“Nor’easter Four” — poem

1 A snow clearing 2011

 

Nor’easter Four

 

what I do not understand about “nor’easters”

is that every single one this month

has poured in like a rain of arrows

in some major battle for survival in our storied west

every single flake arriving

from the SOUTHWEST

 

as though there are two storms

comprised of fickle flakes

sometimes more than half

being the soft lazy wide ones

–nearly the size of dimes

and brighter

 

then the white deluge changes to dots

tiny as sand, as salt

as fog, or dust itself

 

the larger often seem confused

as though asking

–as with WWII posters –

“Is this trip necessary?”

 

reversing trajectories

inexplicably, determinedly

changing directions constantly

sometimes even rising

 

but fine flakes remain no-nonsense

–every so often taking over

filling every pane

sometimes, almost invisible

showing their heftier relatives

how to create

storm

 

1 a snow branch burden 2011

CAROLYN FOOTE EDELMANN

MARCH 2018

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WHEN A DEAR FRIEND DIES — for Alan

Christmas Fog Brig Tasha Alan 2015

Alan MacIlroy and Tasha O’Neill birding foggy Brigantine on Christmas 2015

The news we always knew, but never believed, slashes out of morning, startling and impossible as thunder snow.

Although creativity is the heart of the matter in the home Alan MacIlroy has left for our true home, — neither words nor images come to my summons, as mourning descends upon me.

My dearest Tasha is widowed anew.  Alan’s ruddy car sits in their driveway with its subtle license reminding us of his priority:  TH JRNY.   Now he has embarked on the universal journey.

Over more years than I can tally, Tasha and Alan and I have shared priceless rituals, from fireside lobster in Maine to Christmas picnics at Brigantine Wildlife Refuge.

The day of our foggy Christmas feast, a peregrine falcon had stationed itself upon a speed limit sign — “15 mph” — just beyond the Brig’s northeast corner turn.  My camera does not do justice to this monarch holding court for a rosary of reverent automobiles immobilized upon the dike road.  Alan, Tasha and I quietly slid out of his Christmasy car to stand in silence, worshiping.

After a significant interval, Alan announced, “Let’s not go over to Scott’s Landing for our Christmas dinner.  How could we leave the peregrine?”

Only as I type this, do I realize, the word peregrine means wanderer.

Alan is the consummate mentor.  “Mr. Fix-It.”  Every problem solved, especially in advance, especially for his cherished Kingston church, and local businessmen and women.  Each wooded trail at their Maine home maintained.  Every lobster boat observed upon stormy or tranquil bay.  Each wood fire, kindled on a cooling summer’s night.  His dazzling, impeccable TR 4, shining on the driveway, ready for a jaunt.  He is each woodworking project magnificently accomplished, including caning two chairs for me, burnishing the Provencal olive wood cutting board that had dimmed since I lived there.  Grace, gentleness, generosity.   Smiles and that quiet voice we will no longer hear.  Alan was the essence of tranquility.  Alan is love.

His quietly merry  spirit will be with us on every future excursion. Yet the glow of that luminous man has become memory.

Mary Elizabeth’s crystalline phrases echo as I find myself bereft of words.  May her inspiration be with NJWILDBEAUTY readers  — in this dire era, –in which too many days begin with yet another cancer call:

Do Not Stand At My Grave And Weep

Do not stand at my grave and weep
I am not there. I do not sleep.
I am a thousand winds that blow.
I am the diamond glints on snow.
I am the sunlight on ripened grain.
I am the gentle autumn rain.
When you awaken in morning’s hush
I am the swift uplifting rush
Of quiet birds in circled flight.

 

I am the soft stars that shine at night.
Do not stand at my grave and cry;

 

I am not there. I did not die.

***

 

Brigantine Christmas PIcnic 2015

Tasha Prepares our 2015 Christmas Feast

***

“How can we leave the peregrine?”     Now, our wanderer has left us…

Territorial Peregrine Brigantine Christmas 2015

“BLAZING DISCONTENT”

heavy-heavy-hangs-late-snow-march-2015

Heavy, Heavy hang… conifer boughs in Lawrenceville, NJ

i AM NOT THE ONLY ONE DRIVEN TO QUOTE SHAKESPEARE’S MOST SEVERE TRAGEDIES BY CURRENT EVENTS.  What brings the white fury to us, catalyzes apocalyptic melting in the Arctic.  See Climate Change on “the unprecedented”, below.

