Crossing the Delaware in Quest of Antidotes to 21st-Century Reality

general-george-washington--delaware-river-on-the-eve- from Internet

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Your NJWILDBEAUTY blogger spent ‘the shank of the day’ in bucolic, historic Bucks County.  Yes, yet again.  Alongside our timeless river, The River of Independence.  This waterways shad, John McPhee insists, saved Washington’s army at Valley Forge.  We wandered alongside the model of Washington’s Durham Boats for the Crossing, then the strangely romantic group sculpture at Washington’s Crossing State Park.

As we cross her shimmering. expanse, I try to keep her serenity alive in my own being.

Strategic Retreat

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A friend and I breakfasted sumptuously, alongside that river, in a structure a couple of hundred years old: The Lumberville General Store.  It is allied with the Black Bass Inn, which predates the Revolution – 1745 as I recall.  Both in and ‘Store’ are lovingly restored by the legendary Laura Thompson of Thompson Toyota in Doylestown.  She had been my neighbor at Village II in New Hope, where I lived (and fought to save the Delaware River from the Pump) from 1981 into 1987.

After hiking the footbridge over to Bull’s Island, my yesterday-friend and I drove through ageless burgeoning croplands, first in Pennsylvania, then in our New Jersey.   We punctuated our ramblings with a stop at a tiny farmstand off Route 31, stocking up on peaches and tomatoes from our Garden State.

All the while, fleeing this vile century.  All the while, seeking America.  OUR America!

View from Bridge South and Bulls Island July 2017

FOOTBRIDGE OVER DELAWARE FROM LUMBERVILLE TO BULL’S ISLAND

Only to arrive back here with a thud.

First projects upon return, as always, are signing petitions, to counter the Purloiner of the White House.  Save the Arctic.  Stop All Fracking.  Prevent oil drilling off any coasts.  One “SIGN HERE/SUBMIT”  laments and tries to counter the loss of bees.

I don’t know about the rest of NJWILDBEAUTY readers.  I have to confess, my trusty antidotes to harsh realities are seeming too little, too late, and frankly frail!

My Illinois sister sends me this wise quote from Patrick Henry.  Prescient.  A patriot when that word meant heroism, courage and magnificent leadership.

My sister empathizes with my condition these days, having suffered in her own state from narcissistic tyranny in the name of a governor.  As for the national situation, Marilyn echoes my own despair.  The concept of our vaunted liberty, –let alone citizens’ rights–, seems rare and imperiled as the bees.

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Readying Riverton July 2017

Although I posted this the day after the so-called ‘election’ of 2016, I return to Yeats — ever the prophet…

“The Constitution is not an instrument for the government to restrain the people, it is an instrument for the people to restrain the government, lest it come to dominate our lives and interests.”
Patrick Henry
1736-1799

William Butler Yeats (1865-1939)

 

THE SECOND COMING

Turning and turning in the widening gyre
The falcon cannot hear the falconer;
  Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,
The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere
The ceremony of innocence is drowned;
The best lack all conviction, while the worst
Are full of passionate intensity.

Surely some revelation is at hand;
Surely the Second Coming is at hand.
The Second Coming! Hardly are those words out
When a vast image out of Spiritus Mundi
Troubles my sight: a waste of desert sand;
A shape with lion body and the head of a man,
A gaze blank and pitiless as the sun,
Is moving its slow thighs, while all about it
Wind shadows of the indignant desert birds.

The darkness drops again but now I know
That twenty centuries of stony sleep
Were vexed to nightmare by a rocking cradle,
And what rough beast, its hour come round at last,
Slouches towards Bethlehem to be born?

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Where Are the Presidencies of Yesteryear?

“The nation that forgets its history is condemned to repeat it…”
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Guess which president…
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“X delighted in the presidency. The nation was infected with his enjoyment of the office. For the first time, not only was the president’s policy always on stage, but so was his personality, — the warming smile, the striking phrase… The country adored reading about [the president and his family].”
3-roosevelts

“Those were the days, my friend, we thought they’d never end…”      (composite…)

“William James wrote, ‘I have rejoiced in X so far.'”
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“The nation was enchanted”
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The nation was “embark[ing] on a new quest for social justice.”
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“Reform was in the air.”
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[The president] “responded to widespread desires for a better civilization.”
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My Hero:
 
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tr-naturalist

TR Naturalist!

