Archive for the ‘Bowman's Hill Wildflower Preserve’ Category
NJ WILD readers know that it is my practice, –even my life–, to drive to natural havens, especially in New Jersey and nearby Pennsylvania. There I restore soul and muse at nature’s fonts.
You may have wondered at my long visual silence here. I haven’t known how to write about the depredations of Sandy, about this anthropocentric chaos we humans are increasingly calling forth, with such heedlessness.
Today, a series of Sandy Damage Images literally flooded me, as I tried to eat lunch, in a place where business was happening all around me. Sandy, –as was his/her recent way with us–, intruded, dominated.
This could be termed a prose poem. Whatever it is, I am haunted, yes INUNDATED, by Sandy Souvenirs. And I’m not even addressing what it did to birds and bird habitat. This is Sandy’s impact upon a birder, this birder.
WHAT is its impact upon YOU?
“ENDURING ABSENCES” - SANDY SOUVENIRS
nests of yellow disaster tape, tangled at crossroads
tree roots dwarfing buildings
macadam bike trails cracked, sea-braided
heavy-duty doors ripped from industrial-strength hinges, –wildly flung
sand swirls like blizzard aftermaths
boardwalks to nowhere
red fire hydrant top only emerging from tall swathes of deep sand
cars where boats belong
boats where cars belong
refuge pick-up trucks upside-down in new water
red Xs on former birding sites on Audubon hot line lists — enduring absences
trees throughout Pleasant Valley more horizontal than vertical, — snow-exaggerated
ghost of a clam shack at old Leed’s Point
sea-grass from the wrack line high in Scott’s Landing woods
Brigantine’s dike road severed
salinities in freshwater-, in Brigantine’s brackish, impoundments equaling bay
palisades of orange cones
‘NO VEHICLES BEYOND THIS POINT”
trail sign flat across a Bowman’s path, — posts upended, concrete dislodged
trail itself a rushing stream that may never yet be staunched
echoes of ironic names:
where are the havens?
Autumn Dawn Majestic Tree, Brenda Jones
D&R Canal Approaching Storm, Martha Weintraub
Sourlands Mossy Monarch, Brenda Jones
As I type the title of my Christmas musings on our lost trees, three hefty deer in their no-nonsense winter coats, process like wise men out of these woods. Well, what’s left of woods…
My NJ WILD readers know I am a literal tree-hugger. I talk to them, too. I work for them constantly, at D&R Greenway Land Trust, preserving scarce open land in almost-built-out New Jersey.
It is a particular grief to leave the house each day, no matter where I’m headed. My journey of bereavement begins with stumps and (inexcusably still tumbled) segments of five monarchical trees on this property. Going to Morven to decorate D&R Greenway’s Holiday tree, my car was dwarfed by towering roots of a toppled conifer, which blessedly fell away from the home of the signer of the Declaration. In my seven miles to work, I daily drive alongside vistas of wisted and shattered and snapped and flattened formerly healthy trees. Trees tossed in piles like pick-up sticks. Trees without tops. Roots higher than McMansions. Slaughtered trees.
People keep using the phrase “war zone” to describe the effects of Sandy and the Snowstorm. But the fallen soldiers are trees. In Massachusetts, from whence I could not return during Sandy, I read of “trees as weapons.”
What is oddest about the downed giants everywhere is that they seem venerable healthy specimens. They are not spindly saplings. It’s as though the heart has gone out of the old trees on all sides, that they have ‘given up the ghost.’
Up til now, trees were beauty to me. I go to to trees to be uplifted, inspired and consoled.
The Solace of Trees, Titusville Brenda Jones
Trees have spirits, some so palpable that I can tell male from female energy, and have named some. For example, the beech at D&R Greenway I’ve christened Sylvia. After all, Sylvia Beach (pun intended) went to Paris and Shakespeare and Company from Princeton.
I cannot do justice to the trees I so mourn. To the corpses I see all over everywhere, on hill and especially The Ridge and in dales and along streams, and even fifty-five treasures on the ground at Bowman’s Hill Wildflower Preserve. Trees have closed some trails there, perhaps forever. Trees have altered waterways there, so that Gentian may not open again.
Of course, we are spewing the CO2. We are altering climate, winds, glaciers, water temperatures, currents, seasons, migrations, coastlines. We are felling these trees.
Felled trees, by the way, no longer act as ‘carbon sinks’ - what ghastly engineer dreamed up that term?
Let others speak for me:
Robert Louis Stevenson, my first favorite poet: “It is not so much for its beauty that the forest makes a claim upon men’s hearts, as for that subtle something, that quality of air that emanates from old trees, that so wonderfully changes and renews a weary spirit.”
