ED ABBEY: FOUNTAIN OF WISDOM RE NATURE, POLITICS AND PROTEST!

“When the world is too much with me,” — and, ever since 11/16/16 it has been overwhelmingly so! — I turn to my heroes of old.  Thoreau.  Rachel (Carson). Eleanor (Roosevelt).  Ed Abbey.  They inspire me, stiffen my spine, balance me, serve as quintessential examples.  Ed does all this, PLUS, he makes me laugh.  Yes, right out loud, in the middle of the night, when I least expect it.

But it’s Ed’s prophetic wisdom that sustains me now, in this time worse than 1984, worse than Lord of the Flies

Pictures of Ed seem few and far between — this isolate one who reached the entire world.  Here is a stock photo of Ed in his beloved Red Rock Country.  Thank you, Alamy.

edward-abbey-author-of-desert-solitaire-shown-here-in-the-desert-at-JY6K00

I wrote in the first page of Ed’s The Journey Home,:  (first published in 1970) “Oh, Edward, where are you now?!  There is no one to speak/write/CRY OUT against greed, destruction, war on the land itself.  No one to protest the ruin of our land/air/water/future!”

As though Ed himself (no one calls him Edward – it’s my ‘pet name’ for my hero) had answered, I wrote his stunning proclamation:  “WE HAVE CONNIVED IN THE MURDER OF OUR OWN ORIGINS.”

Wizard.  Prophet.  So long ago, to have realized, to have dared call attention to the wasting of the West, of liberty itself!  “The earth is not a mechanism but an organism.”  “Growth for the sake of growth is the ideology of the cancer cell.”  Truth-teller, par excellence:  “Yosemite is no more wild nature than Central Park!”  Insisting that we should ban cars in our parks, he asserts, “You’ve got to be willing to walk!” 

America’s parks Abbey considers essential to the survival of democracy: –“treasures best enjoyed through the body and spirit, not through commercial plunder!.”  Which leads to one of my all-time favorite Abbeyisms:  “The best cure for the ills of democracy is MORE democracy!”  

Ed Abbey holds a particular hatred for those who would destroy his beloved desert, all in the form of ‘progress’:  “Vegas is creeping out everywhere.”

Abbey warns against “ration[ing] the wilderness experience.”  One of his quotes I’ve used as my e-mail signature proclaims “Long live the weeds and the wilderness!”

At his most exuberant, this author –who refuses to be called a naturalist–, exclaims, “O, to be a buzzard!”  One appeared at his (forbidden desert) funeral, delighting every mourner, all of whom has memorized so many of E.A.’s salient points, –circling, slowly, lazily, approving procedures below.  Those who know me, know I’m sure Ed borrowed that vulture’s physical body, for a fitting farewell.

Most chilling, always, are Ed’s musings on the dangers of our country’s losing true liberty.  “Our own nation is not free from the dangers of dictatorship.  And I refer to internal, as well as external, threats to our liberties.”  Abbey decries “the tendency upon the part of the authoritarian element always present… to suppress individual freedoms; to use the refined techniques of police surveillance…, in order to preserve, not wilderness, but the status quo, the privileged positions of those who now so largely control the economic and governmental institutions of the United States.”

(Have you noticed how rarely is used the term “United States” in post-1916 Amerika?  cfe)

In 1970, Ed warns of “the two-legged flesh-skinned robot, her head, his head, its head, wired by telepathic radio to a universal central control system.”

(Does anyone besides me cringe whenever I hear ‘the man or woman in the street’ use that ghastly Weather Channel command, “Stay Safe.”  It’s right up there with “Shelter in place,” which commands were rampant after the Boston Marathon Massacres. We are being coached during every storm to follow mandates that were the tools of tyrants.   cfe)

Edward Abbey probably had very little patience with matters of clairvoyance.  How else, though, do we explain his agony over, “When reality becomes intolerable; when the fantasies of nightmare become everyday experience, deny that reality; obliterate it; escape, escape, escape.”  “Every train of thought seems to lead to some concentration camp of nightmare.”  

