“CLEARING” – Poem, Day After Storm

Short-eared owl at Pole Farm by Brenda Jones

Short-eared Owl wingdrop

 

CLEARING

it is evening after storm

–the one entitled “Nor’easter Four”–

I drive with excessive caution

between fields devoted to farms

passing, first, the owl-wood

then harriers’ hunting grounds

 

on my left, hefty cows graze

as though any winter’s day

dark shapes contrasting with silos

gleaming with increasing sunset

 

the ruddy barn to my right

could be bonfire itself

constructed and ignited

by Thor and his henchmen

countering skies the hue

of antique pewter

 

perhaps tonight

short-eared owls will prowl

again, just as returned sun

sinks

 

“Nor’easter Four” having been agent

controlling travel

for short-ears and snowies

destined for the Arctic

 

CAROLYN FOOTE EDELMANN

 

sunset harrier Pole Farm Brenda Jones

Sunset Harrier, Pole Farm, by Brenda Jones

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O! TO BE IN PROVENCE, NOW THAT MARCH IS HERE!

NJWILDBEAUTY readers know that, although this blog is devoted to beautiful, and all-too-fragile New Jersey, I am always longing for Provence.

Mediterranean with Crimson Esterel Massif at its Edge by Popoff

Mediterranean Sea from Esterel Massif, en route to and from St. Tropez

I lived in Cannes from October of 1987 into August of 1988 – in other words, I saw the seasons ’round.

pine tree by Meditgerranean from Internet

Normal Provencal Drive for me, even in winter

In February and March, along the Riviera, trees bloom.  Driving in closed cars up to the sacred hill towns, the perched villages, the fragrance of blossoms fills the vehicle.  Almond blossoms like snow against gnarled hillsides.  Menton’s lemons, grapefruit, mandarines, clementines, and yes, oranges filling the air, until breathing was like drinking Cointreau.  Mingled with the sweetness of flowering fruit trees was always the pungency of wild herbs in the garrigues: thyme, marjoram, rosemary in tall shrubs, oregano, savory and pebre d’ail, a truly spicy wild flavoring.  Animals who fed in the herblands absorbed those savors into their meat, their milk, therefore infusing Provencal cheeses.

Menton's Citron Festival in February

Menton’s Citron Festival around George Washington’s Birthday

The sense of smell was literally intoxicating during my stay there.  One bitter January day in Biot, I was walking its narrow streets, marveling at flowers in small terra cotta pots even on back stoops of houses, blooming in what we know as winter.  Then, I smelled peaches.  I decided I’d just been in this land of enchantment so long that I’d ‘gone round the bend.’  Instead, I strode ’round the corner to find a small fresh food marche, with some of its produce out on the sidewalk in January sun.  Peaches filled the air, as though someone were baking a peach pie.

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Peaches in an outdoor market in Provence

The sense of hearing was newly called into play, not always pleasantly.  The mistral reared its inescapable head day after day in winter, roaring down the Rhone toward that usually placid Mediterranean Sea.  Some say, and I’d believe it, that Van Gogh cut off his ear because driven to this by the mistral.  It can roar for days, causing pipes in your home and shutters on your windows to whine and twang.  We don’t know anything like this wind.  It’s as though Provence wind came through huge faucets, all turned on at full blast at the same time and the same impossible speed, by day and by night, interminably.

Le Parfum des Garrigues

We don’t know wind like this, not even in hurricanes, which I’ve now lived through.  Our winds rise and fall in intensity and sound.  One of the greatest horrors of Sandy for me was the relentlessness of that howl.  The mistral’s is more infuriating, more intense, –a more ceaseless and inescapable blast.

