“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!”
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.
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 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
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
Once there was a bastion of excellence, in Manhattan, called The Four Seasons.
People think it was all about the food. And, to a high degree, it was. In that faraway year of 1959, when I moved to Manhattan, here was regionality and seasonality, and therefore savor and freshness and beauty such that no other cuisine could equal. Not even Caravelle and Cote Basque. Nowhere.
Now, The Four Seasons is no more. Several farewell nights took place, and many articles have appeared. Nothing conveys the exquisite uniqueness that was our constant experience in every family meal at the hands of Four Seasons staff, from owners, through maitre d’, through waiters, and those invisible magnificent chefs. All hands created that museum masquerading as restaurant, appropriately the jewel in the crown of the Seagram Building.
The farewell articles go on and on about power lunches and billionaires and of course the movers and shakers of Manhattan. The focus on guests splashing in what, –to us–, had always been, that sacred reflecting pool. Seeing that pool room in vivid memory, I realize that its astounding simplicity and tranquility generated the air of haven in the middle of Manhattan’s notorious bustle. Entering, it was as though a shawl of silence lightly descended upon our shoulders.
It cannot be true that all the superb art was reflected in that barely rippling water — yet that is how its multiplied beauty appears in retrospect. Seeking images on the internet, nothing satisfies. I am SURE there were Picasso tapestries hanging on stairway walls. They appear nowhere today. As Four Seasons appears nowhere today. Progress and mercantilism dominate this century. So are we deprived of this sanctuary whose aura to echoes the interiors of Chartres, Ste. Chapelle, the mosic-rich glittering basilicas in Ravenna on sunny days.
A major aspect of family meals at Four Seasons was the silken warmth of everyone’s welcome. Come with Diane and Catherine, Werner and me, on a scintillating early autumn Saturday. Settle in at a capacious table, carefully far enough from others so that privacy is maintained. Hear the girls gently order their beverages; as Werner, their Swiss father, discussed wines with the sommelier. Watch the girls’ tall gleaming glasses arrive with one waiter, as towering menus are settled silently into our hands. See Catherine, –the younger but taller, with her long blonde Swiss hair–, open that menu and knock over her Coke. Empathize with the horror on that young girl’s face..
See a brigade of waiters and busboys dash to our table. Watch as though each had been Blackstone, the Magician. Whisk! off with the stained cloth and whatever had been so artfully arranged upon it. Whoosh, floated the impeccable new one, like linens for an altar.
Hear the empathy in the voice of the headwaiter as he soothed our chagrined daughter: “That’s nothing!,” he’s exclaiming. “At night, we have grown-ups who catch their menus on fire!”
Laugh with all of us, and see Catherine’s shame erased. Understand that this gentility was the hallmark of that restaurant. We were not movers and shakers. We were suburbanites, –upon whom I knew, as twice-former Manhattan resident–, that town looks askance. We even dared to bring young girls, who happened to adore rituals and would eat anything (well, except petite friture in Villefranche, Provence, because, “Daddy, they have eyes!”
Werner knew, and we would come to know, that the poliltesse that suffused The Four Seasons was in the best European traditions, –as in Claridge’s of London, the Plaza Athenee and the Ritz of Paris. But we weren’t in Europe — we were in America. And for those few savory scintillating Four Seasons hours, we were experiencing the best of our country. As with those legendary hotels and their sublime restaurants, what we took place at table rivaled beauty and majesty and tradition we had spent all morning absorbing in the world’s most important museums.
The Four Seasons was not a museum. It was alive, and its excellence could be counted on, time after time after time, no matter the origins of our guests
IS no more.
So I must mourn this loss.
America is the less for this finale.
My words are so feeble. I need Will to give me lines such as “Take and cut [it] out in little stars, and all the world shall be in love with night!”
The Normal Peace of the South of France
My heart is in fragments, scattered along the beaches of Nice, across from the Negresco – where we stayed in 1964, before I knew that Provence is different from France.