The heart of the matter with Edward Abbey comes down to his conclusion in this final chapter of “The Journey Home“:  “WE CANNOT HAVE FREEDOM WITHOUT WILDERNESS.”  He quotes one of his own heroes, the legendary Dave Brower, in case we are missing the point:  “A WORLD WITHOUT WILDERNESS IS A CAGE.”

(David Ross Brower was a prominent environmentalist and the founder of many environmental organizations, including the John Muir Institute for Environmental Studies, Friends of the Earth (1969), the League of Conservation Voters, Earth Island Institute (1982), North Cascades Conservation Council, and Fate of the Earth.” Wikipedia)

 Abbey goes out on yet another flawless limb:  “I SEE THE PRESERVATION OF WILDERNESS AS ONE SECTOR IN THE WAR AGAINST THE ENCROACHING INDUSTRIAL STATE.”

 

“IF WE WISH TO GIVE OUR CHILDREN A TASTE OF THE GOOD LIFE, WE MUST BRING A HALT TO THE EVER-EXPANDING ECONOMY, and put the growth-maniacs under medical care.”

In case we didn’t get his point, about the importance of wilderness as a place where humans can rediscover themselves; as well as as “coyotes, lions (he means mountain lions), eagles and badgers; a place to re-experience freedom, the place “to learn what the lion has to teach,” Abbey declares, “All government is bad, including good government.”

“I am an extremist,” he insists in his naturalist-denying preface, merrily confessing his “extreme intransigence.”  Edward Abbey raves about being “far out on the very verge of things, on the edge of the abyss, where the world falls off into the depths.  That’s where I like it.   E.A.”

My hero describes his writings as having been “stirred in a blackened iron pot over a smoking fire of juniper, passionflower and mesquite.  Agitate. “(italics Ed’s).  He calls his words “a slumgullion”, which, “like any stew, makes a tasty, nutritious and coherent stew…  Society, too, is like a stew 00 If you don’t keep it stirred up, you get a lot of scum on top.”

Travel with Ed.  Revel with Ed.  Experience and re-experience Canyonlands and Arches and Death Valley and even Hoboken, and always the sere, saguaro-studded landscape in which he earned is deathless nickname, Cactus Ed.

Realize that to lose untrammeled wilderness is to lose the very liberty for which this country was founded in the 1770’s.  Let Edward Abbey, seer, open your eyes, stiffen your spine.  The times, our troublous times, demand it!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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.

800px-WLA_amart_Adams_Memorial

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.

fig. 78: Alfred Stieglitz

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

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…

“CACTUS ED” ABBEY ON MY MIND

“The earth is not a mechanism, but an organism.”                   Ed Abbey, The Journey Home

[Being in the Southwest] “is a treasure best enjoyed through the body and the spirit…, not through commercial plunder.”                                                       Ed Abbey, The Journey Home

“Are we going to ration the wilderness experience?”                 Ed Abbey, The Journey Home                              delicate-arch-arches-national-park-utah

Delicate Arch, Canyonlands, from Internet

The more I experience of man’s inhumanity to the Planet, –especially in overpopulated, pipe-line-threatened New Jersey–, the more I need Ed Abbey at my side. 

Right now, horrified at the success of the multi-billion-dollar-funded Climate Change Deniers (see This Changes Everything – Capitalism vs. the Climate by Naomi Klein), I’m reading Adventures with Ed by Jack Loeffler.  The  author hiked and ate and drank and discussed and even fought with Ed during his lifetime. 

The two made a solemn pact that neither would let the other die in a hospital.  A pledge Loeffler was barely able to keep, but did.  The secret burial site required by Ed was facilitated, honored and often visited by Loeffler.  He would bring beer, –one poured for Ed; one drunk by himself, whenever he made that pilgrimage.

Everything about which we have been warned by Naomi Klein and 350.org and James Hansen and and Elizabeth Kolbert and Bill McKibben and probably even Rachel Carson and even the Nobel Prize Committee and Al Gore, is described in chapter and verse of anything by and about Abbey. 

A professed non-naturalist and determined “desert rat”, — who claimed to want to turn into a vulture upon dying–, Ed showed us the Southwest as the Poster Child for military/industrial/Big Coal/Big Gas/Big Copper ruinations.