Cheese of Goats, perfumed by wild herbes des garrigues

Cheese of Goats who Roam the Garrigues/wild herb fields of Provence

One time, my daughters had a good laugh on their romantic mother.  Somewhere in the South of France, high above the sea, I enthused, “Isn’t Provence wonderful?  The air smells like champagne!”  We were at a picnic ground high above the sea.  The mistral was so strong, it had blown over a family’s champagne, literally spilling it all over those ancient rocks.

perched village of Provence

Typical perched village – driving through fragrant collines to reach these treasures

It probably doesn’t make sense even to miss the annoying mistral, but I do.  Afterwards, the Provencaux would say of that wind, “Il balayer le ciel.”  (It sweeps the sky.)  No bluer blue ever existed than post-mistral skies, unless you count the Mediterranean, reflecting that ethereal hue.

typica drive near St. Tropez

Everything’s electrifying in Provence.  Breathing itself is intoxicating.  Around any corner, anything can happen.  In St. Tropez’ s Musee de l’Annonciade, one looks at Fauve masterpieces on the wall, then through the windows at the very scenes those vivid colorists painted so masterfully.

Baie de St. Tropez from Musee Annonciade at Sunset

Fishing Boats of St. Tropez, from window of Musee de l’Annonciade

Typica View from Window of Annociade Musee on Baie de St. Tropez

Baie de St.  Tropez from windows of Musee de l’Annonciade

But the queen of all Provencal sense experiences is the amazing mimosa/  Delicate as these blossoms are, they come from a tree.  One filled my second-floor bedroom window in Cannes.  Tiny puff balls moved in the slightest breeze, wafting a scent of lemon and nutmeg in through those bottle-green wooden shutters.  Nothing surpasses waking and sleeping to the delicate mimosa fragrance.  Another miracle was peering through mimosa branches to discover Napoleon’s Corsica so very far away, but only in early winter months.

Magnificent Mimosa in ad for l'Occitane, Provencal's quintessential fabrics

Magnificent Mimosa Tree in Ad by l’Occitane, house of superb Provencal fabrics

Even with my love of New Jersey’s soul-filling beauty, I miss the many electrifications of Provence, especially as March — the month of flower fragrances in that land – begins, with a nor’easter, no less.  No flower fragrances for us, let alone peaches around the corner.

flowering almond treeFlowering Almond Tree – subject of Pierre Bonnard’s last painting – he lived at Le Cannet, one hill over from ‘mine’, L’Observatoire of Cannes

flowering orange treeIn

In Menton, flowers and Fruit at Same Time, on February Trees

“BEING THERE”

Tonight, as I often do, I will borrow my friend Brenda Jones’ magnificent images of the short-eared owls of Lawrenceville’s broad preserve, the Pole Farm, to give you some sense of my Tuesday evening experience.  Thank you, masterful Brenda!

Short-eared Owl white coloration

Too often, these days, I need to remind people, “All that it takes, for evil to happen, is for good people to do nothing.”

I’ll paraphrase that reality to urge NJWILDBEAUTY READERS: “All that it takes, for miracles to happen, is for good people to be OUT THERE.”  

So many hectic nights.  So much ghastly weather.  Yet, Tuesday I dashed in the door at 5:30.  I threw my work clothes onto the floor and left them there; jumped into outdoor gear and went straight over to the Pole Farm.

There was sun and no rain and I hadn’t seen the short-eared owls since the day before my February meniscus tear last year.

Would they still be there, with all this inappropriate heat?  Would they be in the field I might reach in those few moments before sundown?  Would I recognize them?  Was I too tired from work to dash along the wooded path?  Would anyone else be on the observation platform to point out owls and harriers with hushed excitement, as last year?

Short-eared Owl wing swoop-look

Still on the woods-and-understory-framed trail by the red barn, I watched one slow thin shadow, the color of antique pewter, coast knowingly, determinedly along the reaped beige field to my right.  One warbler hopped about in a shrub, but light was no use in identification.  The shrubs that sheltered the small bird kept me from really seeing the raptor.

I made it to “Elaine’s Bench”, out-of-breath from almost running, weighty binoculars having beat a tattoo along my back.

There wasn’t another birder anywhere in sight.

