News from the preserves, parks and backyards of Princeton, NJ. The website aims to acquaint Princetonians with our shared natural heritage and the benefits of restoring native diversity and beauty to the many preserved lands in and around Princeton.
For the requisite August venture, my older daughter and I jumped into our relatively clean machine and hit the open road,
which periodically became less open as road construction and an overturned truck intruded on the American ideal and our projected time of arrival.
In Ann Arbor, we toured the University of Michigan campus, where I had collected a couple degrees back in the days when tuition was $350 a semester. Since I had the camera, we ended up with a plant-centric pictorial, of landscaping using only scouring rush,
and of a sculpture made entirely of grass.
It's entitled Wave Field, by Maya Lin, who designed the Vietnam Memorial.
We visited the site of my first vegetable gardens, planted back in the 70s on the extension because that was where the sun was, at least until the city's trees grew up.
My first native planting on public land, a circle of prairie species at the County Farm Park, still endures,
with nearly all the original species still prospering twenty years on, likely receiving no more attention than an annual mowing. Our visit happened to be timed with the rosinweed.
Back then, we were living on Easy Street (literally), where neighbors have since talked the city into laying down pervious pavement along the edge rather than customary curb and gutter, and the neighborhood trend towards prairie landscaping continues.
A neighbor has led the effort to shift the local park's turf to native wet meadow plantings to capture runoff, feed pollinators, and show what might have been growing there in pre-colonial times. The city does a contained version of a prairie burn on these plantings each spring, a horticultural ritual of cleansing and renewal for which neighborhood parents and kids gather to watch at a respectful distance, then scatter seed in the ashes. The ash after a prairie burn always reminded me of the fur of a bison.
On the drive home, I sought relief from the boredom of I-80 long enough to happen upon bison at Black Moshannon State Park,
and experience, ever so briefly, the profound, forgotten silence that comes when all machines within earshot are turned off. At such times, relieved of the burden of screening out incessant background noise, the mind can open up to the world, relax in a way it may not have in months or years, and take in the crystalline sounds of the forest, deeply rooted in the underlying silence all around.