Archive for the ‘Disaster’ Category
Long ago, I chronicled the Blizzard of ‘78, from my Princeton house on Braeburn, off Snowden. A year later, the Packet published the entire journal, with pages of professional photographs of that crippling storm. Our girls accepted the fact of its seriousness when the word came that QBM (Quaker Bridge Mall) was closed. Adults did same when they heard that IBM was…
Here, I chronicle officials’ translation of the storm out my windows above Canal Road, near Rocky Hill. Iconic phrases and images unfurl, and I have to stop my professional writing to get this down. Never did I expect to become a stormwitness anew, on a blog. Also, for the Packet.
Oddest of all, with two storms causing this weekend’s ordeals, and another ‘in the wings’, not one reporter in all these hours mentioned the word ‘climate,’ let alone ‘climate change’, let alone carbon dioxide, carbon footprint, carbon emissions, glacial melt… Nor any of the wise and courageous scientists who’ve been telling us for decades that this scenario is inevitable. How they love to blame it all on Mother Nature!
What one reporter dubbed, “A Winter Wallop - gonna be a Big One”, started here in the dark of Friday.
It all began as ‘snrain’, barely visible, yet palpable, before first light. ‘Our’ blizzard wasn’t ‘due’ until 3 p.m., but no one told the storm gods. Even though I could not see whatever was falling, it was dropping clumps on the paving stones like the sticky Lux flakes my mother used to use for hand-washing.
Our weekend forecast — emphasis on END — has gone from 38 and partly cloudy to rain to wintry mix to 9 inches before Saturday is over. With these words, my excursions to havens are systematically cancelled.
There is still no visible snowfall. Yet, in this dusk-like dawn, streaks spurt past, white and fast as comets.
[I'm reading about Yellowstone in Audubon: "There are things you learn, riding the bus between wolf sightings." It's been a long time between wolf-sightings. This hideous forest beside which I dwell, this former healthy woodland destroyed by Mr. and Mrs. McMansion next door, would be bearable, if there were wolf sightings, or even coyote. But it's too narrow, too deep, too studded with invasives, offering no appeal to predators nor prey, repelling me. I try on different names for it, The Ugly Forest, Ruination Woods. Can a super snow storm gild this pitiful lily?]
All light is sucked out of the world now — not only the woods blurred, but also sky, the very ground itself. Its as though my windows have cataracts.
At least when it blows and is this far below freezing, Trap Rock cannot burn asphalt, searing and closing my lungs, enlarging my heart, as Solstice X-ray revealed, to my terror.
Audubon writes of “a shape-shifting flock” of wolves. This is a shape-shifting storm.
Now I can see ‘flakes’ - but they’re more like shards and fragments, something left over from diamond-grinding. If the New England adage is true: “Little Snow: Big Snow; Big Snow: Little Snow”, we are IN for it. In other words, when a New England snowstorm starts with minuscule flakes, the storm itself will be enormous.
Geese on high, invisible, not frantic — peaceful regular ‘barks.’
It’s 25 and grim, 70% humidity. When I’m outdoors, whatever’s falling feels like rain on my face and hands.
Well, so much for forecast. While boiling eggs in case of power outage, I turn on Local on the 8’s to learn we could now receive 10″ on the day that was s’posed to be partly cloudy and mid-thirties and WE were going for our first post-Sandy exploration of Island Beach. Not in a Nor’easter…
The officials, despite that “ten inches”, insist we are having rain in Somerset/Somerville. OK, rain that sounds like thousands of popcorn kernels dropping on this hill, hissing and dropping.
In the Boston area, this storm sounds like it could be worse than the Blizzard of ‘78, which was always my benchmark, and seems to have become so, now, in official parlance.
Locals still insist ours here is rain and 34 or 35 - when it’s below thirty and rattling. On the deck, this NOT- rain is bouncing back up.
Now we’re hearing of travel bans in Boston, and Jim Cantore and Al Roker are on Boston Commons. Not for a bird walk, not for a swan ride, not even to jog or write or hear poetry. To be battered by winter’s worst.
Mayor Bloomberg is on in Manhattan, telling people to “Stay home, cook dinner, read a good book.” This gets translated later by commentators into everything from “read a book” (evidently doesn’t have to be good) and “order takeout.”
Worst of the Bloomberg exchanges is insistence that “there are no problems with gasoline.” I have this same note in my Sandy journal, from mayors and governors, insisting! And in Princeton, I came home on the heels of Sandy to gas lines spilling for blocks onto highways, police with red lights flashing monitoring our local gas stations! Within the hour of Bloomberg’s reassurance, with this snowstorm, there are gas problems on Long Island.
Now, whatever is coming down out my front door sounds like a really violent sandstorm, pelting against the building, against glass, fizzing through evergreens. Relentless, ceaseless.