Carnegie Lake Winter Trees, Brenda Jones
Susan Fenimore Cooper: “Of the infinite variety of fruits which spring from the bosom of the earth, the trees of the wood are the greatest in dignity.”
Minnie Aumonier: “There is always Music among the trees, but our hearts must be very quiet to hear it.”
Marcel Proust (that city person!): “We have nothing to fear and a great deal to learn from trees — that vigorous and pacific tribe which, without stint, produces strengthening essences for us, soothing balms, and in whose gracious company we spend so many cool, silent and intimate hours.”
Marcel was right for a long time, until the increasing occurrence and severity of major storms due to catastrophic anthropogenic climate change.
Yes, we had nothing to fear from trees– yet in our very own town, one of its most special citizens, Bill Sword, Jr., lost his life in the storm to a tree. A man of generosity, integrity, honor and great spirituality is no longer among us.
Is fate’s timing of Bill’s death meant to warn us that something far beyond trees is imperiled?
Could the trees, themselves, be sacrificing themselves to send us this urgent message?
I often think this about whales and dolphins, stranding along our coasts.
Where Sandy swirled is the signature not only of the earth changes we are engendering pell-mell.
It is also the signature of Inevitable sea-level rise. Where Sandy clawed, the sea will claim.
There isn’t going to be normal any more.
Tree carcasses are not normal.
How interesting that this ghastly landscape has been created the cusp of the season in which we decorate and even sing to trees….. O Tannenbaum….
Drama in Your Own Backyard
Fox Listening for Vole, Pole Farm, Brenda Jones
NJ WILD readers know my enthusiasm for everything wild, everything nature in our state, which is far more beautiful, natural and wild than anyone realizes.
Fierce Great Blue Heron, Brenda Jones
You’re also pretty familiar with my choice in reading: anything about nature, especially New Jersey, and always lately, catastrophic climate change. Now even the Weather Channel is admitting that “This year, everything is a record.” Of course, they’re still blaming that on Mother Nature, not on human greed…
Never lose sight of the importance of countering climate change - particularly for the sake of New Jersey’s wildflowers and elegant pollinators:
Cabbage White Butterfly Nectaring, Brenda Jones
On the subject of that partnership, a new publication crossed my D&R Greenway Land Trust desk this week. It’s the spring newsletter of The Native Plant Society of New Jersey: www.npsnj.org. They were kind enough to give inside front cover placement to a vivid description of our April Native Plant Sale here, which was so well attended and patronized. Princetonians are eagerly taking to heart our Native Plant Nursery’s lessons on natives in the home garden.
Dogbane/Indian Hemp Brenda Jones
Pamela Ruch authored the newsletters column, titled Learning Tolerance for Native Weeds. Her first line grabbed me: “Keeping a field journal is a discipline that does not come easily to me.” Frankly, it never occurred to me. Even though a birder, I am not ‘a lister’, what the Brits call ‘a twitcher’. But wouldn’t it be grand to have a notebook chronicling the arrival of each flowery sign of spring, against which to compare next year and next year and next year? Admittedly, it could give evidence of catastrophic climate change. But how valuable and pleasurable such a diary would be! And the process carries hidden benefits at many levels.
Pamela discovered that “observing, drawing, putting details into words,” she made surprising discoveries. Such as the fact that many of the plants that we term ‘weeds’ are native plants, not to be sneezed at, pun intended.
Yellow Warbler with Insect, Brenda Jones
Your plants that feed the insects feed the birds and their young…
NJ WILD readers have ‘heard’ me ad infinitum on the value of native plants. Our Stewardship Staff here at D&R Greenway spend hours ‘in the field’ in all seasons and most weathers save ice, removing invasives and planting natives.
Black Swallowtail Among the Loosestrife (Invasive…), Brenda Jones
One of the main reasons for doing so is that native plants evolved with our regional animals and insects. Our Stewardship Staff has taught me that, if you see leaves uneaten in the fall, they’re invasives and of no use to the creatures who evolved to be nourished and sheltered by them.
Other reasons include the fact that natives can withstand drought, as intensifying climate change renders this facet more and more crucial.
Natives can better deal with other extremes, as well, such as needing less water and less nourishment, because they were ‘born’ to these soils.
The one factor with which natives cannot deal is invasives, who crowd out everyone by a whole ‘raft’ of means and measures. Who, having no enemies here, soon eliminate even young hardwoods. Japanese stilt grass alone can prevent the hardwood forests of our future.
Native plants attract pollinators, such as butterflies, worthy rivals of the vivid flowers upon which they suckle, then go on to propagate.
Courting Cabbage Whites, Brenda Jones
Our compromised bees need the flowers of native plants, as well
Birds need natives as nest sites, as well as food suppliers.
