Archive for December, 2010
Christmas Eve Gifts, Cape May
NJ WILD readers know that I have to flee holidays which had been jewels in our family crown, in our Braeburn years. An ever-rewarding site for these flights is Cape May, especially at Christmas.
I am eager to share images from my recent three nights there, indeed Silent Nights! Many forms of magic were mine in that quiet place at the tip of New Jersey — worth even being the only car (other than one policeman, until Atlantic City area) on all four Northbound and Southbound lanes of the Garden State Parkway yesterday.
Well, I’m always praising and blessing our Garden State - so how could that drive have been anything but blessed. I moved out of the southern storm, over into my beloved Pine Barrens, where snow turned from cornmeal to Wondra flour to nothing at all - and home before OUR Nor’easter began.
Feeling triumphant, like a mountainclimber, my car the only one bedecked in the ermine of snow on the northern half of my journey.
Enjoy the storybook quality of my Cape May Wanderings, in electrifying seaside light and, yes, gale-force winds.
Typical Cape May Welcome
Here I was given what I hadn’t realized I deeply needed: time-travel. Time itself marches to a different drummer, in Cape May.
HOW TO CREATE HAPPY VISITORS, CAPE MAY
‘My’ Dear Jetty Motel, at the Sea, Wreathed for Christmas, 09 - Welcomed Me Again 2010
Pilot House, Garlanded for Christmas
DOUBLE CHRISTMAS, CAPE MAY
Breakfast, Lunch, etc., Cape May
NJ WILD readers know I am no shopper. However, there may be no more enticing place to shop than the pedestrian-dedicated roads that led from my Congress Hall superb lunch, out into December’s dazzle last week. I was disappointed for the first time in Uncle Bill’s Pancake House, on many levels - should’ve gone to George’s across the road, where the locals hang out and even an absolute stranger is welcomed like a neighbor.
I’m also no fan of Dickens — too grim, life’s grim enough. Yet, inexplicably, there were scenes with a timelessness I could only describe as Dickensian — [explanations welcome].
SEE WHAT I MEAN?!
Storybook Shoppes of Cape May
No, I actually didn’t shop - unless you call collecting images ’shopping’. I was pretty greedy, beauty-wise. But Cape May never disappoints my insatiable quests for the aesthetically memorable. Even the stacked chairs were stunning:
Restored Congress Hall — Surpassed Gastronomic Memories and Expectations
Named for the eras when Presidents fled the miasma of Washington D.C. in summertime, for their own health and that of their families — for Cape May’s healthy breezes, Congress Hall is remarkably restored, and gratifyingly successful in its ‘new incarnation’. My first lunch in quality, beauty and service was so spectacular that I returned there all three days, including Christmas Dinner.
Radiant Christmas Turkey, beside Trimmed Real Tree, near Fireplace at Congress Hall
Let’s face it, Nature is the reason I drove to our very own Land’s End. And it did not disappoint!
Mother Nature’s Christmas Decorations
First Two Days’ Gale:
Cape May Gale
Interestingly, my first Cape May days this year were either naturalist’s hell or naturalist’s paradise, depending on the naturalist. 41-mph wind gusts were the norm. Even so, there was such exhilaration in being by the sea, in December, out on the sands, geared and goggled and booted and not spurred, but carrying my colleague, Bill Rawlyk’s splendid Zeiss binoculars. Dark shapes huddled on Lily Lake, next to the Cape May Bird Observatory, shapes which metamorphosed into Canada geese, mallards, then hooded mergansers(!) and my first scaups, probably lesser - but either way, so vivid, even startling. If I hadn’t made a return visit to this church-by-the-sea, of last year’s Christmas flight, I’d not have found myself circling the lake which held so many winged gifts.
Christmas Eve Church by the Sea, 
Churches, of course, cradle the meaning of Christmas. My church, however, as NJ WILD readers know, is outdoors.
Silent Night, Holy Night, Cape May
Last year, they hadn’t even shoveled the Hawk Watch Platform. We risked life and limb to go in search of a few winged creatures in that impossible glaze.
