Christmas Arrives in Unexpected Settings

 Waterville Valley Vistas

When one has a difficult mother,  it can become essential to distance one’s self and  family, particularly at the time of significant holidays.  If one has a courageous husband, he may announce, as the parental car pulled out of our Princeton driveway after a particularly grueling visit, “That’s it.  We are not letting her ruin another Christmas.  We are going skiing at Waterville.”

My husband, Werner Oscar Joseph Edelmann (for full effect say with German accent) was 100% Swiss.  Although he had not grown up skiing, we took it up as a family, the year we moved to Princeton – 1968.  Shore friends, sitting on their dune-cushioned deck, insisted that our families learn together.  It was August and steamy.  Winter?  WHAT Winter.  We said yes.

I secretly hoped some disaster, like a broken leg, or death, would intervene before that crucial February challenge.  None did.  So we all began to learn to ski.  The girls were in kindergarten and first grade.  At Killington, they looked like bunnies in their fuzzy snowsuits and fat mittens, among a gaggle of other little beginners, huddled at the base of ‘the bunny slope.’

They, being half Swiss, did not remain beginners very long.  In the year of our deliverance from my mother, they were teens who preferred ‘bombing the black lines’   – the expert slopes.  Especially “Oblivion” in Waterville Valley, New Hampshire.  The White Mountains were Werner’s choice for our runaway Christmas, because their ski school and an authentic Swiss lodge were run by Paul Pfosi.  All Paul’s instructors were Swiss.  Extremely demanding.  “Ski marks on the inside of your ski boots” to prove you had your legs close enough together.  Off-slope, they all delighted to converse in their native (unwritten) language with this tall, dark-haired, dark-eyed very determined American skier.  Stein Eriksen in those years was our hero, our model.

stein_eriksen

No one would mistake us for Stein, but his example formed Pfosi’s Instructor Corps.

Anita Kathriner and Raphael Wyss make Alpkase, Mutschli and butter by hand in the traditional manner in a giant copper kettle over a wood burning fire at their cheese-making hut above Wengen, Switzerland

Swiss Copper Cheese Kettle in situ

Pfosi’s Lodge held the huge copper kettles we’d first seen in Emmenthaler, in which magnificent Swiss cheeses were precisely concocted.  Only Pfosi’s kettles overflowed with silky evergreen boughs from nearby endless forests.  Swiss Christmas music, such as relatives had carefully sent to Diane and Catherine over the years, pealed from hidden speakers.  Conditions were ideal on the slopes, and for any number of days we almost forgot it was Christmas.  But not quite.

Our family, over the years, had no experience of that Holiday beyond our own formal tree and hand-made-ornament tree, one by the living room fireplace, one by the family room’s slate hearth.  Heaven to us was a fire in each room, the three of us in long plaid skirts and white lace blouses, playing our guitars and caroling for Werner in the family room.  There’d always been the Nutcracker at Lincoln Center, and caroling in the neighborhood near Princeton’s Snowden Lane.  Could Christmas find us in New Hampshire?

There was a tiny church in the village below the lodge.  It felt very odd to go to church in ski clothes and apres-ski boots.  Instead of a jungle of poinsettias in the Princeton church, but two tiny ones ‘decked’ this austere altar.  Instead of instruments sustaining voices back home, a motley choir with cracking voices sang in a small wooden balcony high overhead.  But it was Midnight Mass, and it did hold all the magic we needed.  And the quivering voices underscored a somehow more memaningful reality.

We drove back up the mountain, past the restaurant where we’d had Christmas Eve Supper.  We’d sat next to a live birch tree, somehow able to live and thrive indoors, reaching for the midnight sky.  Between dinner and church, we’d been astounded by stars beyond counting, which seemed nearly blinding.  But between church and the lodge, no stars.  Instead, white swirls, glistening to be sure, of new snowflakes — no more welcome blessing in ski country at Christmas.