But, across the reaped field, at the far tree line, that frieze that looks as though Lucy McVicker had drawn it with archival ink, two grey shadows emerged in tandem.  Low to the ground, completely at peace, circling, circling.  A pas de deux with wings instead of feet.  Raptors, but not hunting.

Short-eared Owl wingdrop

There was still enough light that I could immerse myself in the delight of their grey/white lustre.  The short-eared owls’ heads were the size of small grapefruits or large oranges.  I felt, more than saw, their intensely focused eyes.

The leisured circling continued, as though they were from a faerie realm, able to dissolve every tension of my workday, my deep concern over the world situation.

Short-eared owl profile Pole Farm Brenda Jones

A third ghostly floater emerged, low and flat and sure, from the far forest.  The circling two danced their way across the field and out of sight.

I’ve been told that they are not actually hunting in these pre-sunset moments.  That short-eared owls’ heads function as ears.  As they coast and turn those white disks, they are hearing mice and voles that will become their feast when dark arrives.

sunset bluebird Pole Farm Brenda Jones

No, I didn’t see bluebirds.  But Brenda did, at the Pole Farm.  They’ll be along any time now, as there are bluebird boxes hither and yon, on either side of the trail.

My flashlight proved nearly worthless, the sun had dropped so fast.  I did not remember not to step on the horse manure, now on the right side for my return.  I worried that my car would be locked in by an intense and righteous ranger.

Dashing back through the wooded end of the trail, I was suddenly deafened all over again by spring’s first peepers.   The short-ears had made me forget all about that raucous miracle at entry.

Miracles.  Always out there in Nature for us.  But we do have to place ourselves where miracles can happen.

And I don’t have to remind NJWILDBEAUTY readers, that the Pole Farm is a preserve.  That courageous people fought long and hard to save most of that land, to give it over to the wild creatures whose whom it rightfully is.  To be EVER VIGILANT in terms of advocating and paying preservation, stewardship.  To prevent PIPELINES!

Nature is essential.  We are part of nature.  In this Anthropocene Era, we ARE “The Sixth Extinction.”  We turned that around re peregrines, osprey, eagles and condors.

All that it takes, for evil to happen, is for good people to do nothing!”  NEVER FORGET!

Assateague / Chincoteague — “Paradise Enow…”

“October’s bright blue weather” suffused Jeanette Hooban’s, Janet Black’s and my recent Chincoteague (Virginia) sojourn, start-to-finish.

Bare Fppt[romts om samds pf Assateague

Our first evening stroll on unpopulated Assateague, barrier island protecting Chincoteague from the mighty ocean, brought sunset-tinged seafoam and a beach upon which every footprint was a bare one!

In case you think, “Well, what else is new,” be aware of the season of our visit:

Bookstore Halloween ChincoteagueBookstore Book Pumpkin ChincoteagueA REAL bookstore, set for All Hallow’s Eve

Of course, most people go to Chincoteague for the ponies.  We dutifully admired them, from the water on a sunset small shallow boat tour, and from the land on a morning bus tour.

Ponies of Paradise at Sundown Assateague. jpg

Ponies at Sundown with SUPERB Cap’n. Dan — his tour worth our entire trip!

 

A Pony's Life - Forever Feeding AssateaguePony-life: Forever Feeding:  Ponies by land, Aassateague Nature Center Bus Tour

At nearly October-end, we were in the ocean, happily, eagerly, lengthily — especially Jeanette, who swam, swam, swam as wavelets turned pink around her. It was a mite cooler on the finer day, so beachcombing took over:

 

Jeanette Beachcombing Assateague

 

Janet Contentment AssateagueContentment Personified: Janet Black at Beach

We’re all avid readers.  We’d rented (and I’d actually bargained for them!) these sturdy chairs so we could read by the sea.  But we could barely lower our eyes to any page, given the sun’s many-colored-dreamcoat and those effects altering each wave.

