Brrrrr! The weather’s gotten cold again.
(Which is not surprise, seeing as it’s February and all.)
(But the days are getting longer! It’ll be spring before you know it!)
A visual chronicle of suburban NJ
After a week of above-freezing weather, it’s almost guaranteed that Seeley’s Pond is no longer frozen solid like this.
But after last week’s run of nothing above 25°F, it was sure frozen last week.
I saw some kids running on it, which blew my mind a little. Encouraged, I cautiously tested it for myself, and: yup, totally frozen, totally walkable.
Even geese were like “yeahhh, check ME out, crossin’ this pond without swimming, aw yeah.”
Ladies and gentlemen, I give you: ICE ON A SPILLWAY. Because this is a spillway, and that is ice.
(It’s a little creek near Seeley’s Pond, right on the tri-border of Berkeley Heights, Scotch Plains, and Watchung.)
A different angle on the same view I showed you Monday.
…And I think I can get away with a cheap trick like that? The nerve!
…But I mean, you don’t really mind looking at similar pretty photos on different days, do you? DO YOU?
At some point, this gazebo-thing probably afforded a lovely scenic overlook of Seeley’s Pond, but with all the trees that have grown in, it’s no longer a particularly exciting view.
It’s still a cute little gazebo-thing.
And you thought I was kidding when I said on Monday that I’d assault you with autumn pictures of Seeley’s Falls all week, huh? TOTALLY NOT JOKING. We are dead serious here at New Providence Daily Photo.
So in dead seriousness, this is Seeley’s Pond, which is the manmade pond that feeds Seeley’s Falls.
I love autumn, but it really snuck up on us this year. One week, we were blasting air conditioning, and the next week we were snuggling into sweaters. The leaves, too, have been green green green, then a hint of yellow, then BAM! LEAF RAINBOW OUT OF NOWHERE. It’s pretty terrific.
Oh and by the way this is New Providence Daily Photo’s second birthday (and 731st post). Woohoo, two years, hooray for New Jersey.
As I reevaluate what I’m doing with this blog, and as I struggle to improve my photography (and my blogging etiquette), I want to make sure I post a few things that you want to see, in addition to pursuing my own weirdly unappealing photodocumentarian vision.
So: is there any particular type of photo or post you’d like to see more of? Landscapes, macros, stories of people and festivals, historic buildings, wildlife, charming local landmarks? Do you generally enjoy the stuff I post? If not, what could I do better? If so, what do you like?
As I was driving through this part of the Watchung Reservation yesterday, I noticed that it’s at peak autumn colors. What! When did that happen!
Since the road through this part of the Watchung Reservation is very curvy, with no shoulder, and filled with trucks going 50mph, I did my best to keep my eyes on the road. Yeesh.
I decided to come back and revisit Seeley’s Falls safely on foot. The falls are pretty pathetic at the moment, but the spillway is still pretty. And the leaves! Man. I might just assault you guys all week with autumn photos of Seeley’s Falls.
(As ever, the following dialogues have been paraphrased from memory, as faithfully as possible to the actual quotes, but they are not actual quotes.)
At the Harvest Festival, I spoke to a multigenerational family who builds boats— Dick Christie, senior builder; his daughter Susan Christie, who’s been building boats for 2-3 years*; and his granddaughter Laura (Susan’s niece), who’s had a year or two of boat-building experience under her belt. Everything is crafted by hand: the paddles, for example, are planed with a custom-designed tool (Laura let me try it, and I was terrible at it).
“Of course, this could all be done with power tools,” grinned Ms. Christie, “but where’s the fun in that?”
As part of their Harvest Festival demonstration, they tucked some long strips of wood into a long steamer box, and waited for the wood to soften enough to be bent into ribs for building a hypothetical new canoe. (Anecdotally, the steamer box doubles as a lobster cooker, if you have a lobster handy.)
“You know what,” said Mr. Christie, “I have a friend who’s from Canada, so he had me to build a canoe for him out of white birch**. I’d never worked with white birch before. It wouldn’t bend! I was breaking 85% of the ribs. You know what I did?”
I stared at him blankly.
“Add fabric softener to the box, when you’re steaming the ribs— I went from breaking 85% of the ribs to using 85%. Wonderful stuff. I don’t know how much softener you’re supposed to use, but I do my best guess and it seems to work all right.”
Finally, the ribs were deemed sufficiently steamed. Mr. Christie slipped on some work gloves, and his daughter handed him a pair of pliers. He flipped open the end of the box and extracted a long slender twig.
There’s only a 20-second window to remove the rib from its steam-box and clamp it into place before it becomes too stiff to bend anymore, so you need to work quickly.
The first rib snapped anyway. The second one went smoothly, though.
If you don’t already have a finished boat to bend ribs around, you can just build the rest of the canoe and add the ribs last, as Mr. Christie did when he built this particular canoe in 1994.
* Ms. Christie learned boat-building from her father, but remotely. She lives near Philadelphia, while Mr. Christie is all the way up in Wayne, NJ. While she was learning, she visited her father once a month (a two-hour drive each way, if traffic is clear); he critiqued the work she’d done over the past month, and gave her a new assignment to complete over the next month before her next visit. This continued for a full year. What a way to learn a craft! I think it’s pretty amazing.
** My memory is faulty, and the wood may not have been “white birch.” I’m going with it because (a) I’m pretty sure the wood we discussed was something “white,” and (b) “American white birch” is also known as “canoe birch.” I also have no idea what the connection is between being Canadian and needing your canoe to be built from a particular kind of wood.
I’ve never seen a lot of Native American culture around here. We’re taught from an early age that the Lenni Lenape were the original people in New Jersey, but Europeans chased them west in 1758 with the Treaty of Easton. That was before the U.S. even became its own country!
A lot of town and road names in New Jersey are derived from Lenape words, and most park systems will include historical educational exhibits on the mundane aspects of Lenape life, but the people themselves have been displaced from this area for so long that we rarely see active aspects of native culture in New Jersey.
With this in mind… watching the Red Storm Drum and Dance Troupe perform at the Harvest Festival was something I’ve never seen before.
As with everyone in this Big American Melting Pot, different nations have commingled for years and years— just as I’m German and English and Irish and Swedish and who knows what else, most of the performers who were introduced came from at least three or four different heritages. Robert Boldeagle (featured in the top photo, and the one below), for example, is of Mayan, Taíno, Cherokee, and Natchez descent, according to the troupe’s website.
Without aligning themselves with any specific nation, the Red Storm Drum and Dance Troupe offers an opportunity for Native American people to celebrate their own culture and share it with the rest of us.
I’m glad they did!