Archive for the ‘World Trade Center’ Category
Upon reading “Her Idea of a Beautiful Day”, in My Story As Told By Water, my first thought was, ‘Well, what would be MY idea of a beautiful day?’ Its subjunctive question immediately appeared - ‘What is YOURs?‘ – readers of and cherished commentors upon NJ WILD–, what renders a day beautiful in your life, at this moment in time?
My Story as Told By Water is a riverine memoir by David James Duncan. This man is a modern bard, in prose and diatribe, of the endangered American West, –particularly its rivers, especially of its salmon. Over and over, Duncan teaches, “As salmon go, so go the rivers.” And the indigenous people whose lives since time immemorial have depended upon the rivers and their creatures. With salmon and salmon people go the state, the region, the nation and ultimately the globe. Especially here in the east, we do not GET it about the peril of and the implications of industrial murder of salmon.
Sunfish, Baldpate Mountain Pond, Brenda Jones
Edward Abbey taught us first the evil of dams. David James Duncan blows on Abbey coals. My Story As Told By Water is my favorite title of the genre, the way Dickens’ “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times” is my favorite opening line of any novel. Young Duncan fell in love with water using a garden hose in his childhood driveway. His first love was abruptly relinquished for the real thing, when the boy fell INTO his first trout stream, discovering crawdads and fish. Duncan’s chapters tango between ever increasing passion for natural waterways, and fury at all who would destroy them. His rage and eloquence increase exponentially in our era of greed-enthronement.
The boy describes having been stunned by his grandmother’s rabid devotion to her job as a real estate agent: “Her idea of a beautiful day was one that increased the likelihood of her selling a house.” Nature, to Duncan’s grandmother, “had an unwashed, unsaved ring to it.”
Needless to say, “a beautiful day” to this author involves water, usually fresh, with the promise of fish. David James Duncan forces me to consider my own definition of a beautiful day. The instant answer is any day with friends, sharing nature with the perfect blend of passion, knowledge, and curiosity. Remarkable food is often involved, and frequently art. But if I had to choose but one factor for “my beautiful day”? NATURE.
I was frankly stunned to discover that “my beautiful day” need not be fair. “A beautiful day” to me is something that hardly ever happens any more — a time of long soft soaking rain. Gentle in quality and quantity, lowering a scrim over the harsh world. Rain that whispers, at most sizzles. This precipitation is neither so white and stiff as was my bridal veil, nor so dense and weighty as Jacqueline Kennedy’s widow’s veil — which cast a pall over my life, and was first worn in the impossible aftermath of this very day, November 22, in 1963. The most beautiful day to me now, in New Jersey, in the year 2008, is rain that tiptoes along the thirsty earth. It simply nourishes seeds, –without dislodging soil, let alone removing pebbles. A beautiful day’s rain never topples trees because of both quantity and intensity, without even factoring in damaging wind. What I require now is rain as it was before global warming.
Lately, as NJ WILD readers know, I’ve learned to be out in what the Brits call “a mizzle of rain.” There’s a blessing in it — tactile, even spiritual. I may prefer the days of rain and fog because they soften the impossible harshnesses of the 21st Century. You also know, nature is my church, and the Towpath and Canal in particular. David James Duncan says it better: “Church became a place where I waited for rain.”
“Pine Drops” hold the rain, by Lauren Curtis
A Story of Seasons, at Sandy Hook - for the Dog Days of Summer
The Boathouse, The Base of Sandy Hook Light -
America’s oldest continuously operating Lighthouse
There’s a secret birders know: New Jersey Beaches hold gifts in all seasons. Sandy Hook is one of my favorite birding spots. There I have quested for Bohemian waxwings among the winter robins.
Bohemian Waxwing, Marie Read, for Cornell Lab of Ornithology
There, also, Anne Zeman loaned me her Swarovski’s (Ur-binoculars) so I could focus on the impossible silhouette of the scissor-tailed flycatcher. There I have walked hot sands until my toes actually blistered, egrets to my left, tankers on the horizon to my right, impeccable shells on all sides, and silence, in August… There, Betty Lies, Janet Black and I withstood nearly gale-force winds to take winter’s drama fully into eyes, lungs and soul.
