“I MUST GO DOWN TO THE SEA, AGAIN!”

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Fellowship and Solitude, Walking South along Island Beach Sands

I MUST GO DOWN TO THE SEA AGAIN

“…to the lonely sea, and the sky…

and all I ask is a tall ship

and a star to steer her by…”

The stars we seek at Island Beach usually have wings:

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Long-tailed Drake, Winter Sea, Island Beach, by Angela Previte

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Rare Snow Buntings of Late December, by Angela Previte

PROFOUND THANKS TO ANGELA PREVITE FOR HER FELLOWSHIP AND HER AMAZING GIFT WITH THE SEA CREATURES OF ISLAND BEACH!

 

Today is spring, spring in a time of plague. I don’t know it at first, waking… This morning, I first heard John Masefield’s treasured “SEA FEVER”, repeating and repeating, –as song, as message.  There was a significance in his masterpiece which I could not, at first, decipher.

                        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.
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First Day of the New Year in Stunning, Impeccable New Jersey

I don’t need Masefield’s ship. The sea alone will do. Or even the Bay, Barnegat Bay.

Exquisite Barnegat Bay Island Beach April

Our electrifying, infinite, luminous Atlantic. And that ten pristine miles, of dune and bayberry and lichen and beach plum and even ferns, overlooked by osprey nests beyond counting, — our sacred Island Beach.

First Osprey on Nest Island Beach April 2016

This magnificent park, with some exceptions in terms of structures, has never been altered, -by anything but winds and sands and waters of varying salinity-, since the Atlantic pulled back to grant us this noble beach.

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Autumn Meets Winter, December Froth and Seaweed

My sea is different from John’s in other ways. Cornwall’s rocky coasts inspired him, and their “warm winds, the west winds, full of birds’ cries.”  Several of our Delaware Valley Impressionists immortalized Cornwall and can be seen at Doylestown’s Michener Museum in virusless times.  Cornwall’ tumultuous ocean captivates me beyond words, and not only because of King Arthur. Think Maine toppled upon Oregon, and add the British variety of oystercatchers ‘peopling’ crevices among those rocks.

But the gift of our Atlantic is sand, magnificent sand. Jerseyans proudly call it ‘sugar sand’.

Bare Feet of April Island Beach 2016

Bare Feet in April Sand, Island Beach

Those who know me, know that fellowship is huge for me, especially where sea is concerned.  Here is Ray Yeager, master nature photographer, in his favorite setting — Bayside:

Ray Yeager in his Element Barnegat Bay Island Beach April

Jeanette Spizzle Creek Trail Island Beach April 2016

Here, Jeanette Hooban considers which turn to take on the Spizzle Creek Trail. You won’t be surprised that she and Ray and I fully explored both options.

Fox Farewell Island Beach April 2016

Sometimes, our fellowship has four legs – though we are sad at the health situation of this noble fox. Humans feeding foxes ruin their immune systems. Yet, we were honored.

 

First Moss of Spring Island Beach April 2016

April was cold that year, and we were desperate for green. Healthy real moss where it’s always belonged, coming back to life, on Reed’s Road.

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“Artist-in-Residence” – Compass Grass on the Oceanside, Island Beach, New Year’s Morning

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Jeanette, Barefoot, New Year’s Morning, 2017

The Old and The New Island Beach April 2016

You can see that ‘the ocean’/’the sea’ means many things to me.

Realize that when I first read Masefield, this Michigander had not met the sea.

Masefield at dawn today revealed something I did not realize:

In this time of Corona-House-Arrest,

what I miss most is the POSSIBILITY of BEING WITH THE SEA.

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.

Pinterest and a Facebook Group on Travel in South Jersey return me to a major haven: Turkey Point, the Glades Refuge, in the Delaware Bayshores

Turkey Point – njwildbeauty

Pinterest Image Someone Else Kindly Shared of Fisherman on Turkey Point Bridge

Late this night, I Googled my own blog, so I can add something nurturing/nourishing to counter our 21st-century plague. How startling that the first reference was this picture I’d taken a few summers ago, while birding the Delaware Bayshores.  But it was put there on Pinterest, by a woman who’s part of a group of people who cherish South Jersey.

