Way of the Short-Ears

A new poem, imagining an owlquest later than this one — “Come with me…”

These magnificent images of short-eared owls, we owe to the superb fine art photographer, Brenda Jones.  You will see her masterpieces on the information panels at Lawrenceville’s Pole Farm Preserve.

Short-eared Owl white coloration

Short-Eared Owl of Pole Farm, by Brenda Jones

 

come, take my hand

wrapped well, and sporting headlamps

set out for pale broad fields

where ghostly ones rise each evening

from winter weeds

 

this sky’s occluded

–if there’s a North Star

I can’t find it

let alone Orion with his dazzle-belt

which may be good for all the hunting birds

 

the wind’s dropped

so it might be easier for them

to listen for the rustle of voles

 

parking just beyond

the preserve’s locked gate

we thread our way by wooded paths

known so well by day

 

each with our own hand light, tonight,

seeking owl eyes

 

CAROLYN FOOTE EDELMANN

January 2017

 

short-eared-owl-profile-pole-farm-brenda-jones

Short-eared Owl at Sunset by Brenda Jones, taken at the Pole Farm, Lawrenceville

 

POOL READING, Lawrenceville Haven After Work

Pool Late Light Society Hill

A year ago July, I discovered that my new home, Society Hill (named for Quakers of Old) has s saltwater pool.

A year later, I return, carrying Genet, a Biography of Janet Flanner, by Brenda Wineapple.  I had evidently carried it on my first pool experience, finding notes about that day on the back page:

I’m not so sure about swimming – cannot remember last time I did so, nor where.   I think Island Beach and Sandy Hook, and even Whitesbog, over and over, in the romantic summer of the year 2000.

It’s a perfect day, sun and high clouds in a periwinkle sky.  Pretty windy – hard to keep my place in the book.  Tall, lush evergreens seem to be singing above me.  Singing and dancing, even waltzing.

Two vultures play the wind.

Beside this very American pool, which looks Hollywood from the shallow end, I am reading the best source on Paris in the 20’s, –what and who might be chic; what and who definitely is is not.  Josephine Baker is a Flanner favorite, the infamous banana dance, and a rare person of color rising to fame in that challenging city.

But this shockingly blue sky, these high winds, these mountain-trees carry me right out to Montana, yes, to Big Sky Country.  Where I stood, equally storm-tossed, at an outdoor telephone, as my husband in Princeton read me the acceptance letter from Princeton University.  The Creative Writing Department had examined my poems, which no one had ever seen nor heard.  Accepting, they put me into Advanced Poetry (as a 35 year-old), with all those brilliant children.  My teacher would be the Founder and Editor of the Quarterly Review of Literature, Ted Weiss.  My knees buckled, hearing this impossibility, on the windswept Montana mountaintop.

Here I lie back on a lush towel on a solid chaise, wondering whether the tiny, supersonic raptor overhead could be a peregrine.  Word has it that they fly 200 mph.  Not in this wind, but he’s making a valiant try.

I think about getting into that water.   Hmmm…   there are plantings in tubs around the pools, neglected marigolds, faltering, going to seed.  I go around and deadhead every tub – once a gardener always a gardener.  My fingers, turning Genet pages, smell of old marigolds.

I shall wash them.  Walk straight into that water and set off, my lazy butterfly stroke that will never win me any medals, but does convey me to the other side.  Water on my tongue proves our Society Hill rumor, that we have a salt-water pool.  I’m grateful – not exactly the Salt Lake, but it does render a certain buoyancy.

Pool 'My End; Society Hill

Even though this is the pool of a development, I am absolutely alone, in what seems an endless reservoir of aquamarine, my favorite color.  Back and forth, back and forth.

Back on the chaise to dry, a dragonfly comes to sip from my upraised knee.

Janet Flanner is being her usual anecdotal, acerbic self.

I glance up to discover a great blue heron arrowing directly over me, east to west.

I feel cleansed within and without by my time in the saltwater, enriched within and without by Genet’s rapier wit and refusal to be easily satisfied.

I decide to weave Flanner qualities increasingly into my too-compliant being.

