Archive for the ‘Nature’ 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?
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?
Pine Barrens Peat Water, Mullica River cfe
Between drought and development, it is hard for others, even for New Jersey natives, to credit our slogan, “The Garden State.”
NJ WILD readers know, I celebrate New Jersey’s wild beauty wherever and whenever I can find it, even right in my own (near Rocky Hill) rocky hilly foresty yard.
But sometimes, I must go far afield, gulp great ‘draughts’ of New Jersey Beauty.
As. recently, to and from my cherished ‘Brigantine’ - Wildlife Refuge, otherwise known as Edwin B. Forsythe.
The blessings of visiting ‘the Brig’ are beyond measure, starting with the long silent even winding drive through the Pine Barrens to Smithville and Oceanville. Due east of those tiny pre-Revolutionary towns stretches the 8-mile dike drive among bays and impoundments, rare birds at all times and in all seasons.
Come along with me on last week’s spur-of-the-moment, if not even desperate, flight to beauty.
Queen Anne’s Lace, Mullica River, Pine Barrens cfe
Beyond the dock, fortunate kayakers make their way up the Mullica, without whose Revolutionary waters and watermen, we wouldn’t have a nation:
Mullica Kayakers, cfe
Cloud-Studded Salinity-Managed Waters of Brigantine cfe
FIDDLER CRABS, OUT FOR LOW-TIDE LUNCH, Brig cfe
NEW JERSEY BEAUTY - CLOUD MAJESTY Brig cfe
There were great egrets everywhere, like archangels at the Nativity, as well as black-bellied and American golden plovers, ibis beyond counting, a few skimmers not skimming, and osprey families everywhere we looked — some feeding young, one ‘mantling ‘ - waving mature wings to cool the immature!
Successful Osprey Family, The Brig cfe
Duck and First Marsh Mallows of the Season cfe
Glossy Ibis and Marsh Mallow, Brig cfe
Wild Flowers (water lilies and Sagittaria) and Cranberry Bogs Near Chatsworth, #563,
The Empty, Beauty-Bracketed Route Home cfe
As you can see, beauty and wildness are with you every step of the way to and from ‘The Brig.’
(”The Pretty Way” will have no cars to speak of, even on major holidays. Route 1 South to 295 South to Columbus Exit to 206 South to Carranza Road/Tabernacle to 532 (stop at Russo’s for fresh-made cider doughnuts and very local produce). 532 east to 563 South to (I forget the number -[579?]) left to New Gretna below Chatsworth Route 9 South, moments on GSP, Exit 48 Smithville, back onto Route 9 South below Smithville to left turn to Forsythe Wildlife Refuge after fire station, Lily Lake Road. See Noyes Museum of Art while down there. Eat breakfast at The Bakery in Smithville; any time at Smithville Inn, and Oyster Creek Inn at Leeds Point, if it’s open when you’re there…)
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?
Eagle and Sculler, Lake Carnegie, by Brenda Jones
My NJ WILD readers know that my key reason for hip replacement was to get into (and OUT of) a kayak, as often as i like, to paddle as long as I like. Thanks to Dr. Thomas Gutowski, this impossible dream has been realized.
The first return took place at dusk on Lake Carnegie, thanks to the generosity of a new friend who carried the kayaks on his head high over the arched footbridge to the still lake. Now I have kayaked, alone and with others, five or six times on the D&R Canal south of Alexander. (www.canoe.nj.com)
A major blessing of all these sojourns, –beyond no longer being crippled–, is solitude. Each morning south of Alexander, whether alone or with friends, ours are the first prows on the water. For the Lake Carnegie idyll, although Saturday evening, there wasn’t another human in sight until we returned to the put-in. Our sole companion was a majestic great blue heron, mincing along in shadowed undergrowth to our right for the entire journey. Kayaks render one nearly invisible to wildlife. Even basking turtles don’t unbask as we pass.
Basking Turtles, D&R Canal, Brenda Jones
The D&R Canal and Towpath are right here in the middle of Princeton. For seven years, I worked with people at a College Road East firm, who would ask over and over, “Now where IS that canal, anyway?” Stunned, I’d reply, “Well you can’t really get into town without crossing it.” Sad to say, corporate types don’t have nature and history antennae out as they go about their daily rounds. They’d usually follow my answer with, “You go there ALONE?!”
