Archive for November, 2011
Singing Prairie Warbler
The wild is everywhere around us. But, many resemble the boy encountered by Richard Louv on the plane, whose favorite place is his “bedroom, because that is where the electrical outlets are.” Stunned, Louv crafted his seminal book that spawned a nationwide children in nature movement: “Last Child in the Woods - Saving Our Children from Nature Deficit Disorder.”
Increasingly techno-addicted, we could be convinced that there is no more wild in America, let alone New Jersey. We could be making those exit-jokesters right.
Or worse, we could assume that the wild is irrelevant. It has been too long since we first nodded in agreement with Henry David Thoreau who insists, “In wildness is the preservation of the world.” But Thoreau’s warning is even more crucial in the 21st Century, most appallingly true in New Jersey. A Rutgers study predicts that we may be the first state to be completely built out - within 30 years or less.
Upon reading “Her Idea of a Beautiful Day”, in My Story As Told By Water, my first thought was, ‘Well, what would be MY idea of a beautiful day?’ Its subjunctive question immediately appeared - ‘What is YOURs?‘ – readers of and cherished commentors upon NJ WILD–, what renders a day beautiful in your life, at this moment in time?
My Story as Told By Water is a riverine memoir by David James Duncan. This man is a modern bard, in prose and diatribe, of the endangered American West, –particularly its rivers, especially of its salmon. Over and over, Duncan teaches, “As salmon go, so go the rivers.” And the indigenous people whose lives since time immemorial have depended upon the rivers and their creatures. With salmon and salmon people go the state, the region, the nation and ultimately the globe. Especially here in the east, we do not GET it about the peril of and the implications of industrial murder of salmon.
Sunfish, Baldpate Mountain Pond, Brenda Jones
Edward Abbey taught us first the evil of dams. David James Duncan blows on Abbey coals. My Story As Told By Water is my favorite title of the genre, the way Dickens’ “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times” is my favorite opening line of any novel. Young Duncan fell in love with water using a garden hose in his childhood driveway. His first love was abruptly relinquished for the real thing, when the boy fell INTO his first trout stream, discovering crawdads and fish. Duncan’s chapters tango between ever increasing passion for natural waterways, and fury at all who would destroy them. His rage and eloquence increase exponentially in our era of greed-enthronement.
The boy describes having been stunned by his grandmother’s rabid devotion to her job as a real estate agent: “Her idea of a beautiful day was one that increased the likelihood of her selling a house.” Nature, to Duncan’s grandmother, “had an unwashed, unsaved ring to it.”
Needless to say, “a beautiful day” to this author involves water, usually fresh, with the promise of fish. David James Duncan forces me to consider my own definition of a beautiful day. The instant answer is any day with friends, sharing nature with the perfect blend of passion, knowledge, and curiosity. Remarkable food is often involved, and frequently art. But if I had to choose but one factor for “my beautiful day”? NATURE.
I was frankly stunned to discover that “my beautiful day” need not be fair. “A beautiful day” to me is something that hardly ever happens any more — a time of long soft soaking rain. Gentle in quality and quantity, lowering a scrim over the harsh world. Rain that whispers, at most sizzles. This precipitation is neither so white and stiff as was my bridal veil, nor so dense and weighty as Jacqueline Kennedy’s widow’s veil — which cast a pall over my life, and was first worn in the impossible aftermath of this very day, November 22, in 1963. The most beautiful day to me now, in New Jersey, in the year 2008, is rain that tiptoes along the thirsty earth. It simply nourishes seeds, –without dislodging soil, let alone removing pebbles. A beautiful day’s rain never topples trees because of both quantity and intensity, without even factoring in damaging wind. What I require now is rain as it was before global warming.
Lately, as NJ WILD readers know, I’ve learned to be out in what the Brits call “a mizzle of rain.” There’s a blessing in it — tactile, even spiritual. I may prefer the days of rain and fog because they soften the impossible harshnesses of the 21st Century. You also know, nature is my church, and the Towpath and Canal in particular. David James Duncan says it better: “Church became a place where I waited for rain.”
