My Trenton Times Article on Beauties, Blessings of Prolonged Cold

Opinion: A long, cold winter reveals its beauty

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Red fox running across frozen Lake Carnegie in Princeton, February 2009 (Brenda Jones, photographer)

Times of Trenton guest opinion columnBy Times of Trenton guest opinion column
on February 24, 2015 at 8:00 AM, updated February 24, 2015 at 8:40 AM

By Carolyn Foote Edelmann

Friends and I have decided that an effective way to endure prolonged, serious cold is to begin a list of its benefits. Perhaps Times readers would like to try such a list and send in their suggestions.

I rejoice in the seamless cold because of new beauties that are revealed by its presence — everywhere, at all hours of the day and night. When skies are clear and gelid, starlight is blinding. The new moon and Venus have never looked more ravishing than while winking over endless snowfields on the outskirts of Pennington.

However, my No. 1 reason to be thankful is that sustained cold kills the microbes that cause mange in fox dens and, therefore, in foxes. This has been a serious problem at Island Beach State Park. Humans ignored multiple posted warnings not to feed the foxes. This practice teaches foxes to look to humans for food. It accustoms foxes to carbohydrates, when they are truly carnivores and require both the protein and the fat of their classic prey, mostly mice and voles. Human food lowers vulpine resistance to disease. If their dens are not sterilized by cold, the animals suffer enormously, losing their glorious fur and even their tails, and then they perish.

Prolonged cold alters the fate of foxes for the better. When it’s below freezing for several days, mange is banished from the foxes’ dens.

In addition, when Barnegat and Raritan Bays freeze, new, healthy foxes scamper across from the mainland, bringing vibrant strains to populations we have harmed by feeding what should never be tamed.

Being very much on the side of wild creatures, this long cold of ours makes me wonder if it might also help coyotes increase their territory. I live near the Pole Farm, in Lawrence. I have seen coyote scat there, right where it belongs, in the middle of trails. But I have yet to be blessed by an encounter with this four-legged wonder. Hiking the Pole Farm right now is like trying to navigate the rugged terrain of Italyy’s Carrara marble quarry, –that is, almost impossible.  I cannot answer my coyote question.

Cold bestows another blessing. If it weren’t for snowfall after snowfall, I would not know that a fox visits my dwelling. There are straight, determined paths of tiny rose-like paw prints, one after another, that lead right up to the shrubs below my study window. So long as snow persists, fox signatures remain, right here.

Working as I do with the D & R Greenway Land Trust, preservation of habitat and creatures is paramount in my life. It is easy to become discouraged about both in this over-peopled 21st century. These cold blessings lift my heart.

I’m not saying that catastrophic climate change, including the cold weather we have been enduring lately, is good. I am proposing that there are miracles revealed by cold and snow of which we never otherwise would have a clue.

Carolyn Foote Edelmann, a poet, naturalist and community relations associate for the D and R Greenway Land Trust, writes and photographs for NJWildBeauty nature blog (njwildbeauty.wordpress.com).

RARITAN RIVER TALK AT DandR GREENWAY Feb. 26 with Judy Auer Shaw, Ph.D.

Thursday, February 26th, everyone who loves the Raritan River and its exquisite and storied canal may hear Judy Auer Shaw, Ph.D., at D&R Greenway Land Trust, on the river’s history, industrial importance, aesthetic value, importance to our water supply, and current perils.  Dr. Shaw is a legend in her time, on many fronts.  Her current passion is this river, and her life is devoted to preserving and improving. it.

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Dr. Judy Shaw, The Raritan’s River-keeper

The presentation is from 6:30 to 8 p.m., with a light reception.  To register for this free evening of information and delight, please use rsvp@drgreenway.org.  Dr. Shaw’s book will be for sale and she will sign copies that night.

Cover, Judy Auer's new Book, "The Raritan River, Our Landscape, Our Legacy"

Cover, Judy Auer’s new Book, “The Raritan River, Our Landscape, Our Legacy”

The Delaware and Raritan Canal was created in the 1830’s to carry coal from Pennsylvania’s Lehigh Valley safely to New York (by Raritan Bay) and Philadelphia (via Delaware Bay.)  The pre-canal route meant rounding Cape May and daring dangerous shoals, en route to and past Sandy Hook.  At one time our canal carried more tonnage than the legendary Erie!