But Shakespeare well knew how brief is our little turn upon the stage.  However, the impacts of our actions and inactions have permanent effect.  Certain persons (the highly funded Climate Deniers, read Naomi Klein’s prize-winning non-fiction masterpiece: This Changes Everything!) would have us believe that catastrophic climate change is a myth.

Hike a receding marsh; walk a chewed beach; drive through Pine Barrens forests where sand always drained instantly, where standing water has become the norm, except in summer.

Climate Central is a tremendously valuable, non-partisan, Princeton-based group committed to climate truth.  Climate Change is worth following, meter-by-meter.  Read with me as this morning’s communique warns of “profound change.”  (www.climatecentral.org)

If you want the truth, here is where to find it.

The Winter of Blazing Discontent Continues in the Arctic

By Brian Kahn

  • Published: February 6th, 2017

 

Weird. Strange. Extreme. Unprecedented.

These are some of the words that describe what’s been happening in the Arctic over the past year as surge after surge of warm air has stalled, and at times reversed, sea ice pack growth. And the unfortunate string of superlatives is set to continue this week.

Arctic sea ice is already sitting at a record low for this time of year and a powerful North Atlantic storm is expected to open the flood gates and send more warmth pouring into the region from the lower latitudes. By Thursday, it could reach up to 50°F above normal. In absolute temperature, that’s near the freezing point and could further spur a decline in sea ice.

Abnormally warm air is expected to reach the North Pole by Thursday.
Credit: Climate Reanalyzer

Scientists have said the past year in the Arctic is “beyond even the extreme” as climate change remakes the region.

Sea ice hit a record low maximum last winter (for the second year in a row,  no less) and the second-lowest minimum ever recorded last fall. After a fairly rapid refreeze in late September, the region experienced a dramatic shift. Extraordinary warmth has been a recurring theme.

Sea ice growth reversed in November. Temperatures reached the melting point at the North Pole in December. Preliminary data from January indicates the Arctic was up to 35°F above normal in some locations, including a mid-January mild wave.

That brings us to early February, which is setting up for another bout of mild weather in the Arctic.

A massive storm is swirling toward Europe. It’s a weather maker in itself, churning up waves as high as 46 feet and pressure dropping as low as is typical for a Category 4 hurricane as of Monday. The storm is to the southeast of Greenland and its massive comma shape has made for stunning satellite imagery. The storm is expected to weaken as it approaches Europe, but it will conspire with a high-pressure system over the continent to send a stream of warm air into the Arctic through the Greenland Sea.

Temperatures are forecast to reach the melting point in Svalbard, Norway, an island between the Greenland and Karas Seas. The North Pole could also approach the melting point on Thursday.

It’s just the latest signal that the Arctic is in the middle of a profound change. Sea ice extent has dropped precipitously as has the amount of old ice, which is less prone to breakup. Beyond sea ice, Greenland’s ice sheet is also melting awayand pushing sea levels higher, large fires are much more common and intense in boreal forests and other ecosystem changes are causing the earth to hyperventilate.

Together, these all indicate that the Arctic is in crisis. It’s the most dramatic example of how carbon pollution is reshaping the planet and scientists are racing to understand what comes next.

 

 

Some of you think what I’m writing is gloomy.  My level of desolation I would say has peaked, except I know there is far worse to come.  Some of you wish I would just enter pretty pictures of New Jersey’s spectacular nature.  SO DO I!

boardwalk-to-destruction-ib-cfe

Island Beach Boardwalk to Destruction – Nor’easter-scoured, Dunes Conquered

But I AM a Saggitarian, and truth is our middle name.  The reality is, everyone, WE ARE NOT GOING TO HAVE ANY WILD BEAUTY LEFT, –NOT ONLY IN NEW JERSEY–, SO LONG AS CATASTROPHIC CLIMATE CHANGE IS ALLOWED TO RUN AMUCK, LET ALONE BE EXACERBATED BY THOSE WHO WOULD PROFIT FROM IT.

