Winter Still-Life, Island Beach, New Year’s Day
So it’s come to this: In order to walk Island Beach and Sandy Hook, –especially twice in one winter week, as currently planned –, I turn to my splendid chiropractor, — Brandon Osborne, D.C., of Hopewell, New Jersey. On the heels of that nearly significant recent birthday, new ministrations are suddenly required to sustain my sometimes rebellious body.
The peroneus longus, –which one possesses, whether one wants one or not–, on the outside of each leg, leads down to the ankle bone. My left Peroneus, (rhymes with Polonius), gravely dislikes soft sand, — especially dune trails leading up and down in order to get to the sea.
After P’s last rebellion, Brandon insisted, laughing, “The best medicine for Peroneus is more soft sand.” Multi-faceted workouts engendered thereby actually stress Peroneus, rendering him stronger each time. Brandon has me weave new leg-buttressing routines, among my yoga postures. And he’s come up with a fine plan — move my appointments to the nights before beach-days, and he will protect my recalcitrant foot(e). He will tape the offending tendon.
Behind me, Brandon asked what color I prefer, –of a pretty short list. I blithely answer “green”. (never far from work at D&R Greenway; never far from being a very “green” person. I expected the color of winter pine trees. Wrong:
This development had me literally laughing out loud, since my motto for this significant year, is “OUTRAGEOUS!” (Exclamation point included.) I do yoga for an hour to an hour and a half each day, holidays included But there’s a little more to it than soft sweet grace:
I tend to do whatever Brandon suggests-to-insists so I can be outdoors as much as possible. New upright exercises involve standing high on toes for longish periods, legs together, then legs farther apart. In the beginning, doing 30 of each seemed impossible. Now it’s only the last six or so that weary me/us (Peroneus and me). But they do not hurt.
Seeing that wild ankle decor Thursday, I marveled, “But, I feel like an athlete, taped for the fray.” Brandon abruptly asserted, “You ARE an athlete!” This is the person who had been felled by rheumatic fever at seven. From then on, tennis, biking around the block, all jumproping – [and I had been the star], and roller skating were forbidden for life. After which swimming to the end of the dock at camp became impossible. (Until my 2011 hip replacement p.t., I had not set foot(e) in a gym, and was absolutely terrified to begin.) Well, better late than never.
Brandon’s other prescription involves that very soft sand. The picture below proves this morning’s obedience to his mandate: You are coming with us along Reed’s Road to Barnegat Bay — first stop on my every I.B. pilgrimage.
Realize that this is the original sugar sand for which New Jersey’s Pine Barrens are famous. Be very aware that this delicate, even exquisite pale grey substance is light years beyond the dingy practically ochre grunge dredged up and brought in (especially in Sandy-battered Mantoloking) by the infamous, Nature-negating Army Corps of Engineers.
Island Beach sand feels like superfine sugar. Its chinchilla hue plays off the tawnyness of beach grass, to say nothing of cinnamon-stick brown jettisoned bayberry leaves. Walking winter sand trails, it is as though Cezanne himself had been orchestrating the palette of each trail.
Island Beach is a ten-mile stretch of pristine beauty, about which you’ve read and read in these electronic pages. The landscape/dunescape could be Wellfleet and Truto leading into wildest stretches of Cape Cod’s Provincetown.
Why it’s worthwhile for me to do whatever Brandon Osborne, D.C., directs — long-tailed rarities of the winter sea:
Rarities arrive, of course, at Island Beach, because it has been preserved. Support your local, state and national land trusts, so that wild nature can thrive in our time.
Island Beach’s ten miles were to have been developed, as you’ve learned from me before. The Great Depression put a stop to almost all building. Magnificence remains at every turn.
Mostly (until recent brutal trail maintenance on Reed’s and other roads and trails — this will be a blog unto itself later), the State Park’s trees, shrubs and grasses have not been pruned, –save by wind, sand and storm.
Rare birds coast overhead; court and build nests; dive through waves of ocean and bay; madly fish — especially Northern gannets, who create geysers as they plunge. Most amazingly, merlins and swallows play exuberantly during Nor’easters — going as northeast as they can into the very teeth of the gale.
Wind has other effects. See its creative partnership with remarkable compass grass:
Even the weeds turn into artists in the hands of the wind:
The sea itself has been busy sculpting — all we need is a sphinx:
This day I shared this beach with dear friends, Angela and Bob Previte. You know her fine art, stunning portraits of New Jersey’s winged miracles, from her own blog, “Simple Life at the Shore.” (Which see! Which FOLLOW!) Delightful hours have been spent with her, with them, in recent months, in the park that serves their back yard.
We hiked merrily for hours, though they were concerned about Peroneus. Angela had witnessed its giving out after a particular steep trek in summertime, [see green dunescape above.] Even so, at Trail 7A, we skimmed along the boardwalk; trudged dutifully through the softest sand, –arriving in a particular ecstasy upon firmness created by winter’s high tide .
We were not the only ones on the sands, this day. Everyone we meet was simply blissed out by the perfection that we shared. We’d congratulate one another on knowing what to do with a New Year’s Day.
All except the woman walking boldly and illegally atop a dune. This person asserted to Angela that she was not doing exactly what she was even then doing. I’ve experienced many forms of denial in my life, but this was egregious. We tried to beckon the transgressor away from making those deeply destructive footprints, to no avail.
I’m in don’t-mess-with-me mode, in my OUTRAGEOUS! year. So I called over to her — “You are breaking the fine roots essential to the grasses that hold these dunes in place!” She moved defiantly onward…
But, everyone else, I would describe as almost reverent this day.
Our own fellowship today was profound. It will be repeated, –“take often as needed.” Maybe I should thank Peroneus for Brandon’s prescription…
In the Year 2000, a great love was granted me along these unspoilt sands. The picture below seems to represent the mighty ocean in whisper mode, hinting of secrets…