February Sandy Hook: Fun in the Sun and the Sands

IMG_0745

Base of Sandy Hook Light

NJWILDBEAUTY readers know that I treasure winter along our magnificent Jersey coasts.  You may overlook the fact that we have three:  The Atlantic, The Delaware River; and Delaware Bay.  This is heaven for this Midwesterner, who never even saw saltwater until the summer between seventh and eighth grade.  This is troublous for one who is all too aware of sea-level rise in the twenty-first century.

Sandy Hook River-side Views with Tasha Fall 2017

Tasha O’Neill Looking Back at the Mainland from the Barrier Island that is Sandy Hook in HOT September!

Two friends willingly planned a Sandy Hook jaunt for yesterday, not really realizing that it was Valentine’s Day.  My companions that day were my former Packet editor, Ilene Dube, who insisted that I blog for her paper ages ago…, and my fine-art-photographer friend Tasha O’Neill.  I owe my first blog, NJWILD for the Packet, and its successor, NJWILDBEAUTY to Ilene – who insisted I do this, when I did not know what a blog was!

I'll take Manhattan from Sandy Hook Windy Spring 2017 004

Manhattan from Sandy Hook on a Windy Spring Day – North End of Barrier Island

We’d planned to visit Monmouth University first for three art exhibitions, especially James Fiorentino’s of Conserve Wildlife NJ.  But the sun burst out as we headed due east, and Sandy Hook won post position.Spermaceti Cove Sandy Hook Jan 2017

Spermaceti Cove and Boardwalk, High Tide, January 2017

Ilene had not known such New Jersey treasures as Little Silver and Colt’s Neck, let alone the equestrian paradise of Monmouth County.  Our drive through Rumson’s array of true mansions brought up amazing comparisons — Newport, Bar Harbor…  And then we were crossing the glinting Navesink River, the Atlantic Ocean stretching into infinity before us.  This Michigander can never believe that scene!

Verrazano and Light House Sandy Hook Spring 2017

Verrazano and Tip of Manhattan from Sandy Hook’s Northernmost Trail

January Birding Jim and Kathleen Amon Sandy Hook Salt Pond region Jan 20176

Birding Essentials: Kathleen and Jim Amon: January 2017

red throated tloon from Internet glamour_iandavies

Red-throated Loon in Winter Plumage on Pond for Amons and Me: Jan. 2017

(Internet Image)

Essential Tools Sandy Hook Jan 20167

Essential Tools for Birding Anywhere, especially Sandy Hook, especially Winter: 

David Allen Sibley

There are no fees for ‘The Hook’ in winter, and never for birders (because you’ll be hiking, not swimming, not parking at crowded beach sites of summer).  I see us tumbling like children in our eagerness to get close enough to the waves.  The ocean was a pale and delicate hue, baby-boy-blanket-blue.

Reflections of a Working Harbor Bahrs Jan. 2017 012

Working Harbor in Winter, Across Navesink from Sandy Hook Preserve

No matter where we turned, everything was pristine and exquisite.  The few sounds included mutterings of gulls and whispering waves.

Where the Rabbit Trekked Sandy Hook Jan 201

Where the Rabbit Loped, January 2017

Later, on the wast side, we would be treated to the nature sound I cherish – murmurings among a flock of brant.  These small goose-like birds, ==whose shape in the water echoes small air-craft carriers–, have only just arrived at ‘the Hook.’  They swam in determined flotillas, more tourists than residents, –zipping first here, then there, as if renewing old ties.

Brant Goose Drinking Barnegat

Brant Sipping at Low Tide, by Brenda Jones

In peaceful water, toy-like buffleheads, quintessential diving ducks, bobbed up anddown, arrived and departed, vanished and materialized with characteristic merriment.

Male Bufflehead by Ray Yeager

Ray Yeager – Key Fine Art Photographer of Winter Ducks:  Male Bufflehead

Ilene was fascinated to see all the osprey nests — some on human-built platforms; some on the chimneys of venerable yellow-brick military dwellings.  Some platforms, especially at the hawk watch platform (north), had been emptied by recent storms.

