Archive for April, 2011
When April is the Cruellest Month - Go to Leeds Point
“I must go down to the sea, again!
the lonely sea and the sky…”
When the tidal urge is upon me, I set off through the heart of the Pine Barrens, in quest of bays and inlets. I relish every inch of that drive, especially alongside tidal creeks and over named ditches. I cross the Rancocas, the only Pine Barrens River to flow to the Delaware. All other rivers lead to the sea. I must re-enter Bayside fishing villages, where oystermen and clam-men and the rest of their noble tribe, bring in real clams and real crabs and real fish to noble structures of other times, beside the briny waterways.
At Leeds Point, my haven, the funky and memorable Oyster Creek Inn, won’t let you order lobster until the these feisty crustaceans arrive with their lobsterman. I’ll savor local oysters on the half shell and attend to each morsel of their bountiful seafood pie. Every moment at Oyster Creek, I feel surrounded by revolutionaries and smugglers and bootleggers and surely pirates of other centuries, who stomped those bare wood waterside floors.
I go to Leeds Point to stride among clam baskets and sneak boxes, photograph buoys and weir nets, to breathe as deeply of salt tang on the air as did the first water creature ever to crawl up onto land.
Overhead, fish crows complain and great blue herons squawk.
Underfoot, already crushed clamshells crush more.
Sunlight sharpens every angle of venerable working fishing village buildings. The same sunlight somehow softens every wavelet.
For centuries, New Jersey Baymen and Pineys have been masters at rolling with punches. In our Revolution, they rowed with muffled oars along the Mullica River to swarm aboard British merchant ships and men-o-war, towing them triumphantly into hidden towns tucked along that river without which we wouldn’t have a nation. Privateers, they were called and sometimes officially so. They’d offload British ’stores’ from captured ships, selling them through Philadelphia newspapers (some of them Ben Franklin’s brainchildren) in ads that can still be read in local historical societies. You know, the ones where the ‘f’s look like ’s’s, or is it the other way round?
TYPICAL PINE BARRENS, BAYMEN’S SNEAK BOX, CAMOUFLAGED
When market hunting was over, people of the Pines and bays would gather pinecones and sphagnum moss, which actually healed wounds upon which tufts were placed as bandages in WW I. During blizzards, they’d carve new decoys by lamplight. In really wild weather they’d fashion camouflage of local, earlier gathered grasses to disguise their flat boats, at home in any tide.
WEIR NETS READY TO SET
Baymen of today remain proud of these hardy skills. They let 21st-Century tides pull new fish into old weir nets. Winter is a time to repair lobster traps and repaint buoys. They know when bluefish’ll be running and crabs a’sheddin’. It’ll be blueberries in June and Cranberries in October. By which time, hunting will tug them again - after the hunters’ mass in St. Phillips chapel on the eve of this year’s hunt.
Never at a loss, the entire upheaved world of the 21st Century has much to learn from the men and women of the SEASONS and the TIDES.
CLAM HARVESTS PAST - April 2011 -
LOBSTER SHADOWS, LEEDS POINT
TOOLS OF THE TRADE, LEEDS POINT
LEEDS POINT FISHING VILLAGE CLAM HOUSE
21st-Century Shell Midden, Leeds Point
SNEAK BOX, READY TO LAUNCH, LEEDS POINT
PINE BARRENS SNEAK BOX, UNCAMOUFLAGED, AND CLAM BASKETS
WORKING FISHING VILLAGE, LEEDS POINT
LEEDS POINT ABSTRACT: CLAM SHACK
COMMERCIAL FISHING — NOT JUST A SPORT
MULLICA PRIDE - LEEDS POINT
TETHERED — HOW I FEEL WHEN I FINALLY REACH LEEDS POINT
WORKING BOATS WAITING FOR SPRING - LEEDS POINT
There is nobility in these structures and these crafts, these workmen, this way of life. Honor resides here, courage and integrity. Baymen and women know how to waltz with nature. She is their partner, rewarding in all seasons, even winter…
STROLLING LEEDS POINT
SUFFUSED WITH SALT AIR
WIND IN THE RUSHES AND THE REEDS
WAVES SOFTLY LAPPING
SUN LIKE GOLD COINS UPON THESE TIDAL WATERS
COME WITH ME -
Find Brigantine Wildlife Refuge/Edwin B. Forsythe, near Smithville
Take Leeds Point Road north and east alongside the fire station when you leave
You won’t regret your time in the village of timelessness!