Not Even Shoveled –
This year, it was bone dry at the Platform, but also fully lacking anything on the wing the first two days. My third visit held a Christmas miracle of the first order, and I don’t expect anyone to believe me.
Because I had Bill Rawlyk’s Zeiss binoculars in hand, I swept that empty sky. Suddenly my gaze was arrested by a design like DNA/RNA against the clouds. Very flat, very dark, broad raptors, a full thirty of them, without once flapping even a feather, rode thermals higher and higher and higher until completely out of view. Nearly as flat as bald eagles, and too high to check the characteristic ’slight dihedral’, exhibiting their characteristic ‘flight’, although not strictly speaking flying, I may have ‘had’ a kettle (swirling mass riding thermals) of golden eagles. More in that one encounter than in my whole life put together. I’ll never know, because, as so often outdoors in Cape May in winter, I was alone. But not alone. By no means alone. Whatever those serene and steady thermal riders may have been, I was in sacred company.
Day’s End, Land’s End, Christmas, Cape May
Stonehenge at Winter Solstice
[Image from Internet]
In ancient times, the Wise Ones gathered to celebrate the return of the light.
Rituals were built, with fires and dances, in sacred places — oak groves, standing stones, mountaintops, the hills of Cornwall and Somersetshire in England.
From earliest human habitation, rejoicing surrounded the day when the sun turned, when the next day would be longer, if only by a handful of minutes.
Burnt offerings were made. Spices thrown upon the fire. Fragrances of incense, such as would later be woven into the Feast of the Three Kings - frankincense and myrrh.
Being a lover of forests, as NJ WILD readers know, I like to think boughs of fir and balsam were thrown upon those signal fires, lit to welcome the return of the sun.
Later organized religions spun their own beliefs and rituals atop those from long ago.
The Sun, our great star, became The Son, in the beliefs of many.
Whatever your beliefs, I wish you every joy, as light returns, as light reconquers darkness…
Provincetown Dawn, by Catherine Lynne Edelmann
Painted at PDS at 16
When Loss Contends with Light
I am repeating this post on Holiday Loss, which sometimes comes to NJ WILD readers at Eastertime, and sometimes in this season.
Having lost daughters, I find, despite prayers, meditation, many forms of faith, much reading, therapy when it happened, it is very very difficult to be without them in what is supposed to be the Season of the Return of the Light.
Loss, of course, is universal. Why is it so much harder to bear between Thanksgiving and the New Year?
And, now that we’re sending more and more troops to more and more wars, — not only in jeopardy of death, but also to be taught how to kill and how to be cynical— there will be hundreds if not thousands more to whom this ‘modern parable’ will need to be sent. Do what you can, hot-link-wise to remind our leaders of the lessons of Korea and Vietnam.
On the anniversary of Pearl Harbor, I must add, “Days that live in infamy are no longer limited to the Japanese.”
This essay appeared in The Times of Trenton, on the OpEd Page, some Christmases ago. I feel it is always in order to remind people that this time of year, meant to celebrate light’s return, can strafe those who have experienced unbearable loss. Especially, but by no means limited to, recent loss.
Reach out to those you know, for whom this is the case. Reach out in empathy:
HOLIDAY LOSS – a modern parable
Here they are again, the relentless “Holidays”. Season of the return of the light for so many people of so many faiths. But, for those who have lost the very dear, this time can wear a dark cloak.
This Season, luminous for others, looms for the bereaved. Attention should be paid to those who mourn while others rejoice. The grieving need to be reassured that surviving holiday loss is possible. No, it’s not easy. And yes, there will be fascinating blessings in this seemingly impossible journey. Some days, the sad person must hammer out a way. Other days, the way simply unrolls, when and where least expected.
There are certain steps which assist in this process. A motto of the 1940’s instructs, “When you’re blue, little girl, when you’re blue – do something for somebody, do.” That works. So does creating one or two small celebrations: not only when the heart is not in it, but BECAUSE it is not! It is hard to believe that a heavy heart can generate glows in holiday faces, but this does indeed happen. Deep inside, no matter the sorrow, light remains.
