MISSING SUNLIGHT

When it’s this gloomy all day, –when there is no sense that there has ever been a sun, –ever will be a sun, I miss places where the sun was guaranteed:  Provence      Hawaii

Turns out that memories of the American West for me are also light-filled.  My own images from early trips there did not involve electronic cameras.  However, at the Princeton University Art Museum just now, there is a splendid array of The Moderns from the Phillips (Gallery, of Washington, D.C.)  My favorite museum in the capital, Mr. and Mrs. Phillips’ own home, — this haven proves a gateway to the paintings of Bonnard.  No one, –not even Matisse–, equaled this artist, who had lived one hill over from me in my life in Cannes.  Especially, no one seemingly has even attempted light in mimosa, such as he so magnificently evoked in canvas after canvas.

To my delight, amongst European moderns, such as Picasso and Braque, there is a high proportion of American art.  Even a Georgia O’Keeffe I do not know — with a torn red leaf asserting its power despite having been altered…  One of my all-time favorite of our artists is ‘our Turner’, Thomas Moran.  His views in Yellowstone National Park involve all the senses, so that we can nearly hear his waterfalls.

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The West was never easy for me — whether sightseeing or skiing.  Coming from the storied East, where most mountains and rivers involved our War of Independence, and even the tragedy mis-named Civil War – I often felt as dwarfed as the figures in this scene of the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone.

Moran dared another favorite site, Venice.  I remember light there, also, dazzling, more than doubled by all those wrinkling canals.  Especially the Easter morning when I stood alone in St. Mark’s Square, in absolute silence, even to the pigeons.  I hadn’t realized that all the bells of Venice had been silenced on Good Friday, when we’d arrived.  At the moment of dawn, all the bells began their clamor.  The birds rose as one, swirled like sandpipers, in grey clouds, imitating the DNA spiral.  Church bells and wings and the light of a Venice dawn…

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Master of Venice, indeed.  But Moran was most at home in the American West.

And I learned, anew, that one place where one can count on light is inside any art museum, no matter what is going on outdoors in any season.
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Thomas Moran Country

This man can find light even in the most formidable mountain passes.

16am274

 

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Moran’s Dawn at Sea — favorite experience, whether crossing on the France, the Mary, or the QEII.

 

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Essence of Chincoteague – Maritime Museum Part I

Fresnel Light from Assateague at Chincoteague Museum

Fresnel Lens from Assateague’s Light — Absolute Beauty and Lifesaving Usefulness

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Fire Bell Chincoteague Museum

Volunteer Fire Company Bell of Yesteryear

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Vintage Fire Equipment Chincoteague Museum

Historic Artifacts — Chincoteague Pony Swim Funds Fire Company

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Chincoteague Masterpiece Maritime Museum

Chincoteague Masterpiece — Oyster Schooners under Sail

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I'll Take One of Each Chincoteague MuseumI’ll Take One of Each…

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Kind Sign Chincoteague Museum

Chincoteague Casts its Spell

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Wild Ponies Tapestry Chincoteague Museum

Wild Pony Tapestry, Chincoteague Maritime Museum

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Chincoteague Storm Damage Museum

Apocalyptic Storm – Superb Video of Local Heroism

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Decoy Early Chincoteague MuseumPrimitive Decoy

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Misty, Stormy Chincoteague MuseumMisty, Stormy

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Sea's Bounty Chincoteague Museumjpg

Gifts From the Sea

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Phragmities Assateague Light Event Building Chincoteague MuseumFrieze of Phragmites, Events Pavilion, Chincoteague Museum,

Assateague Light in Distance

SERENITY, SPIRITUALITY AND SUN: Remembering Santa Fe & Taos

Brooding Santa Fe Museum of Indian Arts and Culture

Santa Fe Indian Museum, New Mexico Skies

Sometimes, I am compelled to take NJWILDBEAUTY readers into my ‘memory bank’, especially on gloomy New Jersey days.  The entire sky this morning is filmed with grey, –somewhere between fog and soot.   It’s hard for me even to remember sun. But it was ever-present in Santa Fe and Taos in the spring.

