Common Yellowthroat by Brenda Jones
In my new life, in my new town (Lawrenceville), I have a new habit — walking the Pole Farm from 7 to 9 p.m.
It’s the Solstice tonight, longest day of the year. NJWILDBEAUTY readers realize I can play this game without peril or penalty.
If you go out there by 7, you are given the song of the bobolinks.
If the land is warm and the air cool, as it has been this week, you may walk straight into a miracle — as with 7 deer (two of them spotted fawns), up to and beyond shoulders in wildflowers, like the Unicorn Tapestry, the Cluny Tapestries. There are just these ruddy silhouettes, still as standing stones, only the flowers in motion.
And then, out of the deep, mysterious woods, pours swirlings of ground fog. Tendrils and veils and scrims of light-filled fog, billowing like the curtain of the Old Met in my first New York years. Fog turns the deer to icons, then to shadows. They could be standing in incoming tide, only the tide isn’t saltwater, it’s mist. The deer look so content, which completely suffuses me.
Later that night, a knowing friend tells me, “Carolyn, deer love fog. They think they’re invisible.”
DOE OF EVENING BY BRENDA JONES
I am not the only one who finds it hard to leave. A woman named Janet, sitting on a fence in golden dusk, said, almost tearfully, “I don’t want it to be over.” The night before, three cyclists, exulting in having ‘done ten miles’, had expressed the identical sentiments.
As I entered the Pole Farm at 7:30 last night, I knew I had sacrificed the song of bobolinks by tardiness.
On all sides, however, was the rare trilling, warbling, descending caroling of field sparrows. Almost immediately, I stood beside a pair, right on the grey trail. Delicate, petite, short, rotund, and fastidious — the pair let me watch and watch and watch as they filled their tiny tummies with something clearly delicious. They were so wild, they didn’t know human danger. I stood transfixed, until I could finally see their legedary, ‘diagnostic’ fat pink beaks. A first for me. I have learned to hear them. I have learned to identiry their feeding habits. But this is the first time the roseate beaks were visible.
I was thinking, as my feet took up the now familiar stride and trail, “To experience miracles, be where miracles happen.”
At that moment, I discovered with the American Indians call “a sun dog” — vertical rainbow, to the right of the lowering sun-globe. This phenomenon is caused by ice crystals in the sky. The entire spectrum hung there, –like northern lights, but so much smaller and more subtle. Red, purple, orange, yellow, green, blue — I forget the order — I stopped dead in my tracks to let that bounty in. To the Indians, to see a sun dog is good luck.
To me, to have moved to Lawrenceville, 3/10 of a mile from the Pole Form, is extraordinary luck, even miraculous.
No one would believe the level of darkness I’d endured in my previous wooded dwelling. That’s over.
Instead, in moments, I can be out on those broad hard smooth clear dry trails, with all those wonderful fellow hikers, bikers, birders — full of graciousness and greeting. Catching sight of my binoculars, they’ll sing out, “What are you seeing?” Or ask, “What’s black and white with orange?” And I could tell that person, “Oh, you have seen the miracle of the bobolinks. Pole Farm is being managed for grassland birds.”
Within moments, I can be given a night like last night, of miraculous juxtapositions:
bluebirds and catbirds
field sparrows and yellowthroats
wild grape and woodbine
honeysuckle and fireflies
bullfrogs and wood thrush
horned stag in daisies
penstemon and fern groves
rabbits still as statues
Mr. Elusive — a cinnamon-colored wood-thrush bopping down the trail, impervious to my footfalls
something raucous high in trees, laughing as I pass
clouds stretched into feathers
swallows taking turn, entering the old barn in last light
the startle of cars
Get OUT there on YOUR trails. Miracles await.
Do all that you can to preserve land in your own region, for it is even more scarce than bobolinks.
And, with land, once gone, is rarely recovered.
Pole Farm is a Mercer County Park — on their web-site you can learn of and sign up for bird walks with Jenn Rogers, with whom I’ve merrily birded the Abbott Marshlands in search of winter birds. Go anywhere with Jenn — you’ll come home enriched.
BLUBIRD BY bRENDA jONES