Puffed December Mockingbird, with Berries, Brenda Jones
Migrant birds depend upon inner compasses, forged millenia ago. You could see birds as winged GPS systems. Birds chose their routes in ancient times, based on the presence, for example, of native berries.
Ripe native fruit, signaled by early red leaves, provides crucial calories/stamina/sustenance/energy for autumn migration.
Birds count upon native insects, who count on native plants in spring migration, and to feed vulnerable young after successfully breeding here.
Home gardens can be as important as woods and fields to certain avian species.
And, according to Native Plant Society of New Jersey’s columnist, Pamela Ruch, if you keep a Field Journal of your garden, you’ll make discoveries: What the French call la richesse, richness, of plants will be revealed, that you never otherwise might have known. She writes, for example, of discovering, describing and researching wild lettuce, which provides pollen for bees and seeds for finches.
Pamela reports a major advantage of Field Journaling: “I took away a more thoughtful posture toward my landscape.” She vows not to focus so exclusively upon her “garden vision that I would refuse [natives] space to provide for the many creatures, seen and unseen, that live among us. I will also try to refrain, starting now, from calling them ‘weeds’.” …Noble discoveries and declarations which any of us can emulate, for the betterment of the natural world in New Jersey.
Golden-Shafted Flicker Feeding Young, Brenda Jones
What Pamela teaches is that, what seem weeds to us are life preservers for wild creatures. Even aged and compromised trees, become cradles for life.
Pamela ought to know: She serves as horticulturist at Morven Museum and Gardens, where the Stocktons presided before and after our sacred Revolution. You’ll likely see the fruits of her studies and labors if you visit Morven for a quiet, historic celebration of Fourth of July.
Lambertville Fourth of July, 2010, Brenda Jones
You may also meet and even purchase native species here at D&R Greenway’s Native Plant Nurseries — sometimes we sell between our major seasonal sales; and always at Bowman’s Hill Wildflower Preserve below New Hope.
WHEN FAR IS NEAR:
April Scenes An Hour or So from Princeton
GO WITH FRIENDS
SHARE THE GAS
APPRECIATE NEW JERSEY
AND ALL OF THESE PRESERVED!
Beach Where Piping Plovers Will Soon Nest
Cape May Easter 2011
Reading Richard Louv’s newest book, “The Nature Principle”, on the reunion of humans with nature, I come across a phrase that describes all these years of NJ WILD for the Princeton Packet: NEAR IS THE NEW FAR.
Constable Scene - Spizzle Creek Bird Blind, Island Beach
This is the week I’ve first seen gas at $4 per gallon for regular, the week a friend paid $54 to fill her tank at a reasonable station.
Bluebell Enchantment April 30, Bowman’s Hill Wildflower Preserve
All along, I’ve been insisting, New Jersey is rich in nearby natural beauty. Maybe now, everyone will listen. Adventure, remember, is right around the corner.
Bowman’s Hill Wildflower Preserve is just across our beloved Delaware River, in Bucks County, just below New Hope.
Trillium/Bluebell Apotheosis - Bowman’s Hill Wildflower Preserve today
Island Beach is less than 100 miles from here, just below Bay Head, Mantoloking and Lavalette.
Surf Fisherman, Bay Head, NJ - yesterday
Sandy Hook is just over a new bridge from Atlantic Highlands.
Tasha O’Neill and I in Bahrs (Restaurant) Window Across Bay from Sandy Hook -
two weeks ago
Each offers something rare, something I require - land’s end. Above all, Cape May is land’s end, for humans and for birds in migration. Even the Cape May Bird Observatory is under 100 miles from my door. I do all as day trips, but stayed this time in Cape May at the dear Jetty Motel - from which we can walk the beach at low tide to Cape May Lighthouse and the Hawk Watch Platform.
When we climbed these steps, ospreys were everywhere, fishing madly.
Kettles of vultures swirled overhead.
Kettles of vultures swirled overhead
one mute swan settled onto her nest in the reeds
full breeding plumage of one great egret lofted on the wind
and one peregrine zoomed
The peregrine falcon is the symbol of my April - for peregrinations are wanderings. Short nearby nature journeys restore the soul, as I’ve written and written. Richard Louv repeats and repeats this mantra. Nature is no luxury. It is essential. The wild is neither remote nor extraneous. It, too, is essential. You can find wild nature in this state in a matter of minutes - even right along our Towpath. But a sense of adventure remains imperative.
Wouldn’t you think I’d been far, far from here? Instead:
Lenni Lenape Ancient Dugout Canoe
behind Bahrs Restaurant, on hem of Sandy Hook
wouldn’t you think I’d've been down South to find this sign last Friday?
FIRST ASPARAGUS OF THE SEASON
CAPE MAY COUNTY
We bought the asparagus from a woman who’d just picked it an hour ago on her farm.