McKibben issued his clarion call when The End of Nature was published in 1989.  He is still calling.  Abbey’s pivotal Desert Solitaire brought us to attention to commercial despoilations of our planet, especially in the Southwest, in 1968   Is anybody listening?

My first attention to the plight of our pPlanet came through Ed’s articles, as  well as through his seminal non-fiction work, Desert Solitaire. 

My first protests began and accelerated with the proposal to dam the Grand Canyon (!yes!) and another to build an enormous coal-fired generating station on the Kaiparowits Plateau, fouling the Four Corners region sacred to countless Indian tribes.

In those enlightened days, popular magazines published words and memorable images of the beauties we seemed fated to lose, as we now stand to lose New Jersey’s last green spaces to Pipelines conspiracies.  That’s when I joined the Sierra Club and Greenpeace, and ‘adopted whales’ through a Provincetown non-profit, as my daughters’ main Christmas presents.

Ed, whom I did not yet ‘know’ from that one volume (still most successfully in print) said it first.  Working as I do for D&R Greenway Land Trust, though I am speaking here as my very private, very opinionated self, I see perils to nature at every turn.  Some of which incursions we can prevent, and in some cases turn around.  Every year of the benighted 21st Century, it becomes more and more clear to me that Ed was a remarkable prophet, as well as a stirring author.  (Read his novel, The Monkey Wrench Gang, if you don’t believe me.)

Ed is carefully quoted by Jack Loeffler, –from a speech Abbey was asked to give to St. John’s College in Santa Fe, in his beloved New Mexico:  “WILDERNESS IS WORTH SAVING FOR ITS OWN SAKE.”  This was 1975.  “Not for human benefit or pleasure.  Wild things and wild places have a right to exist and to continue existing…  Bees. birds, animals, snakes, buzzards, bugs, whatever, have a legal and moral right to continue. Even rocks have the moral right to continue being rocks.”

Those of you who read my US 1 (Business) Newspaper Cover Story on Four Shady Walks this week [princetoninfo.com], have absorbed my passion for the towering boulders of the Sourlands trail off Hopewell’s Greenwood Avenue.  This haven taught me that not only trees and flowers, animals and insects,  –but the very rocks themselves–, exude spirit.  One is changed, –of course for the better–, in their midst.  One is stilled, inspired and strengthened merely walking among them.  Even more-so, sitting upon the most majestic rocks at the end of the blue trail, their ancient reality, their connection to creation, seeps  into and surrounds one.

You who read this blog, who did read NJ WILD all those years with the Packet, have seen images of those rocks.  They impact me like Chartres and Mt. St. Michel.  But you must go there in timelessness.  You must allow them to realize that you are open to their beings, and sometimes, even their messages.  You might apologize aloud for humans who ferried them away and pulverized their eminences into gravel and Belgian blocks.  To say nothing of the angry and misguided who defaced them with (now effaced, but never forgotten) wild graffiti last fall.  You might also make amends to noble beech trees along the trail, scarred by (to me, inexplicable) human need to carve their initials upon their sacred skin.

Ed insists, and I have always agreed, the Bible has it wrong.  “Man was NOT put here to have dominion over all things…  The earth was here first, and all these living things before us.”  Ed, also, –whose great joy was scrambling over rocks and boulders, mountains and peaks, preferably in sere desert landscapes–, goes on to tell the St. John’s students:  “Is it not possible that rocks, hills, and mountains, may enjoy a sentience, a form of consciousness, which we humans cannot perceive, because of vastly different time scales?”  His most outrageous proposition, which I find irresistible, is “…consider that we are thoughts in the minds of mountains, or that all humanity is a long, long thought.”

His (temporary, for Ed never gave UP on these themes) conclusion is, “As mind is to body, so is humanity to earth.  We cannot dishonor one without dishonoring and destroying ourselves.”

The Intrepids and I turn together to Eleanor Roosevelt and Georgia O’Keeffe, to stiffen our spines for the battles demanded in the 21st Century, to carry on to victories small and large upon which the Planet’s very survival depends.  Privately, every single year, I turn to Ed.