I”ve been working on the book on Stuart Country Day School’s 50 years, relentless and ceaseless myself. I squint out windows to figure out what’s really happening.
Leaving the computer, I hear a television reporter speak of “sleet stinging my face.” Another describes rising wind and cold as “stinging to the bone.” Our local officials still call it rain.
There’s something worse to me than precipitation during storms. It’s the ruination of the English language. It’s being called ‘guys’ every few minutes. It’s having reporters in the field on all stations say “Back to you guys in the studio,” when it’s two women in dresses too tight and too short, decrying their professional status as scientists, as meteorologists, and most definitely not GUYS! The other ordeal is having to absorb the new redundities. Chefs tell us to ‘reduce down’. Snow monitor speaks of “eroding away.” “Gather together, cobble together” set my teeth on edge. [Re weather today, the two storms,] Everything merges together.” Normally, I can avoid these desecrations, but not during storms. Latest — “We’ll return you back.”
I learn what I should know, “the lighter the snow, the higher the snowfall amounts.” The usual 10 - 1 ratios of rain to snow are off in this one, because whatever’s falling wherever is very very wet and heavy. “More like 1 to 3″, says the expert. Being innumerate, this is only of passing interest to me.
I have a friend who’s a self-admitted “connoisseur of snowflakes”, and nothing has fallen yet that is worthy of him.
“Already we can’t see down to the blacktop,” a girl in a puffy parka somewhere near Long Island observes; “and we still have two hours to go.” That means to the official beginning - ours still being 3 p.m., tho pelting since before purported sunrise.
One of my favorite phrases in this storm is “Waiting for the Wind.” Actually, I don’t want wind, because of all the tall trees, conifers and deciduous, in which this dwelling is set. We lost five big ones to Sandy, and there are trees beyond counting out there that could fall in any direction.
Now Governors and Mayors repeat each other’s theme song, “STAY HOME.” Christie, about whom I shall say nothing not storm-related, commands, “Do everything slowly. Be smart and be safe. Watch this storm but don’t get into the middle of it. STAY HOME.” But he does not order actions nor inactions of ordinary citizens.
Connecticut roads are about to shut down. In Bedford, L.I., “We’ve hardly seen any cars here.” “Storm isn’t the problem, outages are.” This reporter already measures 4 inches. Later she will lose her yardstick down a snow-hidden open drain.
Another favorite line: “Ya know it’s gonna be bad when the coffee shop closes.”
Our report remains, “Cloudy. Periods of rain. A few snow showers. Mid-30’s” My noisy outdoor conditions remain, including thermometer resolutely below 30 since pre-dawn.
Officials outside report, “Icy pellets coming down. Not seeing many on roads. A lot of slush” Rye, N.Y.
One daft reporter: “Transportation may become an issue.”
“Snow is coming down harder and icier. It’s expected to worsen.”
(In New England, I’ve known for hours if not days, winds can reach 70 m.p.h.)
“Flooding on Route 35 and spin-outs on the NJTPK at Route 18″ — which is New Brunswick, which is a half hour north of here. My thermometer is now down to 26, with 80% humidity, and something that feels like drizzle but makes noise.
Officials: “It’s a good idea to bring all pets indoors.” They say this, this late in the day? People need to be told this?
“Wind chill in Boston tonight may be zero.” On the Commons, it is plain that sideways snow is painting ides of trunks of trees. Officials speak calmly of two to three feet of snow in places in MA, CT, NH, RI, ME. States begin “banning vehicular traffic.”
There is an image of the Mass Pike, Route 90, without one single car on it. This is afternoon on a Friday.
Lightning is reported off the Jersey coast.
Jim Cantore, on the Commons, shakes his head, side-by-side with Al Roker, as their snow fizzes sideways, “This is the real deal.”
Reporters everywhere warn “very very slick” “Roads bad. Sidewalks may be worse.”
We can’t see the Brooklyn Bridge for the snow. Later, the same will be true of the Empire State Building.
Re NYC, “Everyone wants to get out of Dodge.” The reason is given, “to avoid the worst of the storm.” But there doesn’t seem any place around here where that would be possible.
I-84 shut down. “Connecticut very bad - 100 crashes.” “LIE shut down.” Re MTA, “10 inches or 40 mph winds will jeopardize service, … likelihood of suspension.” AmTrak suspended. Buses on Route 9 in NJ cancelled. All MTA buses and Mayor Bloomberg’s plows have chains on tires. I think I heard same re EMT vehicles. Forget flying!
“Dangerous and Icy — GET HOME and STAY HOME.”
Views of many snow-smeared towns reveal streetlights on in daytime.
I keep feeling how ghastly all these perils and predictions must be for people who lost family and friends, homes, towns, swathes of trees to Sandy, 100 brief days ago.
Newark is bleak, black, empty. Not only flights outside but people inside La Guardia not allowed. I think equally true of JFK, but not shown images there.
