STILL SEEKING SPRING — AVIAN SURPRISE

Spring 2015 defeats me.  I have stopped looking for its arrival in natural settings.  When an entire week goes by without wearing my ski jacket. the new season will have arrived.

Here is a photo essay of a recent bi-state excursion to find the vernal:

View from Footebridge from NJ to PA at Bull's Island below Frenchtown

View from Footbridge from NJ to PA at Bull’s Island below Frenchtown

Last week, in quest of spring, I spent more than three [but fewer than four] hours at Bowman’s Hill Wildlife Preserve, below New Hope, Pennsylvania.  You know from my recent post that most of the world in that exquisite refuge was brown, with some courageous and welcome exceptions.

That Delaware view was taken mid-river that same day.  I walked west from Bull’s Island over the Delaware, because interstate walking is a rare past-time for someone from Michigan.

As you can see, on the New Jersey and the Pennsylvania sides, most trees remain bare.

Beautiful Bridge Structure, Empty Trees

Beautiful Bridge Structure, Empty Trees

Spring on the Delaware River Footbridge at Bull's Island

Spring on the Delaware River Footbridge at Bull’s Island

Ultimately, on the footbridge, the winds were so fierce, I did not set Foote in Pennsylvania.  My mother would say, “You turned tail and ran!”

However, NJWILDBEAUTY readers who know me in person remember that I tend to ask, perhaps too often for some, “Where is the Gift?”

Come with me on the Bull’s Island Towpath and answer this question in mid-April in New Jersey/Pennsylvania.

Emptiness of Spring -- Bull's Island Towpath mid-April 2015

Emptiness of Spring — Bull’s Island Towpath mid-April 2015

Alluvial Plain near Bull's Island Towpath Trail

Alluvial Plain near Bull’s Island Towpath Trail

Mile Marker 21 - Bull's Island Towpath Trail

Mile Marker 21 – Bull’s Island Towpath Trail

House in Empty Woods Bull's Island mid-April 2015

Farmhouse Opposite Bull’s Island Towpath Trail

Alluvial Plain Adjacent to Bull's Island -- When the Delaware Floods, This is Where She Goes, What She Nourishes

Alluvial Plain Adjacent to Bull’s Island — When the Delaware Floods, This is Where She Goes, What She Nourishes

Endangered Species Ahead

Endangered Species Ahead

Eagle on Nest Bull's Island Towpath Hike 2015 Spring

American Bald Eagle on Nest, in sycamore – a first for me:

6/10 Mile Below Bull’s Island Sign

That tiny head is pure white, in person.  See for yourselves!

If any of you still wonder, why preserve?  The above hint of an eagle sighting is our answer.

This parent is strong, serene, vivid.  She faces our benevolent yet powerful, and yes, fish-ful Delaware River.   This eagle pair is likely to raise healthy young, so there will be more eagles on more nests in our riverine future.

Never forget that, in the 1970’s, there was but one eagle nest, at Bear Swamp, near the Delaware Bay, and it was unsuccessful.  DDT thinned their eggs, which therefore cracked and could not hatch.  Brilliant and committed people, beginning with Rachel Carson in her seminal, earth-changing “Silent Spring”, turned this around.  Naturalists in New Jersey went to the Chesapeake for healthy eggs.  They gingerly carried these treasures to the Bear Swamp nest.  Those unknowingly surrogate parents raised and fledged young, who returned to the area.  So the eagle Renaissance of New Jersey began.

This day, of Bowman’s followed by Bull’s Island followed by Lambertville, [through the spotting scope set up at Homestead  Farm Market (across from the CVS and Rago)], then to ‘our’ Princeton Mapleton eagle’s nest, brought me three eagles on three nests in three towns in three hours. 

The Lambertville eagle nest is on a power tower in the River, visible from the toll bridge when driving to PA from NJ.   The other two are in preserves.

I suddenly realize, if those Bull’s Island trees had been leafed out for this person longing for spring, I might never have spotted the nest, for the warning sign came south of the impressive  nest…

WHY PRESERVE!

Princeton's Eagle Nest, Mapleton Avenue, Above the D&R Canal State Park

Princeton’s Eagle Nest, Mapleton Avenue, Above the D&R Canal State Park

WHEN SPRING TIPTOES – Bowman’s Hill Wildflower Preserve in Mid-April

“Spring Green” — right?    Wrong.

