Lumberville (PA) General Store — Unique, Even Outstanding Foods and Welcome

http://thelumbervillegeneralstore.com/ [sign up for notices of SPECIAL events…]

 

Feast by the Fire Lumberville General Store Jan. 2017

One of Winter’s Welcoming Fireplaces, Lumberville General Store, PA

How can one be homesick for a place that is not home?  Or actively miss a place, when one is there every few weeks?  This has been my fate since I ‘met’ the renovated Lumberville General Store, on ‘The River Road’ above New Hope.  This emporium of excellence has been eincarnated by brilliant Laura Thompson, aesthetic genius behind the Black Bass Inn across the road.

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Black Bass Inn Lumberville PA Jan. 2017

Bass Inn, Venerable ‘Parent’ Establishment Across Route 32

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A Florida friend and I had set out for Bucks County with Christmas presents for one another in hand,  planning for breakfast at a traditional Lamberville morning restaurant.  Now that she lives in the South, time together needs to be timeless and quiet.  Our destination, that morning, turned out to be rambunctious and raucous, with a line out the door into December’s gelid air.  “We’re not doing this,” I announced.  “I’ve read about new chefs at the Lumberville General Store.  Let’s give it a try.”

Ice Floes on River Lumberville General Store Jan. 2017

Ice Floes Race Down the Delaware River, Out Lumberville General Store Windows

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Lantern Lumberville General Store Jan. 2017

Welcoming Lantern on the Mantel

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Pheasant Feather Array Lumberville General Store Jan. 2017Window Decor, Lumberville General Store Haven

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Fireplace Tile Lumberville General Store Jan. 2017

Fireplace Tile, Lumberville General Store

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Fireplace Gloves ready for Christmas Lumberville General Store Jan. 2017

Even the Fire-Tending Gloves are Decorative!

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Scotch Woodcock, Sage and Ginger Sausage, Hash Browns Lumberville General Store

Scotch Woodcock (home-smoked salmon), gossamer eggs, cloud-like roll, home-fashioned-and-smoked sausage with ginger and sage — and the most ethereal (so-called) hash-browned potatoes of our lives — [Chef Anton’s secret being pre-preparation inspired by The French Laundry] — an hour and a  half  sous-vide… and, o, yes, “We finish them in butter.  Everything’s better in butter.”

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One chooses a room, a table, a fireplace.  One picks up a handy compact clipboarded menu in the main room of the General Store.  One agonizes between their own bacon, quiche with crust that levitates, scrambled eggs in the form of the omelets of France, triple-berry or cheese scones, hearty breakfast biscuit, and the like.  I cannot count the number of friends I have taken there or met there.  All are astounded — even at lunch.  This attention to detail, to sources (“We’re between Manhattan and Philly — purveyors are glad to serve us.”) I seem to remember Anton’s delight in the storied Viking fisheries of LBI for salmon and other fish; and local eggs whose provenance resembles that of works of art.  Their legendary soups are also available frozen to take home, as are those remarkable quiches.  Tall sturdy glass bottles with metal and porcelain stoppers hold (free) refrigerated water for your table, by whatever fireside, or outside, setting you may choose.

While Amy and Charlie and Anton banter with you behind the counter, you can create mixed coffee concoctions to meet your morning needs.  Everyone’s pride in his and her work is palpable.  Their delight in one’s presence is as though you’re guests and they’re cherished hosts in the warmest of homes.

We’ve done any number of Christmas and birthday rituals, wrapped in timelessness that is not the norm in this dire century.  There have been celebration of having recovered visits and even sympathy returns.  Hale or not, merry or sad, by the fire, or with backyard breezes wafting in as guests feast at the sturdy outdoor tables — in this historic setting, one feels blessed.  As well as gastronomically enchanted.

Black Bass Inn Plaques Lumberville PA Jan. 2017

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And afterwards, in most weather (once, even in black ice — a short jaunt), one can walk the foot(e)bridge across my beloved Delaware and its Pennsylvania canal, to Bull’s Island in New Jersey.  There’s even a successful eagle nest visible when trees are less leafed out, one mile below the New Jersey entry to Bull’s Island.  This hefty structure crowns a massive sycamore, almost on the river.  And another eagle nest may be found on the power tower near the Lambertville toll bridge — whose three young fledged on the Fourth of July weekend!  For a long time, the Homestead Farm Market on the Lambertville hill had its scope trained on the nest where these hefty young were “branching” — testing their wings.