“Pine Drops” hold the rain, by Lauren Curtis
The First Thanksgiving Painting, Jean Louis Gerome Ferris
Brenda Jones’ image of Geese Overhead echoes Charles Goodrich’s signature phrase
Fellow poet, Penelope Schott, sent me this delightful essay from someone else wise and wild in her new home town, Portland, Oregon: Charles Goodrich.
I e-mailed Charles, receiving merry permission to share his (diatribe, polemic, or just plain delicious excursion?) with NJ WILD readers. I relish his unique sign-off/signature - don’t you?
Charles knows what to do on the days of Thanksgiving. That feast did not come into being so that people could shop. At 4 a.m. in beautiful New Jersey, people could be out tracking in a wood, following a river, coursing over the bounding main, seeking wild creatures– not elbowing aside other frenzied humans in mad excesses of materialism.
Wise Indians talked surviving Pilgrims into setting aside days of thanks for the harvest, much of which would not have been in hand without the steady assistance of the so-called savages.
Thanksgiving is meant to be a celebration of gratitude. In the wild world, gratitude can be engendered by watching wild turkeys, in this case, battling - rather than fighting off fellow shoppers.
Brenda Jones’ Battling Turkey Cocks
Here is a fellow nature enthusiast, engendering thankfulness the real way.
Thank you, Charles, and I look forward to your new book, GOING TO SEED: DISPATCHES FROM THE GARDEN, due out in April from Silverfish Review Press.
Charles suggests, “You might also want to check out the website of the program I work for, the Spring Creek Project for Ideas, Nature, and the Written Word. We sponsor a couple of writing residencies and a bunch of other events and programs that you and your readers might find interesting: http://springcreek.oregonstate.edu/
Keep up the good work there in the Garden State. I know there are precious pockets of wild nature in your midst. Glad to know you are helping folks toward the great remembering.
geese overhead, mice in the compost,
Use Charles Goodrich’s web-site, to track down other thoughtful musings. Meanwhile, take a stroll in wild Oregon with this fine thinker and writer.
Deep in the brambles, a winter wren scavenges insects for her supper, talking to herself in buzzing little syllables. Otherwise, things are quiet in the woods.
It’s the day after Thanksgiving, signs everywhere of recent feasting. Beside the river, a scrubby willow has been clipped off, the clean impression of beaver teeth indented in the stump.
At the base of a cedar, a fresh owl pellet, chock full of white bones and gray fur.
And here, in the center of the trail, splayed out in artful array, the scrub jay’s wings sail on through a scatter of gray and blue breast feathers, right where the fox left them.
I’m sure it will be a busy day at the mall. There are supposed to be bargains galore.
I can believe it, because the catkins of the wild filberts are already an inch long. And now the wren flits to a branch above the trail and scolds me for undisclosed offenses. Prosperity abounds!
Winter Sparrow by Brenda Jones
Spring Creek Project
The challenge of the Spring Creek Project is to bring together the practical wisdom of the environmental sciences, the clarity of philosophical analysis, and the creative, expressive power of the written word, to find new ways to understand and re-imagine our relation to the natural world.
Olga Sergyeyeva’s Fine Art Photography evokes my beloved D&R Canal and Towpath.
Olga Sergyeyeva’s Masterpieces evoke autumn along my “Dear Canal and Towpath”:
Here is a poem which Rich Rein, founder of US 1 Newspaper, published when they honored me with an entire calendar (2006) of my canal and towpath photographs. They were slides — remember slides? So I cannot add those images to this post. But I can give you the culminating poem - perhaps the first - to grace a US 1 Calendar.
I have lived beside you
into you, my tears have dropped
walked out to where it seemed I saw
CAROLYN FOOTE EDELMANN
Autumn Shadows, Sandy Hook
NJ WILD readers will understand that I thought I drove through Monmouth County thoroughbreds to Sandy Hook in quest of birds in November of 2010. Mother Nature had other ideas.