I gather my towel and my book, and stroll back to 23 Juniper, more alive than I have been in years.

Pool Evergreen Reflections Society Hill

SUMMERTIME- WHEN THE LIVIN’ WAS EASY… in Lawrenceville

Pool Evergreen Reflections Society Hill

Evergreens Reflected in Pool, Society Hill, Lawrenceville NJ

NJWILDBEAUTY readers know that I moved to Lawrenceville in April of 2014.  For awhile, I lived in both places, but finally totally here.  You might not believe that I did not know that Society Hill had a swimming pool.  It took me awhile not only to discover this, including the fact that it is salt water.  But also to be free enough of moving tasks, helped by many splendid friends, finally, literally, to put toes into that healing water.

Admin Bldg Juniper Court Society Hill

Administration Building — Pool HIdden Behind This

After that delightful day, the pool became my refuge, –even immediately after work, not only on weekends. All tensions, any stiffness from time at the computer, even sadness, drained away.  These images only begin to convey the magic of this unexpected gift.

Pool 'My End; Society Hill

Evergreens at Pool, ‘My End’…

Now the Society Hill Pool is by no means Wild New Jersey.  However, on my very first leisurely afternoon with book there, I glanced up to see a great blue heron rowing majestically overhead, over my chair.  Its shadow floated along my being.  Talk about a blessing.

Determined Great Blue Heron by Brenda Jones

Determined Great Blue Heron by Brenda Jones

All summer, I was treated to frequent sail-by’s of vultures, my good-omen birds.  So graceful, you can usually tell time by them — rising with thermals around ten a.m.  As turkey vultures tip/fly, both sunlight and wing direction reveal silver highlights.  I am always delighted by vultures.

Turkey Vulture by Brenda Jones

Turkey Vulture by Brenda Jones

As autumn approached, other majestic birds or flocks of migrant creatures soared overhead.  Most of the time, I was alerted by shadows on the page.

Migrant Flight by Brenda Jones

MIgrant Flight by Brenda Jones — Common Mergansers (not at the pool)

Soon, I would meet friends at the pool, each with our books, all normally entirely too tense, unaccustomed to lounging.  We worked on lounging!  Coursing from one end to the other left all of the cares of the world behind.  Using my replaced hip so effortlessly never ceased to astound.

The water was always the right temperature, refreshing, its saltiness keeping us buoyant in body, mind and spirit.  There was no chlorine stench, nor that powdery chemical residue I always felt upon emerging from our pool on Braeburn Drive.

The water is almost as silky as Pine Barrens peat-water, but this doesn’t (temporarily) tint legs orange, as at Whitesbog or Lake Oswego.

Peat Waters of Lake Oswego, below Chatsworth, The Pine Barrens of New Jersey

Peat Waters of Lake Oswego, below Chatsworth, The Pine Barrens of New Jersey

It’s quiet at the pool.  Sun rises and sets behind tall evergreens.  It’s not exactly fragrant there, but the air smells extraordinarily fresh.

Autumn Day's Wild Farewell Juniper Court

A miracle.  Hard to remember, now, with the greensward outside coated again by ‘Royal Icing’, otherwise known as snowfall.

Dire Beauty -- Canal Point Greensward in Snow January 2015

Dire Beauty — Canal Point Greensward in Snow January 2015

And the rhododendrons clenched.

Clenched Rhododendrons at Absolute Zero, from inside

Clenched Rhododendrons at Absolute Zero, from inside

However, days are subtly lengthening.  Spring always returns.  And I will be able, anew, to read timelessly by the salt pool.

Meanwhile, indoors, spring’s geranium is budding:

Spring Geranium Blooming in the Time of Snows, January, 2015

Spring Geranium Blooming in the Time of Snows, January, 2015

Whatever Happened to Soft Rain?

Water tumultuous Brenda Jones

Tumultuous Water, the Delaware — by Brenda Jones

My Tremulous Storm Scenes above the Millstone and the Canal:

IMG_2252

Wild Storm, Floodwater High Across Canal Road, north of 518

IMG_2253

Ponding on the Driveway, High Water, Canal Road, north of 518

Neither my friend, Brenda Jones, nor I, spends much time outdoors in rain, –at least not intentionally, and not with our cameras.

