Christmas Arrives in Unexpected Settings

 Waterville Valley Vistas

When one has a difficult mother,  it can become essential to distance one’s self and  family, particularly at the time of significant holidays.  If one has a courageous husband, he may announce, as the parental car pulled out of our Princeton driveway after a particularly grueling visit, “That’s it.  We are not letting her ruin another Christmas.  We are going skiing at Waterville.”

My husband, Werner Oscar Joseph Edelmann (for full effect say with German accent) was 100% Swiss.  Although he had not grown up skiing, we took it up as a family, the year we moved to Princeton – 1968.  Shore friends, sitting on their dune-cushioned deck, insisted that our families learn together.  It was August and steamy.  Winter?  WHAT Winter.  We said yes.

I secretly hoped some disaster, like a broken leg, or death, would intervene before that crucial February challenge.  None did.  So we all began to learn to ski.  The girls were in kindergarten and first grade.  At Killington, they looked like bunnies in their fuzzy snowsuits and fat mittens, among a gaggle of other little beginners, huddled at the base of ‘the bunny slope.’

They, being half Swiss, did not remain beginners very long.  In the year of our deliverance from my mother, they were teens who preferred ‘bombing the black lines’   – the expert slopes.  Especially “Oblivion” in Waterville Valley, New Hampshire.  The White Mountains were Werner’s choice for our runaway Christmas, because their ski school and an authentic Swiss lodge were run by Paul Pfosi.  All Paul’s instructors were Swiss.  Extremely demanding.  “Ski marks on the inside of your ski boots” to prove you had your legs close enough together.  Off-slope, they all delighted to converse in their native (unwritten) language with this tall, dark-haired, dark-eyed very determined American skier.  Stein Eriksen in those years was our hero, our model.

stein_eriksen

No one would mistake us for Stein, but his example formed Pfosi’s Instructor Corps.

Anita Kathriner and Raphael Wyss make Alpkase, Mutschli and butter by hand in the traditional manner in a giant copper kettle over a wood burning fire at their cheese-making hut above Wengen, Switzerland

Swiss Copper Cheese Kettle in situ

Pfosi’s Lodge held the huge copper kettles we’d first seen in Emmenthaler, in which magnificent Swiss cheeses were precisely concocted.  Only Pfosi’s kettles overflowed with silky evergreen boughs from nearby endless forests.  Swiss Christmas music, such as relatives had carefully sent to Diane and Catherine over the years, pealed from hidden speakers.  Conditions were ideal on the slopes, and for any number of days we almost forgot it was Christmas.  But not quite.

Our family, over the years, had no experience of that Holiday beyond our own formal tree and hand-made-ornament tree, one by the living room fireplace, one by the family room’s slate hearth.  Heaven to us was a fire in each room, the three of us in long plaid skirts and white lace blouses, playing our guitars and caroling for Werner in the family room.  There’d always been the Nutcracker at Lincoln Center, and caroling in the neighborhood near Princeton’s Snowden Lane.  Could Christmas find us in New Hampshire?

There was a tiny church in the village below the lodge.  It felt very odd to go to church in ski clothes and apres-ski boots.  Instead of a jungle of poinsettias in the Princeton church, but two tiny ones ‘decked’ this austere altar.  Instead of instruments sustaining voices back home, a motley choir with cracking voices sang in a small wooden balcony high overhead.  But it was Midnight Mass, and it did hold all the magic we needed.  And the quivering voices underscored a somehow more memaningful reality.

We drove back up the mountain, past the restaurant where we’d had Christmas Eve Supper.  We’d sat next to a live birch tree, somehow able to live and thrive indoors, reaching for the midnight sky.  Between dinner and church, we’d been astounded by stars beyond counting, which seemed nearly blinding.  But between church and the lodge, no stars.  Instead, white swirls, glistening to be sure, of new snowflakes — no more welcome blessing in ski country at Christmas.

Swiss Santa in Boat

Back in our rooms — it must have been near 2 a.m. by now — we found dark Swiss chocolates wrapped in bright gold foil upon our pillows,.  Pfosi’s had signed lacy old-fashioned Christmas cards with gilt arabesques, such as those which arrived every year from Tante Li, Onkel Joni, Cousin Vera and the rest of the family in and near St. Gallen.  I cannot spell their Christmas message, but we all knew how to say it in Swiss — it sounded like FRO-LIKKA-VIE-NOCKTEN.  One said this with certain notes in our voices which the girls had heard since babyhood..

