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

Pole Farm Miracles, June 2014

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Common Yellowthroat by Brenda Jones

In my new life, in my new town (Lawrenceville), I have a new habit — walking the Pole Farm from 7 to 9 p.m.  

It’s the Solstice tonight, longest day of the year.  NJWILDBEAUTY readers realize I can play this game without peril or penalty.

If you go out there by 7, you are given the song of the bobolinks.

If the land is warm and the air cool, as it has been this week, you may walk straight into a miracle — as with 7 deer (two of them spotted fawns), up to and beyond shoulders in wildflowers, like the Unicorn Tapestry, the Cluny Tapestries.  There are just these ruddy silhouettes, still as standing stones, only the flowers in motion.

And then, out of the deep, mysterious woods, pours swirlings of ground fog.  Tendrils and veils and scrims of light-filled fog, billowing like the curtain of the Old Met in my first New York years.  Fog turns the deer to icons, then to shadows.  They could be standing in incoming tide, only the tide isn’t saltwater, it’s mist.  The deer look so content, which completely suffuses me.

Later that night, a knowing friend tells me, “Carolyn, deer love fog.  They think they’re invisible.”

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DOE OF EVENING BY BRENDA JONES

I am not the only one who finds it hard to leave.  A woman named Janet, sitting on a fence in golden dusk, said, almost tearfully, “I don’t want it to be over.”  The night before, three cyclists, exulting in having ‘done ten miles’, had expressed the identical sentiments.

As I entered the Pole Farm at 7:30 last night, I knew I had sacrificed the song of bobolinks by tardiness.  

On all sides, however, was the rare trilling, warbling, descending caroling of field sparrows.  Almost immediately, I stood beside a pair, right on the grey trail.  Delicate, petite, short, rotund, and fastidious — the pair let me watch and watch and watch as they filled their tiny tummies with something clearly delicious.  They were so wild, they didn’t know human danger.  I stood transfixed, until I could finally see their legedary, ‘diagnostic’ fat pink beaks.  A first for me.  I have learned to hear them.  I have learned to identiry their feeding habits.  But this is the first time the roseate beaks were visible.

I was thinking, as my feet took up the now familiar stride and trail, “To experience miracles, be where miracles happen.”

At that moment, I discovered with the American Indians call “a sun dog” — vertical rainbow, to the right of  the lowering sun-globe.  This phenomenon is caused by ice crystals in the sky.  The entire spectrum hung there, –like northern lights, but so much smaller and more subtle.  Red, purple, orange, yellow, green, blue — I forget the order — I stopped dead in my tracks to let that bounty in.  To the Indians, to see a sun dog is good luck.

To me, to have moved to Lawrenceville, 3/10 of a mile from the Pole Form, is extraordinary luck, even miraculous.

No one would believe the level of darkness I’d endured in my previous wooded dwelling.  That’s over.

Instead, in moments, I can be out on those broad hard smooth clear dry trails, with all those wonderful fellow hikers, bikers, birders — full of graciousness and greeting.  Catching sight of my binoculars, they’ll sing out, “What are you seeing?”  Or ask, “What’s black and white with orange?”  And I could tell that person, “Oh, you have seen the miracle of the bobolinks.  Pole Farm is being managed for grassland birds.”  

Within moments, I can be given a night like last night, of miraculous juxtapositions:

bluebirds and catbirds

 

field sparrows and yellowthroats

 

wild grape and woodbine

 

honeysuckle and fireflies

 

bullfrogs and wood thrush

 

horned stag in daisies

 

penstemon and fern groves 

 

rabbits still as statues

 

Mr. Elusive — a cinnamon-colored wood-thrush bopping down the trail, impervious to my footfalls

 

woodpecker drills

 

something raucous high in trees, laughing as I pass

 

clouds stretched into feathers

 

swallows taking turn, entering the old barn in last light

 

the startle of cars

 

Get OUT there on YOUR trails.  Miracles await.

Do all that you can to preserve land in your own region, for it is even more scarce than bobolinks.

And, with land, once gone, is rarely recovered.

 

Pole Farm is a Mercer County Park — on their web-site you can learn of and sign up for bird walks with Jenn Rogers, with whom I’ve merrily birded the Abbott Marshlands in search of winter birds.  Go anywhere with Jenn — you’ll come home enriched.Image

BLUBIRD BY bRENDA jONES