Jeanette First Sunset Assateague Chincoteague Causeway

Jeanette and Irresistible Sunset(s) – on Bridge from Assateague back to Chincoteague

 

Edenic Morning Assateague

We, of course, were there for the birds — Egrets of Eden

Mornings were amazing — a series of early views:

Morning in Chincoteague Phragmites

First View of Each Day from my room at Assateague Inn, on Chincoteague

 

Dawn Picnic Site Assateague Inn and creek Chincoteague

Dawn Picnic Site, Creek and Marsh, Assateague Inn

Essence of Chincoteague at dawn

Essence of These Islands – Crab Shell of Dawn

 

Salicornia Ripening Chincoteague

Essence of Autumn in the Salt Marsh – Salicornia Ripening

 

Dawn at Assateague LIght October

Assateague Light House Outbuilding at Dawn

 

Leaf Calligraphy near Assateague LIghtAutumn’s Calligraphy at Assateague Light

 

October Blue Sky A Assateague LIghtOctober’s Bright Blue Weather Sets Off Assateague Light

 

Dawn LIght in Loblolly Pines AssateagueDawn Light in a Loblolly Forest

 

Not in Kansas..Assateague LIghthouse Keeper Home“Not in Kansas Any More…” Lighthouse–Keeper Dwelling

 

Assateague Memorial to Watermen

Barrier Island Realities

 

Sunset Feeders Assateague

Sunset Feeders, Assateague

 

Sunset Water Tour Assateague Chincoteague1

Cap’n. Dan’s Magical Mystery Tour at Sundown — Worth the Entire Trip

Best tour – Cap’n. Dan’s Sunset Cruise from Chincoteague Harbor

Best food – Bill’s Prime — three meals a day — one time we ate breakfast then dinner there — traditional and rare seafood, and remarkably personable service

Charm of Assateague Inn — quiet, on creek, with picnic table, silence, early light, little boardwalk, near Assateague Island, on quiet side of Chincoteague

Most famous food: Chincoteague oysters

Most people’s reason for being here: wild ponies, and Marguerite Henry’s “Misty of Chincoteague” and sequels

Favorite tour experience — Chincoteague Museum – this will appear in an entire blog to itself

Rarest animal: plump and saucy Delmarva Squirrel – one welcomed us in Assateague Light forest — but we are bedeviled enough by Princeton and Lawrenceville squirrels not to have appreciated its rarity until after the Nature Center bus tour.

 

O! To be in Cape May, Now That the Wind is Right!

…Note basically birdless skies, waters and sands, yet fellowship rendered it all sublime!

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Checking for Brant Return: Cape May Back Bay Birding on “The Skimmer”

NJWILDBEAUTY readers know that the Intrepids spent a week in Cape May, in quest of their avian counterparts.  However, for birds especially (and, therefore, for us) the wind was the ‘wrongest’ it could possibly be.  Surging UP from the SOUTHEAST, it stalled most winged creatures wherever they were, unable to proceed on their critical autumnal southeast migration in the face of fierce headwinds.  At one point, the flags were flying UP!

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Great Egrets Staging, Feeding for Migration, Back Bay Cape May, from “The Skimmer”

Now, reading birding hotlines from Sandy Hook,  Cape May and Hawk Mountain, it’s clear that the wind is in the right quarter, and raptors are surging south as they’re supposed to.  However, the two-legged Intrepids are back at their desks.

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Star Bird: Whimbrel! — a Month Late — Cape May Back Bay from “The Skimmer”

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Empty Platform, Empty Skies at Cape May Point

This is a kaleidoscope of Cape May images from our “wind-grieved” sojourn, so that others may proceed on migrations, in following winds, to experience nature’s miracles.

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Cape May Hawk Watch Platform Tally of Migrant Birds

Realize that neither the Intrepids NOR the birds would frequent these (here empty) sites, had they not been preserved by far-sighted, persistent, even heroic people.  Be among that fellowship, EVERYONE!  Support your favorite land trusts, –locally and nationally–, so that wild lands may increasingly attract wild creatures.  Vote accordingly.