Ed ruminates on reverberations of research: “Science leads to technology…, and industry.  It’s what [science] can lead to that could be bad… Things go wrong, and scientists (and the Army Corps of Engineers, adds Carolyn-of-New-Jersey) are called in to think up remedies.  More and more, the system comes to rely upon remedial tinkering.  It becomes ever more centralized until utter collapse is inevitable.”  Outrageous Ed dares to say “the sooner, the better”, which quip I do not applaud.  But his conclusion is essential, “Then, maybe, we can stamp out this blight, this cancer of industrialization.”

When our beautiful –state, with its marvelous green preserves of forest and farmland–, is reduced to a “What Exit?” joke…  When everyone’s view of this entity formerly known as The Garden is a plethora of tanks and chimneys and wires and overpasses.  When our sacred Shore is eyed by Big Power as one long limitless oilfield — it’s time to pay attention to Ed.  Read him.  Write letters to editors.  Protest every pipeline suggestion/appropriation.  Support your local land trusts, who are trying to turn the tide of ruination decried by Ed Abbey, the Hemingway of preservation.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Hyde Park Memories

Mosaic in Lobby of FDR/ER Library, revealing the lay of the land and our pilgrimage to excellence, last weekend and last May…

Eleanor's Haven Hyde Park

Eleanor’s Val-Kill Cottage, her blessed hideaway in her final years

NJWILDBEAUTY readers know I have just returned from the Hudson River Valley, with two dear members of the Intrepids, Jeanette Hooban and Janet Black.  We were on yet another Eleanor-and-Franklin-quest.  Mountains taught us that they have nothing to do with with other weathers in nearby regions, nor even with sophisticated forecasts.  Many a day was grim and grey, but mountains sustained us, and Springwood and the FDR/ER Library significantly expanded our knowledge of our two heroes. FDR's HIdeaway from Sara at Val Kill

Top Cottage, designed by FDR as getaway from his formidable mother, Sara Delano Roosevelt

Top Cottage won’t be open til May, so we Intrepids will plan another journey.

Here are images from a sunnier time in Hyde Park and Rhinebeck.  Travel with us – having all the advantages, and none of the disadvantages of our getaway.

Jeanette and Carolyn on Steps of Springwood FDR

Carolyn Yoder and Jeanette Hooban, resting on the front porch of Springwood, FDR’s boyhood home in Hyde Park

 

Spring at FDR Library May 2015

Spring Blossoms in FDR’s Garden at Springwood and the FDR/ER Library

Springwood Eleanor's Violets Rose Garden May 2015

Spring in Eleanor’s Rose Garden, as Violets hint of the roses to come

 

RIP FDR Springwood Rose Garden May 2015

Resting in the Peace they Forged – our Heroes, Eleanor and Franklin in the Rose Garden, accompanied by their boon companion, the faithful Scottie, Fala

Perhaps we should credit the examples of Eleanor and Franklin, where courage and persistence are concerned, with the continuing fortitude of the Intrepids.

Despite mountain-birthed weather systems last weekend, Jeanette and Janet and I made repeated pilgrimages into sites vital to Eleanor and Franklin, without whom the world would not have been saved from the most dire Depression and all those wars.

Our hikes were curtailed, but our history-quest expanded and expanded.

Gastronomic treats abounded in nearby Rhinebeck.

And purple mountain majesties brooded impressively over all, often reflected in the shimmering broad Hudson River that sustained ‘my’ president.  Janet rode home to Manhattan in a sleek train that hugged the river’s shore.  Mountains seemed carved of slate, reflected in waters running orange and coral and tangerine and pink and mauve, right outside her window.

Those forested slopes crowning the landscapes reminded us that FDR was a legend and an enemy (depending upon party) in his time for creating crucial National Parks, –especially saving the Everglades; and attending to the needs of wild creatures, –particularly the American bald eagle and the trumpeter swan.  Coming upon a clear-cut in the West, our president, my president, is quoted in Douglas Brinkley’s new book on FDR and land preservation, as hoping that the “s.o.b. who logged that is roasting in hell.”  As a child, we never heard language like this.  As a greatly disillusioned adult, I rejoice in his accuracy, even prophecy.  For the clearcutting seems to go on unabated, nature’s foes seeming to say “the hell with carbon sinks.”

