Sketches of art, watercolor, photos, recipes, books, interviews, Jewish topics and Highland Park, New Jersey

Raritan River Liatris

September 1st, 2014 by

liatris by Raritan River, Donaldson Park
According to Wikipedia, there are many kinds of liatris. These purple flowers grow by the Raritan River at the edge of Donaldson Park, a large county park situated in Highland Park, New Jersey.

liatris donaldson park raritan river raining
Three weeks ago, when my daughter was in camp and I had a little more time, I went to Donaldson Park and took some photos. I took several of the Raritan River, such as this one with the tall, bare tree at the river bend. I really enjoyed the Raritan River liatris, the purple spikes bursting out of the sandy banks by the river.

liatris rainy day raritan river
It was raining that day, but not enough to get me soaked, despite the fact that I had not brought a raincoat.

liatris new brunswick raritan river donaldson park
In this photo, you can see a little of New Brunswick, New Jersey – that’s where some of Rutgers University resides. New Brunswick is more urban than Highland Park, but it is still small, especially compared to Philadelphia or New York City. Or Newark or Trenton. Actually, all you see is a bit of the bridge of the route 18 highway.

In other nature news, I started filling my bird feeder again (it got neglected as I paid more attention to my garden, but as I explained to my kids, only in the winter am I really concerned that the birds in our area need food to eat). I’ve seen blue jays, a cardinal and mostly lots of sparrows. Maybe soon I’ll have more bird photos.

For more Nature Notes:

Nature Notes

Historical Windows of Asbury, Shawangunks and Ocean Grove

August 24th, 2014 by

house near visitor center Sam's Point Shawangunks
This old white house of wood was next to the visitor center on our hike in the Shawangunk Mountains. It looks like it might have once been a farmhouse. One hundred years ago this area was known for its berry pickers – hard to believe berry picking was once someone’s job. But I suppose in other parts of the world it still is.

Asbury Park, Paramount Theatre
If you visit Asbury Park, a prominent building is the Paramount Theatre. It is right on the beach, and a promenade boardwalk leads you from the theater to the old casino building. Lots of shops and restaurants have newly opened along the boardwalk. The theater (you can read its history here) was built back in 1927. Two years ago I posted Asbury Park: Pictorial History in Brief).

Ocean Grove, New Jersey
Finally, here’s a beach house with historical windows in Ocean Grove, New Jersey (I’m guessing that the original windows were replaced – these looks simpler than how I imagine windows once used to be). Ocean Grove is next to Asbury Park. It has a rather different history. It started out as a Methodist town – here is some history. My husband remembers when you were not allowed to ride your car in Ocean Grove on a Sunday. He would ride his bike to work at his job, and when he got to Ocean Grove he would get off his bike and walk it.

I’m linking to I Wish I Were a Photographer on Toby’s blog. As she says, I wish Israel were no longer at war – I read via Facebook of my cousins and my friends too often needing to go to their shelters to protect themselves from the missiles. Last week, a four-year-old boy was killed.

Want to participate? See Whimsical Windows and Delirious Doors.
whimsical windows delirious doors

Shawangunk Flowers (and Leaves)

August 18th, 2014 by

milkweed flower
On our hike in the Shawankgunk Mountains we saw a variety of wild flowers. Milkweed was growing right next to the visitor center (see above photo).

chicory lavender  flower
The most prevalent flower on our hike was this lavender chicory. The daisy-like flowers might be Erigeron philadelphicus, commonly known as Philadelphia Fleabane.

daisy-like flowers
These daisy-like flowers seem to enjoy growing through the rocks. They look a bit like a lazy daisy.

fuzzy flower
I really like this fuzzy plant. No clue what it is. Some relative of thistle?

purple wildflower
This purple wildflower looks a little like purple horsemint.

yellow star flower
I don’t have a name for this yellow flower, so I decided to call it my yellow star flower of the Shawangunk flowers.

red leaf
This is not a flower but a leaf: a red leaf that glowed in the woods on the trail.

Verkeerderkill Falls top scenery
I posted the Verkeerderkill Falls on the previous hike post; above, you can see the top, the very edge before the falls “fall off” the cliff. I didn’t want to get any closer.

Finally, here is a great view of the scenery looking northeast from the Verkeerderkill Falls trail:
skies in shawangunks
This was a day in which the weathermen had threatened rain: only clouds that we saw all day were white and fluffy. What a glorious day.

While Googling for information, I found this blog called Friends of the Shawangunks.

For more Nature Notes:
Nature Notes

Thursday Challenge: Raritan River

August 13th, 2014 by

 Raritan River near Donaldson Park, photo 2014 by Leora Wenger

Raritan River near Donaldson Park, photo 2014 by Leora Wenger

Thursday Challenge theme is WATER (Swimming, Boating, Fishing, Lake, Ocean, River,…)
The Raritan River surrounds Highland Park. The river winds around our little borough. In one area we have Johnson Park bordering the river. To the south of us we have Donaldson Park. Both are big county parks with ball fields, geese and playgrounds. Donaldson Park, which is next to where I took this photo, also has a dog park and a boat launch area.