Farmstand of Asparagus, Sweet Potatoes and Hydrangeas
Simple Seaside Supper at the Jetty Motel
New Friends Near Barnegat Bay, Island Beach - yesterday
New Fiddleheads Unfurl in Freshwater Pond near Ocean, Island Beach
Hopper Scene, Island Beach
Lobsterman’s Relic - Barnegat Bayshore, Island Beach
Island Beach is a true barrier beach, never built upon, pruned only by sea winds sometimes laden with salt, sand and/or snow. History is everywhere there - fishermen, brigands, frigates, smugglers, Indians gathering clams, early whalers - as in Cape May. Silence reigns at Island Beach. True Pine Barrens plants burgeon. Ferns unfurl magically in fresh peat water, only yards from the tumultuous ocean.
New Jersey WILD
On all of these nearby nature adventures, the spirit is renewed.
Majestic Trillium, Bowman’s Hill Wildflower Preserve, this morning
“The Practice of the Wild” by Gary Snyder delights me right from the preface - fairly unique, in my experience. The poet writes (in prose) of “appreciating the ferocious orderliness of the wild.” He speaks of his own path as “connected to animist and shamanist roots.” Snyder praises the arts as “the wilderness areas of the imagination, surviving like national parks.” I had not seen that arts connection, although I spend my life at D&R Greenway Land Trust weaving the arts into preservation of New Jersey lands. Snyder sums up his preface musings: “the wild… is actually, relentlessly, beautifully formal and free.”
As I step out along the Gary Snyder trail, I learn that to him, the words “wild” and “free” are inseparable. How tragic that freedoms are becoming more and more imperiled in our once abundant land, along with our once abundant land. Gary, thank you for articulating what I know, but could not put into words. Thank you for showing this Sagittarian (whose motto is “Don’t fence me in!”) why the wild is essential in my life. Because wild is free and free is wild.
I thought I was hoping to go to Bowman’s in search of spring. I now see, I am seeking the wild and the free. What are you seeking?
Coursing Waters: DELAWARE RIVER, Brenda Jones
A recurrent bout of flu deleted all my weekend excursions, including, especially, my first (!) trip this year to Bowman’s Hill Wildflower Preserve, just across our Delaware River, just below New Hope, to see if anything normal, natural and native had sprouted.
WILD DELAWARE, Brenda Jones
I knew, of course, skunk cabbage would be up. But what about bloodroot, twinflower, those fragile early heralds? Who knows? When will I know?
SKUNK CABBAGE, FIRST GLIMPSE, (Last Spring - March cfe)
First Ferns, which might be up now, for all I know! (cfe last spring - March)
Confined to quarters as I am, and despite lifelong scorn for television, this weekend I came to rejoice that NJN is spending this month on WILDERNESS. I became a couch potato watching WILD.
ISLAND BEACH FISHERMAN DAY AFTER WILD NOR’EASTER (cfe)
NJ WILD readers may remember my meanderings (mental) about the meaning of WILD, especially in this century, particularly in this, our most populous state.
TRUE WILDNESS, Fox at Twilight, Brenda Jones - I think Griggstown Grasslands
I’ve spent intervening years defining and redefining WILDERNESS (Henry David would have us say, WILDNESS, which is in even shorter supply).
CARNEGIE LAKE WILD - Cormorant/Gull/Fish Battle: Brenda Jones
National photospectaculars define wilderness in word and image. With some of which I agree. Some I seriously disagree. For example, every scene so far has been in the WEST.
KEN LOCKWOOD GORGE, NJ, WILD - Weighty Trout, Tasha O’Neill
NJN itself is great about celebrating New Jersey. Night after night, I see images NJ WILD has brought to you - the Pine Barrens, Salem and Cumberland Counties, the Delaware Bayshore, wild geese on the Delaware, a practiced fly fisherman in our very own Ken Lockwood Gorge, which could be the Black Canyon of the Gunnison for unrelieved wildness and the fight in those trout! (WHILE WE’RE AT IT, LET’S SAVE NJN!)
What makes me cross, couch potatoing in quest of wilderness, is that national filmmakers don’t know WE have a corner, in New Jersey, on Wildness.
STORM SURGE, LAVALETTE, Day After Nor’easter cfe
In the Western Wilderness series, listening to boys and girls, mostly inner city, taken to WILDERNESS the first time, their first reaction is nearly universal:
“It’s so peaceful here.” Wild = Peace.
What could be more important, essential? Especially now that we are engaged in three wars nobody wants and nobody seems to be able to stop. I remember when wars had to be run past Congress, something termed “the consent of the governed”, a.k.a. “the advise and consent” of our elected representatives. I am terrified by the voicelessness of the people in our land now.
All that heals me is the WILD.