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Birding Trail, Cape May Point, leading to lake full of Mute Swans

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Autumn Remnants, Cape May Point

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Where Nature Rules, Cape May Point

 

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First Light Cape May Town Beach

“Day is done…   Gone the sun…  From the lakes…  From the hills…  From the sky…

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Last Light, Town Beach, Cape May, Same Day

CAPE MAY BIRDING: SKIMMER VISITATION

NJWILDBEAUTY readers know that three Intrepids — Carolyn Yoder, Jeanette Hooban and I–, luxuriated in the haven of Cape May a week or two ago, sheltered in a restored Victorian home,  a half-block from the sea.  From its rocking-chair-rich porch, we could see dunes, bayberry, maybe even the seaside goldenrod, and the miraculous blue-grey eternality of the sea.  At sun-up and sun-down, roseate skies over dunes and waves revealed winged waves of rare and graceful skimmers.

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Nightly Gift: Cape May’s Skimmer Flock

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Why We Bird — Skimmer-Transfixed

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Heedless Hiker and Rare Flock

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“Home from the Sea” – Nightly Skimmer Reunions

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Jeanette in Heaven

cruel-tourist-cape-may-beach

Cruel Tourist

Two men who may well have flown in from Australia for the Cape May Birding Weekend, rushed to me after a third harsh and heedless one insisted upon flushing that priceless flock.

“She walked right toward them!  She just walked right INTO them!,” one exclaimed, quivering with shock or fury or both.  In a quieter manner, the other man shook his head, almost mourning, “And to think we traveled 5000 miles to see them.”  “We don’t have them at home,” added the other.

What they did not know is that I’d accosted the first skimmer-disturber.  Another woman — slender and fit, who zoomed right INTO that sacred group.

“Don’t do this!,” I whisper-admonished.  “These birds have been feeding all day to get ready to sleep here for the night.  When you flush them, they use up calories!  Now they’ll have to go out and feed anew, and the sun is going down.  Feeding uses calories!” 

She kept right on zooming, holding her camera/phone practically in the faces of the flock’s sentinels.

“Please?!,” I urged.  She flounced up, waved her phone in MY face, giving me a grin that would require an obscenity to describe.

I apologized to the far-flung traveling birders.  “I am so sorry Americans are so cruel.”

Exasperated, I shouted a sarcasm after the relentless disturber:

“YOU are more important than birds!”

scattered-cape-may-beach

SCATTERED! Cape May Skimmer Flock Evicted by Heedless Walkers

“I MUST GO DOWN TO THE SEA AGAIN…” — CHATHAM, MASS. SURPASSES EXPECTATIONS

Tall Ship, (sort-of), Mac Millan Wharf, Provincetown

Tall Ship, (sort-of), Mac Millan Wharf, Provincetown

This line from John Masefield has always been resonant to me, since long before this Michigander ever encountered an ocean.  It continues, “…the lonely sea, and the sky…   and all I ask is a tall ship…  and a star to steer her by”

Walking the Plank, Brewster Marsh, Wing Trail at Low Tide

Walking the Plank, Brewster Marsh, Wing Trail at Low Tide

I’m just back from a place of seas, bays, sounds, creeks where ‘herrings’ (alewives) ‘run’ (swim in forceful schools) in the spring, limitless marshlands crossed on planks.  Yes, I even encountered a tall ship or two, matters piratical, and wild Provincetown and other Cape interpretations of Hallowe’en, as you know from the previous post.

