PRESERVED BY NATURE, Yet Again

NJWILDBEAUTY readers know that I have learned to flee the irretrievable past, especially on holidays.  Today, the day after Christmas, I had the privilege of guiding two friends, –Willing Hands with me at D&R Greenway,– on their first exploration of Plainsboro Preserve.  This day fulfilled my inexplicable passion for visiting summer places in winter.   Come with us — via Internet images, to a quarry that’s been turned into an unexpected haven.

Day is Done Plainsboro Preserve

My two favorite regions are its beechwood and the peninsula.

plainsboro-preserve snow scene from Internet

Deeper and deeper, –although so near Route 1–, we moved on glistening leaves into timelessness.  We had no snow today, rather ice crystals and iced puddles and ice-signatured ponds and ice stars caught in moss and ice swirled with milkiness as though in an art nouveau gallery!

Our long silent trek through that wilderness of chinchilla-grey trunks held mystery, allure palpable to all three of us.  A few nuthatches in the underbrush made no sound, save their soft rustling.  We were glad to be beech-surrounded, for it kept this weekend’s wild winds from cheeks and noses, everything else on each of us being fully protected from elements.

Normally, the beechwood, –being a microclimate–, is 10 – 12 degrees warmer than the rest of our region in winter; that much cooler in summer. For some reason – [but of course we are not to implicate global warming] this entire forest –with one or two welcome exceptions==, had dropped all leaves now.  As in maybe yesterday.  Not only dropped them, but turned them the pale thin cream color they usually attain right before mid-April drop.  April 15 is a long way off — when the trees need a burst of acid fertilizer to bring forth healthy crops of beech nuts.  What this early leaflessness means to squirrels and other forest dwellers, I do not know.  We did not really experience the temperature protection, possibly because this beechwood was bare.

Even so, off-season magic and beechwood magic persisted, enhanced as two white-tailed dear tiptoed just to our right, revealing no alarm at our very human presence.

DCIM101GOPRO

One is most aware of McCormack Lake, former quarry, almost step of one’s explorations of this unique Preserve.  Too near, lurk shopping centers and major organizational sites and whirring highways and too many condos and homes, and not enough farms.  But the lake rests in this forested setting, like the Hope Diamond.  I’d rather SEE this lake than the Hope Diamond.

Bufflehead Dapper Princeton Brenda Jones

The quarry lake was the deep smoky blue today of Maine’s October ocean.  Winds were ever-present, wrinkling its surface until it resembled the cotton plisse fabric of childhood.  We’d chosen the Preserve for the lake, , hoping to find winter ducks in abundance.  Perhaps six small distant ones could have been buffleheads in size and coloring (varying proportions of black and white.)  But ‘Buffies’ are diving ducks, and in all the time we walked the peninsula, we never saw them do anything but float like rubber duckies in a large blue bathtub.  But they were charming and winsome, and their very distance-blurred field marks added to the magic.

land's end Plainsboro Preserve peninsula onto quarry lake

[Tip of the Peninsula, recently ‘refreshed’, with welcome stone slab bench.  But this scoured look is not the norm for this Preserve.  Above our heads was a (seemingly never utilized) osprey platform.  I always fret and had told them in the Audubon office that ospreys require a smaller, lower feeding platform.  They do not eat their catch in the nest, for the scent could lure predators to their young.  No feeding platform — no active nest, in my experience…  Even so, it’s a magical place to sit and let the lake and all those unbroken reaches of forest speak to you.  This is not osprey season, anyway!]

Beaver Brenda Jones

Brenda Jones’ Beaver in D&R Canal Near the Fishing Bridge

The most exciting part about the peninsula to me is that it preserves Pine Barrens flora on both sides of what is now “Maggie’s Trail.”  Crusty lichen, cushy bitter green moss, cinnamon-hued oak leaves, paling sands.  Think of roadsides in Island Beach, and you have that cushioned crustiness on both sides along Maggie’s Trail.  Today, we had to deal with oddly ever-present sweet gum balls.  Not only not Pinelands, but also way ahead of schedule.  Hard to walk on – more difficult than on acorns peppering Berkshire trails in autumn.   Sweet gum balls normally drop around Washington’s Birthday.

beaver close-up Brenda Jones

Brenda Jones Beaver Close-Up, Millstone Aqueduct

Everywhere we looked, along the main entry road and all the way to the tip of that peninsula, there was fresh beaver activity.  Cascades of golden curled chips seemed still to be quivering after beavers’ midnight snacking.  Everything from whip-thin birch saplings to hefty white oaks with burnt-sienna leaves lay strewn like jackstraws on either side of Maggie’s Trail.  Some trees had lost only a few smidgens of bark.  We wondered whether parents bring young to teach them to gnaw a few bark inches at a time.  Then the creatures with the largest incisors take over.  Of course, we didn’t see them, because beavers are nocturnal and we’re not!