Those who do possess and use antennae, know that this haven for walkers, paddlers and rowers exists, thanks to preservationists, –an eastern hem to the fabric of our town. Rich in natural beauty and significant human and industrial history, that canal was the reason for the founding and thriving of many New Jersey municipalities. It also provides drinking water for those not blessed with wells in our region.
Long ago, in a poem, I described the Canal and Towpath as “nurse, haven and muse.” She’s far more than that now, once I’ve learned to know her by water. It’s a treat to be dwarfed by her flowers, to skiddle along beside her turtles or pause so as not to disturb the swimming water snake. It’s birders’ heaven in spring, when warblers and other rarities territorialize along through the Institute Woods. And sometimes, near the Aqueduct, one sees ‘our’ American bald eagles, dashing osprey and gilded orioles doubled in still water.
Osprey Over Millstone Aqueduct, Brenda Jones
Last week’s kayaking began by renting a ‘loon’ at Princeton Canoe and Kayak at Alexander Road by the Turning Basin. After a work week assailed by interruptions, there was nothing more refreshing and essential than the absolute silence, which descended like incense, or an invisible cloak, as soon as I moved beyond the swallows of the Alexander Bridge. As their wings literally part my hair, I am alerted to the reality that I was in a new dimension.
Each time I emerge from bridge shadow, escaping tire whirr and creosote pungency, I bless the magic of my new (yes!) kayaker’s hip: “You may find you like it better than the original,” mused my miraculous surgeon.
Beauty and nature are my major lures on the canal. Timelessness is tied with these two factors/ I am entirely under my own power. No one cares when I return. I can sally or dally or bend at the waist and plunge forward or coast beneath tree dapple or sit still under an oriole.
Baltimore Oriole, Cloudless Sky, near D&R Canal, Brenda Jones
On first trips, I made sure to dip my right hand into that canal water and baptize that scar, as I had done at the Delaware River on Bull’s Island. I was letting that leg know, at hip’s entry, “You, who carried me to beauty, nature and history times beyond counting, are restored to full function and new adventures.”
My professional life can tip me over too much into the quantitative, the numeric and the scheduled. I suspect I am not alone in this.
Kayak time counters those tendencies, restores me to my primal most vital self.
Last week’s kayak experience, for example, at first disappointed by its constellation of absences. Yes, my hair was parted by swallows under the bridge. But, after that traditional beginning, there was no bird song, and no sightings until the ubiquitous territoriality of the common yellowthroat, claiming the middle of my route.
Not a spurt of cardinal flower, –crimson as the bird or the prelates for which it is named, awaited me in any of its usual shadowed nooks. I suspect the scouring removals of Irene and Lee.
Veery in Spring Greenery, Brenda Jones
No wood thrush at entry or turnaround. Even the red-winged blackbirds were silent. And those usual scolds, the jays.
It’s too soon for white and pink fluted blooms of marsh mallow, and all that remains of blue and yellow flags are pointy tall green spires of their sheltering leaves. Everything was green, green, green.
The emptiness was so all-permeating that I was forced to acknowledge that absence was the gift of that day’s canal drift.
Just then, a shrub to my right began moving in an uncharacteristic way. As though birds were fighting in it — but we’re beyond breeding season for most save goldfinches. Suddenly, I realized I was seeing graceful legs, rounded buttocks, and that diagnostic white flag tail of deer. Right down by the water, she was blissfully and purposefully breakfasting. I was near enough to see the shine on her planted hooves.
Doe, a deer… Brenda Jones
That day brought no herons, neither green nor blue. Nor the oven bird’s ‘teacher teacher teacher’ — most treasured gift of the Institute Woods, if I’m early or lalte enough.
Not even Constable clouds filled the canal — to be cleaved by the slender prow.
I turned around, (partly because of griddle heat), deciding to see how many strokes I could paddle without stopping. All these months, I realized, I’d been taking it easy out there, because of the so-called ’surgical leg’. I was way up into the 100s, when I had to speak to careless canoeists — in order to discover on which side of them I might safely progress. So I forget my tally, but it was impressive, and it didn’t hurt me, not then, not ever.
We are so blessed to live in a canaled town. Just cross the Delaware and look at that rooty, clunky, uneven towpath, alongside Pennsylvania’s empty canal, strewn with rocks and weeds.