NJ WILD readers know I tend to flee to ‘the Brig’ every chance I get, to find out from the birds what season it is.
A week ago, (yes, and again yesterday), I went to the wildlife refuge otherwise known as Edwin B. Forsythe, with friends new to the place. Afterwards, I ‘turned them loose’ in the Pine Barrens and they sent back images to share.
‘The Brig’ can be ‘lovely, dark and deep’, if one is lucky enough to get in there before the sun rises, molten and seemingly dripping, out of the sea and over its bays and impoundments.
We were somewhat later both weeks, due to the essential stop at the Bakery, for hearty real breakfast (eggs that taste like egg, homemade, hand-seasoned sausage patties, endless mugs of fragrant steaming coffee by a window giving onto Tomaselli [Pinelands] Winery and the historic Smithville Inn.)
The greatest gift of ‘the Brig’, for me, is surprisingly not its birds. Rather, limitlessness!
Dike Road Leads on Forever, by Sharon Olson
New Jersey readers will know that I am not making this up - that my drive down to meet fellow poet, Sharon Olson and her husband, Bill Sumner, at 9 a.m. was smothered in snow, flakes that quickened and thickened at the 206/70 traffic circle.
At ‘The Brig’, there was no more snow. However:
Lone Snow Goose, by Sharon Olson
We thought we were seeing the last snow goose, However, we were wrong. I heard the unmistakable musical muttering of hordes of snow geese. Sure enough, we turned a corner to
White Flecks, Snow Geese by Thousands, practically all the way to Tuckerton -by Sharon Olson
What do they know (about lands north of here) that we do not know.
This weekend, I photographed two snow geese at the Brig - the latest ever:
Last of the Snow Geese, April 9, 2011 (cfe)
April 9 View from Gull Pond Tower (cfe)
Another sense of Brigantine limitlessness.
Plus view of my trusty car, in which I proceed on all these jaunts, safely and comfortably, so I can share them with you.
Brooding Scene of Immature Red-tailed Hawk at Brig, April 9, (cfe)
From the Gull Pond Tower, we saw two (mute) swans at the nest, necks twining in a dance that leaves Swan Lake in the shadows. It may well have been their courtship - an aspect of swan behavior about which I know zero.
I don’t have the kind of camera that can capture distant swans, nor even do a very good job of this majestic raptor. He had all the presence of a golden eagle, clearly claiming this tree on Gull Pond Road, and the wide open spaces behind it over to Leeds Eco-Trail, for his new territory. We hope spring brings him a mate for life, to share the Brig’s bounty, beauty and safety. The red-tail opened and closed this week’s Brigantine adventure.
Great Egret in April Water by Sharon Olson
These images come to me through Sharon’s Picasa account — if anyone can tell me how to enlarge, I’ll be glad to learn. It was a treat coming upon so many great egrets and some greater yellowlegs. In each case, nature wasn’t generous enough to provide other versions (of egrets, of yellowlegs), so we could be absolutely sure of that ‘great’ appendage. I did recognize the song of the greater yellowlegs, however, so we were pretty sure about these singletons on sandbanks.
Here’s Brenda Jones’ Brigantine Egret in Full Breeding Plumage at Brig
With great egrets, one can tell them from snowies because the ‘greats’ move with great serenity and dignity, as do great blue herons. Snowies (whose distinguishing field mark yellow feet are usually hidden in water) move about nervously, stirring up bottom-dwelling nourishment with those ‘golden slippers.’
Three Views - The Mirror, the Impoundment, and (arrggh!) Atlantic City! Sharon Olson
The rear-view mirror reminds me to look back, to marvel that these two new friends took to birding, well, like ducks to water.