Frohlichi Wiehnacht Swiss Christmas Card

Diane’s and Catherine’s room was right across the narrow hall from ours.  They burst in, laughing all over.  “Come Quick!  Come Quick!  Carolers!”

We “thrust open the windows, threw up the sash” onto a scene I will never forget.  Snow circled, enfolding us as though we had been transported into the Milky Way. itself, Horses snorted and their visible breath mingled with the flakes.  Yes, sleigh bells jingled.  Tucked into hay in an old fashioned sleigh were male and female carolers, dressed as we had been for Mass, in ski parkas and ski mitts and knit hats.  These voices sounded like tiny silver chimes, like bells, rising into the heavens in celebration.

And we’d thought Christmas was only in our family room…

It wasn’t every Christmas morning that opened on a trail named “Oblivion”!

The Mountain, Waterville Valley

May each of you find your special holiday exactly as you need it this year — and may its real message of Peace on Earth, Good Will, suffuse our entire planet.

Here is an ad from the 1970’s, when we were there:

ski watervi w va NEW HAMPSHIRE PFOSI S LODGE Willkommen! Paul Pfosi, Director of the Waterville Valley Ski School, invites you to enjoy the Swiss-American hospitality of Pfosi’s Lodge. Alodge unique in every way combining old world charm with the most modern American accommodations and conveniences; …

The future would bring Christmas in other realms:

Aspen skiing scene,jpg

In Aspen, we could ski through forests.

In Zermatt, the Materhorn always tantalized:

Zermatt Materhorn from Internet

 

But the slopes held the magic:

 

Swiss skier from Internet

BUT NOTHING EVER TOPPED CAROLERS IN THE HORSE-DRAWN SLEIGH OUTSIDE THE OPEN WINDOWS OF PFOSI’S LODGE OF WATERVILLE.

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HISTORY-TREKKING — NEW CASTLE DELAWARE

Founding principles feel present, still, in venerable New Castle, Delaware.  Literally on the banks of the Delaware River, famed as William Penn’s landing place.  But when the Swedes arrived around 1638, this bucolic spot was home to legendary Lenapes.

Flag Draped New Castle dwelling July 2017

Brick sidewalks thread through brick neighborhoods.  Flags are as likely to bear thirteen stars as the sharp angles notorious as the British banner (proudly displayed to left, below.)

A far cry, this joining of emblems, from the high spirits of the Founding Fathers hammering out a country in nearby Philadelphia; debating, and then signing, the Declaration of Independence.

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That Declaration and our Constitution remain living, yes, sacred, documents to me!  Democracy was the fruit of their labors, and where is it now?

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British Heritage New Castle Delaware July

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To my great delight, Revolutionary history is EVERYWHERE.  Here we read of (my hero!) Lafayette’s having given the bride away in this church:

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Lafayette Gives Away the Bride New Castle Delaware

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Buildings echo Philadelphia’s most venerable.  Here, both country’s flags blow in a July wind off the adjacent Delaware River.

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Essence of New Castle July 2017

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Venerable signs have faded on vintage buildings.  It’s eerie to see Coca Cola as a vestige of some storied past.

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Fine Sign New Castle Delaware

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Here and there, one passes “packet alleys” — long slopes, brick-lined, leading to the Delaware.  Here, clipper ships had landed.  Along these time-worn ramps, ‘stores’, –ships’ provisions–, had been tugged into the commercial part of town, by four-legged and two-legged creatures.  At one time, an epidemic closed the major port of Philadelphia.  New Castle had to step into the breach until a change of season brought a change of health.

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Model Ship Jessop's Tavern New Castle Delaware 2017

SHIP’S MODEL IN WINDOW OF HISTORIC JESSOP’S TAVERN

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The Shadows Know New Castle Delaware July

THE SHADOWS KNOW… What stories these rooms could tell…

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O Say Can You See New Castle Delaware July

“O, Say, Can You See?”

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Venerable New Castle Delaware Scenes July

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Wharf New Castle Delaware River Scenes

PORT OF CALL

Delaware Memorial Bridge Delaware River New Castle Delaware

COMMERCIAL DELAWARE, DELAWARE MEMORIAL BRIDGE TO NEW JERSEY

Inn op New Castle Delaware 2017

YOU, TOO, CAN OWN A STORIED INN

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Thomas Jefferson Ale Jessop's Tavern New Castle Delaware 2017

THOMAS JEFFERSON ALE, JESSOP’S TAVERN OF NEW CASTLE —

300-year-old building

From “Delaware, 200 Years Ago”, by Harold B. Hancock, “New Castle remained the county seat, but it lost out in trade and population to Wilmington…  Visitors in the port [of New Castle] considered it a town of lost importance.”  In 1785, New Castle was described as “a little, insignificant town.”  There were predictions that it would “bloom again”  And bloom it does for this traveler, in search of the courage, honor, dignity of Revolutionary Days, in a setting of unparalleled early beauty and taste.

