DESPERATELY SEEKING SPRING

First Burst of Spring Bowman's 09

First Burst of Spring at Bowman’s Hill Wildflower Preserve, Bucks County

Snow or no snow, chill or no chill, spring is inevitable.  There’s no gainsaying the Vernal Equinox.  Days lengthen.  Ground thaws.  Spring’s exquisite ephemerals (flowers that bloom only so long as the forest canopy is not leafed out) will soon be everywhere.

Bridge from Winter to Winter Bowman's 09

Bridge – From Winter TO WInter, Bowman’s

One of the privileges of hanging out with naturalists is that they know where to find first signs of spring.

first flower of spring skunk cabbage Bowman's 09

First ‘Monk’s Cowl’ — Skunk Cabbage, Bowman’s 

One of the disadvantages is that they know the names of everything, leaving you wondering if you’ll keep the difference between twinleaf and bloodroot this year.

Bloodroot at Bowmans Late Blooming April 2016 001

In early April, beech leaves pale from almost copper or caramel to the hue of palomino horses.  When they’ve turned to ivory, nearly white, they’ll fling themselves to the ground, providing acid atmosphere required for a healthy beech nut crop this year.

Paling Beech Leaves Bowman's

If you’re lucky enough to have naturalist/photographer friends, your lessons will be a merry marriage of art and science.

Toad Trillium and new-dropped beech leaves Medicinal Trail Bowmans Late Blooming April 2016

Toad Trillium Among Newly Dropped Beech Leaves

If not, you may use these images as a Field Guide to earliest ephemerals.  Let me know what you’re finding where YOU are.

Twin Leaf Emergence Bowmans Late Blooming April 2016

Twinleaf Emergence, Due Any Day Now

Tiny daffodils poked through rocks and snow this week.  Closed, they looked like lemon snowdrops.  Open, they are like stars fallen into my garden.  Rescued from yet another storm, they grace tiny green glasses on my dining room table.  So fragile in appearance — but I think they’re surviving/thriving far better than I this year!

Fern Emergence Bowman's

In ‘just spring’ (e.e.cummings), when Christmas fern has yet to resurrect…

Wandering almost every trail at Bowman’s Hill Wildflower Preserve, below New Hope, in Bucks County, this weekend, we found lesser celandine — invasive, spiky gold ground-hugging flowers everywhere.  A few exclamation points of skunk cabbage presided beside the old pond and on Marsh Marigold Trail.  In one patch of rare sunlight, a spray of bloodroot insisted that we rejoice in spring.

I’m trying.

pidcock bridge from on high

The next time we cross the Civilian Conservation Corps Bridge over Pidcock Stream, we should find green emergence, and even hints of yellow.

Marsh Marigold in bloom

Meanwhile, the joy is in the quest, keeping all senses tuned to the slightest spring heralds.  Early spring miracles include delighting in our fellowship – that there are any number of strong friends who are willing to brave brisk winds and brown surrounds, together, seeking spring.

Marsh Marigold Trail in March

Marsh Marigold Trail in the Birth of Spring

Again, I ask, what are YOU finding?

 

 

 

 

 

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O! TO BE IN PROVENCE, NOW THAT MARCH IS HERE!

NJWILDBEAUTY readers know that, although this blog is devoted to beautiful, and all-too-fragile New Jersey, I am always longing for Provence.

Mediterranean with Crimson Esterel Massif at its Edge by Popoff

Mediterranean Sea from Esterel Massif, en route to and from St. Tropez

I lived in Cannes from October of 1987 into August of 1988 – in other words, I saw the seasons ’round.

pine tree by Meditgerranean from Internet

Normal Provencal Drive for me, even in winter

In February and March, along the Riviera, trees bloom.  Driving in closed cars up to the sacred hill towns, the perched villages, the fragrance of blossoms fills the vehicle.  Almond blossoms like snow against gnarled hillsides.  Menton’s lemons, grapefruit, mandarines, clementines, and yes, oranges filling the air, until breathing was like drinking Cointreau.  Mingled with the sweetness of flowering fruit trees was always the pungency of wild herbs in the garrigues: thyme, marjoram, rosemary in tall shrubs, oregano, savory and pebre d’ail, a truly spicy wild flavoring.  Animals who fed in the herblands absorbed those savors into their meat, their milk, therefore infusing Provencal cheeses.