In the year 2015, spring has been mostly brown.  Here is a photo essay of last Friday’s trip to my beloved Bowman’s Hill Wildflower Preserve below New Hope, Pennsylvania.  I’ve written elsewhere, as in the Time of Trenton, that Bowman’s is Spring Central.  And it is.  Except the palette this year is that of an unexpected artist — Paul Cezanne!  Stroll with me.

Autumn and Spring, Bowman's Hill Wildflower Preserve

Autumn and Spring, Bowman’s Hill Wildflower Preserve

Spring Herald

Spring Herald

Newcomers on the Civilian Conservation Corps Bridge

Newcomers on the Civilian Conservation Corps Bridge

Spring Shadows

Spring Shadows

Between Fall and Spring, Bowman's Hill Wildflower Preserve

Between Fall and Spring, Bowman’s Hill Wildflower Preserve

Spring Beauty, Autumn Background

Spring Beauty, Autumn Background

First Canada Mayflower Leaf

First Canada Mayflower Leaf

You really have to be determined to find spring.

Overhead vistas were stunning.

Evergreen Canopy

Evergreen Canopy

Deciduous Canopy

Deciduous Canopy

Straight ahead was stunning – a favorite scene for me always is the shadow of beech leaves on beech bark.

Beech Shadow

Beech Shadows

Azalea Sign, No Azalea Blossoms

Azalea Sign, No Azalea Blossoms

Fungus Flower

Fungus Flower

Skunk Cabbage Apotheosis by the Old Pond

Skunk Cabbage Apotheosis by the Old Pond

Downed Tree Returning to Earth

Downed Tree Returning to Earth

Tiptoe Through the Bluebells, Parry Trail

Tiptoe Through the Bluebells, Parry Trail

Spring's First Flower, Up by the Twinleaf Shop at Bowman's

Spring’s First Flower, Up by the Twinleaf Shop at Bowman’s

And Bowman’s greatest gift, a flower I have not seen in at least five years there, and one that should by no means be around in April – the Snow Trillium.  A bad picture, because of high winds, but worth studying, nonetheless.

Snow Trillium off the Fern Trail

Snow Trillium off the Fern Trail

To get to Bowman’s, take the old green bridge from Lambertville over my beloved Delaware River.  Turn left at the first light in New Hope, and drive along through woods and past spring wildflowers on the banks and steeps on either side.  Bowman’s is on the right, before an old stone bridge.  There is a small admission fee — a pittance compared to the treasures that await you there.

Afterwards, eat at Bowman’s Tavern.  Superb food, quite avant-garde for a post-hike treat, and gracious welcome.

Bowman’s Hill Wildflower Preserve members earn a 10% discount at the Tavern, but you must remind hostess and waitress.

PRINCETON MAGAZINE: POETRY and FLOWER MIRACLES

I wish I could block and copy the article for you, so you could see Andrew Wilkinson’s stunning floral images  However, my two poems from my own files are at the end.  May these bring you the seasonal joys for which we have all been pining!

http://www.princetonmagazine.com/category/features/featured-articles/  You may ‘paste this into your browser; scroll down to flowers and poetry.

Those of you who live in and near Princeton have seen the new issue of Princeton Magazine, hefty and glossy and impressive, one of Bob Hillier’s projects, along with Studio Hillier and that rich, ever expanding, ever teaching newspaper of our town — Town Topics.

It was a joy to open the issue with Ilene Dube’s magnificent Michael Graves story, and find that Linda Arntzenius, fellow poet, had seen to it that two of my poems appear in a glorious spread with flowers by Princeton-area florists.  Long ago, I knew Bob Hillier’s mother, who seemed to own all the flower shops we frequented in my earlier Princeton life.  This is a tribute to that impressive women.  It honors Poetry Month.  And I know four of the five poets — tremendous honor to be in their company, in those impressive poets.

The impeccable, imaginative floral art is by Andrew Wilkinson, one of our major D&R Greenway supporters on many fronts – and a spectacular fine art photographer.

The poets with whom I am privileged to share these luminous pages are Sharon Olson, Betty Lies, Vida Chu and Carolyn.