Sandy Hook Jim Kathleen Amon Spermaceti Cove Boardwalk Jan 2017

Birding Spermaceti Cove in Winter — Seals on Skull Island off to our Left

Even though it was February, a heat haze of the most exquisite soft-slate-blue obscured not only the Verrazano Bridge, but also Manhattan’s Wall Street megaliths.  Only nature was in view from the platform that day.

Sandy Hook Vista North Spring 2017

View from Hawk Watch Platform on Windy Spring Day

Grasses at Spermaceti Cove looked as though they’d been repeatedly beaten into submission by a glacier, not simply by recent high tides.  Glistening mud of the inlet’s banks was spattered with deep raccoon ‘hand’-prints, where these nocturnal mammals had washed recent foods before eating.

Fall and Winter Sandy Hook Salt Pond Region Jan 2017

Sandy Hook Marsh Grasses, January 2017

I am a realist. We are nowhere near the vernal equinox.  But, yes, days are lengthening, amazingly at both ends.

Christmas on Sandy Hook Bay Bahrs Jan. 2017

Christmas on the Navesink River from Bahrs

Yes, every once in awhile, a balminess arrives.  When three friends can celebrate together, even to feasting at Bahrs, the 100-year-old Highlands seafood restaurant high above the Navesink.  Where we could down Delaware Bay oysters and other rare treats, before taking in all three art exhibits in three different buildings at Monmouth University, without wearing coats.  Then drive home in golden light, through the Battlefield of Monmouth, without which we would not have a country.

Gastronomic Haven by the Sea Bahrs Jan. 2017

 

Birders at Bahrs Jan. 2017

When Birders Lunch at Bahrs

I cannot help wondering what our colonial heroes would think of the country they fought and many died to save, in so many New Jersey battles.  But our is a noble history.  Their pledging and/or giving their lives, their fortunes, but never their sacred honor, cannot be for naught.

Patriots' Flag Chestnut Neck Revolutionary War Monument Winter 2017

Patriots’ Flag at Site of Battle of Chestnut Neck, in Pine Barrens

IMG_0746

From start to finish, Mother Nature herself had given Ilene, Tasha and me treasured Valentines.  The red and white, however, decorated Sandy Hook’s Storied Light, rather than hearts.  Lighthouses and 13-Star Flags, however, always warm MY heart.  I hope they warm YOURS!

Try beaches in winter!

Lifesavers' Station darkened

Sandy Hook’s Heroic Lifesaving Station

And preserve every inch of open and historic space in magnificent New Jersey!

 

Tasha Carolyn Bahrs Sandy Hook April

Tasha and I on her COLD April Birthday — at Bahrs, Sandy Hook Behind Us…

 

 

“DUCKY DAY AT ISLAND BEACH”, JANUARY 2018

This post features a series of images of rare birds found with good friends, on last weekend’s Island Beach hikes.  Yes, it was January.  Yes, there’s been wild weather.  Know that part of the lure in winter hiking lies in defying the elements, –being OUT THERE with Nature, no matter what!  And, besides, with such friendships of this magnitude, only the highest good unfurls.

Merganser male Millstone Aqueduct Brenda Jones

Merganser Male, by Brenda Jones

A series of Internet scenes of our rarities awaits — so you can see why it really didn’t matter that we did not fulfill our snowy-owl-quest this time.

***

So long as I’ve been writing about nature, I’ve been ‘on my soapbox’ that Nature does not ring down her curtain on or around Labor Day.  Those of you who hike with me know that possibly my FAVORITE season to be outdoors is winter.  It hasn’t been easy lately, but NJWILDBEAUTY readers know that we had a glorious day-long exploration of Plainsboro Preserve not long ago, threading our way among glorious arrays of ice.

common loon winter plumage from Internet

Common Loon, Winter Plumage by Elisa De Levis from Internet

This past weekend, Ray Yeager, Angela Previte (superb nature photographers who live near Island Beach); Angela’s husband, Bob, -avid birder and extremely knowledge about all aspects of photography; ‘my” Intrepids, Jeanette Hooban and Bill Rawlyk and I met at the entry of Island Beach for a mid-day-long snowy owl quest.