“It’s just snow now. The mix is over.”
Observer in Brooklyn, re predictions, “I think they’re overdoin’ it.”
As power outages begin, officials warn about high winds and bucket trucks, to say nothing of critical snow removal for access — meaning days before electric companies, although primed, can even begin to repair.
“New England is already reeling.”
A reporter describes “phalanxes of snowplows.”
“We’ll be working throughout the night.”
“Please slow down.”
“Numbers getting really big.”
“Everyone into snow now.”
Radar rotations, –even chief meteorologists admit, on many different channels–, “almost look like a tropical system.”
Wasn’t Sandy also a marriage of two storms? Or was that Irene? Or both? I do know Sandy was followed by a severe New Jersey snowstorm that in some shore towns wreaked hardship to match or even surpass the hurricane/superstorm. Al Roker dubs this a “Snowicane.”
After all these hours, officials say, “It’s beginning to ramp up.”
More and more complaints that it’s “so wet and heavy.”
“Colossal stoppage of transport.”
Power company trucks from as far away as Ohio
Hurricane-force winds on Nantucket
“Gonna be a wild night.”
“Long Island’s gonna be the bull’s eye.”
“It’s like a snow machine turned on high.”
People “walked to these restaurants because it’s not safe to be out on the roadways.”
“Driving is horrendous.”
“We’re not even halfway done with this storm.”
But I am - I’m going in to Stanley Kunitz, to read his deep and stellar prose and poems celebrating his seaside garden in Provincetown. And, though my beloved Cape looked really compromised on all those rainbowed rotation maps, I’m not going to think about storms…
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….
Cormorants Swim Where Brenda Jones and I Birded By Car…
NJ WILD readers know, if they know anything about me, how precious is the birding refuge, ‘The Brig’, A.K.A. Edwin B. Forsythe Wildlife Refuge to me, as a birder, and far more profoundly, as a spiritual being.
It’s where I restore myself when “the world is too much with me”, more and more frequently these days. Far more important than I, however, ‘The Brig’ is a key stopover on the Atlantic Flyway, rich in rarities at all times. Perhaps never more precious than in winter, when winged creatures elsewhere can be scarce.
Duck Flight Before Storm, Brenda Jones
Everyone also knows that un-hurricaned Sandy destroyed great swathes of our beloved New Jersey’s three coastlines, especially The Shore, especially at and in and near Atlantic City.
One of the eeriest factors of being at ‘The Brig’ is that you see all those gambling towers through the migrant flocks. My happiest times at ‘The Brig’ are when I can’t see Atlantic City, because of fog or whatever.
I have been down at the Brig in fire, fog and ice. I can never believe that anyone would rather be in those towering prisons of glass, those cacophonous, frenzied places, rather than in the seamless peace of the marshy reaches of The Brigantine.
Great Egret, Great Peace of Brigantine Wildlife Refuge, Brenda Jones
I can’t drive it’s dike road any more, because it has been severed by uncategorized-storm-Sandy.
Cormorants swim where I used to bird by car.
All those carefully managed impoundments with their specific salinities, to nourish certain aquatic plants and shelter and feed certain waterfowl, are fouled. The Bay, –Absecon Bay, whatever its salinity in the storm and ever since–, has surged in. The Brig, as we know it, is no more.
Grebe Swallowing Frog, Brigantine Wildlife Refuge December Drama — Anne Zeman
I’m going down there for Christmas, ‘come hell or high water’. Certain walking trails are open, and birds don’t watch the Weather Channel. I’ll check out Leed’s Point, where the Jersey Devil was purportedly born and which thrives as a tiny old-world fishing village, at least until Sandy. Herons frequently soar in and land on Leed’s Point pilings. I’ll drive the bumpy sand road to and from Scott’s Landing, always remembering encountering hunters with their ‘bag’ of bloodied snow geese there, late one autumn. Odd, I’ve never read a recipe for snow goose. How neatly they were lined up along the sand… below the targets, silhouettes that teach hunters the differences among birds on the wing at various distances.
Snow Geese In Flight, Brenda Jones
How Snow Geese Look when they hear shots…. cfe
In the meantime, this is some of ‘The Brig’s’ reality. God KNOWS what’s happened at my other major havens - Island Beach, south of ruined Bay Head, Mantoloking, Seaside and so forth, and Sandy Hook, up by the Highlands and too many rivers….