Swiss Santa in Boat

Back in our rooms — it must have been near 2 a.m. by now — we found dark Swiss chocolates wrapped in bright gold foil upon our pillows,.  Pfosi’s had signed lacy old-fashioned Christmas cards with gilt arabesques, such as those which arrived every year from Tante Li, Onkel Joni, Cousin Vera and the rest of the family in and near St. Gallen.  I cannot spell their Christmas message, but we all knew how to say it in Swiss — it sounded like FRO-LIKKA-VIE-NOCKTEN.  One said this with certain notes in our voices which the girls had heard since babyhood..

Frohlichi Wiehnacht Swiss Christmas Card

Diane’s and Catherine’s room was right across the narrow hall from ours.  They burst in, laughing all over.  “Come Quick!  Come Quick!  Carolers!”

We “thrust open the windows, threw up the sash” onto a scene I will never forget.  Snow circled, enfolding us as though we had been transported into the Milky Way. itself, Horses snorted and their visible breath mingled with the flakes.  Yes, sleigh bells jingled.  Tucked into hay in an old fashioned sleigh were male and female carolers, dressed as we had been for Mass, in ski parkas and ski mitts and knit hats.  These voices sounded like tiny silver chimes, like bells, rising into the heavens in celebration.

And we’d thought Christmas was only in our family room…

It wasn’t every Christmas morning that opened on a trail named “Oblivion”!

The Mountain, Waterville Valley

May each of you find your special holiday exactly as you need it this year — and may its real message of Peace on Earth, Good Will, suffuse our entire planet.

Here is an ad from the 1970’s, when we were there:

ski watervi w va NEW HAMPSHIRE PFOSI S LODGE Willkommen! Paul Pfosi, Director of the Waterville Valley Ski School, invites you to enjoy the Swiss-American hospitality of Pfosi’s Lodge. Alodge unique in every way combining old world charm with the most modern American accommodations and conveniences; …

The future would bring Christmas in other realms:

Aspen skiing scene,jpg

In Aspen, we could ski through forests.

In Zermatt, the Materhorn always tantalized:

Zermatt Materhorn from Internet

 

But the slopes held the magic:

 

Swiss skier from Internet

BUT NOTHING EVER TOPPED CAROLERS IN THE HORSE-DRAWN SLEIGH OUTSIDE THE OPEN WINDOWS OF PFOSI’S LODGE OF WATERVILLE.

STONE CIRCLES — POEM

 

 

 

Sourlands Rocks 08 08

Rock as Smiling Dolphin Sourlands 08 08SOURLANDS ROCKS OFF GREENWOOD AVENUE TRAIL

(For you — newest poem, read in the Open Reading following Princeton’s Cool Women’s memorable performance Monday, at Princeton Public Library.  This poem was inspired by reading Jim Amon’s, naturalist, memories of Sourlands hikes  in the newsletter of the Sourland Conservancy.  It will appear in their spring issue.) 

STONE CIRCLES

 

it’s about the rocks

towering

megalithic, actually

 

clustering

on either side

of this Sourland Mountain trail

 

turning in at the blue blaze

there is change

in the air itself

 

those who purloined these sentinels

seem not to have reached

this deeply into sanctuary

 

leaving sunlight and oven birds

I step into sacred sites

feel our brother Lenape

 

noiselessly entering

focused on the keystone

where the chief presided

 

councils were held here

decisions determined

smoke rising from pipes

 

transitions were planned here

from hunting to gathering

then back once again to the hunt

 

a 21st-century pilgrim

I bow to these predecessors

apologizing for all our

depredations

 

Carolyn Foote Edelmann

November 13, 2017

 

 

 

 

 

 

DELAWARE RIVERKEEPER: “Environmental Protection is Not a Partisan Issue”

 

 

Delaware, the River, and the Official Riverkeeper — Tale of Christmas and Courage

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Washington Crossing the Delaware to Trenton, from Internet, by Leutze

Christmas is a time for every citizen in our country and everywhere, to remember:

without the Delaware River, there wouldn’t BE an America. 