We are the only state with three coastlines — The Jersey Shore; The Delaware River; The Delaware Bay.  New Jersey is being squeezed like an orange by Catastrophic  Climate Change’s generation of Sea-Level-Rise.  Get it!

 

foot-access-only-brigantine-after-sandy-12-25-2012

FOOT ACCESS ONLY — FOOT TRAILS OPEN – THE BRIG/FORSYTHE after Sandy

 

WINTER BIRDING AT THE BEACH ~ Sandy Hook, January 6

spermaceti-cove-sandy-hook-jan-2017

Sandy Hook, Sandy Hook Bay, Spermaceti Cove on our  January Birding Day

Epiphany, indeed!   Actually, multiple epiphanies on the purported day of the Three Kings’ visit to the manger…

fall-and-winter-sandy-hook-salt-pond-region-jan-2017

Two Seasons, near Salt Pond, Sandy Hook, January 6, 2017

O.K., it snowed all night.  Who cares?

where-the-rabbit-trekked-sandy-hook-jan-201

Where The Rabbit Ran… near Salt Pond, Sandy Hook, January 6, 2017

There is nothing more thrilling than finding first tracks in fresh snow or upon tide-compressed sand.

And, yes, it’s cold and windy — so much the BETTER!

the-king-of-the-foxes-sandy-hook-spermaceti-cove-jan-2017

The King of the Foxes — Where the Fox Sips, Spermaceti Cove, Sandy Hook, January

I’m beginning to think that winter is the BEST time for adventures!

january-birding-jim-and-kathleen-amon-sandy-hook-salt-pond-region-jan-20176

Kathleen and Jim Amon, Studying Buffleheads, Mergansers, Brant and a Lone Red-Breasted Loon in Winter Plumage

Come with Kathleen and Jim Amon, of Lambertville, (and me).  These friends are key birders, both fine artists — Jim with a one-man exhibition into early February at D&R Greenway of his magnificent butterfly studies.  Jim is my former colleague (Director of Stewardship at D&R Greenway Land Trust).  He also supports the Sourlands Conservancy, and writes marvelous nature articles under the heading, “Seeing the Sourlands.” Both are also impassioned about food, which you know key to my nature quests.

Yes, stroll with us along the northernmost barrier beach of New Jersey early on a January Friday morning.

As you can see from my intent friends above, –wild winds, recent snow, a nearby bay, and a few salt ponds over which increasing gusts were gusting, mean nothing.

Gear is essential.  Fashion is not.  Windproofed everything is worth its weight in gold.

essential-tools-sandy-hook-jan-20167

Essential ‘Gear’ for Birding in All Seasons – David Alan Sibley’s Masterworks

O, yes, and having memorized most of the texts of these books, and possessing decent optics.  As NJWILDBEAUTY readers know, an amazing friend recently gave me her second set of Swarovski binoculars.  Kathleen Amon had just purchased the identical ‘species’.  Here she is using them for the first time, astounded by subtleties revealed.  These ‘glasses’ are beyond price.  No gift of my life, (including rare jewels from my ex-husband) surpasses them in importance.

At my bird-feeder at home, my amazing Swarovskis, I swear, let me absorb the personality and character of feeding goldfinches from the look in their eyes!

femalegoldfinch-a-happy-feeder-brenda-jones

Female American Goldfinch (NJ STATE BIRD) on Seed Sack by Fine Art Photographer, Friend: Brenda Jones

Other essentials, — which I am sure all my NJWILDBEAUTY readers possess, include curiosity, passion, enthusiasm, persistence, courage, and a certain level of fitness – which as you know Peroneus Longus  (that pesky left-leg tendon) does not always provide.

‘Perry’ was a brat last week at Island Beach.  But we worked him into cooperation any number of times.  At Sandy Hook, –taped anew by my legendary chiropractor, Brandon Osborne of Hopewell– Peroneus behaved like a perfect gentleman.  So he moved into Jim Amon’s league…

O, yes, the ankle tape this week is the color of tomato soup before you add milk.  It sports white writing all over everywhere, shouting “ROCK TAPE”, over and over and over.

sandy-hook-jim-kathleen-amon-spermaceti-cove-boardwalk-jan-2017

Jim and Kathleen Amon, intent upon buffleheads, Spermaceti Cove, at Sandy Hook, January 6, 2017

Never mind rocks.   Give me sand and snow!

january-reflectons-spermaceti-cove-sandy-hook-jan-2017

Brooding Wetland, Spermaceti Cove, Sandy Hook in January

The purpose of our jaunt, which we’d determined to take come rain or snow or sleet or hail, — well, almost… — was to acquaint Jim and Kathleen with all the bird ops at Sandy Hook.