Serenity and Tumult, Bay Head, Carolyn Foote Edelmann
NJ WILD BEAUTY, ISLAND BEACH Carolyn Foote Edelmann
Pristine Barnegat Bay, which rose to meet the Atlantic… Carolyn Foote Edelmann
Winter Realities, Normal Sandy Hook, Carolyn Foote Edelmann
Sandy Hook, Bay Side, After a Hard Winter Carolyn Foote Edelmann
Brigantine Serenity from Leed’s Eco-Trail Carolyn Foote Edelmann
Cloudscape, Summer, Brigantine Carolyn Foote Edelmann
Glossy Ibis and Marsh Mallow’s First Bloom, Brigantine Carolyn Foote Edelmann
Update as of Friday, December 7 at 10 a.m.: The Wildlife Drive in Galloway remains closed due to damage from Hurricane Sandy. The Songbird Trail, including the portion that uses the Wildlife Drive, will be closed December 10 through 14 due to a refuge hunt. Other hiking trails in Galloway are open from 9:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. daily, including the Akers Woodland Trail, Leed’s Eco-trail, and foot access to Gull Pond Tower.
The Visitor Information Center is open from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. weekdays and 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.weekends. All fees have been temporarily waived.
Scott’s Landing Boat Launch is open. Barnegat Observation Platform is open. The deCamp Wildlife Trail in Brick Township is open for the first 2000 feet. Holgate remains closed.
The Edwin B. Forsythe National Wildlife Refuge, where more than 47,000 acres of southern New Jersey coastal habitats are actively protected and managed for migratory birds. Forsythe is one of more than 500 refuges in the National Wildlife Refuge System administered by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. The National Wildlife Refuge System is a network of lands and waters managed specifically for the protection of wildlife and wildlife habitat and represents the most comprehensive wildlife resource management program in the world. Units of the system stretch across the United States from northern Alaska to the Florida Keys, and include small islands in the Caribbean and South Pacific. The character of the Refuges is as diverse as the nation itself.
Wish me well on my Christmas pilgrimage. Far More Important, wish the birds well no matter man’s depredations.
Do whatever you can, wherever you are, even in those 90 countries who, for some reason, read NJ WILD about our dear state, to preserve refuges in your region.
And pay attention to catastrophic climate change. It’s no myth. It’s not a subject for believe. We have seen, to borrow the Pogo line, catastrophic climate change, and it is us.
What Sandy did was dress rehearsal. Sandy scrawled the signature of inevitable sea level rise for all the world to see. Sandy was not a one-time event. Sea level rise will not undo itself, as do hurricanes in time. Although not in damage.
Our world is changed forever.
Sandy didn’t change it.
What are you doing about it?
Rainbow Before Sandy, The Berkshires cfe
NJ WILD readers know, at October’s wild end, I was led to the Berkshires, in Western Massachusetts. i was only to stay two days. My purpose was to hike in wooded hills and re-experience the finest arts at the Clark Institute, the Williams College Museum and Bennington’s, As complex 2012 wound down, mountains, art and limitless vistas had become more essential than usual.
Sandy had other ideas.
Green Mountain Trees Await Sandy cfe
My brief mountain getaway stretched to more than a week, with no heat or water in this Princeton dwelling, and major trees down along routes I needed in order to return home.
Long-time friends from corporate America laughed in unison when I referred to myself as a refugee. But what else are you when you can’t go home?
The mountains had many messages for me, which I assiduously reported in my journal.
Sandy Approaches Williamstown cfe
Above all, ‘Sandy’ is far too trivial a name for a natural event of that magnitude. Even though this Storm King lived up to its moniker, burying Jersey Shore cars well inland in sand like blizzard drifts.
Though cradled in the Green, the Berkshires, the Catskills and in the shadow of Mt. Greylock, this Jerseyan was haunted by a Shore town’s name, “Sea Girt.” Girdled by the sea. I do not know the fate of that oceanside haven, but it probably is not good. The truth is, we could change the name of New Jersey to Sea Girt.
NJ WILD readers have ‘heard’ me all these years, insisting, “It’s not Mother Nature, Folks. It’s US!” This has now been demonstrated to the entire world, irrevocably, inescapably. On the heels of a political campaign in which catastrophic climate change and environmental perils, let alone carbon footprints played no role.
Are we facing the truth now? Or are we all caught up in REBUILD and THE NEW NORMAL?
What ‘Sandy’ revealed was the fate of all our coasts.
What Sandy scrawled was the signature of sea-level rise.
Vanishing glaciers mean more water in oceans, which means more ‘fuel’ for storms whether rain, snow or wind.
Where I Read Storm News, Williamstown: The Chef’s Hat cfe
In the mountains, reading local papers and the New York Times, welcomed like a local, comforted as the refugee I had become, the scariest reality had to do with my beloved trees. One estimate, early on, was that we lost, in those few Sandy hours, 2 million trees. Think “2 million carbon sinks” everyone, two million living, breathing entities that used to absorb the CO2 we insist on pumping into the greenhouse called Earth.
What the mountain newspaper asserted was, “This was not a storm of floods nor even of winds — this was a case of trees-turned-weapons.”
