The Inimitable Alice!
The Inimitable Alice!
Delaware, the River, and the Official Riverkeeper — Tale of Christmas and Courage
Christmas is a time for every citizen in our country and everywhere, to remember:
without the Delaware River, there wouldn’t BE an America.
This post celebrates a mightily courageous woman — Maya von Rossum — the official Delaware Riverkeeper. She’s articulate, accurate, and brilliant. Following her blog, or attending to local news media night after night, readers marvel at Maya’s steady focus on the many perils of our boundary water, and what must be done to reverse them. Some situations are obvious and seemingly internal: like pollution, stormwater run-off, animal wastes and fertilizer poisoning by nearby farms. One, which I fought to prevent, is artificially emptying her to cool a nuclear power plant. Other dangers are less visible, certainly far more difficult to describe — matters political. Listen with me to our spokeswoman, what she has to say about our river, our country, our freedom in these times. AND THE IMPORTANCE OF SPEAKING OUT.
Thomas Paine exemplified the utmost daring and determination in his diatribes, polemics, books and pamphlets in the time of the American Revolution. It is the essence of the country our Founding Fathers dared all to create, that vox populi — the Citizen’s Voice — is to be encouraged and heeded so that liberty may truly exist.
Thomas Jefferson felt the war could never have been won without Paine’s words. It is no accident that his most famous book is Common Sense.
NJWILDBEAUTY long-time readers, –especially those who came aboard when this was a Packet Publications Blog, NJWILD –, know that I’ve been fighting for the well-being of our magnificent Delaware River since I moved to New Hope from Princeton in March of 1981. I used postcards of the painting above to announce my change of address.
That essential move across the river plunged me right into her perils. Forces of greed, (though we did not bandy about that phrase in those days), a.k.a. PECO (Pennsylvania’s PSEG) and chemical firms, lawyers and judges, far-seeing realtors wanted to insert a pump into the Delaware. To remove unconscionable amounts from this already too-thin river, and pump them to the Susquehanna River, where Del’s water would be used to cool a nuclear power plant. A fierce protest group, Del-AWARE formed. A newspaper was generated. The printed word, the spoken word, and especially the televised word brought us national coverage in our battle for the river.
Our strategy meetings were held at a rather disreputable tavern, [Applejack’s – is it still there?] –appropriately upriver, on the river, above New Hope. Remember that taverns were the meeting sites in the 1770s, where our seemingly impossible American Revolution unfolded. I always picture early patriots, including Tom and John and George and Ben at Philadelphia’s City Tavern, banging pewter tankards on rough wooden tables, asserting “Give me LIBERTY or give me DEATH!”
In the 1980’s, near Lumberville, PA, just north of New Hope, my own friends, — women, including nursing mothers and venerable grandmothers–, lay down in front of the bulldozers set loose to ruin the river environment— lay down to save the river, and were jailed at what is now the Michener Museum. For some reason, no one at that Bucks County penal institution seemed to have heard of the writ of habeas corpus, so those women were jailed for the entire weekend! Patriots, indeed! I think of this every time I view Delaware River Impressionists honored on the Michener’s former prison walls.
I love our river even more than I cherish our state. But I couldn’t lie down in front of bulldozers. However, I could write. I penned poems such as “I am The River Speaking” and “To Val (Sigstedt) and the Valorous” to be published in the DEL-AWARE newspaper. One, written when the forces of greed blasted the river during the shad run, [and Nature generated a powerful mud-slide right across from the site of the proposed PUMP], ends, “Blast ME? I’ll show YOU power!”
[To read the poems, here’s an earlier post with both in it:https://njwildbeauty.wordpress.com/2016/04/15/dump-the-pump-fighting-for-the-delaware-river-with-poems/comment-page-1/%5D
One feels so hopeless in the force of these impassive official corporate forces. But I could also write prose, –especially letters to editors of Bucks County and Philadelphia Newspapers. And, each week, in Doylestown, as a volunteer, I penned position papers, releases and speeches for Congressional candidate, Peter Kostmayer. Peter ultimately would see to it that our Del was named Wild and Scenic, for as much of her imperiled length as could possibly qualify. He also played a major role in stopping the Tocks Island Dam Project. I’d write truths about the essentiality of saving our river one day, and see them on Page One of the Philadelphia Inquirer, as headlines, the next day.