StoryTeller Santa Fe Museum of Indian Arts & Culture

STORYTELLER, BY A. E. HOUSER, Santa Fe Indian Museum

Two of ‘my’ Intrepids and I, as you know, undertook a Georgia O’Keefe pilgrimage in Santa Fe and Taos.  Janet Black and Jeanette Hooban were part of this quest. Carolyn Yoder is the fourth — not present in O’Keeffe Country at that time.  Sometimes we call ourselves The Four Musketeers — Janet (of Manhattan) being d’Artagnan; as in not always near enough to partake of every challenge.  All for one and one for all, and always seeking — art, history, courage..

In Houser’s “Storyteller” above, a man’s image of a strong woman inspires us, “stiffens our spines” in the urgent causes on every side in thus 21st Century.

Motherhood Pearl Buck Estate July 2017

Motherhood statue at Pearl S. Buck Estate — Buck adopted six children of mixed race, spent her lifetime insisting  upon honoring what we now call ‘diversity’

Pearl Buck Grave July 2017

“Gone, but Not Forgotten” — Pearl S. Buck’s being and ideals

Here, she rests in her beloved Bucks County, PA,

surrounded by bamboo and lilies.

All four of us, as you well know, require regular doses of strong women, Eleanor (Roosevelt, of course) above all.  Abigail Adams.  Pearl S. Buck.  And Georgia, always Georgia, — modern in art and dress and life, before there was much ‘modern’ in the United States.  As this interweaving of strong women unfolds this morning, I sense that each, that all, would insistently approve of the motto of Al Gore’s splendid new film on climate change: “BE INCONVENIENT!”  (This has become my motto for my upcoming birthday year.”

All of these women lived by strong and high ideals.  Each engendered practical change, against all odds, from the 1700s through the 20th Century.  They stood against prejudice and insularity, for compassion and courage.  They took bold actions; wrote strong words; painted reverberant works to convey the truths by which they lived.  We honor them, especially by visiting their sites, for courage, for being the original Intrepids.

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Augustus St. Gauden’s Statue in Washington D.C., which comforted Eleanor in her travails.

Riverside Park Statue Eleanor Rroosevelt-

Eleanor Roosevelt Memorial, Riverside Park, NYC

Prayer Santa Fe Indian Museum

Prayer, by A. E. Houser: Santa Fe Indian Museum

When I began this blog, I thought it was going to be about wallowing in the wild, complex, ever-changing sunlight on the mountains and adobes of New Mexico.

Adobe Outbuilding Santa Fe Museum of Indian Arts & Culture

Sun on Simple Adobe, so very Georgia! (Indian Museum, Santa Fe)

The Universe had other ideas.  I need to enshroud myself with strength and courage.

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Iconic Georgia O’Keeffe by Alfred Stieglitz from Internet

The world as we know it is being altered exponentially, by political forces seemingly beyond our control.  I’ve ‘been there’ before,   as Hitler, Mussolini and the Japanese sought to rearrange the world.  I never understood how the Germans or the Italians could go along with those tyrants.

It never occurred to me that our own country could be usurped and taken in directions with which most of us do not agree.  Politically and climactically, we are poised to lose everything we hold dear.

Abigail and Eleanor and Pearl and Georgia stood firm against currents of their time.  For women, for freedoms, for children of other lands, for art, for feminine dress itself, in Georgia’s time, and against prejudice..

It’s up to us to do likewise.

Abigail Adams Portrait from Internet

“John, remember the women,” Abigail Adams 1770’s –As Declaration of Independence and our Constitution, were being composed…

In the lexicon of Alfred Stieglitz, publicizing all art, especially Georgia’s, ” The spiritual was opposed to material and modern art was materialism’s antidote,” insists the catalogue from “Georgia O’Keeffe, Living Modern”, [Brooklyn Museum exhibition].  Brilliantly authored by Wanda M. Corn, it goes on to assert that “Stieglitz described his artists, not as ordinary beings, but as gifted modern seers.” He found their avant-garde work “healing and therapeutic for those living in an age dominated by commerce and business.”  