Learning the vivid and unique shovelers early on, they took great delight in coming across and calling out the perfect name, from then on. Shovelers are russet and green and blinding white, with spade-like beaks that literally shovel under low-tide mud to find their favorite delicacies.
We were treated to elegant, spiffy (quiet) brant, a red-winged blackbird or two (there should be hundreds, and even the females by now. We did not see (they fan their tails) nor hear their territorial ‘okaleeeeee’ because there weren’t enough blackbirds worth territorializing about!
They were good about opening the bird tally (available in the Edwin B. Forsythe/Brig’s new Visitor Center, and vigorously remembering and marking each species seen. They also took time to fill out the visitor query form, being from Connecticut. Bill explained, “Figure they don’t get too many from our zip code…”
I’m not a lister (as in one who will go anywhere, pay any price, bear any burden to see and tally rarities). I’m a thousand times more interested in finding creatures of New Jersey who migrate through our state, and the occasional accidental. I’m not going to Costa Rica nor even to the Platte for cranes. If I find them at the Brig, or in Salem and Cumberland, that’s another story!
Having new birders fill out the tally afterwards cements all they learned, giving them those species as permanent impressions for all time to come.
I’ll End with the Red Knots, by the late Theodore Cross
whose splendid waterbird images we showed at D&R Greenway Land Trust last year - only weeks after his impossible death
we should be seeing throngs of red knots soon
under the full moon of May
along all-too-slender Reed’s and other Delaware Bayshore beaches
but whom we may no longer see because we have destroyed their sole nourishment
the horseshoe crabs
Sharon Olson’s crisp view of the Horseshoe Crab Alert
at the end of Seven Bridges Road
near the Cousteau Society
in a former Coast Guard Building
if enough of those horseshoe crab signs are posted and heeded
the knots and the turnstones could return
in the meantime, knot populations are down 75%
because of human greed
Only Connect is a mandate I usually honor.
I’ll alter it on this subject:
FRUITS OF HABITAT PRESERVATION, COURTESY OF BRENDA AND CLIFF JONES
Essence of Spring - Robin at Hobler Park
NJ WILD readers know how Brenda’s stellar work enriches this blog, year-round, from the beginning.
Beaver Close-Up, from when we met
When I met her, Brenda and her faithful “field collaborator” husband, Cliff, all three of us seeking the beavers of Mapleton (between Princeton and Kingston.)
You may not realize that Brenda’s art has now graced the 1900 barn walls of D&R Greenway Land Trust in two art exhibitions- Birds Bees and Butterflies, and now, Born of Wonder: Childhood and Nature. You may stop by on business hours of business days to see her art in our Marie L. Matthews Galleries, and to purchase it to take home.
One of her Baltimore Oriole Pictures - it’s pulling snagged fishing line for its nest
Brenda’s first gallery appearance was in Birds Bees & Butterflies. She brought nine works, tried to take home three at the end. However, someone had seen her Baltimore oriole, so she had to ‘turn right ’round’ and bring it back, with new art for the current show. We sold many of her early works twice (she’d make prints and have her uncle frame them.) The first work to sell at Born of Wonder, Childhood and Nature, was Brenda’s of the great blue herons feeding their great blue offspring! We sold a painting from this show for four figures last night at the Poetry Walk; and most of the art in the Upmeyer Room was sold at the April 8 opening. However, the art will be up and available through July 15.
Mocking Bird this week at Hobler Park
And you’ve had the pleasure of her artistry, free, all along!
Diving Kestrel, right near home
Brenda and Cliff go on nature quests, beauty quests as often as they possibly can. She sends them to me, and you are the richer for it.
American Kestrel From the Back
Spring finally came to Brenda and Cliff this week - look at these amazing images, from Hobler Park (right here in Princeton at the corner of the Great Road and 518! - I’ve written about it for you - the images of Hobler that I find could be states away, Ohio, for example, plain and sturdy barns and silos, acres of wildflowers, and no Princeton in sight! It’s a great place to go in autumn because high, oddly enough. The light stays longer at Hobler. From Heinz refuge down below the Philadelphia Airport. From Baldpate Mountain (in our state, and D&R Greenway’s had a hand in the preservation and stewardship of that land and those trails, under our new Chairman of the Board, Alan Hershey, who so energetically also heads New Jersey Trails.
