Spooked

Towards the beginning of the year, Adi and I were house hunting. While it is a most enticing prospect to find a house that you will want to live in and call yours, the search is exhausting. But this post not being about the house hunt, I will take you right away to Lambertville, a small town filled with antique stores by the Delaware river. It was one of those chilly February days when the wind pierced your bones and thoughts. It made you ache for home, to be wrapped up in a cosy throw with a book. But we were out. Following an early morning of property viewings, we took leave of the estate agent and I suggested to Adi that we step into Lambertville for a spot of browsing. We could do with some distraction.

Reaching town we grabbed cups of coffee, and cowering in the face of the cold, scurried into one of our favourite antique places in town. It is a big store with three levels filled with old junk, mostly European antiques sourced by the owner from his travels through Europe. Every time we enter the store, I feel like I am in a curiosity shop. I am filled with wonder at the kind of objects that existed once, and have now in this age been delegated to the status of mere curiosities. We were browsing, me rifling through pages of old books that begged to be taken home, when I overheard a woman comment to her companion as they were on their way out. “Where did the time go? I never realised it was so late,” she said. I smiled. Whoever enters the store falls through a rabbit hole.

Climbing the store’s creaky wooden stairs, we found that the store had curated a small museum-style experience. However, the difference was that one could buy items from the collection. My eyes were immediately drawn to a Victorian hallstand, dark mahogany and heavy of make, as most furniture from the yesteryears are. The hallstand had the patina of age. I spent time examining it, then proceeded to check the paraphernalia around. “Come on over,” I said, whispering and beckoning Adi to join me in checking out a small table that belonged to Arthur Conan Doyle. No ordinary piece this. We beheld a ouija table. Adi took a peek and grew pale. Having been exposed to a barrage of horror films over the years, he has been conditioned to my (bizarre, according to the man) fascination with eerie stories. For the sake of honesty, let’s say almost conditioned.

The table came with a note along (with a price tag of $7,500). It was bound to have a story given that it belonged to Dr. Doyle. He was a founding member of a research society in Hampshire and known for his fascination with spiritualism. Doyle collaborated with a fellow mystic in a research on poltergeists in Devon. When his son died of pneumonia in the mid 1900s, the bereaved author was even keener to believe in another realm of existence. He embarked on a collection of talking boards in an attempt to reconnect with his son. His daughter Jean, a British military officer, sold the talking boards to an English antique dealer, who in turn donated it to the Lambertville store for its museum.

“This is too creepy for words,” said Adi.

“But I am getting the hatstand, just so you know,” I told him seriously. One’s gotta rise to the occasion when one needs to needle the husband. And it almost always elicits a reaction most precious from my beloved.

Around the corner, Gothic memorabilia awaited us. For the most part, it was vampire-themed stuff. A plethora of long wooden trunks, beautifully made and kitted up with hinged lids, which opened to reveal wooden stakes and mallets, pistols and crucifixes, vials of garlic powder. Vampire hunting trunks. I wondered about it. Whoever might invest in them? Maybe ones off their rocker? But the truth is that travellers did purchase these trunks that were made in the 1800s for wealthy people on a voyage to Eastern Europe, specifically Transylvania, enthused by the myth of blood-sucking creatures after Bram Stoker published Dracula. One of the travelling vampire kits from the 1870s that we saw, belonged to the Spanish actor Carlos Villaria who played the role of vampire in Dracula, the 1931 version.

If that was not enough, we found more ouija boards, hand-carved, religious wooden sculptures of angels, stakes, holy water bottles, French vampire-hunting oak cabinets circa 1837, an alcove full of puppets with chains barring the way, even a chair that was used to perform exorcisms in Germany in the 1800s. Now all this was way too much for the husband to handle. At one point, he just gave up. He sat himself on a bench and refused to indulge me by looking at anything else in this small museum of strange objets d’art. For my part though I found it highly engaging, and am thinking I shall convince him to give it another go, another day. Wish me luck!

The Victorian hall stand that Did Not have my husband’s attention.
Vampire hunting cabinets
Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s ouija table
A French vampire hunting trunk, circa 1880s.
More ouija tables
The vampire hunter’s preferred weaponry
Alcoves stuffed with puppets and dire warnings. Stay away.