Realize that Stieglitz and O’Keefe’s first command of the art stage took place in the 1920’s!

As the values of our Founding Fathers and Mothers, our powerful authors, out iconic artists are increasingly trampeled, “BE INCONVENIENT!?

The Harsh Southwestern Landscape seems a breeding ground for strength:

Late Afternoon Santa Fe Indian Museum

Poem Written in Lobby of Mass MOCA art museum – A Saga of Transformation

Sunshine at MASS MOCA October 2014

 

MUSEUM LOBBY      (a.k.a. Mass MOCA – Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art)

 

conduits of yesterday-metal

vie with writhings pf formidable tubes

against the striated ceiling

 

columns unretouched in this century

allow the past to bleed through

–here, the hue of Mohawks in rain

–there, the tone of too many tears

 

beams scoured by time

jostle too-shiny

modern replacements

 

I resist descending

this fierce metal stairway

leading to that basement

where factory workers headed

to restrooms lacking all rest

where harshness and high walls

surround sinks that still insult

 

this lobby, capacious and echoing

streams with guests

–eager and savvy

–even the children

skipping toward grim gate and guard

 

everywhere

pillars / ceilings / room dividers

flaunt splotches and scars

vivid as palettes of the brilliant

whose lifework adorns

relentlessly eloquent walls

 

CAROLYN FOOTE EDELMANN

Mother’s Day, 2017

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Factory Wall MASS MOCA October 2014

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Factory Bathroom MASS MOCA

***Factory Washroom MASS MOCA

I actually thanked the Mass MOCA guards for the policy of not retouching the industrial past of this glorious museum, –full-to-the-brim with the most challenging art installations.  They were gratified, especially when I added, “This reality honors all who worked within these walls.  And underscores the powerful meaning of each artist’s work.”

As a creative person, I viscerally feel how stifled those factory workers must have been, laboring deep within these endless, now empty, but then emptying, spaces.

On this week’s Berkshire Journey, I realized that the transformation of Mass MOCA echoes that of the miraculous Michener Museum in Doylestown, –once a prison where my friends (mothers, nursing mothers, grandmothers) were impounded over an entire weekend for daring to lie down in front of bulldozers who would destroy the banks of the Delaware, so that the dread PUMP could be built to deplete our sacred river.

James and Mari Michener’s vision has been realized, that art triumph over incarceration.

I salute all the visionaries who knew that thought-provoking installations could surpass industrial dehumanization.  Being at Mass MOCA is like standing under a shower of fresh mountain waters, mixed with electrifying ions, generous helpings of stardust, and more than a dash of cayenne.

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Campanile MASS MOCA Entry October 2014

PINELANDS ~ PIPELAND: Road to Ruin – Poems of This Imperiled Region

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Pump House, Clouds and Lilies in Waters of Haines Cranberry Bogs, Chatsworth

A trio of poems, arrow’s in this activist’s quiver:

Probably all NJWILDBEAUTY readers know that, last Friday, the Pinelands Commission DARED approve the first pipeline in New Jersey’s Crown Jewel: The Pine Barrens.  This one is “The South Jersey Gas Pipeline Project.”  A pipeline by any name would smell as foul.  The Pinelands Commission was founded to preserve, protect, even enhance this 1.1 million-acre wooded region, sited atop the legendary 17-trillion-gallion Kirkwood-Cohansey aquifer of highest quality water.

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Traditional Cranberry Harvest Tool

 

Former NJ Governors Brendan Byrne, Jim Florio and Christine Todd Whitman joined forces to file a Friend of Court Brief to overturn approval of the Pipeline.  But the forces of greed have won anew, and New Jersey will never be the same.  Our beautiful state is being turned into a Sacrifice Zone, and who is to arrest this destruction?

 

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Essence of the Bogs, Chatsworth

 

Once, I lamented to a caller, “I’m a poet.  What am I doing at the barricades?”  The activist on the other end of the line retorted, “Carolyn, that’s where poets belong.”

I’m not good with barricades.  Although I support and thrill to effective protest marches, they are beyond my physical/spiritual/mental/emotional strength.