Winds were wild and birds were few. Actually, I saw more birders than birds. Some I questioned concerning two nearly motionless grey and white raptors late in the day had been ‘at it’, as I often have, since dawn. They hadn’t seen ‘my’ hawks, and my descriptions weren’t useful enough for Scott Barnes to assist. He did merrily remember the April day Tasha O’Neill and I had spent on their hawk watch platform when he and his deeply experienced sidekick could not keep UP with the sharp-shin count!
What high winds and higher sun did to autumn colors surpassed my life experiences, in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula and even in Vermont.
Autumn’s Fence, Ocean,Sandy Hook
Yet, when the day’s photographs were studied, my favorites turned out to have to do with shadows.
Woodbine Shadows, North Lookout
It was a day of whitecaps on the tidal river, drawing parasailers and windsurfers, what I first witnessed in Provence and learned of as ‘planche a voile’. Plank with sail. Winter may be in the wings, enough that I had my down ‘cardigan’ zipped to the chin. Yet hardy waterpersons were nearly stripping, then slipping into glossy wet suits, from first light til last.
It was a day of blessed solitude, every pore open to Mother Nature’s gifts.
It was a day of dazzlement.
And yet, and yet, this afternoon, re-living Sandy Hook, bright shadows carried the day.
TRIUMPH OF SHADOW, NORTH BEACH
As a child, a favorite in my Childcraft book of children’s poetry, had to do with, guess what! - nature. The American robin was the not-very-imaginative state bird of my Michigan. So this ‘jingle’ really spoke to me back then, in little Lathrup Village, near Detroit:
The north wind doth blow
and we shall have snow
And what will the robin do then,
But sit in the barn
to keep himself warm
and hide his head under his wing
And what does the cardinal do ‘then’, do when north winds increasingly take over our world? A very brief answer from Brenda Jones is:
Brenda Jones Finds Cardinal Puffed Up for Winter
One of the most amusing/diverting/compelling aspects of my late-life hobby of birding is that one is always/always learning. Just when you get all the colors down, a first-year bird shows up and throws you back into uncertainty. Black-capped chickadee calls were easily mastered, and then the Carolina chickadee moved north with its more nervous vocalizations. Shapes were pretty much early in my learning process, for some reason. But, as you may have noticed, shape tends to change significantly on cold, let alone winter-windy days. Puffing their feathers adds air to down as ideal insulation.
BAHR’S — THE DOOR
In 2010, I gave myself two Sandy Hooks to one Bahr’s, treasuring every moment –
scintillation at ‘The Hook’ and succulence at Bahr’s.
Bahr’s - The Pause that Refreshes, near Sandy Hook
Friends who ‘excurse’ with me and NJ WILD readers know well that a good part of my errantry in New Jersey is food-related.
‘Errantry’ means ‘wandering around in search of adventure.’ I do a good bit of this in Central and Southern Jersey, as often as possible near the waters of our three [count them!] coasts.
My errantry tends to begin and end as a nature quest. But, in the middle, there is memorable food.
Home are the Fishermen, Home from the Hunt: The Long Shot
It has to be good, local, fresh and real. Bahr’s, across that new bridge from Sandy Hook, down at the base of ‘The Highlands’, scores on all points. All during lunch recently, I watched the mate of a returning fishing vessel, docked below my table, lift and dress (well, it’s more like undressing) striped bass after striped bass of a size about which fishermen dream. My waitress confirmed my guess, from sleekness, heftiness, rosiness and a kind of nobility, as to the species of their catch.
Talking later to Captain Mark McColgan, of Sea Bright, I would learn that there had been twelve aboard with fishing poles in hand, with a limit of three per person. They’d filled their quota, waiting in proud and quiet eagerness for fishy treasure brought back from the deep.
A child at the table next to me, –equally rapt at this transformation so prosaically termed ‘cleaning’–, spoke my personal longing: “I want THAT fish.”