common loon winter take-off from Internet

Loon Take-off from Internet by Dave Hawkins from Internet

Despite our January reality, a handy aspect of I.B. treks is that, –on windy and wintry days–, you can ‘hike sideways’.  I.e., get out of the wind by taking various oceanside and bayside trails, protected from gusts by dunes or forest or both .  If you Google Island Beach, on NJWILSBEAUTY, you’ll find Bill, Jeanette, Mary Penney and me down there, in an autumn nor’easter about which none of us had somehow been warned.  That storm grew more and more fierce, as we and a flock of playful merlins headed as far east as we possibly could.   Those merlins were beating their way right into the height of those terrific winds.  They executed abrupt and daring turns, to be intentionally blown back westward , right out over the bay.  No sooner did the merlins vanish than they reappeared.  We had no idea that birds, raptors, let alone merlins, PLAYED.  In that same torrent of winds, and, yes, rain, hundreds of swallows were staging for migration.  If we hadn’t been out in the elements, think what we’d’ve missed!

It didn’t take us long last weekend to discover that snowy owls do not like warmth, let alone snowlessness.

smiling Common MerganserFemale Brenda Jones

Female Merganser by Brenda Jones

Instead, we were given, –at the first bathing pavilion’s short boardwalk–.  a smooth, rotund, swelling ocean, afloat with winter ducks of many species, all in dazzling winter plumage, otherwise known as full=breeding.  Species after species of wild birds rose and fell upon voluminous swells.  Each had the dignity of a monarch en route to or from coronation,.  These birds were not feeding.  They were not even interacting.  Few were flying, though some did regularly join their relatives on that sea of molten jade.    Hundreds rode the pillowy waves, which seemed almost determined not to crest or break.  Mesmerized by the variety and serenity of these avian crowds, we paced back and forth on the warm solid sand for nearly an hour, enthralled.

bufflehead Brenda JonesMale Bufflehead by Brenda Jones.

I’m going to shock and/or let down a great many people when I say I had no need of a snowy owl that day.

long-tailed ducks in flight from Internet Ken hoehn

Long-tailed ducks coming in for a landing by Ken Hoehn – papillophotos.com

We talked about the probability that the bird seen by naturalist Bill Rawlyk at entry may well have been a northern shrike, feeding at the crest of a laden bayberry shrub.  Some years ago, at this identical spot, I had discovered this unique creature, being at I.B. then on a Bohemian waxwing quest.  I had no idea what that ‘masked mocking bird’ could be. Calling Audubon when I returned home, describing the scrubby evergreens and bountiful bayberries, I was congratulated upon having found a northeren shrike.  It happened again the next year at the same spot.  Each time, the Audubon person asked my permission to list my find on the hot-line.  Of course, this amateur birder gave a very pleased assent  This weekend, Bill remarked on a certain intensity in the bird — slightly heftier, a bit whiter, an arrogance not seen in mockers.  But it was the bayberry bush that decided us — major winter food for (otherwise almost chillingly carnivorous) shrikes..    Part of the fun of being with this merry crew of enthusiasts  is playing the identification game.

female long-tailed duck from internet

Female long-tailed duck in winter/full-breeding plumage from Internet

Other trails that lured us that long sunny afternoon were the Judge’s Shack (#12) and Spizzle Creek.  In no time, we had tucked our jackets, hats and gloves back into the cars.  Most were beginning to regret not having remembered our sun block — all but the two professional photographersg us.  Ray and Angela were having a field day with their immense legends, capturing so many species so gently afloat.  I’ll let them share their masterpieces on Facebook and Ray’s RayYeagerPhotographyBlog.  I’ll give you the Internet:

male long-tailed duck from INternet

Male long-tailed duck in winter plumage, full-breeding plumage, from Internet

Snow was rare.  Ice intriguing.  At Spizzle Creek, we were all acutely missing ‘our’ osprey, egrets and herons of other seasons.  Our gift there, though, was the presence of handsome brant.  In our experience lately, brant sightings have become scarce.  Certain essential grasses are not doing well along our coasts, which also happened during the Great Depression years — nearly depriving us of this handsome species.