On the Trail of Bonny River Towns

Summer has come in with a show of jazz hands. The days are hot, and the nights so lovely and soft, filled with breezes of pure delight and fireflies that twinkle and dim like their very lives depend upon it. The gentle warmth in the air has as if unlocked the ridiculously sweet fragrance of the Sweetgum trees in the park. Every night as I walk through the maze of tall trees, a strong scent cocoons the senses in the quiet of the night. A skunk skulks around in the dark and I look warily at its quivering fan of a tail. Would not do to spoil the peace of the night.

Which reminds me of the other evening when a friend accompanied me on my nightly walks. She shrieked hard at the sight of a skunk. I do not know who was more startled – the skunk or I.

Summer is the time to potter around and we have been doing so on weekends —  seeking the solitude of the small towns that flank the mighty Delaware. The river that the Lenape Indians called Lenapewihittuk. It means rapid river of the Lenapes. But I have found it to be a remarkably serene river for the most part. To pick your way slowly along the Delaware is to pave the way for bluish green hills and rolling farmlands (how they make me sick for the British countryside) which land you in the middle of surprisingly photogenic towns nesting along the river. Perhaps you remember Lambertville (there’s a separate photo op on it here) and New Hope. They are of the Delaware river town tribe that set us off on this trail.

Imagine here, towns with historic vibes, all part of the Lenape belt where the Algonquin speaking Native Americans lived. That is till colonisation took place and the settlers came in, hopping around, renaming places and rivers. Delaware, for instance, was named after a British politician, Baron De La Warr. Along with some heritage, throw in generous dollops of old architecture, art galleries, antique centres, decor boutiques, bookshops, and friendly folk — and you know it’s gonna be something special.

It turns out that the Raritan River, which is connected to the Delaware River via a canal, has its share of pretty townships. Like Clinton, a town in Hunterdon County in New Jersey, where we ended up in our quest for placid weekend rambles.

The main protagonist of Clinton is a red mill. The rest of the town is cobbled together with old houses built in ornate architectural styles. Plenty of balusters, gables, pilasters and porches there.  During the 1800s, travelling theater companies would make stops in Clinton because of its banging music hall. But all footsteps now lead to a couple of old mills there that straddle the South Branch of the Raritan River. I have a weak spot for barns and mills. The older, the better (but of course).

Under the sufficient glare of a June sun, we trod across the rusted grid of the truss bridge. On one side of it stood two picture-perfect mills, facing each other across the smooth spill of a man-made waterfall. A small flock of geese drifted around the waters and everything around was somnolent in the heat, like a picture playing out in slow motion. On the other side of the bridge, we watched an angler, submerged in knee-deep water, cast a fly rod into the mossy green waters. I wonder if he struck lucky. Meanwhile, people sat on garden chairs of some café that lined the pavement along the river – and I would like to think that they took cooling chugs of heady drinks to stave off the heat shimmering around us.

Now the Red Mill is the kind of place you walk into and get lost for the better part of an hour. The men behind its conservation must have put in enough thought to engage the visitor, for it is mighty easy to induce a snooze fest with so many details. It is when you recreate the lives and stories of people who worked and lived around the mill that it can spark off the imagination. The mind then latches onto the recreation of a lifestyle that was the only one the people of the age knew and lived. Several universes away from this modern world of ours where man has contrived to make life as divested of effort as possible.

A one-house schoolroom with its coal burner, small wooden chairs and slate-boards, the blacksmith’s quarters, the quarries where Irish immigrants must have slaved away to earn their daily bread, corn cribs and herb gardens, … life would have been tough and yet rewarding for the settlers who made a living off their surroundings. Just for those moments when I was peering into the schoolroom, sheds, quarries and log cabins, I was whisked back in time to the Smoky Mountains where the legacies of the settlers are everywhere, even in the mid of dense forests. Come with me into Clinton and have a peek?

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Main Street in Clinton

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Historic properties line the roads of Clinton

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A lane that turned out to be not Dickensian in the least but filled with vintage guitars, bearable Thai food and friendly locals.

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Maine Coons of Clinton on the prowl

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They have great personality, like you can well make out from the visage of this whiskered beauty.