Well, we didn’t have ‘that fish’ - buckets-full of luminous bass went home with the happy hunters of the morning, disembarking from the Long Shot.
I’m a sucker for anything nautical — happy memories of sailing on the France, the Mary, the QEII; simpler souvenirs of time in fishing towns of New England, especially Cape Cod, especially Chatham and Provincetown. Bahr’s transports me to simple joys of other eras, other regions — and yet, here it is, pristine, spic and span, by the sparkling waters of the Navesink and the Atlantic Ocean, the scrubby dunes and salt-pruned woodlands of Sandy Hook just across the small waves, as we feast.
View of Sandy Hook from Our Table at Bahr’s
View AT Our Table at Bahr’s
Notice not only my cherished scallops, which are, in effect, just-fried sushi! - luminous within their classic coating, though nearly too hot to eat, and never needing sauce atall. Check out those random real carrots - none of the fake baby sort, tough and hard and dry, curiously lacking in flavor. Every slice of Bahr’s carrots is different, determined by the carrot, not by some machine. And worthy of the journey in themselves. But no, that designation is reserved for their steaming biscuits, which arrive with the beer, puffing clouds of heat as they fall into fragments in eager hands. Not even needing the generous butter. Redolent, delicate, yet hearty. Their potatoes are the red ones, –merry healthy skins still in place–, a few herbs scattered here and there, perfectly cooked, and, again, full of welcome variation revealing their authenticity.
Legendary Biscuits and Slaw, and, oh yes, Yuengling of Pennsylvania
America’s Oldest Continuously Operating Brewery, and not always available
I try, I really do, to order something other than scallops. Cod, for example, although I thought there wasn’t any, any more. Well, they call it scrod, which is so Boston, bringing back other joyous memories with daughters in their college days, alongside other dancing waters. Oysters, but only if they’re not blue points — I’m sorry, I mistrust Long Island as a source for oysters I would want to eat. Once, with Betty Lies, we were given oysters from the Chesapeake that were so savory that we had to stop our intense (usually bookish) conversation over and over, in awe of their meatiness and memorability. My sister’s been with me there, she of the Midwest — satisfying her longing for lobster rolls that she remembers with us when we had our Chatham house on Nantucket Sound.
So often, memory deceives, or is deceived. At Bahr’s, memory is equalled and possibly surpassed.
There is merriment in the place, and a hearty crew always at the bar. Deep laughs at the blackboard ordering us to SAVE CHICKEN/EAT LOBSTER.
There are canned seafoods and stews to take home, and I always think I’ll try them. But they won’t be the same without the ’shining big sea waters’ just below our table.
ONE BELL, ALL’S WELL, BAHR’S, ATLANTIC HIGHLANDS
Driftwood’s Wild Tangle, Sandy Hook
Pristine Flotsam and Jetsam, Sandy Hook
“BY THE SHINING BIG SEA WATERS”, SANDY HOOK
AUTUMN CASCADE, PARKING LOT, SANDY HOOK
PARASAIL PARADISE, SANDY HOOK, LOOKING BACK TOWARD MAINLAND
and this is New Jersey — PRESERVE IT!
Dear NJ WILD Readers: In the weeks ahead, you’ll be re-seeing posts of the past, before my hip required the surgery I will undergo tomorrow. Our remarkable fine art photographer, Brenda Jones, chose this one to launch the Reminiscence Series.
ENJOY - and HIKE FOR ME
Cezanne-like Ruin at Sandy Hook
NJ WILD readers know the catalyst for most of my New Jersey expeditions — birds.
I thought I went to Sandy Hook for autumn migrants. The Muse had other ideas.
Looking back on my runaway-day, I see that I found more birders than birds. But that’s o.k. I cherish the company of birders. (seeing them as ‘real’ birders, as opposed to this eager amateur.) I treasure birders when not even they can identify the pale mystery hawks over the N.J. Audubon Center on the river side of Sandy Hook.