 

This took place at Island Beach in June:

IT ALL STARTED

 

when we came upon

carpets of stars

cranberries in flower

trembling white below

the ice blue sky

 

along the hard-packed dikes

slumbrous bees

formed golden pyramids

on gleaming amber boxes

 

dawn’s pollinators

here to burst all bonds

course among broad acres

of waving stamens

 

at day’s end we stood on tiptoe

plucking first blued berries

from among the mauve and pink

at the tips of overarching bushes

 

tucked among hollies and sheep laurel

through thickets and tunnels

we made our way to the sea

mouths awash in warm berries

 

DEFIANCE

 

I would be unruly

as these sprouting bulbs

 

surge and burgeon

though so slightly rooted

among the celadon stones

 

open swirls of hope

spurt voluminous white

spill gilded light

 

emitting spring as fragrance

even as winter

tightens his gelid grasp

 

CAROLYN FOOTE EDELMANN

“Emerging Signs of Spring” — recent Times of Trenton Article

Brave Skunk Cabbage in March, Bowman's

Brave Skunk Cabbage in March, Bowman’s

My NJWILDBEAUTY readers know I am always avid for signs of the coming season, no matter what it may be — including winter.

Rich Rein of US 1 (Business) Newspaper, published my account of being impatient for the spare beauties, –especially the true sculptural form of trees–, of that approaching season.

At the same time, The Times of Trenton kindly accepted my article on the importance of prolonged cold for the full health of wild creatures.

Last week, The Times presented the story I’d titled “Where is Spring?”  They honored me with the title of Guest Columnist, and again blessed my story with a handsome photograph by fine artist Michael Mancuso, who is masquerading as a journalist.

Salamander in hand, early April 2015, by Michael Mancuso of the Times of Trenton

Salamander in hand, early April 2015, by Michael Mancuso of the Times of Trenton

“Emerging Signs of Spring”, Guest Columnist, Carolyn Foote Edelmann

 

This year, not even naturalists can find spring.

We have been taught that the season arrives with the vernal equinox, when day and night are virtually equal; and that equinox leads to lengthening sunlight. Longer days, we have. But where is spring?

Each naturalist has his or her own proof of spring.

For one, it is the blooming of witch hazel. Good, because last night I saw a witch hazel tree in Lawrence in full, brassy bloom. They can blossom in December and January. Does blooming witch hazel make a spring? .

For many home gardeners, spring means snowdrops, which can pop through January drifts. Last week’s snowdrops at Grounds for Sculpture in Hamilton were up, but they looked frail and drained, as though their journey through snow and ice had sapped them of all energy.

For many, spring means the bird-like chirping of tiny frogs called peepers. A colleague at work heard both peepers and wood frogs in Hopewell a week ago Friday. Although I know well where to look and listen, I have not heard a single trill. Peepers do not begin their incessant chorus until it’s been above freezing for at least three nights. Which it hasn’t.

March 27, Jenn Rogers, our merry Mercer County naturalist, led a troupe of brave souls out into dusk and darkness at Hopewell’s St. Michaels Farm Preserve. Rogers and confreres had set out on an “Owl Prowl.” Not an owl was heard nor seen. But the group was treated to the full dance and aural phenomena of woodcocks, over and over, until full dark. When woodcocks rise, it’s spring.

These fortunate explorers, under Rogers’ tutelage, were then able to see and hold female and male salamanders, moving from winter quarters to their spring egg-laying waters. The group also encountered a number of frogs, still, yet ready for action, visible beneath skim ice on the vernal ponds. If salamanders have made their historic night-time journeys, it’s spring.

Near Greenwich, where New Jersey’s legendary tea burning taught the British we would no longer submit to the crown’s dictates, we could not leave a female American kestrel flitting in and out of a long line of bare trees. Nearby, a spurt or two of crocus, some dark purple mini-iris and one effusion of daffodils seemed to certify spring.

A flutter of vivid bluebirds under the leafless shrubs of Stow Creek, eagle central, seemed more important, dare I say it, than that site’s legendary eagles.

Last Sunday, I spent significant time in Salem and Cumberland counties, where America’s avian symbol is everywhere right now. We studied eagles on nests, incubating eggs, performing nest exchanges and feeding hatchlings down near the Delaware Bay. Eagle spring comes earlier than that of other species. However, regional naturalists are concerned that many Delaware Valley eagles are not yet on the nest. Timing is everything with the eagle family. Much more delay and it will become too hot for the young with all those insulating feathers. Hard to believe in “hot” right now.

Our incontrovertible spring proof may have been the osprey on its unlikely nest alongside Route 55 near Millville. Ospreys winter separately, returning to the same nest on the same day. When ospreys are reunited, spring is here.

