SPRING GIFTS FROM OTHERS

With moving to Lawrenceville  my top priority right now, I depend on the “kindness of strangers” and friends and colleagues to prove that spring has truly arrived.

PhoebeCharlesRogers4-12-09The Visually Shy, Acoustically Vehement Phoebe of Spring, by Brenda Jones

As reported elsewhere, first proofs were two different reports of having seen skunk cabbage.  These early flowers (though they seem like leaves) spurt in monk-like cowls of burgundy, which slowly turn to red — sometimes even through ice and snow, because exothermic.  I get my skunk-cabbage fix at Bowman’s Hill Wildflower Preserve, below New Hope.  But there has been no time between packing and phonecalls to head over the Delaware.  This coming Sunday, a skunk-cabbage run is planned, with fellow poet Betty Lies.

The most exciting early evidence came from consummate birder, Sharyn McGee, at the scrumptious Bach performance by the Dryden Ensemble for Early Music.  Sharyn’s keen ear is delighted as much by instruments from or crafted in the manner of the 1600’s as by bird calls in fields and forests.  She reported having heard the first phoebe.  Phoebes are tiny birds with forceful ‘voices’, hard to see, but impossible to miss, acoustically.  In fact, should phoebes nest near you, they will announce their name so frequently and so vociferously that you might wish you could miss some of these announcements by spring’s end.

I’m still wallowing in non-spring bird memories — clouds of snow geese and the elusive snowy owl, white and wonderful, at the Brigantine Wildlife Refuge, so oddly near to Atlantic City.

Some robins are hopping desultorily about my stony hilly yard.  I think worms are few and far between, as these landlords do not know about improving soil, let alone tending bird habitat.

Anne Zeman, another consummate birder, walking the towpath near the D&R Canal last week, saw the first ospreys in our region.

O, yes, about a third of the yellow daffodils that spurt alongside an old stone wall on my way to work have opened.  Two-thirds remain tightly closed, seeming to shiver as I drive past.

Purple crocus among the roots of the queenly beech at D&R Greenway Land Trust have opened, and some paled and flattened already.  All the colors, from dark purple through lavender and lilac to near-white are glorious among the beech’s sturdy raised roots.

I can’t believe I’m not out on the trails, chronicling spring.  But this year, logistics-watching has supplanted bird-watching.

Though not bird-caring.

Peepers are somewhat feeble this year, next to my stony promontory.  Others mention their loudness, and Jim Amon, our Director of Stewardship at D&R Greenway, has also heard the click-ticking of the wood frogs.

Jim has brought me Spring’s best proof.  He came in, after a morning in the field on one of our preserves, cupping both hands, as though they held something sacred.  Jim was grinning from ear to ear.

“What are you carrying?,” I asked.

“Eggs,” said he.

“Whose?”

“Wood frogs, then salamanders…  they’d been laid in tire depressions over on the St. Michael’s land.  They’d dry out any day now, would not survive.  Emily and I carried first the wood frog eggs, then the salamanders, over to a vernal pool, where they can grow and thrive.”

Spring is here.

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