“I MUST go down to the SEAS again, the lonely SEA and the SKY…” Part II…

Tumultuous or calm, I am shattered by the duration of sea-less time demanded of me

by Corona.

IMG_2820

John Masefield’s longing for “a warm wind, the west wind” had to do, not with just any sea and sky, but that which surrounds his West Country, Britain’s Cornwall. Some waves striking and foaming upon Cornish slatey rocks have touched no land since leaving America’s east coast. Some of the sea that mattered to Masefield (and me) is the Bay of Tintagel, in which Arthur’s summer palace lived in flawlessly defended (by black rock and sea) splendor.

But the sea and sky I miss most in this Lockdown Life is American’s own ‘land’s end’ – Cape May and Cape May Point. 

I not only miss the Atlantic and the Delaware Bay – I miss the gentle shrubby conduits we take,  toward both birding and swimming in season. These two scenes are Cape May’s Higbee Beach. In the warming time, this peaceful area is dominated by “morning flight”: Vociferous hordes of birds return to, and sometimes collapse upon these pristine sands, exhausted. They have just crossed our twelve-mile-wide Delaware Bay, in their challenging migration journeys from wintering grounds. To catch the flight phenomenon, best to be at Higbee before dawn. All will be over by nine a.m. or so, at this particular site.  But everywhere at “The Point” is bird-rich now, right now…

Cut Throuth to the Beach Cape May)

People migrate, also, upon the Cape May-Lewes Ferry. Birders take these trips, not necessarily involving vehicles, in order to lift magnificent optics to follow pelagic birds.  They’ll turn right ’round in Lewes and return, watching every wing.

The everyday word for pelagics, – ‘seabirds’-is somewhat misleading. Under this term, \even gulls would generate enthusiasm.  ‘Pelagic’ denotes birds that spend significant portions of life on the open ocean, rarely venturing to land except to breed. (And sometimes in storms, when birders are the ones migrating to Cape May, alerted by hot lines/Twitter, and the like.) The albatross may be the most famous pelagic, partly, also, because of a poem, Coleridge’s dramatic “Rime of the Ancient Mariner.”

Shearwaters, petrels, frigatebirds and fulmars are undisputed members of this tribe. 

Cape May-Lewes Ferry

I am not pelagic! I have no excuse for my need for saltwater settings.  Growing up in Michigan, I became accustomed to our literally Great Lakes. Both Michigan and Superior seem oceanic — in extent, power and danger.      I have to admit a a few quibbles here, though, along the lines of salinity and tides.

Skimmers Return Cape May Beach low light

Black skimmers are not pelagic. They nest on offshore sandy isles near Cape May. One of the treats of Cape May dawnings is the return of these magical creatures from The Great Wherever.        Angling in, in droves, these flocks stun birders and non-birders alike with their numbers and their beauty.

Skimmers live up to their name and are most easily seen in Absecon Bay off ‘The Brig’/Forsythe near Smithville, NJ.       It’s like watching a winged corps de ballet                   –choreographed by Balanchine–, as they sink with drama and grace toward the water that is their stage and dining room.

That bright red lower mandible slices the surface. It is so sensitive, it can sense nourishment that then flows right on into all that openness. There is nothing more appropriate to Memorial Day or the Fourth or Labor day than skimmers’ combos of red bills, indigo waters, the whitest of clouds above echoing every sweep of brightness adorning these winged acrobats!

It’s very easy to be distracted by skimmers, even from breakfast at  Cape May.

Luminosity

The above is my favorite walk in all seasons , from the Jetty to Cape May Light. You DO have to be better versed in tides, however, than this Michigander. You do NOT want to arrive at the Light, lofted above Cape May point, only to turn around and find your trail is under the ocean you so require.

Oyster Catcher at Barnegat

Wondrous nature photographer Brenda Jones found this American oystercatcher at Barnegat Light, not far from Cape May. That habitat includes rocks, which oystercathcers require in order to find their eponymous food, which they open so much more easily than we can!

