Join the Bergen County Audubon Society next Tuesday (Sept. 17) for a guided walk from 10 am to noon at Losen Slote Creek Park in Little Ferry. Losen Slote is one of the last remaining lowland forests in the Meadowlands and always a great place to walk! They’ll be looking for Wood Thrush, Brown Thrashers and more. For more information contact Don Torino at firstname.lastname@example.org or 201-230-4983.
There are many a wonder in the natural world that
can almost automatically prompt magical memories and reflective reminiscences of
life’s special days gone by. The sight of Cattails does just that for me.
While walking the trail at Skeetkill Marsh in
Ridgefield last week my heart did a flutter as I saw new stands of cattails
coming back to the wetlands. I immediately recalled as kids being lucky enough
to find a patch of cattails, or “punks,” as we innocently referred to them.
They were like gold to a Meadowlands kid, a special gift that only Meadowlands folks
knew about or at least that is what we told ourselves.
I could immediately smell the scent of the burning
cattails just like I did when I was 12-years- old as we lit the brown treasures
to repel mosquitos, which was our perfect excuse to watch the glowing embers in
the Meadowlands night as we talked tales of the end of summer and the dread of
the school year ahead.
We picked blackberries and ate wild grapes. We
walked the old railroad tracks as muskrats splashed down along the creeks. We
fished the old clay pits and caught snakes just for fun as our distinct last
right of summer. We told stories and contemplated our future as our cattails
burned their last glowing ashes of the evening.
Caught between new urban sprawl and the last gasp of
the hints of rural life was growing up in the Meadowlands, not quite fitting in
with the youths of nearby towns and many times feeling like outcasts at school,
even sometimes made to out to feel inferior was growing up in the Meadowlands.
Yet in some special way we knew that we were lucky
and had something no one else had, could understand or even grasp. We could wake
up with the Red-winged Blackbirds and watch Egrets fly overhead. We could enjoy
the Barn Owls perch outside an old warehouse, ice skate on a frozen marsh and
see American Bitterns try to hide in the tall grasses. We floated rafts down
Berry’s Creek and looked right into the eyes of a Northern Harrier. We somehow
knew we were part of something bigger than ourselves, too young to understand what
exactly it was and yet connected enough to know the Meadowlands would always be
who we were, what we loved and what forever would bond us together.
Today as the dried cottonwood leaves crunch under my
feet and the early fall clouds begin to form, and as the shorebirds join up in
the mudflats, I am still in awe of what an incredible place we are blessed
enough to be part of.
And like the Meadowlands I am still here, wandering
the fields and meadows, contemplating the butterflies and birds, and now have a
better understanding of what it all means and what it all was for. This our Meadowlands.
Unique and diverse as its people, frail and strong, resilient and yet always on
the brink. A place that has risen from the ashes like an ancient phoenix
waiting to be discovered understood and still saved.
The New Jersey Meadowlands is like all of us who
managed to survive life’s journey and at times fought back from the brink. And this
is ultimately the reason its wonders like the Osprey, Peregrine Falcon and Bald
Eagle touch our spirit and soul. It’s your Meadowlands; get out there and make
it part of who you truly are.