Archive for August, 2008
Brenda Jones Captures Hummingbird Feeding, Pollinating Jewelweed
Cool Woman Poet, Betty Lies, is a dear friend, whose new collection of poetry, The Blue Laws, will be launched at the Princeton Public Library on Wednesday, September 17, at 7:30 p.m., upstairs by the fireplace. Come join us to hear her remarkable work. Her splendid poem on nature’s antidote to poison ivy awaits you below. Meanwhile,…
Those savvy about global warming foresee dangers great and small, from the vanishing of our cherished coastlines to the increasing virulence of poison ivy. Not only will this vine grow more rapidly, covering ever more ground and treetrunks. Its incarnadine effect upon susceptible humans is increasing even as I write. Ask those who’ve had to return to their doctors this summer for second and third rounds of treatment. Global warming isn’t someday. It’s here now. And poison ivy is one of its heralds.
Tasha O’Neill’s portrait of Jewelweed
Few, other than Native Americans, however, know the natural remedy/preventative for this scourge of gardeners and hikers in our region. The lovely jewelweed, otherwise known as touch-me-not, rises especially in wetlands, usually very near to the plant whose rash it prevents and cures. The remedy was named because its scalloped leaves hold morning dew in rounds that catch and transform sunrise into rainbows. Read the rest of this entry »
Rachel Carson’s Photo as Employee of U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, pre-Silent Spring
Many of us in the Princeton region were blessed this spring to attend Kaiulani Lee’s one-woman presentation of the Life of Rachel Carson at Trenton’s legendary Passage Theatre. Media coverage was generous and rapturous. Ms. Lee not only performs this tour-de-force single-handedly, carrying Rachel’s message of courage and attention all over the world. She also carried out the research into Rachel’s life and work; all writing and rewriting of the play, and continues publicizing it to this day. We listened, fascinated, to a panel discussion featuring the actor/playwright, at D&R Greenway Land Trust, where I work in Outreach and the Arts.
As a result of Kaiulani’s constellating attention newly upon her heroine, many of D&R Greenway’s and Passage Theatre’s supporters, –as well as reporters and editors, newspaper readers–, returned eagerly to Carson’s books and eloquent letters, learning and relearning of her relentless crusade.
However, just because President John F. Kennedy was bowled over by Rachel’s research and poetic delivery; just because he set programs in motion to turn around the poisoning of our country then; does NOT mean we may now pat ourselves upon our collective backs. Read the rest of this entry »
Author and teacher of writing at Columbia University, Gladys Taber, once blurted my all time favorite plaint about the concept of ‘Summer Reading’. I paraphrase somewhat –
“Whoever invented ’summer reading’? I may be hot, but my brain’s all right!” I would trumpet this from the rooftops. In fact, I go to opposite extremes. Summer is when I take on the big ones, because there seem more hours in summer days, more luminous hours.
The summer when our Princeton US 1 Poets Cooperative was all abuzz over member, Jean Hollander’s superb poetic translation, with scholar husband, Robert, of Dante’s Inferno, I read theirs and Ciardi’s back-to-back. Another summer was a natural for re-reading Moby Dick; followed immediately by the splendid Ahab’s Wife by Sena Jeter Naslund. After “It was the best of times, the worst of times,” Naslund’s opening sentence of that epic novel is my hands-down winner: “Ahab was neither my first husband nor my last.”
So I don’t pick up Henry Beston’s The Outermost House, A Year on the Great Beach of Cape Cod, because it is summer. Read the rest of this entry »
Geese Lured by Puddles @ Trenton Farmers Market - Carolyn Edelmann
Brenda Jones captures gosling imitating parents
Brenda Jones Capture Canada Goose Lift-Off
You may have noticed that, this very week, the geese are flying anew. They have been invisible and inaudible ever since moulting their flight feathers, after the hatching and fledging of their young. I have an unproved theory that geese cannot or do not ‘honk’ except on the wing, although they make other, i.e., defensive sounds when goslings are present. All week, goose squadrons have been busily proving my theory. Anyone know the reality in this matter?
Here is a case of art’s imitating life. As you know, when I share poetry with NJ WILD readers, I ask for your favorite nature poems. Their arrival then triggers other posts on this blog, and so on and so on.
As Goose Week ended, Cool Woman Poet, Lois Marie Harrod, of Hopewell, New Jersey, sent me a poem about these formerly significantly migratory birds. Enjoy one of Lois’s favorites from the rich oeuvre of Provincetown nature poet, Mary Oliver.
For me, this has always been not only a cherished poem of Oliver’s, but also a vital life paradigm – “…let the soft animal of your body love what it loves…”
And let your OWN “imagination, in any and all forms, call to you like the wild geese, harsh and exciting.”