Plainsboro Preserve Trail early spring

For most of our trek, there was no sight nor sound of anything human — quite literally, my idea of heaven.  Soughing, –the voice of wind in treetops–, was our companion throughout — somewhere between whispering and humming.  Occasionally, a distant train whistle reminded us that centuries exist — not exactly the 21st.

Ice was everywhere — in the leaves, under the leaves, within the moss, turning puddles on the main road into a gallery of art nouveau and art deco designs.  I had no camera this day, knowing I would need both hands for trekking poles with the ground itself that frozen.  Sometimes, the absolute silence was broken by tinkle-crackling of invisible ice beneath leaves.

Plainsboro Preserve Fulness of the Empty Season

These pictures I have culled from the Internet, therefore.  I hope they convey some sense of this haven lying so near to U.S.1 and Scudder’s Mill Road: (left on Dey, left on Scott’s Corner Road.)   Enjoy them and let them lure you over to Plainsboro’s gem.  There are wondrous child-centric programs through NJ Audubon at the handsome center.  And a worthwhile nature-item gift shop.  Bird feeders attract backyard birds near the building.  Bluebird houses and what seem to be owl houses stud the landscape hither and yon.

Plainsboro Preserve Leaflessness and Lake

MIddlesex County provides this history – I remember far more exciting realities about the former quarry, and something about space, and quarrels with locals who did not want to give up hunting and fishing rights.  I provide this for those who need logistical information.

Tranquillity Base, PlnsPrsrv credot Harrington

But for me, microclimate effect or no, Plainsboro Preserve is a journey of the spirit.  I could hardly believe the temperature on my front door as I returned this afternoon — less than twenty degrees.  For all those hours, we’d been warmed in ways that have nothing to do with mercury…

 Plainsboro Preserve in Early Summer via Middlesex County Site:
A scenic view of the lake located within the Plainsboro Preserve.

​The Plainsboro Preserve is a cooperative project between the County of Middlesex, Township of Plainsboro and New Jersey Audubon Society.   In 1999, 530 acres of land formerly owned by the Turkey Island Corporation and Walker Gordon Laboratory Company were acquired by the County and Township.  Middlesex County purchased and owns 401 acres and provided a grant to the Township of Plainsboro for the purchase of an additional 126 acres.  In 2003, the County purchased 126 acres of the former Perrine Tract to add to the Preserve.   The Township added additional land to grow the Preserve and currently maintains responsibility for management of the County-owned portions.

At over 1,000 acres, the Preserve supports a diverse array of habitats and the 50-acre McCormak Lake, with over five miles of hiking trails for hikers, birdwatchers and nature enthusiasts.  The New Jersey Audubon Society manages the Preserve and a 6500 square-foot environmental education center, providing year-round environmental education opportunities. 
For more information on hours and programs, please visit the New Jersey Audubon Society at their website.

The Plainsboro Preserve is adjacent to the Scotts Corner Conservation Area that provides hiking, bird-watching, photography and nature study opportunities.

Location: 80 Scotts Corner Road, Cranbury, NJ  08512
GPS Coordinates:  DMS 40° 20′ 57.28″ N; 74° 33′ 25.53″ W
Facilities: NJ Audubon Environmental Education Center; Parking Area; Bathrooms; Hiking Trails  
Plainsboro Preserve Sign courtesy of Novo Nordisk 
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CELEBRATING SNOW

NJWILDBEAUTY readers know I cherish Nature in all her moods, –often the wilder the better.  Running toward a Nor’easter, suffused in laughter and delight, with the Intrepids, at Island Beach seems to have changed my life.  My intensities have increased, along with my courage to admit these passions in public.

Sacred Fox Prints March 2015

Sacred Fox Tracks of the Night

Note that the name for this blog includes both WILD and BEAUTY.  Below are scenes from a snow a year ago that delivered both:

Necessity Late Snow March 2015

Sometimes, Even Necessity Has Beauty!

Tonight I await a forecast snow – which frankly doesn’t promise to be sufficient.  Note that the name for this blog includes both WILD and BEAUTY.  I give you scenes from a snow a year ago that delivered both.

