I haven’t been to the marshes for a couple of years. Not since the loss of our dear friend, David Lord. We shared many delights in books and reading together. He was a gifted naturalist who often took us bird watching in the marshland by the Delaware Bay. He loved the glories of God in Creation housed in the famous Pinelands of Southern New Jersey.
Following his lead through nature trails, on the docks overlooking the salt marshes, or searching the skies for a glimpse of osprey, kestrals, or some of our 80+ pair of nesting eagles, were favorite days.
Saturday, June 4th, was open on our calendar this month, and the weather promised perfection. Ed and I made plans to enjoy the annual Bay Days festival in Bivalve, New Jersey. We would be seeing the salt marshes again for the first time since the loss of our friend.
Of course I thought of him and some of his eloquent words in praise of and passion for this unique part in the eco-system of our world–right here in my own backyard.
It’s a mere 30 minute drive from my back door to enjoy the annual celebration of this habitat home to flora and fauna found only here–with the historic oyster industry the star of the show.
[Bivalve, New Jersey is important because it is] the only surviving early 20th century speculative industrial development in the Delaware Bay area, and possibly the country, built by a railroad company (The Central Railroad of New Jersey). Prior to 1875, oysters were shipped by boats and a long wharf was built parallel to the river. By the 1880s, there were buildings of varying sizes and shapes and a railroad platform . . . Oystermen and packing companies operated out of here, leasing a two-story office/store front and storeroom, half an alleyway, half a wharf and half a boat slip. Other businesses that supported the oyster industry, such as chandleries, meat markets, post office and lumber yards, helped fuel the region’s growth and development . . . In 1879-80, 69,800 sacks of oysters were shipped in their shell with an average of 10 freight cars a day. By the mid-1920s, 55-60 million oysters or 700,000 sacks of oysters were shipped annually with an average of 80 freight cars a day.
Once a year at this popular festival, the historic grounds by the bay become home to a host of tents, vendors, history and science organizations and presenters, and a plethora of interactive and educational family fun for children of all ages.
It was no surprise to run into one of my former TaleSpinners who was a regular for the seven years I hosted the weekly Tale Spin Stories at the local mall. Penelope loved storytime and I looked forward to seeing her each week. She and her family live in the area by the bay, so I expected to see them. But, I am never prepared to see how these precious little souls grow so fast! She’s a rising 4th grader now and a lover of literacy and learning.
I was delighted to see our friend, Bill Kerwood, on the program as a strolling entertainer. He’s a dear brother in Christ who shares pure joy, astonishing young and old as an Ambassador of Possiblity and interactive entertainer. His fascinating illusions and clever word play engages and delights. We took a few moments on the docks to catch up on life and family.
Fresh crabs, scallops, shrimp, and of course, oysters, make for popular food faire in the slips on the water where the oystermen once unloaded their succulent catches for market. Live music accompanies diners there, in addition to the big tent on the grounds. That’s where Ed and I ran into another old friend, local legend Jim Albertson, singer, storyteller, and long time host of Down Jersey folk radio programs. This is the best I could get out of these two clowns when I asked them to “be serious” for a photo.
Jim clued us into the next main stage musical act, Ameranouche, a gypsy jazz trio on acoustic guitars and stand-up bass. We loved them!
But a short walk from all the hub-bub in the tents, Ed and I found ourselves in the calm silence and solitude of the salt marshes. Purple Martins and Barn Swallows flitted about overhead with happy chirps. This little fellow let me get within three feet of him for a photo–a Barn Swallow huddling in the shade of a weathered barn-wood birdhouse.
The tide was out, fulfilling an important task set by our Creator God . . .
Though these areas can appear calm at times, a violent circle of life is revolving just below the surface. To begin with, the grasses of the salt marsh are very important for certain types of fish. Every time a tide recedes, it brings with it nutrients collected from the grasses. These microscopic meals are then gobbled up by the numerous varieties of filter feeding fish that call the salt marsh home. As soon as those on the bottom of the food chain are satisfied, the bigger fish then feast on them, only to find themselves eaten by those hungry birds that hunt the salt marsh. The circle of life is red in tooth and claw.
David Lord, Salt Marshes and Saints
Where do the “saints” come in? Read more on this at David’s blog.
The scent of the marsh is invigorating as it is heavy. All the life teeming there blends together in what appears to be a holy stillness. In fact, there is much activity bustling between the blades of grasses–some species found nowhere else in the nation. The mud is alive. Metaphors revealing the character of God abound. David had the scientific knowledge of this natural world, which allowed him keener insight to the spiritual principles to be mined there.
By those with ears to hear and eyes to see.
We may have to wait another year for the Bay Days festival, but Ed and I need to make escape days to walk the marshes for the glory and renewing nature of it more often . . . just because.
It is a gift from God.
The birds of the air,
And the fish of the sea
That pass through the paths of the seas.
O Lord, our Lord,
How excellent is Your name in all the earth!
Psalm 8:8-9 NKJV
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