Menton's Citron Festival in February

Menton’s Citron Festival around George Washington’s Birthday

The sense of smell was literally intoxicating during my stay there.  One bitter January day in Biot, I was walking its narrow streets, marveling at flowers in small terra cotta pots even on back stoops of houses, blooming in what we know as winter.  Then, I smelled peaches.  I decided I’d just been in this land of enchantment so long that I’d ‘gone round the bend.’  Instead, I strode ’round the corner to find a small fresh food marche, with some of its produce out on the sidewalk in January sun.  Peaches filled the air, as though someone were baking a peach pie.

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Peaches in an outdoor market in Provence

The sense of hearing was newly called into play, not always pleasantly.  The mistral reared its inescapable head day after day in winter, roaring down the Rhone toward that usually placid Mediterranean Sea.  Some say, and I’d believe it, that Van Gogh cut off his ear because driven to this by the mistral.  It can roar for days, causing pipes in your home and shutters on your windows to whine and twang.  We don’t know anything like this wind.  It’s as though Provence wind came through huge faucets, all turned on at full blast at the same time and the same impossible speed, by day and by night, interminably.

Le Parfum des Garrigues

We don’t know wind like this, not even in hurricanes, which I’ve now lived through.  Our winds rise and fall in intensity and sound.  One of the greatest horrors of Sandy for me was the relentlessness of that howl.  The mistral’s is more infuriating, more intense, –a more ceaseless and inescapable blast.

Cheese of Goats, perfumed by wild herbes des garrigues

Cheese of Goats who Roam the Garrigues/wild herb fields of Provence

One time, my daughters had a good laugh on their romantic mother.  Somewhere in the South of France, high above the sea, I enthused, “Isn’t Provence wonderful?  The air smells like champagne!”  We were at a picnic ground high above the sea.  The mistral was so strong, it had blown over a family’s champagne, literally spilling it all over those ancient rocks.

perched village of Provence

Typical perched village – driving through fragrant collines to reach these treasures

It probably doesn’t make sense even to miss the annoying mistral, but I do.  Afterwards, the Provencaux would say of that wind, “Il balayer le ciel.”  (It sweeps the sky.)  No bluer blue ever existed than post-mistral skies, unless you count the Mediterranean, reflecting that ethereal hue.

typica drive near St. Tropez

Everything’s electrifying in Provence.  Breathing itself is intoxicating.  Around any corner, anything can happen.  In St. Tropez’ s Musee de l’Annonciade, one looks at Fauve masterpieces on the wall, then through the windows at the very scenes those vivid colorists painted so masterfully.

Baie de St. Tropez from Musee Annonciade at Sunset

Fishing Boats of St. Tropez, from window of Musee de l’Annonciade

Typica View from Window of Annociade Musee on Baie de St. Tropez

Baie de St.  Tropez from windows of Musee de l’Annonciade

But the queen of all Provencal sense experiences is the amazing mimosa/  Delicate as these blossoms are, they come from a tree.  One filled my second-floor bedroom window in Cannes.  Tiny puff balls moved in the slightest breeze, wafting a scent of lemon and nutmeg in through those bottle-green wooden shutters.  Nothing surpasses waking and sleeping to the delicate mimosa fragrance.  Another miracle was peering through mimosa branches to discover Napoleon’s Corsica so very far away, but only in early winter months.

Magnificent Mimosa in ad for l'Occitane, Provencal's quintessential fabrics

Magnificent Mimosa Tree in Ad by l’Occitane, house of superb Provencal fabrics

Even with my love of New Jersey’s soul-filling beauty, I miss the many electrifications of Provence, especially as March — the month of flower fragrances in that land – begins, with a nor’easter, no less.  No flower fragrances for us, let alone peaches around the corner.

flowering almond treeFlowering Almond Tree – subject of Pierre Bonnard’s last painting – he lived at Le Cannet, one hill over from ‘mine’, L’Observatoire of Cannes

flowering orange treeIn

In Menton, flowers and Fruit at Same Time, on February Trees

MISSING PROVENCE

at-cap-d-antibes by Claude Monet.In case anyone wonders why I am always homesick/depaysee for my life in Provence, this is Monet’s answer.