Hers is far better than mine in chronicling wild water.  I lived on a hill high above Canal Road, and the waters came up from the flood plain, over the Millstone River, over the Road, and far up the driveway, drowning its protective metal rail, in recent storms.

Last night, in a rather ordinary storm, poles went down, and wires with them, all over the Princeton Region.

My 5.5-mile ride from Lawrenceville to work took 90 minutes this morning.  “Rosedale Road is closed,” declared the policeman (yes, I had ignored the closed sign and bright lights- I had to get work!)  It would be closed from 2 hours to 2 days.  Still closed when I left work this afternoon.

Thanks to human greed, burning of fossil fuel, refusal by our country to take the lead and reverse catastrophic climate change, we basically never have normal rain any more.  Read Elizabeth Kolbert’s masterworks, “The Sixth Extinction” and “Field Notes from a Catastrophe” for the best science writing yet on what we are living through, what we are causing.  “Among the few irreplaceable volumes written about climate change,” declares Bill McKibben, “Kolbert offers the best summary yet.”  Other experts praise “Sixth Extinction” as our century’s “Silent Spring.”

You all know the reasons — glacial melt.  Freshwater (light) on top of saltwater (heavy), –therefore more evaporatable water; more precipitation; more frequent precipitation; more violent precipitation.  Changes in sea and river currents, which change air currents and the Gulf Stream.  Which alter our planet, our very existence.  Pogo said it long ago:  “We have met the enemy, and he is us.”

Forget “the new normal”!  There ISN’t any normal any more.  Not in any season.  Not any time of day or night.

When we were little, we could go outside in bare feet and little homemade swimming outfits and paddle in bright puddles.  Soft rain blessed our shoulders, tickled our backs, rinsed our long curls in the best conditioner ever.    Tornadoes began with Flint when I was 11.  “One day, clouds went both ways, fast!”, I wrote of being out precursors to that tempest.  Nothing was ever the same.

Rain was something we liked.  Something to play in!

Not an excuse for weather gurus to use smarmy voice and smirky smile to order us all “Stay safe…” and “Shelter at home…”  If you notice, they also tell us when to shop and what to buy, and show pictures of shopping frenzy to stoke the coals…

Basically there isn’t any safe, any shelter, any more.

There used to be wonderful cadences to thunder.  A soft vacuumy hush before the first rumble.  The excitement of thunder as it grew nearer and nearer.  Counting between lightning and thunder – “one one hundred, two one hundred” — something about the distance between bolts and ears.

The other night – not EVEN last night with all the downed trees of Princeton, all the sparking, smoking wires of morning — there was not even time to say “one”, let alone “one hundred” between ceaseless stabbings of lightning throughout the greensward here at my new dwelling and the explosion of thunder.

I never wanted to be someone who yearned for the “good old days.”

But I yearn for good old rains.

Restored Hunt House, Pole Farm — Constable scenes in Mercer County

Flag Windless Evening Pole Farm Hunt House and Trail June 2014 003

Peaceful Flag on Hunt House Grounds, Pole Farm

One of the fascinating aspects of this Pole Farm, that is so near to my new dwelling in bucolic Lawrenceville, is that there are many entries.  Each entry holds out its own bouquet of impressions and memories.

One leads to the overlook platform where we will watch short-eared owls in the depths of winter, ghosting out of surrounding stands of dense woods.

One very practical one leads over a series of hefty bridges, which will be very helpful after troubling rains.  They are not bridges over water, rather over land that can become waterlogged.  So one will be able to march without sloshing, when the mood strikes.

My latest discovery is the Hunt House entry, off Blackwell Road.  A generous parking lot awaits, which is where this flag dangles, in the absence of wind.  I’m starting with this because it’s the Fourth of July.  I spent the morning in the Abbott Marshlands, where there weren’t any flags, and barely any birds, but much beauty.

