HIKING NJ THE HEAT-WEEKS: An Essay on Shade

Marilyn as Lookout Sourlands 08 08

My sister, Marilyn Weitzel, Janet Black and Betty Lies Bird the Sourland Mountain Preserve Trail off Greenwood Avenue in Hopewell

While every newspaper and television and Internet Weather Source has been warning absolutely everyone to stay inside, “Stay Safe”, [which smarmy phrase makes my flesh crawl], I’ve discovered something experientially that I’ve probably always known:  It’s a whole lot hotter in any parking lot, getting into or out of a vehicle, than it is in any of our nearby New Jersey forests!  I’ve decided, it’s dangerous to stay at home.  For, there, life can turn into a spectator sport.

Abide With Me   Pole Farm

Pole Farm: “Abide With Me”: Shade in the Height of Summer

A Sunday ago, I hiked the Pole Farm at 8 a.m., actually about an hour too late to start, during these so-called Heat Emergencies.  Much beauty, great tranquillity, shade 9/10 of the way.  For a couple of hours, I was given gifts beyond measure.  There’s nothing on a screen, or in a newspaper or magazine to equal the elusive scent of fox, still apparent from morning trail-marking.  The cascade of field sparrows, the mew of catbird.  The pleasure of picking two wildflowers for Elaine Katz’s stone and bench – the woman who almost single-handedly insisted that this Lawrenceville (now-) Preserve was not to be a golf course or a series of intrusively spotlighted playing fields.

Sourlands Rocks 08 08

Sourland Rocks Exhale Lenape Presence

A day or two later, and again a week later, starting at 5:15, I entered the Sourland Mountain Preserve off Greenwood Avenue in Hopewell.  Not a man-made sound, not even a plane, did I hear in those couple of deeply shaded hours.  Not a man-made anything did I see, except some essential drainage pipes and the entry road, then densely wooded trails I explored.  One distant frog’s thrumming was heartening.  Dragonflies popped about whatever flowers could bloom in sunlit groves.  For a long time, I sat on basalt boulders leftover from creation, surrounded by mixed forest and essence of Lenapes of long ago.  There’d been rain by the second excursion, so various streamlets were caroling as I crossed them.

Bowman's Spring 2014 014

Intensities of Shade at Bowman’s Hill Wildflower Preserve

The next night, when her work and mine were over for the day, Intrepid Jeanette Hooban picked me up in Lawrenceville, to glide over hill and down dale to the Delaware River, –silver in late light, purling below the Lambertville / New Hope Bridge.  Moments later, we were deep in Bowman’s Hill Wildflower Preserve.  We decided to take four favorite trails:  Violet Trail off the access road; the old pond trail onto Fern Trail, alongside a flower-erupting former pond; and the ever-enticing Medicinal Trail, crossing the tough new bridges constructed or reconstructed after Hurricane Sandy.  Each of us has many demands made upon us in the so-called real world.  Each was a little jagged as we started out.  But, again, silence, flowers, dragonflies, hidden birds, and the murmur of Pidcock Creek gave us timeless gifts of memory.  Jeanette discovered a flaming spurt of cardinal flower, favorite of ruby-throated hummingbirds.  I could show her where to elusive snow trillium can emerge, yes, in snow, in March; where, in May, opulent yellow ladyslippers peek through heavy leaf cover to the left of the Fern Trail.  We examined the rocky edge of that Creek, for I’d found the Louisiana Waterthrush, first by song, then by habitat and behavior, a month ago with another friend.  There in the cucumber magnolia, I’d seen my first ever phoebe sing out his name over and over, while waters burbled busily below early one spring.  In heat-strafed July, shade was our gift at Bowman’s, enhanced by occasional water-cooled air.

Marsh First Willows 2013

Abbott Marshlands: Spring Lake: First Willow Buds

A few days later, key birding buddy, Anne Zeman, picked me up at 7:30 a.m., so we could go to the Abbott Marshlands (in Trenton!), in quest of images for her entries for an upcoming fine-art juried exhibition: Voices for the Marsh.  New to us was the fact that Hurricane Sandy had taken down a quantity of the Marsh’s most majestic trees.  Youngsters that survived have burgeoned in the meantime, creating dense shade everywhere — 90-some percent of our walk was tree-cool, and much alongside water.  New patterns of light and shade have amplified the richesse of its fern groves, until we ran out of species names.  Not only tiny blue dragonflies, –half the size of needles–, but equally minuscule lipstick-red ones, zinged about on all sides.  Pickerel weed’s remarkable purple (hyacinth-like, but slimmer) stems rose here and there in Spring Lake and other wet areas.