I don’t know why New Jersey knew enough to preserve and sustain its canal, although D&R Greenway where I work, was a major part of that (before my time). I only know I’m deeply grateful.
Canal time fills memory’s treasure chest, for sustenance throughout the weeks ahead.
Wordsworth said it best, about daffodils:
“For oft, when on my couch I lie / in vague or pensive mood / and gaze upon that inward eye / which is the bliss of solitude / and then my heart with rapture fills / and dances…”
Your heart, too, can dance upon canal waters. Just show up at Princeton Canoe and Kayak and set OUT.
North from the turning basin goes under the Dinky tracks and all the way to and through the aqueduct at Mapleton and beyond. It’s the busy way, with walkers, bikers, other water craft, and sometimes ‘our’ eagles. South is the quiet way, most likely, but not guaranteed, to provide nature’s rarities.
Full or empty, creature-wise, canal-time fills the soul.
This is truly NJ WILD - my encounter with a snake whose species was new to me, in The Glades, in the Delaware Bayshore Region.
This poem is quite literal — I truly did come upon this gleaming creature, with two friends who advised caution, shall we say. In effect, they were convinced we needed to turn around. My response was quite different.
I have never seen a more irresistible reptile. Now I understand Eve…
I am in love with
the black rat snake
sinuous and glossy
as though sewn of patent leather
very much at home here
twined among tree roots
in the preserve called “Glades”
near our Delaware Bay
I never knew
how dark could gleam
my friends flinch
as I bend toward him
it’s all I can do
not to trace
each brilliant facet
reach toward the surge
that was his morning meal
all that keeps this handsome fellow
somnolent and near
CAROLYN FOOTE EDELMANN
Canal Scene at Millstone Aqueduct, Brenda Jones
near first post-op kayaking on Lake Carnegie, near new eagle nest and feeding tree…
NJ Wild readers know that I have been on a healing journey. since total hip replacement on November 9. Most of the time, I write of its miracles. But I must admit, the voyage is long and sometimes gruelling. It involves a great deal of spiritual work, as well as lengthy nightly exercise, not only of ‘the surgical leg.’
It won’t surprise NJ WILD that, for me, key spiritual healing happen OUTDOORS, in nature, in New Jersey, especially on or near Princeton’s D&R Canal and Towpath. Of course, that region was particularly effective that day I was taken kayaking for the first time, post-op, this April, on Carnegie Lake.
This week, for example, I felt far less alone as I unexpectedly encountered ‘our’ American bald eagle in the top of a deciduous tree right across the Lake Carnegie dam. This bird, as Brenda’s below, was most staunch, ’stiffening my spine’ to continue the sometimes invisible progress.
Eagle Perched, by Brenda Jones
as in deciduous tree across Lake Carnegie Dam from Towpath
Last night, a red fox, right out of The Little Prince, was sitting next to my white begonias, shining in starlight. Picture this alert creature clouded by darkness, surrounded by white petals. He gazed and gazed deep into my eyes, and I had to leave before he did. “…and you will sit a little closer to me, every day…”
Fox Close-Up, Brenda Jones
A significant portion of my spiritual healing takes place meditatively. Right now, it is, when I am most blessed, in the company of wolves. The wolf phalanx headed by Jasmine, a timber wolf I met in real life at New Jersey’s stunning Lakota Wolf Preserve, up near the Water Gap. Jasmine has since passed to the spiritual realms, but shewas very real, welcoming Tasha O’Neill and me to that wild place, although Jasmine emerged from pale roses.
Jasmine, of Lakota Wolf Preserve
Here is a new poem about the wolves, the comfort, sustenance and protection they provide me. Being ‘torn from sanctuary’ refers particularly to having to perform healing contortions in public in a cacophonous place otherwise known as ‘physical therapy.’ I would rather be home with the wolves…
Here is one of the new poems, gift of the Muse who returned at the hospital on the day of my hip surgery:
Lakota Wolf by Tasha O’Neill, with whom I met Jasmine…
JASMINE AND THE PHALANX
finally, it is time
to lie down with the wolves
this phalanx sent daily
to expand my healing
– the silver, the noir –
only one is named
but all are ready
– hushed, puissant
I first met sweet calm
in wolf eyes
when exquisite Jasmine
emerged from her rose bower
in the place named Lakota
my wolves lope
wherever I must go
especially as I am torn and torn
pelts, stiff yet soft
over perfect bones
I do not share
then pour recovery
into this strafed body
horizontal and free
I sink into the hush
of wolf breathing
light in wolf fur
supple power radiating
like the moon’s corona
at full eclipse
CAROLYN FOOTE EDELMANN
Lake Carnegie Sculler and American Bald Eagle, Brenda Jones
NJ WILD readers know that Ilene Dube, former Packet Time Off Editor, urged me to begin this blog, featuring nature, poetry and preservation. Over the years, I freely confess, preservation has edged out poetry in these ‘pages’… This will be remedied, –live–, shortly:
On April 12, beginning at 5:30 p.m., D&R Greenway will constellate all three facets of my NJ WILD mandate: Poetry/Nature/Preservation at a lively reception and reading. Poets will read their work, astutely chosen by Lois and Lee Harrod at One Preservation Place, off Rosedale Road in Princeton.
