Sandy Hook Poem

IMG_0746Sandy Hook Light in Winter

IT’S ABOUT TIME

 

to return to Sandy Hook

for bird apotheoses

 

en route, we will encounter

ugliness:

 

Dow Jones, brooding at the light

several municipal sprawls

the desolation of warehouses

 

we’ll dogleg through the town

of two saddleries

to long empty stretches where

Monmouth earned freedom

 

through crooked orchards

past 1700’s home of applejack/Jersey Lightnin’

to Swimming River Road

 

dread rides with me always

for Sandy’s had its raucous way

with ‘the Hook’

we’ll not find a shred

of Spermaceti’s boardwalk

although all chewed macadam’s

been replaced

 

from North Beach hawkwatch

we may see

great egrets, immobile at the salt pond

against a backdrop of Wall Street, Verrazano

ospreys deep in nest exchange

the ivory plunge of gannets

beyond the ninth wave

Carolyn Foote Edelmann

July 2014

Egret w o frog Rogers Refuge Brenda Jones

Great Egret — Brenda Jones

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Cornwall’s Wild Beauty

Wheal Coates

Cornwall’s Wild Coastline, Wheal Coates Tin Mine

 

NJWILDBEAUTY readers know I tend to be enraptured about wilderness in New Jersey.  You may not realize that many other wild places call to me.  I am re-reading Daphne du Maurier’s Vanishing Cornwall, with its eloquent retelling of Cornish tales and magic, dooms and disasters, legends and lore — above all Arthurian.

In 1995, Darlene Prestbo and I set off on an Arthurian quest to Cornwall, which ‘just happened’ to be scheduled so that we were there for the Autumnal Equinox.  We’d found a National Trust House, Mouls Point, on the Bay of Tintagel – the perfect locus for setting out to places that had mattered to The Once and Future King.

Our National Trust Dwelling was perched, as is this one (from Internet), high above black rocks and not far from tiny Port Isaac and Port Quin.

 typical Cornish hiking scene61

steeo ricjs if cornwall.jp

Typical Brooding Rocks of Cornish Coast — We watched oystercatchers (birds) feeding among them

port-isaac tidal reach-32

Minuscule Port Isaac at Low Tide

It is a treat to re-read books that nourished past journeys.  Du Maurier is a gifted storyteller, as anyone knows who has devoured her riveting novel, Jamaica Inn.  Among our non-Arthurian expeditions was one across Bodmin Moor to Jamaica Inn, where we sat in an inglenook by a roaring fire, after being out in a mizzle of rain and quite thoroughly drenched.  We were brought shepherd’s pie to restore us, and some local ale.  As a gift, the barkeep (not the villain of the book, though overlooked and scolded by a raucous parrot) gave us our first tastes of mead.  Mead on the moor.  What could be better?

Daphne’s son Christian Browning journeyed with her from cove to moor to standing stones to tin mines.  His photographs in the book are arresting, mostly black and white,  as evocative her prose and that storied land itself.

These, from the Internet, will just have to do until you follow in Darlene’s and my footsteps, anywhere within a day’s journey of the Bay of Tintagel.

standing stones of Cornwall120So Many Standing Stones, So Little Time

remnants of tin mines of Cornwall41Sentinels of Vanished Tin Mines

Wheal Coates tin mine St. Agnes indexWheal Coates, our favorite abandoned tin mine

I take notes in books to savor later.  In this twenty-first century, I read my own comments from 1995 such as, “The magic of Cornwall matters to her, but the sinister, more-so.”

Notes of Daphne’s descriptions only fired our determination and eagerness to BE THERE, such as “to learn the call of the night-jar.”  “to hear wind in rigging, scent tar and salt.”  “to stand in a mizzle of rain.”  “to discover the nursery of the oyster.”  “to look on sea from every aperture.” “to hike among the moors and tors.” “to stride amidst bracken.”  “to build a fire of turf and furze.” “to hear drowned steeple bells and the calling of curlews on the wind.”  Above all, we yearned for the last two, which we did not achieve, nor were we, though we longed to be, “pixie-led.”

Arthur was our magnet.  Even when we didn’t know we were searching for him, we came across references.  He was nearly worshiped as the horned stag in his time — a bridge between the ancient ways and new Christianity.  Going to a pub so we could order “bubble and squeak”, an antlered deer glowered over our table.  In a remote squat church, far from Arthur’s former fortress, we came upon a stained glass window of a saint who had (Perhaps in an excess of mercy) restored to life a villain Arthur had executed, a man who had harmed her.  We heard the sea toss the rounded stones in the multi-entranced cave where Merlin gave the boy king to the wise fisherman who took him to another enchanted land, Brittany, to be raised until his time would come.  We walked on the Tintagel headlands, where fierce storms had recently uncovered foundations and ruins old enough for our king.  We two poets found ourselves riveted in the stone-outlined space known and signed as “the place where the bards declaimed.”

We hiked the entire Pentire, a 12-mile jaunt, on a day so windy we had to hold onto seaside thrift not to crash onto the black rocks and rollicking tides below.  One of our discoveries that day was the site of the battle between Uther Pendragon and Gorlois, without which contest and its outcome, there would not have been an Arthur.