To show them where the green heron lurks in summer:

green-heron-brenda-jones

Green Heron, Brenda Jones

Where the great egret feeds on the incoming tide…

egretwingstretchmillstonebrenda-jones

Great Egret by Brenda Jones

Where the ospreys soar, court, mate, build nests, raise hefty young, and perform impressive exchanges, as both parents tend first eggs, then chicks.

ospreymillstoneaqueduct-brenda-jones

Osprey by Brenda Jones

Well, you get the idea.

Every time I introduce anyone to Sandy Hook, there is great attraction to, and concern for, the yellow houses left from “the Hook’s” military past.  Time has had its way with them.

Sandy, the Storm, was doubly merciless — waves crashing in from the Atlantic and others rising with menace from all-too-near Sandy Hook Bay.

These houses, upon whose chimneys ospreys delight to nest and successfully raise young, are finally being restored!

restored-houses-for-rent-sandy-hook-2017

Restoration of the Yellow Houses

Everyone muses, in the presence of the battered yellow house, upon stories these dwellings could tell.

Three of these haunting structures had become impeccable, after all these ruinous decades. The northernmost restoration now sports a FOR RENT sign in its front window.  The one beyond that had its door open, a workman in a hard hat entering with urgency.  Across from their porches, one faces Sandy Hook Bay, bird-rich, to be sure.  Also frequently crossed by the ferry to Manhattan…

location-sandy-hook-jan-2017

New Ad for Yellow Houses, up near North Beach and Hawk Watch Platform

Oh, yes, and what birds did we find?

common-merganser-female-by-ray-yeager

Common Merganser Female by Fine Art Photographer/Friend, Ray Yeager

hooded-merganser-by-ray-yeager

Hooded Merganser, Ray Yeager

male-bufflehead-by-ray-yeager

Male Bufflehead, Ray Yeager

Brant Goose Drinking Barnegat

Brant, by Brenda Jones

What did we see that we did not expect?  I had jokingly mentioned, as we faced salt ponds awash in the dapper and compelling ducks of winter, “With any luck, we’ll have a red-throated loon in winter plumage…   Of course, that means he won’t have a red throat.”

This is just one of the many complexities of the birder’s life.  If you cannot stand contradictions (such as the black-bellied plover in winter plumage who has white belly), don’t bird.

red-throated-tloon-from-internet-glamour_iandavies

Red-throated Loon in Winter Plumage from Internet: Cornell Ornithology Lab

What had we expected to find, but didn’t have enough time on the ocean side?

Long-tailed ducks out beyond the third waves…

Ray Yeager is a master at finding and immortalizing long-tails, so this image will have to do for all of us.

long-tailed-duck-maile-by-ray-yeager

Lon-tailed duck, male, by Ray Yeager

What do I remember from my November visit, [that did not happen in January]– every brant on the salt ponds catapulted into the air by horrific military noise from two officious helicopters.

‘The Hook’ has been military since the War of 1812, even though “no shot has been fired in anger”, as they say, along those splendid sands.

I’m supposed to feel secure and protected in the presence of the military, but the opposite is my truth.  Such intrusions cannot be good for the birds..

.

brant-fleeing-helicopters-sandy-hook-november

All the Brant of Sandy Hook’s Salt Pond, Fleeing Cacophonous Helicopters, November 2016

Sandy Hook is so special, even the poison ivy is beautiful.  This November scene reminds us

(1) Winter Birding is full of riches, worth all the risks and potential discomforts.

(2) Rejoice that these preserves exist.  Do everything in your power to see that they persist, for the wild creatures above all, and for human epiphanies!

poison-ivy-still-life-sandy-hook-november

Poison Ivy Still Life, November 2016

ONCE UPON A TIME, THERE WAS SNOW

Drowning in Snow

Drowning in Snow – Early 2016

On a hot day in a hot week in the early part of March, I am tempted to call this blog post, “Remember Snow?”  As people walk into our 1900 barn, –where we save land, the ultimate carbon sink–, they exult over “this lovely day.”

