Archive for the ‘Restoration’ Category
SEEKING CHRISTMAS IN NEW JERSEY
Little Caboose That Could, Bordentown, (from the Christmas of 2009)
With rain pelting down, highways clogged, people on either side of cash registers surly, I cannot help but ask, “But, where is Christmas?” One thing I have always known - Christmas is not at the malls. This time of year, we can change that spelling to ‘The Mauls’. I must go searching for Christmas, and right now, in NJ:
Baubles of Yesterday - Mystery Destination, NJ
I have searched for Christmas before: Married, with daughters, my Swiss husband and I would travel in quest of Christmas, seeking to evade the mercantile, to recapture sweet, even tender Christmases of his childhood and mine. Some of the most memorable:
Carolers in sleighs at Waterville Valley. Snow sifting down upon their down jackets. Swiss chocolates and quaint gilt-trimmed, native-Swiss-scened Christmas cards upon our pillows when we came in from Midnight Mass. Snow and sweetness everywhere.
Walking Aspen streets to the scent of woodsmoke, mountain stream singing that year’s carols outside our town condominium. Red and gold vintage popcorn wagon, spilling white kernels, while an ink-sky spilled the next day’s powder. In restaurants , firelight on copper, warmth in every welcome.
“Froeliche Weinachten!” – the (non-written) Swiss language wish for a blessed Christmas, mingling with “Au Guri” in Italian and Happy St. Stephen’s Day, (more important than New Year’s) in the Christmas-card town of Zermatt, [where Werner was right at home at last, but which he'd never visited until we found it in 1964.]
But this is New Jersey. Where do we go to find Christmas here? (Not to celebrate Christmas - that’s another story, to be told), but to feel it?
Where better than a town whose residents helped give us two Trenton and one Princeton victories for Christmas in 1776 and 1777, whose residents gave us and continued to nourish Independence?
My simple nearby answer - Bordentown. Where everything still breathes of long ago.
My Christmas recipe calls for a very large dose of history; an aura of peace; warmth of welcome; and sparkly diversions I find nowhere else. It is enhanced by vintage bookstores, and art galleries and purveyors of jewelry of other days. My Christmas always involves feasting, — easy, relaxed, memorable, casual or opulent, even reasonable, in Bordentown.
Bordentown’s Bon Appetit - The Storied Farnsworth House
In Bordentown, history peals forth like Christmas bells.
Bell of Bordentown
NJ Wild readers know, I crave above all Revolutionary history. Thomas Paine is the Revolutionary of choice in Bordentown. This is the only place anywhere in the world, in which the man whom the Founding Fathers credited with forging the Spirit of ‘76 ever owned property.
Thomas Paine Statue, High on a Bordentown Hill, where we lost a Revolutionary Battle
Rights of Man - Jefferson Credits This Book with The Spirit of ‘76
Patience Wright - Sculptress - Lived Here
America’s first sculptress, who took her 1700’s fame and sailed to London where she perpetuated her fame, increased her skill and success. Her son, Joseph, became a renowned painter. One Patience Wright sign suggests she may have been a spy… In which case, she, also, secured the rights of man.
Bordentown’s Restorations are Stunning, Even When Trees are Bare
Cleaved Bonaparte Tree and Architectural Dig, Point Breeze
Strolling Bordentown’s brick sidewalks (I convince myself each brick came from the brickworks at the nearby Hamilton/Trenton/Bordentown Marsh, where I love to hike and bird, especially after new snowfall.) Charles Lucien Bonaparte, –when he lived on the Bluffs above the Hamilton-Trenton-Bordentown Marsh–, discovered and named new species in the Marsh. He would send news of such creatures as the mourning dove, named for his wife, Zenaide, and the Cooper’s hawk to scientific colleagues all over Europe. His species discoveries, and who knows what from that consummate politician, his Uncle Joseph, traveled under sail, from the confluence of the Delaware River and the Crosswicks Creek, at Bordentown.
View of the Confluence of our Delaware River and the Crosswicks Creek
From Bordentown’s River Line Train Station
Here lived a Signer of the Declaration of Independence, Frances Hopkinson, who also created the Great Seal of New Jersey, and his son, Joseph, who wrote Hail Columbia.
Frances and Joseph Hopkinson House
Here Clara Barton founded her free school, the tiny building still crowning a triangle of land not far from Jester’s Cafe.
Clara Barton’s School
Jester’s Cafe, a Warm Welcome In All Seasons
Warm Welcome of Summer
Venerable Bricks: Quaker Meeting House
Quaker Meeting House, with early Bordentown mural on side wall hidden here in shadow
Old Bordentown Mural near Quaker Meeting House
Nearby is the Point Breeze land on top of the Bordentown Bluffs, where Napoleon ordered his brother Joseph, former King of Spain and of Naples, to live but not to rule, because so convenient to Philadelphia, New York and Europe, under sail.