Guests are welcome to come early and walk the Scott and Hella McVay Poetry Trail, behind D&R Greenway, with its 48 nature-themed poems of many centuries, and array of welcoming benches.
The public is invited to this free reception and reading on April 12, beginning at 5:30. Please write email@example.com or call 609-924-4646 to register. Poets are welcome whether or not their work has been selected.
NJ WILD Beauty, Island Beach cfe
Our editors have legendary reputations as professors at The College of New Jersey. Lois is a much published poet in her own right; One of the founding members of Princeton’s Cool Women Poets, Lois is a gifted publisher of poetry for that storied group and other individuals. Both Lois and Lee have served as editors and hosts for previous D&R Greenway Poets of Preservation reception/readings. Poet and flautist Judith McNally will welcome guests with her mellifuous music, also a D&R Greenway Poets of Preservation tradition.
Brenda Jones, Brant Sipping Barnegat Bay Waters
Each Poetry of Preservation night is linked to the Land Trust’s current art exhibition — in this case, water. All art on the walls of the Marie L. Matthews Galleries is for sale, a percentage supporting D&R Greenway’s preservation and stewardship mission.
Towpath Tranquility - Why Preserve NJ Land and Water cfe
As Poetry Coordinator for submissions, I have received, printed, alphabetized and sent a treasure trove of works on water to our talented editors. Early on, it became apparent that two binders would be essential to hold all the fine strong work that surged into D&R Greenway before the March 22 deadline. I gave myself a luxurious European-like afternoon at Hopewell’s Boro Bean, sipping and reading (although my responses to these poems carry no weight whatsoever.) I was wafted from our canal to the Pacific off the coast of Oregon, to Ireland, no less, in the course of those delicious poetic explorations.
Brenda Jones - D&R Canal Above Mapleton Fishing Bridge
Treats are in store for all who walk through the doors of our 1900 restored barn, to concentrate on the beauties and perils of water in our time.
“…unreconstructed and necessary wildness…” Michael Pollan, The Botany of Desire
Enraged Osprey of Carnegie Lake, Brenda Jones
Michael Pollan in general, and his Botany of Desire, in particular, is one of those authors everyone means to read. I hear protestations of intention all the time, always tinged with a kind of wistfulness. Recently, Public Television gave people a visual taste of this man’s paradigm. For me, the visual alone never suffices.
I’ll go so far as to insist that Pollan is an author to re-read. His subject matter is so unexpected (apples and ‘cyder’, marijuana, tulips and potatoes) and his thinking so original. It’s worth taking Pollan in hand, even if you don’t give a fig about nature. Just for the privilege of journeying with him.
Fierce Flight (Great Blue Heron), Brenda Jones
And savoring his pithy phrases, such as “Plants are the true alchemists.” His lament that now, “It is as though nature is something that happens outside,… as if we are gazing at nature across a gulf.” As he sets out in a canoe in quest of Johnny Appleseed’s seminal (couldn’t resist) journeys, Pollan relishes trusting in the river to take him wherever he wants to go.
WILD DELAWARE RIVER, Brenda Jones
In my case, re-reading The Botany of Desire reveals a delicious (pun intended) emphasis upon the WILD.
Trenton’s Apple Bounty, cfe
People can and do tease me for prating of the WILD in New Jersey. In the first segment of The Botany of Desire, Pollan takes an even more unlikely tack — seeking the wild, as did Thoreau, through apples. One of his theses is that Appleseed’s success came because he was not peddling mere fruit, but ‘cyder’ to the pioneers.