Sandy Fury North Williamstown cfe
Drive anywhere, without even leaving Princeton. Toppled tree roots tower over dwellings of increasing magnitude. Even Morven itself is dwarfed by roots of the downed conifer in its front yard. Get out of the car to meet friends in the most privileged enclaves. Hear the tumultuous ripple of ‘tarps’ over roofbeams. Try to speak and hear above the roar of chain saws and tree-devourers.
Calm Before Storm, Bennington VT cfe
Sandy is no respecter of history, pedigree, address, or life station.
Years ago, I completed Tom Brown’s Tracker School. Ralph-the-Seneca was one of the participants, needing to learn Indian ways, especially foraging for wild foods, as intensely as I did. Ralph had been brought there to teach us the art of bow-making. At the end of making fire, Ralph took me aside, in the opening of a sturdy barn. “We are poisoning Mother Earth,” he intoned solemnly, back in 1983. “And she will do what any healthy animal does under those circumstances. She will vomit us out.”
Although I was far from Tracker School and our beloved Jersey Shore - in fact, from New Jersey’s three unique coastlines — that battered Shore, the Delaware River and the Delaware Bay, i experienced Ralph’s prophecy’s being fulfilled.
Climate change has never been a factor of ‘belief’! It’s here, now, big-time. Are we big enough to face it?
Sandy Approaches Williamstown, Mass, bearing Rainbow cfe
All through my unexpected refugee time in Massachusetts mountains, –held there by hurricane, downed trees on the routes home, and no power at home–, I NEEDED to re-read Shakespeare’s “The Tempest.”
A friend has since loaned me her teaching copy. My craving has proved powerfully apt.
As the storm approached even the Berkshires, Vermont’s Green Mountains, crept toward Melville’s Greylock, I found myself wondering, if Will were here, how would he cover it? The answers were swift in arriving:
SANDY IN WILLIAMSTOWN cfe
His headline would read, “The world has suffered a sea change, into something rich and strange.” As ever, the profundity of Will’s long-ago lines surges far beyond mere words into prophecy itself.
These sea changes on our shores (remember, New Jersey is unique in having three shores) are not merely of this storm, nor of this season.
Whether we find Sandy’s legacy ‘rich’ is a moot point. There is no question about change, and sea as agent. And man with his ceaseless carbon emissions the ultimate deus ex machina, far beyond Caliban, in this drama.
The earth, that “brave new world”, WAS “rich” before our depredations. Now, the emphasis, on all our coasts and well inland, even to towering waves off Michigan and Illinois/Chicago, must be on “strange”.
And, unlike Shakespeare’s, many of our changes are permanent, and all are harbingers.
As though Shakespeare were interviewing residents of the Jersey Shore, he has Sebastian observe, “Foul weather?” “Very foul,” Antonio replies. They speak of their boat and their sailing companions as having been “sea swallowed.”
WE are being sea-swallowed.
SANDY OVER GREEN MOUNTAINS cfe
Shakespeare’s tempest was called forth by the mage, Prospero, and carried out by his willing air sprite, Ariel. Our storms were well beyond Ariel, with more and more severe tempests waiting in the wings. There is no Prospero to halt ours.
What we had with Sandy was dress rehearsal for sea level rise. Where the waters went for a few hours is the land they’ll claim permanently, with every passing day of glacial melt and warming (therefore expanding) seas.
Ironically, since we had a snowstorm on the heels of the “Super Storm,” Will includes Trinculo’s noting, “Another storm brewing.” Trinculo further describes, “yond same black cloud — alas, the storm has come again.” As I concluded up in the mountains, this unwilling voyager concludes, “I will here shroud ’til all the dregs of the storm be passed.”
Calm Before Storm, Bennington, Vermont cfe
In another part of the island, Shakespeare/Prospero is deep in conversation with said Ariel, who refers to “the never-surfeited sea.” New Jersey waits between maw and paws of our never-surfeited sea.
Reporter Ariel paints the picture: “The powers delaying, not forgetting, have incensed the sea and shores.” The spirit exits to a stage direction, “He vanishes in thunder.”
In “The Tempest” , as in our recent lives, the storm of election was tangled with flying evergreens, sea spume, housing debris, sand-smothered vehicles. During Sandy as in our 21st-century lives, politics and literal seachange are inextricable. Trinculo frets, “If the other two be brained like us, the state totters.”
Reading Shakespeare’s tempestuous masterpiece, to the sound of buzz saws on all sides and the roar of tree-devouring-devices, I realize anew that this spectacular writer was far more than author. Like the hero of the Tempest, Will was a prophet.
In a chant which I picture as in Lear, delivered high on a hill with turbulent slatey clouds ripping about on all sides, Prospero describes the storm he called forth:
“I have bedimmed the noonday sun, called forth the mutinous winds. And twixt the green sea and the azur’d vault have I given fire and riven Jove’s stout oak with his own bolt. The strong-based promontory have I made shake, and by the spurs pluck’d up the pine and cedar. Have waked their sleepers, oped, and let them forth my my so potent art.”