Yellow-rumped Warbler, formerly ‘Myrtle’
With such simplicity, such memorable images arrive:
Here are the latest photos.
Kestrel & Mockingbird–Hobler Park
Hermit Thrush, Snapper Turtles and Yellow-rumped
(formerly called) Myrtle Warbler–John Heinz Philadelphia;
Robin & Groundhog–Baldpate
Enjoy, Everyone! cfe
Hermit Thrush at John Heinz Preserve, near Philly Airport
Brenda and Cliff have the gift of being in the right place at the right time — as when this majestic representative of ancient times, decided to take a stroll. It seems early for egg-laying journeys, but who knows? The snapper knows…
Snapping Turtle at John Heinz
We can relax now - Brenda and Cliff have brought us spring!
As has every Preservationist, such as D&R Greenway Land Trust and allies,
who does whatever it takes to save scarce New Jersey Land.
It has taken us/D&R Greenway 23 years to preserve 23 miles (and counting).
23 miles of HABITAT!
Hermit Thrush of John Heinz Refuge
reportedly Henry David Thoreau’s favorite bird and birdsong
WHAT IS SPRING TO YOU?
Sundays are the hardest days for expatriates, even in Provence.
Old Cannes — Le Suquet — from Old Port
It was on Sunday that I most missed family, when I languished without familiar people, views and rituals.
Typical View as I’d Set Out for St. Tropez on Any Day But Sunday
Any other day, I’d be off on a jaunt, –through the Esterel Forest to St. Tropez; up to Nice for real Provencal foods at Lou NIssarda (where even my neighbors in the villa had never been!); over to the Picasso Castle, then the Musee Napoleon in Antibes; a walk out the back way, away from the sea, toward Vallauris; Roman days in Frejus. But Sundays, no. On Sundays, the French were likely to be out on their roadways, with their own unique responses to traffic, signals, signs and laws. On Sundays, I didn’t want to learn new things. I needed something familiar. Hard to come by in a strange land, even one I’d chosen with my entire being.
View From My Cannes Balcony - though I was closer to hotels
In my Cannes life, I quickly learned the only antidote for the homesickness of the expatriate - a very early visit to the Marche Forville in the steep and stony Old Town. The part of Cannes nobody knows - on rue Meynardier in Le Suquet, where I would attend Midnight Mass given in Latin, French and Provencal with dear new neighbors in a matter of months.
What would be somewhat familiar, of course, was food shopping.
What was anything but familiar was the sight of all those farmers, at 8 a.m., literally belly up to bars strung all alongside the old market, downing the local red wine from glasses more like tumblers than ‘ballons’. They’d had long hard drives into ‘the city’ from the country. They had a long day of sales ahead of them, followed by another drive back to their carefully tilled fields. One must be fortified.
Open-Air-Sided Marche Forville, Rue Meynardier, Cannes
It was fortification enough for me to stroll those echoing (open-air-sided) lanes. What always surprised was that the weather followed us IN there. Yes, certain rains - during my first days there, Nice Matin headlines blared, “The Rains of One Month in One Week-End” That was more urgent news than the dire stock-market plunge back home, October of 87. Pompiers - Firemen - were called and called, to pump out wine cellars… I was definitely not in Kansas.
Probably the only truly familiar food was olive oil. The charming man (all the Cannes stall people were charming - real, hearty, hardy, in peasant garb, proud of hands most often in the soil, and eager to share and to teach) asked me what kind of olive oil I preferred. I didn’t know there there was more than one kind. “Well, what kinds are there?,” I managed to ask. He answered at length, and I chose the one with the most beautiful name – ”fruitier”. He absolutely beamed: “C’est mon favorite!”, and gave me the bottle. As in, refused my francs. He had grown and harvested and pressed all the olives that rendered these varying hues and flavors of oil. His full life and pride were in every bottle. Needless to say, I went to him every time I needed olive oil thereafter! Which happened a whole lot more frequently than it had in my American life.