In 1987, I sailed free aboard the good ship QEII because I gave two lectures based on my decade of Transition Consulting: one on Success and one on Change, key topics in the Transition years.  I was also blessed to launch my poetry chapbook, Gatherings, , which had just been published prior to sailing.

The French line didn’t exist any more; and Cunard ships did not deign to dock in Le Havre.  So I tooled around Cornwall in search of King Arthur for a bit, after arriving in unwillingly in Southampton.  I then flew to that adorable casual palm-fringed gull-populated airport, right on the sea, named Nice.  Once, in early February of 1976, my MIchigan friend Bernadette Thibodeau went for the luggage there, and I for the car.  On the autoroute to St. Jean-Ca–Ferrat, we discovered that neither had somehow gone through customs.  Ever since 1964, Nice had been the gateway to paradise for me,.  It has not diminished in importance in all these years.

That view, which you might think Monet embellished, was a normal everyday scene for me, living on Observatoire Hill above Cannes in 1987 and ’88.  The simplest errands also took me past this idyllic spot in Cap d’Antibes.  After the market, I would take in either the Picasso Castle or the Napoleon Museum, if not both.  My neighbors scoffed at my Napoleon-mania:  “O,” they would sniff.  “That Corsican!”

Cap d'Antibes beach FRanceThis scene is but my screen-saver now.  I yearn day and night for the Mediterranean’s beauty and the hearty human interchanges bestowed upon me, year upon year, in that environment.

For example, in 1976, Bernadette Thibodeau and I dined nightly at table, next to Leslie Charteris (author of The Saint televisionseries on television, as well as of priceless gastronomic sagas in Gourmet).  Charteris was there for the winter.  We for around ten February days.  Both exquisite tables tucked into a glass corner of La Voile d’Or, one of the most perfec establishments I have ever encountered, even in France.

The sea wrinkled and twinkled at our feet as we supped.  As night fell, the three Corniche roads glittered, sinuous ruby and diamond necklaces bedecking dark velvet rocks.  The identity of the gems depending upon whether vehicules were hurtling toward nearby Italy or back into blessed France.

On our second night, I dared question our sommelier’s choice of red wine to accompany our legendary lamb of Sisteron.  If a person can twinkle, he did:  “I’ll just bring it, and if you don’t like it, I’ll drink it myself.”  We laughed so very hard.  Of course his choice was perfection with Sisteron lamb, so much more delicate than ours in the States.  My fear had been that his suggestion could not stand up to that entree.  Soon we were laughing,  rather ruefully, in the elevator returning to our rooms, discovering that that our mentor had just been named Le Meilleur (BEST) Sommelier de France. 

Do not forget that it was February in St. Jean-Cap=Ferrat.  Sweaters over our shoulders were enough, sauntering the exquisite shore path from our hotel over to Beaulieu-sur-Mer and back.  Blossoms framed every view out our windows.  Their scents suffused our senses, as we drove through stony garrigues to Provencal hilltowns:  Almonds.  Mimosa, Cirtons, such lusty fragrances penetrating through closed Renault windows.

back streets old antibes

NJWILDBEAUTY readers know I spend my life praising New Jersey.  I do my best.  I mean my enthusiasms.  But sometimes, I just cannot bear not being on the South of France.

Especially as I tuck into interminable layers of gear just to drive to work – from earmuffs to lined gloves to lined hiking pants to fleece-lined tights and thick boots with crampons on for New Jersey’s invisible ice. January and February returns to the South of France, as well as my wanderjahr residency, proved me that it’s not winter in Provence, not EVEN when it snows!

This street scene just above is in old Antibes.  But it could be almost anywhere — Roquebrune, Mentone (although more colorful, because closer to Italy), San Rafael, Biot.  Each a town of magic — Roquebrune for its castle’ Menton(e) for its citrus festival, San Rafael where the Invasion of Provence (Le Debarquement) took place August 16, 1944, Bior of the bubbly glassware and the Leger Musee.  Mougins with its multi-starred temple of gastronomy, Le Moulin de Mougins, found along La Route de la Transhumance — the way that shepherds, goatherds led their flocks to and from winter pastures.