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Candy pink and white ice-cream parlours

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The bootery in town

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Graffiti showcasing the Red Mill and the adjoining quarries 

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The old truss bridge 

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The stone mill on the South Branch of the Raritan River, known formerly as the Dunham-Parry Mill. Nowadays it goes by the name of the Hunterdon Art Museum. It was a grist mill before it was repurposed to serve as a space for art lovers. Before this particular stone mill came up, on this site stood another mill that is said to have been used by George Washington’s army to grind wheat in the mid-1700s.

 

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The Red Mill. A Mr. Ralph Hunt owned both the Red Mill and the Dunham-Parry Mill in the 1800s so that the town was naturally called Hunt’s Mills. However, his use of the Red Mill as a wool producing one ran into severe losses and he had to let go of it. The mill changed several hands over the decades. The subsequent merchant owners decided to rename the town from Hunt’s Mills to Clinton, after the New York Governor of the time, DeWitt Clinton.

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Fly fishing on somnolent days in the South Branch of the Raritan.

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The Red Mill went into operation around the early 1800s and has had many epithets since. First  was Hunt’s Mill, as you well know by now. Then it was dubbed the Black Mill. You see, one of the new owners turned from making grist to graphite. Greasy black dust issued forth from the mill. The same owner decided to switch next to the production of talc. So the next local name for it was the White Mill. And now, as you see, it is the Red Mill.

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Willows and an old pick-up made for good friends

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The look of the mill has changed with each ownership. The mill I saw that day with Adi was the result of centuries of tweaks.

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In the same county as Clinton, roughly 10 miles away, is the town of Alexandria where this one-room schoolhouse called Bunker Hill School House once stood. It was the Old Church School then and began life as a log building in the 1700s that was revised to give way to this 1860-frame. In use till the early 1920s, it was retired and used as a chicken coop and pig house before it was moved in the ’70s to its current location within the compound of the Red Mill.

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Students from the year 1891. They would have studied by the light of kerosene lamps and the sexes would have sat separately in the room. Girls to the left, boys to the right. The ‘good’ students would have been awarded the privilege of stoking the fire in the coal stove that heated the classroom. Students who were poor at studies would have got the dunce cap and high corner stool treatment. Loos were outdoors and these little men and women would have made do with corn cobs and catalogue pages as toilet paper. 

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Parsing the school room as it was. Windows came with generous frames as you can see, to allow the room maximum exposure to natural light, there being no electricity at the time. The children had sand tables at the front of the classroom to practise writing and on a shelf at the rear of this room there used to be pails in which the students carried their lunches.

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Coal stove

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Old school paraphernalia. No laptops here, mind you.

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The Tenant’s House for quarry workers. It had a parlour and kitchen on the first floor and two bedrooms on the second. The unit was first built by an Eli Bosenbury in the 19th century for the sum of $38. Life was notoriously simple. There was no electricity till the 1940s, so it was lived in the light of kerosene lamps, water had to be lugged to the kitchen in 8-quart buckets from a spigot located outside since there was no plumbing, children slept on the floor on mattresses, and stacked their clothes on the floor, there being no dressers at their disposal. 

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One of the quarry workers who lived in the Tenant’s House starting 1860 was Peter Dalrymple. He was a day labourer who paid up $25 annually as rent for this house. He had a large family that included his wife and 8 children. From the expression of their faces on this snippet, they look quite contented to me despite the hardships they must have faced in their daily lives.

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The replica log cabin, modelled on the early 18th-century childhood home of local Revolutionary War General, Daniel Morgan. Here is a typical way the original colonial settlers lived when they occupied this new land.

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The log cabin originally had a sod roof which had to be watered during dry spells. Log cabins usually had these small rooms because trees that were used were seldom more than 30 feet in length. Plus smaller rooms could be heated more efficiently by the open fires on which one cooked as well.

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Windows were small and few to prevent the loss of heat, and more than often they had no glass,  but were covered by a loose fabric. Roofs were pitched low and there was normally just enough headroom to allow a sleeping loft for children because it was warmer near the chimney.

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Essentially your kitchen garden

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Corn crib where corn was dried and stored

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The quarry was named the Mulligan Quarry after the Irish Mulligan brothers from Cavan County in Ireland who worked at the quarry and later bought it.

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Clinton was rich in dolomite limestone, a kind of calcite rock. After a great fire in the town in the 1800s, Mulligan stone was used to rebuild the town.