Brant Goose Drinking BarnegatBrant Feeding, by Brenda Jones

northern-shrike-from internet

Deceptively sweet northern shrike probably seen by Bill Rawlyk on Bayberry at Island Beach entry — image from Internet: (RD)

When I tell people about our January beachwalks, my listeners seem puzzled-to-skeptical.  We couldn’t have had better weather.  Fellowship was at peak throughout.  Angela’s husband, Bob, kindly served as sentinel for all the camera-wielders — alerting all as tide-thrust waves threatened to drown our footgear.  Warm we were, but not even Jeanette was barefoot this time.

Angela and Ray knew exactly where to seek 1918’s array of snowy owls.  But, after that all-star cast adrift upon molten silver waves,  snowies had become “the last thing on our minds.”

Try winter trekking — surprises await!

Always remember, these rare species could not be here without the powerful advocacy of determined preservationists.  Even though I work for D&R Greenway Land Trust, I’m very clear that the saving of our waterways is every bit as important.

In fact, I take the stand that, in our New Jersey, with its unique three (count them!) coastlines, the well-being of water is a thousand times more crucialUnder NO CIRCUMSTANCES must even one oil well take its place off our Shores!

 

 

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

“WALKING ON WATER” – Crossing the Delaware on the Lumberville — Bull’s Island Footbridge

Black Bass Inn from Bullls Island July 2017

STARTING POINT – The Black Bass Inn and The Lumberville General Store, Lumberville Pennsylvania

***

 

View from the Bridge North Bulls Island Lumbervile July 2017

HALFWAY ACROSS ON A HOT JULY DAY, STRONG NORTH WIND A GREAT BLESSING

***

Waiting for the Swimmer Bulls Island July 2017

BICYCLE AT THE BOAT LAUNCH, BULL’S ISLAND

 

***

The Swimmer Delaware River Bull's Island July 2017

ONE ECSTATIC CYCLIST

***

 

Come On In Bulls Island July 2017CONSIDERING…

 

***

The Water's Fine Bulls Island July 2017

BEATS TUBING!

In the Web Delaware BridgeHOMEWARD BOUND…

 

Restored RestaurantRESTORED RESTAURANT & 1745 INN, RESTORED BRIDGE

 

***

 

Restored PA towpath

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.

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.

***

Black Bass Inn Lumberville PA Jan. 2017

Bass Inn, Venerable ‘Parent’ Establishment Across Route 32

***

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

***

Lantern Lumberville General Store Jan. 2017

Welcoming Lantern on the Mantel

***

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

***

 

Fireplace Tile Lumberville General Store Jan. 2017

Fireplace Tile, Lumberville General Store

***

 

Fireplace Gloves ready for Christmas Lumberville General Store Jan. 2017

Even the Fire-Tending Gloves are Decorative!

***

 

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.”

***

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

***

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.

***

Canal Towpath Delaware River Jan. 2017

Canal and Towpath, Pennsylvania Side

***

January Delaware and Canal from Footbridge 2017

Canal and River Alongside/Below Black Bass Inn

***

 

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.

***

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.

 

A FEW GOOD SCENES – Recent Excursions

Memorial Boardwalk Brigantine April 2017

FINALLY! BACK TO ‘THE BRIG’ — Leed’s Eco-Trail

***

NJWILDBEAUTY readers know how important weekend adventures are to me, –the essentiality of refilling the well, emptied daily in our work, saving the Planet.

***

Leeds Point Classic Scene Fishing Village Brigantine early April 2017

And Beloved Leed’s Point, (near home of the Jersey Devil, whom I long to meet!)

***

Some of you also know about February’s torn meniscus — healing enough that I’ve been back on the trails.  But p.t. takes hours daily, –some in private, some with kind, gentle, dedicated coaches.  There remains too little time for creativity with all this body-building.  The whole point of this work on “glutes, hamstrings and core” is to get back outside.  Come with me to recent restorative havens.