View from the Bonaparte Estate, Point Breeze
Next to the Farnsworth House is the impressive John Bull memorial, first steam engine in America, which pulled the legendary Camden and Amboy Railroad across Farnsworth Avenue — the railroad that carried Abraham Lincoln to his Inauguration and his grave. See what I mean about gliding through time’s veil?
Please, Santa? Bordentown for Christmas….
River Line Trenton Sign (Trenton is one stop north — through the Marsh)
This Way to Camden and Walt Whitman’s House
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
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.
email@example.com 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.
Brenda and Cliff Jones spent 5 hours in the historic town of Roebling, absorbing and photographing restored and preserved industrial realities — She surprised me by taking and inserting these images, to give you the flavor of my sister’s and my River Days.
The Expansive Delaware, by Brenda Jones
The Delaware River came to our rescue on a day of high clouds and implacable sky. My Chicago sister, Marilyn, wanted an ocean adventure. But it was not in the cards. Always blessed in our sisterhood, Marilyn and I wring together days out of each year, despite miles, our intense professional lives, and increasing airport-discouragements. The last NJ WILD readers heard of our memorable time together was when Marilyn lured me west to take that splendid Twilight Steamboat upon the Mississippi, at the height of autumn floods.
Now, her main wish while here was a day at Island Beach, threading tall dunes studded with bayberry and beach plum, holly and heather, trekking west in white silk sand rimmed by a weathered split-rail fence to Barnegat Bay, then east and upwards to the electrifying Atlantic herself. But it was not to be.
A detail not known to Midwesterners such as we, until viciously experienced, is that you cannot visit Atlantic beaches when there’s a land breeze. Our I.B. Day was forecast as, and proved to be, just that. W/SW, 5 to 10 mph. Dawn showed more of the same, actually from Maine to who-knows-where. Land breeze, to inform landlubbers from elsewhere, means hordes of biting insects, starting with black flies and descending to voracious mosquitoes. Once, on my way to the Spizzle Creek bird blind at I.B., the legs of my (foolish, yes, we admit it) guest and I, who had neglected to wear long
pants, were covered with ravening mosquitoes as though we were wearing black tights. You’ve heard of “once bitten, twice shy.” Try 2000-bitten… We started trembling, in what we later learned may have been a form of anaphylactic shock from insect venom.
No WAY was I taking my sister to feed the insects of Island Beach.
What do you do in New Jersey, when its shore is inaccessible and unacceptable?
Seek that other noble body of water, our Delaware River. It’s possible to
take 295 South to the Roebling exit, and begin there to follow history and that exquisite tidal water from near to us, as we did, all the way to Riverton, above Camden.
Winking and splashing, ‘Del’ made her way to the sea, leading two Great-Lakes-blessed Michiganders, hungry for ‘big water.’
Delaware River as Playground, by Brenda Jones
Ours was a day of intriguing and evocative houses — from those of riverboat captains presiding above Delaware banks in Riverton to rows of enlightened workers’ housing created by the Roeblings for those who turned out their impeccable wire rope to sustain bridges from Brooklyn and Washington to Golden Gate.
The game was to stay as close to the Delaware River as possible, all the while moving south. Early on, I learned that Monday is not the best day for randoming about along the river. Every lunch op was closed with the exception of the handsome, reliable, vibrant Madison Pub in Riverside. It’s the oldest continuously operating pub in New Jersey, spiffed to the nth degree, and legendary for hamburgers of Angus as memorable as anything I’ve had with my sister in Chicago.
In most river towns, all of which used to be connected under canvas, when the Delaware was our only ‘highway’, one must enter at the top, then drive one-way south, to stay along the banks.
Facsimile Streetlights at Roebling River Line Train Station
by Brenda Jones
Burlington is redolent of centuries far before our revolution, including a replica of the office where those who managed West Jersey [when we were The Jerseys], regularly convened. Brick sidewalks vie with cobblestones to bring back the sights, sounds and footing of yesteryear. Tipped tombstones tantalize with names, dates and stories weathered by centuries.
My favorite is Riverton, with its row upon row of tidy homes, each with its own unique, family-tended garden. Its green Victorian yacht club is worth the journey, as are captain’s homes with widows’ walks which rise in consummate stateliness all along the river.
Roebling Inn, which rents apartments! Facing Delaware River, by Brenda Jones
Man has perpetrated vile depredations upon this shimmer of water. When I moved to New Hope, in the early 1980’s, shad were rare. Wise riverside dwellers and their honest politicians, such as Peter Kostmayer, managed to have as much as possible of the Delaware named Wild and Scenic. This ended much pollution and brought back the shad, in droves. I attended the first Shad Festival, honoring that miracle of restoration and preservation.
My sister and I walked on water this week, over the Delaware, from Bull’s Island to the luminously restored Black Bass Inn on the Pennsylvania side. That entire day, we experienced the the river as playground - kayakers, swimmers, bobbers and floaters/tubers, from morning through late afternoon.
Each of us has been forced into a measure of cynicism about the world in general and America in particular, in this century.