 

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Pinelands’ Pristine Tannic Waters, Batsto

The only arrows in my quiver are Pinelands poems.  Here are a few, to remind NJWILDBEAUTY readers of what we are about to forfeit:

This was one of the original “Hot Poems by Cool Women”, a favorite of what we came to see as our poetic groupies, as our various new volumes reached the public through readings:

 

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

 

CAROLYN FOOTE EDELMANN

Cool Women, Volume I

 

RESURGENT

 

I long to slip into
peat water

watch my long legs turn
orange, then burnt sienna
bathed in tannins of old leaves
and newly desiccated needles
having steeped over the centuries
between primordial banks

I belong to the Pines and its peat
whether striding or swimming
requiring levels and mystery
–silent liquidities
–eloquent duskiness
even on bright days

over there, on a low branch
a slim snake twines
somnolent and sure

overhead, in the pine tops
winds echo ocean
near yet far

time keeps these waters warm
enough to welcome legs
too long denied the Pinelands

see how my limbs flicker and flash
–burnished in peatwater
–flames in the depths

CAROLYN FOOTE EDELMANN
US 1 Fiction Issue,

D&R Greenway Poets of Preservation

Written in Princeton Hospital
Immediately post-op  – 11 11 11

CRANAPPLE PIE

 

I’ve gathered apples of our Barrens

to blend with bright cranberries

sparked with honey of dawn’s bees

we two once awakened

on Chatsworth’s sandy dikes

 

I craft a random European tart

— ragged edges, coverless

in honor of your world that I so crave

in memory of ragged days, uncovered nights

 

the luminous glaze

oddly recollects

your ignited gaze

thrown back at me

in this new solitude

 

every inch of rooms you cherished

becomes apple-fragrant

our joyous kitchen above all

 

my fruits become a brigand’s cache

–rubies tossed with fine abandon

as I once flung caution to wild winds

when you stretched out fine hands

luring me, pirate-like, to irresistible back bays

 

CAROLYN FOOTE EDELMANN

                                                Cool Women, Volume Two

 

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Jersey’s Jewels, Sugar Sand, Chatsworth

 

Once, I carried books of others’ poems into hearings at Prallsville Mills, in my futile, idealistic attempt to convince decision-makers not to allow “The Villas of Tuscany”, –currently “Barclay Square” –, towering condos.  to profane our cherished, historic D&R Canal and Towpath.

I read words of Paul Muldoon and Gerry Stern and friends who later became the Cool Women, insisting that art is born in New Jersey beauty.  Trampling her open spaces, defiling sightlines of the canal — for these travesties are visible even deep down upon her waters in a kayak — destroys not only habitat for essential wild creatures.  It also spells the end of inspiration, the cessation of art catalyzed in these storied reaches.

Pipelines are nonessential, destructive, temporary in terms of jobs provided, and threaten ignition of the Pines and fouling of the pristine waters of the Pine Barrens.

Don’t let this happen.  Use whatever arrows are in your quiver to preserve, protect, and even enhance our entire state!

 

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Cranberries on the Vine, Chatsworth

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Pine Barrens Just-Picked Dry-harvested Cranberries as Sauce Extraordinaire, Back Home

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Cranberry Dry Harvest, Early November, 2015

This rich harvest tour took place through Pinelands Adventures: http://www.pinelandsadventures.org;

Which organization has come into being under the auspices of ever-militant, thoroughly vigilant Pinelands Preservation Alliance:  JOIN THEM — they turn around damage to the Pines, week after week after week:  http://www.pinelandsalliance.org

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Batsto Barn – Pine Barrens’ Mercantile History, Legendary Iron Forge Village

Without  “The Iron in the Pines”, from forges such as Batsto and Allaire and Martha’s Furnace, and beyond, George Washington would not have had cannon balls nor wagon wheels for Revolutionary Battles.  Pinelands shipbuilders and ship’s captains effectively fought the British and the Hessians, boldly advertising auctions of stores of captured ships in Philadelphia papers.  Mullica Rivermen rowed with muffled oars to change the course of history.  It is said, we would not have a country without the Mullica, without the Pine Barrens!