Just for the fun of it, I added this wet photo of Donaldson Park:
wet Donaldson Park

Shawangunk Hike: Ice Caves, Waterfall, Berries

August 11th, 2014 by

Sam's Point, Shawangunk Mountains, New York
Last week my husband and I headed out to upstate New York. We went on this Ice Caves and Verkeerderkill Falls hike, saw views at Sam’s Point, ice caves that were cool, berries (blueberries, huckleberries, blackberries) on the trails and a waterfall. See also the sequel to this post on Shawangunk wildflowers.

View at Sam's Point
The first part of the hike starts at a visitor center. You can see the milkweed growing right next to the visitor center in the photo below. Above is your first reward on the hike: the views from Sam’s Point. It is a pretty short hike up to Sam’s Point from the visitor center (maybe one half hour or so?). We had a gorgeous day and blue skies. I spent the day before checking the weather report – kept getting warnings of thunderstorms and possibly hail. We did not need the raincoats that we carried around in our backpack at all that day. But like bringing your umbrella, perhaps if we hadn’t brought them, we would have gotten soaked.

milkweed pods

The next highlight of our trip was a visit to the ice caves. It is cooler in the caves. At one point you can look down and even in August you see some ice!

ice caves
Lots of climbing up and down stone steps, wooden ladders and walking in cooler temperatures than outside. I would imagine that if you had kids with you, this would be the part they would like best. This was our first hike in twenty years without children.

There were lots of berries along the top trail that led to the waterfalls. What is the difference between a blueberry and a huckleberry? I am still not sure. This post seems to imply that huckleberries and blueberries are similar; at the end of the article, it says: “The seeds are a surefire way of distinguishing a blueberry from a huckleberry. Huckleberries have 10 large, hard seeds. In contrast, blueberries have lots of soft tiny seeds.”

blueberries in the wild in Shawangunk range of mountains

After about an hour or more of hiking along the Verkeerderkill Falls trail you get to the falls. Yes, they are tall, but I don’t think we got a great view of them. You basically have to climb on precarious rocks and look at them from a distance. So that was not the highlight of the hike.

rocks to see Verkeerderkill Falls
Yes, you climb unto rocks like these to see the falls in the distance.

Verkeerderkill Falls
And the falls didn’t even have that much water. I have childhood memories of Arethusa Falls in New Hampshire – those are more exciting to visit. We could get wet under the Arethusa Falls.

I took a good number of flower photographs; I will share those in a future post. My husband saw a snake (there are supposedly rattlesnakes in this area). In the visitor center at the end, I saw two chipmunks.

Have you ever heard of the Shawangunks? Ever gone a hike similar to this Shawangunk hike?

For more Nature Notes:
Nature Notes

Book Review: Hasidic Tales of the Holocaust

August 5th, 2014 by
Hasidic Tales of the Holocaust by Yaffa Eliach

You might think a book called Hasidic Tales of the Holocaust would make you incredibly sad. Perhaps. Well, most probably. But perhaps also it will give strength, hope, inspiration. In the forward to the book, Yaffa Eliach explains how she gathered these tales. They are based on interviews and oral histories, compiled with the help of her Brooklyn College students. She begins by relating the history of Hasidism, a movement founded by the Baal Shem Tov (1700 – 1760). From the foreword: “The main themes of Hasidic Tales are love of humanity, optimism and a boundless belief in God and the goodness of mankind.” One can see why this form of tale could be helpful in relating the horrors of horrors of the Holocaust.

“You can’t fool me there ain’t no Sanity Clause.” That phrase from the Marx Brothers movie came to mind as I was reading the book. But instead, I thought, “You can’t fool me, there ain’t no happy ending!” When I first started reading the tales, I found them so unbearably sad, I had to stop reading the book for a while. But when I picked it up again, the belief in humanity was like a spark that compelled me to read further.

For example, there is the story about Rabbi Spira who always used to say hello or good morning to everyone he passed, including Herr Muller. When Rabbi Spira was taken to Auschwitz, and it was his turn to be in the selection of right or left, he looked up, and there was Herr Muller. The rabbi was sent to the right – to life. Many years later, Rabbi Spira relates this conclusion: “This is the power of a good morning greeting. A man must always greet his fellow man.”

Another story that touched me was one of Moshe Dovid and his father, a Hasidic rebbe. Moshe Dovid was used to following his father’s advice; so when his father told him separate in order to survive, he did. He later discovered his father’s advice incorrect, and he went back to him, saying his advice did not work. His father sadly explained that these were very unusual times, and he could no longer be the one to give the sage advice. The rebbe said he is like the leader ram of the herd that a shepherd in his anger has blinded. Each person had to decide on his own and trust his own instinct. Moshe Dovid was able to survive the war.

Several survivors talk about a deceased father or a mother or a rebbe coming to them in a dream. And this person in the dream would encourage the person still alive to survive and give the person meaning.

A fascinating tale is that of Zvi, who survives a shooting by falling into the grave a split second before the volley of fire hits him. He climbs out at night and looks for a Christian home that will shelter him. All send him away. Then he comes up with a plan – I won’t tell you who he pretends to be – you will have to read the story yourself.

I believe Hasidic Tales of the Holocaust by Yaffa Eliach (written in 1981) should be rated as a classic in Holocaust literature. And here is the conclusion to the foreword, a quote from Bertolt Brecht: “The imagination is the only truth.”