However, for boys and girls who’ve never spent a night outdoors, the WILD can be terrifying in concept. To their amazement, over and over again, peace was the gift of the WILD.
WILD PEACE — RESTING TREE — Deep in D&R Greenway’s Cedar Ridge Preserve, cfe
What do my wild havens have in common?
Someone’s PRESERVED them!
What are you doing to keep New Jersey Wild and Scenic, as my Bucks County Congressman Peter Kostmayer once insisted our river be designated for so much of its beleaguered length such blessed terms still apply?
NJ WILD readers know my contenders for havens of WILD PEACE:
The Pine Barrens
Ken Lockwood Gorge, up near Clinton
Island Beach, especially in and after storm
Sandy Hook, especially in winter
Our D&R Canal and Towpath
Anywhere in the Delaware River Basin
Anywhere in Winter:
WILD WINTER SKIES, Sandy Hook Light, cfe
WHAT ARE YOURS?
WRITE YOUR FAVORITES in the COMMENTS
TEACH ME YOUR Favorites!
Having given an art opening for two hundred or more at D&R Greenway Land Trust last evening, I waken ready to roam.
All week, I’ve not only had this major reception ‘on my plate’, quite literally. I’ve also been absolutely alone with all phone calls. My office mate is on a long journey, her back-up down with asthma. You get the picture. Long before 9, I was in the car, not knowing why nor where. Knowing only that I had to be untethered.
Perhaps this morning’s was the oddest reason for a breakfast choice that I have ever known. Headed toward my cherished Delaware (River), I’d thought Lambertville was the breakfast-site-of choice. However, the radio filled my car with the flower song from Lakme, Sutherland above all. Followed by my ‘Ur’ duet - that from the Pearl Fishers. So long as it cascaded around me, no WAY could I stop to eat, not even at the Full Moon. Onward and upward I drove, on the New Jersey side, along the River, (the ONLY river…), as the voices of Warren and Bjoerling swirled as they had in my twenties. Then, I lived on Kellogg’s K, in order to afford Obstructed View Seats at the Old Met. There, I met (pun intended) Tebaldi as Traviata, Siepi as the Don (Giovanni), Warren and Bjoerling over and over until Leonard literally died on that well-worn stage. I was not in attendance, but I had heard him that very week. And now, that voice was stilled forever. Until May 15, in the 21st Century, when Warren and Bjoerling swept me north along the Delaware River, to an unexpected feast.
All the electricity of last night’s art reception still swirled about me, but I had to keep driving, north, through small but not forgotten villages of this state I have come to call my own. Except that my geographical center is not a state, but a Valley, the Delaware Valley.
The villages were sleepy, still, as I was not. Other drivers seemed captured by the morning’s scintillation. They were all driving a good ten miles below the speed limit - how amazing in the 21st Century! And even more astonishing, I didn’t care - I was glad they were doing the car equivalent of sauntering - about which I wrote for NJ WILD readers when this blog first began.
Sun on spring leaves had that special glint of light when there’s a river near. I drove green tunnels all a-glimmer, green upon green, and under that the black glisten of rocks that winter garlands with white ice.
No one else is on so many stretches of my runaway drive! So color dominates. There is a sudden eruption (are there slow ones?) of pink and mauve and magenta, and I realize it is the season of wild phlox. Tall, stately yet dainty, the clusters resemble innocent prom girls, when voluptuousness was the farthest thing from those pristine minds, when dresses were sewn by tender mothers from fabrics with names like dimity. Shy, the way we were, these blooms, nodding, like Asian women behind coquettish fans, hiding in spring shadows. The prom-flower maidens are suddenly stirred by river winds - as we were by currents of the future.
Pearl Fisher majesty ends. I am in Stocton, New Jersey. The town of “There’s a small hotel, with a wishing well,” which song I heard at midnight on a May night when I’d voted at dawn to DUMP THE PUMP, then hustled into Manhattan to share a musical with a Michigan friend. And what song was the center-piece of that production, but ‘There’s a Small Hotel.” Written at the Stockton Inn, beside a wishing well I knew in my other life, with my once splendid husband. And when I heard that song on the bridge in the middle of the Delaware River heading home to Bucks County, I knew our referendum had won. What I didn’t know was that it was non-binding. Our opponents were laughing up their sleeves, knowing what I could not foresee — that the Pump would be built that year when I ran away to Provence. That all the land owned by lawyers and judges and chemists and utilities insiders would suddenly pass its perk tests and be worth thousands if not millions. That Bucks County would be profaned. That McMansions would rise on all sides in that rustic, rural Paradise. That my few years in Bucks County would prove to have been its apex, lost forever.