 

“Haut les coeurs!” — High the Hearts!, from the French… The Role of Beauty in These Times

When I lived in Cannes, my neighbors of the villa taught me a slogan they were utilizing to get them through their dire campaign involving Le Pen – for which they had to vote three times in the departement of their births, which meant leaving the haven of Provence.

“Haut les coeurs!”, [sounds like “o, liqueurs!”] conveys the sustaining command to hold high our hearts, no matter what.  The French are masters of this art, as their revolutionary scene of Marianne in the midst of the battle, hearteningly conveys.

 

https://i2.wp.com/resources3.news.com.au/images/2013/10/25/1226746/604343-liberty-leading-the-people-marianne.jpg

 

NJWILDBEAUTY readers know that my own heart has been leaden, so that I have not been able summon the Muse to craft new blogs.  A certain level of joie de vivre is essential to these ‘pages’, a joie seriously lacking.  My heart does not even  feel red any longer — rather, the grey/yellow-green of this morning’s discouraging sky.

 

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“Willow, Weep For Me”, Spring Lake, Abbott Marshlands, January 20, 2017

 

A British friend writes us, warning that we not “fall into the Slough of Despond.”  A kind of “Pilgrim’s Progress” is our plan this day, although it’s too late about the falling.  My friend’s warning is timely and urgent – that we not descend further; above all that we do not wallow.  Attention to the beautiful and the wild, she urges, has never been more important.  I’m considering this, considering…

 

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Beckoning Tree, Spring Lake, Abbott Marshlands, January 20, 2017

 

France’s Marianne, with her brave, billowing Tricoleur [flag] sustains me in these times.  Although we choose somewhat different garb, her spirit is required now.  We of this young country would call it “The Spirit of ’76”.

All my life, I’ve carried the spirit of our true Patriots, our Founding Fathers and Mothers.

But now — this recent scene in Trenton’s Abbott Marshlands is the world I deplore and dread — sheer desecration of our wild and sacred spaces:  We can expect far more than this — the visible and the invisible — as with pipelines beyond counting.

 

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Present, at the Marsh.   Future, as we move on from this day.  Note small sign honoring habitat and the creatures whom we stand to lose…

And, to forge my way out of the Slough of Despond, I begin balancing images from this Abbott Marshlands pilgrimage upon “Inauguration” Day.  You’ll see that even in an overcast time, even when muddy trails greet hikers, beauty prevails.

But birding is why we are here.  Susan Burns, –indispensable Willing Hands (volunteer) at D&R Greenway events–, does so to save habitat, for birds in particular.  Here, she’s memorizing subtle gadwalls; dapper northern pintails, merry black and white coots; interspersed with jazzy orange, forest green and new-snow-white shovelers, — the rare ducks of winter — on waterways of the Marsh. 

 

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Susan Burns Intent Upon Rare Winter Ducks at Abbott Marshlands

 

Regarding the next image, Susan and (other birding friends and) I never know whose side we’re on.   “Nature raw in tooth and claw” is why we SAVE wildlands!  That balancing act, where everything cycles into use and blessing for everything else.  She and I conclude that this raptor must have been a great horned owl…  These clusters punctuate our waterside trail, followed by lacings of “whitewash” — excretions — typical of owls.  Of course, we’ll never know.  But without this preserved wild natural habitat, neither owls nor prey could survive.

 

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The Way of the Wild, Abbott Marshlands

 

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Beavers’ Breakfast, Abbott Marshlands

 

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Beaver Point, on the Yellow Trail, Abbott Marshlands

 

In the Marsh, Nature’ processes, –almost invisible, way beyond time–, are at work on every side.  Here we marvel at the splendid tapestry of fungus performing its slow transformative service upon the majestic felled beech.  Susan and I insist, — yes, aloud, yes, to the tree — “You are beautiful, imposing, arresting, even in death!”

 

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Beech Fungus, felled beech, Abbott Marshlands

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Beech Fungus at Work near Beaver Point

 

Preservationists “pay any price, bear any burden” [JFK Inauguration] to save land and water to foster slow and sacred processes in force since before time itself.

