Friday, May 16, 2014

Part 3 of 10 - The Whims of Swamp Water

... a poor dry stick given
one more chance by the whims
of swamp water— a bough
that still, after all these years,
could take root,
sprout, branch out, bud—
make of its life a breathing
palace of leaves.

- Mary Oliver, "Crossing the Swamp"

For our third camping trip, we headed to Cederaville State Forest which is adjacent to the largest freshwater swamp in the state, Zekiah Swamp. The park contains the Cedarville Bog, which makes for very interesting and unique ecology that is uncharacteristic of this area.  Spring is a particularly beautiful time to head to this swampy forest because the wildflowers and wildlife really bring the forest to life and, as May Oliver would put it, "make of its life a breathing palace of leaves."

It's not easy hiking though.  The "whims of swamp water" can make it a pretty tough trek through mud and prickly plants. In the end however, it was a beautiful sight to reach Cedarville Pond and watch it glisten in the sun, all covered in lili pads and swamp-life mystery.

Part 3 of 10 - Cedarville State Park

Friday, May 2, 2014

St. John's - Icebergs, Jellybeans and Everything in Between

I recently had the pleasure of visiting St. John's - a twinkling port city on the island of Newfoundland in northeastern Canada.  It is a place like no other.  The rocky terrain, dense fog, and powerful cold winds just seem to compliment the warmth and charm of this island community, with its colorful winding streets and sing-song dialects.

I loved what little time I had there. To borrow a bit of "Newfanise" (a unique dialect of English that involves a combination of accents/phrases/grammar of early English, Irish and French settlers):

Lard dine dumpin was cold enough to skin ya, but it was not a bad bit nice! I got hauled through a knot hole just beatin the pat, chattin with townies and enjoyin a bit of scuff an scoff. I hope the wind blows me back one day.

[Translation: It was very cold, but beautiful. I had fun. I am exhausted. I can't wait to go back.]

St. John's Harbor. In the distance, past the lighthouse, you can see an iceberg.

Fort Amherst Lighthouse, sitting on the rocky and turbulent entrance to the St. John's Harbor.

It is the start of iceberg season! Between May and June, icebergs (edges of glaciers that have broken off and slipped into the ocean) flow south and are carried by currents through Iceberg Alley, an area stretching from Greenland to the island of Newfoundland.

Most icebergs seen off the coast of Newfoundland come from the glaciers of western Greenland and some from Canada's arctic area.  As these 10,000-year-old glacial pieces head south, they occasionally cross paths with northern-bound whale migrations which, I hear, is a phenomenal event to witness. 

Colorful homes lining the harbor. 

Being an old fishing town, the story goes that as ship captains returned to St. John's from their trips they would search for their homes along the nearby hills. To make this process easier for weary homeward-bound seafarers, Newfies started painting their houses unique and vibrant colors. Now, these colorful neighborhoods are referred to as Jelly Bean Row.

More Jellybeans.

Jellybean Row has become a symbol of St. John's beauty and warmth. These colorful row houses are celebrated through paintings and photographs and also depicted through crowd-pleasing kitchy arts and crafts products.

The controversy of sealing is a very divisive issue on the island. Seal hunting is major part of Newfoundland's cultural history and present-day economy, but is criticized by environmentalists and organizations around the world. In the face of growing pressure, some Newfies take a reactionary stance on the issue and claim it is almost a patriotic duty to support sealing.  Luxury seal skin items and other products are popular on the island.