Scissor-Tailed Flycatcher, Brian Small for Cornel Lab of Ornithology
Sandy Hook is one of the New Jersey nature sites that teaches me, repeatedly, “The Journey is the Destination.” Yes, we’re going for birds. But a major part of the joy is riding over and back through Lexington-like horse farms of Monmouth County, then over Swimming River Road (called that because the faithful swam that river to reach services on the Sabbath), and into true opulence just before coming upon rivers that nuzzle the sea.
Birders are allowed into Sandy Hook without paying beach fees, because we truly are not interested in taking up beach or parking space in order to sizzle in the sun. For birders, it’s the back roadways, subtle bay beaches, the hawk watch platform at North Beach that lure. For birders, winter is NOT the empty time!
Even ‘fruitless’ birdquest, such as mine at Island Beach and Sandy Hook for Bohemian Waxwings (Mark Peel ultimately teased me, “Carolyn, you are 0 for 5!”) brought enormous gifts. Island Beach granted me a Northern Shrike instead, my first ever accepted call-in to a Birders’ Hotline, with Scott Barnes. Sandy Hook gave me an enormous flock of robins and waxwings, all of them muffled in a fog as dense as Chatham, Cape Cod. I couldn’t even see the hood of my car - but I could feel the blessings of those avian silhouettes.
Sandy Hook Dunes and Sea, from Inside Life-Saving Station
The first time I met Sandy Hook was nine years ago right now. From that platform, we marveled not only at a great egret wading in a tide pool in the dunes. This truly wild creature was feeding within binocular range of the Verrazano Bridge and the World Trade Center Towers. Their lack now is as palpable as their presence had been from those sands.
I have literally been out there at Sandy Hook in all seasons. Especially memorable are Audubon birdwalks (A winter one met and left for the wild ones at 8 a.m. from Spermaceti Cove.) I’m sure that inlet was named because whales became confused and came ashore there in the centuries before there ever was a Sandy Hook Park. I’m betting the Indians named that cove.
What I remember most of that birding dawn is February light trampolining off bay and wave-side, and (later) off grim grey military bunkers. What I cannot forget is that nearly 50 of us gathered that morning, at 20 degrees in the sea wind, ready for action.
Foul Weather Gear is in Order during Sandy Hook Winters
Sandy Hook was a fort for much of its official life. The military presence remains. Sounds of nearby gunfire starle while we are searching from the North Beach platform for migrating raptors.
People I take to Sandy Hook cannot believe it when I drive them alongside military dwellings. Long abandoned, the feel frankly haunted. One senses the tenseness of inhabitants, eternally vigilant, never really in combat… My every visitor wonders aloud why these houses haven’t been restored. Whether as residences or B&B’s or both, they could bring in significant revenue to NJ coffers. While I’m at it, let me propose Birders’ Rates…
FORMERLY OCCUPIED MILITARY HOUSING
Everyone I take to Sandy Hook is astonished at every turn; disbelieving from start to finish. Here, there is nothing boring. The word that comes to mind here, today, far from its beaches, is “pristine”. Within sight of Manhattan…
Even here at my keyboard, I feel the elation of her high surf; the beauty of flotsam and jetsam on Sandy Hook’s quiet side; the nobility and serenity of the American Bald Eagle in the towering pine of Spermaceti Cove, and everything in between. Ospreys fight over a spring nest site. A green heron arrows across a marsh. Once, Janet and I quickly put down our binoculars, which had picked up rare species indeed - nude bathers.
Scarce ruddy turnstones line up on dark rocks - resembling rocks in reality, as well as in my attempted photographs, which I’ll spare you. Midwesterners marvel at all that holly. Everyone shudders at the healthy poison ivy - but its berries are essential for fall migrants.