Tomatoes look this ripe in Provence all year round
I knew chevre (goat cheese) - so I went to the chevre lady. “Which chevre to you prefer?,” she inquired, glowing like the parent of a newborn. “What kinds are there?,” I asked anew. This belle dame offered me the chevre of the morning, the chevre of the week, the chevre of last month, or aged. These came four to a squat canning jar; submerged, of course, in olive oil the color of the sun. It was divine. In later weeks, I would try each ‘vintage’, savoring major and surprising differences. What really amazed were “crottins”, which the no-nonsense Provencals loved to offer to foreigners, because “crottins” are goat droppings - in other words, smaller rounds of chevre.
Next came the honey lady. “I would like to buy some honey, s’il vous plait,” I began. You KNOW what she asked. You know my response. This savvy apicultrice took me on a tour of the products of her very mobile bees. Acacia, I remember, and wild flowers (des fleurs sauvages), orange blossom of course. Absolutely new to me, and irresistible forever was lavender honey. Milky in color, slightly granular and yet so smooth - I who never put honey or sugar in tea or coffee, who don’t even LIKE sweets that much, could not sip tea at home from that morning on, without lavender honey.
You would think shopping for chicken for Sunday dinner would be normal (same word in French), familiar. Wrong! I had to wait for the chicken lady to finish her previous transaction (actually, I really wanted to buy her eggs.) A man bought a chicken. It was alive. She tied its legs together. After weighing it and the exchange of francs, she handed it to the man who walked out of the market, chicken flapping like an upside-down angel, until he faded from sight in the increasing crowd.
Very obvious foreigners were rare in the Marche, except for the date sellers. Childhood’s had come in long gold packages from my California aunt, the only good cook in that (former Ohio) family. Her dates had a kind of skin that was papery, a little unpleasant to little girls’ tongues. We usually chopped Aunt Helen’s dates into ‘her’ cookies or ‘her’ date/nut bread. The dates of the datesellers of Cannes came on a long gold stem, fresh from the tree! I had to have a golden string of dates- even though it looked like a life supply. When I sampled the first one, back home on l’Observatoire hill, the fruit was stunningly moist - as though the honey of my new apicultrice had somehow been infiltrated into these strange brown things.
Lavender Crop at Abbey of Senanque - which I did visit, but not in Lavender Time
(all pix from internet - not easy to come by old Provence nor La France Profonde…)
Fish - o.k. — Cannes is a working fishing port. I love fishing villages. This should be familiar. No, indeed! The small fishing boats of my new town, –brightly colored, very Van Gogh–, were only out for a handful of hours. The men would arrange their catch upon oilcloth, UNDER which was ice. The fish came from salt water, you see; Provencals insisted it dies in fresh water - loses all flavor, than which there is no greater crime in France. Each fisherman’s table was right out of Cezanne’s The Card Players – rickety dark legs, the top small and square.
A slendr tuyau, tube, drained meltwater from invisible ice into a bucket that had seen better days. Each fish table looked like a relief map of the mountainous region between Cannes and St. Tropez, without the cork oaks and the stunted pines. Lying on the mountains and slanting down into the valleys were fish. Only they didn’t lie. They actually leapt! into air, flipping bright tails, arching supple necks. Sometimes launching themselves right off that cold oilcloth and onto the Marche floor.
The Old Port, the hill of Le Suquet
There was absolutely not one whiff of what my daughters had called, wrinkling their pretty noses, “eau de fishmarket.” On the contrary, a hint of sea breeze was the present at best, ever enticing. No fish fresher. Living bouillabaisse.
By this time, my string bags were cutting into my fingers. If there were a wind, let alone a mistral, it would be whipping around my ankles, chilling feet and legs despite serious walking shoes and thick socks. Time to return to the car. (that tiny little, tinny little, expensive Renault, then Peugeot which passed for a car…)
First, however, to read with my Sunday meal - a new copy of Nice Matin. In the kiosk outside the Marche, I stopped to buy the paper (they don’t have Sunday papers on Sunday in Provence.) The venerable woman behind the cashregister, also waved away my francs. “Mais, pourquoi?”, I protested.