Visiting a video store which encourages the taking out of many films for many days can bring inner miracles. Old favorites are helpful. Even more astonishing can be the gifts in movies never seen, possibly never even heard of. The 1992 film, “A Midnight Clear”, carries the viewer to a time of global bereavement. Its literally stellar cast includes Gary Sinise as Vance (“Mother”) Wilkins. Set in a mountain fastness in 1944 France, an American Intelligence squad, –chosen, ironically, for their intelligence (I.Q. scores)–, encounters a German platoon. Simplicity of setting sets the drama’s outstanding acting into high relief. Its final moments bear guaranteed relief, along with a healthy dose of reordering of priorities.
One can be on the lookout for the Southern tradition of “Little Christmas”. This can arrive on any date after Thanksgiving. It happens whenever the Holiday Spirit surges, –unexpected, even startling. Perhaps unwelcome, at first. I first experienced this phenomenon when a newcomer to Savannah invited me to her first caroling party. It was so hot, we didn’t even need coats. I didn’t feel one whit of Holiday spirit. After singing to a very surprised new neighborhood, my generous friend served cocoa and cider and cookies to the soft-spoken families who had helped create that musical offering. Afterwards, I helped my friend ‘put the house to bed.’ As we walked to my car, we were given “a rainbow ‘round the moon.” When I told my hostess that this, to the Indians, is great good luck, she announced, “Well, then, this is Little Christmas!”
Sometimes others provide the lift, having no idea that one’s heart is leaden in this season. Last year, I stopped to talk with the man from Vermont who sells trees across from Montgomery Cinema. “I usually get my greens for the table here, but today I don’t see them,” I blurted. (It was not his fault I was blind…) “Right over there, ma’am,” he said, brightly. “Please, help yourself!” Soon my car was awash in fragrances of pine, spruce and balsam. He would not accept a penny for his greens. That was last year’s Little Christmas. December 15.
Sometimes, the only avenue open to the grieving is to flee scenes shared with the lost ones. Other times, it helps enormously to take others — to Nutcracker at McCarter, Messiah at Richardson. Once I persuaded a new widow to join me at the latter performance. Reluctantly she agreed – and found herself transported, just walking up the circular staircase she had trod so many times with her husband. It was her first pleasurable outing since his death, many months before.
Dreaming up anti-grief rituals is every bit as important as wrapping presents, maybe more-so. Most of the time, I’ve made it work. But there was a year, 1990, when I crumpled at the first string of Christmas lights, spurting along a white porch railing. “Oh, no!,” I cried out in my empty car. “I’m not ready!” My dread lay deep, far below tears.
In my dark car, in ponderous tones, I was suddenly corrected: “Who are you to place your daughters before My Son?”
Although a poet, no, I do not customarily hear voices. There was no mistaking this intense challenge. It was painful, as though someone had lanced a boil without anaesthesia. I apologized to the Presence whom a humorous friend names “The Great Whomever.” Each year it seems that decorations go up and carols descend, ever earlier. However, also every year, that reminder of priorities returns and works its cure. And every year, there is the prospect of noticing “Little Christmas.”
BROKEN PROMISES DEPARTMENT:
STUNNED TO HAVE READ THAT our president held only 4 Press Conferences in 485 days
WHAT HAPPENED TO THE MAN OF THE PEOPLE?
OLD GLORY IN FOG cfe
I no longer know this man whom I helped to elect to improve our world. As I’ve written in earlier NJ WILDS, whatever happened to Barack Obama?
The sum total of communication from our president since Inauguration Day barely equals his Inaugural Address in quantity, and not at all in quality.
The man currently in the White House seems more crippled by mysterious forces than Franklin Delano Roosevelt. The President of my childhood may have been confined by polio to his wheeled chair, but in no other way hampered in fulfilling his office in similarly critical times. Well do I remember the encouraging sound of his voice, in those days of radio, in his fireside chats. FDR was to America, as Churchill was to Britain, in dire financial times and escalating wars.
Where is our president? Why does he not preside?
