HISTORY-TREKKING — NEW CASTLE DELAWARE

Founding principles feel present, still, in venerable New Castle, Delaware.  Literally on the banks of the Delaware River, famed as William Penn’s landing place.  But when the Swedes arrived around 1638, this bucolic spot was home to legendary Lenapes.

Flag Draped New Castle dwelling July 2017

Brick sidewalks thread through brick neighborhoods.  Flags are as likely to bear thirteen stars as the sharp angles notorious as the British banner (proudly displayed to left, below.)

A far cry, this joining of emblems, from the high spirits of the Founding Fathers hammering out a country in nearby Philadelphia; debating, and then signing, the Declaration of Independence.

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That Declaration and our Constitution remain living, yes, sacred, documents to me!  Democracy was the fruit of their labors, and where is it now?

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British Heritage New Castle Delaware July

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To my great delight, Revolutionary history is EVERYWHERE.  Here we read of (my hero!) Lafayette’s having given the bride away in this church:

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Lafayette Gives Away the Bride New Castle Delaware

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Buildings echo Philadelphia’s most venerable.  Here, both country’s flags blow in a July wind off the adjacent Delaware River.

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Essence of New Castle July 2017

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Venerable signs have faded on vintage buildings.  It’s eerie to see Coca Cola as a vestige of some storied past.

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Fine Sign New Castle Delaware

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Here and there, one passes “packet alleys” — long slopes, brick-lined, leading to the Delaware.  Here, clipper ships had landed.  Along these time-worn ramps, ‘stores’, –ships’ provisions–, had been tugged into the commercial part of town, by four-legged and two-legged creatures.  At one time, an epidemic closed the major port of Philadelphia.  New Castle had to step into the breach until a change of season brought a change of health.

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Model Ship Jessop's Tavern New Castle Delaware 2017

SHIP’S MODEL IN WINDOW OF HISTORIC JESSOP’S TAVERN

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The Shadows Know New Castle Delaware July

THE SHADOWS KNOW… What stories these rooms could tell…

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O Say Can You See New Castle Delaware July

“O, Say, Can You See?”

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Venerable New Castle Delaware Scenes July

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Wharf New Castle Delaware River Scenes

PORT OF CALL

Delaware Memorial Bridge Delaware River New Castle Delaware

COMMERCIAL DELAWARE, DELAWARE MEMORIAL BRIDGE TO NEW JERSEY

Inn op New Castle Delaware 2017

YOU, TOO, CAN OWN A STORIED INN

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Thomas Jefferson Ale Jessop's Tavern New Castle Delaware 2017

THOMAS JEFFERSON ALE, JESSOP’S TAVERN OF NEW CASTLE —

300-year-old building

From “Delaware, 200 Years Ago”, by Harold B. Hancock, “New Castle remained the county seat, but it lost out in trade and population to Wilmington…  Visitors in the port [of New Castle] considered it a town of lost importance.”  In 1785, New Castle was described as “a little, insignificant town.”  There were predictions that it would “bloom again”  And bloom it does for this traveler, in search of the courage, honor, dignity of Revolutionary Days, in a setting of unparalleled early beauty and taste.

When Lafayette and Jefferson join me on my history treks, I ask no greater boon.

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WHY READ HISTORY? — To re-experience EXCELLENCE

Thomas Paine from Internet [5].pn

“These are the times that try men’s souls.”  But, no, this line was not penned nor typed nor tweeted in the 21st Century.  It is one of the slogans that made the American Revolution possible.  That generated and strengthened bonds among “we few, we band of brothers”, striking tyranny from our land in the 1700’s.

thomas paine sign re Common Sense from Internet

The eloquent and heroic Thomas Paine went on to declare,  The summer soldier and the sunshine patriot will, in this crisis, shrink from the service of their country; but he that stands by it now, deserves the love and thanks of man and woman.”  George Washington and Thomas Jefferson were known to credit the Spirit of ’76 [which barely existed in that era of barefoot soldiers, yet steadily grew], to the words of this writer. 

Strategic Retreat

The Legendary Crossing, which may never have happened without Paine’s heroic urgings

Nearby Bordentown is the only place where Paine ever owned a home.  A slight, compelling statue recreates the man without whose pamphlets we might not have a nation.