This post celebrates a mightily courageous woman — Maya von Rossum — the official Delaware Riverkeeper.  She’s articulate, accurate, and brilliant.  Following her blog, or attending to local news media night after night, readers marvel at Maya’s steady focus on the many perils of our boundary water, and what must be done to reverse them.  Some situations are obvious and seemingly internal: like pollution, stormwater run-off, animal wastes and fertilizer poisoning by nearby farms.  One, which I fought to prevent, is artificially emptying her to cool a nuclear power plant.  Other dangers are less visible, certainly far more difficult to describe — matters political.  Listen with me to our spokeswoman, what she has to say about our river, our country, our freedom in these times.  AND THE IMPORTANCE OF SPEAKING OUT. 

Thomas Paine exemplified the utmost daring and determination in his diatribes, polemics, books and pamphlets in the time of the American Revolution.  It is the essence of the country our Founding Fathers dared all to create, that vox populi  — the Citizen’s Voice — is to be encouraged and heeded so that liberty may truly exist. 

Thomas Jefferson felt the war could never have been won without Paine’s words.  It is no accident that his most famous book is Common Sense.

NJWILDBEAUTY long-time readers, –especially those who came aboard when this was a Packet Publications Blog, NJWILD –, know that I’ve been fighting for the well-being of our magnificent Delaware River since I moved to New Hope from Princeton in March of 1981.   I used postcards of the painting above to announce my change of address.

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Delaware River From Baldpate Mountain by Brenda Jones

That essential move across the river plunged me right into her perils.  Forces of greed, (though we did not bandy about that phrase in those days), a.k.a. PECO (Pennsylvania’s PSEG) and chemical firms, lawyers and judges, far-seeing realtors wanted to insert a pump into the Delaware.  To remove unconscionable amounts from this already too-thin river, and pump them to the Susquehanna River, where Del’s water would be used to cool a nuclear power plant.  A fierce protest group, Del-AWARE formed.  A newspaper was generated.  The printed word, the spoken word, and especially the televised word brought us national coverage in our battle for the river.

Our strategy meetings were held at a rather disreputable tavern, [Applejack’s – is it still there?] –appropriately upriver, on the river, above New Hope.  Remember that taverns were the meeting sites in the 1770s, where our seemingly impossible American Revolution unfolded.  I always picture early patriots, including Tom and John and George and Ben at Philadelphia’s City Tavern, banging pewter tankards on rough wooden tables, asserting “Give me LIBERTY or give me DEATH!”

In the 1980’s, near Lumberville, PA, just north of New Hope, my own friends, — women, including nursing mothers and venerable grandmothers–, lay down in front of the bulldozers set loose to ruin the river environmentlay down to save the river, and were jailed at what is now the Michener Museum.  For some reason, no one at that Bucks County penal institution seemed to have heard of the writ of habeas corpus, so those women were jailed for the entire weekend!  Patriots, indeed!  I think of this every time I view Delaware River Impressionists honored on the Michener’s former prison walls.

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Delaware in Flood, by Brenda Jones

I love our river even more than I cherish our state.  But I couldn’t lie down in front of bulldozers.  However, I could write.  I penned poems such as “I am The River Speaking” and “To Val (Sigstedt) and the Valorous” to be published in the DEL-AWARE newspaper.  One, written when the forces of greed blasted the river during the shad run, [and Nature generated a powerful mud-slide right across from the site of the proposed PUMP], ends, “Blast ME?  I’ll show YOU power!”

[To read the poems, here’s an earlier post with both in it:https://njwildbeauty.wordpress.com/2016/04/15/dump-the-pump-fighting-for-the-delaware-river-with-poems/comment-page-1/%5D

One feels so hopeless in the force of these impassive official corporate forces.  But I could also write prose, –especially letters to editors of Bucks County and Philadelphia Newspapers.  And, each week, in Doylestown, as a volunteer, I  penned position papers, releases and speeches for Congressional candidate, Peter Kostmayer.  Peter ultimately would see to it that our Del was named Wild and Scenic, for as much of her imperiled length as could possibly qualify.  He also played a major role in stopping the Tocks Island Dam Project. I’d write truths about the essentiality of saving our river one day, and see them on Page One of the Philadelphia Inquirer, as headlines, the next day.

THEN, as NOW, WORDS MATTERED – but they must be conveyed to the broadest possible public.