All day I tried to correct them:  “It’s tragic!”

“Why?!,” they’d demand.

“Climate change,” I’d retort, mourning in my voice.

“Oh, well,” says the first entrant, with a dismissive wave of the hand.  If I give up on climate change – o, please may I never give up upon calling attention to this debacle – today will have been my tipping point.

On the phone, I attempted to correct a hunter, also pleased that it is nearing seventy degrees.  When I used the dread ‘C Words’, he chuckled.  “Oh, that won’t be upon us for some time yet…”  His voice reveals that he too may have been using dismissive gestures.

Early Blizzard Chair and Table

Patio Time

Only a handful of people dare admit to me, as I literally sit in a barn with its doors thrown open to the March heat, “I happen to be a lover of winter.  This year is a fizzle.”

Yes, YES!  Realize this.  Snow is part of a significant and crucially necessary cycle.  Without it, nature’s processes are seriously skewed.

Snow, with its accompanying low temperatures, blesses fox habitat, killing microbes in their dens that otherwise doom these animals to the dire death of mange.  Ice covering a bay, such as Barnegat, permits new healthy foxes to scamper across to Island Beach, strengthening the vulpine tribe.

Snow on the mountains creates snow pack, ‘designed’ to hold water not meant to be released until the droughty months ahead.  This is particularly essential in states such as Oregon.  But New Jersey, the Garden State, requires her snow, too.  My mother used to call snow “nature’s fertilizer,” particularly rejoicing in late blizzards.  Something about nitrogen and she could see visible improvements, thereafter, in her garden.

The mailman countered, “You want snow?  Move to Minnesota.”  I lived in Minnesota in the first years of marriage to a Mayo-training urologist.  Yes, snow, whiteout snow, ‘blowing and drifting snow’, the norm and fifteen inches on my first fifteenth of April.

I want snow, now, when it belongs here, doing its sweet silent work.

Face it, we should ALL want snow.

Frantic Birds, Blizzard 1 2016

Frantic Birds Feed in Blizzard

I remember soft swathes of flakes circling down each Aspen night, frosting the long blonde hair of my teen-aged daughters.  The girls in their long skirts and clunky after-ski boots, our family family made its silent nightly way on foot to yet another intriguing dinner.  In the morning, new snow would cushioned long sweet sweeps through Big Burn and into a forest, where we sort-of slalomed in and out of ancient trees.  Their boughs were thick with snow pillows.

At the very top, each dawn, flaky frost would surround tree branches, and even float through the air, all rainbowed and fascinating.  There is no silence, not even a cathedral’s, to equal that on a chairlift through snowed forests.

At home in Princeton, snow meant ‘a snow day’, the ‘telephone tree’ informing us that PDS was closed.  Fires in the fireplaces in the morning, and chicken soup steaming up the windows, so we could barely see the universal whiteness outside.  Cardinals dancing in and out of flakes and shadows, surrounding our bountiful feeders.  A raptor zooming over to snatch the neck among steaming chicken bones I negotiated my way through confusing drifts to place at the edge of our woods.

Sitting on the hearth, playing our guitars and singing folk songs.  If it were the right kind of snow, (this was the 1970’s), snowmen – only my girls insisted on snow-women, of course.  We didn’t always have a carrot for a nose, and never coal.  Snow meant the cats wouldn’t go out the front door into it, insisting on the back – as though there wouldn’t be any snow out there.

Depth of Field late blizzard

Remarkable Snow Depth – Courtesy of Catastrophic Climate Change

Well, if we had those cats now, there wouldn’t be any snow out any doors.

Think about it, at seventy degrees in March.  If it’s this many degrees hotter than March norms, how will August be?

Flowers are opening months earlier than they should – what will the pollinators do?

Goldfinches at my Lawrenceville feeders are turning gold under their wings.  Does that mean they’re thinking breeding thoughts?  And where will the insects be to feed their premature young?

You’ve heard it before.  We’ve ignored it before.