In New Jersey’s (South Jersey’s) river towns, –normally explored on the light rail River Line, this time by car–, cynicism was replaced by awe and honor. Venerable buildings remember when Ben Franklin printed currency near where we parked our car in Burlington; where Abraham Lincoln (Blue Anchor Tavern, Burlington) ran a campaign. Restored row houses in Roebling are still redolent of the enlightened corporation that made the world better on level upon level. During the Great Depression, workers were not charged rent! Now, people work in Philadelphia and commute to Roebling on the River Line.
The Spiffy Swiss River Line Train, which connects the River Towns, by Brenda Jones
Our drive south, echoing the time of clipper ships, frequently piqued by warning signals of the spiffy River Line Light Rail, restored not only hope but even joy, in our amazing country. Appropriate, hard on the heels of the Fourth of July.
Over and over, we had to scrap the day’s plans, quite literally choose another path.
Over and over, miracles came our way.
The past is alive and well and living in the River Towns.
New Jersey is a master at restoration and preservation.
Gate to the Roebling Works, without which we wouldn’t have
Brooklyn, George Washington, Golden Gate and Riegelsville Bridges
by Brenda Jones
The trouble is, everyone always thinks our state is just that industrial morass I had to traverse to pick up and return my sister to Newark Airport…
Cherish New Jersey.
Realize her many miracles of restoration and preservation.
“The Practice of the Wild” by Gary Snyder delights me right from the preface - fairly unique, in my experience. The poet writes (in prose) of “appreciating the ferocious orderliness of the wild.” He speaks of his own path as “connected to animist and shamanist roots.” Snyder praises the arts as “the wilderness areas of the imagination, surviving like national parks.” I had not seen that arts connection, although I spend my life at D&R Greenway Land Trust weaving the arts into preservation of New Jersey lands. Snyder sums up his preface musings: “the wild… is actually, relentlessly, beautifully formal and free.”
As I step out along the Gary Snyder trail, I learn that to him, the words “wild” and “free” are inseparable. How tragic that freedoms are becoming more and more imperiled in our once abundant land, along with our once abundant land. Gary, thank you for articulating what I know, but could not put into words. Thank you for showing this Sagittarian (whose motto is “Don’t fence me in!”) why the wild is essential in my life. Because wild is free and free is wild.
I thought I was hoping to go to Bowman’s in search of spring. I now see, I am seeking the wild and the free. What are you seeking?
Coursing Waters: DELAWARE RIVER, Brenda Jones
A recurrent bout of flu deleted all my weekend excursions, including, especially, my first (!) trip this year to Bowman’s Hill Wildflower Preserve, just across our Delaware River, just below New Hope, to see if anything normal, natural and native had sprouted.
WILD DELAWARE, Brenda Jones
I knew, of course, skunk cabbage would be up. But what about bloodroot, twinflower, those fragile early heralds? Who knows? When will I know?
SKUNK CABBAGE, FIRST GLIMPSE, (Last Spring - March cfe)
First Ferns, which might be up now, for all I know! (cfe last spring - March)
Confined to quarters as I am, and despite lifelong scorn for television, this weekend I came to rejoice that NJN is spending this month on WILDERNESS. I became a couch potato watching WILD.
ISLAND BEACH FISHERMAN DAY AFTER WILD NOR’EASTER (cfe)
NJ WILD readers may remember my meanderings (mental) about the meaning of WILD, especially in this century, particularly in this, our most populous state.
TRUE WILDNESS, Fox at Twilight, Brenda Jones - I think Griggstown Grasslands
I’ve spent intervening years defining and redefining WILDERNESS (Henry David would have us say, WILDNESS, which is in even shorter supply).
CARNEGIE LAKE WILD - Cormorant/Gull/Fish Battle: Brenda Jones
National photospectaculars define wilderness in word and image. With some of which I agree. Some I seriously disagree. For example, every scene so far has been in the WEST.
KEN LOCKWOOD GORGE, NJ, WILD - Weighty Trout, Tasha O’Neill
NJN itself is great about celebrating New Jersey. Night after night, I see images NJ WILD has brought to you - the Pine Barrens, Salem and Cumberland Counties, the Delaware Bayshore, wild geese on the Delaware, a practiced fly fisherman in our very own Ken Lockwood Gorge, which could be the Black Canyon of the Gunnison for unrelieved wildness and the fight in those trout! (WHILE WE’RE AT IT, LET’S SAVE NJN!)
What makes me cross, couch potatoing in quest of wilderness, is that national filmmakers don’t know WE have a corner, in New Jersey, on Wildness.
STORM SURGE, LAVALETTE, Day After Nor’easter cfe
In the Western Wilderness series, listening to boys and girls, mostly inner city, taken to WILDERNESS the first time, their first reaction is nearly universal:
“It’s so peaceful here.” Wild = Peace.
