MARVELS OF THE WINTER BEACH, Phase 1

NJWILDBEAUTY readers know that my favorite time to be almost anywhere is when most people aren’t.  Give me “too early”, “too late” and especially “out-of-season”!  Except, that –especially for the Intrepids — there is no “out of season” in New Jersey!

DECEMBER STILL LIFE — BARNEGAT BAY — REED’S ROAD — ISLAND BEACH

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Birds’ Restaurant – Last Leaves of Autumn, Ripe Fruit of Winter

Intrepids Jeanette Hooban and Bill Rawlyk and I met fine-art photographers Angela Previte and her husband, Bob, and the redoubtable Ray Yeager, last Sunday, for an extended Barnegat Bayside breakfast.  Fellowship reigned supreme, until our photographers “had promises to keep”

 

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Barnegat Bay Breakfast-Time, December

 

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Dock Outfitters with Cafe, Seaside Heights

 

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Barnegat-Bayside Table, Dock Outfitters, Seaside Heights, NJ

 

Jeanette, Bill and I set off to bird the day away.  Indeed, it was December, but there’s no better time to stroll Reed’s Road, just around the corner from Seaside Park, barely into Island Beach State Park.

 

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New Moss of December!

 

In no time, we were deep in a forested glade, silvery sugar sand underfoot, seemingly new moss burgeoning on both sides.  Beach heather, Hudsonia tomentosa, and lichens vied for our attention.

 

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Iconic Sugar Dand Trail, Reed’s ‘Road’, Island Beach State Park

 

There is nothing silkier than the normal, natural sand that forms Reed’s Road, nothing more alluring to the foot(e).  Although well into the twelfth month, autumn’s palette erupted first on one side, then another.

 

 

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October in December, Reed’s Road Forest, Island Beach, New Jersey

 

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Native, Natural Sugar Sand — LIGHT YEARS beyond Army-Corps-of-Engineers Imported Harsh Yellow Hideous Sand!

 

There is nothing more irresistible than the tranquillity of Barnegat Bay, like an enormous silver platter, beckoning, beckoning to the west.

 

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Sugar Sand Trail to Barnegat Bay, Reed’s Road, Island Beach, NJ

 

There wasn’t a breath of wind.  Waves were delicate, hushed.  Black sparkling swathes of garnet particles beckoned, underfoot and underwater.  Off in the far distance, we could just peek at (but not photograph) Barnegat Light.

 

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Crushed Garnets in Barnegat Bay Wavelets and Foam

 

We could have found cedar waxwing and robin flocks, as many have on this trek in previous high winter walks.  Or pine warblers in early spring.  Or stately swans in other Novembers.  This day, our bird stars were the merry bobbing buffleheads, making us laugh out loud in delight.

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Spotting Buffleheads from Reed’s Road Trail

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Dapper Bufflehead Male by Brenda Jones (on Carnegie Lake!)

 

The maddening part of that excursion was that some officials in our misguided 21st Century equate slashing with trail maintenance.  We spent a long time picking up their debris, mourning over literal ‘greenstick fractures’ in towering native shrubs of all species on all sides, apologizing to nature yet again for man’s depredations.  We wanted to go straight to the State House with our fury, were it not that politicians have other issues on their minds right now.  Obviously shrubs’ and trees’ health, shrub and tree rights are very low on Trenton ‘totem poles’ of interest and respect.  Citizens’ rights don’t seem very far ahead in terms of honor.  WE THE PEOPLE have a right to our native species’ being protected everywhere, and MOST ESPECIALLY IN OUR STATE PARKS!

 

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Even the Weeds of Reeds Road Majestic, When Left to Their Own Devices!

 

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DAMAGE in the Guise of Trail Maintenance, Reed’s Road, Island Beach, NJ

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Pillage in the Wake of Trail “Maiantenance”, Reed’s Road, Island Beach State Park, New Jersey

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After Reed’s Road was “Maintained” by the Vicious

NJWILDBEAUTY readers have ‘heard’ me go on and on about reading “This Changes Evetything”, by today’s Rachel Carson: Naomi Klien.  She’s won the Sydney Peace Award from Australia, comparable to the Nobel — for her courageous expose of the multi-national, mega-funded organizations devoted to climate change denial. 