00311937_T

Sometimes, what I miss most are the olive trees. Renoir bought his property in Cagnes-sur-Mer because he wanted to save the (then) 100-year-old olive trees.  He would paint the late nudes under their leaves.  It is said that the artist did not ask if a new maid could make the beds and serve the meals, or a new cook could cook.  All that mattered was the way the light of the Provence sun bounced off the silvery olive trees and onto their flesh.  We think Renoir was being an Impressionist.  He considered himself a realist.  And this man painted, despite crippling arthritis, with his brushes and palette taped to his two arms, wheeled in a wheelbarrow to his olive trees.

I also am a realist.  I cannot live in Provence now.  I won’t be seeing flame-hot tomatoes at Thanksgiving or pale feisty daisies in January.  I cannot buy an ancient liqueur made of wild thyme by the monks of Isles de Lerin.  I cannot walk the open Cannes Marche, the mistral swirling my scarf hither and yon, as the olive oil man won’t take my francs because I am an American, and he’s pleased that I chose the fruity one.  I won’t be buying lace-delicate ravioli from a costumed young woman who rose at dawn to make and bring and sell it.  I won’t encounter dates so dark and succulent that them seem to melt off the table.  Or try to choose a fish, when all are so near to having been in the sea that some, especially sandre, flip themselves off the oilcloth-over-ice on the fishwife’s table.  I won’t walk past the Provencal woman selling her white chickens, tying their legs, balancing them in jer hand-held scale, sending them home flapping wings.  The apicultrice isn’t bragging to me about the succulence of her lavender honey.  There are no brioches still hot from the wood-fired oven hewn from  ancient rocks of old town/Cannes, otherwise known as Le Suquet.

When I’m this homesick, I have my most courageous friends over for a Provencal Sunday supper.  It’ll be some peasant specialty I encountered there, and cannot find authentically in this country.  (I was once served cassoulet made with KIDNEY beans, in Kingston!.)  At my Lawrenceville table, we’ve shared cassoulet de Toulouse; choucroute garnie such as filled South of France markets abruptly in November, though its newly ready sauerkraut and all those hefty sausages came from Alsace.  On a hot May afternoon, golden aioli took center stage, each friend bringing a different vegetable or hard-boiled egg, I supplying the prepared salt cod.

No, this is New Jersey and this is February, and soon it will be boeuf a la gardiane — otherwise known as le boeef sauvage — which thelegendary cowboys of the mouth of the Rhone concoct with the meat of the wild bulls of the Camargue.  Friends will bring a lighter Rhone wine for the Provencal cheeses and an artichoke melange; a heftier one for the boeuf; and a delicate Muscat de Beaumes de Venise to accompany the dessert tart. This dish I have not tasted, but it’s a question of flavorful real beef (Brick Farm Market of course, my being fresh out of cowboys and bulls ).  It’ll be crafted with fresh herbs, Rhone wine, a swirl of orange peel, a pig’s foot.  No, I haven’t made this before, but the Intrepids weren’t given that name for nothing.

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The gardianes’ stews were cooked long and slow over driftwood fires on Mediterranean shores.  Mine will, of course, depend upon the Crock Pot.

My Provencal specialties will have one ingredient more precious than all the rest, however.  When we savor our boeuf with wild thyme and Rhone wines, the multi-hued South of France vegetables from one friend,  a complex tarte from another — all will be seasoned with Fellowship.

In my year in Provence, I lived alone.  My neighbors in the villa became dear friends.  But somehow, they would not let me cook for them.  We could dine out, and I could lead them to places, like Auberge des Seigneurs in Vence after the Matisse Chapel, which I knew better than they.  But I was not to be in the kitchen for their sake.  Thank heaven, my New Jersey friends have courage, eagerness, and I will even say, Love.  They let me play in the kitchen for them.

My wildest wish, I must admit, is that we could all appreciate Provence together.  Meanwhile, boeuf a la gardiane will have to do!