West Windsor’s Apple Bounty — cfe
Michael sets the tone with phrases such as “A handful of wild apples came with me” (on his Johnny-Appleseed-Quest.) He insists that “sowers of wild seeds are to be prized.”
Cedar Ridge Preserve Meadow, cfe
Cedar Ridge Wild Mushrooms — cfe
Pollan laments that “we live in a world where the wild places where wild plants live are dwindling.” You’ve heard this line from me in ‘posts’ beyond counting, coupled with urgings to support your local land trusts, especially D&R Greenway, to preserve New Jersey’s wild remnants and to plant New Jersey Natives wherever we can.
Baldpate View, Ted Stiles Preserve, Brenda Jones
Let Michael define “the best of all possible worlds”: “WE’D BE PRESERVING THE WILD PLACES THEMSELVES.”
The next best possible world: “ONE THAT PRESERVES THE QUALITY OF WILDNESS ITSELF.”
Female Harrier Aloft, Pole Farm, Brenda Jones
Male Harrier, “The Grey Ghost”, in ice at Pole Farm — Brenda Jones
The generating thesis of NJ WILD is that the wild exists right in our own back yards:
Wild erupts with the whiff of fox along mown paths of The Griggstown Grasslands. This lovely lofty set of trails, with its compelling Sourlands and Watchung views, awaits but a mile or two north of me on Canal Road, before/beside Griggstown’s Causeway.
Fox Alert, Griggstown Grasslands, Brenda Jones
The wild surprised me last week In burgeonings of wildflowers, deep in the duff of the forest floor, on Bull’s Island in the Delaware. These petite fleurs lifted up the blinding waxy yellow of buttercups. 8 to 10 petals rayed out from yellow centers. These premature spring heralds were nevertheless inviting pollinators. On my hike, they seemed like pieces of eight flung onto the leaf-strewn forest floor.
Why call a delicate plant WILD? Because they arrived there on their own, blooming despite winter on the calendar, pushing through flood detritus that resembled the graphite dust of Thoreau’s pencils. A key quality of the wild is RESILIENCE — New Jersey specialty!
Sourland Mountain Rocks and Water, Brenda Jones
WILD in New Jersey, for me, requires Lenni Lenapes. The land was tended by these peaceful tribes, at least 10,000 years ago. Their vanished presence is palpable on many of my hikes, most especially among Sourlands boulders. Also on trails near Mountain Lakes House, and at Ringing Rocks just across Delaware at Upper Black Eddy. In each case, majestic boulders that render Stonehenge puny rest exactly where they were revealed by water wind and time, before time. The huge stones are frequently encountered in a massive ring. I FEEL Indian councils there, planning tribal actions for the season about to begin. Seasons which, for Lenni Lenapes, triggered travel either to or from hunting to gathering.
Mink at Play, Brenda Jones
In the Hamilton/Trenton/Bordentown Marsh, the Lenapes convened with selected other tribes, before leaving central Jersey hunting grounds for Shore gatherings. This journey and the seasonal constellation of other indigenous peoples was triggered by natural phenomena. Spring’s took place when pickerel weed pierced still waters like arrows.
New Jersey’s Apple Bounty, cfe
Michael Pollan plants a wild tree in his own home garden. His hope - “that such a tree will bear witness to unreconstructed and necessary wildness.”
What can you do about wildness right now, as elusive winter gives way to spring?
Go in search of it.
Buy only native NJ species for your gardens.
Read Michael Pollan
well, you know….
REMEMBER, WILD IS ALL ABOUT HABITAT!
Rare Box Turtle, Camouflaged in Natural Habitat - Cedar Ridge cfe
Generously support D&R Greenway and other Land Trusts, preserving New Jersey’s wild wherever it exist.
Mute Swan, Brenda Jones
NJ WILD readers know me pretty well by now, all 1600 page-views of you per week. You know I have NO patience with developers, under any name. That New Jersey is my haven, and I’ll pay any price, bear any burden to bring her glories to the fore, well beyond our (three - unique) shores! That preservation is the name of the game, not only in our state. That local sustainable real food from real nearby farmers is the way to health and life as a state and as individuals. And so forth.