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Canal Towpath Delaware River Jan. 2017

Canal and Towpath, Pennsylvania Side

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January Delaware and Canal from Footbridge 2017

Canal and River Alongside/Below Black Bass Inn

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Pennsylvania Canal Towpath and Delaware River

Winter Canal, “Down By the Riverside…”

NJWILDBEAUTY readers well recognize that this haven, which extends far beyond a mere restaurant, constellates most of my passions:   beauty, history, authenticity, gastronomy, and Nature herself — especially my cherished Delaware River.

Places such as Riverton and Burlington NJ, and Perkasie and Sellersville, PA, remind us, along with Lumberville:  Without preservation, we would have little or none of the experiences and photographs on this ‘page.’

This canal was connected to our D&R Canal by an aqueduct at nearby Raven Rock.  Much of New Jersey was settled, in the canal era, beside canal towns.  Before that, the Delaware was the main artery.  Lumberville was named for the trees harvested there and floated down the river to build Pennsylvania and New Jersey in those centuries.  It is a miracle that not only beauty, but even artifacts of those time, let alone buildings, remain.

NJWILDBEAUTY readers know I celebrate living in the Delaware Valley, because it is so easy to get to beauty and wildness, and HISTORY, within an hour’s drive or less!  It wasn’t like this in Michigan, which became a state in 1837…  Open your eyes and your tastebuds newly to our surroundings.  Give yourselves these memorable gifts.

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From their web-site — you see, yet another passion, art in general and Delaware Valley Impressionism in particular…

HISTORY

As you can see from the original date stone on the front of the store, our beautiful building has stood on River Road since 1770. Over the years – with ownership passing from local family to local family – the General Store has always honored the same fundamental tradition: providing a place for the community to congregate. While our visitors may not be relying on us for their weekly groceries these days, we’re proud to still maintain the cozy, communal feel that has defined our store’s history.

PAST

This once-sleepy area alongside the Delaware River steadily developed over the course of the late eighteenth century, and with it, the General Store. In 1775, Revolutionary War hero Colonel George Wall, Jr. acquired the land and began personally overseeing the store. He also (modestly) renamed the area “Walls Landing” and created two lumber mills, a grist mill, and a surveying school. By 1825, the store started to serve a dual purpose as the post office of the newly renamed “Lumberville” – a moniker chosen by Jonathan Heed and Samuel Hartley in response to the successful saw mill operations. As the eighteenth century turned into the nineteenth, the General Store exchanged hands between the Livezey family and the Heed family.

Over time, Lumberville became a bucolic haven for artists, such as Martin Johnson Heade, who was originally a “Heed” before leaving for Europe to study painting. His romantic landscapes experienced a resurgence in popularity the 1940s, with pieces selling for up to $1,000,000. When the daughter of his nephew, Elsie Housely, became the owner of the General Store in 1939, she ensured Heade’s continued recognition after disassembling his sketchbook and selling the pages to eager dealers and collectors. The store remained in her capable hands until 1973, when the ownership changed again.

 

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Poem: “The Funnies” — when cartoons brought laughter…

“THE FUNNIES”

 

each Sunday, my father

changed out of church clothes

kneeling on the living room carpet

along with my little sister and me

to read us what was then known as

“the funnies”

 

Marilyn and I could not always

laugh with Dagwood, Katzenjammer

I had been known to have nightmares

over the fate of Prince Valiant

 

once my newspaperman father

had to bring home next week’s

Valiant appearance

proving my hero

was safe from the rats

 

funnies were in color

unlike war news

splashed in oversized black/white

along more serious pages of “the papers”

 

some cartoonists

devoted

their entire week’s “strip”

to sagas of kittens and knitting

 

when the knitter

was elsewhere

tabbies and tigers scampered

to her basket of yarn and new work

 

detaching long needles

unwinding sweater or scarf

scattering yarn balls

across bright living room rugs

 

since this past November

— cartoons no longer laughing matters

an entire litter somehow invaded

the work room

where I left

myself

 

time itself four-footed

undoing all of my stitchery

 

CAROLYN FOOTE EDELMANN

Lathrup Village, near Detroit, Michigan

                                                                      

UNEXPECTED POEM

Sometimes, the poetry Muse leaves you alone for months at a time.  You try very hard to call this experience “the fallow time”.  But you’re secretly sure she will never return… , Like that rider in the subway below Boston, ‘her fate… still unlearned…’

Other times, the Muse takes you by the scruff of the neck.  This September, and even tiptoeing back into August, nights have tended to be poetry-ridden.