Why did Barack Obama tiptoe with BP and backpedal and/or ignore the plight of the fisherfolk of Louisiana? Why does OUR Gulf belong to BP? Was President Monroe’s brilliant Louisiana Purchase not worth the paper it was printed upon?
What’s happened to the man we elected with such hope in 2008? It feels as though Barack Obama has been enchained, even gagged. By whom?
In the few appearances upon which I’ve happened, I have experienced little more than sound bites (Chilean earthquake, visiting BP-fouled beaches but only to tout tourism, not to declare “This must never happen again! - to our waters, our sands, our people whose lives depend upon this Gulf, let alone the fish, the grasses, loggerhead turtles, manatees… “) The verb our president brings to mind is ‘tiptoeing’.
Can you just see and hear what Harry Truman would have had to say and do and demand re BP’s perfidies and those of megacorporations in cahoots with them? To say nothing about the reality that, nowhere in the world did any oil company come forward with a solution for suffocating poisonous tides of oil within our waters, through our marshes, upon our sands?
or Franklin Delano Roosevelt?
let along Jack and Bobby?
I find Barack Obama, for whom I voted eagerly, to have become wooden, even robotic. He cannot look ‘the people’/the camera ‘in the eye’, but switches his head from side to side as though at a tennis match. I can be dizzied, watching that pendulum swing.
I want to cry out - Stop it. Hold that head still. Hold that gaze. TALK TO US - we put you into this forum you are wasting!
Our president’s words do not t come coursing from inner reaches as during his campaign. His phrases seem no longer informed by personal passions and convictions.
I don’t want this to be true. I don’t want to be writing “Our Emperor Has No Clothes.”
I don’t want the shining miracle of America’s having elected a black man to be tarnished for all time.
I don’t want to think that Michelle Obama hasn’t lifted a finger or her voice since arranging to have an organic garden installed on White House Grounds. A great idea, grand gesture — is it working? Do they eat the foods? Are other homeowners following their leads? I have no sense of this.
Barack Obama has lost his fire.
Why and how?
What can be done?
How could this impassioned candidate, who reached out so effectively in person and through electronic media and phones, justify FEWER press conferences than George W. Bush? Grids on television the night of this year’s mid-term elections showed that young, black and Hispanic voters declined to pre-2008 levels. Disenchanted anew. Even by this man. Let down again. This is a tragedy of Shakespearean proportions.
Our Ship of State at the Culmination of 2010
Obama to Appear in Rare Press Conference
Published May 27, 2010
On Thursday, for the first time in 308 days, President Obama will confront the White House press corps in a full-blown news conference, taking the best shots that reporters have to offer on the topics of their choosing.
Obama’s lengthy absence from reporters’ crosshairs has exceeded President George W. Bush’s longest gap of 204 days.
As a candidate two years ago, Obama, then a senator, mused aloud about holding a news conference every month.
As president, Obama has held just 4 prime-time news conferences in the first 485 days of his term, but that is equal to the total number that his last three predecessors – combined – had held by the same point in their first terms. The Bushes had each held one; Bill Clinton, two.
Obama, however, has stood for fewer news conferences in which reporters were free to ask him questions on the topic of their choosing.
The dwindling frequency of these East Room extravaganzas stems in part from the fragmentation of the prime-time TV viewing audience, said analysts of the presidency and the news media. It is now split between broadcast and cable, video and on-demand options, and has hundreds more channels to choose from than the three networks that solemnly aired President Kennedy’s winning quips, or Dan Rather’s confrontations with President Nixon.
As evidence of how Americans can tune out the leader of the free world, consider that Obama’s first prime-time news conference drew an estimated audience of 49 million – and that his last, some 308 days ago, drew an estimated 20 million.
It is equally clear, though, that the unusually long gap since Obama’s last prime-time news conference – held back on July 22, 2009 – owes to Obama’s preferences and style in the realm of rhetoric and communications.
Historian Martha Joynt Kumar of Towson State University, who compiles data on presidential media appearances, said the figures reveal that Obama tends to utilize formats where he can expound at greater length. She breaks down presidential exchanges with the news media into four categories: primetime news conferences; news conferences held alone or jointly alongside a foreign head of state; brief Q-and-A sessions, which typically transpire in the Oval Office, the Cabinet Room, or similar settings; and one-on-one interviews.