What you may not realize is that winter has become my favorite season. Partly because winter finally reveals the intense abstract beauty of New Jersey’s trees. Partly for winter’s subtleties — it’s a real challenge to find life and color in this season, which only renders nature’s vibrancy-for-all-seasons all the more spectacular.
I particularly cherish winter in New Jersey preserves. Rabbit tracks leading me a merry chase in new-fallen snow in Plainsboro Preserve. Moss blinding as patches of green sequins alongside my favorite Sourland Mountain Trail, off Greenwood Avenue, even in January. Bluebirds swirling around my head and shoulders on the grassy northern reaches of Griggstown Grasslands last Monday. In fact, at Plainsboro and Griggstown Grasslands, my friend and I could hardly hear ourselves whisper “bluebird!” over their merry insistent chattering song.
Bluebird, Brenda Jones
Now, as new hip enters its 13th week of miraculous healing, I’ve returned to the Marsh, as in Hamilton/Trenton/Bordentown. This time, I could walk on my own, with the trekking poles - not lean on my long-suffering, never-complaining friend’s right arm. This time, I could walk not only one edge of Spring Lake (named by the Lenni Lenapes for the spring which formed it), but circumnavigate the lake. We were out so long and mesmerized by so many signs of winter life, that we returned actually sunburnt. In February.
(This warmth, while easing my recovery, never ceases to alarm me for the sake of glaciers, polar bears and corals, among other natural phenomena. If it’s twenty or so degrees warmer than usual now, how is it going to be around here in August?)
Even so, I can’t pretend I am not relishing benevolent days in the woods.
Spring Lake was literally awash in winter gifts. Regal mute swans seemed to pose in a perfection of light, as we began to hit our stride. A lone gull floated like a bathtub toy, accented by irresistible coots, whose tiny white beaks never seem large enough to capture, let alone gulp aquatic foods. An elusive raft of ducks had the elegance and elusive ways of ring-necks. Between their fast-swimming-away shyness and the bird books’ admitting “ring nearly impossible to see”, we could not confirm that guess. Home again, Sibleys in hand, it’s very likely we were granted ring-necked ducks, but we shall never know.
Wood Duck, Brenda Jones
Color accents impossible to believe among the almost funereal array of coots were the glowing wood ducks. Kindly men of the Marsh, Clyde Quin and Warren Liebensperger, rigorously tend to wood duck and bluebird nests each year, –raising the boxes, tallying hatchlings, cleaning them when breeding is over, and putting them back in place in time for boxes to make up for a serious deficit of sturdy hollow old tree trunks. I don’t know whether ‘our’ Picasso-esque wood ducks are Clyde’s and Warren’s summer residents, or simply passing through. It doesn’t really matter. The wonder is the privilege of “woodies”, right in the middle of Trenton, on a winter’s day.
Nuthatch with Seed, Brenda Jones
We were mightily enlivened, not only by the birds of Spring Lake. Our tangly walk was also studded with tinier avian creatures among the underbrush. Feisty nuthatches bopped down fattest lake-side trunks. A fugitive white-throated sparrow fed right alongside us as though it encountered humans every day of the year.
White-Throated Sparrow, Brenda Jones
The day’s auditory miracle was the whuff whuff whuff of air in swan wings, as pair after pair arrowed over us. My friend, originally from Britain, had never heard this rarity. We were blessed with it by more pairs than we could count, the entire time we circled that lake.
At the rim of other water, an almost blue jay, though uncharacteristically silent, puzzled for awhile. Until it took off down, not up, uttering that kingfisher rattle that never ceases to stop me in my tracks. Kayaking on the canal, when you hear that tattoo, look toward the sound, then down, not up. For kingfishers fly toward water, their main food source. The females of this species are the more colorful.
Belted Kingfisher in Flight, Brenda Jones
My energy was high, my new hip cooperative. We almost skipped over the little bridge and into the Marsh woods itself. Here and there, we’d go off-trail, scuffing through leaves. These feet, all to recently, all too accustomed to hospital corridors, managed roots and leaves and stones and mosses, until a certain measure of caution intruded, saying, probably enough for today.
Never enough for my spirit.
But it will have to do.
And meanwhile, our Marsh proved to me anew, how very much life there is in winter.
We could not have taken that walk, and those native species could not have safely swum and fed in that Marsh, had not D&R Greenway Land Trust and Friends for the Marsh done all in their power ‘then and now’ to preserve and provide stewardship for this critical freshwater tidal wetland.