What could be more important, essential? Especially now that we are engaged in three wars nobody wants and nobody seems to be able to stop. I remember when wars had to be run past Congress, something termed “the consent of the governed”, a.k.a. “the advise and consent” of our elected representatives. I am terrified by the voicelessness of the people in our land now.
All that heals me is the WILD.
However, for boys and girls who’ve never spent a night outdoors, the WILD can be terrifying in concept. To their amazement, over and over again, peace was the gift of the WILD.
WILD PEACE — RESTING TREE — Deep in D&R Greenway’s Cedar Ridge Preserve, cfe
What do my wild havens have in common?
Someone’s PRESERVED them!
What are you doing to keep New Jersey Wild and Scenic, as my Bucks County Congressman Peter Kostmayer once insisted our river be designated for so much of its beleaguered length such blessed terms still apply?
NJ WILD readers know my contenders for havens of WILD PEACE:
The Pine Barrens
Ken Lockwood Gorge, up near Clinton
Island Beach, especially in and after storm
Sandy Hook, especially in winter
Our D&R Canal and Towpath
Anywhere in the Delaware River Basin
Anywhere in Winter:
WILD WINTER SKIES, Sandy Hook Light, cfe
WHAT ARE YOURS?
WRITE YOUR FAVORITES in the COMMENTS
TEACH ME YOUR Favorites!
What with snow, rain, sleet, hail, gales and floods, I am in serious Towpath deprivation. Only a few hours ago, I saw our little Griggstown Causeway and the Blackwell’s Mills Causeway highlighted in orange on the Weather Channel, as sites for the Millstone River flood stage to be reached and even passed.
Many nights this week, I drove warily home — eyeing remaining inches between expanding waters and that fragile Towpath barricade. If the waters enter the canal, they cover Canal Road, and I am left high, if not dry. For ages after floods, the path becomes too skiddy for my comfort. In ice, it’s out of the question.
How normal it used to be for me to walk the Towpath many times each week. I know cool sections for the blazing days; and where to catch the slightest breeze across still water. Over the years, the Towpath has revealed best walks to escape cold winds. She’s divulged the parts holding most light for post-work walks. Once my sister and I made Thanksgiving for two, put the turkey in, walked to the dam and back and the feast was ready.
Now, I can’t remember the last time I set foot(e) upon that cushiony “Trail Between Two Waters.” That’s the name of one of my Towpath poems. Good thing no editor’s waiting for poetic material from me this winter!
Homesick for the Towpath, that’s my reality.
Let’s peek at some April picture, see why I am pining:
WHAT I REALLY MISS - KAYAKING ON THE D&R CANAL!
Here’s an early April walk toward Lawrenceville, below Quaker Bridge Road, ultimately through the jungley bits to Brearley House. The closest I’ve been to that storied site lately is wearing my dark green cozy sweatshirt: I DIG HISTORY AT THE BREARLEY HOUSE. I’m big on memories, but memory is not enough!
EVEN A LATE SPRING BRINGS TOWPATH BEAUTY
At D&R Greenway, last week, Jim Amon, our Director of Stewardship, called me from ‘high in the Sourlands.’ He was out monitoring trails, every sense attuned to laggard spring. When I answered, Jim exclaimed, “Just the person I wanted to reach! Can you hear them?” Silence… “Hear whom, Jim?” “Wait, I’ll walk a little closer. But not too close. I don’t want them to stop…” And then I heard that miraculous clicking, what I’ve sometimes described as Tom Sawyer dragging a stick along the picket fence, very fast. “The wood frogs!”
WOOD FROG EGG MASS, SOURLANDS, SPRING 2011, JIM AMON
Appropriate, this privileged exchange just now. Without Jim Amon’s serving as head of the D&R Canal Commission for three pivotal decades, we wouldn’t have this treasure. Jim’s vigilance preserved its beauty, purity (our drinking water), generous sight lines. His determination and persistence resulted in that that glorious metal virtual canal bridge soaring over US 1 in Lawrenceville.
In those days, no one would have faced down developers so stringently as Jim, forbidding metastases of McMansions at the hem of the canal, our “Ribbon of Life.”
DO WHATEVER IT TAKES to preserve the D&R Canal Commission, in beleaguered New Jersey, everyone!
Nobody’s ever called up and given me wood frogs, although friend/ornithologist, Charlie Leck, did report first redwings in the Marsh the week before. I’d begged him in D&R Greenway’s lobby, “Charlie, what’ve you seen that’s spring?”
Jim Amon took a superb photograph of wood frog eggs, laid during a recent (tardy, if you ask me!) warm rain. I’ll try to download and upload for you. The first time I ever met wood frogs, who make that clickety sound for a mere two weeks usually, was on this Brearley House walk. A stranger kindly and eagerly told me what was creating our watery chorus.
The Way to Brearley House from D&R Canal and Towpath below Quaker Bridge Road
I DIG HISTORY AT THE BREARLEY HOUSE
LIVING HISTORY - BREARLEY HOUSE
I love walking my Illinois sister, Marilyn, to this site. Michigan, where we grew up, was founded in 1837. Neither she nor I ever lose(s) the thrill of finding dates that begin with 16- and 17-. And we don’t have to drive to Salem and Cumberland Counties to find those dates designed into the bricks of venerable houses.