If you’re very lucky, you have poet friends who will generously suggest simple but essential changes.  One of my great life gifts is Betty Lies.  Her delicate ‘removal of the on-ramp’ significantly strengthened this new one.

 

EXTINGUEE

 

hard to imagine

this dark circle

once spewed light

interrupted sleep

suffused worship

let alone ignited dreams

 

interrupted conversations

–flames audible as some distant bell

tugging its train of memories and hopes

 

figures danced here

nourishments were transformed

smoke itself spicing the empty air

 

21st-century fingers

sift through silken ashes

wondering

 

CAROLYN FOOTE EDELMANN

October 2016

 

 

SUMMER POEMS: ‘SWEET CORN’ and ‘GOOD HARBOR MORNING’

Simple summer tasks trigger memories and poems.  Come with me to Michigan — near Detroit, where I grew up in Lathrup Village; Good Harbor on Lake Michigan in the Leelanau Peninsula.  (Otherwise known as the “little finger” of Michigan.)  Good Harbor was my sister’s and my favorite place in the world.  When I fell in love with Chatham on Cape Cod, as a grown up, it was because it reminded me of Good Harbor.  Experience with me the simple foods and traditions of lower Michigan, in our own backyard.

sweet corn close-up from Internet

Sweet Corn from Internet

SWEET CORN

 yellow corn for lunch

sweeps me back to childhood

–my two hands too tiny

to tug off tough green husks

 

not assiduous enough

to strip every silken strand

–in that time when all corn

was yellow

 

era of sunsuits, sundresses

handmade by our mother

so crisply ironed

donned to welcome relatives

from Tiffin. Ohio

 

I feel prickly “creeping bent”

–that odd named grass—

between unaccustomed shoeless feet

 

our Tiffin cousins brought rare foods:

–curled and spicy hot dogs

all in a knotted string

–darker, far, than any

our father could ever find

in dull Detroit

 

their children carried huge and crinkly bags

of Ballreich Potato Chips

–wrinkled, strong and ready

for mother’s softened cream cheese

sparked with bright chive snippets

from our paltry garden

 

the greatest of great aunts

arrived bearing her catsup

–almost the ‘burnt sienna’ hue

of my favorite crayon

 

Aunt Amanda’s garden tomatoes

were piqued with cloves and spices

unknown to any ketchup in our town

preserved in ‘soft drink’ bottles

–highlight of the meal

home made catsup from Internet

Home-made Catsup, from Internet

 

Daddy’s real charcoal

sputtered and smoked

 

the children’s corn husk ‘haystacks’

burgeoned and tipped

 

butter and salt

joined extra large

thick paper plates

upon colorful oilcloth

on the wooden picnic table

out on our screened-in porch

 

when hotdogs were nearly ready

the women cooked our sweet corn

so briefly,

knowing it was ready

by the scent

 

CAROLYN FOOTE EDELMANN

July 23, 2016

 

twin-lights-from-good-harbor-beach-sunrise-c2a9kim-smith-2015.jpg

Good Harbor Sunrise, by Kim Smith, from Internet

GOOD HARBOR MORNING

 

once, up north, we could not find a bed

 

so my father pulled the bulbous Pontiac

into forest-rimmed sand

at Good Harbor, Michigan

in the ancient region of Leelanau

SH20 Scavenger Hunt 101 "A beach"

Good Harbor Beach, Leelanau County Michigan

 

both parents, my little sister

my littler cousin, and I

–still in our ‘street clothes’

curled like millipedes

upon pale plush seats

expecting somehow to sleep

surrounded by evergreen sentinels

 

waking into Sunday

my father was not there

 

silently, I opened our car door

took off toward the lake

 

peeking through soft dunes

to the far horizon

I saw my father

wearing trousers

but no shirt

 

before a scavenged Maxwell House coffee can

filled with lakewater

he was carefully shaving by campfire

 

CAROLYN FOOTE EDELMANN

July 23, 2016

beachfire Good Harbor Beach Michigan jpg

Good Harbor Beach Fire from Internet

HEMINGWAY DREAM ~ Paris, in the 20s

Paris cafe life in 20s from internet

Paris Cafe Scene in the Twenties

NJWILDBEAUTY Readers know that, for all my deep enthusiasm for natural New Jersey, my heart belongs to France.  Sometimes, most of the time, to Provence.  Other times, Normandy and Brittany, especially Mt. St. Michel.  Before I lived in Provence, however, Paris was my heart’s home.