Down the road from the Hotel Suisse, where my daughters and I and Charlie and Rose Mary Clancy stayed, –our balconies overlooking the Boulevard des Anglais, in 1984. We woke to the sussurus of Mediterranean waves, and the aroma of French coffee and fresh brioches on little trays at our doors. We slept to the slow weaving of delicately illuminated pleasure craft stitching one ‘Cap’ (as in Cap Ferrat, Cap d’Antibes) to another across an ink black sea. The lit craft shattered the stars’ wakes, and we could barely leave to go to sleep. But another day in wondrous France awaited us, and attention must be paid.
It cannot BE that enraged bitter people believe their lives, this world will be better if they strew the beaches of Nice with bodies and blood.
I have this horrid vision of my beloved tricoleur, shredded, trampled.
Once, blood-soaked French beaches saved the free world. But that was Normandy. Yes, there was a battle of the Riviera, (August 15, 1944). Cannes (where I lived in ’88 and ’89) was right in the heart of it. Her Bay held firing warships, aiming at Nazi strongholds around the corner from our villa L’Aquila. I could feel the bad vibes of the German centers, as I took circuitous walk after circuitous walk on the heights of Cannes.
But that was a real war, with declared enemies, and somehow generals and politicians knew who won and who lost and we won and liberty was assured.
Or so we thought.
Now there are phantom enemies everywhere. France is bleeding again. Only it’s not for a good cause. She’s the victim again, as in the 1940s. Then, she was betrayed from within. Now we have no idea how to contend with this evil.
My heart breaks with France. Mourn with me, please.
Many times, a poem will start itself at the most inconvenient time, in the most inconvenient place. Such as this one, in a fizzly downpour, between Pennington and Hopewell. No way to pull over and capture it, and no pen and paper anyway. And not until I returned home and began to type did I have any idea where this poem was going. To France, no less:
Images from the Internet will give you a sense of what was happening to me, on my country ride. Trying to get over a country is like trying to get over a love — it crops up when and where you least expect it. And there’s no escaping the breath-stopping power of memory.
RAIN RIDE, MAY
new white blossoms
against the old red barn
before my very eyes
from smoked purple
to lavender itself
above the drenched macadam
crowning any one of Brittany’s
flowers of claret
outline the newest barn
–white, imposing as Mt. Blanc
I see I have become
–uncountried yet again
driving thin wet roads
of old New Jersey
CAROLYN FOOTE EDELMANN
I suppose, if you really want to get over a country, as [when you really want to get over a love], it’s best not to spend every sit-down meal at home surrounded by books such as La Cuisine Provencale par Gui Gedda; Bonnard et Le Cannet (the next hill over from ‘mine’ in Cannes’, by Bonnard’s nephew, Midhel Terrase; Provence the Beautiful Cookbook and Taste of France by Robert Freson.
Face it, Caroline (my French name, sung out by the merry mailman of Cannes), you are hopeless!
Sometimes, enduring the slings and arrows of outrageous weather that we are visitng upon ourselves becomes absolutely too much for me. I turn to trips of other times, other climes, seeking surcease.
Years ago my family summered in a cottage at Spruce Point Resort, on Boothbay Harbor in Maine. This past autumn, my dear cousins, Margy, Sally, my sister Marilyn and I toured the grounds of this place of splendid memory.
It is still ‘spruce’, in the archaic sense, otherwise known as ship-shape in that literal neck of the woods. The setting remains sublime.
We could find ‘our cottage’, and remember waking to woodsmoke on brisk July mornings, before dressing and walking over to the Main House for gratifying breakfast at our table with our waitress. I could still find the beach where I read Rachel Carson’s “A Sense of Wonder” to my sister’s son, borrowed by my husband and me because our girls were in Maine camp that summer. There, Carl and I found every shell and creature Rachel describes, as she took her nephew tidepooling a few miles away.
I could send some of these pictures to Carl, and he could resonate and remember. His favorite off-Spruce activity, beyond fishing and piloting the Boston Whaler though only a lad, was to visit the Old Salt in downtown (so to speak) Boothbay Harbor.