Probably that battle, that loss, fuels me even now. I will never get over the perfidy of all politicians save Peter Kostmayer, –who did win, whose position papers, speeches and release I wrote, who did name as much of our beloved Delaware as could possibly qualify, as WILD AND SCENIC. Without whom, we wouldn’t have all those shad fishermen and shad festivals up and down her banks in the 21st century. So wall was not exactly lost. But Bucks County will never be the same.
Stockton is fully alive this early. River light blinds me, though I cannot quite see the river. Only after I park do I realize I am before “one of my favorite things” — as though this town could have heard me singing: a Farmers’ Market! Tiny triangle flags in simple primary colors strain at their moorings in this morning’s gale. Hand chalked lists of today’s specialties inform me that the quaint wine shop next door proffers wine tastings at noon. Well, that ’s a long way off. Imagine shopping for local sustainable produce (and, I learn, for fish, for shellfish, for chocolates, for lavender, for cheeses, for grass-fed beef, for quiches and cookies and muffins and pies, for dried herbs and glass gardens (nearly succumbed to this) and baguettes and bacon, and on and on and on, to the tune of a country fiddler. I have to go back, in a produce mood, do justice to the Stockton Farmers’ Market.
Sun dazzles, so that I am stopped literally in my tracks, at THE tracks of the Delaware and Belvidere Railroad. Of course, it was ultimately gulped by the omnivorous Pennsylvania Railroad. Which is why I somehow overlooked this precious journey opportunity - from Trenton to Easton, awash throughout with the ‘belle-vedere’ — beautiful viewings — which gave this train its name.
A Sicilian restaurant mis-spells its signature fish, which I am sure will be succulent and unforgettable nonetheless, were I to be here in the fish hour, which I shall not.
My quest is Miel’s - the quirky restaurant where I shall feast on crispy/fluffy corn fritters and hearty sausage patties. Miel’s has presided at this simple corner since I lived in New Hope for most of the ‘eighties. It was the brain-child of feisty women, and I swear the same ones are still here, turning out the identical home cooking specialties, which were exotic in the eighties. They had roast turkey and stuffing, also meat loaf and mashed potatoes, every night of every season, back in those stupid years of la nouvelle cuisine….
What I love about Miel’s, in addition to its feisty women and hearty real food! - is their mismatched plates, cups, glasses, and the like - as though out of an Ohio great aunt’s kitchen. On the walls now is an historian’s dream of Shad Festival posters. It looks as though the shad itself has gone somewhat out of favor. Cats appear. Buildings are honored. The river’s scarce. The funniest is words - “To Shad or Not to Shad?”, “Shad Now or Later?”. My favorite is a standing shad, in a red convertible, with a white scarf, a la Lindbergh or Isadora, take your pick. This year’s was so clotted with information as to be nearly illegible, non-informational for all those words, and the shad a ghost of its former self. I lived in New Hope when we all, on both sides of the Delaware, celebrated the historic return of the fish that McPhee insists saved our army, its general, and created our nation, that First Fish…
But I’m not here for fish. I don’t even need the menu. Bring me those corn fritters, that unlikely raspberry mayonnaise, the sturdy homemade sausage patties. Ply me with water full of ice, as I wish the Arctic still could be, for my cherished polar bears. Bring me coffee that stops me in full flow of description and memory with its hearty redolence.
Beside me rises an iconic hand-made quilt, featuring panels of other times, exhorting guests to choose the MOST DELICIOUS HAMBURGER EVER @ 25cents, or TRY OUR BLUE PLATE SPECIAL
We don’t have blue plates. Glasses are striped with Depression-era hues of orange and brass and chartreuse. Blue willow is the oval holding my sizzling sausage patties. My crunchy yet gossamer corn fritters, studded with real corn kernels, rest on a pink version of faux-Spode flowers of simplistic Crayola colors. A sturdy crock holds heftily-seeded raspberry jam, so thick it does not move as I tip the pot to see what treasure it holds. In my daily life, in a more sophisticated venue, everyone’s health is so compromised that I can never find seed-filled jams and preserves any more. A tinier pure white ‘petit pot’ holds butter I will not need.
Waitresses exult, “Great!”, “Fantastic!”, as dazzled customers finally make food choices. In all this time, I haven’t been called a guy, nor subjected to overhearing narratives studded with the useless and to me thoroughly discouraging word, “LIKE”! True, one woman speaks of financing, financiers, her desk, the Internet. But she is the only one, in her hammering cadence, to interject these remnants of the bottom-line work world into my Stockton retreat.
Someone asks the waitress about all the pictures on the menu, high schoolers of various eras, seemingly especially the 60’s. “Everyone who works here,” the questioner is told.
In the bathroom are murals of the wooded hills through which I drove to reach this true restaurant - for the phrase in France came after their Revolution, when chefs without aristocrats were driven to prepare soup for anyone, referring to these sites and those meals as something that restored: hence “RESTAURANTS”.
