Upstate?  Downstate?  It’s an age-old New Yorker argument.

Neither one is an actual region. It’s more of a way of life or, as Billy Joel knows, a state of mind. 

To people living and working in Manhattan, it’s not about “upstate” and “downstate”.  New York City is clearly the center of their universe. And then, there’s the rest of the state.  

(The definition of “upstate” is open to interpretation by folks who live in different regions. Check out the arguments in the Urban Dictionary.)

During the Depression, my Dad lived in “upstate” New York, excavating quarries and moving mountains to build roads from Gouverneur to Plattsburgh.

And once more, reminding people that there's more to New York than the city.

In pop culture, you hear New York City natives saying “upstate” a lot. It’s in cop shows, reality TV and movies. (Nobody in Albany says their friends live “downstate”.)

Arguing with people about where Upstate New York starts.

Dutchess County, part upstate/part downstate, is home to the Harlem Rail Trail and prime hiking in Taconic State Park.

Bike paths.One of my favorite trails goes to Bash Bish Falls. The Falls is made up of a series of cascades that twist between the cliffs of a precipitous gorge. Terra firma for the spirit.

A waterfall is a short lived and “unimportant” geologic phenomenon when compared with an event like the formation of a mountain range.  As you read this post, the sediment in the water is sand-blasting the rock, eroding the streambed. Bash Bish is slowly destroying itself.

Legend has it that a beautiful Indian woman, called Bash Bish, lived in a village near the Falls. A jealous friend accused her of adultery. BB pleaded innocent before the village council, but stern elders sentenced her to death ~ strapped to a canoe and turned loose upstream from the Falls.

The moment before her execution, rays of the sun formed a halo around BB’s body and a ring of colorful butterflies fluttered above her head.

The canoe plunged into the falls and pieces of it were retrieved from the pool at the bottom but no trace of BB’s body was found. Villagers then concluded Bash Bish was a witch. (Isn’t that always the way?)

The story might have ended there had BB not left behind her young daughter, White Swan. White Swan grew to enjoy health, beauty, and the love of Whirling Wind, the chief’s son. When she discovered she was unable to give Whirling Wind children, she decided to end her life by plunging into the turbulent waters of the Falls. Whirling Wind, without White Swan’s knowledge, followed her up the gorge and into the water.

Once again, the villagers searched the lower pool. Although they found Whirling Wind’s battered body, they never found any sign of White Swan.

Bashbish ….. Bashbish ….. Bashbish …….

 the Falls whisper its own name. . .

Bashbish ….. Bashbish ….. Bashbish ….

Toni 11/7/13


  1. Gulfs between people, ideas, countries, states, religions–you name it– are paper constructs erected for the pleasure of one side over the other; they’re conversation and progress-stoppers. Sort of like the tired old arguments about phonics vs something called whole language; good teaching included both, there was no gulf. That said, I wouldn’t mind a nice swim right now in some watery gulf.


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