***

Snowy Egret in Full Breeding Plumage, in WIND, The Brig

Snowy Egret Misty Brig Spring 2017

***

Visitor Center, Purple Martin Houses, Perfect Clouds – The Brig

Visitor Cednter for Martins, for Humans Brig Spring 2017

***

Spring Mimics Autumn – Swamp Maple, Waterlilies, The Brig

Spring Mimics Autumn at Brig 2017

***

Essence of Spring – Geese and Goslings — The Brig

Goose Goslings Gander Brig Spring 2017

***

Jeanette Hooban (Intrepid) Rights Horseshoe Crabs,

Fortescue, Delaware Bayshore

Jeanette Righting Fortescue Horseshoe Crabs Spring 2017

***

High Tides Upset Horseshoe Crabs, Fortescue

Life and Death Fortescue Horseshoe Crabs and Eggs Mem. Day 2017

BEACH COBBLED WITH HORSESHOE CRABS — 2 weeks late for the Full Moon of May

***

Primordial Drama Fortescue Horseshoe Crabs Spring 2017

***

SACRED EGGS OF THE HORSESHOE CRABS 

But red knots and ruddy turnstones may have come and gone, ill-nourished, to Arctic

The Sacred Eggs Fortescue Horseshoe Crabs Mem. Day 2017

***

Fortescue at Its Best — Late Light, Late Fishermen

Delaware Bay Day's End Fortescue Horseshoe Crabs 2017

“DAY IS DONE, GONE THE SUN” – Fortescue

For these scenes, these full days in the wild, all those intense hours of physical therapy, with John Walker of Princeton Orthopaedic Group; and of chiropractic with Brandon Osborne, D.C., are worth it.  Whatever it takes to give yourselves the wild, do it!

I dare to rephrase Thoreau:  “In wildness is the healing of the world.”

“Paradise enow…”: Wells Mills Preserve / Pine Barrens

It’s always a treat when someone says, “Carolyn, I have a place I’d like to take YOU to hike!”  Fay Lachmann, –British-born–, has proven her friendship in a myriad of ways.  Many of them had to do with various rescues around the hip operation, and in other challenging times.  My first post-op Thanksgiving meal…  “Carolyn, it’s not about the sheets,” as she helped this unbendable one make the bed Friday after Friady.  Last week, Fay insisted on going right back to Wells Mills together, when she had only just taken her own hiking group there the day before.

Fay’s voice held uncharacteristic wispy notes, as she tried to explain why.  Finally, she simply stated, “Well, it’s about laurel.”

 

Laurel and Old Cedar Wells Mills

 

I could probably end this blog post right here.  The mountain laurel is at peak in the New Jersey Pine Barrens right now.  Even though there isn’t a mountain for miles.

***

Fay Lachmann Cedar Woods Wells Mills early June 2017

***

“The woods are lovely, dark and deep…”  Some of the other lines from Frost’s masterpiece were also true, as in “.,..miles to go before I sleep…”  Enchanted miles in a woods that comprised almost totally of Atlantic White Cedar.

This wood was everywhere in South Jersey when that land was discovered by whalers settling Cape May in the 1500s.  Other explorers were naming shore areas Egg Harbor, for example, because beaches were covered with shore bird eggs.  In the 1700s, white cedar was used for shingles — as house siding and for roofs; for fence posts; and most urgently for casks carrying the tannic Pine Barrens teak water on whaling voyages.  In cedar, teak water stayed fresh for three years.  White cedar casks also protected wild cranberries for sailors, who otherwise would have perished from scurvy.  Such usefulness doomed cedar back when we were East Jersey and West Jersey, except in Wells Mills.

***

Laurel and Cedar and Pine Wells Mills

***

Towering cedars raised their lacy greenery, inky against fresh clouds.  Frail laurel blossoms leapt for the sky.  Here and there, a rough-trunked pitch pine announced to the forest primeval just exactly whose forest this is, anyhow.  A pine cone or two on the sugar sand trails foretold the probable future.

***

Canoeists on Wells Mills Lake

***

Silent canoeists hugged the far shore, of a tranquil lake that resembled finely pleated silver lame.  Anything or anyone could’ve emerged out of it, — a mermaid or The Lady of the Lake of Arthurian days.