If you ‘hit’ Cape May Jetty-to-Light sand at the right tide, right about now, you will hear wild whistling of territorial oystercatchers. Do they EVER mean BUSINESS! They’re mating now, so seriously seeking sandy sites for their eggs, nests that can withstand not only storms and increasingly wild winds, but also the ever-increasing ravages of sea-level rise.

It delights me not only to study this glorious creature Brenda brings us, but also to absorb the near-indigo Atlantic Ocean behind him. I know from trying to find harlequin ducks at Old Barney, how very deep and ferocious these waters can be, how treacherous (for humans) these rocks.

red throated tloon from Internet glamour_iandavies

This time of year, also, if you’re very lucky, at Cape May and elsewhere, –including Island Beach waters and those of Sandy Hook–, you may discover the red-throated loon.  This image comes from a jaunt to ‘the Hook’ on a frigid January jaunt. Would you guess that his throat in breeding plumage is the hue of a Chateau Margaux swirled in a flawless crystal ballon?  A very good year, of course…

The sea is far more essential this time of year to the horseshoe crab than it is to yours truly. This ancient relative of spiders (!) surges onto Delaware Bay beaches at high tide(s) of May, each female laying, in one season, as many as 88,000 eggs. Rich in the most nourishing fats, these eggs fuel  non-stop Arctic flights for so-endangered red knots, ruddy turnstones, the more bountiful semi-palmated sandpipers and lively, scurrying sanderlings.

Horseshoe Crab shell

This horseshoe crab’s meat likely nourished laughing, herring and ring-billed gulls, gathering (at high tide) now, –as I am not–, along our Delaware Bay.

Drifter

Another reason I require the ocean, at all times, –and never MORE than NOW!–, is its flotsam and jetsam. [Don’t ask which is which.] Each item on this tide-packed sand has stories to tell.

IMG_2797

Both ocean and bay are consummate ‘stylists’! (At 20, I was a food stylist in Manhattan for the finest photographers, immortalizing General ‘Foods’ products.)    I never attained these heights — credit Mother Nature and Neptune.

IMG_2790

I like ‘reading’ the tide’s signatures, like sentences, like arabesques, in among these left-behind shells and stones. The pristine nature of beaches now is a real triumph.

Note this real ‘sugar sand’, which still blesses many Cape May beaches. In some places, of course, along our coasts, where Sandy had its way with us, the Army Corps of Engineers has brought in replacement sand. It is dredge sand, –a hideous color–, so thick in texture it guarantees blisters for the barefoot.

Higbee Beach Late October Swim 2016 008

You’ve seen this before — I wouldn’t be in the salt waters that surround Cape May this early in the season. But when Jeanette Hooban deliberately swam at Higbee Beach on our Hallowe’en Trip, I was exultantly watching her (in shorts and t-shirt), standing very near.  Deceptively tiny waves swept sand right out from under both feet and lo! I fell backwards onto the bottom.  Eyes wide, I stared delightedly at perfect sky right through my cherished Atlantic Ocean.

My ocean felt WONderful!

 

It’s something about limitlessness.

It’s something about beauty.

Definitely about the daily plethora of surprises.

Let John ‘take it’:

Sea Fever

I must go down to the seas again, to the lonely sea and the sky,
And all I ask is a tall ship and a star to steer her by;
And the wheel’s kick and the wind’s song and the white sail’s shaking,
And a grey mist on the sea’s face, and a grey dawn breaking.
I must go down to the seas again, for the call of the running tide
Is a wild call and a clear call that may not be denied;
And all I ask is a windy day with the white clouds flying,
And the flung spray and the blown spume, and the sea-gulls crying.
I must go down to the seas again, to the vagrant gypsy life,
To the gull’s way and the whale’s way where the wind’s like a whetted knife;
And all I ask is a merry yarn from a laughing fellow-rover,
And quiet sleep and a sweet dream when the long trick’s over.

 

Proud American Heritage of Bordentown

Tiny Bordentown, New Jersey, is very responsible for the birth of our Country — This village was the only place where Thomas Paine ever owned a home. George Washington has insisted that, without Paine’s writings, the vaunted ‘Spirit of ’76’ would never have come to fruition. What this brave man called ‘Common Sense’, was, frankly, seditious.