Roof Overhang

Overhand, Morning After the Blizzard

The snow quantities in these pictures are brought to us, via our insistence upon fossil fuels, by Catastrophic Climate Change.

There is no ‘if’ about climate change.  My Climate Change Reader, edited by legendary Bill McKibben, proffers 100 years of writing (pro and con) on this subject.  McKibben dared author his his tome heralding our planet’s gravest crisis (The End of Nature) in 1989.  Is anybody listening?

When Pogo asserted, “We have seen the enemy and he is us,” he was not considering climate.

We have seen the future, and it is now.

You don’t want to be in sleeveless tops and running shorts in March.

At the very least, write your senators, representatives and editors and urge them to grapple with this most significant issue of our time, immediately and effectively now.

HOW IT SHOULD BE IN WINTER:

Falling Fast and Furiously

Falling Fast and Furiously

It’s not just snow that’s endangered.  It’s the planet itself, and we ourselves are part of what Elizabeth Kolbert titles “The Sixth Extinction.”

CELEBRATING SNOW

NJWILDBEAUTY readers know I cherish Nature in all her moods, –often the wilder the better.  Running toward a Nor’easter, suffused in laughter and delight, with the Intrepids, at Island Beach seems to have changed my life.  My intensities have increased, along with my courage to admit these passions in public.

Sacred Fox Prints March 2015

Sacred Fox Tracks of the Night

Note that the name for this blog includes both WILD and BEAUTY.  Below are scenes from a snow a year ago that delivered both:

Necessity Late Snow March 2015

Sometimes, Even Necessity Has Beauty!

Tonight I await a forecast snow – which frankly doesn’t promise to be sufficient.  Note that the name for this blog includes both WILD and BEAUTY.  I give you scenes from a snow a year ago that delivered both.

Visitor Late Snow March 2015

Fresh Prints

Certain very special friends call to exult in snow, our secret joy.  We are all too aware that the Weather Channel does all in its power to make the public fear, if not hate, Nature, tossing about words like ‘revenge’.  I think it’s a ploy to permit destruction of nature, and I turn my back on all of that.  Nature’s doing the what comes naturally.  It’s we who are the ruinators.  We are here to be the planet’s tenders…

Heavy Heavy Hangs Late Snow March 2015

Laden

Look at her artistry.  What a privilege to live where the world can be transformed like this in one mere night!

Night Snow 2015

Night Snow

Waltz of the Shadows

Waltz of the Shadows

Neighbor's Snowman Late Snow  March 2015

Neighbors’ Snowman

Fox Encouonter Late Snow March 2015

Foxes’ Encounter

Incredible Lightness of Being Late Snow March 2015

The Incredible Lightness of Being

When the Shrubs Weep at 23 Juniper

When Shrubs Weep

Morning View Late Snow March 2015

Calm after the Storm

Sculpture in Snow March 2015

Sculpture and Rosemary in Snow

 

Blizzard at my OPEN Door

Snow Depth at My Back Door

Storms are not easy for the wild creatures – as this puffed-up-to-stay-warm Junco reveals.  It is always good to set out thistle socks, at least, for our winged brethren of the wild.

Junco On Andromeda

Puffed Junco on Andromeda in Height of Storm

 

“…fill up with snow…”

Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening]

***

 

By Robert Frost

***

Whose woods these are I think I know.
His house is in the village though;
He will not see me stopping here
To watch his woods fill up with snow.
***
My little horse must think it queer
To stop without a farmhouse near
Between the woods and frozen lake
The darkest evening of the year.
***
He gives his harness bells a shake
To ask if there is some mistake.
The only other sound’s the sweep
Of easy wind and downy flake.
***
The woods are lovely, dark and deep,
But I have promises to keep,
And miles to go before I sleep,
And miles to go before I sleep.
 
 
 

Robert Frost, “Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening” from The Poetry of Robert Frost, edited by Edward Connery Lathem. Copyright 1923, © 1969 by Henry Holt and Company, Inc., renewed 1951, by Robert Frost. Reprinted with the permission of Henry Holt and Company, LLC.

Source: Collected Poems, Prose, & Plays (Library of America, 1995)

This poem has always been a favorite of this winter-lover, but it mattered most to President Kennedy…      snow is such a blessing…                        cfe