Tour Eiffel by Night from Internet

La Tour Eiffel par la Nuit, from Internet

The tragedy of Nice, of Slaughter on the Beach, alongside my sacred Boulevard des Anglais, haunts me, day and night.  This insult to, revenge upon, beloved France, –who bore the brunt of battles to save the free world in the 1940s–, repeatedly astounds me.  But even beyond that, –along with the Marathon Massacre in Boston, there has been a travesty against a  major ritual of a country — the Bastille Day that honors its transformation into a place of Liberte, Egalite, Fraternite.  What happened in Nice is the antithesis of everything for which Bastille Day and our Fourth of July have always stood.  This summer’s meaningless massacres stain beach and Bastille Day forever.

bastille-day-parisianist-Iconic Liberte Egalite Fraternite image from Internet

Iconic French Image Symbolizing their Historic Battle for Liberte, Egalite, Fraternite in the time of the Monarchy: Marianne Leading the Rebels

My inner response has been multiple — most recently a series of Hemingway dreams.  I am reading, [to relive the glory days of France and of American influence on Paris, on France and upon literature itself], “Sylvia Beach and the Lost Generation.”  This tour-de-force is a moment-by-moment evocation of Princetonian, Sylvia Beach, and her remarkable Shakespeare & C0mpany lending library.

Shakespeare&Co Bookplate in 1920's from Internet

Boikplate, Shakespeare & Company, Paris in the Twenties

Within its few small rooms, not only poetry and prose, but also music, dance, theatre; little reviews and major publishing coups (think James Joyce, Ulysses) were catalyzed.  The beginnings of Hemingway; the expansion of Fitzgerald; the influence of doctor/poet William Carlos Williams; evenings involving T.S. Eliot, Ezra Pound and Ford Madox Ford and the reclusive/demanding James Joyce.  (Whom Hem dared to call Jim!)  This level of cross-pollination took place under the dynamic, ceaseless leadership of the little dynamo, daughter of a Princeton minister: Sylvia Beach.

sylvia_beach_and_hemingway at Shakespeare & Co from Internet

Sylvia Beach and Ernest Hemingway outside Shakespeare & Co. in the 20s

Really important in these pages is the power of women to forward all the arts in that daring time, described by another memoir as “Everybody Was So Young.” 

Paris Was Yesterday Janet Flanner

Paris Was Yesterday“, Janet Flanner: The New Yorker’s ‘Genet’

Every time I read my favorite Hemingways, he improves, somehow.  Paris, A Moveable Feast preceded Professor Noel Riley Fitch’s tome in my series of pilgrimages to France.  Subtitled, “A History of Literary Paris in the Twenties and Thirties,” I have been re-reading forever, and am only about in 1925.

Sylvia Beach & the Lost Generation Cover

Cover – Sylvia Beach & the Lost Generation by Noel Riley Fitch

Even so, this book is having a deep impact upon my dream life.  Here are notes on Hemingway as I never, of course, actually experienced him.  Stroll (no one walks fast in France) with me into the Paris cafe and celebrate the impact of this amazing city and inoubliable (unforgettable) country on the world as we know it today.  Honor her glory, which no evil can erase, not even Hitler’s!

letters-o-hemingway from INternet

Hemingway Letters Cover from Internet

HEMINGWAY DREAM  Notes:

1920’s.  Hem’s earliest days in Paris.  Knows no one.  Seated at small hard white round table. Could be marble.  Cardboard beer advertising coasters, –much used–, echo its circular shape.  Although new to town, Hem is in rare form.  [usual form in those years].  Cocky yet subtle.  Looking all around.  Taking it all in.

Cafe pretty empty, it’s that early.  The Dome?  Place of smoke-filtered pale winter sunlight.  His hair is dark, unruly.  Suit rumpled.  Elbows on the table.  Glancing around, grinning, though expecting to know people there.  Waiters quietly scrub and wipe other tables, preparatory to lunch  Pretty quiet.

Hemingway’s gaze veiled yet intense.  Although he strives to look as though he knows someone there, I (standing in shadowy corner) realize he is looking around to see who HE is.

Hem’s right shoe rests upside-down upon his left knee,– audacious pose that would not have gone over in Oak Park or River Forest.  He maintains the backwoods air — though not large, a Paul Bunyan in a Paris suit.

In the dream, I boldly sit across from Hemingway, [as I once did at an Outward-Bound-like event, with Roy Scheider of Jaws], because Hem is alone.  He nods without words, orders me a biere.  I sip reluctantly, because it is warm and tastes soapy.  He doesn’t care if I like beer or not.

Hem wants me to know who he is, to ask “How did the writing go this morning?

What I say is, “Tell me about Michigan!  Speak of trout, of birch-studded forests.  Of the Indians who were there when YOU were, but not for me.  Why did you have to rearrange the setting of the Big Two-Hearted River?”

The beer I do not like acts like a tonic, a potion, opening doors.

 

BRILLIANT NOSTALGIA — UPON RE-READING E. B. WHITE: All for the Love of Books

Sometimes, when you order from Amazon, your request is archaic enough that it arrives as a library book.  Complete with faded cardboard sleeve in the front, intricate / cryptic numbers, handwritings of some vanished librarian.

In quest of excellence, I recently arranged to receive works on and by E. B. White, Ur-New Yorker writer of yesteryear.  This founding writer, in the days of Ross, lived and cavorted in the Village.  He would read seed and farm equipment catalogues for pleasure.  A man of such wit as to cause me to laugh right out loud, reading his essays in the middle of the night.

In The Second Tree from the Corner, I hoped to have purchased a collection that included the idyllic, profound, Return to the Lake.  I needed ‘to re-experience those indelible scenes of Elwyn pere and his young son, in the New England haven that mattered most to both.  Part of me desired a virtual trip to a lake, any lake.  The other part yearns always for the miracle of sharing important childhood places with one’s own offspring.

“Lake” wasn’t in “Tree”.  But, Farewell My Lovely is!  What a romp, this salutation to the Model T!

Out-loud laughter, and sometimes tears, accompanied each turning of a page.  EBW had named his seminal new vehicle, “My Lovely.”  [There may be extra layers of appreciation in this former resident of Detroit, then suburbs, suffused with Henry Ford from 2-years-old, on.] Ellwyn exults: “‘My Lovely’ is mechanically and uncannily like nothing that had come into the world before.”  He reveals, “The driver of the Model T was a man enthroned.”

He drove his purchase “directly to the blacksmith” for “appurtenances to support an army trunk.”  “A speedometer cost money, and was extra; like a windshield wiper.”

White carefully explains the cranking process, –its subtleties and dangers–, concluding, “Until you had learned to ‘Get Results!’, you may as well have been cranking up an awning.”

Catastrophes large and small were the norm, price of passage.  Everyone knows about the tires (did he spell it ‘tyres’?), those abrupt sudden stops necessitating patching by the driver.  But this comedic genius conveys the entire litany of ordeals, with a light touch suitable for a stand-up comic.  Because of the multiplicity of perils, White insists, “Model T drivers ride in a state of thoughtful catalepsy.”

He seems not to have been skilled at those incessant repairs.  “I have had a timer apart on an old Ford many times.  But I never knew what I was up to.  I was just showing off for God.”

Sometimes, White looks back with intensity and even longing.  He considers Thoreau’s Walden to be “a document of increasing pertinence.”

Sometimes, Ellwyn B. White is a prophet:  “Audio-visual devices require no mental discipline.”

Reading a writer so skilled, so rich in language, and so unafraid to be quirky, strengthens my spine.

From Charlotte’s Web to Is Sex Necessary, with Thurber, and the essential Elements of Style with the revered William Strunk, who equals White’s range?  Who is the E. B. White of our era?

But there was an added bonus to this book order — holding that old library volume of The Second Tree from the Corner in my two 21st-Century hands.  It triggered memory like Proust’s tea and madelene.

The library card is marked in faded ink:  Ashtabula, Ohio, Library, followed by Kent State University.

Site of our country’s great shame, –right up there with civil rights abuses beyond measure — where our own government officials turned clubs and weapons upon Kent State students, upon our own children, who dared to protest war.

Kent State, which refused George Segal’s arresting statue of Abraham and Isaac, –portraying in his unique human-generated mastery– father about to slit the throat of his own long-awaited son.  Only Segal’s figures are not garbed in biblical robes.  Rather t-shirts and jeans.  And it was no God who demanded this sacrifice, but bureaucrats, officials and politicians.  This masterpiece preside alongside our Princeton University Chapel. Lest we forget…

What an unexpected link, Ken State, fronting a work by E. B. White, so devoted to his own son, Joel, delightful centerpiece of the Lake essay that I do not possess.

Cradling this book of other times, I inhaled what was the most important scent in the world to me — a whiff of old volumes and old dark and yes dusty and yes sometimes even moldy libraries of childhood.

Suddenly, I am back in one of those venerable rooms.  Sun slants through tall windows with their wavy glass of yesteryear.  The light is alive with particles more alive than I feel.  It illumines towering ‘stacks’, –more essential, more priceless to the child Carolyn than all the gold in Fort Knox.  In this room, dark and light mingle with a kind of delicate power exemplified by dust dancing in sunbeams.  In this room, ignorance and knowledge meet and marry..

I feel very little, attempting to climb up into the heavy dark wood straight-backed chair.  A thick volume awaits upon the scuffed table.  I get tired here, stretching up to the thick wide table, my legs not touching the floor.  After awhile, I kneel to read.  I now see how appropriate is that reverent pose!  Nobody has to tell me to keep silent.

The aromas of this used book whoosh me back, suffusing me anew with my absolute craving for books and all that they held; craving for the places where books presided.

In Michigan, I knew no bookish people.

Teachers did not count.

Textbooks DEFINITELY did not count!

The neighbor mothers in Lathrup Village ganged up on my mother one afternoon.  They surrounded her, towered over her at our little kitchen table, ordering “Do not give our children any more books!”

There is a black and white 7th birthday picture of me, in the pine-paneled living room, clasping a huge (as a bible to the Child Carolyn) volume of Longfellow’s Evangeline to my skinny chest.  My face is all ecstasy.  The faces of all the neighbor boys and girls, ringing me, –“My Jolly Friends”, I called them, from the song, “Playmate–”  look completely baffled.

When I had to fly in wartime to Northern Michigan the following summer, because of bronchitis on top of winter’s rheumatic fever, I clutched that same volume to the smocked bodice of my traveling dress.  It would be at least a month before I saw Lathrup Village again.  One of the best things about the Leelanau Peninsula resort of Fountain Point, was an entire room, fronting the lake, lined with bookshelves, studded with books I’d never seen.

E. B. White is a distillation of books, for grown-ups, for children, all he’d absorbed, and all he wrote for others.

The Child Carolyn would be in her 20’s and living and working in Manhattan before she would be introduced by her upper West Side roommates to Stuart Little and Charlotte’s Web.  She was clear that she’d’ve been enchanted, had she met them earlier.  That’s when she met the New Yorker, too.  Basically her life has never been the same.

In an aunt’s attic, on swift Toledo visits, she’d come across leathern volumes with silk-soft tissue pages edged with gold.  They all seem heavy in retrospect, for this little girl, –who knelt there, too, to read them.  What she never could understand was that these treasures were up in the, yes, dusty attic.  Sun-motes there, too.  But those books languished there, unread, except for Carolyn-visits.

I was supposed to want to go to Toledo for the relatives.  I went to Toledo for the books.

No matter how many biographical works on E. B. White I read and re-read, nothing REALLY explains his diversity, wit and wisdom.

As proof, I offer his response to the first space tests, which had gone off unsuccessfully and successfully, “leaving the earth’s people frightened and joyless.”

Childhood Summers — Michigan

The lovely weather of recent weeks allows me to keep windows and doors open, so that not only light, but also air, nature sounds, and fragrances waft into my ‘new’ Lawrenceville apartment.

This morning, the departure of a small plane, –purring like the aircraft of my Michigan childhood –, thrust me right back into the silken grass of our smoothly rounded ditch in front of our little red brick house.  It was newly built by my parents, in the tiny town of Lathrup, well outside Detroit.  Hardly anyone drove down ‘California Drive’ except neighbors, guests, and the bakery truck.

There was nothing in Lathrup, not even a post office — we were officially ‘Birmingham.’  If we needed food, my father would have to drive us to ‘the store’, in the NEXT town.  ‘Store’ meant grocer.  He stood behind a weathered counter, near a worn butcher’s block.  A huge wheel of real cheddar, which we called ‘store cheese’, rested under glass to the right of the cash register.  Which was shiny black and now we’d say, ‘had all the bells and whistles,’ especially bells.  I’d give him my Mother’s list, and he’d have to go all over the tiny store and up and down a rickety ladder, to bring provisions to us.  When my father moved us here, his German mother wept:  “You are moving to the wilderness.”

