Archive for April, 2009
Lilacs - epitome of simplicity and fragrance
Spring, as NJ WILD readers know, has been harsh and tardy. You know, I have had scant patience with this sluggard season, despite having grown up in Michigan, begun married life in Minnesota. You’ve shared my laments for spring’s hesitations; rejoiced over first courting red-wings at the Pole Farm; first glimpses of spring beauties near the Brearley House; waited with me for deafening chorales of spring peepers out my Canal Pointe windows. Even so, I have not quite relaxed into spring. Not when it’s 30 on my porch night after night at the end of April.
When I was least looking for it, last Friday afternoon, in idyllic Newtown, Pennsylvania, I found incontrovertible spring. In the dooryard of what may be the oldest frame house in that state, friends and I were treated to our first lilacs in bloom. They were far above our heads, behind a stout oft-painted picket fence. But they were open and softly lavender and warming in thin sun. If we were taller, we might have caught their scent.
Lilacs grew tall and hardy in childhood, filling our entire neighborhood with fragrance, forcing us to open windows even in Michigan chill, just to inhale spring.
As I grew and entered school, I would learn that lilacs have other meanings. Standing alone in New England fields, lilacs testify to the optimism of some long-ago housewife, planting them for children yet unborn. Often, on New England jaunts, we’d find that lilacs often outlived the family. What consolations they must have brought to those staunch women, on farms where stones were more prolific than crops.
In Michigan, we would batter lilacs’ hard wooden stems, so that they could take up water. Then we’d carefully wrap the smashed stems in wet paper, to carry on the interminable busride to a stern teacher, to liven up a barren classroom.
In those rooms, I learned a poem that, unrealized, may have launched me on my poetic journey thirty-some years later.
Very little of Whitman would nuns allow us to hear - but “When lilacs last in the dooryard bloomed” joined “O Captain, My Captain” in helping us absorb the impossible murder of President Lincoln, on the brink of healing a nation at war. On November 22, 1963, I would open my Treasury of American Verse to read and re-read those two works, trying to absorb that new presidential death - from which I have never fully recovered.
I had to find Whitman’s lilacs to night, to share with you. So may we resonate with New Jersey’s “good grey poet” as he turns to the lilacs to carry emotions too deep for ordinary healing:
When Lilacs Last in the Dooryard Bloomed, by Walt Whitman
When lilacs last in the dooryard bloom’d,
And the great star early droop’d in the western sky
in the night,I mourn’d, and yet shall mourn with ever-returning spring
Ever-returning spring, trinity sure to me you bring,
THANKS TO ALL FOR THE LIVELY SUCCESS OF TIM SEARCHINGER’S TALK AT D&R GREENWAY LAND TRUST THIS WEEK. The RWJ Room of our circa-1900’s barn was filled to the refreshment tables with eager, intent, concerned citizens, determined to see, know and do what is necessary to counter global climate change.
NJ WILD readers know, we must heed and remove this peril. One major piece of the solution is to save open land and its wild species, especially so that trees and plants can absorb CO2 in our world.
Princeton University is holding a three-day conference, headed by Tim Searchinger, the end of this week. See Faith Bahadurian’s welcome comment below.
And there’s a whole symposium on Feeding the Hot and Hungry Planet on Campus next week, see http://web.princeton.edu/sites/pei/2009Jan_Aug.html. Faith Bahadurian
“Humans can increase nature’s chances of success by protecting large, varied nature preserves that will be more resilient to [climate] change” Jill Riddell “Our Climate Challenge”,Chicago Wilderness Magazine
MOTHER EARTH IN PERIL AT OUR HANDS
EARTH NIGHT @ D&R GREENWAY LAND TRUST
“The Hot & Hungry Planet”
WED., APRIL 22
TIMOTHY SEARCHINGER, Ph.D., PEI/Woodrow Wilson School
6:30 REFRESHMENTS, 7:00 PRESENTATION: www.drgreenway.org
Dear NJ WILD readers,
This “Hot & Hungry Planet” is our new reality, thanks to excesses increasingly catalyzing catastrophic climate change. Here’s your chance to celebrate Earth Day, –or shall we say, “Earth Night–”?, at a free Earth Day Program to be held Wednesday night at D&R Greenway Land Trust, where I work.
“The journey of 1000 miles begins with a single step.” Participating at D&R Greenway will prove a giant step, in terms of awareness, practical measures, and hope itself. D&R Greenway Land Trust has saved 20 square miles of New Jersey land, by this, our 20th year.
Timothy Searchinger’s professional focus is the role of agriculture in the acceleration of climate change. He will address the challenge of feeding our hungry planet and manage emissions.
What could be more appropriate, in the GARDEN State?!
Searchinger comes to us from PEI - Princeton Environmental Institute. This august body is headed by Steve Pacala, Ph.D. As you know, Steve, with his Princeton colleague, Rob Socolow, dared mention “Global Warming” in the face of severe political scorn, manipulation and denigration concerning science in general and climate change in particular.