Give UP?
Theodore Roosevelt. 1902, with his favorite niece, Eleanor, just home from her idyllic schooling with Mlle. Sylvestre in London. “This was to be an American, and therefore a better, century…”            Joseph P. Lash, Eleanor and Franklin: Norton….
Edmund Morris’ TR masterpieces below.
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Doris Kearns Goodwin’s Bully Pulpit, as well.
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Where to turn if you are seriously in need of excellence, of honor…
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tr-bios

Essential Theodore Roosevelt Biographies

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And my friends wonder why I insist, I never wanted to enter the 21st Century…
tr-stand-by-the-country

Stand by the Country, President Theodore Roosevelt

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The Inimitable Alice!

quote-my-father-always-wanted-to-be-the-corpse-at-every-funeral-the-bride-at-every-wedding-alice-roosevelt-longworth-17-86-77

Alice Roosevelt Longworth Quote about her Father: as President, he upstaged Eleanor and Franklin at their wedding…

POEMS OF THIS NEW YEAR

One never knows, withe the Poetry Muse — when she’s going to be with you; when she’s in elusive mode.  And sometimes, when she’s taken herself far, far away — and you begin to be certain she will never return.

Despite all worldly, chaos, the Poetry Muse has been intensively present lately.

I’ll share a few new ones with NJWILDBEAUTY readers — for whatever is wild in these words, and whatever beauty they may convey, they definitely unfurled in New Jersey.  No one has heard them, nor seen them, but you.  May they generate voyages…

 

In this tumultuous time of America’s turning its official back on people of other nations, I find this one written on last year’s Summer’s Solstice, startling, even prescient…

 

“WHOSE SIDE ARE YOU ON, ANYWAY?!”

 

in the fluttery darkness

of childhood Westerns

my sister and I were always

set apart

hugging to ourselves

our terrible secret –

 

as Indians spilled over

the crest of any hill

each of us silently

rejoiced

 

longing

to ride off into sunsets

with our true brothers

 

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Mary Oliver is my forever catalyst.  Once, in Princeton Hospital for hip replacement (so I could get back OUT on those TRAILS!) I took only Mary’s collected poems for post-op, then rehab reading.  Many of my own were triggered by her electrifying consciousness and attentiveness, to say nothing of always stunning excellence.  Recently, I suffused myself anew with Mary.  Her very personal interaction with bears brought this into being:

 

INSIDE                                 after reading Mary Oliver on Bears…

 

you live within my being at all times

your paws curling my own hands

strong feet propelling my too-slender ones

 

our legs

go on forever

 

your heart

the larger

 

you know

absolutely everywhere

where you are going

 

such large eyes do not fit

within my small ones

 

there is scarcely room

for your fine head

–emperor’s on coin

 

ah, but our wondrous grin

that remains

identical

 

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I never know where the Muse wants us to be.  Two recent poems demanded mental transport to Hawaii:

 

HANA YEARNING

 

I see us along Hana’s highway

–you at the wheel I last wielded alone

curving from waterfall to waterfall

 

their long thin threads

like spider floss

or glycerine spun out

by some Hawaiian deity

we can feel, not see

 

plunging in virginal straightness

into alluring dark pools

mist captured in tropical branchings

of ginger, plumeria, ti

 

one-handed at the wheel

you’re laughing at this ceaselessness of curves

and so many misleading one-way signs

 

we dip into inky ponds

up to and over our necks

laughingly dwarfed

by towering verdant damp ferns

 

you reach both hands

to guide me out of each fall’s sacred water

leaving double footprints

on black sand

 

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…or, what time-frame the Muse may require.  This goes back to early childhood, visiting my favorite uncle (actually, my favorite person — rarely equaled), Donald E. Graham, my Uncle Dutch.  He had been an ambulance driver in World War I, because he would not kill.  One time, the sergeant ordered him to steal a horse.  My very honest uncle was devastated, as he obeyed.  Picture that weathered flag from something like 1918…

 

PATRIOTS

was anyone tender
with me, save Uncle Dutch?

swinging me high
onto so-broad shoulders

marching the two-but-one of us
down steep wooden stairs
into their plain concrete cellar

where his thick broad flag
from World War One
did not have the right
number of stars

still, we honored it
singing “My country, ‘tis”
at the top of his grown up, and my
very little lungs

just before turning
to re-mount the stairs
I, with my small hand
and he, with his huge
would very smartly salute

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Words, not pictures today.  A different kind of journeying toward various forms of wild beauty…