 

AUTUMN TIPTOES IN TO SAYEN GARDENS

Autumn Tiptoes in to Sayen Gardens

Autumn Tiptoes in to Sayen Gardens

Those of you who read my articles in the Packet and U.S. 1 (Business!) Newspaper, and sometimes the Times of Trenton, know that I am often asked to signal an upcoming or newly present season for these generous editors.  I am always overwhelmed that our enlightened heads of journalism in this region increasingly realize the importance of nature, on so many levels — from the aesthetic to health to native species to tempering climate change and consequent dire storms.  Recently both U. S. 1 and the Packet generously published my entry-into-autumn stories.

Sayen Hydrangea of early October

Sayen Hydrangea of early October

Today, I was privileged to stroll Sayen Gardens with two friends, Jody and Melisande.  Both artists, both highly keyed to nature, they know that lovely haven off Hughes Road, off Quaker Bridge Road, in all seasons and all conditions.  They study the plantings and waterways along each path with the intensity of owners in their own gardens.  They frequently express wonder at the ever-changing beauty, and often voice thanks that our counties around here know how to care for gardens so that we may marvel in this way.

Mr. Sayen's Handsome 1912 Home

Mr. Sayen’s Handsome 1912 Home

Autumn is subtly arriving at Sayen.  Come with me and see what you can see.  Even by the time this post is published, the burgeonings, the fadings, the colorings will have altered.

Sayen's Autumnal Juxtaposition

Sayen’s Autumnal Juxtaposition

Sayen Fruiting Magnolia

Sayen Fruiting Magnolia

Color In the Dark Woods, Sayen Gardens

Color In the Dark Woods, Sayen Gardens

Old Wood and New Grasses, Sayen Autumn

Old Wood and New Grasses, Sayen Autumn

Autumnal Transformation of Japanese Maple at Sayen Gardens, October

Autumnal Transformation of Japanese Maple at Sayen Gardens, October

Bench Memorializing Legendary Sayen Gardener

Bench Memorializing Legendary Sayen Gardener

Rainbowed Spray in Sayen Garden Pond

Rainbowed Spray in Sayen Garden Pond

If Monet Painted Rainbows

If Monet Painted Rainbows

The Pledge, Sayen Fountain

The Pledge, Sayen Fountain

Lavendering in Bucks County, Pennsylvania

Lavender Ripe for the Harvest, Carousel Lavender Farm, Summer, 2015

Lavender Ripe for the Harvest, Carousel Lavender Farm, Summer, 2015

Most of my friends know my passion for lavender, — essential since that first trip to France in 1964.  The attuned know to travel for lavender apotheosis, –in this country–, to Carousel Farm, Mechanicsville, near Doylestown, in bucolic Bucks County, PA.

Bucks County's Exquisite Setting for Carousel Lavender F arm

Bucks County’s Exquisite Setting for Carousel Lavender F arm

This haven from 21st-Century stress is rich in beauty, and so carefully tended by passionate owners

Jeanette and Carousel Lavender Farm Cosmos

Jeanette Hooban Admires Carousel Farm Cosmos

Caroulsel Lavender Farm proffers outstanding products that not only have the authentic scent, but actually work as cremes, lotions and potions, emollients, air-and-linen sweeteners, and moth prevention.  There are hefty bags of culinary lavender and superbly effective candles — one has lavender flowers embedded in the wax.  The other’s floral fragrance is blended with cucumbers, to lift leftover aromas in kitchen and elsewhere, refreshing as they burn.

Dried French Lavender, Sachet, Lavender Oil, and the Two Candles

Dried French Lavender, Sachet, Lavender Oil, and the Two Candles

Here are recent scenes of this summer’s visit, just after the main harvest, but enough blossoms remaining to fascinate us and nourish assorted butterflies and bees.

Rare Red-Spotted Purple Butterfly on Lavender ready for harvest

Rare Red-Spotted Purple Butterfly on Lavender ready for harvest

Carousel Farm is only open on Saturdays from 9 til 5, but, as Michelin would say, it is definitely worthy of the journey.

Carousel Farm Barn

Carousel Farm Barn

This is their description from the Internet:   (bolds mine, for obvious reasons…)

The Carousel Farm is located in historic Bucks County PA, just outside of the Delaware River town of New Hope (90 minutes from NYC, and 45 minutes outside of Philadelphia).