“Vous etes Americaine. Vous avez sauvez nous,” was her heartfelt answer.
“You are American. You saved us.”
I wasn’t homesick any more.
Spring Tiptoes Through the Pines
Lake Oswego Invites, Pine Barrens, New Jersey, April 2011 (cfe)
Desperate for spring, yesterday, I took a friend –who’d never been in the Pinelands– to this pristine region of our beleaguered, overpopulated state.
Both of us were absolutely enchanted all the day long.
On empty roads, which I term “My Secret Roads”, into Pinelands, I have been taught and taught, “The Journey is the Destination.” My friend experienced this reality. You can, too!
True Pine Barrens Welcome, (cfe)
How to undertake this miraculous Journey: Route 563 South from Chatsworth (Heart of the Pines). First stop into Buzby’s General Store, at the corner of 563 and 532, just south of the firehouse. Go into Buzby’s for Pine Barrens books and products - local, sustainable, traditional and real.
Marilyn Schmidt at Buzby’s with her Easter Tree, by Sharon Olson
Especially buy its splendid, thorough and revelatory Pine Barrens Map, while they last. It was designed by the lady at the desk, my friend Marilyn Schmidt. This powerhouse of a woman saved Buzby’s from oblivion and worse, doing whatever it took to have it named to the New Jersey and National Registers of Historic Places. She also wrote and published many of the books on Pine Barrens history, lingo, graveyards and foods.
Blueberry Bread, Cranberry Bread, Cornbread Mixes from Buzby’s (cfe)
To Find Lake Oswego: South of Chatsworth, on the left, be on lookout for small thin sign, reading “Oswego”, VERY high in a tree. (Locals hammered the lake’s name to a tree so it would grow up up and away. Pineys are famous for wanting to keep their beautiful region for themselves.)
Turn left and wander along that long not winding lane, between bogs. This time of year, they are flooded lest vital vines be frozen during still chilly nights. You’ll pass a state institute of research on the Pines’ most famous crops, cranberries and blueberries. Bogs are also flooded, to assist with wet harvest.
Cranberry Harvest, Alongside 563, near Chatsworth, Autumn, 2010 (cfe)
Yesterday, I fretted, with state finances in such disarray, will berry research still be funded next time I drive to Oswego?
The first time I took the Oswego road, a minuscule forest fire was running right along both edges. between road and sand, not yet into woods.
Fire is the friend of the Pine Barrens - clearing out pine duff and too many oaks, allowing fire-resistant pitch pines to burgeon anew (newly fertilized by ash), serotinous cones only burst by heat, seeds scattered by firewinds. Without pine duff and oak seedlings, and only without them, the Pines can thrive.
“Sure, a Little Bit of Heaven Fell…” (cfe)
On my forest fire drive, it was deep winter. Flames danced like tiny red snakes, temptation dancers – Firebird, Sheherezade. To continue to watch such a dance, would I give the dancers anything, even John the Baptist’s head?
Beyond whirling tongues of orange and copper and scarlet and gold, snow and ice ruled. Beneath white glaze were waiting Pine Barrens rarities, –carnivorous plants, spring-raucous Pine Barrens tree frogs, spotted turtles, rare corn snakes and special rattlesnakes, curly grass fern, elusive swamp pink…
Firelings writhed merrily along. Pavement ended. Auslanders are not supposed to drive on sugar sand roads. But I was drawn on and on, over the tiny bridge, to that scintillation of lake –absolutely irresistible:
“In Just Spring”, Even Though April, (cfe)
I am forever magnetized by Lake Oswego. Partly because, there, I still feel Indians to whom it used to be sacred.
Sacred Pine Barrens Peat Water of Lake Oswego on Fourth of July (cfe)
Partly because blueberries grow on all sides there, on host shrubs taller than I. The fruit of each bush holds a different flavor, texture, size and juiciness. No wonder New Jersey makes blueberry wine. Sampling those berries in June is like walking through a wine tasting. Except that these ‘grapes’ are blue and high and warm in sun.