fox face close-up Brenda Jones

Fox Face, Close-Up, by Fine Art Photographer Brenda Jones

Again, we remembered where  Clyde Quin and Warren Liebensperger had shown us the five-entried fox den.  On both sides of the trail, majestic yews revealed a former dwelling in that wilderness.  Not far from there, Clyde and Warren knew to look for owls in daytime.  There’s not so much silence in the Marsh, because horrific highways are all too near, spinning out a ceaseless drone of ‘the real world’.  But after awhile, one absorbed that sound, until lapping water or locusts warming up or the sacred luffing of swans wings topped every other impression.

Marsh Sandy Damage 2013

Marsh: Hurricane Sandy Damage to Iconic Beech, Spring Scene

Each walk, alone and with others, proved that Heat Emergency consciousness can be overdone.  People can turn into couch potatoes out of fear.

beaver close-up Brenda Jones

Beaver Close-Up by Fine Art Photographer, Brenda Jones

Beauteous preserves, rich in wildlife, await on all sides of Princeton.  There’s the thickly treed Community Park North off 206.  There’s Herrontown Woods, off Snowden Lane, and the nearby Autumn Hill.  Plainsboro Preserve beckons on the other side of Route 1, with its monoculture forest of beeches — guaranteed 12 to 15 degrees cooler in summer, warmer in winter.

Beckoning Path Pl Prsrv

Beckoning Path, Plainsboro Preserve

Turn off the screens.  Grab a hat and water and natural insect repellant (a wonderful rosemary-based one is available at the Hopewell Pharmacy) and get out there.  Don’t be someone Richard Louv will have to describe as The Last (Child) in the Woods.

Beechwood Forest Stream Pl Prsrv

Microclimate Beechwood Forest, Plainsboro Preserve

 

 

 

 

 

“SOURLANDING” — New Poem

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Sourland Mountain Preserve, “Mr. Smiley Face” major rock at entry

Lately, the Muse has become relentless, interrupting key reading to dictate her latest devisings.  Tonight, she’s kept me at reformatting and meticulously improving page after page in her new poetry notebook.  Maybe she’ll ‘get off my back’ for awhile, if I turn one of her latest into a blog for you.  Might even go so far as to illustrate it a bit.

Ladder and Birdhouse

I always considered this Hauptmann’s Ladder — this site so near the hasty grave of the Lindbergh baby...

I’ve been out on this trail (in Hopewell, off Greenwood Avenue, which is off Route 518 mid-town at the light at the vintage pharmacy.)  Its magic only increases with each visit.

Sourlands Rocks 08 08

Rocks Exhale Lenape Presence

An assignment for US 1 (Business!) Newspaper, at their request, features the Sourlands Mountain Preserve as one of four shady hike sites.  As I say in the story, along those trails, there is no Philadelphia or Manhattan; no Princeton; not even Hopewell.  Matters political are so remote as to be impossible, although their results can extensively and even destructively affect sacred sites such as these.

Without determined preservationists, we would not have had these hikes.  Nor would you, and others, (including my daughter’s literature class) have this poem.   Enjoy, and walk this shaded trail, as summer burgeons.

Marilyn as Lookout Sourlands 08 08

My sister, Marilyn Weitzel, Janet Black and Betty Lies Bird the Sourland Mountain Preserve Trail (see what I mean about SHADE!)

 

SOURLANDING

 

 a short walk in the dense woods

where temperature and season

remain irrelevant

silence itself audible

 

now and then broken

by ovenbirds’ shrill cries

 

in the right light

blessed by

orotund tones of wood thrush

 

domain of terrestrial turtles

and the occasional owl

 

dark ponds all a-shimmer

with polliwogs

 

towering rocks

still breathe Indian presence

 

at trail-top, we might ride

the grown-ups’ teeter-totter

hand-hewn from a wind-felled tree

 

“If you would attempt exercise

go in search of

the springs of life,” asserts

Henry David Thoreau

 

“The world today

is sick to its thin blood

for lack of elemental things,”

Henry Beston mourns

 

 

CAROLYN FOOTE EDELMANN

Summer Solstice 2016

 

 

 

 

 

 

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