My friend, Anne Zeman, was there to take pictures for the Voices for the Marsh Photo Competition.  If one googles http://www.marsh-friends.org, one will learn what scenes and what processes are required for entry.

As we left each other, after hours of exploration, we reminded one another that this day is a celebration of freedom from tyranny.  Somehow, countless forms of tyranny are overtaking everyday Americans.

Somehow, those precious freedoms for which our Founding Fathers pledged their lives, their fortunes and their sacred honor (and some lost all of these factors to bring us liberty) are being eroded at every turn.

We must never lose sight of the sacrifices and the brilliance of our Founding Fathers.  Even more important, we must not betray the liberty they won for themselves, our country, and ourselves.

The Hunt House is venerable — all three segments of which having been built in the 1700s.  It’s a beauty to see from the outside.  I do not know if everyday people are permitted entry in business hours.  As I understand it, Hunt houses the park headquarters.  If all their employees are as gracious and enthusiastic as Ranger Kevin (met at the red barn entry of Pole Farm), I assume visitors are welcome at appropriate times.

Hunt House Restored at Pole Farm June 2014 001Restored Hunt House, in late light, Pole Farm

A handsome picnic area rests to the left of this scene, very appealing, although too close to the parking lot for my taste.

Picnic Shelter Pole Farm Hunt House and Trail June 2014 007Picnic Area near Hunt House, Pole Farm

The same broad, strong, comfortable, quiet trails that make other entries so appealing, lead away from the house and its barn and the picnic area.

Evening Shadows Barn at Pole Farm Hunt House and Trail June 2014 009Hunt House Barn Shadows, Pole Farm

These trails lead in and around essential American scenes.  And yet, soon, one is transported into the landscapes made famous by Constable of Britain.

Lily Pads and Cattails at Pole Farm Hunt House and Trail June 2014 014Constable Scene, Hunt House Trails, Pole Farm

As usual, guests are relishing this regional treasure, many on foot and some on bicycles.

Cyclists Pole Farm Hunt House Trail June 2014 010Cyclists, Hunt House Trails, Pole Farm

On all the trails, all the people I meet are so cheerful, open and welcoming, themselves.  It’s a very American experience, these parks where solitude is a norm and silence a blessing.  Where birds thrive and trees burgeon and deer safely raise young.

Let Evening Come    Pole Farm Hunt House and Trail June 2014 011English Countryside near Hunt House Trails, Pole Farm

Yet, there is this sense of stepping into a Constable, over and over again.

Come Dine With Me Picnic Table by Lake Pole Farm Hunt House and Trail June 2014 013Lakeside Picnic Grove, Hunt House Trails, Pole Farm

I’m hoping some savvy family is celebrating the Fourth in this grove today.

Sharp Shadows  Picnic Grove Pole Farm Hunt House and Trail June 2014 012Long Shadows, Picnic Grove, Hunt House Trails, Pole Farm

Whoever they are, I hope they speak of freedom.

Wherever you are, I hope you remember true freedom, the sacrifices made to secure it in perpetuity, the powerful and brilliant and courageous men and women (don’t forget Abigail Adams and Annis Stockton and Martha Washington, who joined her husband on battleground after battleground) who birthed this land.

This Mercer County Park is an example of the best of America.  Use it.

And continually do everything you can to preserve New Jersey’s wild unfettered places.

WHEN A NATURALIST PACKS AND MOVES

PhoebeCharlesRogers4-12-09facingleftcopy

Phoebe I Have Yet to Hear — By Brenda Jones – at Carl Rogers Refuge off Alexander Street

First of all, a naturalist who is packing and moving  looks wistfully at spring out car windows, en route to and from her new abode.

Daffodils spurt from the dead earth, warmed by reflections from an old stone wall.

Crocus spill across too few beds, little cups of spring.  Tiny Grails.  I long to stop the car, kneel, sip their grace and light.

NorthernHarrierHawkLHT3-19-12DSC_5594Northern Harrier above Lawrenceville’s Pole Farm, by Brenda Jones

But I’ve become a beast of burden in recent days, having found my new dwelling in lovely Society Hill of Lawrenceville.  No, this is not a snob’s name — it goes back to ancient times in our state, perhaps even to when we were West Jersey and East Jersey.  The ‘Friends’ in question were Quakers.  Reading Revolutionary tales, we might well not have a country, were it not for this company of Friends.