19171278-A-statue-of-Thomas-Paine-father-of-the-American-Revolution-in-Bordentown-New-Jersey--Stock-Photo

Paine’s  courage was by no means limited to 1776 — for he would also pen the stirring phrase, “Government without a Constitution is power without a right.”

We the People from Internet orig

 

220px-Thomas_Paine_by_Laurent_Dabos-crop

 

13 Star Flag Chestnut Neck Revolutionary War Monument Winter 2017

Thirteen-Star Flag in Winter, Chestnut Neck, NJ, Battleground —

British Won This One

 

I am steeping myself in history books, of the time of TR, FDR, ER and always Churchill; alternating with our own American Revolution, because I am starved for excellence.

Right now, David Hackett Fischer’s stunning account, “Washington’s Crossing” “hath me in thrall.”  I am particularly moved, proud of our state as I am, to read, “Ordinary people in New Jersey came together to do something about their lost liberty.”  This wise author describes our ‘rag, tag and bobtail’ soldiers as “an army of optimistic fatalists.”  Writing of the Crossing of the Delaware, Colonel Henry Knox declared, “Perseverance accomplished what at first seemed impossible.” 

We are a country that first seemed impossible.  Our neighbors sacrificed everything — there is an entire chapter on the Hessian’s near-total looting of New Jersey homes and of course farms and farmlands.

George Washington penned a note to himself on the Pennsylvania side before the crossing, “VICTORY OR DEATH.”  Our challenge was that simple, that austere.

One of the miracles was that “in the end, not a man was lost to the river,” despite towering, occluding ice floes, ice in the Durham boats, a sleet-laden nor’easter that struck as the men boarded their crafts at McConkey’s Ferry.

Surely, all this did not happen to have it tweeted away in the 21st Century!

Let Tom Paine have the last word: “Some evils in the world are worse than war.  And one of them is tyranny.”

Protest every way you know how!

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?

OLD-FASHIONED ICE CREAM PARLOR, in Burlington NJ, near Delaware River

UMMM Ice Cream Burlington July 2017

NJWILDBEAUTY readers know I recently savored river towns, thanks to our brilliant light rail system from Bordentown (for me) to Camden.  This immaculate, zingy, Swiss-made train is reconnecting and resurrecting towns that died with the age of sail.

Coke of Yesteryear Ice Cream Parlor MMMM Burlington July 2017

Tickets are for a time period, not any particular destination – and mine (because of venerable age!) is 75 cents for two hours.  I guess non-venerables pay $1.50.  Heaven awaits.

CHOICES! Ice Cream Parlor MMMM Burlington

But also, the visceral experience of other eras.  I am convinced that Burlington’s brick sidewalks must have been made with bricks from the Abbott Marshlands, ages ago.  Signs of 1776 and 1656 abound.

Important Men Burlington July 2017

This ice cream parlor is in Burlington, (two blocks east and one south returned us to the train station, to buy and then validate a second set of tickets.)    It feels as though it were founded in the earliest part of the twentieth century, and has barely changed since.  Even I am not that venerable!

Eloquent Bricks Burlington

Back to the Ice Cream Parlor:

Get a Split Ice Cream Parlor Burlington July

 

FLAG Ice Cream Parlor MMMM Burlington July 2017

If Michelin had not invented “worthy of the journey”, I would have to do so for this idyllic sojourn.

On that hot summer’s day, all we needed to cool ourselves in the river towns, was to walk a block or two west to the river, or pop into this ice cream parlor.

O.K., the 21st-century waitress didn’t know how to make an ice cream soda.  But, beautiful and charming, she tore herself away from studying, to follow perfect instructions from my Princeton Photography Club (New York natives) companions.

Hit the rails — Think “River Line”!

 

 

 

 

Riverton, New Jersey, Decorates for the Fourth!

Riverton Yacht Club July 2017

I feel most fortunate to live in New Jersey when I ride our brilliant light rail, The River Line, especially with people who’ve never been on it before.    We board this snazzy Swiss-built conveyance at bucolic Bordentown,   The station offers views of ‘my’ river, along with free, safe parking, and interesting sculptures having to do with our often undervalued state.

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Burlington July 2017 023

TRENTON MAKES / WORLD TAKES    Sculpture @ Bordentown River Line Station

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Within soundless seconds, we are wrapped in marsh landscapes, heading south through storied Roebling; brick-sidewalked Burlington (proud to have a London neighborhood founded in 1656), and on to explore and feast in idyllic Riverton.