When Lafayette and Jefferson join me on my history treks, I ask no greater boon.

“WALKING ON WATER” – Crossing the Delaware on the Lumberville — Bull’s Island Footbridge

Black Bass Inn from Bullls Island July 2017

STARTING POINT – The Black Bass Inn and The Lumberville General Store, Lumberville Pennsylvania

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View from the Bridge North Bulls Island Lumbervile July 2017

HALFWAY ACROSS ON A HOT JULY DAY, STRONG NORTH WIND A GREAT BLESSING

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Waiting for the Swimmer Bulls Island July 2017

BICYCLE AT THE BOAT LAUNCH, BULL’S ISLAND

 

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The Swimmer Delaware River Bull's Island July 2017

ONE ECSTATIC CYCLIST

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Come On In Bulls Island July 2017CONSIDERING…

 

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The Water's Fine Bulls Island July 2017

BEATS TUBING!

In the Web Delaware BridgeHOMEWARD BOUND…

 

Restored RestaurantRESTORED RESTAURANT & 1745 INN, RESTORED BRIDGE

 

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Restored PA towpath

RESTORED TOWPATH AFTER HURRICANES & FLOODS, PENNSYLVANIA SIDE

Mostly a photo essay on the priceless fruits of preservation and restoration….of restaurants and venerable stores, of towns, of islands, of the historic towpath, of our River of Liberation itself.

Crossing the Delaware in Quest of Antidotes to 21st-Century Reality

general-george-washington--delaware-river-on-the-eve- from Internet

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Your NJWILDBEAUTY blogger spent ‘the shank of the day’ in bucolic, historic Bucks County.  Yes, yet again.  Alongside our timeless river, The River of Independence.  This waterways shad, John McPhee insists, saved Washington’s army at Valley Forge.  We wandered alongside the model of Washington’s Durham Boats for the Crossing, then the strangely romantic group sculpture at Washington’s Crossing State Park.

As we cross her shimmering. expanse, I try to keep her serenity alive in my own being.

Strategic Retreat

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A friend and I breakfasted sumptuously, alongside that river, in a structure a couple of hundred years old: The Lumberville General Store.  It is allied with the Black Bass Inn, which predates the Revolution – 1745 as I recall.  Both in and ‘Store’ are lovingly restored by the legendary Laura Thompson of Thompson Toyota in Doylestown.  She had been my neighbor at Village II in New Hope, where I lived (and fought to save the Delaware River from the Pump) from 1981 into 1987.

After hiking the footbridge over to Bull’s Island, my yesterday-friend and I drove through ageless burgeoning croplands, first in Pennsylvania, then in our New Jersey.   We punctuated our ramblings with a stop at a tiny farmstand off Route 31, stocking up on peaches and tomatoes from our Garden State.

All the while, fleeing this vile century.  All the while, seeking America.  OUR America!

View from Bridge South and Bulls Island July 2017

FOOTBRIDGE OVER DELAWARE FROM LUMBERVILLE TO BULL’S ISLAND

Only to arrive back here with a thud.

First projects upon return, as always, are signing petitions, to counter the Purloiner of the White House.  Save the Arctic.  Stop All Fracking.  Prevent oil drilling off any coasts.  One “SIGN HERE/SUBMIT”  laments and tries to counter the loss of bees.

I don’t know about the rest of NJWILDBEAUTY readers.  I have to confess, my trusty antidotes to harsh realities are seeming too little, too late, and frankly frail!

My Illinois sister sends me this wise quote from Patrick Henry.  Prescient.  A patriot when that word meant heroism, courage and magnificent leadership.

My sister empathizes with my condition these days, having suffered in her own state from narcissistic tyranny in the name of a governor.  As for the national situation, Marilyn echoes my own despair.  The concept of our vaunted liberty, –let alone citizens’ rights–, seems rare and imperiled as the bees.