If you need to certify spring, go straight over to Bowman’s Hill Wildflower Preserve, below New Hope, Pa. Return every weekend, until the forest canopy leafs out. Spring’s ephemerals, irrefutable proof of the new season, will be blanketing the ground. In the woods, spicebush shrubs sport tiny chartreuse flowers, almost the color of fireflies. Their twigs, scraped with a fingernail, give off the healing aroma of benzoin, part of this spring herald’s Latin name.

Signage, flower maps and informed volunteers in their Twinleaf shop will lead you to hepatica, twinleaf, bloodroot, spring beauty, trout lily and early saxifrage (rock-breaker). Bowman’s grounds will soon resemble a studio floor, continuously spattered by some errant artist.

In wettest places, an unmistakable spring herald rises — skunk cabbage. This waxy plant emerges like a monk in a cowl, colors swirling from burgundy to bright green. Skunk cabbage can melt ice, as its flower generates 60 degrees of heat. Its rotting meat scent is purportedly irresistible to pollinators. Which, frankly, are what spring is all about.

Above all, remember: Spring is inevitable. Even when trees remain black and brown. Even under skies that Henry David Thoreau described as “stern” back in his laggard spring in the 1800s. For him, as for us, this season must emerge.

Use all your senses. Watch for pollinators, even houseflies. Listen for wood frogs and peepers. Try to scent spicebush and the loamy perfume of awakening earth. Touch the soft green tips of emergent daffodil or narcissus leaves. Even when everything seems brown and grey and black and taupe, know that spring is being born.

Carolyn Foote Edelmann, a poet, naturalist and community relations associate for the Delaware and Raritan Greenway Land Trust, writes and photographs for NJWildBeauty nature blog (njwildbeauty.wordpress.com).

 

Easter Running of the Bulls, Arles, France

Running of the Bulls

Running of the Bulls – Pamplona, not France

Once upon a time, I lived in Provence, on Observatoire Hill, high above Cannes, and within walking distance of Picasso’s pottery town, Vallauris.  In February, I waked to see, through fragrant blooming mimosa at my bedroom window, the serene but blindingly blue Mediterranean.

In winter, I could see Corsica from that same aperture.  With my passion for Napoleon, seeing his homeland was a thrill.  Even though my neighbors in the villa snorted at all my visits to the Musee Napoleon in nearby Antibes:  “That Corsican!”

My narrow curving balcony was planted with the wild herbs of the “garrigue”, the scrubland, which Provence shares with Corsica.  It’s local nickname is “le Maquis”, which basically means a tangle of nearly impenetrable shrubs and weeds – and gave its name to the noble Resistance in the South of France.

When the wind blows over the garrigue, especially le mistral, it is scented with rosemary, thyme, savory, and something the Provencal call “pebre d’ail.”  My balcony held and transmitted that perfume, by night and by day.

I traveled all I could each day of my year in Provence.  Friends from home came and shared some of those incredible, indelible excursions.

One of the best was my Manhattan roommate from the 60’s, Joan Stouffer, an architect who specialized in historic restorations in Washington D.C.  She was soon to be headhunted from her D.C. firm to work on the Holocaust Museum in Manhattan, returning home to transform the support building for the Museum, which holds all the nuts and bolts of machinery required to keep the Museum functioning.  Joan is now Joan Scharnberg, still my friend since college days at the Detroit Free Press, filling in for vacationing women’s editors.

Joan was graduated from Smith, having spent her junior year studying in Aix.  When she’d be in Paris, the locals would not her Aixoise accent.  I, on the other, hand, this one-year habitant of Provence, has studied French for two college years with a nun who had never left Indiana and never wanted us to.  She certainly hadn’t taught us how to converse with French people, especially not men.  I didn’t know the familiar endings for any of the verbs.  So when my Cannes neighbors began to ‘tutoyer’ me, to use the familiar with me, out of affection, I didn’t know how to do it back.

Joan loved haute Provence, la France profonde, the hill towns, the garrigues, the scruffier and more paysanesque (peasants) the better.  By this time, I had tired of La Cote d’Azur, and was ready for any remote setting Joan desired.

Arles isn’t THAT remote, but it’s OLDE Provence, and very not Cote d’Azur.  We went there for Palm Sunday weekend.  Posters alerted us to a custom we would not miss — the running of the bulls.  We’d both been Hemingway addicts in our teens, so of course we were going to do this.  It wasn’t Pamplona, but we will never forget it.

Arles has many convoluted cobblestoned strees near the Arena, where the bullfights themselves would take place the following day.  It was before noon, long shadows, coolness in the ‘rues” (roadways).  There were pretty flimsy barricades of metal pipes alongside these roads, behind which we took our places – the only Americans we saw or heard.  Everywhere, the young people of Arles began sprinkling each other wildly with flour.