Up on the North Beach platform, there was more talk of birds than birds. Memories of other days, other seasons. Souvenirs of northbound flights when the experts couldn’t keep up with the sharp-shin count. The day Anne Zeman and I happened to be there for the scissor-tailed flycatcher. Memories of World Trade Center towers, once so visible from those boards, now no more than memory.
We had one desultory red-tail, but Scott Barnes had identified this one last April as resident, not migrant. A string of double-crested cormorants flew low over invisible water. I’m pretty sure we heard yellow-rumped warblers in shrubbery all around the platform. I had to soothe other ‘watchers’ in that they couldn’t see cormorant crests, not even one, let alone double. Bird books annoyingly inform us, concerning those defining field marks, that they are ‘visible only in breeding season.’ Which October definitely isn’t. Not for birds, anyway.
Sometimes, I don’t know what my adventure was about until I download the pictures. Which is how I found out that this journey was about light, not birds. Light and form. Declining light, which somehow magnified form. Even the bunkers were beautiful.
Bunker Bedecked with Woodbine
That day’s paling sun brought new gifts, highlighting structures to which I’ve evidently been oblivious until now. I’ve driven and walked that North Beach area more times than I can count, in all weathers. Most memorably in February, with Sandy Hook Rangers who bear magical keys to secret ‘gardens’ along reaches otherwise verboten. The wrack line is particularly glistening in winter; bunkers even more stark. I try to comfort my pacifist self with the fact that no shot hath been fired at Sandy Hook in anger.
What the sun revealed last weekend was a ruin right out of Cezanne!
I zoomed into a parking place, oblivious to any other drivers as though a peregrine was winging overhead. But this wasn’t about falcons.
It was about light. Light that would not only change, but (as NJ WILD readers know too well about me, this time of year), light that will LEAVE. Abandon us. Plunge us into the underworld for months on end and I will have to remember to stay very far from pomegranates or I’ll NEVER get back to the light.
The Beauty of Ruins
I was hopping all around that building, reaching here, crouching there. — The way my sister and I did that cold April at the Wetlands Institute, where the purple gallinule remained most effectively in hiding for all his vividness. That fauve bird had been seen by experts and amateurs all week, all morning, and would be seen again that evening, but not while Marilyn and I were there. And, I promise you, we left no leaf unturned. Neither of us had seen one in our lives, put together. And we still hadn’t. Crouching, rising, turning returning — that Cezanne Studio look-alike called forth my most assiduous birding behaviors.
Ruined Door, Autumn Hues, Cezanne Door, Sandy Hook Ruin
The color of the door to Cezanne’s studio in Aix is splashed into my soul — exactly the tone of the door above, taken, –yes, in New Jersey.
I’ve lingered at the door of Cezanne’s studio times beyond measure. With my husband on history-wine-and-art pilgrimages. With the Friends of the Art Museum (Princeton) in 1978, on our Romanesque France tour de Provence with legendary Hyatt Mayor, Curator of Drawings at the Metropolitan Museum of Art.
In 1981, I’d walked those leafy grounds above A, staring at Cezanne’s own views, wishing they’d let me photograph that spill of dried fruit along a windowsill. I did this with my elder daughter, Diane, and our Princeton friends, Hope and Valerie in January. In pivotal 1984, I’d learned that this was the site to which Cher Maitre Paul had returned from painting his iconic Mte. Ste. Victoire, already breeding the cold that would kill this unparalleled artist. That trip involved Diane again, and her younger sister, Catherine. Both lived abroad that year of the strong dollar, one in Paris, one in Bergamo. That time, we shared our beloved South of France with Charlie and Rose Mary, whom I’d introduced that spring. They’d fallen in love, come with us on their ninth date. This year they took me to dinner at Eno Terra to celebrate that 26 years-ago meeting. They’re still glad I did it!
During 1987 and 88, I introduced my Provence (native French who wintered in Cannes) neighbors-of-the-villa, over and over to places in their own land that they did not know, especially Cezanne-territory. All American friends who braved Provence with me, although I’d only had those two years of meagre college French, made pilgrimage with me to Matisse’s chapel. And to Fondation Maeght. But always to Cezanne, and the Restaurant Deux Garcons which mattered so much to M.F.K. Fisher and her two daughters.