To see Lois’s work, or to order Cool Women poetry anthologies, or our CD, Cool Women Collect Themselves: www.loismarieharrod.com
And send me YOUR favorites, please!
Wild Geese by Mary Oliver
You do not have to be good.
Tell me about despair, yours, and I will tell you mine.
Whoever you are, no matter how lonely,
from Dream Work by Mary Oliver
George Inness celebrates New Jersey’s Montclair, at Clark Art Institute, Williamstown, Massachusetts, exhibit, Like Breath on Glass, until October 19.
Eduard Steichen, photographer as painter - his Tonalist Period - at Sterling and Francine Clark Art Institute, Willilamstown Mass: Exhibit Like Breath on Glass through October 19.
Although I celebrate NJ Nature at every turn, sometimes I must cross state lines. Often to New Hope and Doylestown (PA) for the Michener Art Museums and galleries “of the first water” honoring our Delaware Valley Impressionists. And this week, to Massachusetts, –the Berkshires–, for hikes and art in equal measure.
The Sterling and Francine Clark Art Institute in Williamstown, Mass. is the only museum I know where I can hike their trails from 8 - 10, then open their newest exhibit still in hiking gear. Five of us made this dual pilgrimate last fall for my Packet editor, Ilene Dube. Then we sought The Unknown Monet (who hid the fact from the media and the world that he was a superb draughtsman!).
This week, two of us will repeat that journey, for the Clark’s gentle new show, Like Breath on Glass.
This exhibition was inspired by the words and work of James Abbott McNeill Whistler. “Paint should not be applied thick. It should be like breath on the surface of a pane of glass,” the artist asserted on a Venice sojourn.
This quintessential expatriate never returned to America, yet influenced artists on both sides of the Atlantic during and after his life - think Color Field, think Rothko and Frankenthaler and Morris Louis…
John Henry Twachtman has been called “the master of nuance.” Inness approached Whistler’s ephemerality in his later works, particularly in and around our Montclair. Of Whistler, it has been said, “No one else has so well painted night.” He was called “a master editor of nature”, his work praised for its “daring simplicity.”
In these “times that try men’s souls”, I have a great longing for simplicity, the ineffable. I think these qualities are waiting for me in Williamstown.
My Socrates Cafe colleague, Harriet Feiring, and I are heading up for the Clark’s Sunday afternoon lecture on Whistler’s Nocturnes. I have always cherished those drifty, dreamy, even foggy evocations, –mostly of London and sometimes of Venice — so abstract in a time of mandated realisms. Whistler was mocked, even sued by (art critic, John) Ruskin, for his daring.
When the world is too much with us, a little LESS clarity is in order. In this season, hurtling toward fall, a morning walk, an evening stroll, can bring the gift of fog. In our region, with its many waterways, we can go in quest of the blessing of mists.
John Keats had it right, in “To Autumn”, (well, EVERYwhere!, actually), celebrating this “Season of mists and mellow fruitfulness.” Especially in New Jersey, still the Garden State, and counting. Fields and farm markets are overflowing now with her jewel-like produce.
In face of so much bounty, we might join John in talking to emergent Autumn: “Who has not seen thee, oft amid thy store?… / sitting careless on a granary floor / Thy hair soft-lifted by the winnowing wind…/Drows’d with the fume of poppies…”
I have yet to encounter “the fume of poppies.” But Keats’ mists are near at hand. We are blessed, in the Princeton area, by the D&R Canal and Towpath, which can be Mist-Central now that its waters cool at night before meeting morning warmth. This baffling time, –financially, politically, even spiritually in our country–, it is good to have a place In which to practice walking when we cannot really see ahead. In which simply to place one foot(e) in front of the other, keep on. Read the rest of this entry »
Cabbage White, Brenda Jones
Tobias Renkawitz Trout
Trout Heaven - Ken Lockwood Gorge, NJ, Raritan River, Tasha O’Neill
In an earlier NJ WILD post, I had asked readers to send me their favorite poems.
You should know that Ilene Dube, one of my so-supportive Packet Editors, is the one who insisted on our launching NJ Wild. My other treasure of a Packet Editor, Michael Redmond, answered immediately with John Keats’ exquisite
I wrote Michael in thanks, noting that “To Autumn’s” opening lines are my all-time favorites in poesie: “Season of mists and mellow fruitfulness.” That poem will have its place among these ‘posts’ all too soon, for we have passed the Summer Solstice, –lo!, these many weeks.
Meanwhile, Michael’s evocative answer brought to mind my favorite last lines in all poetry, in William Butler Yeats’ delicate masterpiece, below.
I then wrote to photographer friends, Brenda Jones and Tasha O’Neill. Tasha sent me a trout stream we’ve explored together; and Brenda a white moth. Well, really a Cabbage White butterfly, but it looks like a moth. The Internet offers the slender trout by Tobias Renkawitz.