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The Stone Crusher and Screen House stands adjacent to the quarry. Limestone was dynamited and loaded here. Large chunks were pulverised and the screen sorted them out into four sizes that would then be led into chutes to be loaded onto wagons that would wait at the bottom of the building.

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An impressive 19th century carriage shed

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Kayaking on the South Branch of the Raritan

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Because one cannot have enough of such views.

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Or this, for that matter.

The Lambertville Photo Roster

An idyllic town filled with artists and antiques by the Delaware river, Lambertville carries promises of halcyon days beneath the bowers of trees that line its streets. The photographs you shall see soon have all been culled from Adi, but I do feel rather dissatisfied that I do not have enough to do justice to the air of Victoriana that hangs about the town’s able shoulders. A church spire glinting beneath the harsh glare of the noon sun, paint peeling off the red door on the street, carefully renovated old house fronts with period features still in place, transom windows, quaint lampshades lighting up interiors of cafes housed within aged properties, historic brick and stone facades, an old railroad and sprawling antique stores brimming with vintage finds.  I hope you will be a little carried away by the workings of this 18th century town that was the stopping point of choice for stagecoaches travelling the New York-Philadelphia route along the old York Road.

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The former residents of this town, the Lamberts and the Coryells, rest in the graveyard of the First Presbyterian Church of Lambertville. The church building dates back to 1854.

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The Marshall House is the legacy of James Wilson Marshall, the man from Lambertville who directed the world’s attention to California with his discovery of gold flakes along the American River. The irony is that Marshall received no recognition or gold and lived a hand-to-mouth existence till the day he died. 

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Adi and sister-in-law give into a photo at the stairs of The Marshall House that was built using ‘Lambertville Pancake brick’, a locally dug and fired clay. 

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‘Gram worthy streets and coffee shops of Lambertville

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Artists busy at work on the pavements of the 18th century town.

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The Victorian property within which sits Caffe Galleria, spelt with a double f as a tribute to its owner’s Italian roots.

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Inside the cafe, you still see a dated fireplace, beautiful wood panelling, and a period bathtub swathed in dust in its quaint loo.

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A church for the Catholics on Bridge Street

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A peep inside St. John the Evangelist Roman Catholic Church

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Oomphy doors of Lambertville

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Antiquing pleasures

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Antique farm tools. A hand crank seeder.

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And other curios…

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Attacked by antiques

Whoop Whoop, These Summer Days of Bobbsey Twins and Vintage Gold Glasses

I woke up feeling chipper today. Was it because I was in a state of almost intoxicated sleep where I drifted in and out thinking, here I am getting out of bed now, but there I was, still in that beatific place? Or, was it because my husband appeared suddenly to lift me straight out of bed and deposit me in the bath? I could not tell, but the latter is rare commodity nowadays with Adi wading incessantly through a bottomless pit of work (on his part, the impetus would have been decidedly his morning dose of blended cold coffee).

Strangely enough, it is also one of those mornings when my body feels unaccountably light and frothy, ready to whiz up the intimidating Kanchenjunga (I told you, some kind of foolish and manic goodness this), or even brave the mugginess inside a cheese factory to churn cheese. If you have been inside of one of those, you know it is a feat. If you have not, imagine a steam room where you would not last more than 10 minutes. Or actually, you could just imagine plodding through the streets of Calcutta/Chennai in summer. Strange because it is the time of the month when my hormones do their crazy dance, and I feel far from dancing, more like curling up with a book into a ball of misery.

To not drive my male readers into the farthest corners of the universe, let me get on with the pleasant discoveries of this season. My sister-in-law was visiting us, sans family. She had heard from a friend about the antique towns of New Jersey. Imagine our chagrin. We have been here two years, and yet, we had no blooming idea about their existence.

It is thus that we found ourselves an hour away from home in a town called Lambertville.

Lambertville. When my sister-in-law read its name out loud as an antiquing town upon the Delaware river, my mind started twirling. Intimate cafés, leafy streets, sprawling antique stores, people ambling through a riverside town…We drove into this town that I had conjured in my mind. As delightful as Cirencester in its antiquing prospects. With as large antique stores that made the heart flutter with the anticipation of experiencing past pleasures.

