Last Sunday morning, I had to 'run away from home.'
I'd just had enough of drought, of sere and sear, desperately seeking my river.
My back roads (into Hopewell, up Greenwood Avenue, left at red barn, across 31 and on into Ringoes and Sergeantsville,) guarantee rural beauty which my Patch readers know I require. Soon that stately river would welcome me, the only queen I need.
There's an intoxicating freedom about leaving really early, before many are even plugging in the morning coffee. It's glorious being the only car on the road, alone with the siloes and the crops.
Corn beyond Ringoes is shoulder high, tasseling out already. Their muted hue is as pale as Provence's creamy lavender honey. It is so early for tassels.
Rolling hills reward this circuitious route. Today's are shrouded in blue mists, July's signature and that of the still invisible river. She --a liquid John Hancock -- scrawls her identity against sky instead of the parchment of the Declaration.
Picture-book farms emerge to the right and left. Siloes gleam as silver as remembered rain. Some are the blue enamel of cloisonne. All, to me, are America's cathedrals.
Reaped grain is freshly rolled on either side, enormous bales seeming lit from within. I am privileged to see winter's fodder so newly harvested that its nutrients seem visible.
Bright "Preserved Farmland" signs hearten me, in my forever quest for preservation of earth in general and New Jersey in particular.
Rough, evocative houses made of faceted stone edge the road on both sides. Nearness to the road reminds one of the era when these dirt stretches were sized for horses and the occasional wagon or stage. Along these routes, Revolutionary heroes pounded by night, hooves muffled in quilts called 'featherbeds,' lest they be heard in their freedom-quests. I drive up and over Featherbed Lane, rejoicing at the reason for its name, considering the nation that would never have been born without these trajectories.
Hills become norm. Mists darken. I open all car windows inside Sergeantsville's covered bridge, to hear the rumble and thunk of its planks, the faint whisper of preserved Wichecheoke Creek below.
I make sudden intuitive turns beyond Ringoes, blessed by bridges of centuries ago and woods of who-knows-when. Then I am beside the winking Delaware and turning left into the Bull's Island Parking lot.
My feet 'fly' out onto the footbridge. So far as my eye can see, except for the historic Black Bass Inn just into Pennsylvania, there is nothing manmade.
I am out in the middle of the silvery web that permits humans to walk on water. The river is deceptively tranquil; in fact, too shallow. White rocks like the rip-rap on our canal are revealed along banks of that other state and some islands. However, gazing far among the voluptuous hills in either direction, it looks no different from the days of Lenni Lenapes. I picture and thrill to the vision of long canoes, silently paddled by those to whom the river was the way of life.
A brisk breeze courses over, around and through me. I let it cleanse jagged vibes that required this trip, remnants of too much time in buildings, in towns, even in suburbs, and especially on crowded highways.
My time out here in the middle of the bridge feels like baptism-by-air.
There is no sound save tentative locusts. Awfully early for them, and not really hot enough yet.
What I cannot hear is the song of the Delaware, because she is too empty. Humans have yet agin, even increasingly, tampered with the atmosphere to such a degree that drought is newly and more intensively our fate.
Even so, looking up and downriver, all is green, green, green! The Delaware's banks are verdant cushions, from grey newly exposed rocks to grey sky.
Spiders, as usual, have been at work among the intertwined cables of the footbridge, the intricacy of their webs revealing who are the real engineers around here.
After walking to Pennsylvania and back, across the Delaware, a couple of times, I enter Bull's Islands woods. They are, indeed, "lovely, dark and deep." I try to forget the dire plan to fell hundreds of Bull's Island trees because their root systems have been weakened by repeated floods that WE cause...
It's so intense in here, I can only see a few feet along the soft path. Slightly tremulous vines cry out for Tarzan. Ferns, however, bountiful and vibrant a few weeks ago, now tend toward horizontal and parched. There is no bright gold-orange jewelweed, offering itself for aesthetic reasons and as cure for poison ivey. No toad claims the path today, staring me down tiny as he was, as on my last excursion here.
There is the softest hint of "teacher, teacher, teacher", which would be the shy ovenbird, if I am identifying that rare sound correctly. Maybe I hear the wood thrush carol.
The river glints beyond the forest, sage green or celadon, shot through with light, as it courses along. Silent fishermen seem reverent in their barely moving craft.
A single dead tree on the Pennsylvania side cries out for a vigilant raptor.
I am relishing this enormous solitude.
I have found what I came for -- beauty and emptiness.
I chuckle that, unlike the exhilirating gift of making first ski trails in Aspen snows, being first on a forest path means becoming the breaker of cobwebs.
To the Indians, cobwebs are healing substances. I accept.
My run-away-from-home has accomplished all that I needed, before the stroke of noon.