We succeeded in returning Peter to office, despite mockery, fury, insults, dirty tricks – like wording the Dump the Pump referendum backwards, so we had to vote YES to mean NO PUMP.  We won the May referendum to prevent the building of the PUMP. 

After which, I moved to France.  Upon my return, the PUMP was in place.  It had been a non-binding referendum.  Let the protestors beware…  However, our battle kept the greedy group from fulfilling their original plan to remove 200 million gallons a day from the River of the Revolution!

It’s almost Christmas, 1916.  Grave changes are afoot in our country, which could result in negative changes far more perilous and long-lasting than the Delaware’s unwelcome PUMP.

It’s also almost the anniversary of George’s famous Crossing, to win the two battles of Trenton and the one battle of Princeton.  Never forget that the third of our first victories took place in Princeton, near the Clarke House, near the Institute for Advanced Study [who have finally bowed to protests and will not be developing acres of that sacred battlefield.]

Soon we can attend the annual re-enactment at Washington’s Crossing on the Delaware below New Hope.  There might be enough water in our river, after all, despite this serious drought year.  People who live near major rivers know truths despite increasing insistence that global warming is a myth.  For awhile, it looked as though this year’s Re-enactors would have to walk across.

Without the Delaware River, and her bounty of shad, according to Founding Fish author John McPhee, which fed our meagerly-clad-and-nourished officers in winter quarters, WE WOULD NOT HAVE A NATION.

Because of the Delaware River, we are the only state with three coastlines — the Shore, The River, and the Delaware Bay.  Vital Philadelphia and our own Capitol would not exist without the Delaware,  Yet, she is never safe.

coursing-waters-brenda-jones

Coursing Waters, High Water, Delaware River by Brenda Jones

LISTEN TO THE DELAWARE RIVERKEEPER, HERE, AND ACT ACCORDINGLY.  Her level of commitment, devotion, and willing to sacrifice and risk, is Revolutionary.  Let Maya be our model, every one of us!

LISTEN TO MAYA.  FOLLOW HER BLOG.  IT’S TIME THAT EACH OF US BECOMES A Delaware Riverkeeper, a keeper of all rivers, of all natural beauty and the creatures — including humans — who require safe habitat in order to thrive.   cfe
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    Maya van Rossum

    Maya K. van Rossum is the Delaware Riverkeeper & leader for the Delaware Riverkeeper Network. Learn more www.delawareriverkeeper.org

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    SUN-SEEKING, Literal and Metaphorical

    Is it November, –or is it THIS November–, that renders sun a memory?

    What images, what journeys hold light so crucial to me, ever more essential, every day?

    impression-autumn-rogers-refuge-stony-brook-november

    Autumn Along the Stony Brook, 2016, November

     

    Key birding buddy, Mary Wood, and I ‘hiked the day down,’ –mostly wordlessly, often birdlessly–, after the election.  November surprised us with remnant vividness.

    Walk with us.  Climb with us.

     

    birding-platform-rogers-refuge-early-winter-2016

    Birding Platform Over the Wetlands

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    Map – Charles Rogers Refuge – off Alexander, near Princeton Canoe and Kayak Rentals

     

    likely-birds-rogers-refuge-2016

    Likely Birds – Red-wing Heaven in Springtime

     

    We owe this lovely restoration to Winnie (Hughes) and Fred Spar, and Tom Poole.  I know Winnie through U.S. 1 Poets, and Fred and Tom through D&R Greenway Land Trust, where I work.

    Finding these images on this gloomy day reminds that all that matters in my life is preservation, — of nature, of beauty, of wild spaces.

    Oh, yes, and freedom.  For the wildlings and for us.

    Winnie and Fred, in their fine new signs, give honor to legendary birder, quintessential birdwalk leader, Lou Beck, of Washington Crossing Audubon.

    We all give credit to everyone who reaches out, through whatever non-profits, to save the wild while we can.  Thoreau was right, you know:  “In wildness is the preservation of the world.”