Because of the words of this Bordentown resident, we can be proud of our country.

Ben Franklin is said to have quipped, “We must hang together, or we will hang separately.” All of our Founding Fathers (and Mothers – especially Abigail) “pledged their lives, their fortunes and their sacred honour”to bring a free American into being.

1 1776 1876 Flag

What Thomas dared to write, unfortunately, rings true in these times:

Winter Shadows Tom Paine Corner
My favorite Paine quote, after “times that try men’s souls” is “I’d rather see my horse Button eating the grass of Bordentown … than see all the pomp and show of Europe,” Paine wrote from London in a 1789 letter to a friend.
This mural of other times gives you a sense of lovely Bordentown as Paine might have treasured it.
Bordentown Mural wide view
The mural is beside the venerable Quaker Meeting House.
Quaker Meeting House BordentownThe past remains present in Bordentown. We can renew our pride in our country there, and in the courageous band who brought us into being.
Bordentown Peach Mousse Iris
Now, one of the town’s treasures is it’s legendary iris blooms, iris festival. These scintillating flowers are probably at peak right now, as the festival is always Mother’s Day Weekend.
Bordentown Franklin Carr Iris Hybridizer plaque
Franklin Carr is responsible for bounteous beauty. His memorial garden is off Farnsworth Avenue, high above the storied Delaware River. In the same setting is a Point Breeze Garden, displaying plants that were at the exquisite estate of that name, home of Joseph Bonaparte, former King of Spain and of Naples; and his nephew/son-in-law Charles Lucien Bonaparte, naturalist/ornithologist who discovered and named New Jersey species in the broad and fruitful marsh below the mansion.
Joseph-Bonaparte
Joseph Bonaparte’s happiest years were his seventeen in Bordentown.
IMG_1268

Missing ‘the Little Things’

Virtually nothing prepared me for the reality of now – nature herself effectively closed  because of a worldwide virus.

‘Brig’/Forsythe — After Hurricane Sandy

Sandy Blockades Brigantine

No matter what “slings and arrows of outrageous fortune” swirled about me in New Jersey, its shores and coasts and sands and paths, –especially wooded ways — would restore the Carolyn Soul.  No longer.

Bridge from Winter to Winter Bowman's 09

Yes, I yearn again to be absolutely surrounded by New Jersey Nature.

plainsboro-preserve snow scene from Internet

Season does not matter. Nor place – The above is Plainsboro Preserve.

As Corona-Captivity lengthens and expands, however, it is the little things I crave:

The Sacred Eggs Fortescue Horseshoe Crabs Mem. Day 2017

Possibly the littlest to be relinquished this year are tiny eggs of horseshoe crabs. Our Delaware Bayshore is soon to be peppered with tinctures of life. Not only essential to the future of horseshoe crabs,  –so-endangered red knots and ruddy turnstones must ingest sufficient crab egg nutrition not only to make it to the Arctic, but also to breed and lay eggs whose contents ultimately will sprout wings and fly. The full moon of May is Horseshoe-Landing Time. Essential sanctions and strictures will prevent my being witness.

I seem to need Pine Barrens ‘little things’ above all:

jerseys-jewels-chatsworthjpg

Jersey’s Jewels, Sugar Sand, Chatsworth

NJWILDBEAUTY readers well know how I cherish every cranberry, –whether burgeoning on the vine, being harvested by traditional methods, or somehow surviving –ripe as rubies– alongside Pine Barrens’ fruitful bogs.

cranberries-on-the-vine-chatsworth

Cranberries on the Vine, Chatsworth

(Cranberries, at least, need not observe social distancing.)

I miss every boardwalk.

Exquisite Barnegat Bay Island Beach April

lands-end-island-beach-dec

Our Land’s End — Below This is Barnegat Inlet, with ‘Old Barney’ Lighthouse on the Other Side

I miss cut-throughs and being out in wild weather.

img_2820

Storm at Sea, Cape May

But, most of all, I miss the little things.

 

Transformation of mood has become the burden of memory.