My cousins and sister and I didn’t find the Old Salt, needless to say. That’s why Werner and I had bought Carl a woodcarving, in his childhood, that greatly resembled that grand old man. Because we somehow knew those encounters were a one-time blessing. But, –as you can see from the sign –, last September, we all found the same warm welcome that was always ours, even on the first visit. That sense that we were old friends, cherished, whose return absolutely delighted the Staff.
We strolled the public rooms where the girls and I had worked puzzles, where we took down venerable books of the region, read by many others before us, on rainy Maine days. This was the room where Carl and I peered as though we knew what we were doing, through gleaming brass telescopes, scanning the sea.
The funniest day with the girls had been when we finally gathered all our gear, boarded the Boston Whaler, and Werner (double landlubber – partly because he was Swiss) acted as Captain. Our shiny new fishing poles were at hand. We felt bulky and even buxom in our too bright new L.L. Bean life-vests. We didn’t have bait – we used ‘spoons’, which are what Maine mackerel require. We finally were able to use the casting we’d endlessly practiced (in futility) in our Princeton Pool. Mackerel were a joy to catch, feisty and lively and beautiful, catching the light as they danced on our lines. But Catherine had a pronouncement to make: “Everybody quit fishing! We’re killing them!”
Werner saw the entire trip, which included stopping at waterside places en route to practice our casting, the rental and negotiation of the Boston Whaler, everything in effect going up in smoke.
Without a pause, he countered, “No, Cath. We’re feeding the gulls.” And he threw his newest catch into the beak of the hovering one overhead. At lunch we did eat mackerel we had caught, prepared by the Spruce Point chef.
My cousins, my sister and I didn’t eat at Spruce Point, but it felt the same in those sunny seaside rooms, as when the girls and I in our long skirts, and Werner in his very non-doctor summer sports coats would stroll over to lunch and to supper. I could still see my father, luxuriating in his favorite part of the Spruce Point week – the Sundae Bar, of all sorts of ice creams and all sorts of toppings. I think he tried them all.
My cousins, my sister and I found the boat dock where our family had boarded sunset cruises and boat-jaunts to other islands and bays. We reminisced about taking Carl and his grandparents, my parents, over to Bath for a ship launching. Where we’d foolishly embarked during an eclipse of the sun, to go sort-of deep sea fishing. When sixty-pound Carl caught a sixty-pound cod, we realized our folly. It may have delighted the Captain to have that huge fish on board, but ir hadsurely depleted my beloved nephew to have done so. Eclipses do weird things to waves — ‘chop’ doesn’t begin to describe that Bay that day.
They say you can’t go home again. Well, this wasn’t home. But Spruce retains the family welcome after long absence, for which we once drove ‘over the river and through the woods’ to relatives in Ohio and Michigan.
I was afraid I would be too sad to walk Spruce lanes and rooms. But only joy was there for me. It matters a great deal to Marilyn, Carl and to me, that Spruce Point remains impeccable, beautiful, and so welcoming.
Dear friends, knowing my enthusiasm for NJ Farms and most related to these vanishing, eponymous sites in our state, offered to take me to the Tractor Supply Store.
After a sublime (try it, you’ll LIKE it!) breakfast at the Americana Diner on Route 130 — truffles where you least expect them, Kevin McNally drove Judith and me through fields and farms and forests to this store.
I had my trusty camera and extra batteries, because I expected to capture close-ups of tractor wheels, gears, hardware and the like.
Instead, it was like stepping through a gateway to another world. Somewhat like Alice in Wonderland after the sipping. Somewhat like the Wizard of Oz when it changed from black and white to color.
Come with me — see what I mean!
(I wanted those t-shirts, but they were all XLarge 3X…)
In among How to Raise Chickens, and Feeding Your Horse, and Kayak Angler and Food Guide and Grit, on another side of this kiosk, were Marilyn Monroe Magazines.
This turned out to be the reverse of “You’re Not in Kansas Any More…”
And, guess what, there weren’t ANY tractors!