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Readying Riverton July 2017

Although I posted this the day after the so-called ‘election’ of 2016, I return to Yeats — ever the prophet…

“The Constitution is not an instrument for the government to restrain the people, it is an instrument for the people to restrain the government, lest it come to dominate our lives and interests.”
Patrick Henry
1736-1799

William Butler Yeats (1865-1939)

 

THE SECOND COMING

Turning and turning in the widening gyre
The falcon cannot hear the falconer;
  Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,
The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere
The ceremony of innocence is drowned;
The best lack all conviction, while the worst
Are full of passionate intensity.

Surely some revelation is at hand;
Surely the Second Coming is at hand.
The Second Coming! Hardly are those words out
When a vast image out of Spiritus Mundi
Troubles my sight: a waste of desert sand;
A shape with lion body and the head of a man,
A gaze blank and pitiless as the sun,
Is moving its slow thighs, while all about it
Wind shadows of the indignant desert birds.

The darkness drops again but now I know
That twenty centuries of stony sleep
Were vexed to nightmare by a rocking cradle,
And what rough beast, its hour come round at last,
Slouches towards Bethlehem to be born?

RIVER TOWNS TIME TRAVEL, NJ, JULY

Readying Riverton July 2017

READYING — RIVERTON NEW JERSEY, on the Delaware

Today is le quatorze juillet, –the independence birthday of my beloved France.  I was blessed to live in Cannes on this day, 1987.  In the Bay floated ships of that country and ours.  Each morning, between 4th of July and le quatorze (14) juillet, I wakened to American anthems, then French, floating across the Mediterranean.  Those so-familiar notes drifted in, over my herb-fragrant balcony, then through the (of course) French doors.

For Fourth of July, 2017, no anthems enhanced Fourth of July in this horrifically compromised time.  In fact, I find our situation worse than under George III himself.  Nor do I hear French martial music this morning.

But I think about independence, the enormous sacrifices of all that everyone held dear, required to achieve true freedom in both countries.  I am particularly preoccupied after a recent Morven visit, by the fate of Princeton’s own Richard Stockton.  That stately mansion occupied and partially burned by the British.  He who had been chased, captured, tortured, never to recover from his  personal sacrifices to free this land from tyranny.

The more we prate of ‘liberty’ now, –to the ridiculous extent of naming an airport after this blessing/necessity–, the less we possess.

But, in bucolic riverside Riverton, New Jersey, patriotism is alive and well in nearly every dooryard.

Glory of Riverton July 2017

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I do not possess ‘patriotism’, as it has been vengefully re-defined since 9/11.  But time travel can restore its essence.  I seek opportunities to re-love my country  in towns along the Delaware River.  I am particularly so blessed from Lumberton and on up to Frenchtown (!) down through Roebling, Del Ran, Burlington, Riverside and Riverton on our splendid River Line train.

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Riverton Time July 2017

Return with me, NJWILDBEAUTY readers, to idyllic Riverton in our New Jersey, as that precious town prepared for our independence birthday this year.

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River Line Train Tile of Delaware for Riverton

RIVER LINE TRAIN TILE IMAGE FOR RIVERTON, NJ    (River Life & Shad)

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4th of July Committee Riverton July 2017

 

Water for Dogs Riverton July 2017

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Bell for the children to ring Riverton 2017

BELL (LIBERTY?) FOR THE CHILDREN TO RING

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Glow of Yesterday Riverton July 2017

YESTERYEAR GLOWS

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Belle of Riverton July 2017

VICTORIAN BELLE

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Even Churches Interesting - Riverton 2017

EVEN THE CHURCHES ARE STILL BEAUTIFUL

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Majestic Dormers, Riverton July 2017

MAJESTIC DORMERS

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Your Carriage, Madame... Riverton 2017

“YOUR CARRIAGE, MADAME…”

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RIVERTON WELCOME

Riverton Welcome July 2017

Yesterday Beneath our Feet Riverton 2017

YESTERDAY BENEATH OUR VERY FEET

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Riverton Delaware River Scene at Yacht Club

RIVERTON YACHT CLUB, RIVERSIDE STROLL

 

OLD-FASHIONED ICE CREAM PARLOR, in Burlington NJ, near Delaware River

UMMM Ice Cream Burlington July 2017

NJWILDBEAUTY readers know I recently savored river towns, thanks to our brilliant light rail system from Bordentown (for me) to Camden.  This immaculate, zingy, Swiss-made train is reconnecting and resurrecting towns that died with the age of sail.

Coke of Yesteryear Ice Cream Parlor MMMM Burlington July 2017

Tickets are for a time period, not any particular destination – and mine (because of venerable age!) is 75 cents for two hours.  I guess non-venerables pay $1.50.  Heaven awaits.