Steve and Rob’s “pie chart” approach to solving Catastrophic Climate Change inspires and buttresses many presentations and publications on that topic, including Al Gore’s book and film. These two men may be seen as the 21st Century’s Rachel Carsons.
D&R Greenway’s circa-1900 barn serves as their executive offices and conference site. Their Johnson Education Center is at One Preservation Place, Princeton: off Rosedale Road, between Elm Road/the Great Road, and Province Line Roads, slightly north of Johnson Park School. [www.drgreenway.org]
Our New Reality:
“Can modern biotechnologies help tackle global poverty, fight hunger and climate change, while contributing to overall sustainable development of the world?”
Princeton Environmental Institute
Spring Beauties appear Frail, yet defy this gelid spring.
Those pale pink stripes are pollinator ‘landing lights’,
guidingwandering insects straight to the heart of the matter.
Someone generous sent this evocative poem today
honoring Spring Beauties.
Spring Song II by Jean Garrigue
And now my spring beauties,
Things of the earth,
Beetles, shards and wings of moth
And snail houses left
From last summer’s wreck,
Now spring smoke
Of the burned dead leaves
And veils of the scent
Of some secret plant,
Come, my beauties, teach me,
Let me have your wild surprise,
Yes, and tell me on my knees
Of your new life.
NJ WILD readers are accustomed to my urging us to reach out when those hot link alerts arrive, every time we can, to save our planet. Though we focus on New Jersey, my concern is the EARTH.
Remember, all that it takes for evil to happen is for good people to do nothing. Doing something, seemingly so small, as alerting our senators and representatives to our concern for nature, works miracles, plain and simple:
|Your actions and those of thousands of other Care2 activists resulted in many recent successes. Thank you for helping to make the world a better place.
Even though Brenda Jones has been blessed by this Carolina Wren, there’s something wrong with this spring.
It’s not, as e e cummings would have us expect, “mud luscious”, let alone “puddle wonderful!”
Spring 2009 remains dry as bone. Many weeks ago maple trees let down fully a third of their blood-red spurts — as summer trees jettison parched leaves. Touching those ruddy first flowers, I felt more dust than life. In those spent flowers, I found nothing soft, fruitful or yielding.
The other 2/3 remain and are burgeoning, but barely. Every maple bloom that I saw on my Towpath walk from Quaker Bridge toward Lawrenceville and the Brearley House this morning was limper than overcooked spaghetti. It even rained this week - but somehow it rained wrong.
Relentless chill or persistent rainlessness or both seems to have stilled both peepers and wood frogs. I’ve heard peepers waken in January. For a handful of recent days and nights, the penitential clapper-racket of wood frogs has delighted my ears, spinning out an exultant post for NJ WILD readers. But now, both the empty flood plain around Canal Pointe, and all my long walk to Brearley House and back present exercises in in silence.
Last week, the ground at the Pole Farm, off Cold Soil Road was canyoned and cracked as Illinois corn fields in August. We were out on an evening owl prowl. But dusk’s winds were so gelid and relentless that predators couldn’t have heard a mouse or a vole over the roar. Brenda Jones found the winds too strong for her powerful lenses, giving up her photo quest as we gave up the owls. Read the rest of this entry »
According to Beth Feehan, one of the group’s organizers, “The New Jersey Farm-to-School Network clearly defines its mission as supporting a wide range of local, healthy food in school projects, including an increase in cafeterias sourcing from New Jersey farms; the establishment of school gardens programs that expose youth to food production; nutrition and cooking education; recycling, and more.”
With growing awareness of the need for farm-to- school programs and increasing demand for information, resources and support, the New Jersey Farm-to- School Network determined that a statewide educational conference would be its best first step.
At the outset of the event, conference goers will be addressed by Emma Davis-Kovacs, director of the Division of Food & Nutrition in the New Jersey Department of Agriculture. Josh Viertel, the president of Slow Food USA, will give the keynote address.
Prior to becoming Slow Food USA’s first president in October 2008, Mr. Viertel made significant contributions to the sustainable food movement as an educator, organic farmer, activist, and board member of Slow Food USA and its subsidiary organization, Slow Food Nation.
The conference’s topics will include “School Gardens: Food & Fun,” offering information about creating and maintaining successful programs; “Farm-to-School Policy: Strategies for Success;” “Connecting Farms to Cafeterias: Food Service Director Perspectives,” and “Connecting to the Classroom: Curriculum Ties and Food Education.”
Since its inception, the New Jersey Farm-to-School Network has worked hand- in-hand with the National Farm-to-School Network and with Tegan Hagy of The Food Trust in Philadelphia, who serves as Mid-Atlantic Farm-to-School coordinator.