Visitor Late Snow March 2015

Fresh Prints

Certain very special friends call to exult in snow, our secret joy.  We are all too aware that the Weather Channel does all in its power to make the public fear, if not hate, Nature, tossing about words like ‘revenge’.  I think it’s a ploy to permit destruction of nature, and I turn my back on all of that.  Nature’s doing the what comes naturally.  It’s we who are the ruinators.  We are here to be the planet’s tenders…

Heavy Heavy Hangs Late Snow March 2015

Laden

Look at her artistry.  What a privilege to live where the world can be transformed like this in one mere night!

Night Snow 2015

Night Snow

Waltz of the Shadows

Waltz of the Shadows

Neighbor's Snowman Late Snow  March 2015

Neighbors’ Snowman

Fox Encouonter Late Snow March 2015

Foxes’ Encounter

Incredible Lightness of Being Late Snow March 2015

The Incredible Lightness of Being

When the Shrubs Weep at 23 Juniper

When Shrubs Weep

Morning View Late Snow March 2015

Calm after the Storm

Sculpture in Snow March 2015

Sculpture and Rosemary in Snow

 

Blizzard at my OPEN Door

Snow Depth at My Back Door

Storms are not easy for the wild creatures – as this puffed-up-to-stay-warm Junco reveals.  It is always good to set out thistle socks, at least, for our winged brethren of the wild.

Junco On Andromeda

Puffed Junco on Andromeda in Height of Storm

 

WINTER ARTISTRY: BOWMAN’S HILL WILDFLOWER PRESERVE

Even though we call this NJWILDBEAUTY, readers know my steps frequently stray to nearby states, in quest of the Nature I MUST have!  This series reveals the wildflower preserve below New Hope, on a December morning walk.  Stroll with me.

And yes, I’m going to mention our era’s most critical challenge — catastrophic climate change.  These greens do not belong at Bowman’s in December!

Jack Frost Art Nouveau Bowman's

Winter’s Artistry Bowman’s Hill Wildflower Preserve

Autumn Turns to Winter at Bowman's

Between Two Seasons, Bowman’s, above Pidcock Creek

 

Cezanne Palette at Bowman's

Cezanne Palette, Bowman’s in December

 

Fresh Greenery and Oak Leaves Bowman's

Fresh-sprung Greenery and Just-fallen Oak Leaves, Bowman’s, December

 

Squirrel Feast Bowman's

Squirrel’s Place-Setting, Bowman’s, near Pidcock Creek

 

New Ferns of Winter

New Ferns of December

 

Leaf Fall and Ice Bowman's

New Leaf Fall, New Ice, Bowman’s

 

Green Prickly Pear in Winter at Bowman's

Prickly Pear, Bright Green in December, Bowman’s — a native species in PA and NJ

 

Fungus Thrives on Sandy Relic at Bowman's

Turkey Tail Fungus Lives Up to its Name

 

Turkey Tail Fungus Earns its name at Bowman's

Turkey Tail Claims Sandy Victim

NJWILDBEAUTY readers are used to my proclaiming that Nature doesn’t close her doors with the advent of Labor Day.  Great beauty awaits, on all trails, outdoors, — with particularly special effects in winter.

Once again, though, none of this could we see, and perhaps much of it would not exist, were it not preserved through Bowman’s Hill Wildflower Preserve.  A team of volunteers recently created a human chain to walk the last deer, allowed in by Sandy-destruction of fences, out to the wild beyond, where they belong.  Now all the glorious flowers can erupt in safety, once again.  Support your local non-profit; preserve your nearby open lands.

 

 

 

LET’S HEAR IT FOR SNOW!

A Graceful Bow

A Graceful Bow

A select group of friends and I have begun to admit the truth this winter — we love snow!  (You know who you are…)

Incredible Lightness of Being

Incredible Lightness of Being

We are going to miss the snow when she finally gathers her mantle and swooshes off-stage.

Bread Bits on Snow

Bread Bits on Snow

The more the Weather Channel tries to turn Mother Nature into the villain (so we don’t realize that it’s we ourselves who are turning the climate against us), the more we privately exult in her beauty and power.

Crested Twig - Snow wraps the vertical!

Crested Twig – Snow wraps the vertical!

I wrote to one of my Secret Snow Pals this week, as our Saturday snow seemed to fizzle out around 9 a.m., instead of intensifying, “I suddenly realize that a minute without show is a minute without life.”  His wordless comment was a priceless video of his son in his first hour upon skis, upon snow…

Snow Visitor

Snow Visitor

Another Snow Pal, all on her own today, began exulting about the forms of the trees, still revealed now.  She actually is photographing and sketching intensively before the return of their leaves, which she calls “blowsy”!  I love it.