The Lenni Lenape Indians lived in Lambertville before it was colonised. After the land was bought off them, the first resident of the town was a gentleman called John Holcombe. This was sometime in the early 1700s. Why is it not called Holcombeville then? Well, in came a family next. The Coryells. They developed a portion of the town and even started a ferry here, which was subsequently used by George Washington and his men, when they were quartered here during the Revolutionary War. But was it called Coryellville, or even Georgetown, as the Coryells wanted, after one of their sons who served in the New Jersey forces? No sir, no. The honour went to the Lambert family who swished into town a century later, in the early 1800s. The Coryells seethed, but that is all they could have done anyway, stewed in righteous indignation, because John Lambert was a New Jersey governor. And as we know, politicians are politicians for a reason.

The sky was chirping blue that morning, and the sun, it shone with no cares or clouds to mar its radiance. It was the kind of day when the Delaware glistened like a sheet of gently rippling mossy green, in no particular rush to be anywhere else.

People of the ‘Gram, be warned. In Lambertville, you lose your mind.  Historic mansions and brick row houses straddle its tree-lined streets. The architecture is Victorian and Federal in style, at once so classic and lovely that you want to walk in and declare one of them to be yours from this day on. The small churches with their aged visage and stained glass windows evoke awe and even the cafés are housed in period properties along quiet bylanes.

I went batty inside the antique shops. At one, I lay my hands on a pair of gold, wire glass frames. They were delicate, prompting me to picture their former wearer as a twittering old lady with powdery, white hair. Then there were some tatty Bobbsey Twins numbers I grabbed greedily. The chatty woman at the till informed me that they were from an old estate she had been to. She also told the elderly man she was conversing with, “Like this young lady, this generation loves everything old. All these things I buy at auctions, especially books, they are snapped up.” At this point I butted in: “Umm, I am not really as young as you make me out to be.” The man nodded wisely here and said, “Best not to go there.”

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We continued to flit from store to store in a leisurely manner, by the end of which Adi flopped down at a bench outside a cheese boutique selling farm-fresh cheeses — and declared that he was Done. Oh, but were we? After nibbling on some sharp cheeses, we found a Turkish man selling Azerbaijanian, Kazakh and Turkish carpets and bags, and my sister-in-law was stoked by her finds. It was the perfect day for rummaging through interesting wares and cracking good bargains, and may I add, forgetting credit cards behind at aforementioned Turkish shops. Which meant a thunderous husband, and later, Turkish sweets from the man who returned the card to Adi. Here I have to slip in surreptitiously that I also forgot my phone at home. The suffering was all mine. All those photographs waiting to be clicked. Sob. Naturally I have to borrow them from Adi, but he is on a constant stream of calls, so I shall have to leave the beauty of the artist town of Lambertville to the workings of your pretty mind.

But before I leave, it would be amiss of me not to mention the old canal that runs alongside Lambertville’s old railway station. The canal that was laid out by thousands of Irish immigrants in the 19th century till a wave of cholera swept through town. Most of those poor labourers lie buried alongside this canal where people stroll or bike today on long, summery days. Odd to think of these stories that stay concealed behind the most serene facades.

I wish that this was all. For Adi was knackered. But why be satisfied with one bohemian town when there may be the promise of another lurking around the corner? In our case, right across the Delaware and the bridge sitting astride it, was the town of New Hope. Naturally, we were thrilled to bits. Two artist villages for the price of one. We had struck gold.

 

 

 

Sweet Autumnal November, I Was Waiting For You.

I have a natural affinity for November. I was born on the 9th day of the month. With the passing of this day every year, I spot tangible changes in myself. Physically and mentally. It is a bouquet of mixed emotions. Wisps of grey hair, fine lines upon the forehead, a wistfulness that the years are going by in a jiffy, the recognition that I am changing as a person too. Subtle changes. Like how I used to love being social. Now I am content in the company of my husband, the geese and the squirrels (they who have taken the place of the English sheep and horses). The gulls have started arriving too. And it would be terribly amiss of me if I did not tell you about Yah Yah, the shaggy Great Bernese I meet almost every other day when she returns like a frisky girl with the wind in her black and white locks, her tongue lolling out a cheery how do you do. If you believe that canines could beam, Yah Yah does as she presses her big beautiful body against mine, and I coo to her as I proceed to gather clumps of her hairs on my running gear. Could I have any quibbles with life?