     

    martin-habitat-rogers-refuge-november

    Restored Wetlands — Note Return of the Cattails, and Purple Martin House and Gourds

     

    remnants-rogers-refuge-november

    “September, we’ll remember…”

    november-palette-rogers-refuge-november

    Upside-Down is Better than Right-Side Up

     

     

    autumns-finale-rogers-refuge-november

    Finale, Rogers Refuge and the Stony Brook

     

    autumnal-tapestry-rogers-refuge-stony-brook-november

    “From Both Sides Now”

     

    autum-mirror-rogers-refuge-november

    November Tapestry in the Stony Brook

    Memories of this refuge especially include green herons.  Not this day, not this season — but often.  Sometimes, kayaking nearby, one spots green herons mincing along the banks of the (D&R, of course) canal, then lofting up into Refuge trees.

     

    green-heron-brenda-jones

    Green Heron by Brenda Jones

     

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    Spring Species, Rogers Refuge

     

    Spring brings not only winged miracles. This refuge is yellow-flag and blue-flag Central in May.  Wild iris of the most vivid hues, The Rogers is worthy of a journey for ‘flags’ alone.

     

    201006021401124-blue-flag-iris-versicolor-manitoulin-island

    Blue Flags from Versicolor on Interniet

     

    Invasive species had driven out cattails essential to territorializing red-winged blackbirds.

    red-winged-blackbird-brenda-jones

    Male Redwinged Blackbird, Territorializing, by Brenda Jones

    Seemingly inescapable phragmites, — bush-tailed grasses beloved of decorators–, are too frail to support the weight of males, ruffling scarlet epaulets, vocalizing welcome to females and banishment to rivals, in these woods and wetlands.

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    Phragmites Height from Internet

    Restoration, a key facet of preservation, is visible in the final scene of Mary’s and my November walk.

    return-of-the-cattails-rogers-refuge-november

    Late Light in the Cattails

    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.

     

    HIKING NJ THE HEAT-WEEKS: An Essay on Shade

    Marilyn as Lookout Sourlands 08 08

    My sister, Marilyn Weitzel, Janet Black and Betty Lies Bird the Sourland Mountain Preserve Trail off Greenwood Avenue in Hopewell

    While every newspaper and television and Internet Weather Source has been warning absolutely everyone to stay inside, “Stay Safe”, [which smarmy phrase makes my flesh crawl], I’ve discovered something experientially that I’ve probably always known:  It’s a whole lot hotter in any parking lot, getting into or out of a vehicle, than it is in any of our nearby New Jersey forests!  I’ve decided, it’s dangerous to stay at home.  For, there, life can turn into a spectator sport.

    Abide With Me   Pole Farm

    Pole Farm: “Abide With Me”: Shade in the Height of Summer

    A Sunday ago, I hiked the Pole Farm at 8 a.m., actually about an hour too late to start, during these so-called Heat Emergencies.  Much beauty, great tranquillity, shade 9/10 of the way.  For a couple of hours, I was given gifts beyond measure.  There’s nothing on a screen, or in a newspaper or magazine to equal the elusive scent of fox, still apparent from morning trail-marking.  The cascade of field sparrows, the mew of catbird.  The pleasure of picking two wildflowers for Elaine Katz’s stone and bench – the woman who almost single-handedly insisted that this Lawrenceville (now-) Preserve was not to be a golf course or a series of intrusively spotlighted playing fields.

    Sourlands Rocks 08 08

    Sourland Rocks Exhale Lenape Presence

    A day or two later, and again a week later, starting at 5:15, I entered the Sourland Mountain Preserve off Greenwood Avenue in Hopewell.  Not a man-made sound, not even a plane, did I hear in those couple of deeply shaded hours.  Not a man-made anything did I see, except some essential drainage pipes and the entry road, then densely wooded trails I explored.  One distant frog’s thrumming was heartening.  Dragonflies popped about whatever flowers could bloom in sunlit groves.  For a long time, I sat on basalt boulders leftover from creation, surrounded by mixed forest and essence of Lenapes of long ago.  There’d been rain by the second excursion, so various streamlets were caroling as I crossed them.