There wouldn’t be an Assateague without Franklin’s courage, nor my beloved Monomoy Wildlife Refuge off Chatham, Massachusetts.  This president buttressed the legendary Rosalie Edge of Hawk Mountain Refuge, above nearby Hamburg, Pennsylvania, in stopping the most egregious raptor slaughter in our land.

I confess to having assumed that TR was the National Park President.  Yes, but his relative, his successor, knew the essentiality of saving wild America, especially her coastlines.

So much that makes America America, we owe to Roosevelts.

In case you wonder, that’s why THIS preservationist keeps making pilgrimages to the Hudson River Valley.

And why she brought home Brinkley’s Rightful Heritage – Franklin D. Roosevelt and the Land of America, to take its place ultimately alongside Brinkley’s The Wilderness Warrier — Theodore Roosevelt and the Crusade for America.

All Aboard Hyde Park Train Station

Franklin’s and Eleanor’s Train Station

 

LIBERTY THOUGHTS

Friends Return Dune Walk Noreaster

Island Beach – Intrepids Walk into the Nor’Easter, in my Favorite Ten-Mile Preserve

NJWILDBEAUTY readers know I cherish and require New Jersey’s wild natural spaces.  Frankly, my passion for NJ open space is right up there with my need of Cornwall’s and Brittany’s.  It’s why I pour myself into preservation every week at D&R Greenway Land Trust.  Although centered in Princeton, we save the land in seven counties, approaching the 20,000-acre mark.

Cedar Ridge Welcome

Cedar Ridge Preserve, Welcome Sign and Welcoming Meadow

Lovely Cedar Ridge, like all of our preserves, bel0ngs to the people, in the best American tradition.  Wild creatures thrive here.  Hunters have restored a stone wall of yesteryear.  A majestic oak stand sentinel at the center of the trails.  The ‘two-legged, the four-legged, the winged’, as the Lenni Lenape named them, are free in this multi-faceted setting just off Van Dyke Road beyond Hopewell, because it was preserved.

Box Turtle leaves and roots

Terrestrial Box Turtle, Safe and Free on the Forest Floor of Cedar Ridge

The box turtle reminds me of FDR’s Four Freedoms, so beautifully illustrated in four enormous canvases at the Norman Rockwell Museum in Stockbridge, Massachusetts.  Never forget these freedoms.

Choose only to vote for people who increase:

FREEDOM FROM FEAR

FREEDOM OF SPEECH

FREEDOM FROM WANT

FREEDOM OF WORSHIP

Every once in awhile, I have to visit other states in quest of wild beauty, spectacular hikes, and always history.  Don’t get me wrong, NJ has HISTORY in capital letters.  I’ve read that 75% of the significant battles of our Revolution took place on NJ soil.  And three significant early victories — the two battles of Trenton and the single one at Princeton.  Our Founding Fathers traveled through our state on their way to forging liberty at Philadelphia.  Words penned there could have cost every delegate his “life, fortune and sacred honor.”  Two nearby New Jerseyans paid with their lives for Signing that sacred Declaration – Stockton and Hart.

General Washington examined the Delaware from Goat Hill, below Lambertville, before his significant Christmastime crossing. John McPhee claims that the shad of that sacred river sustained the troops at Valley Forge.  And some also insist that rations of Jersey Ligntnin’ — applejack made particularly in our Pine Barrens– were issued to instill courage as needed.

Delaware in November Looking North from Goat Hill Trail

George Washington’s View From Goat Hill Preserve, Below Lambertville

The General and his bootless heroic men defended liberty at Monmouth, where extreme summer heat may have been our secret weapon.  We would not have become the literal Land of Liberty without New Jersey.

For me, there’s a special, inexplicable connection between lighthouses and liberty:

East Point Light and Flag May 2015

East Point Light and Flag, Delaware Bayshore

Partly on account of the courageous and brilliant Adams of Massachusetts, we secured true freedom from the tyranny of George III.  Never forget that John daringly defended those accused of the so-called Boston Massacre.  Otherwise, he insisted, all the words spoken and penned in Philadelphia would have meant nothing.

Sometimes I have to return to his state for deep doses of history, heroism, and nature herself.  Chatham Mass.was my summer home for at least a decade of summers.  Glorious even in fog, Chatham seems to hold light by day and by night, filling me recently, as NJWILDBEAUTY readers know, with scenes seemingly unchanged since the 1970’s.