So I know the color of Cezanne’s door. It’s exactly the tone of the door above, taken one week ago.
Shadowed Ruin, North Beach, Sandy Hook
Just as on Cezanne’s studio — even the shadows on this building were arresting in beauty and sharpness.
Cezanne-Look-Alike with Woodbine
Finally I tore myself from the structure, and the cascade of Provence memories it had ignited.
I remembered, after all, you’re this Jersey Girl. You’re here to celebrate our own back yard. What else is calling out to you this day?
NORTH BEACH NATIVE SPECIES: Autumn, 2010
If Cezanne had seen what seems like NJ native wild asparagus, aglow, he’d've turned into a Fauve.
What Cezanne would never have seen, is this hot yellow fireplug. Now I ask you, why? But isn’t it merry?
Fire Safety, North Beach, Sandy Hook, New Jersey
Red-winged Blackbird, Sunset, by Brenda Jones
NJ WILD readers know that the catalyst for all my nature experiences is birding. You may not know that I’ve been barred from it, increasingly, this year, by a mysteriously deteriorating hip.
On Wednesday, November 9, that hip will be replaced with something shiny, smooth and functional. My orthopedist insists, “We’re going to be very aggressive re rehab, because we want to get you back in the kayak and out on the trail.” And that means new stories for all of you — 1000 to 1200 per week - always a miracle to me, and greatly appreciated.
NJ WILD readers also know that D&R Greenway Land Trust preserved the St. Michael’s (Orphanage) land in Hopewell, 300+ acres that would by now hold 1200 houses, had we not raised what I recall as thirteen million dollars by the Ides of March that year. Bill Flemer, IV, of the legendary Princeton Nursery family, works for D&R Greenway now, managing the farm preserve.
The New York Times recently wrote at length about our native plant seed project there, under Bill’s, as well as Jared Rosenbaum’s, of our Native Plant Nursery. We are growing hundreds of native wildflowers there for their seed. It will be taken, in partnership with New York City’s Department of Parks and Restoration, to re-seed, reclaim the direly named Fresh Kills. You may realize that World Trade Center debris was taken to that site. Because of preservation and stewardship in your own back yard, flowers will bloom there, and blow in the wind. Flowers that belong, that will seed themselves in the sea wind…
Support your local land trust wherever you are, especially D&R Greenway.
Mockingbird Singing, by Brenda Jones
And rejoice at this recent e-bird list, thanks to Jim Amon, our Director of Stewardship, for this good news, reminding me that there are birds in our world.
St.Michael’s, Mercer, US-NJ
Canada Goose 10
RIENDS IN FIELD AND FOREST: Celebrating Partners in Preservation Art Exhibit til December 2
D&R Greenway Land Trust is regionally renowned for nature art exhibitions, to focus attention on nature and the urgency of its preservation in our beleaguered state.
Curator Diana Moore has designed and hung our current art. Its opening reception is free and open to the public, this coming Sunday, November 6, from 4 - 6. Please join us by calling 609-924-4646 to register, or e-mailing email@example.com.
The stunning fine art photography of ‘our’ Brenda Jones, and Vladimir Voyevodsky, stellar mathematician from the Institute for Advanced Study, joins the superb oil paintings of Joe Kazimierczyk, whose Sourlands-centric work and farther afield in New Jersey has appeared in these ‘pages.’ A host of memorable artists awaits each of you.
All the art either was inspired by or actually created on four lands we preserved with Green Acres Partnership: Coventry Farm, Farmview Fields (across from Coventry on the Great Road), Greenway Meadows, in which our 1900 barn is nestled, and Institute for Advanced Study land.
All art is for sale. A percentage of the proceeds supports our preservation and stewardship mission.
Here is Tiffany So’s beautiful invitation to art and nature, November 2011: