I am lucky to have friends who are willing to go on quests with me. NJWILDBEAUTY readers know that most of our pilgrimages have to do with nature in general and birds in particular. Others require history. Many involve food. This is a jaunt with superb poet Betty Lies, friend-of-long-standing and co-founder of Princeton’s Cool Women Poets. We needed Christmas one year, and Bordentown unexpectedly provided it, ‘in spades’ Saunter with us… through this town of great significance, always too little appreciated in our time!
The Caboose was always my favorite part of real trains. There was frequently a trainman in that car who waved to me, as though he’d been waiting all day for that very moment…
Trains had a great deal to do with childhood Christmas in Michigan. One year, Santa brought me an intricate Lionel train set, even though there were only daughters in our family. Each year after that, it circled and tooted merrily under the tree. I had forgotten that… regret that we did not weave that in as I raised my own daughters.
In Bordentown, it’s as though the village itself is wrapped for the Holiday.
Our Favorite Place to Eat — Old-World and Leisurely
In Bordentown, Always Look Up — The Past is Waiting
Beauty of Emptiness, Bordentown Streetcorner
Jester’s — Home of the Hearty Welcome
Historic Mural of Strategic Bordentown – site of lost Revolutionary Battle, Thomas Paine’s only bought property, superbly venerable Quaker Meeting House, home of America’s first sculptress, Clara Barton’s schoolhouse, and both Joseph and Charles Lucien Bonaparte – sent to Point Breeze for its magnificent ‘aspect’ over the Delaware, by Napoleon himself.
PILLAGED AND BURNED BY THE BRITISH IN 1778
BAUBLES OF YESTERYEAR
CLARA BARTON’S FIRST SCHOOL
FRANCIS AND JOSEPH HOPKINSON HOUSE:
“Revolutionary Patriot, Signer, Member of Congress, Scientist, Artist, Scholar, Statesman, ‘Hail Columbia’,” etc.: LIVING HISTORY
SITE OF THE RIVER LINE TRAIN – FREE BEAUTIFUL RIVERSIDE PARKING FOR ALL-DAY JAUNTS – through Marsh to Trenton or down to Roebling, Burlington, Riverton, Riverside, Camden and even Walt Whitman House and Aquarium…
And, Most Ethereal of All Bordentown’s Gifts: Mother’s Day Festival of the Most Exquisite Iris Ever Anywhere!
Purple Martin Migration in Texas, Joseph Smith, from Internet: Typical Numbers of Martins over Maurice River in New Jersey, for Autumnal Migration
Major memories were granted last night, on the Bonanza II, on the Maurice River, in Shellpile, Cumberland County, New Jersey. Come cruise with us, as we awaited dusk (martin-coalescence time). And, –even more important, in the night’s exceptionally high tidewater–, see if we could get UNDER the Maurice River Bridge at Mauricetown.
Citizens United to Save the Maurice River and Its Tributaries:
Devoted Preservationists – Cruise Sponsors, Educators, Heroes and Heroines
Experts on board predicted “a million and a quarter”, if recent-night tallies were to be repeated. What no one would predict was whether that exceptionally high tide, –swamping the boards of the docking area as we boarded–, would permit us to go under the Maurice River Bridge. This year’s martins have been gathering about a half-mile north of that structure.
This is the largest martin-staging (for migration) area on the entire East Coast. Endless phragmites marshes, and their abundant insects, call these swallow-relatives year upon year, to fatten for long, essenttial journeys to winter feeding grounds.
I carefully warned that night’s Intrepids — Anne Zeman, Mark Peel, Karen Linder, Mike Brill, Mary Wood and Susan Burns — that the trouble with this night would be that we would never be able to describe it, convey its magnitude, to others.
Shell Piles, of Shell Pile and Port Norris, Cumberland County, New Jersey
In earliest days, shell piles here and in Tuckerton were so tall, they served as landmarks guiding ships at sea. In these tiny towns, there were more millionaires per block than anywhere in the world, due to the thriving oyster industry. A nearby town was named Caviar for the abundance of that project, but that tragedy is another story… MSX (multi-nucleated sphere unknown) equaled or surpassed biblical plagues in terms of the bivalves of Bivalve. Now, this sleepy region stirs anew, as Rutgers-sponsored science brings resistant and succulent New Jersey oysters back to an expanding market. My favorites are Cape May Salts, but a myriad of musical names heralds the resurgence of native oysters in our time.
Bonanza II, at Exceptionally High Tide – due to prospective hurricanes and eclipse
Cruise Night Weather
Birders and preservationists will “pay any price, bear any burden” to see the objects of their passion. So, I admit, –we who filled this boat this night, and others during pre-martin-departure weeks, would be scorned by Sarah Palin as “extreme environmentalists.” Many in that group, if not most, spend serious constellations of hours doing whatever it takes to save habitats and species.
You ‘hear me’ prating of courage often in NJWILDBEAUTY. Frequently, I call for these qualities anew, those embodied by our Founding Fathers and Mothers. These Maurice River and purple martin and rare bird aficionados are right up there with those who caused our American Revolution to succeed. Everything from science to publicity to education to hands-on- heroism – building and cleaning their homes each year; martin-feeding (buying and tossing them crickets in a time of insect famine) and banding which reveals ‘our’ martins in faraway places, has been practiced by the group on board last night.
My camera does not do justice to small birds. Therefore, enjoy Texas flight above for a sense of numbers arriving, descending, rising, feeding, interacting with one another, circling the boat, all the while half-muttering, half-singing, as dusk won its nightly victory Bear with my feeble words in trying to bring the magic to all of you.
Gull Frenzy, Dusk, Shellpile NJ Dock
Gulls on High
PEAK O’ THE MOON, REVOLUTIONARY BATTLE-SITE on the Maurice River
This is my favorite battleground name in all history. Trouble is, no one can ever tell us who won!
AWAITING TIDAL CHANGE ON THE BONANZA II —
Can we fit under the bridge…..????
WHERE EAGLES, PERCHED, OBSERVED BIRDWATCHERS, AFLOAT
Eagles were present, as were osprey and osprey nests – even natural ones, i.e., not on platforms But they all took second billing, as we waited for martins to gather and swirl.
“DAY IS DONE” — CLAMMERS’ RETURN ON THE MAURICE
WHEN SYSTEMS COLLIDE
Do not lose sight of the fact, NJWB Readers, that these wild weathers are the fall-out of climate change. That those vanishing floorboards in the boarding/docking area, under strange moon tides, are not only climate-change generated, but visual proof of sea-level rise. Let NO one try to convince you that this is a myth. It is no myth, but an enormous threat, in New Jersey, the only state with three coasts.
LOVLIEST BIRDER — INTREPID ANNE ZEMAN ON OSPREYS
NO-WAKE ZONE ON THE MAURICE
QUAHOGGERS’ RETURN FROM DELAWARE BAY
BIRTH OF IMPRESSIONISISM — ON NEW JERSEY’S MAURICE RIVER
(Monet’s initially scorned masterpiece, however, was titled “Impression Soleil Levant” — Impression – Sun, Rising. Ours was definitely “Soleil Couchant” — Sun Sinking, or ‘going to bed’, as the French naturally call it.
WHERE THE MARTINS ROOST — MAURICE RIVER PHRAGMITIES MARSHLANDS
WHISTLER NOCTURNE – MAURICE RIVER BRIDGE
Sometimes I attempt to describe that sky obscured by martin hordes as resembling herbes de provence pressed into a leg of lamb.
Sometimes, I refer to skies banishing behind martins as giving us the lost esperience of tumblings and torrents of passenger pigeons, before we drove all of them into extinction.
Even last night’s experts balk at conveying this miracle to those who have not experienced it. Next year, early on, contact Citizens United to Save the Maurice River and Its Tributaries, and be on board one of their (now six) dusk cruises into transcendance.
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.
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.
That Declaration and our Constitution remain living, yes, sacred, documents to me! Democracy was the fruit of their labors, and where is it now?
To my great delight, Revolutionary history is EVERYWHERE. Here we read of (my hero!) Lafayette’s having given the bride away in this church:
Buildings echo Philadelphia’s most venerable. Here, both country’s flags blow in a July wind off the adjacent Delaware River.
Venerable signs have faded on vintage buildings. It’s eerie to see Coca Cola as a vestige of some storied past.
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.
SHIP’S MODEL IN WINDOW OF HISTORIC JESSOP’S TAVERN
THE SHADOWS KNOW… What stories these rooms could tell…
“O, Say, Can You See?”
PORT OF CALL
COMMERCIAL DELAWARE, DELAWARE MEMORIAL BRIDGE TO NEW JERSEY
YOU, TOO, CAN OWN A STORIED INN
THOMAS JEFFERSON ALE, JESSOP’S TAVERN OF NEW CASTLE —
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.
“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.
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.
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.
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.”
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!
STARTING POINT – The Black Bass Inn and The Lumberville General Store, Lumberville Pennsylvania
HALFWAY ACROSS ON A HOT JULY DAY, STRONG NORTH WIND A GREAT BLESSING
BICYCLE AT THE BOAT LAUNCH, BULL’S ISLAND
ONE ECSTATIC CYCLIST
RESTORED RESTAURANT & 1745 INN, RESTORED BRIDGE
RESTORED TOWPATH AFTER HURRICANES & FLOODS, PENNSYLVANIA SIDE
Mostly a photo essay on the priceless fruits of preservation and restoration….of restaurants and venerable stores, of towns, of islands, of the historic towpath, of our River of Liberation itself.
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.
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!
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.
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.”
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?