He’s everywhere, in the magical land of Cornwall.  DuMaurier asserts, “There is no fever like the quest for the past.”  True, indeed, especially when that past is studded with sites dear to Arthur, Guenivere, Lance, Tristan, Gawain, Gareth…  well, you know…

Even our hike through St. Nectan’s Glen, fueled by an ancient mystery of two eccentric women who had lived and died there alone, turned out to be Arthurian.  Darlene discovered that St. Nectan was a hermit, to whom Arthur sent knights on the eve of their being elevated to knighthood.

In that glen, we came across mysterious arrays of white feathers on mossy streamside ground.  Something as silent and huge as an owl, whooshed past us, though it was noontime.  The only person we met on that trek was wearing a black and white horizontally striped jersey and had a gold ring in his ear.  Of course, the Pirates of Penzeance were never far from our consciousness.

Daphne insists, “Arthur is to Cornwall as Theseus is to Greece.”  We followed him to Dozmary Pool, where Sir Bedivere had to be commanded three times to jettison the sacred Excalibur.  The water was darker than Cornish coastal rocks, and guarded by horned long-haired red cattle that could have been wooly mammoths.

We moved through golden sands at the Camel Estuary, where the wounded Arthur was taken from barge to barque to travel, in the company of holy women, to Glastonbury Tor — where Darlene and I had begun our Cornish journey.

I see now, as I write, that we had been, not pixie-led, but Arthur-led.

And there were sites and sights we were denied, by the famous mists of Avalon.  A key quest was Land’s End.  We never found it.  Fog hid the boot (hood) of the car from my eyes, and turned cattle to stone.

Instead of Land’s End that day, we returned to our local baker for scones and clotted cream, to savor at next morning’s breakfast, in our sea-girt kitchen, looking out over a tin mine’s chimney, which faced Mouls Point.  Little did we know that the name of our dwelling was the site of the battle between Pendragon and Gorlois…

Everything was meant.  I spend my life searching for magic to equal that of any  Cornish day.

We learned a new word, Darlene and I, on that journey — “Errantry.”  “Wandering around in search of adventure.”  As in knights errant.

That’s what I do in New Jersey.  That’s what I do for NJWILDBEAUTY.

Meanwhile, you can see why my soul always yearns for Cornwall.

typical Cornish harbor and town93Typical Cornish Port Town and Harbor

135-pentire-point-newquay rugged seacoast of Cornwall

Though Not Moul’s Point, our waking view was similar – onto the backs of coasting gulls and crashing surf

Whatever Happened to Soft Rain?

Water tumultuous Brenda Jones

Tumultuous Water, the Delaware — by Brenda Jones

My Tremulous Storm Scenes above the Millstone and the Canal:

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Wild Storm, Floodwater High Across Canal Road, north of 518

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Ponding on the Driveway, High Water, Canal Road, north of 518

Neither my friend, Brenda Jones, nor I, spends much time outdoors in rain, –at least not intentionally, and not with our cameras.

Hers is far better than mine in chronicling wild water.  I lived on a hill high above Canal Road, and the waters came up from the flood plain, over the Millstone River, over the Road, and far up the driveway, drowning its protective metal rail, in recent storms.

Last night, in a rather ordinary storm, poles went down, and wires with them, all over the Princeton Region.

My 5.5-mile ride from Lawrenceville to work took 90 minutes this morning.  “Rosedale Road is closed,” declared the policeman (yes, I had ignored the closed sign and bright lights- I had to get work!)  It would be closed from 2 hours to 2 days.  Still closed when I left work this afternoon.

Thanks to human greed, burning of fossil fuel, refusal by our country to take the lead and reverse catastrophic climate change, we basically never have normal rain any more.  Read Elizabeth Kolbert’s masterworks, “The Sixth Extinction” and “Field Notes from a Catastrophe” for the best science writing yet on what we are living through, what we are causing.  “Among the few irreplaceable volumes written about climate change,” declares Bill McKibben, “Kolbert offers the best summary yet.”  Other experts praise “Sixth Extinction” as our century’s “Silent Spring.”

You all know the reasons — glacial melt.  Freshwater (light) on top of saltwater (heavy), –therefore more evaporatable water; more precipitation; more frequent precipitation; more violent precipitation.  Changes in sea and river currents, which change air currents and the Gulf Stream.  Which alter our planet, our very existence.  Pogo said it long ago:  “We have met the enemy, and he is us.”

Forget “the new normal”!  There ISN’t any normal any more.  Not in any season.  Not any time of day or night.

When we were little, we could go outside in bare feet and little homemade swimming outfits and paddle in bright puddles.  Soft rain blessed our shoulders, tickled our backs, rinsed our long curls in the best conditioner ever.    Tornadoes began with Flint when I was 11.  “One day, clouds went both ways, fast!”, I wrote of being out precursors to that tempest.  Nothing was ever the same.

Rain was something we liked.  Something to play in!