Alongside that little bridge that I first met in fire and ice, spring will bring white bells that turn into blueberries.
A little later, air beside the bridge will be perfumed by the white cascades of sweet pepper bush. Everywhere is water, and somewheres kayakers. And sometimes happy swimmers and dabblers. Always appreciators.
Hikers Discuss Lake Oswego Trails (cfe)
This magic enclave is more than 50 and less than 75 miles from where I used to live at Canal Pointe. This magic awaits in all seasons.
Is Bright Moss Spring? (cfe)
However, yesterday, I would say that we found beauty yes but spring, no.
Small State Forest Sign, Not Identifying Lake- Will Sign Be There Next Time? (cfe)
Lake Oswego is a State Park, although the large state sign at entry has been removed. [Not sure whether this is Piney Keep-Out attitude, or State parsimony.
Such absences are ever ominous to a preservationist, but not troubling to the hikers and fishermen of yesterday. Fishermen and -woman grinned from ear to ear, even though they were reluctantly turning their backs on the lake. “What are you catching here?”, I asked, having just finished Richard Louv’s “Fly Fishing for Sharks”, therefore feeling every inch a virtual fisherman. “Pickerel,” they said, glowing. Ah, ha! I’d always wanted to hear of pickerel, this near to the sea.
I remembered that nomadic New Jersey Indians once moved from their hunting (inland) lives to their gathering lives at the Shore, after gathering at our (Hamilton/Trenton/Bordentown Marsh), creating the sand trails that became the 20th Century’s 195 over to Brielle and the sea. I remembered that they knew to move to the ocean when the leaves of pickerel weed (which grows and provides sanctuary for fish in (fake) Lake Carnegie, not only thrust to full height, but opened to full light.
I really wanted to meet a pickerel. But they had no catch - all catch and release, as is the way of fishing in American waters now.
This pine-ringed lake could be the finest Old Pawn jewelry, venerable turquoise set in the richly carved bezel of stately green-black pines.
At Lake Oswego, in all seasons, all is the silence and peace I seek.
Visitors know and respect its soothing, inspiring aura, even when spring won’t arrive.
Our Earliest Flower - the Swamp Maple — Oswego’s Only April 9 Bloom (cfe)
Scenes I couldn’t get out of car in storm to capture yesterday…
[Images from Pre-Christmas Solo Trip Through Pine Barrens]
After the Cranberry Harvest, 2010 cfe
Who would’ve thunk it — that my long-planned rendezvous with a fellow poet and her husband in the Pine Barrens would be compromised by snow?!
I finally made the executive decision that this wasn’t about weather - it was about friendship. Off I went to breakfast by 9 at the Bakery in Smithville, with these friend who had driven all the way from Connecticut to learn the Barrens and the Brig (Edwin B. Forsythe Wildlife Refuge), almost literally ‘come hell or high water.’
Autumn Cranberry Harvest Full Swing, Chatsworth cfe
Snow plunked itself all around me, beginning at the 206/70 Traffic Circle, a.k.a., Red Lion. Pinelands legends have it that the ‘red lion’ was the catamount/panther, before we extinguished that member of NJ “charismatic megafauna”. Word has it that these ‘mountain lions’ have been heard and seen in nearby Montgomery, “but that’s another story!”
Lee Cranberry Bogs above Chatsworth, November cfe
Driving to Sharon and Bill, even before that snow began, rain had fallen blinding and deafening as a blizzard. Fog along 295 had been was denser than all we’d experienced during “The King’s Speech.” I’d groused, blinking as though to banish all that obscurity, “In these conditions, we wouldn’t be able to see an albatross!” Of all things, the first of our many exchanges at table was a copy of The Hackensack Riverkeeper newsletter, which fell open to an albatross… [These sorts of events are becoming more and more the norm - I refuse to relegate them to the realm of coincidence. ]
The last time I’d set out to bird Brigantine/Edwin B. Forsythe Wildlife Refuge, we went from snowdrops by the hundreds to snow geese in the tens of thousands - only a few weeks ago. That is very late for snow geese. What looked like drifts upon drifts upon sand had been snow geese. The snow drops had still been blooming, as I left Princeton, yesterday. Conclusion — snowdrops are not signs of spring, rather of the possibility of spring. Maybe they’d also presaged snow geese… (yes - 1000’s still on Brigantine grasslands, but I’m getting ahead of myself.)