Those harrowing lines describe our own town. I could declaim them before the forest outside my window on Canal Road, which lost six majestic tree between house and driveway. I could carry this volume and read it to uprooted monarchs among Battle Road mansions. I could pace up and down, choosing descriptions to share with century-old conifers flung about like ninepins and jackstraws all along the Ridge.
One cannot set out in any direction without evidence of the effects of the winds of sea change. One can often not drive down a local street, even now, without passing strangles of lowering wires, phalanxes of utility trucks, spilling workers to begin their feverish heroic tasks.
But none of this is cure. Most of it is palliataive. Some areas near to us, including sacred wildlife refuges, may never open again. Who knows how many sea birds perished? What will the ospreys do, when they return to breed, with all their platforms sea-swallowed?
Up in the mountains, I read that the destruction of this storm was not a catastrophe of wind and water, as that which Prospero and Ariel had called forth. Ours is a tragedy of trees turned weapon.
As a poet, I find poetic justice in this reversal of roles.
Our storm, also unlike Prospero’s, included the deaths of dear and valued neighbor Bill Sword, II.
Our storm birthed shipwrecks beyond counting — some of them literal; many of them, former houses, built upon sand, upon barrier island sand.
In “The Tempest”, everyone’s life changed once the waters stilled and the people gathered. In “The Tempest”, reason and magic prevailed. Wounds were healed, lovers united, voyagers set out anew upon that sea for home.
We are home. We are drowning our home.
It’s up to us whether we change our planet for the better. But now, we are all Caliban, stumbling about having drunk the spirits tossed ashore by wind and wave, complaining, altering nothing.
To mix metaphors, egregiously, we are all Nero, fiddling while our planet burns.
It’s not Ariel out there surging salt waves into baywater, rivers, creeks and streams.
It is we, who have turned from tending earth as did the Indians, to using it, exploiting it, sea-changing the planet for all time. We, who have turned from citizens to consumers, and will not be stopped.
We must all become Prospero, create sea change within ourselves, still the water, still the swallowing sea.
Window View After Sandy - Berkshires, Williamstown cfe
When both branches of the Millstone River, at #518 and Canal Road, show more pebbles than water
When you can see white rocks, like rip-rap, ringing islands and fringing land along the Delaware River
When the Mississippi River, in an aerial view, is more beige than blue - with surf-like curves of blonde sand like corn-row haircuts and her barges cannot carry full loads, and their pilots describe “the new river”, “the unknown” river when the Mississippi has turned from “The Big Muddy” to “The Big Sandy”
When a meteorologist shows you a pie chart that is 90% hot red, 10% blue - (pie chart representing the year 2012; blue sliver cold extremes; all-conquering red being heat extremes) and she terms this a mere “anomaly”
It’s time to face the C-words: CATASTROPHIC CLIMATE CHANGE.
When Terhune Orchards reports most fruit crops coming in one month early at least
When any farm stand showed you that our strawberries not only began early, but finished bearing early
When corn was head-high by the Fourth of July, some even tasseling out, now browning, then blackening with ceaseless drought
It’s time to admit “the times are out of joint” weather-wise, as we have been warned for decades, re our ceaseless unremediated carbon emissions
When there is no more soft rain, but only monsoon-blinding-downpours on the heels of waterless weeks
Pollan and Hansen and Gore have alerted us for decades that extremes are the toll we pay for carbon excesses
When hours of thunder and lightning don’t even dampen paving stones out my study window
When trees along local highways, in July, sp0urt yellow brighter than highway stripes and it’s not flowers
It’s time to FACE IT
Not only is the weather severely out of balance in our time — it may well be past the famous tipping point.
What we are experiencing on all fronts is the logical outcome of runaway consumption, ice-cap melt, glacial melt, and so forth and so on, ad infinitum the sky IS falling and nobody’s drawing correct conclusions, let alone turning excess around
As your NJ WILD reporter, I cannot rhapsodize about nature, today, let alone insert pretty pictures.
Nature is turning into a corpse before our eyes, and we’re talking about the equivalent of curls and manicure upon a corpse.
Yes, I’ve been to what’s left of her beauty, a forest here, a river there, kayaking on the canal.
I feel no better than Nero, fiddling while my beloved Nature burns, sometimes quite literally up in flames…
Who is doing WHAT to turn this around?
(to paraphrase Pogo re meeting the enemy) — There is extinction on the menu, and it is us.
WHAT ARE YOU DOING ABOUT IT?
Coursing Waters, Brenda Jones
The most impactful response I have seen to Hurricane Irene comes from Jim Waltman, Executive Director of the Stony Brook-Millstone Watershed Association. Since 1949, this farsighted, crusading organization has assiduously and effectively taught us about the power, importance and threatened condition of water in our region. They have taken giant steps at every possible level to safeguard our waterways.