D&R Canal north of Mapleton Fishing Bridge by Carolyn Edelmann

D&R Canal north of Mapleton Fishing Bridge by Carolyn Edelmann

The Raritan River begins at the confluence of the North and South Branches of the Raritan.  All along that waterway, wildlife should be able to thrive.  Dr. Shaw is doing everything in her power to see to it that the River’s natural benefits to are region are restored and enhanced.

Great Blue Heron near Carnegie Lake Dam by Tasha O'Neill

Great Blue Heron near Carnegie Lake Dam by Tasha O’Neill

Beaver Lodge along D&R Canal Above Mapleton Fishing Bridge by Carolyn Edelmann

Beaver Lodge along D&R Canal Above Mapleton Fishing Bridge by Carolyn Edelmann

Snake Swims D&R Canal near Princeton

Snake Swims D&R Canal near Princeton

The North Branch of the Raritan is one of the most exquisite features of the state of New Jersey.  Up near Califon and Clinton, it ripples, clear as gin, over time-smoothed rocks, hiding and nourishing trout.

Ken Lockwood Gorge is astounding for hikers as well as trout fishermen.  My friend Tasha O’Neill is famous for realistic and abstract images of the Gorge.  To walk there is to move well beyond the 21st Century, in fact back to the time of the Lenni Lenapes/Algonquins who fished these shores long before we did.

Quintessential Trout Fisherman, Ken Lockwood Gorge, by Tasha O'Neill

Quintessential Trout Fisherman, Ken Lockwood Gorge, by Tasha O’Neill

Trout Fisherman Succeeds in Ken Lockwood Gorge, by Tasha O'Neill

Trout Fisherman Succeeds in Ken Lockwood Gorge, by Tasha O’Neill

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The sheer beauty and vibrancy of trout in the Raritan at its source – by Tasha O’Neill

Autumn Palette Ken Lockwood Gorge, Tasha O'Neill

My Ordinary Scene of Ken Lockwood in Autumn

Even if you have known the Raritan, as I did, –having lived above it in New Brunswick, you may find these images  hard to believe.  But they may explain, partially, why I’ve been in love with the Raritan since I met that river in 1964.  At the time, I knew nothing of the Raritan’s history, had never heard of Lenni Lenapes, and didn’t even realize that was a canal down there!

Autumn Spill along the Aqueduct of the D&R Canal at the Mapleton Bridge Near Princeton, by Carolyn Edelmann

Autumn Spill along the Aqueduct of the D&R Canal at the Mapleton Bridge Near Princeton, by Carolyn Edelmann

North Branch of the Raritan, Ken Lockwood Gorge, by Anne Zeman

North Branch of the Raritan, Ken Lockwood Gorge, by Anne Zeman

I walk the Gorge with many friends — the above is Anne Zeman’s dreamy view of the Raritan in all its pristine beauty.

North Branch of the Raritan, Ken Lockwood Gorge, by Tasha O'Neill

North Branch of the Raritan, Ken Lockwood Gorge, by Tasha O’Neill

We moved into the tall apartment (Colony House, first Buccleuch Park Towers) at Landing Lane Bridge in New Brunswick.  Our apartment wrapped around the corner, so we woke to the Raritan, and supped in its sunset.  The river was frequently mist-covered.  Sunrise would tint dawn’s mist pink, and sunset tended to fill the rivermist with coralline hues.  My daughters, toddlers, would wake from naps, rushing to see “The boys in the boats on the reevah.”

People who’d always lived in New Brunswick would stride into our apartment and say, “Well, Carolyn, it’s beautiful, but it’s not New Brunswick.”  I didn’t know enough then to tell them that the Raritan is far more important than New Brunswick!

Never would I have believed anyone who would insist that I’d be living near that river and its canal for most of the rest of my life.  That the Towpath would inspire, nourish, even heal me through almost overwhelming tragedies.  That a friend would teach me to kayak on the canal above Griggstown. That the Raritan River and its Canal create a feast for all seasons.

peaceful prow D&R canal tasha o neill

Peaceful Prow on D&R Canal near Princeton, by Tasha O’Neill

"In Just Spring" along the D&R Canal Towpath north of Princeton

“In Just Spring” along the D&R Canal Towpath north of Princeton

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Autumn Harvest, D&R Canal Style, near Princeton

Red Mill, Carnegie Lake by Tasha O'Neill

Red Mill, Carnegie Lake by Tasha O’Neill