 

 

 

“Let us go, then, you and I,… while the evening is spread out against the sky…”

A travel album to Eliot’s Invitation: our answers set in New Jersey:

Sandy Hook Jim Kathleen Amon Spermaceti Cove Boardwalk Jan 2017

Dear Friends, Kathleen and Jim Amon, answered ‘Yes!’ to my “Let us go then,” at 20 or so degrees, upon New Jersey’s Sandy Hook, one recent January.

T.S. Eliot’s invitation was one of the richest moments of my entire college education. Looking back, I could say it became my life mantra:  “Let us go…”    [No, not “down certain half-deserted streets, although that became my way in post-college Manhattan years.]

Rock as Smiling Dolphin Sourlands 08 08

“Mr. Smiley-Face”, at the entry to a Sourlands Trail, off Greenwood Avenue in Hopewell, welcomes every visitor to his hushed green domain.

Moved to underappreciated New Jersey, for a husband’s career, I began to set out on Wordsworthian nature quests. “Get OUT there!,” I’d urge friends and relations. “Nature is EVERYWhere!” “New Jersey is BEAUTIFUL!” “Let her enrich you.” “Let us go…”

Ice Floes on River Lumberville General Store Jan. 2017

As I ended a long-ago poem, protesting the building of THE PUMP in our Delaware River, ultimately the river taught us: “I, who had been barrier, am bond.”

NJWILDBEAUTY is a printed version of my own constant invitations, from 1964 forward.. I’ve taken up this blog again, during our impossible situation, in which answering yes to “Let us go then, you and I” is forbidden. But Eliot’s call remains essential!

Autumn Crispness Canal and Delaware River near Prallsville Mills

Even at autumn’s culmination, our Delaware River and her nearby streams, tributaries and canals, beckon with unspoiled beauty.  Here, memory of late riverine light brightens this drenched day.

Even quarantined, our New Jersey remains a treasure trove. Let’s stroll together, you and I”, in memory and photographs upon these pages.

perfect-balance-oceanside-flycaster-island-beach-dec

December’s Oceanside Flycaster – Island Beach – one of New Jersey’s Unique Three Coasts!

Right now, we are experiencing a medical Battle of Britain. Normalcy has been suspended until the invading microbe is finally conquered. I suspect even Eliot would not have believed that following his stirring invitation could ever be banned.

Lake Oswego Pine Barrens Fourth of July

Peat Waters of Lake Oswego, below Chatsworth, The Pine Barrens of New Jersey

Proof of the altered meaning of my nature-quests is symbolized in this Island Beach window, looking East, as our Coast Guard monitored sailing vessels in distress.

This day, I moved my wondrous birding binoculars from the travel bag in the front hall closet, to locked French doors looking out on a very domestic natural landscape.

Coast Guard Watch Window Island Beach Nov 2015

View from the Coast Guard Watch Window, Island Beach, Rainy November Day

New Jersey’s still out there, everyone.

Beckoning with Eliot.

Remember her.

Save her.

Hike her anew!

IMG_2794

 

YEARNING… as house arrest continues… WHAT brings solace, WHAT brings light?

Yes, I know, France is suffering also. I keep thinking, were I anywhere else, would this be less stifling?

If I were still in my Cannes bedroom, the brightness of mimosa, thousands of miniature suns, would have been filling my green-shuttered window in February. When I needed to go to Antibes to the market, I’d drive right alongside the lapis-blue Mediterranean in winter. The hill towns of Provence, “La France Profonde“, beckoned on all sides. Mostly ignoring the Cote d’Azur, I was wrapped in blessed privacy everywhere I drove. And that lovely liquid language would be pouring, cascading over me, whenever I did put on my (probably very chic) mask and enter a village, were I ‘sheltering’ in France.

In our own country, the barrier island of Assateague and its protected sort-of-mainland isle, Chincoteague, are far removed from any sort of hurly burly in this season. These two remote settings, except in summer, attract more birds than horses. These are R-months, so the legendary oysters will be at peak. Read the sign, capturing the spirit of Assateague/Chincoteague, really at all times, but in this case after a dire hurricane. There’s something about a lighthouse, too, that steadies and comforts. This is the magnificent Fresnel lens of yesterday, blazoning safety far to sea in its time.