    Bowman's Spring 2014 014

    Intensities of Shade at Bowman’s Hill Wildflower Preserve

    The next night, when her work and mine were over for the day, Intrepid Jeanette Hooban picked me up in Lawrenceville, to glide over hill and down dale to the Delaware River, –silver in late light, purling below the Lambertville / New Hope Bridge.  Moments later, we were deep in Bowman’s Hill Wildflower Preserve.  We decided to take four favorite trails:  Violet Trail off the access road; the old pond trail onto Fern Trail, alongside a flower-erupting former pond; and the ever-enticing Medicinal Trail, crossing the tough new bridges constructed or reconstructed after Hurricane Sandy.  Each of us has many demands made upon us in the so-called real world.  Each was a little jagged as we started out.  But, again, silence, flowers, dragonflies, hidden birds, and the murmur of Pidcock Creek gave us timeless gifts of memory.  Jeanette discovered a flaming spurt of cardinal flower, favorite of ruby-throated hummingbirds.  I could show her where to elusive snow trillium can emerge, yes, in snow, in March; where, in May, opulent yellow ladyslippers peek through heavy leaf cover to the left of the Fern Trail.  We examined the rocky edge of that Creek, for I’d found the Louisiana Waterthrush, first by song, then by habitat and behavior, a month ago with another friend.  There in the cucumber magnolia, I’d seen my first ever phoebe sing out his name over and over, while waters burbled busily below early one spring.  In heat-strafed July, shade was our gift at Bowman’s, enhanced by occasional water-cooled air.

    Marsh First Willows 2013

    Abbott Marshlands: Spring Lake: First Willow Buds

    A few days later, key birding buddy, Anne Zeman, picked me up at 7:30 a.m., so we could go to the Abbott Marshlands (in Trenton!), in quest of images for her entries for an upcoming fine-art juried exhibition: Voices for the Marsh.  New to us was the fact that Hurricane Sandy had taken down a quantity of the Marsh’s most majestic trees.  Youngsters that survived have burgeoned in the meantime, creating dense shade everywhere — 90-some percent of our walk was tree-cool, and much alongside water.  New patterns of light and shade have amplified the richesse of its fern groves, until we ran out of species names.  Not only tiny blue dragonflies, –half the size of needles–, but equally minuscule lipstick-red ones, zinged about on all sides.  Pickerel weed’s remarkable purple (hyacinth-like, but slimmer) stems rose here and there in Spring Lake and other wet areas.

    fox face close-up Brenda Jones

    Fox Face, Close-Up, by Fine Art Photographer Brenda Jones

    Again, we remembered where  Clyde Quin and Warren Liebensperger had shown us the five-entried fox den.  On both sides of the trail, majestic yews revealed a former dwelling in that wilderness.  Not far from there, Clyde and Warren knew to look for owls in daytime.  There’s not so much silence in the Marsh, because horrific highways are all too near, spinning out a ceaseless drone of ‘the real world’.  But after awhile, one absorbed that sound, until lapping water or locusts warming up or the sacred luffing of swans wings topped every other impression.

    Marsh Sandy Damage 2013

    Marsh: Hurricane Sandy Damage to Iconic Beech, Spring Scene

    Each walk, alone and with others, proved that Heat Emergency consciousness can be overdone.  People can turn into couch potatoes out of fear.

    beaver close-up Brenda Jones

    Beaver Close-Up by Fine Art Photographer, Brenda Jones

    Beauteous preserves, rich in wildlife, await on all sides of Princeton.  There’s the thickly treed Community Park North off 206.  There’s Herrontown Woods, off Snowden Lane, and the nearby Autumn Hill.  Plainsboro Preserve beckons on the other side of Route 1, with its monoculture forest of beeches — guaranteed 12 to 15 degrees cooler in summer, warmer in winter.

    Beckoning Path Pl Prsrv

    Beckoning Path, Plainsboro Preserve

    Turn off the screens.  Grab a hat and water and natural insect repellant (a wonderful rosemary-based one is available at the Hopewell Pharmacy) and get out there.  Don’t be someone Richard Louv will have to describe as The Last (Child) in the Woods.