Now, due to accelerated climate change, it could be seen as ironic that Jim has to teach us how to protect ourselves from water!
I wrote Jim Waltman, immediately upon seeing his “Lessons from Hurricane Irene” in a number of print publications. He graciously gave me permission to share it with NJ WILD readers here and abroad. At the last tally, people are reading of nature in our region in ninety countries. Jim and the Watershed Association are masters at communication, so it is an honor to be able to extend their reach somewhat on this urgent issue.
With Jim Waltman’s kind permission. [bolds mine cfe]
Your water. Your environment. Your voice.
Lessons from Hurricane Irene
A message from the Stony Brook-Millstone Watershed Association
By: Jim Waltman, Executive Director
By any measure, Hurricane Irene was a monster. Like much of New Jersey, our watershed was hammered by rain, wind, power outages and flooding. Damages from flooding occurred in almost every corner of our 265-square-mile watershed, and in all 26 towns within our region of central New Jersey. The boroughs were hit particularly hard, with large portions of Manville, Millstone and Hightstown under literally feet of water.
The Millstone River and Stony Brook both reached all-time record high levels in various places, each merging with the Delaware & Raritan Canal for a portion of their journeys, and numerous lakes spilled over their banks. Our hearts go out to the thousands of people who lost property, businesses or, worst of all, loved ones in this storm.
Normal Autumn Waters, Brenda Jones
As we near the end of yet another wet week, those of us at the Stony Brook-Millstone Watershed Association, central New Jersey’s first environmental group, feel an even greater than usual urgency.
While Hurricane Irene was a true “outlier,” –an enormous storm that would have caused massive flooding and damage no matter what we did to prevent it–, climate scientists are telling us that our region is most likely going to continue to get wetter and wetter (except of course during periods of prolonged drought, which are also likely to become more severe). This means that, –unless we change our mindset, behaviors and policies–, we may be living our future.
However, hope is not lost. Together we can make a difference:
First, we need to stop making the problem worse. Ill-conceived developments near streams and within wetlands, not only damage our supply of clean water and destroy important wildlife habitat, they also dramatically increase the risk of flood damage to homes and businesses.
‘Our’ Towpath After an August Deluge cfe
Since 1949, the Watershed Association has sought to reverse that tide. In Cranbury, we are working closely with the Township Committee, Planning Board and Environmental Commission to secure a new ordinance to prohibit new development and [prevent] the clearing of native vegetation near streams. We are working with Hopewell Township to secure a new ordinance to protect our forests, which help absorb and slowly release rain and snow, and hold soil in place with deep root systems that stabilize streambanks and reduce erosion.
We also need to recommit ourselves to preserving open space along stream corridors and steep slopes as a means of both reducing floodwaters and keeping people out of harm’s way from future Irenes.
Water Fury, Brenda Jones
Second, we need to start fixing the mistakes of the past. Developments built before any significant regulation to contain stormwater can be retrofitted to retain runoff and allow it to percolate into our water supply. For example, the redevelopment of the Princeton Junction train station in West Windsor offers the opportunity to fix flooding issues there caused by acres and acres of impervious paved parking.
Peaceful Skies, Stony Brook-Millstone Watershed Association Trail Walk, cfe
In nearby Princeton we are working to investigate what can be done to reduce the flooding of Harry’s Brook. It’s not too late to correct past mistakes.
We also need to recognize that it makes sense to move or remove some structures that were built near water bodies and have been repeatedly damaged by flooding. The state’s “Blue Acres” program, a cousin of the more familiar Green Acres Program, provides funding to purchase such flood prone properties. With bold action, we can prevent unmitigated development from contaminating and depleting our surface and ground water, and creating additional flood hazards.
We wish those still suffering the aftermath of Hurricane Irene a quick and full recovery.
Interviews with Executive Director Jim Waltman are available upon request.
firstname.lastname@example.org to arrange an interview.
The Hobbit Tree - Stony Brook-Millstone Watershed Association Trail Walk cfe
The Stony Brook-Millstone Watershed Association is central New Jersey’s first environmental group, protecting clean water and the environment through conservation, advocacy, science and education.
During World War II, my playmates and I would chant raw insults set in childish rhymes at Hitler, at Mussolini, full throttle from jungle gym and merry-go-round. We feared and hated those two, with all our tiny bodies – raising feeble voices like fists into the bland Michigan air.
But our deepest horror, fury, and yes, vengeance, centered upon ‘the Japs.’ We had never been allowed to use nicknames for people of other lands, in Southfield, Michigan. But when it came to the winged villains who had bombed our ships and killed our men in Pearl Harbor, it was no holds barred.
Those scenes flashed to life as I waked to today, eve of the dire anniversary of World Trade Center destructions.