Chatham’s light has brought safety in storms for decades beyond counting.  Let that light fill you, and and do whatever you can to increase the light of true liberty in our land.

Chatham Light Storm-blown Flag jpg

Chatham Light and Flag

 

 

Leeds Point with Flag Flying pre Sandy

Leeds Point, Pine Barrens Fishing Village

In rustic Leeds Point (home of the Jersey Devil, also in the 1700’s) fishermen and clammers and crabbers remain free to ply their generational trade, moving silently along tidal creeks through wetlands.  Many wetlands in that region have been preserved through the foresight of Forsythe – Edmund B., a politician far ahead of his time in realizing how important open space is to true liberty.

Remembering FDR   Library May 2015

FDR Sculpture, FDR Library, Hyde Park NY

Two of my all-time heroes are Franklin Delano Roosevelt, and his intrepid activist wife, Eleanor.  Next week I’ll be in his ancestral home, Springwood, with two of The Intrepids.  We’ll make pilgrimage to 1930’s murals, evoking rural ways and the Depression out of which FDR pulled us all, in the post office he dedicated in Rhinebeck.

Rhinebeck Flag

Rhinebeck, New York Flag. at Historic Post Office

Beekman Arms Flags Rhinebeck NY

Flags of Beekman Arms, Rhinebeck, New York

 Our first meal will be at the Beekman Arms in Rhinebeck, pre-Revolutionary haven and living museum.  Their Tavern seems even now to echo with the sound of pewter tankards, banged on weathered tables, as Revolutionaries of New York insisted, “Give me liberty, or give me death.”

My friends know, if I could return in any era, I’d choose Philadelphia in the 1770’s.  I’d have to have been a man then, of course.  We’d all be there – Tom and John and Ben and George and Richard Stockton and I hope Tom Paine, banging those tankards at the City Tavern by my beloved Delaware River.

From our thoughts and this cacophony would flow the liberty which sustains us today.  Do not, for God’s sake, lose it!

These two never lost sight of what really matters in America.

Our Heroes FDR Library

Our Heroes, Eleanor and Franklin

THE REAL FOURTH OF JULY – Courage the norm, rights the motive…

Star-Spangled Banner on Stern of Twilight Steamboat on the Flooded Mississippi River 2010

Star-Spangled Banner on Stern of Twilight Steamboat on the Flooded Mississippi River
2010

I am an old-fashioned patriot.  I mean really old-fashioned, as in the time of and the paradigm of the Founding Fathers.

When people ask, lightly for them, “In what era would like to have lived?”, I always say the 1770’s in Philadelphia.  Only not as a woman.  None of this Betsy Ross business, nor even the brilliant Abigail, urging John, “Remember the women.”

No, I don’t even care which man I am, so long as I am a man, and off to the City Tavern with Toms (1 and 2 — Jefferson and Paine), John (Adams of course), Ben – who needs no surname, and George, Father of our Country in many ways beyond war.  I have a powdered wig and those dusky pantalons, and white long stockings, and uncomfortable-looking shoes with sort-of high heels and shiny buckles.  Night after night, in the rustic taverns, lit by candle or gaslight, I am saying with my buddies, “Give me Liberty, or give me death.”

Hancock House, Scene of British Massacre of Patriots, Salem County NJ after Battle of Quinton Bridge

Hancock House, Scene of British Massacre of Patriots, Salem County NJ after Battle of Quinton Bridge — its upstairs room is said still to reveal splotches of true Patriots’ blood – slaughtered in sleep

I don’t have any patience with the skim-milk liberty of the 21st Century.  I bristle when the Fourth of July is termed a Freedom Fest.  In our country now, which our Founding Fathers would never recognize, the more we prate of liberty and freedom, the less we have.

America The Beautiful -- Pole Farm's Red Barn, Fields and Berries

America The Beautiful — Pole Farm’s Red Barn, Fields and Berries

This scene of barn and fields is my personal American icon.  It stands for Independence, such as farmers lived and passed on through generations.  It stands for salt-of-the-earth people, who worked with the earth, not in spite of it, to feed families and neighbors, to nourish not only bodies, but the very spirit of our land.

