Wills

Baseball Cake Birthday

Daryoush’s Eleventh Birrthday

Daryoush travels to Grandma and Grandpa’s to build his cake, assemble it at his house to celebrate with family. Theme: Baseball Diamond with players, spectators (Twix bars in Rice Krispy Treats), and scoreboard. Grass is buttercream frosting/vegetable dye. Ground is coconut sugar. Bases are “Licorice Allsorts.” Cake base is gluten free yellow sponge. Cupcakes are Grandma’s special chocolate cake recipe, gluten free.

Music credits: Emotional Underscores, Vol. 3, composer Yuri Sazonoff (SOCAN) “Don’t Panic,” “Dream Girl,” “Blessing.”

Copyright 2023 Michael Stephen Wills All Rights Reserved

Lighthouse Point 5

Sundry elements

Uncategorized details from our Lighthouse Point adventures.

Seen from a resting place, a bench just off the trail and before the causeway.

A humble and fertile weed.

On a bright early November day Pam and I walked to Lighthouse Point. Ithaca, Tompkins County, New York

Before the parade of mast-like iron poles was this wooden one where it was apparent there could be no light on the white tower without power.

On top and under the surface

Look closely, children




A demon greeting

Copyright 2022 Michael Stephen Wills All Rights Reserved

Lighthouse Point 4

The Views are the Reward

Here is the south end of Cayuga Lake on a bright November afternoon. Stewart Park is enjoyed by Ithacans year round.

Everyone is a fan of the Willows framing the lake views.

Can’t get enough of Stewart Park..

An unzoomed view, to give an idea of the distance across the water.

Pam and I have great memories of sailing this stretch from our years of membership in Cornell Family Sailing.

The east lake shore.

The West Lake Shore. This photograph captures the electric line that powers the Red Tower light. Seagulls enjoy that causeway…I’ve never seen humans walk it.

Copyright 2022 Michael Stephen Wills All Rights Reserved

Lighthouse Point 3

At the White Tower

The quarter mile jaunt over the causeway yields the reward of this view up the White Tower…..

…and this vantage of the Red Tower, the west shore of Cayuga Lake leading down to Crowbar Point in the distance, colored by Autumn.

The shore is privately owned, some lake houses are visible. To the right are moorings of the Ithaca Yacht Club.

A closer view of the Red Tower.

On a bright early November day Pam and I walked to Lighthouse Point. Ithaca, Tompkins County, New York

White Tower graffitti.

My thoughts exactly…

Copyright 2022 Michael Stephen Wills All Rights Reserved

Lighthouse Point 2


Post 1 of Lighthouse Point provided an impression of our hike along the golf course, from there we turned onto this wooded path on the shores of Cayuga Inlet.

First view of the paired Lighthouses marking the Cayuga Inlet. The white tower is connected to shore by a causeway something less than a quarter mile in length. The red tower marks the other side. These navigation guides allow boats to safely enter the channel exiting the south end of Cayuga Lake. The Erie Canal connects to the north end, allowing access to the Great Lakes and, eventually, the Atlantic Ocean.

The 4-foot-high step up to the concrete causeway path is an insurmountable obstacle to some. I managed to clamber over.

Looking back to shore….

Rusted iron poles support the electric line for the white tower. They remind me of ship masts.

The straight shot back to shore.

Copyright 2022 Michael Stephen Wills All Rights Reserved

Lighthouse Point 1

Tree Atlas

November 3rd, 2022, Blessed Us with an azure sky, an Indian Summer Day. During our walks on Cass Park Shorts we’d look across to see hikers emerging from the gold course to walk the Lighthouse causeway. After decades of longing, these Ithaca residents took upon themselves the adventure of finding the path and walking it. This series of posts documents the walk and some treasures discovered on the way.

Sycamore, aka Plane Tree

Willow on Cayuga Inlet and Newman Golf Course

might be another Sycamore on the golf course

Unidentified tree on golf course

Unidentified tree on golf course

Unidentified tree on golf course

Copyright 2022 Michael Stephen Wills All Rights Reserved

Christmas Ornaments

The Nutcracker

Our Nutcracker wooden figure carries a weight of memories.  Early memories are of my sister, Christina’s Sugar Plum Fairy solo for Saint Aidan Parish talent program, Mom’s appreciation of performance of Swan Lake in her pre-child past, a friend of my Mom was a former dancer who taught Christina ballet.  Hanging quietly, these memories swirl around the Nutcrackers open maw.   

Click this photograph for my Fine Art Photography gallery.
Click this photograph for my Fine Art Photography gallery

Thirteen years ago we observed New Years Day 2009 in the lobby of Winthrop Medical Center, Mineola, New York waiting for the outcome of Mom’s hip replacement surgery grateful the head of Orthopedics was performing the surgery.  That year saw large changes played out in the last four years of her life, she never returned to her home of 52 years.  

From then on her winters were spent with her daughter Diane in Mesa, Arizona.  Mom would call us, amused at the sight of neighbors walking by in 50 degree weather in winter parkas.  She was well known in Albertson for her habit of walking everywhere, it was fortunate she never needed to learn how to drive a car: all she needed was readily at hand.  

I needed to return to Albertson several times a year to our childhood home.  December 2009, Pam and I melded the trip with a day in New York City.  Memories of Mom’s enjoyment of Swan Lake drew me to purchase tickets for The Nutcracker.  The New York City Ballet has performed The Nutcracker every Christmas season since 1954, when I was one year old.  The 56th performance was our first. 

As with Dante’s version of hell, the David H. Koch Theater has rings.  I sprang for the highest ring, the fourth, the least costly and, optimistically, the best vantage to view the formations of grouped dancers.

A full orchestra is dedicated to each performance, the hall acoustics are fabulous, and we were able to appreciate the scenes, the grouped dancers and, even, the soloists.  The last scene of the first act, the Snowflakes (or Snow Crystals), brought tears to my eyes, the music, the scene was impossibly beautiful and brought back some experiences of mine in winter nature.

We were hooked after that, immersed in the very real (i.e., non-virtual) alternate reality at least two Sunday afternoon performances each year, seeing all Tchaikovsky’s ballets in the style of Balanchine for which the New York Ballet is famous.  For the 59th season of The Nutcracker were brought two granddaughters, took fourth third row orchestra seats.  We marveled at the experience.  It included, during intermission, a photo session with a character from the performance.

Here they are with a Snowflake.  This is a scan of one of the 8 x 10 prints we received from this session.

Click the photograph for my Fine Art Photography gallery
Nia and Gabby with the Nutcracker Ballet character “Snowflake” during the intermission of a December 2012 performance.


We planned to share a performance of Swan Lake with Mom during the September 2013 season, in her 90th year.  Mom passed away in her birth month, June, 2013.  

Click this link for another Christmas postinhg.