Fresnel Light from Assateague at Chincoteague Museum

A Pony's Life - Forever Feeding Assateague

Missing Infinity

The presence of the mysterious microbe should be what bothers me most in this dire time.

But, I am a  Sagittarian. We are the original “Don’t Fence Me In.” Let me stay home by myself and read and write and be glad of no phonecalls and remember adventures. But don’t give me orders, such as, “Shelter at Home!” I’m obeying. I’m resentful. What I require as antidote is the infinite.

New Jersey is blessed with watery infinities. Some fresh – and seemingly limitless, as the Delaware Bay:

Higbee Beach Late October Swim 2016 008

Jeanette Hooban swims Delaware Bay, Cape May, despite October, a couple of years ago/

Some New Jersey infinities are fresh water.

Come On In Bulls Island July 2017

Rose Mary Clancy wades Delaware River on Bull’s Island, across from Black Bass Inn.

Some salt.

The Old and The New Island Beach April 2016

Tracy Turner photographs magnificent Atlantic Ocean, warm wintry day, Island Beach

Infinity is implied at Fortescue and Reed’s Beach and Heislerville along the Delaware Bay

Shorebird Islet Fortescue

Shellbird Islet, Fortescue, Delaware Bay

Peaceful Barnegat Bay — as if no human had ever walked this way.

Land's End Barnegat Bay Island Beach April

Land’s End. Barnegat Bay: This is New Jersey! — on a peaceful day

Sometimes we seek infinity in snow.

sunbathing on sugar sand by Ray Yeager

Jeanette Hooban and I on snow on sand at Island Beach by Ray Yeager, Fine Art Photographer and key birding buddy!

Some, as ‘Brig’/Forsythe’, are dike-created, salinity-managed, to attract specific species.

snow-geese-on-the-wing-brigantine-with-carolyn-yoder-january-2015

Snow Geese Undisturbed, The Brig in Normal Times – over a major impoundment

The D&R Canal is not limitless, but can feel that way when yours is the first paddle to disturb its waters on a Sunday summer evening.

First Kayak D&R Canal at Alexander Rd May 2015

Heading South from Alexander, 5 to 6:30 on a golden Sunday evening

fellowship-and-solitude-island-beach-1-1-17

Fellowship and Solitude, Walking South along Island Beach Sands on a Winter’s Morning

Some seem limitless only when one is kayaking upon them (Barnegat Bay) as a thunderstorm approaches, with wild winds countering every forward stroke, as we stop seeking birds and this time, ourselves, seek shelter.

This is Barnegat  Bay on September 28, Jeanette’s Birthday. We went there – Bill Rawlyk, Mary Penney, and I, to celebrate Jeanette. At breakfast, in Lavallette, watching a mute television, we discovered that the major storm warning (“Gee, I wonder where that is…”) was all around us! “Well, so long as we are here!…” And spent the day in an infinitude of wind, sand and birds – who were playing in the Nor’easter! Merlins coasting as far east as they could, to the ocean (see flags); then zip-zooming back west, and returning. Migrating swallows were waltzing wildly to the east as we left the park.

boardwalk-to-destruction-ib-cfe

Island Beach Boardwalk to Destruction – Nor’easter-scoured, Dunes Conquered

Weeks upon weeks of house arrest make even a stroll along a beach seem dream.

Will we find infinity anew?

“WHERE DO YOU WISH YOU WERE QUARANTINED?”

Does anyone else play this game? Granted, it would never have entered my head until a few weeks ago.  (Is it ONLY weeks? Doesn’t it FEEL LIKE MONTHS?”)face mask image Amazon

The truest answer is that which first flies in – FRANCE.

Oddly enough, not Provence.  Although I actually lived there during a previous major life catastrophe, blessed by astonishingly tender and tending neighbors.

No, what I need is that mystical upper quadrant — Normandy/Brittany, – which segue back and forth sometimes, depending on wanderings of the sinuous Seine.

And not just any place even there: Avranches, most likely, with a clear view of beloved Mt. St. Michel –across its salt marshes, compact, sturdy lambs salting themselves as they munch verdant grasses.