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Simplicity, Infinity, Waterways, Solitude, Emptiness, Osprey Nests: Turkey Point

I’m intrigued that she chose Turkey Point. This site is subtle but exquisite. The clump of trees in HER Pinterest scene, –studded with rustic dwellings at the far horizon is Fortescue, an atmospheric fishing-excursion village beloved of South Jersey birders, as well as by fishermen and women.

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Silent Laughing Gulls on the Turkey Point Bridge, Glades Refuge and Fortescue 

I remember Fortescue for my first-ever boat-tailed grackle, –noble, silent, imposing, flashes of iridescent blue –as though in a tuxedo! Far cry from everyday grackles exploring shopping center grasses. And the horeseshoe crabs – at and after that full moon in May-, studding Fortescue’s narrow sands. Prehistoric-seeming, tank-like ancient creatures Laying pearlescent yet light green eggs all over everywhere. A few vivid ruddy turnstones, scatterings of scarce red knots, and hilariously commenting laughing gulls gorging themselves on all sides. A miracle that noble legislation to forbid harvesting horseshoe crabs in New Jersey is managing to preserve, at least for now.

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No Such Thing as Too Many Preservation Signs in Our Beleaguered New Jersey!

Infinity exists at Turkey Point and Fortescue. The Delaware Bay looks like forever. And swans are so very much at home at The Point. You can stand on this fishing bridge; climb the wildlife observation platform; look very far in all directions, –everywhere spared the man-made.

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A Gathering of Swans, Turkey Point

I first met this region during one of Cape May Observatory’s legendary winter raptor festivals. Two things seem inevitable throughout that weekend — wild temperatures (as in 20 degrees in 20-mph winds) and eagles everywhere.

Great Ducks of Sundown Cumberland County March 2015

Also, great people. Whether you’re out on a point with naturalists whose multi-thousand-dollar optics are intently trained on courtship at a nest; or in the firehouse of Mauricetown with locals and distance-arriving birders, –eating of all things clam chowder with a doughnut and tough coffee for breakfast; or sitting in on lectures by your favorite naturalists — it’s as though the best people ever are gathered indoors and outdoors for the raptors.

Final Eagle's Nest Strawberry Lane Cumberland New Year's Eve

Final Eagle’s Nest of Day, on left, Leaving Turkey Point, near Shellpile and Bivalve

My husband had insisted on our living in New Jersey. My ancestors had founded towns in Connecticut and Massachusetts; I truly expected, after those Mayo Clinic years, to return to Foote origins. Princeton town and gown helped me begin to need New Jersey.

Resident Great Blue Heron Turkey Point Salem Cumberland New Year's Eve

Wouldn’t you JUST go ANYWHERE for a MOMENT like THIS?!

But it was South Jersey in general, (Pine Barrens), then Salem and Cumberland Counties and the BAY, that tipped me over. I mean, I am as exhilarated by these places as I am by Provence and Cornwall.

Fortescue New Year's Eve Salem Cumberland

Fortescue and Delaware Bay on New Year’s Eve

Perfect scene to begin a year…

Right now, because of an omnipotent virus, nobody can go anywhere.

Pristine Sand Fortescue Cumberland County March 2015

PRISTINE SAND AT FORTESCUE

But I can be a tourist among my own pictures and show you why we have to do everything we can, –as D&R Greenway Land Trust is doing in mid-Jersey–, to save the marshy reaches tide-nourished by Delaware Bay.

Female Turkey Turkey Point Cumberland County March 2015

AND, YES, THERE ARE EVEN WILD TURKEYS AT TURKEY POINT – TAKEN FROM CAR

Fresh Shellpath Cumberland County March 2015

EVEN THE PATHWAYS ARE BEAUTIFUL AT TURKEY POINT!

