Sourland Mountain Preserve, “Mr. Smiley Face” major rock at entry

Lately, the Muse has become relentless, interrupting key reading to dictate her latest devisings.  Tonight, she’s kept me at reformatting and meticulously improving page after page in her new poetry notebook.  Maybe she’ll ‘get off my back’ for awhile, if I turn one of her latest into a blog for you.  Might even go so far as to illustrate it a bit.

Ladder and Birdhouse

I always considered this Hauptmann’s Ladder — this site so near the hasty grave of the Lindbergh baby...

I’ve been out on this trail (in Hopewell, off Greenwood Avenue, which is off Route 518 mid-town at the light at the vintage pharmacy.)  Its magic only increases with each visit.

Sourlands Rocks 08 08

Rocks Exhale Lenape Presence

An assignment for US 1 (Business!) Newspaper, at their request, features the Sourlands Mountain Preserve as one of four shady hike sites.  As I say in the story, along those trails, there is no Philadelphia or Manhattan; no Princeton; not even Hopewell.  Matters political are so remote as to be impossible, although their results can extensively and even destructively affect sacred sites such as these.

Without determined preservationists, we would not have had these hikes.  Nor would you, and others, (including my daughter’s literature class) have this poem.   Enjoy, and walk this shaded trail, as summer burgeons.

Marilyn as Lookout Sourlands 08 08

My sister, Marilyn Weitzel, Janet Black and Betty Lies Bird the Sourland Mountain Preserve Trail (see what I mean about SHADE!)




 a short walk in the dense woods

where temperature and season

remain irrelevant

silence itself audible


now and then broken

by ovenbirds’ shrill cries


in the right light

blessed by

orotund tones of wood thrush


domain of terrestrial turtles

and the occasional owl


dark ponds all a-shimmer

with polliwogs


towering rocks

still breathe Indian presence


at trail-top, we might ride

the grown-ups’ teeter-totter

hand-hewn from a wind-felled tree


“If you would attempt exercise

go in search of

the springs of life,” asserts

Henry David Thoreau


“The world today

is sick to its thin blood

for lack of elemental things,”

Henry Beston mourns




Summer Solstice 2016







“Friendship… blendship…” Hunterdon County Farm Supper at Summer’s End

Rawlyk Farm and Pond View at Evening by Jeanette Hobban

Rawlyk Farm and Pond View at Evening

NJWILDBEAUTY readers know that one of the key joys of my life now is the intensity of friendship, especially among people with whom I have (1) helped save the planet, particularly wild New Jersey; and (2) birded!  Especially birded under trying conditions and won through.

Towering Joe Pye Weed, Rawlyk Farm, by Jeanette Hooban

Towering Joe Pye Weed, Rawlyk Farm

You’ve read about “The Intrepids” in these ‘pages’, especially in the teeth of that Nor’easter a year ago in Island Beach – (you can search for Island Beach in Archives and re-read that adventure.) This is a night when no one needed to be intrepid — a time of exquisite fellowship, merriment — a treasured reunion, in a place significantly restored for Nature’s purposes.

Restored Outbuilding, Rawlyk Farm, by Jeanette Hooban

Restored Outbuilding, Rawlyk Farm

Recently, Bill Rawlyk created a nearly impromptu farm supper on his (he is third generation) Hunterdon County farm.

Tiger Swallowtail in Heaven, Restored Rawlyk Farm, Hunterdon County

Tiger Swallowtail in Heaven, Restored Rawlyk Farm, Hunterdon County

Scott Sheldon, who had invented the role of Director of Development at D&R Greenway some years back, was in town for a rare visit.  Jeanette Hooban, my cherished ex-office mate at the same establishment, drove me out there immediately after work on a weeknight.  Unbeknownst to us, dear Mary Penney, now head of Bucks County Audubon at Honey Hollow, and her delightful, hail-fellow, well-met husband Geoff, came over after their workdays to surprise us.  Edith Rawlyk, (Bill’s very sweet mom (who used to create home-made pies, especially from blueberries of the farm, and send them in with Bill, Edith, who worked often at my side on complex logistical matters) was sitting in a wooden rocker on the porch as we arrived, smiling that smile we all cherish.  Bill’s at Open Space Institute now, merely saving the Delaware River Valley.  Jeanette brilliantly manages events for Princeton’s Senior Resource Center.

Why Preserve Grasslands, by Jeanette Hooban

Why Preserve Grasslands

As I’ve written before, we’ve all been in the trenches together.  Any moments we can snatch in these complex 21st-Century lives are beyond price.  That night with Bill and his Mom on the farm was simply magical.

Friendship Among the Grasses, by Jeanette Hooban

Friendship Among the Grasses

Summer was at peak.  Bill manages for grassland birds, not only towering flowers, but also ponds, vernal and otherwise.  Once a chicken farm, now it’s a sanctuary, for humans in our experience, as well as for the four-legged, the winged and o, what do the Indians call the snakes and the turtles?

Queen Anne's Lace Reigns at Rawlyk Farm, by Jeanette Hooban

Queen Anne’s Lace Reigns at Rawlyk Farm, Punctuated by Buttonbush at the Pond

You all know my own enthusiasm for food (stretching back to having been Director of the Test Kitchen at Tested Recipe Institute, at 500 Fifth Avenue, Manhattan, in my twenties).  And that my friends, including The Intrepids, share this enthusiasm.  It will give you some idea of the magnitude of these friendships, that the food, though perfection, was secondary.

Sitting on the rhododendron-surrounded bluestone terrace, catching up, while Bill grilled everything from salmon to hot dogs, sipping Scott’s wine or Geoff’s and Mary’s beer, as sun lowered and the breeze rose, was perfection.

The privilege of eating in a farm kitchen in this day age can neither be described nor measured.  Shrimp appeared and disappeared.  As did various exotic cheeses which had come from far from Hunterdon County.  Tomatoes were sliced and festooed with lively basil.  Bill has the farmer’s perfection touch with corn.  Once out there, he took something to the cornfield, which boiled the water as we picked and husked the corn.  This wasn’t quite that rural, but the foods were divine.

There was laughter.  There was rue.  There were hopes for the future, and plans for birding jaunts — it’s time to celebrate Jeanette’s autumn birthday again.

Our impromptu farm supper couldn’t have been better, and we are the richer for it, forever.

Tiger Swallowtail Where and When it Belongs, Restored Fawlyk Farm, by Jeanette Hooban

Tiger Swallowtail Where and When it Belongs, Restored Fawlyk Farm, by Jeanette Hooban

Truly Wild, Rawlyk Restored Flowerland

Truly Wild, Rawlyk Restored Flowerland

Wild Beauty, Pre-Supper Walk, Rawlyk Farm

Wild Beauty, Pre-Supper Walk, Rawlyk Farm