Riverton Scenes July 2017 002

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The River Line could solve so many problems in our land, in our world.  Gliding along rails used for freight at night, the glistening two-headed train has become a traveling village.  Conviviality rules the ride, especially surprising New Yorkers, now key members of the Princeton Photography Club, on a day-long time-travel excursion.

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Riverton Scenes July 2017 012

PROUD SIGNATURE IN ANCIENT SIDEWALK

People walk around in Riverton.  They’re lively and open, eager to talk to strangers.  Parents hold children by the hand; and children hold books, coursing toward this town’s charming little library.  A Councilman asks us why we are photographing, tells us how Riverton came to be (summer homes for Philadelphians in 1800’s), and exchanges cards with the real photographers.

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Riverton Bunting

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This amateur is in heaven in Riverton, because ‘her’ river, the Delaware, is so near, so alive, shimmering with history and promise.  The Delaware’s signature, –almost a perfume–, is that zingy breeze that starts to riffle hair, even on a steamy July day.

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Riverton Delaware River Scene at Yacht Club

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Riverton Fourth 2017

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The town is gearing up for its hundred-year-old Fourth of July Parade.  Homes of other era are as spiffy as when they’d been built; each yard individually planted and tended and decorated for our first day of Independence.  One man invited us INTO his home to meet the cats.

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Riverton Scenes July 2017 009

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Another neighbor explained that the arresting black and blue and white flag on one balcony honors policemen, EMT people, First Responders.

First Responder Flag Riverton Fourth of July 2017

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The colors of our day, however, were red, white and blue.  No town is more celebratory about the efforts of those founding fathers, –so near, across our pivotal river–, without whose vision and heroism, we would not have a country.

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River Wind in Riverton Flag July 2017

 

 

 

FOURTH OF JULY FLAG COLLECTION

TAOS, NEW MEXICO, HOLLYHOCK AND FLAG

Taos Hollyhock and Flag 2016

Once upon a time, our flag had but thirteen stars.  Few as they were, those bright lights represented staunch courage and a fierce sense of Independence,  Until recently, we exuberantly celebrate every Fourth of July since that sacred Declaration was read on the balcony of Boston’s Faneuil Hall.  And some of us marvel over that singular Fourth of July when Thomas Jefferson and John Adams died within hours of one another…

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1 24-Star Flag

24-STAR FLAG

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At the time of the tragedy of September 11 and the World Trade Center, our flag was somehow shrunken to fit on the hoods of cars beyond counting.  It was also co-opted as a symbol of vengeance.

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Cape May Half-Mast Christmas 2015

CAPE MAY HALF-MAST AT CHRISTMASTIME

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Around this same time, people stopped using the phrase “Fourth of July”, mandated to substitute ridiculous meaningless phrases, such as “Freedom Fest” and even “Freedom Fries.”  So did we learn that the more politicians prate of freedom and liberty  (“Newark Liberty” – I ASK you!),   the less we have.

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Chatham Light Storm-blown Flag jpg

CHATHAM (MASSACHUSETTS) LIGHT AND STORM-WHIPPED FLAG

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Wherever I travel in our country every year, I “collect” images of the American flag I revere and fiercely love.

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13 Star Flag Chestnut Neck Revolutionary War Monument Winter 2017

13-STAR FLAG, BATTLEGROUND OF CHESTNUT NECK, PINE BARRENS,

NEW JERSEY

 

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My flag collection is saved into a Fourth of July file.  Each year, they are sifted through like rubies, diamonds, sapphires, — a priceless tumble of red, white and blue–, into a vintage jewelry box.

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Bayhead Flag in April April wind 2016

BAY HEAD, NEW JERSEY, FLAG — WIND-WHIPPED IN APRIL

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Wander with me through flags that mean what our Founding Fathers meant when they pledged (and some lost) their lives, their fortunes, though not their sacred honor to bring forth this miraculous country.

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GHOST RANCH, ABIQUIU, NEW MEXICO – FLAGS AND EVENING FOG

 

Ghost Ranch Flags and Clouds July 2016

 

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PATRIOTS’ FLAG, BATTLEGROUND OF CHESTNUT NECK

PINE BARRENS, NEW JERSEY

Patriots' Flag Chestnut Neck Revolutionary War Monument Winter 2017

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…