 

 

Party Confession

woven image of champagne flutes

O.K., I admit it — I love solitude.

But, as a Sagittarian, I choose it – do not demand it of me!

The globe and a virus have altered everyone’s reality.

Every few minutes, the Internet brings new proscriptions.

Even Moses came back from the burning bush bearing only twelve!

 

Here’s my confession: I almost went to a party. A number of friends live near me, so don’t try to guess:

Someone wrote: “Why don’t you walk over and bring your champagne glass. We’ll sit six feet apart on my outdoor chairs and have bubbly.”

“GREAT!,” I wrote. “I can bring almonds and olives.”

“FINE!,” she answered, “I have pate.” [I surely never thought of pate on my one grocery run.]

And we set it up and the night came and a call came with this most unusual revelation:

“It’s 40-&*()^%$# degrees! We’re not doing this!”

So we set it up a few days hence.

The morning of Party Plan II, our Governor, [who has been doing a superb job of managing these dire realities, despite recent surgery of his own], announced his displeasure with a number of local parties having defied his “social distancing” mandate. I think there was mention of the National Guard.

So I wrote my prospective hostess with this information.

“We’ll be six feet apart!,” she protested.

“I know. And you know, I really love going places with you. But I don’t want to become your cell mate!”

We had the heartiest laughter of the Corona saga.

But we didn’t have our champagne.

What would YOU have done?

 

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“When the world is too much with me…”

Audubon yellow-throated-vireo-final

 

Well, maybe this isn’t the appropriate plaint.  It’s not the world that’s too much – it’s these current threats and realities.

Most especially am I stunned by grouches encountered on a prescribed sunny day’s stroll in a nearby preserve.  Not a wing was to be seen over that meadow.  And o, my! — far too many people:  new to those reaches; , not trusting regulars; refusing to smile; some even glowering…   First time I’ve been worse off AFTER a walk than without one!

Then there’s the problem of my current escape reading:

Wouldn’t you think Audubon’s Art and Nature would be ideal?

What is the first poem I come to, –facing John James’ compellingly simple image of the yellow-throated vireo, singing his heart out to what seems a flawless hydrangea?

 

SONNET TO SOLITUDE

O SOLITUDE! if I must with thee dwell

Let it not be among the jumbled heap

Of murky buildings.  Climb with me the steep, —

Nature’s observatory — Whence the dell,

In flowery slopes, its river’s crystal swell,

May seem a span; let me thy vigils keep

‘Mongst boughs pavilion’d, where the

deer’s swift leap

Startles the wild bee from the foxglove bell.

 

Many poets are within this treasured volume, by no means only Keats.

Interesting that my current hero gets it about the importance of climbing (or walking into) “Nature’s observatory”…   I’ll just have to try a different preserve!

Yellow-throated vireo photograph from internet

 

 

 

 

IDEAL ESCAPE — Yeats’ Lake Isle of Innisfree

Dear friend, Jeanette Hooban, home from recent far-flung travels which included Ireland, sent me her picture of the birthplace of William Butler Yeats.  Stunning to think that, without that humble abode, I would not have one my all-time favorite poems.

Copying it to send to Jeanette, suggesting that we two re-read Yeats in this isolate time, and write to each other about favorites, I realize – THIS is where I’d like to be in a time of microbes! Where do YOU wish YOU were?

Lake Isle of Innisfree with castle

Surely, the risk of Corona-ruin is minimal at Yeats’ Isle.  Othewise, , what a way to go!

