Old Roads

High, wide & lonesome. Near DeWitt IA.

In the current era, long-distance US Interstate travel has accelerated  into a mind-numbing, Mario kart marathon broken only by pitstops at fast food and fuel joints interchangeable as LEGOs.

To go on the road to learn the country means exiting onto the old highways that GPS maps obscure. That roll through slow places, sprawling uncurated & tangled in personal expression. The unnamed territories of  everyday lives that define us.

To see this U.S. is to embrace the slow road, no passing zones, and small towns. To risk getting turned around, detoured or lost. To re-learn navigation by street signs, paper maps and spatial reasoning. To ask for directions from strangers in order to locate yourself. To surrender certainty.

I made a trip like that this spring as Covid began to lift. In the next few days I’ll post some of the images I captured while looking to see what had become of the country during a year shut down; what had started to move again or remained still waiting for the right sign.

All fenced in with nowhere to go.


Near the Ice Age Trail in Cross Plains, a ford across Black Earth Creek. Water and earth crossing from winter into the first cold mud of spring, raw, half-thawed, with bulbs and buds, grubs and roots, and fungi and lichens and all manner of Van Leeuwenhoek’s “animalcules” awakening, the creek awash in rumors of sunlight to come. The equinox is nigh.


All along the Wisconsin


Sleepers wait to arise.

β€œIt’s the classic example of how biodiversity loss has increased the risk for spillover,” Walzer said.”

Environmental Destruction Brought Us COVID-19. What It Brings Next Could Be Far Worse. https://www.huffpost.com/entry/emerging-disease-environmental-destruction_n_5e9db58fc5b63c5b58723afd

With everything in a state of suspended animation, we look more carefully. False optimism, waves of cynicism, neither serve; sincerity & blunt candor elucidate the nature of this time. Earthly life is out of balance due to human action. So many creatures extinguished, endangered, and the very air we breathe, the sea and soil that feed us, the water we drink, compromised. As other living things perish in the wake of human ‘civilizations’, why did we expect exemption?

30+ years ago, global warming forecasts suggested that disease and pandemics would increase as self-sustaining global ecosystems were increasingly pushed out of natural balance. Year after year, denials trumped reason as the earth was ravaged to produce wealth and supercharge consumer economies. So much stuff to buy. Must have stuff. More stuff. The right stuff. The fun stuff. The stuff to make life worth living. Until it kills us.

In 2020, we shouldn’t be surprised that a microscopic assassin from the wild kingdom holds us hostage; guilty, saddened, exasperated, yes. Motivated to change our collective way of being on this once vibrant earth? Absolutely.

The writing’s been on the wall a long time; the question hangs in the momentarily cleared air above humanity’s indulgent empires. Can we become literate enough to comprehend the science of sustainable co-existence with life on earth in the years to come, or will clinging to the mythology of endless wealth and partisan group-think finally end this Anthropocene reign of error ? We don’t need stuff. We need enlightenment.

For the rest of us

a long walk with a camera has marked my Christmas day for many years now, a relief from the spectacle of expectations the season can become.

Instead, a collection
freely offered, free to share
no waste no cost no strain
a labor of love for life
take from the earth only beauty
call us all home again
pause & wonder at the everyday miraculous
And bow when gratitude, unbidden, comes.

MaY PeAcE PreVaiL on EaRtH

Mighty phragmites and their neighbors blowing in the wind during Autumn hawkwatch, Cape May County NJ. (click any image to enlarge).

at the shore

Atlantic Coastal and bay beaches from South Jersey to Assateague Island.

Cape May Point, a shoreline and a wartime relic that appear timeless.
WW II Bunker at Cape May Point
Wind drives seaward; all the sand here has been trucked or pumped in repeatedly. Waves once crashed beneath this WWII battery fortress leaving it perched in midair atop the grid of wooden pilings that form its foundation. Storm after storm sent waves breaking over the historic duneline behind it, flooding the Cape May meadows and eroding the beach into steep cliffs, until the state of NJ had no choice but to rescue Cape May Point and this landmark by spending a fortune every few years since the early 1990’s to maintain and re-nourish these doomed beaches.
Up close a symphonic pattern of curving grasses, a brace of rebar, lime weeping, a garland of goldenrod nodding overhead.
Up close a symphonic pattern of curving grasses, a brace of rebar, lime weeping, a garland of goldenrod nodding overhead.
WW II Bunker at Cape May Point, festooned with grasses where the ocean once laid claim. And will again.
Coastal defense of a bygone era, shored up with imported sand, festooned with sedges and grasses where the ocean once laid claim. And will again.
Notice the image below “What Is It”, of the bunker suspended in midair with waves breaking behind it. The original 1940’s shoreline extended far in front of the structure and included gun turret mounts and other buildings. Beyond the bunker, midway down Cove beach toward Cape May, once stood the town of South Cape May. Remnants of that place sometimes wash ashore after a Nor’easter storm, bits of broken china, tile or brick. The rest of it lies underwater.
Around the point from the bunker, Delaware Bay beaches in the Villas, a far cry from the creosote bulkhead bound and filthy shoreline found here in the 1960s. Less beach but now backed by replanted dunes in place of the unsuccessful armored shoreline
Remnants of coastal mixed cedar dune forest set between the front Delaware Bay beach and the cattail anchored brackish wetlands behind. Saltwater slowly encroaches as sea level changes impact the estuary. A drive north on Route 47 up the western side of the south Jersey peninsula will take you past areas of drowned forests and fishing villages like Reeds Beach, Fortescue and others that are slowly being claimed by the rising tide. People who’ve lived long lives on this coast witness these changes firsthand. For others interested in the forecast for the region, this Rutger’s University study provides a wealth of information.

October Sundown

On the way home last night, only tool with me, the phone.

Wisconsin River autumn at Boscobel, fog and light enchanted.

Another installment of an ongoing series witnessing the impacts of climate changes in the Midwest. Torrential rain and persistent flooding have made a sobering mark this year on the lives of many: lost crops, flooded fields, landslides, damaged homes, railcars and river barges at a standstill, hope at a premium and longstanding lifeways called into question.

Normally placid, Sanders Creek meanders through Boscobel. In a matter of hours it morphed into a raging, cataract just as full moon arrived this month. The roaring of the water a block away drew me out into darkness.

Night Watch

Posting this pixelish, lowlight phone snap because it cracks me up… the second car was invisible to the eye πŸ™ƒ.

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