By no means was Lathrup wilderness.  But we did have woods nearby, a side yard (which turned into a skating rink in winter, thanks to my father), and a ‘vacant lot’ which became a Victory Garden during the war.  (WWII)  As I wrote in an early poem, “one year the fathers, gardens overrun, waged cucumber war.”

There wasn’t much privacy in our childhood.  One of the few places where I wasn’t pursued by the grown-ups, — not even the kindly ones–, was that silky ditch.  In summer, I’d lie back into its welcoming contours, and watch blue skies hatch clouds.  I pretended that God had a cloud pipe, puffed them into existence.  Then I would seriously study, trying to find out what creatures were billowing into existence overhead.

Planes were so rare then, although we were not far, as the crow flies, from Willow Run (where Lindbergh was running wartime plane production – so we’d’ve been prime Hitler targets, had he been able to turn out sufficient transatlantic planes).  Any time one of these little miracles (I remember especially biplanes) would come into view, I could not take my eyes nor my ears away from that phenomenon.

There were bees then.  One of the key memories of lying in the ditch was hearing bees, yes, busy, in all that short white clover.  It was ceaseless, seemed deafening.

My sister liked to be out in, even to run away into, the deep woods.  I preferred the vacant lot with its myriad of wildflowers.  The colors of summer in Michigan were white Queen Anne’s lace, spiky blue chicory, and the glare and blare of gold/orange brown-eyed Susans.  The dark centers of the ‘lace’ looked far more like insects to me than the only true flower of that weed.  It never did any good to bring the ‘lace’ inside for bouquets to set in Mother’s antique pewter — the little white parts shriveled, as though shocked, into something a little thicker than dust, tumbling all over the maple tables.

The chicory always seemed to be struggling.  Towering above me in the ditch, it seemed faded, as though just giving up in summer’s heat, always closing early.  Later I would learn that Indians could tell time by the opening and closing of chicory’s washed-out blue stiff blooms, even on cloudy days.

Our mother didn’t like to cook, really, and especially turned her back on gardening.  A few spring iris grew spikily behind the house, but turned hideous as soon as each bloom twirled shut.  A few raucous marigolds, and sometimes multicolored portulaca, made up the flowers of the yard.  Everything in the side yard, especially the minuscule ‘Chinese lanterns’,  was far more fascinating to me.

As August appeared, the wild weeds put forth a parched yet spicy fragrance.  That, along with almost deafening crickets of the Fourth of July, and locusts not long thereafter, meant summer was already rolling to a close.

We knew nothing of wilderness in those days.  My sister and I had never heard of preserves, where she in Illinois and I in New Jersey, spend key nature hours in all seasons.  Nobody gave us a bird book, let alone binoculars.  When we try to remember, we ‘see’ jays, robins everywhere (the Michigan state bird), hefty crows in and around our yards.  Mallards swam in cemetery ponds.  Gulls called loud and clear as we would reach first the ferry, then the BRIDGE, to the Upper Peninsula, our absolute favorite place to be.  Never was there a gull anywhere but Northern Michigan.  And, once, above the Tahquamenon River, an eagle coursed above us on the root-beer-hued waters.

There must have been butterflies.  If so, they ‘were all monarchs’.  No fireflies in Michigan.  Each summer, we’d poke holes in Mason jar lids, fill the jars with grass, catch fireflies in Ohio and bring them back home in the back seat of one of the Pontiacs, whose hood ornaments my father resembled.  As an adult, here in Princeton, someone revealed, re lightning bugs, “Carolyn, only one sex lights.”

We’d keep summer Crayolas in the refrigerator, so they would not melt when we used them on the screened-in back porch.  Totally lacking needlework skill, I nevertheless had crocheted long strands which my father attached on the outside of the screens.  I planted blue morning glory (his nickname for me) seeds, and they exuberantly twined all the way to the top of the screens.  We colored all summer in a blue haze.  As I would write in a much later poem, there were, of course, houseflies, “bumping, disgruntled, against the tall porch screens.”

Re-experiencing “ditch days” now, in the 21st Century, my clearest memory –beyond the small planes, the huge clouds– is the sound of all those bees, singing as they worked the clover.