New Essay in The Phila. Inquirer: Canoeing in the Pine Barrens

20120926-004823.jpgToday, my essay on canoeing in the Pine Barrens runs in The Philadelphia Inquirer. Click on it here: “Communion on the River” or cut and paste the URL: http://www.philly.com/philly/opinion/20120930_Communion_on_the_river.html

“I do not know much about gods; but I think that the river / Is a strong brown god” wrote the esteemed poet T. S. Eliot in Four Quartets. In my imagination, the Pine Barrens’ Wading River isn’t a god but a naiad, a river spirit from ancient mythology. A tricky lady with dark, syrupy eyes who just might nick you with her tree branch fingers if you steer too close to the low-hanging branches lining the waterways. In the photo below, taken by Jeff Markovitz, I think you can catch a glimpse of the dark waters of the Pine Barrens, its inkiness the result of tannins leaching from pine tree roots. The Pine Barrens rivers are very clean, however; in fact the region is an enormous aquifer, supplying water to locals through wells dug down to the water table.

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Recently my partner John and I went canoeing in the Pine Barrens with three close friends. Brian Gannon, Jeff Markovitz and Amy Tarr joined us for the not-quite six mile trip, though it felt like far less distance at barely three hours. Jeff is a fellow author, writing under the pen name Jeff Mark–check out his books at Amazon. More about Jeff and Amy in a few weeks–something big is in their future. When we stopped for lunch, I got to read a draft of my poem, “New Jersey Naiad”, along the riverbank as Jeff shot a video. If we can ever figure out how to download it from Jeff’s Blackberry, maybe you will see it here someday.

20120925-235919.jpg Pictured L/R: Jeff, Amy, John, Kelly, Brian.

At this time of year, when deciduous trees show their first tint of orange and red, nostalgia blooms in the air20120926-002303.jpg. It was great to return to an old haunt John and I hadn’t been to in years, and to share the experience with three friends who had never gone before. I hope you will click on the link above and read about the experience. To go on your own, visit Micks Pine Barrens Canoe and Kayak Rental online. You 20120926-011815.jpgmight even want to stop at a roadside farm market for apples and pumpkins and specialty jams on the way back. And don’t forget to tell Old Smokey hello when you see him. I still remember the stuffed toy I had of him as a little boy, the first toy I slept through the night with as a toddler. Glad to see he’s still on patrol.

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