CHOICES! Ice Cream Parlor MMMM Burlington

But also, the visceral experience of other eras.  I am convinced that Burlington’s brick sidewalks must have been made with bricks from the Abbott Marshlands, ages ago.  Signs of 1776 and 1656 abound.

Important Men Burlington July 2017

This ice cream parlor is in Burlington, (two blocks east and one south returned us to the train station, to buy and then validate a second set of tickets.)    It feels as though it were founded in the earliest part of the twentieth century, and has barely changed since.  Even I am not that venerable!

Eloquent Bricks Burlington

Back to the Ice Cream Parlor:

Get a Split Ice Cream Parlor Burlington July

 

FLAG Ice Cream Parlor MMMM Burlington July 2017

If Michelin had not invented “worthy of the journey”, I would have to do so for this idyllic sojourn.

On that hot summer’s day, all we needed to cool ourselves in the river towns, was to walk a block or two west to the river, or pop into this ice cream parlor.

O.K., the 21st-century waitress didn’t know how to make an ice cream soda.  But, beautiful and charming, she tore herself away from studying, to follow perfect instructions from my Princeton Photography Club (New York natives) companions.

Hit the rails — Think “River Line”!

 

 

 

 

“Paradise enow…”: Wells Mills Preserve / Pine Barrens

It’s always a treat when someone says, “Carolyn, I have a place I’d like to take YOU to hike!”  Fay Lachmann, –British-born–, has proven her friendship in a myriad of ways.  Many of them had to do with various rescues around the hip operation, and in other challenging times.  My first post-op Thanksgiving meal…  “Carolyn, it’s not about the sheets,” as she helped this unbendable one make the bed Friday after Friady.  Last week, Fay insisted on going right back to Wells Mills together, when she had only just taken her own hiking group there the day before.

Fay’s voice held uncharacteristic wispy notes, as she tried to explain why.  Finally, she simply stated, “Well, it’s about laurel.”

 

Laurel and Old Cedar Wells Mills

 

I could probably end this blog post right here.  The mountain laurel is at peak in the New Jersey Pine Barrens right now.  Even though there isn’t a mountain for miles.

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Fay Lachmann Cedar Woods Wells Mills early June 2017

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“The woods are lovely, dark and deep…”  Some of the other lines from Frost’s masterpiece were also true, as in “.,..miles to go before I sleep…”  Enchanted miles in a woods that comprised almost totally of Atlantic White Cedar.

This wood was everywhere in South Jersey when that land was discovered by whalers settling Cape May in the 1500s.  Other explorers were naming shore areas Egg Harbor, for example, because beaches were covered with shore bird eggs.  In the 1700s, white cedar was used for shingles — as house siding and for roofs; for fence posts; and most urgently for casks carrying the tannic Pine Barrens teak water on whaling voyages.  In cedar, teak water stayed fresh for three years.  White cedar casks also protected wild cranberries for sailors, who otherwise would have perished from scurvy.  Such usefulness doomed cedar back when we were East Jersey and West Jersey, except in Wells Mills.

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Laurel and Cedar and Pine Wells Mills

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Towering cedars raised their lacy greenery, inky against fresh clouds.  Frail laurel blossoms leapt for the sky.  Here and there, a rough-trunked pitch pine announced to the forest primeval just exactly whose forest this is, anyhow.  A pine cone or two on the sugar sand trails foretold the probable future.

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Canoeists on Wells Mills Lake

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Silent canoeists hugged the far shore, of a tranquil lake that resembled finely pleated silver lame.  Anything or anyone could’ve emerged out of it, — a mermaid or The Lady of the Lake of Arthurian days.

A single dazzling swan sailed just out of reach of the paddlers.  A family of geese included a huge pale barnyard goose in the middle of five young — a switch on the Ugly Duckling Story.

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Rarities at Wells Mills early June

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Exceedingly rare plants burgeoned at points where peatwater streamlets entered the glistening lake.  If I am understanding my Audubon Field Guide to North American Wildflowers correctly, this is (misleadingly named) Common pipewort.  “Bog or aquatic herbs with crowded head of tiny flowers and long, leafless stalk.”

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Rarity Wells Mills

And this is purportedly Northern Pitcher Plant:  “a carnivorous plant with a large, purplish-red flower.”  Audubon does speak of “an umbrella-like structure.”

Laurel at Peak Wells Mills June 2017

But mountain laurel carried the day — laurel and friendship.