Where I am now, high on a stony hill above the D&R Canal and Towpath, is stingy with spring.  Nothing new erupts, let alone blooms, in this odd woods — all too ruined by constructions of McMansions, turning all this lovely forest into edge habitat.

The cardinals seem to be singing more lustily.  Robins are here, but not caroling yet.  I have yet to hear a phoebe.  Red-bellied woodpeckers are a little more frequent in their odd purring.

However, one gift of this site is a plethora of peepers.  Of course, it’s too darned cold for these hardy, eager singers, –if my door thermometer is below 32, which it remains many a day and most nights.  I shall miss the peepers.

NorthernHarrierstandinginLHTfield3-19-12DSC_5711Northern Harrier in Late Light at Pole Farm, by Brenda Jones

I shall not miss the poisons spewed into our air, and waters — the Delaware and Raritan Canal and Towpath and the Stony Brook-Millstone Watershed — drinking water for the region — by ever-expanding Trap Rock. 

No one realizes that Trap Rock somehow secured, long ago, a permit to burn and transport asphalt 24/7.  That means, everyone, by day and by night.  With not only the stench but the particles being carried to the four corners of the compass in heavy open noisy trucks.  Open, meaning the poisons are not sealed from anyone they pass — “because the trucks might catch fire.”

Never mind that Trap Rock asphalt in my air, in my car, on my outside table and chairs, seeping through my windows, staining my carpets, gave me a collapsed lung and enlarged heart.  Officials who came here said they could not enter that as a complaint.  Even if I went to a courtroom with all my physicians, Princeton Radiology, and so forth.  They can only enter a complaint if the asphalt fumes are preventing me from working outside in the garden!  If they entered a complaint, –and after hours of talk and filing out forms, I never heard whether or not those Somerset County Board of Health and Public Safety officials did so–, if there were a fine imposed, it would be around $100.

Never mind that I lost my voice from asphalt, that wracking coughs were asphalt’s gifts to me, that one has little energy when one’s lungs are not fully functioning.  Never mind that I need my voice at D&R Greenway, –where I work, ironically, to save the planet.  Never mind health of humans, let alone amphibians, reptiles, fish, birds, the lovely coterie of vultures who need Trap Rock rocks for nests in breeding season.

I have fought as long and hard as I could.  I am “folding my tent like an Arab, and as silently steal[ing] away.”

On Easter Monday.  I will depart from a tomb, roll back a stone, seek resurrection.  And new levels of energy and creativity.

Short-eared Owl wing swoop-lookShort-Eared Owl Above Pole Farm, by Brenda Jones

Where I’m moving is very near the expansive Pole Farm.  Site of Northern Harrier flights and short-eared owl winter arrivals and bobolink spring returns.

Bobolink Autumn Olive Brenda JonesBobolink at Pole Farm, by Brenda Jones

Place where I have found coyote tracks on the trail.  Though, sadly, never seen a coyote in New Jersey.  I never give up hope.

Pole Farm where I came across salamander and wood frog eggs one chilly March walk after rain, with a poet friend, who lives in Lawrenceville.  These unmistakeable signs of spring glistened, full of life and promise, oddly enough in some sort of vehicle depressions on our trail.

Where I’m moving, pretty soon, an exquisite array of pink magnolias will open all along an island where my guests and I will park our cars.

Where I’m moving, light suffuses all the rooms.  I have been unpacking with sliding doors open to a greensward, broad and treed and welcoming.

Where I’m moving, I’ll be free of asphalt.

So, if I have to give spring excursions this year, in quest of light and health and beauty, it will be worth it.

My Muse has been in hiding here.  She is longing to emerge.

New NJWILDEAUTY posts will be the result.

Short-eared owl profile Pole Farm Brenda JonesShort-Eared Owl Flying Toward My New Home, From Pole Farm, by Brenda Jones