The Lake Isle of Innisfree

I will arise and go now, and go to Innisfree,
And a small cabin build there, of clay and wattles made;
Nine bean-rows will I have there, a hive for the honey-bee,
And live alone in the bee-loud glade.
And I shall have some peace there, for peace comes dropping slow,
Dropping from the veils of the morning to where the cricket sings;
There midnight’s all a glimmer, and noon a purple glow,
And evening full of the linnet’s wings.
I will arise and go now, for always night and day
I hear lake water lapping with low sounds by the shore;
While I stand on the roadway, or on the pavements grey,
I hear it in the deep heart’s core.
***
Somewhere, –being deeply infused with matters Thoreauvian–, I read that Yeats wrote this about Thoreau’s year (well, two years compressed into one) at Walden. Hence the ‘nine bean rows’, which ultimately became too much for Thoreau in his haven.
Lake Isle of Innisfrfee with canoe
This is a boat near Yeats’ paradise. Henry’s joy was boating on Walden pond, even playing his flute for the fish.
Lake Isle of Innisfree Scene

“On Homecoming and Belonging” – subtitle of Sebastian Junger’s TRIBE

Once upon a time, ‘we few, we band of brothers”… and sisters, banded together for a vital cause.

Patriots' Flag Chestnut Neck Revolutionary War Monument Winter 2017

In my eighth decade, even remembering Pearl Harbor and hearing too much about the Great Depression, I do not have a sense, –ever before–, of being as baffled as I am about life in America. I turn to Sebastian Junger’s recent little masterpiece – for words upon the flyleaf alone:

“We have a strong instinct to belong to small groups defined by clear purpose and understanding: TRIBES. This tribal connection has been largely lost in modern society. Regaining it may be the key to… survival.”

I wonder if the author realizes he is a prophet.

He starts us right out with Benjamin Franklin’s lament that English settlers were “constantly fleeing over to the Indians — but Indians almost never did the same…”

Junger insists that “tribal society has been exerting an almost gravitational pull on Westerners for hundreds of years. The reason lies deep in our evolutionary past as a communal species.”

Some of my friends now, and my little sister and I always, back in Michigan, really really wanted to be Indians. Even the friend born in Germany, but nourished upon The Last of the Mohicans. We had headdresses. Moccasins.

StoryTeller Santa Fe Museum of Indian Arts & Culture

Houser Mother and Child, Santa Fe, New Mexico

This longing for tribal reality is surfacing now, in the face of this dire global plague. People with no obvious connection are reaching out heroically to one another. Kind shoppers smiling and saying on my only shopping run, “Here, let me get that for you.” A neighbor stopping by with six eggs of her dozen this morning. My computer wizard, finding out that my printer won’t pull in paper, writes at 8 this morning, “I will bring you mine.” And he did. And it works. A Target employee gives my college roommate and her Alzheimer’s husband (who cannot go to daycare and cannot be left home alone) “the largest possible single pack of toilet paper; ditto of paper towels; and one sealed canister of wipes.”

I’m expecting Junger to write a sequel – “How a virus brought back tribal consciousness in the 21st Century.”

“Men who go down to the sea in ships” all along America’s coasts, belong to a noble tribe, full of courage and outstanding unity. This at the Assateague lighthouse:

Assateague Memorial to Watermen

My real-life friends and colleagues know, I’m always looking for the gift. Even in this nightmare. Here are some Junger insights that might help us not only recognize gifts, but increase them:

“Our entire existence may be a seeking of/for communion.”

Junger defines connection (which describes my “Caring Corps” who pulled me through last spring’s hip replacement)   as “a situation of collective healing — some pros; most devoted amateurs.”

He describes “the most dangerous loss generated by our addiction to ‘prosperity'” as communion.

Junger mourns that “America lacks a shared ethic of trying to protect something.”

What’s relevant this day, 3/20/2020, Junger insists, is that “Disasters thrust people into a more ancient organic way of relating, allowing humans to experience immensely reassuring connection to others; bringing back ancient human virtues of courage, loyalty and selflessness.”

TRIBE – Santa Fe, New Mexico

Late Afternoon Santa Fe Indian Museum

I salute Sebastian Junger’s courage in daring to speak these truths, including – unlike our Indians – “The U.S.A. suffers from a massive devaluation of its warriors.”