Yes, we are gilding the lily here - but I’ll use any excuse to share beauty captured by lens-wielding friends and even by strangers.
I went out to the hazel wood,
Because a fire was in my head,
And cut and peeled a hazel wand,
And hooked a berry to a thread;
And when white moths were on the wing,
And moth-like stars were flickering out,
I dropped the berry in a stream
And caught a little silver trout.
When I had laid it on the floor
I went to blow the fire aflame,
But something rustled on the floor,
And some one called me by my name:
It had become a glimmering girl
With apple blossom in her hair
Who called me by my name and ran
And faded through the brightening air.
Though I am old with wandering
Through hollow lands and hilly lands,
I will find out where she has gone,
And kiss her lips and take her hands;
And walk among long dappled grass,
And pluck till time and times are done
The silver apples of the moon,
The golden apples of the sun.
I’ll ask again - what is YOUR favorite nature poem… cfe
Anne Zeman’s portrait of peonies by an old fence reminds me that people used to take Sunday drives. And, as Pete Seeger laments in his Public Television retrospective, families would sing all the way there and back. He frets about what will become of the American voice, without singing in the car… one of our happiest family memories back in Lathrup Village, Michigan.
In those days, especially near the ‘Motor City,’ there was implied scorn in the phrase ‘Sunday Driver’. Yet that was our favorite way to spend Daddy’s only day off from the Detroit Times. We’d drive around, searching for peonies, for example — rare in Michigan, something anyone can do in New Jersey. But they only grew in a few yards, in other far-away neighborhoods. We would sing all the way to the peonies. “White Coral Bells,” though I never met those flowers until New Jersey, either. “Row, Row, Row Your Boat,” which my D&R Canal kayaking buddies and I sing on our way south from Alexander toward Lawrenceville.
But now, what with road rage and all, I can’t think of the last time I heard or saw anyone singing in the car. Worse, even before these wild gas prices, Sunday drives have vanished. People get in their cars to go somewhere and back - to run errands, to soccer practice, to check out yet another new chef. Some, on Sundays, still do drive to their place of worship. (Mine is the Towpath…) But the car equivalent of Henry David Thoreau’s ’sauntering’ is lost.
Sauntering is akin to ‘errantry’, something I learned in Cornwall in search of King Arthur: “Wandering around in search of adventure.” Not a bad definition for a life.
Unbeknown to most, New Jersey is rich in opportunities for errantry.
When I first read John McPhee’s The Pine Barrens, it was studded with warnings about getting lost, stuck in sugar sand roads, quirks of locals. So, for more than a decade, I quailed before venturing there alone . Then, along with Princeton Artists Alliance artist, Dottie Bissell, we dared the back roads, extending our creative ‘errantry’ to Tabernacle, Smithville, Oceanville, even Leeds Point, where, in the 1700’s, the Jersey Devil is said to have been born, Mrs. Leeds’ 13th child.
Now, hardly a month goes by without a Pinelands journey. Errantry is my main New Jersey hobby. Never is “wandering around in search of adventure” more thrilling and fulfilling than on and near sugar sand roads, bordered by, even named after, flowers. Friendship-Speedwell road celebrates a member of the pansy family. Any day now, along Sooy Place, the rare and exquisite goats’ rue will burst into bloom.
The 1700’s — [now THERE's a time I long to have lived, preferably in Philadelphia with Ben and Tom and John and George, that crew] saw Leeds Point and Smithville as major crossroads. Travel necessitated storied inns and restaurants which exist in other forms but feel ancient to this very day - Oyster Creek Inn rests right on the salt marsh, exquisite light and views at evening. The Smithville Inn and its adjacent Bakery remain right on our Route 9. Original Smith and Bowen family members slumber in the adjacent churchyard.
Joseph Bonaparte, Napoleon’s brother, at Point Breeze on the Bordentown Bluffs, wrote letters to colleagues in Europe about his own encounter with the Jersey Devil. Pineys have challenged me, “Aren’t you AFRAID?” Frankly, no — I want to ask that guy about the 1700’s. Read the rest of this entry »
OK, this blog, NJ WILD, is supposed to have poetry in it. Where is the poetry?
Here is one of the favorites at performances by Princeton’s Cool Women Poets, themed critique and performance group, who are frequently asked to read as “Forces of Nature.” It was given most recently at the New Jersey Foresters’ Annual Meeting at Duke Farms. My intention was to thank the foresters for tending to New Jersey trees, without which our eagles would have neither perches, cover nor nesting sites.
Photographer Tasha O’Neill captures an eagle with the full power I sensed before writing “Visitation.”