A French opera brought me to Stockton this day. I will not go on to Frenchtown, erroneously named for a Swiss - they couldn’t tell the difference.
I will, instead, seek out Bowman’s Wildflower Preserve, see if the yellow lady’s slipper is anywhere to be found.
And forever thank Bjoerling and Warren, for luring me north to Stockton on this limpid Saturday morning!
Apotheosis of Spice Bush - Bowman’s Hill Wildlife Preserve, PA
I send NJ WILD readers only my pictures now — for it is too late for words this night, too late to blog
Here are images from April 2.
Excursions to Bowman’s Hill Wildlife Preserve, just below New Hope, reveal spring’s hurtling — latest and earliest blooms all ‘popped’ at once - and trees all leafing out, which spells the end of Bowman’s ephemerals for this year
Naturalists at D&R Greenway Land Trust, and morning’s classical music announcer on WPRB mourn, “They’ve squeezed my spring into a handful of days.”
global climate change — beautiful and terrible, all at once…
Artist/Writer Anne Zeman As Intense as the Spring She Photographs
Emergent Dutchman’s Britches
An Ignition of Skunk Cabbages
Intrepid Toad Trillium
Beech Drops in Beechwood Shade Anne Zeman’s Hand
Birth of Toad Trillium
Either Wood or Rue Anemone and Bounty of OakLeaves
Spires of False Hellbore
Parrry Trail’s Sculptured New Steps - Down to the Bluebells
Starved for spring, I search NJ WILD Archives - Indeed, we had the green of spring nearly a month earlier last year. Here, if snows, sleets, rains and thunders relent, I will seek spring anew, this Sunday - March 27. Meanwhile, yes, there are wildflowers under all that brown and white!
Fern Still-Life at Bowman’s Hill Wildflower Preserve, March 7, 2010 - first green of spring
Quick, before the endorphins fade, let me bring you spring!
This Sunday morning, I fled working on taxes. A third day seemed absolutely beyond me, since I have to list almost everything, despite being, basically, innumerate. I saw that 55-degree forecast and that rain for all next weekend, and off I went, headed for Bowman’s Hill Wildflower Preserve, just below New Hope. In no time I was crossing our glimmering Delaware into Pennsylvania.
Only on the way home did I realize the significance of this date: 29 years ago tomorrow morning, I moved from my Braeburn-off-Snowden home in the Princeton woods, to an apartment on a hill above New Hope. My soul seems to have required a re-enactment of a different sort of crossing of the Delaware…
I wanted to see if spring were anywhere at Bowman’s. My heart sank driving through the two mobbed towns of Lambertville and New Hope. I didn’t want spring to be that man in the ugly Bermuda shorts, that girl in shirtsleeves with her ears plugged with wires, not even all those red convertibles with their tops down. I wanted NATURAL SPRING.
Driving down toward Bowman’s, snow streaked the stony Pennsylvania hillsides. Trees seemed even more stark than those on my Canal Road hill. The palette inside the stately gates was brown, brown and more brown, with occasional swathes of white. My quest felt pretty hopeless, as I tromped through what we used to call “frozen granular” at Stowe, only there I was in ski boots.
The Perry Trail seems to have fine strong chiseled new slate steps, which made the descent not only interesting and safe, but also beautiful. I used my trekking poles, having learned long ago that they remove 15% of the stress on hips, knees, ankles and feet. I didn’t have problem joints when I bought the trekking poles - to me, they were wands so that I could stay out 15% longer. Today, on the heels of that Frenchtown fall with all its joint reverberations, I couldn’t have trekked all those hours without those poles.
What I was really after were our two earliest flowers — one being snow trillium, which emerges only as snow tiptoes away; and the other being skunk cabbage. The latter is exothermic - giving off heat that literally melts ice. Those ruddy monks’ cowls, my Bowman’s quest, emerge as though in silent prayer at streamside. In reality, the vivid tough red and green leaf points shelter a strange yellow flower, which gives off an odor we call skunklike, an aroma that lures spring’s first pollinators. If the skunk cabbage isn’t up, it isn’t spring.
I knew where to look for it - the Gentian Trail, over toward the pond that houses basking turtles and bellowing frogs a little later in the new season; and Marsh Marigold Trail. I headed for Gentian.
Sure enough, in feeble but welcome sun and much shadow, there were the first green wizard’s hats, poking through the grainy snow. You would think, after 72 years, that I would realize that, Carolyn, yes, spring does come every year. But I don’t. Winter goes on too long, too dark, and snows too deep, for all my cherishing of that season. Winter gets in the way of light. But skunk cabbage knows how to reach for the sun, carrying me with it.