Thomas Jefferson and George Washington were farmers.  They knew the solid safety of our country rested on rural realities.  Not in slogans, let alone in the renaming of airports.

Those inalienable rights for which our Forefathers pledged and some lost their fortunes and lives, tho never their sacred honor, are trampled daily in 21st-Century Washington, by mega-corporations, in our very un-free media, in books, in trade deals, in intra-country negotiations.

Eleanor Roosevelt’s International Bill of Rights, for which she (the only woman at the United Nations) thought and fought and negotiated and declared, seems a figment of imagination.  Lost in the shuffle, and worse.  Her proudest achievement – trampled in the dust.

Reeds Beach Flag, One of NJ's Land's Ends, Battered by Sandy, Returning to Life

Reeds Beach Flag, One of NJ’s Land’s Ends, Battered by Sandy, Returning to Life

Our entire country won the war of Revolution here, where I live now, in Lawrenceville (then Maidenhead) and in Trenton’s two Christmas battles, and in nearby Monmouth and in distant Yorktown, thanks to the French Fleet and heroic Lafayette.  It was also won in small towns, such as Concord and Lexinbton and on Bunker Hill in Boston, and in kitchens where wives and children melted the family pewter and silver and whatever other metals, to create bullets to defeat the tyrranical Brits.

Proud Names of the Greenwich Town Tea Burners in Salem County NJ

Proud Names of the Greenwich Town Tea Burners in Salem County NJ

Give Me Libert;y, or Give Me Death - Tea Burners' Monument, Greenwich Town, Salem County, NJ

Give Me Libert;y, or Give Me Death – Tea Burners’ Monument, Greenwich Town, Salem County, NJ

in weeks and months before the written Declaration, and in the interminable years thereafter, the man and woman in the streets, in the fields, and even in tea-burning ceremonies in Greenwich New Jersey and yes in Princeton, as well as in Boston, courage was the norm, and rights were the motive.. 

My Country, 'tis of Thee, Sweet Land -- in Spring Leaves, Rhinebeck NJ

My Country, ’tis of Thee, Sweet Land — in Spring Leaves, Rhinebeck NJ

Heroes were also our norm in those decades, and they didn’t only wear pantalons.  Resistance was as fierce among wives and daughters of our Founding Fathers, as among the men in Philadelphia.  In many cases, the women were nearer to the maurading British, gunpowder, cannonfire, destruction by many means of their homes and communities.  Their spines were as stiff as those of their mates, negotiating in various capitals, riding to country taverns with muffled horses’ hooves, standing on balconies and reading declarations of rights.

Flag and East Point Light, Delaware Bayshore, New Jersey

Flag and East Point Light, Delaware Bayshore, New Jersey

Life.  Liberty.  The Pursuit of Happiness.  How simple they sounded when I was a child.  How they fired the soldiers in WWI and WWII, especially on D Day and beyond.  How rare those qualities seem now.

We fought for them, even more than for our flag.

I am greatly disturbed always that the Stars and Stripes became a symbol of aggression and revenge, instead of freedom and inalienable rights, from the first moments of 9/11 ever onward.

Do you ever wonder where all those flapping auto-flags came from, within hours of the dissolution of the Twin Towers?  Who alerted the flag-manufacturers?

Before 9/11, we never saw those flags except in rare personal presidential motorcades, as when JFK motored through Detroit and Illinois before his impossible election.

After 9/11, little flags were everywhere and big ones inexplicably on bridges and overpasses.  Why?  In those days, it seemed, our banner stood for vengeance, even war.

One of Five Covered Bridges of Bennington VT, where the Green Mountain Boys Helped Create and Preserve Liberty in Our Land

One of Five Covered Bridges of Bennington VT, where the Green Mountain Boys Helped Create and Preserve Liberty in Our Land

I happen to love the Stars and Stripes.

All year, I’ve been photographing them hither and yon, to try to recapture the pride and honor of Fourth of July as a child.

Beekman Arms Flags, Rhinebeck NY

Beekman Arms Flags, Rhinebeck NY, where Revolutionary sentiments were pounded into the tavern tables

Hence the collection.  What does it mean to YOU?