Joan’s perfect French and my insatiable curiosity + Indiana pre-school French, were of absollutely no use.  Not a single person could tell us why.

It was somewhat hilarious.

Boys and girls were running, flinging flour, skidding on the cobblestones, now white as snow.

Then they began cracking fresh raw eggs on one another’s hair, already white as their grandparents’.

Again, our “Comments?” and “Pourquois?” were inutile/useless.

Suddenly, the crowd changed.

It hushed.

People began to move against the ancient walls, tense and all staring in one direction.

A roar went up, such as one hears while a bullfight is going on.

Many young people, mostly garbed in white, now egg-and-flour bedecked, were moving erratically. We pressed up against the metal rods, trying to understand what was taking place.

Black heads, dark horns, glaring eyes, flaring nostrils, huge furry bodies came hurtling toward us. The bulls, also, slipped on the flour, now mixed with raw egg as though for some bizarre cake.  The bulls also began to wound the runners.  Blood on white shirts, white pants.  Blood on the cobblestones, mixing with flour and egg.  Angry bulls, who did not like skidding.  Confused bulls, who reversed partway through this strange corridor, and somehow turned round and kept pouring toward us

This is all I remember, and I have no pictures of my own to share.

Those bulls ultimately ended up at the arena, where they would engage with matadors, toreadors, and picadors the next day.  Yes, to the songs of the opera, Carmen – which had been written about bullfights in France, not in Spain.

Aerial View of Arena, Arles, South of France

Aerial View of Arena, Arles, South of France

Joan would attend the next day’s full bullfight.

I would drive over to Tarascon and Beaucaire, for ancient literary reasons, and on to Maussane, where the Provencal Nobel Prize-winning Poet Frederic Mistral had lived.  I would stand in the shade of Mistral’s trees outside his home, honoring his determination to preserve his true native language, no matter how the French would strive and even battle to take it from these staunch people.

Joan would brave the bullfight entire.

Reunited, we would figure out at last that the entire bullfight had been something of ancient times, purely pagan, an inescapable fertility rite.

A far cry from the Palm Sunday rituals of childhood!

Runner and Bull, Arles, South of France

Runner and Bull, Arles, South of France

Here is a soupcon of a web-explanation, about what we experienced:

Easter Feria in Arles

updated: November 5, 2014

arles feria poster

Arles (13 Bouches-du-Rhone, Provence) starts its bullfighting season with theFeria de Pâques (Easter Festival) from 3-6 April 2015.

Many visitors may feel squeamish or even disapproving about the spectacle of bull-fighting, but it is a long-maintained tradition in Provence and southern France, especially in the Camargue.  You can however still enjoy the spectacle (and avoid the risk of any gore) by seeing the noisy and colourful parades and bull-running through the town. My view is that if you really object to this form of “entertainment” then avoid the area.

The bull-fighting (corrida) takes place in the spectacular Roman Arena in Arles, and there are other options such as the  Course Camargaise, which is another local form of bullfighting without the drawing of any blood.

About course camarguaise:  It is a summer pastime practiced in many small towns around Arles and the area. There are local leagues which are reported in local newspapers..
This different kind of bullfighting is known alternately as “course libre” or “course camarguaise“. This is a bloodless spectacle (for the bulls) in which the objective is to snatch a rosette from the head of a young bull.

The participants, or raseteurs, begin training in their early teens against young bulls from the Camargue region before graduating to regular contests held principally in Arles andNîmes but also in other Provençal and Languedoc towns and villages.


Before the course, anencierro — a “running” of the bulls in the streets — takes place, in which young men compete to outrun the charging bulls. The course itself takes place in a small (often portable) arena erected in a town square.


For a period of about 15–20 minutes, the raseteurs compete to snatch rosettes (cocardes) tied between the bulls’ horns. They don’t take the rosette with their bare hands but with a claw-shaped metal instrument called a raset or crochet(hook) in their hands, hence their name. Afterwards, the bulls are herded back to their pen by gardiens (Camarguais cowboys) in a bandido, amidst a great deal of ceremony. The star of these spectacles are the bulls, who get top billing and stand to gain fame and statues in their honor, and lucrative product endorsement contracts!

See what I mean?  No explanation about the running of the bulls, the flour, the eggs — some mention of blood.  That’s Provence!

Vive la France!