NJWILDBEAUTY readers know that I had an article, in the fullness of autumn, in US 1 (Business) Newspaper, about my impatience for winter to take its bow.  One of my main reasons is so that the sculptural qualities of each tree will be fully apparent.

Snow as Sculptor

Snow as Sculptor

O.K., I know snow can be dangerous.  So can fire.  They are elements in the most sacred sense — full of energy and bearing transformation.

When Ice Rules

When Ice Rules

As I have written elsewhere, including the Times of Trenton, on the importance of prolonged cold, the miracles it calls forth, if it weren’t for snow, I wouldn’t know about fox visits.

Fox Prints in Snow Below my Study Window

Fox Prints in Snow Below my Study Window

One of the best-received of intense poems given me in the year 2000 has to do with a fox, “that long-legged adolescent, who came to my song, in a time of beach plums and first frost…   but now, it is snowing, and the ruddy one curls, half cat, half pup, about my calves, to lure me to the cave..”  (Cool Women, Volume I)

Fox Signature at 23 Juniper

Fox Signature at 23 Juniper

I don’t see the foxes of Juniper, but they leave their signature on snow.

Fox in Snow by Ray Yeager, Fine Art Photographer   (Ray Yeager Photography Blog)

Fox in Snow by Ray Yeager, Fine Art Photographer (Ray Yeager Photography Blog)

Ray Yeager, fine art photographer whose work stars and sells so frequently at D&R Greenway Land Trust art exhibitions, has a splendid photography blog.  Which see, and which follow.  Ray does see the foxes in snow and in the night, at Island Beach State Park.

Wounded Majesty at Height of Storm

Wounded Majesty at Height of Storm

Somehow, trees at Society Hill have been harmed by the use of erroneous chemicals.  This is one of my favorites — its top all contorted by the poison.  A suit is ongoing and useless.  I want them to have the convoluted parts of the trees in my back yard trimmed, so that the majestic ones may pour all of their energy into nourishing the healthy parts.  Snow really brings out the elegance and heartiness of the wounded trees.

Softness of Snow

Softness of Snow at 23 Juniper

Can you see why I don’t want this magical phenomenon to stop, let alone melt?!

Even the Rescuers are Beautiful in Snow

Even the Rescuers are Beautiful in Snow

Even the snow removal trucks take on beauty and majesty.

Study View in Snow

Study View in Snow

Who wouldn’t write, in a setting like this?

Snow-Crested Illegal Bird-feeder Holder

Snow-Crested Illegal Bird-feeder Holder

We’re not allowed to feed birds at Society Hill, the only drawback besides the chemically altered or killed trees.  This shepherd’s crook was left by the previous tenant.  The astounding lightness of this snow — caused by exceptionally low temperatures in air and on the ground — is practically tactile in this picture.

Shadow Play on Snow

Shadow Play on Snow

Snow is both artist and canvas.

The Goddess Statue in the Snow

The Goddess Statue in the Snow

My dear friend and fellow poet, Penelope Schott, gave me this deity from her garden on Canal Road, when she moved to Portland.  The Goddess seems to be calling forth first sun.

Avian Visitors

Avian Visitors, Night Visitors, on the Welcome Mat

I am so deprived of birds here that I had to take a picture of the tracks of one, in the soft snow on the back door, French door, welcome mat.

Neighbor Lad's Snowman After the Snow

Neighbor Lad’s Snowman After the Snow

I am privileged to watch my neighbors’ five-year-old being pulled on a little red sled, gathering downed limbs, to turn into arms on his snowman.

***

A new member of the Snow Fan Club has been added, due to these words — exactly, what the other members and I have said, we have to be clandestine about this passion for snow:

I have to confess I love snow too, though it’s more complicated now than it used to be. I drove into & out of Princeton both Friday afternoon and Saturday morning, and it was magical.
[ANYONE ELSE?  Snow Fans Anonymous….  cfe]
A Dear Friend and Fellow Poet sends this, after reading this blog, and says, Yes, why NOT add it to your blog:
So we add Robert Frost’s inescapable wry wisdom:
Fire and Ice
Some say the world will end in fire,
some say in ice.
From what I’ve tasted of desire
I hold with those who favor fire.
But if it had to perish twice,
I think I know enough of hate
to say that for destruction ice
is also great
and would suffice.
I think this poem says it all about humanity. Alas.