How are these truths resonating around you, everyone, as various states impose the equivalent of house arrest?

How are you finding yourselves unexpectedly nourished, far beyond supermarkets and big box stores?

Junger’s most daring phrase is on the second to the last page: “…True leadership, the kind that lives depend on, may require powerful people to put themselves last.”

“Belonging to society requires sacrifice; and that sacrifice gives back way more than it costs.”

“Solidarity is the core of what it means to be human… It may be the only thing that allows us to survive.”

***

I personally find it ironic that the name of the virus is “Corona” …another word for “crown.” Our founding fathers, mothers and writers launched a successful revolution to free us from the tyranny of a crown.

This crisis may truly be our greatest opportunity.

This sign is in the museum on Chincoteague, which, with its barrier island, Assateague, had just survived somehow a massive hurricane that tumbled houses like Mononopoly pieces. This actually could be the American Dream.

Kind Sign Chincoteague Museum

 

 

 

 

 

Natural Havens in a Time of Plague

“The woods are lovely, dark and deep” – Robert Frost’s prescription in a time of plague:

Sourlands Rocks 08 08

OUR Sourlands, courageously preserved and so nearby, above Hopewell (New Jersey)

There isn’t any cure for this virus. But there are antidotes.

They have always existed, but techno-reality causes us to forget them.

They’re provided by NATURE. And, luckily, they’re near.

Take as needed! At least once a day.

Perhaps a gift of this crisis is to lower the number of Last Child[ren] in the Woods, as Richard Louv brilliantly warned us, too long ago.

Marsh Marigold in bloomThis is what’s going on over at Bowman’s Hill Wildflower Preserve right now. It’s called spring. Bowman’s office and restrooms cannot be open by decree. But their trails are.

And when I hiked there before all this distancing, –social and otherwise–, even bluebells were erupting alongside their wood-chip-cushioned trails.

Sandy Hook Jim Kathleen Amon Spermaceti Cove Boardwalk Jan 2017

This is how Sandy Hook looks at 20 degrees – when intense birders (and seal-seekers) will brave almost anything to be in wild nature.

Plainsboro Preserve Trail early spring

This is our D&R Canal Towpath alongside Carnegie Lake in Princeton. D&R Greenway Land Trust, where I work, was founded in 1989 to save these stretches of land and water. Now we’re up to 22,000 acres. And every outdoor inch of trails contributes to mental, physical and spiritual health.

Rock as Smiling Dolphin Sourlands 08 08

This is what my children named “Mr. Smiley Face” long ago. He beams at entry to my favorite Sourland Mountain Trail, off Greenwood Avenue above Hopewell.  D&R Greenway has spent the years since 1989 preserving as much as possible of Sourland wilderness – key water source for millions, and essential migratory habitat in spring and fall for neotropical warblers (birds).

Jeanette Beachcombing Assateague

This is my dear friend, Jeanette Hooban, at her favorite past-time, beachcombing. She’s seeking shell beauty along preserved Assateague Island.  We but we share this passion for empty sands at Island Beach, at Sandy Hook, Spring Lake, Cape May; and Chatham and Wellfleet and Provincetown, Cape Cod. We are blessed in our time that beaches have been preserved. Now let them preserve us!

Where the Martins Roost Cruise

This beauty is ours when purple martins gather, –literally by millions–, alongside the Maurice River, preparing for ultimate migration in autumn. They are joined by their relative swallows and by osprey beyond counting.

Purple Martin Cruise August 2017 008

This is key birder and dear friend, Anne Zeman, of Kingston preservations fame. Here, she is intent upon all those martins, –swirling and rising then settling onto reeds. Then rising again, –as darkness brings more and more winged miracles. She and I will keep prescribed distance between us this weekend, but we will share Nature.

One of the miracles of Nature time is that such wondrous images are fed into our mental treasuries. So does Nature heal us, in the seeking and in remembering.

Everyone, to your Health! You know how to preserver it!

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