A single dazzling swan sailed just out of reach of the paddlers.  A family of geese included a huge pale barnyard goose in the middle of five young — a switch on the Ugly Duckling Story.

***

Rarities at Wells Mills early June

***

Exceedingly rare plants burgeoned at points where peatwater streamlets entered the glistening lake.  If I am understanding my Audubon Field Guide to North American Wildflowers correctly, this is (misleadingly named) Common pipewort.  “Bog or aquatic herbs with crowded head of tiny flowers and long, leafless stalk.”

***

Rarity Wells Mills

And this is purportedly Northern Pitcher Plant:  “a carnivorous plant with a large, purplish-red flower.”  Audubon does speak of “an umbrella-like structure.”

Laurel at Peak Wells Mills June 2017

But mountain laurel carried the day — laurel and friendship.

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

WHEN YOUR EASTER OUTFIT IS BIRDING GEAR…

Hold on to your Hat Jeanette Hooban at Cape May Hawk Watch Platform Easter 2017

“HOLD ONTO YOUR HAT!” – Intrepid Jeanette Hooban on Easter

Hawk Watch Platform, Cape May, New Jersey

Over the weekend, yours truly set off for New Jersey’s two birding meccas, –Cape May and ‘The Brig’/Forsythe Wildlife Refuge.  As usual, she was running away from Holidays that used to be magical, in quest of winged rarities.  This memorable journey unfolded after Intrepid Jeanette Hooban declared [some months ago], “Carolyn, Easter is YOURS!”

Cape May Hawk Watch Platform aster 2017

HAWK WATCH PLATFORM:  Support these courageous and generous donors, without whose work and words, people could still be slaughtering rare birds by the thousands, all along Sunset Boulevard.

The Climate Change that ‘doesn’t exist’ had other ideas.  Gale-winds had flags snapping almost to the tearing point.  Out of the SOUTH — the direction in which migrants need to be flying.  They may as well have faced a wall.

Wild Wind & Flags Cape May Easter 2017

NOTE THOSE WIND-WHIPPED FLAGS

Jeanette and I learned that only swans, osprey and a smattering of gulls were strong enough either day to surmount the mistral-like onslaught.

Mute Swan in Territorializing Posture Cape May Easter 2017

MUTE SWAN INSTITUTES TERRITORIALIZING POSTURE

We were given three oystercatchers at the Meadows at Cape May — walking around, seeking the ideal spot for the scrape they consider a nest.  Territorialzing was inevitable and amazingly raucous.  Get that verb though, “walking.”  At the Brig, –on the side of the renovated road, opposite Atlantic City–,  a pair of oystercatchers walked around on the pale gravelly substrate, nesting on their minds.  These could have been the pair I watched feeding one young a summer ago, in that same place, where Sandy had devoured the road.

There were a few great egrets in stunning breeding plumage.  They, also, were walking.  Terns wheeled and plunged.  A yellowlegs (I can’t tell greater from lesser unless they’re side-by-side) and some willets also tried to feed in low water, –feed on foot, not on wings.

So, right now, your NJ WILDBEAUTY Cape May activity report is being replaced this time by this poem.  It was written when the Dodge Poetry Festival was still held at Waterloo Village.  Joy Harjo, a feisty, eloquent Native American, magnificently conveyed her splendid multi-level poem, “She Had Some Horses.”

 

“SHE SAW SOME BIRDS”

                                                           (Hearing Joy Harjo at the  Dodge Poetry Festival)

 

she saw some birds who

were little and magical

and easily mistaken

— one for the other —

warbling in underbrush

and sporting, at the last moment

a red kiss

or a brassy crown or a

gold coin on a dark

rump, — and tiny, so tiny

really almost

invisible

 

she saw some birds who

were too high on a tree-

limb or a thermal

or above slate seas

and twisting — this

way and that –, hiding

their field marks

 

they could have been

peregrine or immature golden

against the noon sun but

no one can quite

make this call

 

she saw some birds

with distinctive bellies

plastered flat against

dark trunks which they were

excavating high and deep

where no one can climb

or raid or even — at the very

least — identify

 

she heard some birds

in the wide marsh

as the sun slipped

away from her and even

worse, from her birds

 

who had concealed

themselves among sere rushes

which they exactly matched

so she could not see but only

hear their rattle or click or whine

and wonder if this was her

rail, her shy bittern

 

the ones who so skillfully lose

themselves in the sedges as

she so longs to do in such

a setting,… everywhere

 