WHAT EYES HAVE SEEN WHAT SIGHTS THROUGH THESE OLD PANES?
Easy answer - nearly barefoot Colonial soldiers in winter, making their way on mud-turned-to-ice, after the two victories at Trenton, to their next victory at Princeton, January 3, 1777. Without that handful of days and that ragtag-and-bobtail army, we wouldn’t have a nation. Their determined feet trod the grass I walk, seeking Brearley images.
OUR CANAL - AS BEAUTIFUL AS FRANCE - ON THE WAY TO LAWRENCEVILLE
Without Jim Amon, and others I’ve described as “ardent preservationists”, the entire towpath could be desecrated as it is near Quaker Bridge Road.
Stay vigilant, everyone. Preserve the D&R Canal Commission. And walk this magical trail, even in laggard spring.
NJ WILD readers know how very much I celebrate any aspect of wild in our beleaguered, overpopulated state. As you have read my recent post re polar bears, don’t think bears are uncommon in wild New Jersey. Thank Heaven!
My heart rejoiceth that, in recent years, bears have been seen in the Pine Barrens, near Chatsworth. I well know the three roads where the sightings happened, experiencing delightful frissons whenever I pass those road signs, realizing I am in 21st Century ‘bear country’. Those woods belong to them, and more power TO them!
What could be more bear-able than the Pine Barrens? And yet, for all my longing, I’ve not seen in a bear in our state.
You haven’t had a poem from me in quite awhile. The world situation makes me want to wail, Not only the world, but prose is too much with us!
Remember, always, do whatever you can to save habitat wherever you are. Not only wild creatures - poor indoored humans require wildness! Here, you know, your preservation center is D&R Greenway Land Trust.
This poem was given to me in a potent year. It was inspired by an ancient book on nature in the New World. I share it with you, to remind you just what WILD really means!
If I ever publish a book of the 2001 poems, its title shall be, “Most Fierce in Strawberry Time,” from this poem.
Bears, They Be Common…
“…for bears, they be common, being a great black kind of bear
which be most fierce in strawberry time…” William Wood, 1630
so early English readers
learn of wildlife in our land:
of squirrels so troublous to corn
that husbands (Wood means farmers)
carry their cats to the cornfields
hearns are herons, eel-devouring
eagles known as gripes
wolves bear no joint from head to tail
none but Indians may catch beaver
to hunt turkey, follow tracks in snow
but skip cormorants – rank and fishy –
owls taste better than partridge
Wood limns the Indian game:
riding the bear over
watery plain, until
he can bear him no longer
then engaging in a cuffing match
Wood gives short shrift to omens
save cranes in faminous winters
in my starveling time
a Nebraska sandhill crane’s been sighted
in nearby Lawrenceville
yet I cannot sight
my own rare Love
whose first eagle we discovered
gripping a glowering pine
after tracking the great hearns
with and without eels
we were untroubled
by jointless wolf, fishy cormorants
at dusk we would ride the black bear
over meadow and plain
kicking with eager heels
as he splashed into inky bogwater
we held no cuffing match
yet he is elusive as Wood’s beaver
cannot be tracked, even in freshest snow
now I shall be most fierce
in strawberry time
CAROLYN FOOTE EDELMANN
March 10, 2001
“Dr. Pierce [through DNA research] discovered that the New World species [of Nabokov's Blues] shared a common ancestor that lived about 10 million years ago. But many New World species were more closely related to Old World butterflies than to their neighbors. Dr. Pierce and her colleagues concluded that five waves of butterflies had arrived from Asia to the New World — just as Nabokov had speculated.“By God, he got every one right,” Dr. Pierce said. “I couldn’t get over it — I was blown away.””
[P.S. -- Nabokov was also a poet on the subject. cfe]
Legendary author, Vladimir Nabokov, remained an unsung hero in the realm of his beloved science, during his lifetime, despite decades of impeccable research under the most daunting conditions, and “despite the fact that he was the best-known butterfly expert of his day and a Harvard museum curator.”
Nabokov was an early ‘voice crying in the wilderness, OF the wilderness,’ in this country and others. He saw, heard, felt and deplored ceaseless destruction of habitat for all butterflies, especially ‘his’ blues. You’re used to my pleading with you to save HABITAT HABITAT HABITAT. I by no means have Nabokovian clout, but all of you, as a committed and energized network, can heed Vladimir’s warning, as well as my pleas.
Your NJ WILD author literally met Vladimir Nobokov’s cherished Karner Blue (exquisite petite rare blue butterfly) on a nearby walk with scientists and preservationists. Held on Mapleton Preserve, off Mapleton Road, near our D&R Canal and Towpath, this rich excursion was arranged by Kingston (New Jersey’s) Friends of Princeton Nursery Lands.