THEN, as NOW, WORDS MATTERED – but they must be conveyed to the broadest possible public.
We succeeded in returning Peter to office, despite mockery, fury, insults, dirty tricks – like wording the Dump the Pump referendum backwards, so we had to vote YES to mean NO PUMP. We won the May referendum to prevent the building of the PUMP.
After which, I moved to France. Upon my return, the PUMP was in place. It had been a non-binding referendum. Let the protestors beware… However, our battle kept the greedy group from fulfilling their original plan to remove 200 million gallons a day from the River of the Revolution!
It’s almost Christmas, 1916. Grave changes are afoot in our country, which could result in negative changes far more perilous and long-lasting than the Delaware’s unwelcome PUMP.
It’s also almost the anniversary of George’s famous Crossing, to win the two battles of Trenton and the one battle of Princeton. Never forget that the third of our first victories took place in Princeton, near the Clarke House, near the Institute for Advanced Study [who have finally bowed to protests and will not be developing acres of that sacred battlefield.]
Soon we can attend the annual re-enactment at Washington’s Crossing on the Delaware below New Hope. There might be enough water in our river, after all, despite this serious drought year. People who live near major rivers know truths despite increasing insistence that global warming is a myth. For awhile, it looked as though this year’s Re-enactors would have to walk across.
Without the Delaware River, and her bounty of shad, according to Founding Fish author John McPhee, which fed our meagerly-clad-and-nourished officers in winter quarters, WE WOULD NOT HAVE A NATION.
Because of the Delaware River, we are the only state with three coastlines — the Shore, The River, and the Delaware Bay. Vital Philadelphia and our own Capitol would not exist without the Delaware, Yet, she is never safe.
LISTEN TO THE DELAWARE RIVERKEEPER, HERE, AND ACT ACCORDINGLY. Her level of commitment, devotion, and willing to sacrifice and risk, is Revolutionary. Let Maya be our model, every one of us!
Because I will be birding pristine Island Beach this Sunday, –with five other intense bird-lovers, two of whom are the well known fine art nature photographers, Ray Yeager (of Ray Yeager Photography.com) and Angela Previte, (of Simple Life at the Shore Nature Blog), I am expecting to be in the company of gannets. There is no more elegant, no more spectaculara shore bird in my world, especially when gannets are feeding. We may also be gifted with long-tailed ducks, out beyond the third waves. Island Beach remains as impeccable as gannets, –still serene, shrubby, wind-blown and un-BUILT since creation, thanks to PRESERVATIONISTS. We six have the sense that we must relish this magnitude, this nature at her peak, while we still can…
Most of the time, dear NJWILDBEAUTY readers, I have managed to keep politics out of NJWILDBEAUTY. Even though, as we all know, politicians threaten most if not all of the wild beauty of our (most populous, never forget it!) state; and, increasingly, of the Planet itself.
Even though I dared once refer to this state’s so-called governor as ‘our Caligula’, in these ‘pages’; and termed then-newly-nominated presidential candidate ‘the new Hitler.’
I have not revised my opinion, by the way.
Although I try to concentrate on nature instead of politics in these ‘pages.’
Now enormous confrontation looms, in which politics will do all in its power to to destroy nature. One of their cohorts, now, –Sarah Palin–, is mentioned as Cabinet material.
Long ago, my poem, (in the form of a letter to Ms. Palin) –before appearing in NJWILD, which Ilene Dube asked me to launch for Princeton Packet Publications–, had won internet publication by a clean water group asking for poems about the seemingly insuperable, and now mostly overlooked, Gulf Oil disaster. You may recall whom Sarah Palin blamed…
No one who cares about birds has forgotten the BP explosion, which was originally reported as emitting 200 barrels of oil per day. Do note that, –even in the caption for this photo on the Internet–, the ceaseless explosions and outpourings are simply termed ‘a spill.’
I did write, in NJWILD, “If you believe that gallon estimate, you’ll believe anything.”
We all know that far more than birds was ruined in those terrible months — especially the way of life of people of Louisiana who had fished and shrimped and boated for generations.