“Farm-to-school programs connect school meals with local agriculture — a strategy that can improve the quality of school meals, increase the profitability of farming, and re-create relationships in the community among consumers and the people who grow their food,” Ms. Hagy said.
Children’s health and farm viability are at the heart of the issue.
According to recent statistics, 27 percent of U.S. children are overweight (this figure has doubled in the past 10 years) and, for the first time in 200 years, today’s children are expected to have a shorter life expectancy then their parents’.
Meanwhile, U.S. farmers’ share of every food dollar has dropped to 19 cents currently from 41 cents in 1950, and food typically travels from 1,500 to 2,400 miles from farm to plate. For instance, a head of California lettuce shipped to New Jersey requires 36 times more energy to transport than the caloric food energy it provides.
Ms. Hagy believes the future is bright for the farm- to-school movement in the Garden State, saying “New Jersey has an incredibly rich agricultural history, and is ripe with opportunity. Farms and school systems are both important parts of New Jersey’s communities. Unfortunately, at some point between the inception of the National School Lunch program and present, many school food services have lost their connection to family farms,” she said.
“The time has come to realize that feeding our children high quality and nutritious foods, preserving farm land, and developing local food systems are integral developments for the health of our communities that will pay off tenfold in the future,” Ms. Hagy said.
Gary Giberson, founder and president of Sustainable Fare, the food service provider at The Lawrenceville School, said that the school is “delighted” to host the conference, saying, “This dovetails perfectly with our Green Campus Initiative, the school’s ongoing holistic approach to campus sustainability. The conference will provide an exceptional opportunity for us to discuss our successes and learn from experts who share our goal of sustainable dining practices.”
The conference fee is $25, which includes a locally-sourced meal sponsored by Sustainable Fare. Scholarships are available.
The event is presented with generous support from The Lawrenceville School, Sustainable Fare, Edible Jersey magazine, Steve & Cookies by the Bay Restaurant in Margate, the Mid-Atlantic Farm-to-School Network, Eat Local of Ringwood, the Margate City Farmers Market, and Maschio’s Food Services, Inc.
Dear NJ Wild Readers,
Awhile ago, I reminded us that we could do something to demonstrate our determination to end destructive climate change - turn out our lights for one mere hour, all around the globe.
Did you wonder, as I did, what actually took place?
Here is the first report I’ve found. As I discover more, I’ll add to this post.
Meanwhile, we can rejoice that countries beyond counting took part, and “attention has been paid…”
As I write [to practically every legislator on those hot links that feel my life's purpose now], “We are here to be Earth’s stewards, not her despoilers!”
Thank you for risking lighlessness for Mother Earth. cfe
Vanessa Gera, A.P., “The world switched off the lights yesterday for the second Earth Hour, dimming skyscrapers, city streets and some of the world’s most recognizable monuments for 60 minutes to highlight the threat of climate change. Time zone by time zone, nearly 4000 cities and towns in 88 countries joined the event sponsored by the World Wildlife Fund to dim nonessential lights from 8:30 p.m. to 9:30 p.m.
Earth Hour Executive Director, Andy Ridley, said, “Earth Hour has always been a positive campaign. It’s around street parties, not street protests; it’s the idea of hope, not despair. That’s been incredibly important this year, because there is so much despair around, as well as cutting power usage and being more sustainable and efficient.”
All of this is good news - once again, someone with a vision has created a new reality.
Margaret Mead is supposed to have said, “All that it takes, for evil to happen, is for good people to do nothing.” The opposite is true, as Earth Hour 2009 proves — “all that it takes for good to happen is for good people to do something.”
What was your experience of Earth Hour?
If you’re hearing a strange clickety-clack anywhere along the D&R Canal and Towpath, you may wonder what on earth it is. A machine? Tom Sawyer dragging a stout stick along a picket fence? A nun making sounds of disapproval over some student’s incorrigible behavior?
None of the above. Rather the mating cries of minuscule creatures — one of the first signs that spring is incontrovertibly here. Sometimes, they’re heard even before the jingle-bell peepers; and, this year, soon after that raucous chorus began. Purportedly the most widely distributed of all frogs, wood frogs arrive as a crowd, beginning their percussive courting in wild wet areas.
Creature not of ponds or streams, but of moist, densely vegetated woodlands, these miraculous ones emerge abruptly from winter’s deep freeze in search of temporary wetlands for courtship and breeding.
Don’t bother trying to see these tiny beings - they’re the next best thing to invisible.
They live in my second-favorite spring phrase: vernal ponds. Near the vernal, or spring, equinox, temporary ponds provide ideal habitat for wood frog breeding, hatching, feeding and growing. The trick is, these vernal ponds need to persist long enough for all those processes to be fulfilled. That for which humans can hardly wait, –the advent of heat, the absence of rains–, can stop wood frogs literally dead in their tracks.
Something else that brings on the vanishing of vernal ponds is the leafing out of trees — that which ends the reign of my other favorite spring phrase, Read the rest of this entry »