I’ve since been ‘devouring’ butterfly books because of D&R Greenway Land Trust’s current exhibition, THE BEAUTY OF BIODIVERSITY: Birds, Bees & Butterflies. (Available to view on business hours, business days, One Preservation Place, Princeton 08540, through March 25.) www. drgreenway.org
One of the most memorable of my butterfly adventures recently pulled me through many a snowstorm - Nabokov’s Blues. Written by a ‘Dream Team’ of admiring and highly respected colleagues, this tome is seeing to it this superb writer is now and finally receiving honors ever due and rarely conveyed. Over and over, I marveled at Nabokov’s persistent, impeccable science and inspired guesses, long before the arrival of DNA as tool for species identification. Now the world is coming to see things his way.
My friends, alert to my enthusiasm over this book, send this recent NYT Article.
Nabokov Theory on Butterfly Evolution Is Vindicated
By CARL ZIMMER
Published: January 25, 2011
Vladimir Nabokov may be known to most people as the author of classic novels like “Lolita” and “Pale Fire.” But even as he was writing those books, Nabokov had a parallel existence as a self-taught expert on butterflies.
He served as [ill paid! cfe] curator of lepidoptera at the Museum of Comparative Zoology at Harvard University, collected insects across the United States. Nabokov published detailed descriptions of hundreds of species.
[Despite his family's having been hounded, --first out of his native Russia, and then out of Europe because of the rise of Nazism... cfe] In a speculative moment in 1945, Nabokov came up with a sweeping hypothesis for the evolution of the butterflies he studied, a group known as the Polyommatus blues. He envisioned their having arrived in the New World from Asia, over millions of years, in a series of waves. Few professional lepidopterists took these ideas seriously during Nabokov’s lifetime.
But, in the years since Nabokov’s 1977 death, his scientific reputation has steadily grown. Over the past 10 years, a team of scientists has been applying gene-sequencing technology to his hypothesis about Polyommatus blues evolution [and distribution cfe].
On Tuesday, in [a paper delivered at... cfe] the Proceedings of the Royal Society of London, it was reported that Nabokov had beenabsolutely right. “It’s really quite a marvel,” declared Naomi Pierce of Harvard, a co-author of the paper. Nabokov inherited his passion for butterflies from his parents. When his father was imprisoned by the Russian authorities for his political activities, the 8-year-old Vladimir brought a butterfly to his father’s cell. As a teenager, Nabokov went on butterfly-hunting expeditions. [He would ... cfe] carefully describe specimens he had caught, imitating the scientific journals [the boy] read in his spare time.
Had it not been for the Russian Revolution, which forced his family into exile in 1919, Nabokov said that he might have become a full-time lepidopterist. In his European exile, Nabokov visited butterfly collections in museums.
[As his literary fame expanded... cfe] Vladimir Nabokov used the proceeds of his second novel, “King, Queen, Knave,” to finance an expedition to the Pyrenees. There he and his wife [and key field collaborator], Vera, netted over a hundred species.
The rise of the Nazis drove Nabokov into exile once more in 1940, this time to the United States. It was there that Nabokov found his greatest fame as a novelist. It was also there that he delved deepest into the science of butterflies.
Nabokov spent much of the 1940s dissecting a confusing group of species called Polyommatus blues. He developed forward-thinking ways to classify the butterflies based on differences in their genitalia [as discerned through meticulous dissection... cfe].
Nabokov argued that those thought closely related species [based on wing patterns and color - butterfly dissection seems to have been pretty rare in V.N.'s lifetime...cfe] were only distantly related.
At the end of his 1945 paper on the group, Nabokov mused [upon ways in which they had evolved and dispersed themselves... cfe]. He speculated that they had originated in Asia, moving over the Bering Strait, journeying south all the way to Chile.
Allowing himself a few literary flourishes, Nabokov invited his readers to imagine “a modern taxonomist straddling a Wellsian time machine.” Going back millions of years, he would end up at a time when only Asian forms of the butterflies existed. Then, moving forward again, the taxonomist would see five waves of butterflies arriving in the New World. Nabokov conceded that the thought of butterflies making a trip from Siberia to Alaska and then all the way down into South America might sound far-fetched. But it made more sense to him than an unknown land bridge spanning the Pacific. “I find it easier to give a friendly little push to some of the forms and hang my distributional horseshoes on the nail of Nome rather than postulate transoceanic land-bridges in other parts of the world,” he wrote.
When “Lolita” made Nabokov a star in 1958, journalists were delighted to discover his hidden life as a butterfly expert. A famous photograph of Nabokov that appeared in The Saturday Evening Post when he was 66 is [taken as though... cfe] from a butterfly’s perspective. The looming Russian author swings a net with rapt concentration. But despite the fact that he was the best-known butterfly expert of his day and a Harvard museum curator, other lepidopterists considered Nabokov a dutiful but undistinguished researcher. He could describe details well, they granted, but “did not produce scientifically important ideas.”