Central to the paradigm of these planet-destroyers is downright hatred of Nature, a vicious delight (obediently promulgated by the Weather Channel) in blaming every storm on so-called Mother Nature, terming even Hurricane Sandy – the anthropogenic disaster of all time — “Mother Nature’s Revenge.”  Face it, watchers and listeners.  These terms ascribing rage and revenge to the magnificent nature that surrounds us are utilized to justify destruction.  Get it!

NATURE IS EDEN.  WE ARE DRIVING OURSELVES OUT OF IT!

Meanwhile, back in Paradise:

Reed’s Road is home to proprietary pair of exquisite foxes, and sundry nocturnal raccoons.  Many the track did we follow.

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“Who Walketh Here?”

 

The animals have always known to ‘leave only footprints’.

 

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Inverse Tracks in Crushed Garnet Sand

 

Silence surrounded us, underfoot, overhead and out on the bay.  Beauty was everywhere, that had never been altered (until this brutal pruning session).  I am fond of saying that Island Beach has not been built on since initial development failed in the 1930’s Depression, and is pruned only by wind, sand and storms.  I’ll pretend that’s still true…

 

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Undisturbed Forest Floor, Reed’s Road, Island Beach State Park, New Jersey

 

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Pin Oak’s Last Gasp, Sugar Sand

 

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TRAIL GUIDES — superfluous!

 

REMEMBER, we can stroll these impeccable, usually unspoiled trails because this land has been preserved.  NEVER HAS IT BEEN MORE URGENT TO SUPPORT YOUR LOCAL AND NATIONAL LAND TRUSTS. 

See to it, with your memberships, that every possible wild inch of our sacred country is preserved in perpetuity, no matter who wields what power. 

“This land is your land.  This land is my land…” — but only due to our absolute constant courageous vigilance.

While you can, get out into the Parks of our beleaguered state, let their unspoilt magnificence seep into and restore your souls.

 

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SEPTEMBER SONG — Autumnal Signs

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Autumn Mimics Christmas Along the D&R Canal

Is anyone else more impatient than usual for autumn crispness?  Do others feel as though that “season of mists and mellow fruitfulness” will never arrive?  Might you be “making a list and checking it twice” of early proofs that there really is such a thing as fall?

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Autumn’s golden gifts brighten a dreary canal

I have begun my own Autumnal Chronicle.  Despite assiduous attention, however, this tally is pretty meager.  It is particularly challenging this year to differentiate between the season for which I am longing and the effects of drought.  Sycamores are turning.  But, these puzzle-trunked beauties require ‘wet feet’, almost as urgently as willows.  No New Jersey trees are receiving sufficient moisture in dire 2016. Shocked by dessication, sycamores began dropping huge loud leaves in August.

I’m seeking first wild spurts of scarlet and crimson: Virginia creeper, otherwise known as woodbine; and its usual neighbor, poison ivy act as restaurant signs for migrating birds.  These vines employ the most vivid hue the minute they’re ripe enough to nourish.  In nearly mid-September, both species remain relentlessly forest green.

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Autumnal Carnegie Lake

My fall list begins with the very loud, entirely too audible, crunching of crisp leaves under my car wheels along Fackler Road in Lawrenceville.

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Spill of Crisp Leaves — Carnegie Lake Dock

I was forced to acknowledge autumn as I passed the Lawrenceville Community Garden.  Every towering sunflower is bent and spent, like people who neglect osteoporosis.

Driving past Loews to reach Trader Joe’s, there was the first inescapable bank of mums.

As I carried TJ purchases back to my  car, however, I thrilled to an endless river of dark birds, coursing and coursing as though they fleeing an impending storm.

I realize that none of these examples contains the ecstatic outpouring I would expect from myself as the season turns.  And that NJWILDBEAUTY readers have come to expect from me.

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Sweet Gum Leaves in Autumn Finery

This year, the coming season is marred by the very serious illness of my 20[year-old great nephew, James Weitzel.  His heroism is striking.  But this shining young man; this consummate, initially intuitive musician (percussion especially); this person who’s touched the heart of everyone with whom he interacts in Springfield, Illinois, has been abruptly stricken in his prime.  Now James has a bald head, and not because it’s chic.  Now James has to relearn the very simple process of walking.  So my own heart and feet are not skipping.

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Delaware River Footbridge from Black Bass Inn in Autumn

Autumn meant new beginnings, for this foolish one who couldn’t wait for school.  I lived for first lavender smoke rising from chimneys, and especially from towering bonfires of leaves we’d raked all day..  And harvests were the heart of the matter.