And there are the colours at their ripest best outside the windows, drying away in sunshine so liquid, as I write. Suddenly autumn has unleashed her uncommon splendour upon us. I noticed it last weekend when we drove into a town called Monteclair at the foot of the Watchung Mountains, which might be called mountains, but are really low-lying volcanic ridges covered with thick vegetation. In this town which the British settlers from Connecticut adopted for their own in the mid-1600s, and in which the Dutch arrived eventually, buying land off the Lenape Native Americans who hunted there, we had exquisite Thai food and shivered in the wind as we walked about its streets lined with old Tudor facades, now-desolate theatres framed in timber and episcopal churches with medieval touches in stone.

Closer home, the trees along the avenue on which we live, have turned colours. With all the wind that the gods seem to breathe our way, they are shedding leaves in twirls of golden yellows and russets. It is a most heartwarming sight. Kicking those piles of leaves in the air, even more so. Then, bringing bunches home to Adi’s amusement, to be pressed into the pages of books, and some to curl up at leisure on the dining table. Simple are the pleasures of life on this earth and I could ask for no better.

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A sea of clouds bound for somewhere and touching upon us on the way

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I bring to you some vignettes from the parks of Bayonne

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Evenings by the Hudson

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Scenes from Montclair, a New Jersey township…

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This Spring of Contrasts

I had my first sighting of the leaves. Tiny green leaves are sprouting on the smaller plants in fits and starts all over the park. But the older trees, they are stubborn. They are holding onto status quo. This is a spring when we have had snatches of days that could not have been more at odds with each other. If there have been days of liquid sunshine with skies to match, snow has coated the boughs on days, and then there was that day when the fog was thick and heavy, it sat upon my eyelashes as I went out for a run. And the sunsets, let me not even get started about their exquisite beauty as they flame out into the skies.

The squirrels have started showing in greater numbers. They look suitably plump after their hibernation with possibly a decent reserve of nuts. Oh, and there are robins too! Now I have heard that it is a misnomer that robins appear during spring, but oh they do. There are whole bunches of them hopping up and down the slopes of the park, pecking and looking delightful with their breasts of red. As I felt this spirit of joy quickening in their sudden presence, I remembered my mother’s obsession with the cuckoo who lives somewhere in the coconut trees in our backyard in Calcutta. She gets great pleasure from telling me in detail about its odd timings for calling out, till I start zoning out, and the other day, I realised (with a tinge of horror and amusement) that this apple has fallen not too far from its tree.

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First Snow of the Season

I am smitten by snow. There is no earthly reason why I should not. I do not care about the slushy aftermath of it, really, I do not give two hoots. Because right now it is glorious. I am wrapped up in my fur throw watching it snow prettily, a few extremely buttery garlic knots and pizza slices in my stomach. It has been snowing since morning and my world is quite so white and wonderful.

Earlier on, I put on my boots and warm jacket and rushed out to the waterfront. The park had turned pristine white, only footprints showing through the snow (someone was out running too), brown autumnal leaves now caked with snow, the dark brown of the barks adding some contrast to the startling white outside. I was hoping to meet Alex again. He is the best looking boy I have met in some time. Now Alex is a golden retriever before your eyebrows touch your scalps there. He is quite the blonde, with well-groomed hair standing in little tufts and bits about his face, and he has a weakness for jumping on unsuspecting humans to share some of his drool-some happiness. Alas, I did not spot Alex today. I had met him by the waters yesterday so I made my way back there hoping to catch him playing in the snow. Instead I saw, shivering with delight through a curtain of snow that the waters had turned a shade of steely teal, globules of snow dissolving into the ripples and sheathing the boulders. The bridge and the cranes at the port — they had vanished behind a wall of dense white fog.

Then Adi and I walked to the store a couple of miles away, not a good idea – which we realised in a while – but besides fingers turning immensely numb inside the gloves because I was taking photos more than walking, I did spot a squirrel duo up in the branches of a tree with blobs of snow around on them. One chomping on a nut and the other had spotted just one, so it was chuffed. A little tableau of survival playing out right there in front of our eyes, though blurred by snow.

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Twilight

The sunset’s fiery kiss to the Hudson today on the second day of December stopped me short in my tracks. These spectacularly beautiful days are altogether unmissable. I want to trap them in my fists, shut ’em tight and hold time in my hands. How does one let go of these evenings of flaming oranges and lavenders, rose gold and smoky blues?