CAROLYN FOOTE EDELMANN

 

POEMS OF THIS NEW YEAR

One never knows, withe the Poetry Muse — when she’s going to be with you; when she’s in elusive mode.  And sometimes, when she’s taken herself far, far away — and you begin to be certain she will never return.

Despite all worldly, chaos, the Poetry Muse has been intensively present lately.

I’ll share a few new ones with NJWILDBEAUTY readers — for whatever is wild in these words, and whatever beauty they may convey, they definitely unfurled in New Jersey.  No one has heard them, nor seen them, but you.  May they generate voyages…

 

In this tumultuous time of America’s turning its official back on people of other nations, I find this one written on last year’s Summer’s Solstice, startling, even prescient…

 

“WHOSE SIDE ARE YOU ON, ANYWAY?!”

 

in the fluttery darkness

of childhood Westerns

my sister and I were always

set apart

hugging to ourselves

our terrible secret –

 

as Indians spilled over

the crest of any hill

each of us silently

rejoiced

 

longing

to ride off into sunsets

with our true brothers

 

***

 

Mary Oliver is my forever catalyst.  Once, in Princeton Hospital for hip replacement (so I could get back OUT on those TRAILS!) I took only Mary’s collected poems for post-op, then rehab reading.  Many of my own were triggered by her electrifying consciousness and attentiveness, to say nothing of always stunning excellence.  Recently, I suffused myself anew with Mary.  Her very personal interaction with bears brought this into being:

 

INSIDE                                 after reading Mary Oliver on Bears…

 

you live within my being at all times

your paws curling my own hands

strong feet propelling my too-slender ones

 

our legs

go on forever

 

your heart

the larger

 

you know

absolutely everywhere

where you are going

 

such large eyes do not fit

within my small ones

 

there is scarcely room

for your fine head

–emperor’s on coin

 

ah, but our wondrous grin

that remains

identical

 

***

 

I never know where the Muse wants us to be.  Two recent poems demanded mental transport to Hawaii:

 

HANA YEARNING

 

I see us along Hana’s highway

–you at the wheel I last wielded alone

curving from waterfall to waterfall

 

their long thin threads

like spider floss

or glycerine spun out

by some Hawaiian deity

we can feel, not see

 

plunging in virginal straightness

into alluring dark pools

mist captured in tropical branchings

of ginger, plumeria, ti

 

one-handed at the wheel

you’re laughing at this ceaselessness of curves

and so many misleading one-way signs

 

we dip into inky ponds

up to and over our necks

laughingly dwarfed

by towering verdant damp ferns

 

you reach both hands

to guide me out of each fall’s sacred water

leaving double footprints

on black sand

 

***

 

…or, what time-frame the Muse may require.  This goes back to early childhood, visiting my favorite uncle (actually, my favorite person — rarely equaled), Donald E. Graham, my Uncle Dutch.  He had been an ambulance driver in World War I, because he would not kill.  One time, the sergeant ordered him to steal a horse.  My very honest uncle was devastated, as he obeyed.  Picture that weathered flag from something like 1918…

 

PATRIOTS

was anyone tender
with me, save Uncle Dutch?

swinging me high
onto so-broad shoulders

marching the two-but-one of us
down steep wooden stairs
into their plain concrete cellar

where his thick broad flag
from World War One
did not have the right
number of stars

still, we honored it
singing “My country, ‘tis”
at the top of his grown up, and my
very little lungs

just before turning
to re-mount the stairs
I, with my small hand
and he, with his huge
would very smartly salute

***

Words, not pictures today.  A different kind of journeying toward various forms of wild beauty…