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Trenton Farmers’ Market Bounty

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Today, I’ve tried to fill a treasure chest of autumn memories.  Maybe it will lift NJWILDBEAUTY spirits, as well as my own.  Maybe you’ll even comment on favorite aspects of this laggard season for you.

 

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Trenton Farmers’ Market Apple Crop

Parties meant bobbing for apples and sipping new cider. Popcorn turning white and sometimes a little black in the long-handled black corn popper over coals in our family room fireplace.  New loves began at pep rallies and the subsequent Homecoming Ball.  Happiness swirled in on every fresh breeze.

Maybe, seeing these NJ fall views, you’ll get out on (preserved, of course) trails, and create new memories.

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D&R Greenway’s Cedar Ridge Preserve — Terrestrial Box Turtle Among the Leaves

Maybe it’s color for which I am longing.

Or is it that September and October represent constellations of change?

“VISITATION” ~ Eagle Poem

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Princeton’s American Bald Eagle, Monarch, by Brenda Jones

Long ago, when Ilene Dube asked me to create a Princeton Packet Blog on nature, she particularly asked me to include some of my poems.  In Cool Women readings over the years, “Visitation” was a favorite.

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‘Princeton’s’ American Bald Eagle and Sculler in Morning Fog, Lake Carnegie, by Brenda Jones

It was written, frankly, to a very vivid vision.  You can tell from the tactile descriptions how supremely real this scene was to me.

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‘Princeton’s’ Mated Pair of American Bald Eagles, by Brenda Jones

It was years ago, and wintertime, when eagles court and nest, as they are now, all over our state.

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Eagle Gathering Nest Material, by Brenda Jones

At the time, there were no Princeton eagles.  But, within weeks of this vision, I came upon ‘our’ female, on a tree near the end of the sculling race venue on Carnegie Lake.  How serene she was, awaiting her true love.  How peacefully, majestically he soared around that point, float-coasting onto a tree not too near.  It was as though she had always known he would arrive.

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Majestic Soaring American Bald Eagle over Carnegie Lake, by Brenda Jones

It was January 3rd, my real sighting.  My dear friend Janet Black’s (one of the Intrepids) birthday.  The sun was going down, but the curtain was rising on the courtship  of the male and female bald eagle who would then begin, successfully, to raise and to fledge young, each year on the shores of our fake but essential lake..

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Immature ‘Princeton’ Eagles, Side-by-Side at Carnegie Lake Nest, by Brenda Jones

As dusk triumphed over the January daylight, for the first time in my life, I heard the eagles, ‘our’ eagles, singing love songs.  I was very aware that this courtship meant that our waterway had been preserved and healed enough to nourish eagle generations.

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‘Princeton’ Immature Bald Eagle, One of its first flights, by Brenda Jones

But “Visitation” is not a hopeful poem.  Published in Cool Women, it is my own song of despair over habitat despoilation.

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‘Princeton’s’ Juvenile Eagles, ‘branching’, by Brenda Jones

But, sometimes, despair can be conquered by life itself.

Brenda Jones, fine art photographer, has given me great gifts of bird images over the years.  I send you her eagles, ‘our’ eagles, to remind you, as Brenda and her husband, Cliff would do, to support your local land trust; to save land and water in New Jersey every chance you get. 

Because saving land is saving habitat. 

Because saving land is saving huge swathes to absorb CO2 and slow catastrophic climate change. 

 

Because eagles, frankly, are essential. 

 

Here is “Visitation”, after whose writing, despair turned to delight:

VISITATION

 

I finally reach

a windy crest

my turquoise jacket

welcome against

spring’s late chill

 

I feel more than see

the eagle settle

upon flat granite

to my right

he gulps that entire landscape

at one glance

 

slow, steady,

I extend

my arm

so he can step determinedly

onto my padded sleeve

 

my eyes are not one inch

from his

so gold, flickering

flames surrounding the dark centers

as coronas ring an eclipse

gaze steadier

than any

I have ever known

 

gusts ruffle

his dark shoulder feathers

stirring blue glints in sun

the air could not be more electric

if he were bearing

thunderbolts

 

he rests his left cheek

against my own

 

inside my heart

small fists tattoo

within that rosy cage

some prisoner

implores escape

wakens me

to life without eagles

 

CAROLYN FOOTE EDELMANN