Only in the 1990s, did a team of scientists systematically review his work and recognize the strength of his classifications. Dr. Pierce, who became a Harvard biology professor and curator of lepidoptera in 1990, began looking closely at Nabokov’s work while preparing an exhibit to celebrate his 100th birthday in 1999. She was captivated by his idea of butterflies coming from Asia. “It was an amazing, bold hypothesis,” she said. “And I thought, ‘Oh, my God, we could test this.’ ”
To do so, she would need to reconstruct the evolutionary tree of blues, and estimate when the branches split. It would have been impossible for Nabokov to do such a study on the anatomy of butterflies alone. Dr. Pierce would need their DNA, which could provide more detail about their evolutionary history.
Working with American and European lepidopterists, Dr. Pierce organized four separate expeditions into the Andes in search of blues. Back at her lab at Harvard, she and her colleagues sequenced the genes of the butterflies and used a computer to calculate the most likely relationships between them. They also compared the number of mutations each species had acquired to determine how long ago they had diverged from one another.
There were several plausible hypotheses for how the butterflies might have evolved. They might have evolved in the Amazon, with the rising Andes fragmenting their populations. If that were true, the species would be closely related to one another.
But that is not what Dr. Pierce found. Instead, she and her colleagues found that the New World species shared a common ancestor that lived about 10 million years ago. But many New World species were more closely related to Old World butterflies than to their neighbors. Dr. Pierce and her colleagues concluded that five waves of butterflies came from Asia to the New World — just as Nabokov had speculated.
“By God, he got every one right,” Dr. Pierce said. “I couldn’t get over it — I was blown away.”
Dr. Pierce and her colleagues also investigated Nabokov’s idea that the butterflies had come over the Bering Strait. The land surrounding the strait was relatively warm 10 million years ago, and has been chilling steadily ever since. Dr. Pierce and her colleagues found that the first lineage of Polyommatus blues that made the journey could survive a temperature range that matched the Bering climate of 10 million years ago. The lineages that came later are more cold-hardy, each with a temperature range matching the falling temperatures.
Nabokov’s taxonomic horseshoes turn out to belong in Nome after all.
“What a great paper,” said James Mallet, an expert on butterfly evolution at University College London. “It’s a fitting tribute to the great man to see that the most modern methods that technology can deliver now largely support his systematic arrangement.”
Dr. Pierce says she believes Nabokov would have been greatly pleased to be so vindicated, and points to one of his most famous poems, “On Discovering a Butterfly.” The 1943 poem begins:
I found it and I named it, being versed
in taxonomic Latin; thus became
godfather to an insect and its first
describer — and I want no other fame.
“He felt that his scientific work was standing for all time, and that he was just a player in a much bigger enterprise,” said Dr. Pierce. “He was not known as a scientist, but this certainly indicates to me that he knew what it’s all about
Upper Raritan, Fly Fishermen’s Paradise - Ken Lockwood Gorge, Tasha O’Neill
GOOD NEWS - FIRST TIME IN MORE THAN A CENTURY: Upper Raritan to Run Free
Dear NJ WILD Readers,
To give you a sense of the magnitude of this preservation miracle, I share Tasha O’Neill’s glorious pictures of Ken Lockwood Gorge on the upper Raritan.
It’s grand in winter in the Gorge. Virtual trips can be made by Googling Ken Lockwood Gorge and feast your eyes on vodka-clear waters, dancing between moss-garlanded black rock walls. Pretend you’re as deft, graceful and successful as all those fly fishermen.
Imagine that our hands are tenderly releasing wild and wily trout into untroubled Raritan waters. This is a dream that can now come true.
I recently watched NJN Special, Along the Delaware, showing the grace of fly fishing in the upper Delaware River. Scenes of artful sportsmen are interspersed with those peaceful kayakers, to the overhead carols of red-tailed hawks… Now, The Delaware’s sister, Raritan, can give forth wild bounty.
For once, humans are making amends to our beleaguered earth.
In the meantime, support your local land trust, such as our D&R Greenway Land Trust, founded to preserve land near the Delaware & Raritan Canal and Towpath. Keep in the forefront of your consciousness the beauty and peril (development/poisoning of waterways) of our beautiful unsung state… Do everything in your power to expand preservation miracles such as this one.
And, go walk the Gorge in all seasons. You may be inspired to paint masterpieces, as have some of D&R Greenway’s key Artists of Preservation.
The NJ DEP has secured an agreement that will open up a large stretch of the
The removal of the dams, financed and carried out by El Paso, will open up a
The settlement marks an important first step in what the DEP hopes will become
The fish to benefit most from the removal of the dams are American shad,
Additionally, the dam removal will make it easier for kayakers,
For more details on the settlement and the stretches of river involved, visit
Narrow-Gauge Railway Car Reflected in the Brandywine
Once upon a time, a family with the locally ordinary name of du Pont fled their native France, embroiled in turbulent Revolution. America proved a haven for these people, who would found the black powder industry in our land. The refugees settled north of Wilmington, Delaware, on the gentle banks of the peaceful Brandywine. One brother, Victor, would launch a successful sheep farm and woolen mill, high on a hill above what had been the Hagley Yards.