Sparkling Foam Among the Flotsam and Jetsam of the Quiet Side…
Among the joys of Sandy Hook are the people you meet there. Scott Barnes and Pete Bacinski are ideal birding companions, birding mentors, actually. Both are also ‘up’ on the multi-faceted history of ‘The Hook’, –from the fact that no shot has been fired from that fort in anger, to the fact its presence, right below the Verrazano Narrows, having saved Manhattan from our enemies in any number of wars.
Others who preside at information desks, at Lifesaving Station/Museum and Audubon Center, are savvy about the entire process of using the cannon to fire the rope to which the breeches buoy was attached and flung onto sinking ships. If you’re lucky, you’ll get them started on tales of lighthousekeepers (including solo females). Ask about wreckers along our coast; about submarines in recent wars…
CANNON THAT PROPELLED ROPE FOR BREECHES BUOY
When my sister, Marilyn, was here in May, the entire Audubon team worked to attach soft, comfortable Audubon neck straps to my sister’s and my binoculars, whose furnished string-straps had been cutting into our necks. We can bird longer now!
All are very helpful re plants, as well. I asked, but did not write down, the name of this vibrant native species, so it remains The Unknown (to me). Let me know, please, if YOU know. Or go out to Sandy Hook and ask. Yes, they are in among prickly pear cactus, a New Jersey native species, at Sandy Hook, at Island Beach and hither and yon in the Pine Barrens. No, the red plants are not salicornia - it was too early for that salty succulent.
RED MYSTERY PLANT, GREEN PRICKLY PEAR -
out of whose fruit the Indians made/make jam…
Sandy Hook is a good place to take people who are grieving, as is my recently widowed sister. The limitlessness of the full ocean always makes its mark. The quiet side blesses with remnants of other eras, –from abandoned bunkers to weathered driftwood to the skeleton of a fish on the sparkling beach. Everything, even subtle tidal change reminds of cycles, of renewals.
And, afterwards, over superb plain fresh seafood at Bahr’s Landing, on the water (obviously) one can stare out to sea, thinking long thoughts, letting the healing in.
Finding out that one can be distracted from loss is a major part of the process, as I was forced to learn in Provence…
There Once Was a Fish - The Quiet Side…
My sister, Marilyn, is pensive in this picture, because her late husband Bill so loved boats, especially pleasure boats. Many are in view from Bahr’s, tucked in among rough solid fishing craft that matter most to me. My sister still relishes her Bahr’s memories. We take Bill with us wherever we go.
A Good Day on the Bay
Fishing Boat From Bahr’s - Lunching, we watch cleaning of fish, feeding of gulls…
VISUAL TOUR OF BAH’RS: http://www.bahrs.com/virtualtour.html
Here is Sandy Hook Light, Winter and Summer - we don’t have to choose!
Brenda Jones Honors Vigilant Blue Jay - Keepers of the Watch, with Crows, for all the Wild Kingdom
“What’s up?!” is a phrase my daughters used when they abruptly turned into teen-agers. ‘What’s up?’, I wonder this pre-dawn, when I know Nature is OUT THERE but I can’t see ANYthing!
Sunrise isn’t sunrise any more. It’s autumn.
Sometime somewhere in August, Apollo begins to oversleep and I am always shocked. I want to go find him, wiggle his toes, tell him to get into that chariot and get going! Here I am awake, all pistons firing, and it may as well be midnight.
Nature’s still there, but what can I perceive in blackness?
Crickets — that ceaseless, metallic susurrus. Seamless as silence, a blessing to me. People calculate temperature from frequency, but who cares? Crickets create the only “Surround Sound” that I treasure. In their evenness, even in their inescapability, these insects craft peace. When I am back in the office, telephones erupting on all sides, I will long for cricket time.
What’s up? Well, I know but can neither see nor hear the flight of owls across the floodplain, nor the stealthy course of foxes below these bedroom windows. The red are prevalent, but I have watched the silvery from my balcony.
Somewhere below me, our backwards skunk (white with a black stripe) pours along like melted silk. Deer are comfortable in darkness, –far moreso than I. And of course, up-canal, the beaver family is gulping supper and dessert before day, –their night–, arrives. Read the rest of this entry »