Where George W. Bush held 186 brief Q&A’s – the daily bread and butter for the White House press corps, particularly wire service reporters – and gave only 56 personal interviews, Obama has done almost exactly the opposite. He has held only 56 Q-and-As, and granted 188 personal interviews.
“He prefers explaining a particular issue, and so what he likes to do is do interviews,” said Kumar, author of “Managing the President’s Message.” “And those kinds of events which are pooled in the Oval Office or Roosevelt Room, Cabinet room, at the top or bottom of the meeting, and the wires get a couple of questions — he wants to go into detail and that’s not a good setting for it.”
Kumar noted that President Eisenhower was the first chief executive to place press conferences on the record and also the first to televise them.
“And at the start of one of them, he talked about how he’s going to climb the weekly cross and you drive in the nails,” she said. “And I think that most presidents have regarded press conferences in a similar way.”
Dana Perino, who served as press secretary to George W. Bush during his final sixteen months in the White House, told Fox News that Obama’s lack of primetime events is a “mystery” to her.
“Obviously, President Obama does well in communicating, and if he had an opportunity to answer lots of questions, it would show the breadth and scope of all that he has to cover in a given day,” she said. “In some ways, you have to wonder what are they afraid of.”
The answer to that question may be no different for any occupant of the Oval Office, regardless of his political persuasion or party affiliation.
For the record, the White House counts the nuclear summit in April as Obama’s last news conference. On that occasion, eight reporters asked questions, and Obama’s lengthy opening statement accounted for 30 percent of the roughly 5,000 words exchanged.
Fox News’ James Rosen contributed to this report.
Media events by president as of May 20, 2010
Dear Everyone — please heed Mary Penney’s invitation to avail yourselves of a festive shopping op
in our circa-1900 restored barn, the Johnson Education Center
D&R Greenway - One Preservation Place — off Rosedale Road between Elm Road/The Great Road and Province Line Road–
your purchases of savory healthy vivid farm foods
and choices among the broad array of fine art and handcrafted items,
–with prices adjusted for holiday giving–,
will help to support
art, artists, farmers, farms
D&R Greenway Land Trust’s Preservation and Stewardship Mission –
Plus, being at D&R Greenway events is FUN!
D&R Greenway Land Trust and Slow Food Central Jersey invite the public to the Johnson Education Center, D&R Greenway’s restored 1900’s barn, for Slow Food’s third 2010 Winter Farmers Market, “Eat Slow”, on Saturday, December 11. This annual event will take place jointly with D&R Greenway’s “Season’s Greenings“: Gifts of Nature Art & Craft Fair, from 10:00 am to 2:00 pm. Admission is free, but donations are welcome.
“Season’s Greenings” will showcase luminous cards and prints by Tasha O’Neill, versatile Gallery 14 fine art photographer; Crystalline scenes by visionary watercolorist,
Beatrice Bork, along with clever jewel-cased calendars, and giclée nature prints. Sculptor Eva Mantell enjoys a reputation from Princeton to Manhattan and on to Belgium. Eva’s enviro-focused works will again grace “Season’sGreenings”. Those who know the fine art ceramics of Christina Rang, realize her in-depth Manhattan training and broad experience in the realm of hand-painted tiles, from individuals to murals. Valerie Ford, whose lively event photographs enliven D&R Greenway’s newsletters, will bring holiday cards and seasonal prints. Hightstown’s JD Gourmet will offer specialty olive oils and custom vinegar blends. Borders will have a wonderful selection of children’s books for holiday gift giving. Cherry Grove Organic Farm will provide its hand-crafted cheeses, their arresting regional names as savory as their complex local flavors.
North Slope Farm, Davidson’s Exotic Mushrooms, Lawrenceville’s Village Bakery, Simply Nic’s Shortbread, Catherine’s Vegan Treats, Woods Edge Wools Farm, Lillipies and Hopewell Valley Vineyards.