The Carousel Farm, first established in 1748, has had many lives over the centuries, once a dairy farm, later a horse farm and, in the mid-20th century, an exotic animal farm. When we moved to the farm in 2000, our challenge was to put our unique imprint on the farm, maintaining its rural beauty, yet enhancing it with something beyond.

Carousel Farm Sign

Carousel Farm Sign

The inspiration for Carousel Farm Lavender came when we were traveling through the beautiful Provence countryside, where the rolling hills are graced with old grape vines and lavender fields, against a stunning backdrop of centuries-old fieldstone barns and farmhouses. Our farm, with its fieldstone farmhouse, 18th century stone barn and rolling fields broken only by fieldstone walls, seemed the perfect place to replicate the South of France.

Distant View, Carousel Farm

Distant View, Carousel Farm

Our fields, now over eight years old, are nothing short of amazing. Despite our initial worry that the harsh Northeast climate might not be ideal for the project, after testing the soil we carefully selected  four varieties of plants, both French and English, and the plants are flourishing. We have over 15,000 plants, each one planted, pruned and harvested by hand.

Lavender Fields Forever

Lavender Fields Forever

The beauty of our fields is attested to by the many of local painters and photographers who spend their days drawing inspiration from the fields. There is a store located on the property where we sell our lavender products and accessories that complement the lavender.

Venerable Window

Venerable Window

As you can tell, we are proud of our lavender fields, but perhaps we are most proud that, despite the striking natural beauty of Bucks County, we  have found a way to enhance this historic community with something at once rural, beautiful, and unique.

Open Saturday 9 til 5 but splendid products available on-line

http://www.carouselfarmlavender.com/contact-us.html

5966 Mechanicsville RD, Mechanicsville PA 18934 near Doylestown     (917) 837- 6903

Jeanette, In Her Element

Jeanette, In Her Element

Dare I mention that some of us began our Christmas shopping in that lavender-infused shop in the venerable farm building…

Tools of yesteryear adorn the grounds, as well as lamas, donkeys and assorted birds of great intrigue – but we’d forgotten our binoculars!

Toll of Yesteryear

Toll of Yesteryear

Yesterday's Essential

Yesterday’s Essential

Lavender Harvest with Tractor

Lavender Harvest with Tractor

PRINCETON MAGAZINE: POETRY and FLOWER MIRACLES

I wish I could block and copy the article for you, so you could see Andrew Wilkinson’s stunning floral images  However, my two poems from my own files are at the end.  May these bring you the seasonal joys for which we have all been pining!

http://www.princetonmagazine.com/category/features/featured-articles/  You may ‘paste this into your browser; scroll down to flowers and poetry.

Those of you who live in and near Princeton have seen the new issue of Princeton Magazine, hefty and glossy and impressive, one of Bob Hillier’s projects, along with Studio Hillier and that rich, ever expanding, ever teaching newspaper of our town — Town Topics.

It was a joy to open the issue with Ilene Dube’s magnificent Michael Graves story, and find that Linda Arntzenius, fellow poet, had seen to it that two of my poems appear in a glorious spread with flowers by Princeton-area florists.  Long ago, I knew Bob Hillier’s mother, who seemed to own all the flower shops we frequented in my earlier Princeton life.  This is a tribute to that impressive women.  It honors Poetry Month.  And I know four of the five poets — tremendous honor to be in their company, in those impressive poets.

The impeccable, imaginative floral art is by Andrew Wilkinson, one of our major D&R Greenway supporters on many fronts – and a spectacular fine art photographer.

The poets with whom I am privileged to share these luminous pages are Sharon Olson, Betty Lies, Vida Chu and Carolyn.

 

This took place at Island Beach in June:

IT ALL STARTED

 

when we came upon

carpets of stars

cranberries in flower

trembling white below

the ice blue sky

 

along the hard-packed dikes

slumbrous bees

formed golden pyramids

on gleaming amber boxes

 

dawn’s pollinators

here to burst all bonds

course among broad acres

of waving stamens

 

at day’s end we stood on tiptoe

plucking first blued berries

from among the mauve and pink

at the tips of overarching bushes

 

tucked among hollies and sheep laurel

through thickets and tunnels

we made our way to the sea

mouths awash in warm berries

 

DEFIANCE

 

I would be unruly

as these sprouting bulbs

 

surge and burgeon

though so slightly rooted

among the celadon stones

 

open swirls of hope

spurt voluminous white

spill gilded light

 

emitting spring as fragrance

even as winter

tightens his gelid grasp

 

CAROLYN FOOTE EDELMANN

INESCAPABLE AUTUMN…

Box Turtle of Autumn at Cedar Ridge

Box Turtle of Autumn at Cedar Ridge

I’ve always loved autumn, for its hues and fragrances.  And the light — the only time New Jersey light approaches that which bathed me in my year (and other visits) in Provence, is when September unfurls.