The Christmas lights are up. It seems that Bayonne with its worn-out air can also go ballistic with decorations. Less is clearly not more here.

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Les Feuilles Mortes

The Dead Leaves, says the title. Pourquoi? Well they are just out there and how does one just turn her eyes away from the golden, rustling beauty of them… How fast the days fly by as I sit at the desk with my thoughts, trying to put them down into a project which seems to be taking forever, devouring the Outlander books, baking once in a while. Smidgens of self-doubt have been bogging me down. The problem with smidgen is that it tends to balloon into mammoth proportions and then you are caught right under the heaviness of it, the self-doubt that is, and you feel nothing less flat than the perfectly pressed leaf which comes out from between the pages of a book. The leaf has more leverage in all of this as you can imagine. It holds more beauty in its faded glory than anything else pressed does.

The blustery wind whipped away chunks of these thoughts with icy fingers as I ran, bathed in the golden stream of the early evening sun, the trees bare and leached, the gulls gathered in little clumps around as the waves rose and ebbed in choppy harmony. I passed by the old man who has determination in his fingertips. He must be above 80, wizened by age. It seems that a stroke has robbed him of movement on his right side, so he leans in heavily towards the right. It has become a ritual for us to acknowledge the other with a wave. The only other person who haunts the park and the river front, along with the old man and I, is a young boy of about 15. He is a beanpole, all arms and legs, possibly a soccer player.

I find persistence and hope at the sight of these two.

Towards the latter part of the evening, a couple of squirrels decided to turn playful on me. I was kneeling to shoot mounds of dried leaves when these two tubby fellows capered around, coming up close and dodging like we were at some game invented by the two of them. Catch me if you can.

Naturally, I feel like I have had free therapy. Now the lemon and verbena candle is making the room smell so cosy and citrusy and it feels doubly nice as I dig into a hot salad of chickpeas and grilled vegetables, spruced up with a handful of blackberries, caramelised pecans and roughly chopped gouda. So I shall leave you behind with this jazz number and a few photos of sunset, armies of white clouds, ducks, geese, gulls, squirrels and dead leaves.

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I Have Seen Eternity in an Hour Too, Dear Blake

When I head out on a run every evening, I admire the late autumnal bounty we have had here. The leaves are shedding in drifts of gold and burnt red and it is a most poetic thing when they waft around your person. The park is a massive bed of dried leaves gathering in clumps because the cleaning authorities want to keep it clean, but dammit, the trees will have their way just the way I shed hair. The sunsets are golden, pure liquid amber, and everything is glorious or it looks glorious at any rate. The air is razor-edged as the sharpest sabre must be.

Yesterday I felt the brunt of it for the first time. The phone informed me 1°C. A warm beanie, two layers of insulation and leather gloves should have done half the job you would think. I also tucked in Kleenex for good measure because the nose had its own mind and if it wants to make itself felt in the stinging air, I might as well be prepared. The concierge warned me about the freezing air but I just smiled as if to say, I know sistah, but then I ran out and it was an utter douchebag that knocked the wind out of me. Yet I had to try. With wind chill it was about -2°C and I refused to breathe as much as I could help it. Gulls soared, some wondrously floating mid-air upon the river. No one was out on the park except for two joggers in the distance who soon disappeared. That was it. The entire stretch of parks, running tracks, riverfront…they were desolate. The many boys and girls who practise soccer in the fields, play basketball…nada.

And then the wind whipped the Kleenex clean out of my pockets. Twice. It rolled with full speed all over the place and I had to chase it up and down hilly mounds. You cannot dump Kleenex unceremoniously in such climes.

Forty minutes out there… it felt like eternity. 

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So I did what I do best, run to the coffee shop, which seemed to have moved further away than it should on a biting evening. Later at the store near the coffee shop, I was bright enough to buy an early Christmas prezzie for Adi. A giant stuffed polar bear. Obviously they did not have a bag. Obviously I am a doofus. I lugged a big bear wrapped around me along with heavy baking goods, sugar, flour… when my legs screamed at me for mercy, the few people on the road laughing, some saying, ‘How big is he!’ Right. Tell Brilliant Brains about it.

Those 24 blocks are hanging heavy about my neck now. An albatross. It promises to be an interesting winter.

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