En route, as rain gave way to snow and back again, the possibility kept rising of my having to turn around. I dreaded the storm’s development into my December 26th Pine Barrens journey north - first of our ceaseless blizzards. My new baseline - “Well, it could be worse. It could be the December 26 blizzard.”
Thinking of trying to justify this journey, I kept asking myself, “Why the Pine Barrens? What is their lure/allure? What do they do for you that a good book doesn’t do? That no other place in New Jersey quite does?”
Haines Bog Pump House Near Chatsworth cfe
Part of their miracle is that here, people still live (as in parts of my beloved Normandy, Brittany and Cornwall), by the seasons and the tides.
Part of the miracle is that the Pine Barrens look like Northern Michigan. Only we never dared drive to the upper part of the Lower Peninsula, let alone the Upper Peninsula in winter. What I love about Pinelands journeying is that, from the moment I turn onto Carranza Road toward Tabernacle from 206, sand sifts below row upon row of evergreens. To attain this wonder in Michigan would take an entire day! It’s 80 miles for me to the restoration of Pinelands sands…
The farther I progressed, the more I could not consider turning ’round, leaving the beauty that lines Pine Barrens roads. The miracle of being the sole car in sight for mile after mile after mile is also forever food for this poet’s soul.
At the Chatsworth Volunteer Fire Station, I pulled off and wrote lines upon lines of the colors and scenes. I used the only piece of paper at hand - gas station receipt from back at that snow-drenched traffic circle. ($3.35 - not bad!) But I wrote all over the figures - who CARES!
Cranberries Through Flooded Bog, near Chatsworth cfe
What I was asking myself was “Why the Pine Barrens?” Why do you have to return and return, and why do they so restore you, even in weather that had the Weather Channel doing 30-minute live updates? I don’t have the answer. But here are some of the clues.
wind-strafed sand, right beside the road — pale, then increasingly darkened by ’severe weather system’
obsidian trunks of pitch pines, gleaming in downpour
oaks holding tenaciously to tough toasty leaves
petite new pines, tawny against new char of welcome controlled burns
old country lanes with names with real meanings - Heaven’s Way Farm, Farrier, Moss Mill, Mink Path, Miller’s Lane where a real miller lived, the faded sign to the vanished New Gretna House, Allen’s Clam Bar…
bog not cultivated, therefore not flooded, vines the hue of very old, very good port
flooded bogs, waters well over ditches, up to lip of road
nobody else on road, not even a pick-up truck - my ‘Heaven’s Way’
yellow buildings of Lee cranberry growers, red of Haines, generations of excellence and expertise
winter’s palette on all sides - jet black, ochre, palomino, greige
bleached sandlanes angling off, luring into forest primeval - only locals drive on sugar sand
sandtrails eqaually enticing, as covered with rosy-brown pine needles, as my car had been with snow
grasslands below bridge over Mullica River completely drowned - everywhere, everywhere water, and it’s not even full-moon tides
grasses at exit — color of vintage camelhair coats on 50-yard-line at Princeton Games, Palmer Stadium
burgundy accents, then claret, next ruby, always charcoal — intensified by new downpour
peaty pinestreams winkling away to right, to left, color of fresh-hewn slate
“Fresh Eggs for Sale” — “2nd House” — $2.00
silver canoes cheek-by-jowl at Mick’s, waiting as I had been, for actual spring, but now I’m newly in love with winter with these tones
tidy stacks of chunky wood in stocky short pieces, the signs hand-lettered squiggly: “Firewood Campers”
fenced horses staunchly standing, shaking snow mixed with rain from darkening coats
great blue heron, airborne pencil box with pencils (legs) sliding out back, ponderous rowing flight carrying it over full and fishless bogs
no eagle on post where Anne and Mark and I had watched previous Pine Barrens sunset turn white head pink