Archive for June, 2008
There is more to nature than ‘green’. For all my delight in the color itself; in greenways (I work at D&R Greenway Land Trust); ‘green consciousness’; ‘green building’; ‘green roofs’; ‘the greening of Chicago,’ I worry. This color’s sudden popularity could presage if not predict a fatal plummeting in the future: an ‘equal and opposite reaction’ leading to disaster that could make Noah’s flood look like an April shower.
For all her genesis and catalysis, Mother Nature has become ever more dependent upon humans, as we increasingly manipulate through technology. Our president likes to see Mother Nature as a dangerous force; blaming her instead of human greed/fuel consumption/carbon dioxide emissions for floods, hurricanes, droughts and melting glaciers, if he admits them at all. What few seem to realize, even those who cherish Mother Nature, is that she herself needs attending, our tending.
No, the October Glory Maples have not been felled — that will show you what the shock of destruction, married to long hard workdays, can do to my perception of nature. I saw only emptiness. And I was wrong.
I take back my misperception re the vanishing of the trees. But I do not take back my shock, horror, fury at the proliferation of greed and its offspring. My desolation I deeply share with the wild creatures banished this week for profit’s sake.
The reality is, everything AROUND the October Glory Maples has been wiped out. Curtains and veils and fountains of green, shelters for nests and nestlings, nurseries for benificent insects — all that thrived is gone. Behind it stretches endless dust and gravel, still studded with one or two murderous earth-moving machines. Red-pink flapping plastic flags march in lockstep in either direction under the maples, from the ravished area. I now see that those flags are, that they have always been - but I didn’t understand! — signals of desolations to come.
One of the joys of living at Canal Pointe, near my cherished D&R Canal and Towpath, is that I drive home after long days along a dappled route. Canal Pointe Boulevard is bordered on both sides by an American allee of bountiful October Glory Maples. Flemer Cultivars, from illustrious, globally renowned Princeton Nurseries, formerly of Kingston and Allentown, NJ, these stately trees flame like torches early every autumn. Their color serves as Pan’s and Gaia’s rectifying of autumn’s inescapable losses .
Imagine my horror, this very week, with no word, no warning, to drive alongside a strafed, scraped swathe of naked land on the east side of our boulevard. The glory that had been maples in that stretch is no more. For the first time, I see that ‘raped’ lurks inside ’scraped’! Swirls of dust still rose from the slaughter. Men with hard hats swaggered among the yellow beasts, the dire machines which had served as co-conspirators, as weapons of mass destruction.
Kayaking is alive and well and living in Princeton. Every day of the week now, –11 a.m. weekdays, 10 a.m. Saturdays and Sundays until dark–, Steve at Princeton Canoe and Kayak [Alexander Road across from Turning Basin Park, west of US1], offers ‘Otter’ or ‘Loon’ kayaks and bullet-like silver canoes. Even on your way home from work, you can step in and glide soundlessly and timelessly out into our legendary D&R Canal. (609-452-2403 ) If you are lucky, a painted turtle as big as a Crock Pot will salute you from a sturdy log, a great blue heron ruffle your hair in passing, with the wind from its wings.
To the north, you’ll zip under the Dinky Bridge and on toward Lake Carnegie, gliding along its hem most dramatically in the aqueduct at the Mapleton Fishing Bridge. To the south, you’ll maneuver under Alexander Bridge, announced by fore-scents of tar and the sip-whispering of swallows. And then the entire canal opens out before you. A friend with her own kayak may well be waiting at the handy put-in just below Turning Basin Park.
It’s hard to determine the more irresistible, –morning’s cool quiet, or the gilded tranquillity of last light. Photographer-friends prefer the latter.
Going north, toward evening, you could see our voracious beaver family on either side of the fishing bridge, busy with breakfast. Going south, even at mid-day, you are likely to be treated to even rarer wildlife. Saturday’s kayak gifts soared from mellifluous flutings of the Institute Woods wood thrushes, [mid-day! -- extremely unusual], to the elusive green heron, arrowing overhead, blessing us with his rusty squawk. One of the rarest birds anywhere! Paddling in heron-shadow. You never know what you’ll be given, paddle-in-hand. Read the rest of this entry »
Rereading a classic, decades later, can be very enlightening. Not only have you, the reader, altered significantly since the last time those pages turned at your hands. But also the world’s perception of both author and subject have likely transformed. Henry Beston’s Outermost House is a treasure I first discovered when his house on Eastham’s Cape Cod beach was still there, and we could actually visit it from our little house on Chatham’s stretch of Nantucket Sound. Beston’s work never again attained this level, but Outermost House only increases in literary esteem with the passing of years.
The blizzard of ‘78 blew Henry’s literary shrine and national historic landmark to the Ultimate Outermost — that blizzard that marked my first story for the Princeton Packet. But Beston’s cottage remains intensely present, even visible, in the worlds of both nature and literature.
The re-read Henry Beston turns out to be Thoreau-crusty in his view of human nature, something I don’t remember from that Chatham reading: “The world today is sick to its thin blood for lack of elemental things,” observes this Henry, gazing through some of his ten windows. He calls for “a world whose greater manifestations remain above and beyond the violence of man.” This is right up there with today’s nature mentor, Michael Pollan’s, calling man the quintessential weed.
Beston ‘gets on his high horse’ when people look down upon animals and birds as lesser species: “For the animal shall not be measured by man.”
No wonder The Outermost House was the only nature book which Rachel Carson admitted had influenced her writing! The federal government, in the young hands of John F. Kennedy, cited this book as “one of the motivating forces in the creation of the Cape Cod National Seashore, and none too soon! Read the rest of this entry »
Only part of what’s wrong with the 21st Century is that nobody saunters any more. Think about the word. What image springs to mind? Maurice Chevalier, with straw hat and mobile cane, strolling with verve along the boulevards of Deauville and Paris?
Or do you see John Muir among the fluid grasses of Sierran meadows, on the way to climbing the unclimbed, bearing little more than rolled bread and some tea? Even in winter, he would leave his coat behind because it encumbered him too much on mountain-mounting treks. Once Muir climbed an evergreen to be whipped about in a wild winter storm! One could could say the tree sauntered too, –rather too roughly for my taste, however. But it was one of Muir’s peak moments, pun intended. Muir described saunterers as those who “walk with a swinging, rocking gait, free of quick, jerky fussiness,” going on to praise those “rare happy rovers.”
First of all, wild is not crazy. In fact, research is showing quite the opposite: that humans in general and children in particular are more prone to become crazy without the Wild. Richard Louv is the key spokesman for this thesis, in his seminal work, Last Child in the Woods. But ask anyone who remembers watching tadpoles in a stream; pressing autumn leaves in a book; trying to catch snowflakes during a yes, wild, blizzard — are they not among the most serene and blessed memories of a life? Do you not return to them for sanity? Read the rest of this entry »
Morning errands are never a favorite past-time. Yet this sweltering Saturday’s tasks held wild nature gifts, right out on Route 1. Leaving Target and the bank, I drove south into a sea-green haze of heat and probable pollution. Even so, arrowing along as I departed Mercer Mall, a stately great blue heron rowed through the impossible air. Elegant, sure of himself, with a few wingbeats he would be over canal water. And I, blessed by the wild– errands forgotten.