Crossing the Mill Race
The river’s steady current had rendered flour mills legendary beyond the Brandywine Valley, –so that top bakers in tony Philadelphia, nearby Wilmington and thriving Baltimore demanded perfectly ground flour for their pastries. That same gentle river’s reliability resulted in black powder (gunpowder)’s being equally and more critically free from lumps. Determined to improve the gunpowder he found and decried in this young nation, scientifically astute E. I. Du Pont’s would become famous the world over for highest quality. Hagley seems to reveal, as well, a remarkable concern for the lives of his workers.
Hagley Building HIgh Above Brandywine
(a turn up the road near this structure takes you to their new organic cafe!)
Hagley is the village that housed not only E. I.’s mansion, but also the company’s office, the powder works, workers’ homes, school, foreman’s home, a narrow-gauge railroad alongside mill race and Brandywine River.
As you stroll the rolling grounds, the word ‘impeccable’ will come to mind over and over and over. Quality was the pride of the founders. Quality is maintained by all who open the Museum to this day.
Allee at the Gate
Hagley Museum (and gardens, and library) welcome visitors to time travel, in which the past lives again, and the American Dream is fully realized.
du Pont Mansion, Hagley Museum and Gardens
It’s not every day that NJ WILD readers find its author tromping through a museum devoted to industry. If you take yourself to Hagley Museum and Library, however, you’ll find out why I can’t resist it. Why, in fact, I soon will have spent an entire day there, twice in a week.
Last Rose of Autumn, Brandywine Cascade, Hagley
So, it could be claimed that the even current of the Brandywine River changed history in our new country. The War of 1812, and then the Union victory in the Civil War could well be ‘laid at the feet’ of the black powder prepared with diligence and artistry by the du Ponts in their new homeland.
Free Power Transfer, in Working Condition, Audible!
Still Life in Foreman’s Home - Docents Eager to Share
Foreman’s Saw and Doorway
The knowledgeable docents of Hagley do a far more stirring version of all this, in person, in situ, baking butter cookies inside the chancy oven of the wood stove; pulling levers to turn on machinery that repaired machinery for the duPonts of Hagley in the early days of our country. Handles of those machine still gleam from steady use by loyal workers. Belts recreate the river’s steady current, causing those historic machines to purr in this, the 21st Century.
Brooding Beauty of Black Powder Buildings
It’s a simple journey to Hagley, for us, as it was not for the duPonts. 95 South to 202 to 141 - then through the ancient gates to life in another era.
Gate Famous not only for du Pont use, but as setting in film: “Dead Poets’ Society“
Kind busdrivers encourage visitors to stroll at the river’s edge: “I’ll be leaving in ten minutes. I’ll pick you up wherever you are.”
Reason to Stroll
Eager staff re-create a world of workers’ cottages; the rather enlightened, though only on Sunday, school for four-year-olds on up; the foreman’s stately home; the owner’s mansion and gardens; the first office (really the second - the first had been in the original mansion; the narrow-gauge railway with its saucy yellow car reflected in the shimmering river.
Boxcar in Narcissus Mode
And, above all, below all, visitors walk past thick stone walls sheltering the setting in which black powder was crafted to ensure sure shots: Three walls of dense stone, one rather flimsy - so that whenever one of the 288 explosions occurred, the light wall would allow that brute force to escape out over the water. Needless to say, such explosions in those confined spaces, carried with them not only powder but also the loyal workers. Hazard was the name of the game, in the time of the duPonts of Brandywine.
Powder Works in Autumn
Allow an entire day here - it opens at 9:30 a.m. Buses take you to the top, to the Mansion, now decorated as it was by duPonts and Crowninshields over the decades, for Christmas. Each floor of the Mansion recreates a different era of family habitation, hobbies, clothes, paintings, drawings, china, crystal and silver.
Hagley Visitors’ Center
Welcome to Hagley Museum and Library!
Hagley Museum and Library, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization, collects, preserves, and interprets the unfolding history of American enterprise.
Impeccably Restored Buildings
Located on 235 acres along the banks of the Brandywine River in Wilmington, Delaware, Hagley is the site of the gunpowder works founded by E. I. du Pont in 1802. This example of early American industry includes restored mills, a workers’ community, and the ancestral home and gardens of the du Pont family.
Frost Evidently Has Not Been ‘On’ du Pont Pumpkins
Hagley’s library furthers the study of business and technology in America. The collections include individuals’ papers and companies’ records ranging from eighteenth-century merchants to modern telecommunications and illustrate the impact of the business system on society.
The Center for the History of Business, Technology, and Society organizes and administers the Hagley Museum and Library’s interaction with the world of scholarship. It brings attention to Hagley’s research collections and generates intellectual dialogue at Hagley.