Not an excuse for weather gurus to use smarmy voice and smirky smile to order us all “Stay safe…” and “Shelter at home…”  If you notice, they also tell us when to shop and what to buy, and show pictures of shopping frenzy to stoke the coals…

Basically there isn’t any safe, any shelter, any more.

There used to be wonderful cadences to thunder.  A soft vacuumy hush before the first rumble.  The excitement of thunder as it grew nearer and nearer.  Counting between lightning and thunder – “one one hundred, two one hundred” — something about the distance between bolts and ears.

The other night – not EVEN last night with all the downed trees of Princeton, all the sparking, smoking wires of morning — there was not even time to say “one”, let alone “one hundred” between ceaseless stabbings of lightning throughout the greensward here at my new dwelling and the explosion of thunder.

I never wanted to be someone who yearned for the “good old days.”

But I yearn for good old rains.

Restored Hunt House, Pole Farm — Constable scenes in Mercer County

Flag Windless Evening Pole Farm Hunt House and Trail June 2014 003

Peaceful Flag on Hunt House Grounds, Pole Farm

One of the fascinating aspects of this Pole Farm, that is so near to my new dwelling in bucolic Lawrenceville, is that there are many entries.  Each entry holds out its own bouquet of impressions and memories.

One leads to the overlook platform where we will watch short-eared owls in the depths of winter, ghosting out of surrounding stands of dense woods.

One very practical one leads over a series of hefty bridges, which will be very helpful after troubling rains.  They are not bridges over water, rather over land that can become waterlogged.  So one will be able to march without sloshing, when the mood strikes.

My latest discovery is the Hunt House entry, off Blackwell Road.  A generous parking lot awaits, which is where this flag dangles, in the absence of wind.  I’m starting with this because it’s the Fourth of July.  I spent the morning in the Abbott Marshlands, where there weren’t any flags, and barely any birds, but much beauty.

My friend, Anne Zeman, was there to take pictures for the Voices for the Marsh Photo Competition.  If one googles http://www.marsh-friends.org, one will learn what scenes and what processes are required for entry.

As we left each other, after hours of exploration, we reminded one another that this day is a celebration of freedom from tyranny.  Somehow, countless forms of tyranny are overtaking everyday Americans.

Somehow, those precious freedoms for which our Founding Fathers pledged their lives, their fortunes and their sacred honor (and some lost all of these factors to bring us liberty) are being eroded at every turn.

We must never lose sight of the sacrifices and the brilliance of our Founding Fathers.  Even more important, we must not betray the liberty they won for themselves, our country, and ourselves.

The Hunt House is venerable — all three segments of which having been built in the 1700s.  It’s a beauty to see from the outside.  I do not know if everyday people are permitted entry in business hours.  As I understand it, Hunt houses the park headquarters.  If all their employees are as gracious and enthusiastic as Ranger Kevin (met at the red barn entry of Pole Farm), I assume visitors are welcome at appropriate times.

Hunt House Restored at Pole Farm June 2014 001Restored Hunt House, in late light, Pole Farm

A handsome picnic area rests to the left of this scene, very appealing, although too close to the parking lot for my taste.

Picnic Shelter Pole Farm Hunt House and Trail June 2014 007Picnic Area near Hunt House, Pole Farm

The same broad, strong, comfortable, quiet trails that make other entries so appealing, lead away from the house and its barn and the picnic area.

Evening Shadows Barn at Pole Farm Hunt House and Trail June 2014 009Hunt House Barn Shadows, Pole Farm

These trails lead in and around essential American scenes.  And yet, soon, one is transported into the landscapes made famous by Constable of Britain.

Lily Pads and Cattails at Pole Farm Hunt House and Trail June 2014 014Constable Scene, Hunt House Trails, Pole Farm

As usual, guests are relishing this regional treasure, many on foot and some on bicycles.

Cyclists Pole Farm Hunt House Trail June 2014 010Cyclists, Hunt House Trails, Pole Farm

On all the trails, all the people I meet are so cheerful, open and welcoming, themselves.  It’s a very American experience, these parks where solitude is a norm and silence a blessing.  Where birds thrive and trees burgeon and deer safely raise young.

Let Evening Come    Pole Farm Hunt House and Trail June 2014 011English Countryside near Hunt House Trails, Pole Farm

Yet, there is this sense of stepping into a Constable, over and over again.

Come Dine With Me Picnic Table by Lake Pole Farm Hunt House and Trail June 2014 013Lakeside Picnic Grove, Hunt House Trails, Pole Farm

I’m hoping some savvy family is celebrating the Fourth in this grove today.

Sharp Shadows  Picnic Grove Pole Farm Hunt House and Trail June 2014 012Long Shadows, Picnic Grove, Hunt House Trails, Pole Farm

Whoever they are, I hope they speak of freedom.

Wherever you are, I hope you remember true freedom, the sacrifices made to secure it in perpetuity, the powerful and brilliant and courageous men and women (don’t forget Abigail Adams and Annis Stockton and Martha Washington, who joined her husband on battleground after battleground) who birthed this land.

This Mercer County Park is an example of the best of America.  Use it.

And continually do everything you can to preserve New Jersey’s wild unfettered places.