Mt. St. MIchel with sheep Wallup

A part of my heart is always in Hawaii — Iao Valley on Maui, to be sure — but quarantine is rugged enough without my being reminded of its essential but bloody history.

No, the Hawaii haven I require is Hanalei Bay in Kauai. I could stand anything there!

Hanalei Bay Kauai

A disaster of this magnitude enforces practical thinking, as well as serious consults with the heart. Where was I ever most at home when I was NOT at home?

Chatham, Massachusetts, Cape Cod.

I long always for weathered grey, shingled cottages, adorned with simple, colorful wooden shutters that really work. For sleeping to the scent and coolness of salt tang, old-fashioned windows fluttering as we leave windows open all night long, onto Nantucket Sound. Sometimes, we could see both Nantucket and the Vineyard. Sometimes, although we were right on what seemed infinite, we could not see the Sound.

Typical Chatham Cottage

I’ve lived many a Chatham summer, in sun of course; and I most especially treasured the liveliness of their legendary fogs. Once, I remained right on Nantucket Sound in our tiny cottage, through and after a hurricane.

Chatham is the PLACE to endure, even to ENJOY stormy weather.

Chatham Light Storm-blown Flag jpg

Now, granted, I can’t take the girls out to Henry Beston’s OUTERMOST HOUSE any more. It was blown away, quite literally, –all but its bronze sign designating it of national historic value–, in the Blizzard of ’78.  But I’d have that book WITH me in quarantine.

Henry Beston's Outermost House on Nauset Beach

Given a little warning, I’d have a ‘Last Supper’ at Impudent Oyster of joyous memories over the years.  Sometimes, I’d even have nothing BUT oysters for the entire meal!

Rainy Day Haven Impudent Oyster Chatham Bars Ave

We used to go to Chatham Fisheries, brilliantly managed by Willard Nickerson, a.k.a. The Codfather, about whom I was privileged to write a lengthy adulatory article for the (late lamented) Cape Cod Compass. It has another name and different food now, but I still would have stocked up there, before lockdown.

Chatham Pier Fish Market SignIt’s always so peaceful over at the fisheries. Seals are new attractions. I must steal a line from “The Lake Isle of Innisfree” to do justice to this scene:

“…and peace comes dropping slow.”

Serenity Chatham Fish Pier

My larder-stocking would’ve had to include Marion’s Pie Shop, still present, providing the sweet and the savory. Owned by the same people as in the 70’s, this place always renewed and refreshed our family despite whatever slings and arrows of outrageous fate…  Berry pies were outstanding – but the most unexpectedly best was clam pie!

Marion's Pie Shop

Carolyn Yoder and Jeanette Hooban and Janet Black honor my passion for this idyllic spot. So these are recent pictures, except for the Internet one of Beston’s House.

Chatham Beach and Tennis Club

Candy ManorChatham Pottery

Nature The True Impressionist Cottage South Chatham

Last sunrise of a recent Chatham stay.

Farewell Fire at Cottage

Last fire…

Last Light First Sunset Taylor's Pond Cottage South Chatham

Last sunset.

My dear friends and I are clinging to the reassuring French phrase, “A la prochaine foi.”

Until the next time…

‘God willin’ an’ the crick don’t rise’, our ‘prochaine fois‘ will be in Wellfleet, its dates moved to September.

Meanwhile, both Chatham memory and promise cushion harsh realities of our 21st-century quarantine.

National Parks With T

A tour of Public Lands & National Parks in the USA

Conserve Wildlife Foundation of New Jersey

Learn about our work with New Jersey's rare wildlife.

Our French Oasis

FAMILY LIFE IN A FRENCH COUNTRY VILLAGE

marywalthamdotcom

Current artwork projects

Simple Life at the Shore

A Photography Blog by Angela

RTY Photography Blog

Images by Ray Yeager. SUBSCRIBE for email updates below.

njwildbeauty

Travels in and near NJ in quest of nature's beauty

Dine With Pat

Food & Dining in the Garden State

NJ SPICE

Exploring food with gusto!