Historians now grant Dr. Charles Conrad Abbott every honor for realizing and daring to state that artifacts he discovered in this Marsh give evidence of Lenape presence and use for 10,000 years and more! 

But Nature’s actions and interactions have been dynamically present here far far far far longer.  Who are WE to intrude, let alone arrest or destroy>

 

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Weeds Evoke my Mood, Spring Lake, Abbott Marshlands

 

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Weeds Surpass my Mood, Spring Lake, Abbott Marshlands

 

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Nature’s Mourning

 

We are told that the Lenapes named this Spring Lake in their own far more beautiful language, because it was born of a spring.  We are also told that the beavers were the engineers…

In its center, though invisible to my camera, are coots, gadwalls, pintails, shovelers and a plethora of gulls.  Over our heads here and at another watery site deep into our journey, we were circled and circled by an enormous mute swan.  It may be mating season — he sure acts like it.  We decided that this swan, circling us at least six times, was a teen-ager in a white convertible, cruising as did my best friends and I along Detroit’s Woodward Avenue in our teens.  That swan was simply displaying how spectacular he is, how absolutely irresistible.

It is so still in the Marsh, that we were overwhelmed by the irreplaceable whisper/roar [a kind of ‘whuff whuff whuff’] of air in the mute swan’s wings.

 

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“All will be well. All manner of things will be well.” Julian of Norwich — Spring Lake, Abbott Marshlands

WINTER BIRDING AT THE BEACH ~ Sandy Hook, January 6

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Sandy Hook, Sandy Hook Bay, Spermaceti Cove on our  January Birding Day

Epiphany, indeed!   Actually, multiple epiphanies on the purported day of the Three Kings’ visit to the manger…

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Two Seasons, near Salt Pond, Sandy Hook, January 6, 2017

O.K., it snowed all night.  Who cares?

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Where The Rabbit Ran… near Salt Pond, Sandy Hook, January 6, 2017

There is nothing more thrilling than finding first tracks in fresh snow or upon tide-compressed sand.

And, yes, it’s cold and windy — so much the BETTER!

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The King of the Foxes — Where the Fox Sips, Spermaceti Cove, Sandy Hook, January

I’m beginning to think that winter is the BEST time for adventures!

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Kathleen and Jim Amon, Studying Buffleheads, Mergansers, Brant and a Lone Red-Breasted Loon in Winter Plumage

Come with Kathleen and Jim Amon, of Lambertville, (and me).  These friends are key birders, both fine artists — Jim with a one-man exhibition into early February at D&R Greenway of his magnificent butterfly studies.  Jim is my former colleague (Director of Stewardship at D&R Greenway Land Trust).  He also supports the Sourlands Conservancy, and writes marvelous nature articles under the heading, “Seeing the Sourlands.” Both are also impassioned about food, which you know key to my nature quests.

Yes, stroll with us along the northernmost barrier beach of New Jersey early on a January Friday morning.

As you can see from my intent friends above, –wild winds, recent snow, a nearby bay, and a few salt ponds over which increasing gusts were gusting, mean nothing.

Gear is essential.  Fashion is not.  Windproofed everything is worth its weight in gold.

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Essential ‘Gear’ for Birding in All Seasons – David Alan Sibley’s Masterworks

O, yes, and having memorized most of the texts of these books, and possessing decent optics.  As NJWILDBEAUTY readers know, an amazing friend recently gave me her second set of Swarovski binoculars.  Kathleen Amon had just purchased the identical ‘species’.  Here she is using them for the first time, astounded by subtleties revealed.  These ‘glasses’ are beyond price.  No gift of my life, (including rare jewels from my ex-husband) surpasses them in importance.

At my bird-feeder at home, my amazing Swarovskis, I swear, let me absorb the personality and character of feeding goldfinches from the look in their eyes!

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Female American Goldfinch (NJ STATE BIRD) on Seed Sack by Fine Art Photographer, Friend: Brenda Jones

Other essentials, — which I am sure all my NJWILDBEAUTY readers possess, include curiosity, passion, enthusiasm, persistence, courage, and a certain level of fitness – which as you know Peroneus Longus  (that pesky left-leg tendon) does not always provide.