However, this year, I’m not ready for it.

What with nights in the 60’s most of the summer, and a very challenging job at D&R Greenway Land Trust, with few vacation days, I am one of those inclined to blurt, “WHAT summer?”

So I wasn’t thrilled to waken to 40-some degrees on my front-door (Lawrenceville, NJ) thermometer this Sunday.

NJWILDBEAUTY readers know I’m always on nature quests, early and late, any season – you NAME it –, even in the middle of the week – scheduling every scarce day off for a jaunt to NJ’s WILD BEAUTY.

Even today, I’ve marinated ruby-rich tomatoes from Salem and Cumberland (assorted) farmstands.  I’ve cooked my very first fresh sage-green limas from the pod, from Lillian’s fruits and vegetables next to the Mauricetown Diner on Buckshutem Road south of Millville.  I’ve cut hand-sized peppers of red, green and variegated, into bite sizes for friends who are coming shortly for the last swim of the season.  First we eat, then we swim, not like childhood.  O, yes, and there’s merry berry pie from the hillside farm market in Lamberville (across the road from Rago and all that art…)

But out there, on the trails, after our swim this eveing, autumn awaits us.  It’s not only a number on a plexiglas thermometer.

It’s assorted swirls of scarlet and crimson, twining up tree trunks near the red barn of the Pole Farm — announcing that autumn’s bounty is ready for the birds, in the form of woodbine and, yes, poison ivy berries.  Poison ivy in particular really nourishes migrants on their interminable (often night-time) flights to other continents.

It’s buzzing and whirring and tingling of insects, getting their last songs in before frost.

It’s spiciness and fruitiness all along that entry trail.  Spiciness as though it were Thanksgiving or Christmas, in the kitchen, nutmeg, and clove and other more exotic almost puncturing fragrances.  Fruitiness among the varied vines so intense that it can knock me off my stride, and even feel intoxicating.

It’s meadows awash in brassy tones of tick-seed sunflower, leftover brown-eyed Susans, and first goldenrod, heavy on its stems.

Autumn, the poets insist, is that season “of mists and mellow fruitfulness”  The latter is present along Pole Farm’s sunny trails.  The mists I’ve, so far, only encountered once.  I wonder what the function of mist is, to Mother Nature.  For me, it’s enclosure, it’s wrapping, it’s transformation, and it hides any traces of hideous technology, such as some brutes are now attaching to poles along Cold Soil Road.  Through the mists, I can see and sometimes hear the dark sheep.  I do not see or hear the cattle lowing, but know they are near, off to the right, as I drive through morning fog, ground fog, to save New Jersey Land at D&R Greenway.

Cedar Ridge off Van Dyke Road in Hopewell Welcomes Visitors in Autumn

Cedar Ridge off Van Dyke Road in Hopewell Welcomes Visitors in Autumn

Autumn is the end of the plants in my tiny new garden.  I’m down to three nasturtiums and four white petunias and one geranium  — blooms, not plants.  The basil has come and nearly gone, although its final leaves adorn those Salem and Cumberland Tomatoes from the stand where you put your money in a locked tin container and drive away without having spoken to anyone.

Autumn used to be school, which I loved, oddly enough.

Frankly, I don’t know what autumn is any more.

I think the trails, in Island Beach on Tuesday, and at Pole Farm any day, hold my answers.

 

I’ll keep you posted.

 

Smiles, and SAVE THIS PLANET! in all seasons

 

Mushrooms of Autumn near Iconic Oak, Cedar Ridge Preserve

Mushrooms of Autumn near Iconic Oak, Cedar Ridge Preserve

 

Carolyn