    Beechwood Forest Stream Pl Prsrv

    Microclimate Beechwood Forest, Plainsboro Preserve

     

     

     

     

     

    “VISITATION” ~ Eagle Poem

    American Bald Eagle Brenda Jones profile

    Princeton’s American Bald Eagle, Monarch, by Brenda Jones

    Long ago, when Ilene Dube asked me to create a Princeton Packet Blog on nature, she particularly asked me to include some of my poems.  In Cool Women readings over the years, “Visitation” was a favorite.

    American Bald Eagle and Sculler Brenda Jones

    ‘Princeton’s’ American Bald Eagle and Sculler in Morning Fog, Lake Carnegie, by Brenda Jones

    It was written, frankly, to a very vivid vision.  You can tell from the tactile descriptions how supremely real this scene was to me.

    Eagles 2 Carnegie Trees Dec Brenda Jones

    ‘Princeton’s’ Mated Pair of American Bald Eagles, by Brenda Jones

    It was years ago, and wintertime, when eagles court and nest, as they are now, all over our state.

    Eagle gathering nest materials Brenda Jones

    Eagle Gathering Nest Material, by Brenda Jones

    At the time, there were no Princeton eagles.  But, within weeks of this vision, I came upon ‘our’ female, on a tree near the end of the sculling race venue on Carnegie Lake.  How serene she was, awaiting her true love.  How peacefully, majestically he soared around that point, float-coasting onto a tree not too near.  It was as though she had always known he would arrive.

    Amer Bald Eagle flying straight Brenda Jones

    Majestic Soaring American Bald Eagle over Carnegie Lake, by Brenda Jones

    It was January 3rd, my real sighting.  My dear friend Janet Black’s (one of the Intrepids) birthday.  The sun was going down, but the curtain was rising on the courtship  of the male and female bald eagle who would then begin, successfully, to raise and to fledge young, each year on the shores of our fake but essential lake..

    Eagles Immature side-by-side Brenda Jones

    Immature ‘Princeton’ Eagles, Side-by-Side at Carnegie Lake Nest, by Brenda Jones

    As dusk triumphed over the January daylight, for the first time in my life, I heard the eagles, ‘our’ eagles, singing love songs.  I was very aware that this courtship meant that our waterway had been preserved and healed enough to nourish eagle generations.

    EagleJuvenileflyingoffwithfish3-1-11DSC_7643

    ‘Princeton’ Immature Bald Eagle, One of its first flights, by Brenda Jones

    But “Visitation” is not a hopeful poem.  Published in Cool Women, it is my own song of despair over habitat despoilation.

    Eagles Immature Brenda Jones

    ‘Princeton’s’ Juvenile Eagles, ‘branching’, by Brenda Jones

    But, sometimes, despair can be conquered by life itself.

    Brenda Jones, fine art photographer, has given me great gifts of bird images over the years.  I send you her eagles, ‘our’ eagles, to remind you, as Brenda and her husband, Cliff would do, to support your local land trust; to save land and water in New Jersey every chance you get. 

    Because saving land is saving habitat. 

    Because saving land is saving huge swathes to absorb CO2 and slow catastrophic climate change. 

     

    Because eagles, frankly, are essential. 

     

    Here is “Visitation”, after whose writing, despair turned to delight:

    VISITATION

     

    I finally reach

    a windy crest

    my turquoise jacket

    welcome against

    spring’s late chill

     

    I feel more than see

    the eagle settle

    upon flat granite

    to my right

    he gulps that entire landscape

    at one glance

     

    slow, steady,

    I extend

    my arm

    so he can step determinedly

    onto my padded sleeve

     

    my eyes are not one inch

    from his

    so gold, flickering

    flames surrounding the dark centers

    as coronas ring an eclipse

    gaze steadier

    than any

    I have ever known

     

    gusts ruffle

    his dark shoulder feathers

    stirring blue glints in sun

    the air could not be more electric

    if he were bearing

    thunderbolts

     

    he rests his left cheek

    against my own

     

    inside my heart

    small fists tattoo

    within that rosy cage

    some prisoner

    implores escape

    wakens me

    to life without eagles

     

    CAROLYN FOOTE EDELMANN