You may have forgotten that Sarah and her ilk blamed the disaster (which means “torn from the stars!”), on “extreme environmentalists.” I proudly accepted then, –and even more insistently now–, rejoice in that title. The result was the poem below.
Today, I mailed the poem to my my professor daughter to read it to her Literature class at a California college. I dared challenge this formidable young woman and ardent feminist to suggest that her students have their pictures taken HUGGING A TREE, to promulgate on Facebook. To show the shuddering world that not everyone in America agrees with its most outrageous current spokesman. To demonstrate that the guardians of the future know what really matters.
Everyone reading this can do so, letting our allies know that some of us do have planetary consciousness.
WHAT REALLY MATTERS:
PLEASE SHARE THIS WITH EVERYONE YOU KNOW —
Remember, Margaret Mead insists, “A small group of people can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.”
And Edwin Burke: “All that it takes for evil to happen is for good men (PEOPLE) to do nothing.”
WHAT WILL YOU DO?
the poem of June 2010:
DEAR SARAH PALIN,
I understand it’s all my fault
–this Gulf oil disaster, I mean–
not only all that fire
bodies catapulted into air
soon likely shark bait
but also this volcano of oil
into our blue mantle
Sarah, you say
I did this
all of this and more
now some six weeks ago
with no end in sight
and no businessman
politician not even a general
let alone you, Sarah Palin,
knows how to stop
this tornado of oil
it’s also my fault, the oiled birds
— Northern gannets —
pristine as Josephine
in her Empire gown
frail white silk
adorned with gold
though not quite bees
dark eyes snapping
as each becomes increasingly encased
in ‘my’ oil
more abruptly than all those mastodons
in La Brea’s tar pits
now slender cormorants
who, everyone is sure, are drowning
as they swim along
neck barely afloat
no one realizing
the genius of cormorants
who can fly/swim 30 miles an hour
when they are not oiled
about the mpg of my car
my old car
for the ownership of which
I am quite guilty
for the replacement of which
I have no means
must wave both wings
after every dive
to dry them
so that they may
dive and dive again
–no wave strong enough
to shake off ceaseless poison weight
it’s my fault, the reddish egrets
you know his own epitaph
–written by photographer Ted Cross
for his own recent death–
describing his multi-faceted self
on the Other Side
“still searching for the perfect photograph
of the reddish egret”
Ted did not have in mind
this soiled oiled specimen
to lift newly leaden
legs wings and feet
out of Gulf mud muck and oil
it’s all my fault
and not because I use the wrong lightbulbs
in a couple of fixtures
nor because I do turn on the heat.
inside, in winter, sometimes
although I’ve been doing without air
conditioning so far this troubled year
it’s my fault
because I am an “extreme environmentalist”
because I think there should never be any more
drilling for oil in our country
because I deplore petrotyrrany
the privatization of profits
socialization of poverty
because I think we should start with the auto companies
well, what do you expect, Sarah?
I grew up in Detroit
I’ve never seen a wolf in the wild
as you do and deplore.
These beings you condemn to bloody deaths
I would embrace
nor have I encountered
a single polar bear
let alone a starving female trying to find food
for her new brood
attempting to swim with them
toward vanishing ice floes
but that’s o.k. with you
it makes the hunting
it’s my fault, Sarah
for I am quite literally
I believe that greed should end
America return to her original nobility
where people pledged lives
remember sacred honor?
— ah, well, probably not, Sarah
I believe we are our Planet’s
Sarah – who are you?
Carolyn Foote Edelmann
“This is not an environmental disaster, and I will say that again and again.”
– Congressman Don Young (R-Alaska) speaking about the Gulf of Mexico oil spill.
The Poetry Muse is an elusive wench.
Some quirk has triggered her return since April.
Today’s has to do with saving the Planet. Surprise!
In this era when political candidates show no regard for the future of the Earth, never mention climate, let alone change, I dare salute Nature Herself, my Goddess!
taking notes on a pad named EARTHWISE
I wonder, what does ‘earthwise’ mean?
perhaps the manufacturer’s caring
for our imperiled Universe
who is really EARTHWISE?
on rough hilltops
linking with Solstice bonfires
knowing to honor
the sacred oak
the rowan tree
every American Indian
of whom it has been prophesied
“a time will come when white man
seeks your wisdom”
CAROLYN FOOTE EDELMANN
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