Another inescapable spring sign is the paling of the beech leaves. Even though they’re not supposed to become this light in color, until just prior to dropping off when beeches need a burst of acid nourishment in mid-April, my heart leaps up at the way the lightening leaves hold last winter light. They also create super sharp shadows:
There is more to spring than sights, however. The sound of spring at Bowman’s on March 7, 2010, was of the loosening of the waters. Although much liquid remains white and firm and dominant on hillsides, much is coursing through Pidcock Creek. People in upper Michigan used to speak of the ’song of the waters’, — my greatest joy this Pennsylvania day.
Another sound of winter’s ending is a fragile one, of which I have never been so fully aware as at Bowman’s today: –the frisson of crisping beech leaves as they thin and pale. You may know that sound in aspen leaves out West, or birch leaves high on mountains in autumn. Beech leaves alter in texture as well as color, setting up this tremolo before they drop to feed the parent plant. It is one of the most magical of spring transitions to me. But never before had I fully realized that beech transformation is audible.
Spring is also a matter of texture. There’s a noble tree at the bridge over Pidcock Creek, a tree that’s always been there. But I’d never known its name, until the year I heard my first phoebes announcing their name among its generous branches. I scurried to the TwinLeaf Shop, managed by knowledgeable volunteers. Describing the birds in color, field marks and voice, we agreed that they had to be phoebes. Describing the tree, the volunteer announced, “Oh, you mean, the cucumber magnolia.” Today the cucumber magnolia was beginning to show the misty green buds whose shape gives the tree its name. They are fuzzy as pussy willows, though larger. I touched them hungrily, laid my cheek against a bud, soft as a newborn’s hair. Yes, yes, ‘cucumbers’ insist it’s spring.
Pidcock Creek Bridge, built by Civilian Conservation Corps in 1930’s -
where cucumber magnolia reigns
On the Azalea Trail, no evidence of azaleas, needless to say. But the first pendulousness of catkins is apparent, there and near the labeled spicebush on the way back to my car. The catkins are small, still, but soft - soft is what matters. Soft means spring. The spicebush has not one spurt of chartreuse, the first shrub flowers of spring. But, scraping a branch discreetly, that pungency that is the origin of its ‘benzoin’ name filled my nostrils and my heart. Even on the drive home, there was a whiff of spicebush on my thumb. There was a certain thrill to have been questing for spring even before the spicebush knew it was time.
Still and all, the star of this day, at Bowman’s, is skunk cabbage. Here is a portrait gallery, so you can see what I mean about their welcome drama in the winter landscape. Some are near the Gentian Trail pond; some are in the waters beside Marsh Marigold Trail. Either way, these humble plants shout of spring. Rejoice!
I call this one, “King of the Skunk Cabbage”
An odd realization came to me, on Bowman’s Trails today: Winter is the time of nouns - blizzard, forecast, snowfall, snowpile, snowman, snowflake, drifts…
Spring is verbs: snows melt, waters swirl, ferns unfurl, catkins soften, spicebush spurts, an ant crawled determinedly along the railing of the bridge on the Medicinal Trail… Spring is activity, reflected even in the language we use to define, discover and describe.
ORIGINAL MEDICINAL TRAIL SIGN
When you look only at the pictures, you may see an excess of brown. Surely not the common man’s version of spring. However, beneath this tone is the color we’ve all been longing to see again - verdant shoots of plants that herald spring.
And, as an extra gift, on my way home, at the stoplight for #518 in Hopewell, what was I given but a tree whose base is completely adorned with winter aconite! That name had been in my head all day, even though I have never seen that plant at Bowman’s. Oh, yes. It was the first color of spring at our long-ago house, the house I left 29 years ago tomorrow, on Braeburn-off-Snowden. Interessant…
There’s a message in the town that holds this scene: HOPE WELL - spring is inevitable!
First Cold-Blooded Creature of Spring
Bowman’s Hill Wildflower Preserve
When a friend calls at 8:15 and says, “I want to play hooky,” there is only one answer: YES!
So photographer, Tasha O’Neill, and I took off, despite late long rain and blustery temperatures, for several hours of springquest at Bowman’s Hill Wildflower Preserve, right below New Hope, Pennsylvania.
I’ll have more to write - but it’s the time to turn out the lights for Mother Nature. So, suffice it to say, we found irretrievable, inescapable spring:
1 painted turtle on slanted log in pond
1 mourning cloak butterfly
some (yes, invasive) lesser celandine
bluebell leaves popping right through stone paths, and some bluebell flowers
some spotted toad trillium leaves
some spotted trout lily leaves
some Dutchmen’s britches leaves
skunk cabbage still purple, dark as monks’ cowls, the color that keeps them warm
spent snowdrops Read the rest of this entry »