Far more than lives were lost and families aggrieved on that brilliant September morning.
With 9/11 as justification, our nation - even to its tiniest towns - has become severely militarized; even travel an exercise in suspicions and intrusions. The basic alteration in the role of police is signified by their (new) brutal swagger and bullying stance. I contrast those menacing strides of our soldiers, finally (!) shouldering their way down drowned New Orleans streets, with the sturdy lively stance of hardy American farmlads. You’ve seen the newsreels. ‘Our boys’, (’doughboys’ in World War i) often laughingly liberating shattered European towns, handing out chocolate and ‘le chewing‘, with the arm not ‘toting a gun’. Those soldiers were there to get the job done and get back to the farm, not to throw America’s weight around.
I bet nobody refers to today’s soldiers as ‘boys’, let alone ‘ours’.
Our hypermilitarization in the guise of security is one of many grisly symptoms of our losses of our basic rights as American citizens. How the world views us has been irreparably altered. In our own land ‘of the free’, questioning has been termed ‘unpatriotic’. Our Stars and Stripes has been turned into a swastika, for some reason whirring over highway bridges now, as if to whip everyone into war mode. People of other lands are negated because they resemble 9/11 terrorists. The Constitution is increasingly violated — all justified by vengeance. Journalism is dying in many ways, so less and less attention is being called to these losses, which go beyond death.
Even as a five-year-old, I wanted vengeance wreaked upon the Japs. As the book and musical, South Pacific, teaches us, “You’ve got to be taught to hate.” WE ARE BEING WELL AND TRULY TAUGHT.
My hatred of Japanese was stunningly impacted, however, by my first experience of Pearl Harbor (1990’s) A childhood friend then taught at Chaminade University. She’d asked me to visit to read my Hawaii poems to her class. I did not realize that her university was on ‘Pearl’, that my first steps there would lead toward that podium.
Nor did I know, [though some of my works were anti-war, especially anti-the-target-bombing of the sacred island of Kahoolawe], that all those bright, eager, yes innocent, boys and girls, were soldiers.
After the Kahoolawe poem, one of the heftiest, yet gentlest [O, have they taught him to swagger? ] had been moved by my expressed longing to wrap with gauze the red flesh of that wounded mountain. He raised his hand to tell me, “We don’t bomb her any more. Every weekend now, I lead a group to remove materiel from Kahoolawe. When we’ve removed the last remnants of the bombing runs, we will hold a ceremony of reconsecration.”
That day, my heart (that had so protested our role in Vietnam) healed with regard to our military -
Pearl Harbor Miracle #1.
The following morning, my childhood friend and I were among the first to enter Pearl Harbor’s memorial to the fallen. We filed individually into a darkened theatre. The black & white film of Pearl’s 1941 bombing would not work. I wondered at the divine plan.
We stumbled out of darkness into blinding Hawaiian sunlight. As our eyes adjusted, we realized that, among our fellow pilgrims, nearly half were Japanese. Food for thought for the little girl who’d joined in Japan-bashing on the Lathrup, Michigan playground, who’d cringed at every film image of slant-eyed bombers zeroing in on America and/or Americans, on land and water.
Each Japanese on the walkway to the Arizona wore a lei.
Bernadette and I followed four of them, in silence. They walked away from the tour guide, to the outermost railing of the submerged ship. Currents were gentle, as though caressing those whose bones remained below. Without a word, in synchrony, the four Japanese removed their leis, letting them fall softly upon the water. The four stood bent over the waters a long time. Bernadette and I moved on, finding other such clusters everywhere we went.
The former conquerors had come all that way to perform rituals of memorial and forgiveness.
The way the soldiers were healing Kahoolawe.
My heart opened to that country and its people, and has remained that way.
Pearl Harbor Miracle #2
HOWEVER, our country, in the wake of the seemingly limitless tragedy of the destruction of the World Trade Center, has chosen the path of vengeance.
All the good will expressed by friends and YES, former ENEMIES, –walking to our Embassies everywhere, including Japan, Germany, Italy and Russia, bearing flowers — all of that new fellowship which held hope for the world, seems to have been deliberately shattered. In the first days after 9/11, the world woke up to the good we had done for others in World Wars I and II. We used to be the shining heroes. No longer.
We have become the word’s bullies. Our imposed post-9/11 paradigm is toughness and swagger, bombs down the chimneys, lands in general and civilians in particular, mercilessly strafed. How are we different from those who strafed the Towers?
Our lustre is beyond tarnished.
Can Americans ever carry the equivalent of leis to the countries we are mutilating in our blind and angry revenge?
What if if the message of 9/11 was meant to be, from this moment on, fellowship, forgiveness, enlightened healing of conditions that had led to such bitterness?
If we could ask the victims, –whose souls generated such a wind! at the first-year anniversary, around the wound of Ground Zero–, wouldn’t they instead, counsel love?