‘Perry’ was a brat last week at Island Beach.  But we worked him into cooperation any number of times.  At Sandy Hook, –taped anew by my legendary chiropractor, Brandon Osborne of Hopewell– Peroneus behaved like a perfect gentleman.  So he moved into Jim Amon’s league…

O, yes, the ankle tape this week is the color of tomato soup before you add milk.  It sports white writing all over everywhere, shouting “ROCK TAPE”, over and over and over.

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Jim and Kathleen Amon, intent upon buffleheads, Spermaceti Cove, at Sandy Hook, January 6, 2017

Never mind rocks.   Give me sand and snow!

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Brooding Wetland, Spermaceti Cove, Sandy Hook in January

The purpose of our jaunt, which we’d determined to take come rain or snow or sleet or hail, — well, almost… — was to acquaint Jim and Kathleen with all the bird ops at Sandy Hook.

To show them where the green heron lurks in summer:

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Green Heron, Brenda Jones

Where the great egret feeds on the incoming tide…

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Great Egret by Brenda Jones

Where the ospreys soar, court, mate, build nests, raise hefty young, and perform impressive exchanges, as both parents tend first eggs, then chicks.

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Osprey by Brenda Jones

Well, you get the idea.

Every time I introduce anyone to Sandy Hook, there is great attraction to, and concern for, the yellow houses left from “the Hook’s” military past.  Time has had its way with them.

Sandy, the Storm, was doubly merciless — waves crashing in from the Atlantic and others rising with menace from all-too-near Sandy Hook Bay.

These houses, upon whose chimneys ospreys delight to nest and successfully raise young, are finally being restored!

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Restoration of the Yellow Houses

Everyone muses, in the presence of the battered yellow house, upon stories these dwellings could tell.

Three of these haunting structures had become impeccable, after all these ruinous decades. The northernmost restoration now sports a FOR RENT sign in its front window.  The one beyond that had its door open, a workman in a hard hat entering with urgency.  Across from their porches, one faces Sandy Hook Bay, bird-rich, to be sure.  Also frequently crossed by the ferry to Manhattan…

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New Ad for Yellow Houses, up near North Beach and Hawk Watch Platform

Oh, yes, and what birds did we find?

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Common Merganser Female by Fine Art Photographer/Friend, Ray Yeager

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Hooded Merganser, Ray Yeager

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Male Bufflehead, Ray Yeager

Brant Goose Drinking Barnegat

Brant, by Brenda Jones

What did we see that we did not expect?  I had jokingly mentioned, as we faced salt ponds awash in the dapper and compelling ducks of winter, “With any luck, we’ll have a red-throated loon in winter plumage…   Of course, that means he won’t have a red throat.”

This is just one of the many complexities of the birder’s life.  If you cannot stand contradictions (such as the black-bellied plover in winter plumage who has white belly), don’t bird.

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Red-throated Loon in Winter Plumage from Internet: Cornell Ornithology Lab

What had we expected to find, but didn’t have enough time on the ocean side?

Long-tailed ducks out beyond the third waves…

Ray Yeager is a master at finding and immortalizing long-tails, so this image will have to do for all of us.

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Lon-tailed duck, male, by Ray Yeager

What do I remember from my November visit, [that did not happen in January]– every brant on the salt ponds catapulted into the air by horrific military noise from two officious helicopters.

‘The Hook’ has been military since the War of 1812, even though “no shot has been fired in anger”, as they say, along those splendid sands.

I’m supposed to feel secure and protected in the presence of the military, but the opposite is my truth.  Such intrusions cannot be good for the birds..

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All the Brant of Sandy Hook’s Salt Pond, Fleeing Cacophonous Helicopters, November 2016

Sandy Hook is so special, even the poison ivy is beautiful.  This November scene reminds us

(1) Winter Birding is full of riches, worth all the risks and potential discomforts.

(2) Rejoice that these preserves exist.  Do everything in your power to see that they persist, for the wild creatures above all, and for human epiphanies!

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Poison Ivy Still Life, November 2016