"Down to the Sea", Harbormaster's Life Preserver and Antique Salvaged Anchor, Provincetown Wharf

“Down to the Sea”, Harbormaster’s Life Preserver and Antique Salvaged Anchor, Provincetown Wharf

Those among my NJWILDBEAUTY readers who know me personally, know that my major haven, when I had a family, was Chatham, Massachusetts.  West Chatham, Harding’s Beach, to be exact.  A tiny grey-shingled single-floored house on Nantucket Sound, from which I could walk the beach from morning til night, down to Stage Harbor Light.  Sometimes, we’d even do it by moonlight.  Once, the girls and I even swam it, just to see if we could.  We could.

From Harding's Beach to Stage Harbor Light, Chatham, Mass.

From Harding’s Beach to Stage Harbor Light, Chatham, Mass.

Some of you also know that I lost both my beloved, beautiful, and yes, brilliant (they always want the best and the brightest) daughters to an aggressive cult during the 1980’s.  Brainwashing appears to be permanent.

Cults are worse than any Hallowe’en drama — turning all treats for the remainder of life to tricks and/or tragedy.

But beautiful places, strong fellowship, and determined creating of new memories can serve as antidote.

'Our' Home for Seven Weeks Each Late Summer in the 1970's and 80's, but tripled in size now...

‘Our’ Home for Seven Weeks Each Late Summer in the 1970’s and 80’s, but tripled in size now…

I know because I braved Chatham return with two of The Intrepids last week.

'Our' Road, Heading toward South Chatham and Harwich, unchanged...

‘Our’ Road, Heading toward South Chatham and Harwich, unchanged…

That idyllic place was everything I needed, and THEN some.

First View, Evening Arrival, Taylor Pond,Cottage, South Chatham

First View, Evening Arrival, Taylor Pond Cottage, South Chatham

First Sunset, Taylor Pond Cottage, South Chatham

First Sunset, Taylor Pond Cottage, South Chatham

You’ll be traveling Chatham and Brewster and Provincetown shores and streets with me in the weeks of this difficult month of the girls’ birthdays.

Fellowship is EVERYTHING!

Carolyn Yoder beachcombing at Hardint's Beach at High Tide

Carolyn Yoder beachcombing at Hardint’s Beach at High Tide

Jeanette Hooban following brant flock at Brewster Beach of Paine's Lane, at High Tide

Jeanette Hooban following brant flock at Brewster Beach of Paine’s Lane, at High Tide

It’s funny — seems like it was always high tide when we arrived at destinations.  True friends can re-think, rearrange, re-plan, and relish every nuance, no matter where, because we’re together.

Ur-Lobster Roll, Quintessential Cole Slaw, The Lobster Pot, Provincetown

Ur-Lobster Roll, Quintessential Cole Slaw, The Lobster Pot, Provincetown

Lobster Pot Restaurant Provincetown Lunch at Lobster Pot

Haven at Land’s End

Lobster, Avocado and Mango with Sauteed Baguette, The Lobster Pot, Provincetown

Lobster, Avocado and Mango with Sauteed Baguette, The Lobster Pot, Provincetown

You could call our meals “Early Thanksgivings” — especially the Wellfleet Oysters!

Rainy-Day Haven, Chatham

Rainy-Day Haven, Chatham

Impudent Oyster Dining Room Early for Lunch

Early for Lunch

Memorable Oysters, Impudent Oyster, Chatham Bars Ave., Chatham

Memorable Oysters, Impudent Oyster, Chatham Bars Ave., Chatham

The above was a meal as predicted drizzle began to sift from oyster skies, after a morning of seeing seals beyond counting upon ‘Chatham bars’, — a major sandbar below the main Chatham lighthouse.

Chatham Light, Storm Appropriately Brewing

Chatham Light, Storm Appropriately Brewing

I hope some of the scintillation of my Cape Cod return flashes all around you as you view upcoming mages and read scant words.

Last Fire, Taylor Pond Cottage, South Chatham

Last Fire, Taylor Pond Cottage, South Chatham

I hope that having gone “down to the sea again” with us reminds NJWILDBEAUTY readers of their own major reasons to be thankful that such luminous places persist in our 21st Century.

There may be no more important concept in our time than PRESERVATION.