I have been gone long. But at the back of my mind has been this constant hum, “don’t be a numpty, get back to the blog already!” So the days have passed while I have been thinking of making a return, but words seem strangely sparse nowadays. Do you know what I mean? I think you do. I might meet you and talk endlessly, as is my wont, but when it comes to blogging, I feel like a dried-up well.

An endless litany of days just merge into the other, though I do not imply that I am discontented. Sure I have my wobbles (like any of us), but I have never looked more inward than now, to keep my soul invigorated. In all of this nature has made the biggest difference. I have found great comfort in watching the machinations of the birds that haunt the bay here. The season has brought about its customary visitors – flocks of Canada geese that honk in the evenings as they fly home, wherever that is, in perfect formations; the ring-billed gulls who perch themselves on the walls unafraid, even as one jogs by; the Snow Goose that looks picture perfect; the male mallards with their glistening green heads and the females with their speckled brown plumage; the cutesy Buffleheads that bob in couples on the waters. I have learnt to tell the young ring-billed gulls from the mature ones, by virtue of their plumage. Maybe because I have poring over Audubon’s wonderfully detailed field guide.

Meanwhile a snow storm in the last two days has coated my world pristine white. It has brought such a spark of joy. So what if I find myself slipping on the ice that has formed in the tracks on the park or sinking deep into the snow as I try to get to the many snowmen that have cropped up around us. Everyone is out there, sledding down the gentle slopes in the park, making the most of the landscape bathed in snow. We all need what we can get to tide us over this odd year, isn’t it?

I have been recharging myself through art. Watercolours and charcoal drawings. I have also started an etsy store: I hawk my wares on it. That apart I have been working on going the self-publishing route with my book. It is daunting and involves loads of research, but at least I have some control over the process. One needs control where one can find it, don’t you think? Anyway, I hope to get back to blogging more regularly, now that I have gingerly made my way back here, and catch up with my feed. Needless to say, but I shall put it out nonetheless, I have missed you all.

To you my lovelies, I send the brilliance of snow and oodles of love from Bayonne. Off I go to demolish some quiches and making December count.

Broodings of a Grey Day

Some days the best thing you can do is go for a long run. The mind trots along with you, and well, by the time you have decided to call it a day and arrived home, you feel brand new. Nothing can dull the edge of an endorphin rush.

On other days, you stretch, stretch, stretch. A spot of gentle yoga to make you feel lissome.

And then, there are special days. When you gobble down cookies you have baked and admire your own handiwork. For, there is a time for everything. Isn’t that what they say? Right, so this be the time for oat cookies, and if you are in the business of details, laced with butter, chunks of espresso chocolate, demerara sugar, cranberries and sea salt.

Now, sat with a crime novel, I feel a bit like an elephant. A contented elephant, if I should have to point out. Guilt can come knocking another day.

So yes, instead of being outside and feeling the cold breeze stir up the cells, I am tucked cosily beneath my duvet, distracted by nothing in particular from this gripping novel, staring at the church steeple and the bland grey skies time and again, idly wondering when the park shall be mine again.

You see, the park, my park, as I call it bossily, happens to be a county park. Sometime ago, it was decreed shut by order of the governor of New Jersey. This means it is completely off bounds, for all of us. Yet, some have decided that this is the time they shall sneak into the taped-off stretches to stroll, jog, and walk their dogs. This also means that the copper is on his daily rounds, patrolling the park, bearing down upon this errant lot, his wrath released upon them through loudspeakers.

In the last few days, pounding the pavement alongside the park, staring dreamily at the water that sparkles bewitchingly in the bay across the greens, I have been startled a few times to hear people admonished so. Steely words ringing through the air. “Get off the park immediately. The park has been sealed for a reason.” For some reason, it puts me in mind of Mr. Goon and his spectacular “clear orfs”. You must know who I refer to. I miss Mr. Goon. I am feeling a bit random and meh, if you will.

Anyhow, I have a new haunt now. Forty blocks down from where we live, is a small park by the bay where across a slipway boats are launched into the waters, and where baits cast into the waters, a couple of anglers wait for hours on wooden decks. I have adopted this park for me own. It stays so empty that when I first came across it, I felt it was the town’s well-kept secret. But yesterday, lopping down to it, I was startled. It being a day flooded by stellar sunshine, beautiful and liquid, people had arrived in droves.

Answering the siren call of the sunny evening, couples sat on benches snacking on sandwiches, girls and boys ran enthusiastically around the tracks, and families played all sorts of bat-and-ball games on the massive stretch of green. All in all, one big joyride. And certifiably strange for the first few minutes, you know. Like a preview of what the world was like before a certain virus came calling upon us. 

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To Kill Van Kull

There are days when I want to walk so far that the mind is consumed by everything and nothing. Just the pleasures of walking down pavements, noticing life as it has become. A still painting.

Because we live in a post-industrial waterfront town of which we know nothing beyond traipsing around the picturesque park we are used to, one of these days when the skies are thick with swollen clouds, I walk to the other end of town which spills onto the tidal channel of the Kill Van Kull (Dutch for “channel from the pass”). Our waterway link with Staten Island and New York.

The road to Kill Van Kull is long, spanning quite a number of blocks, but the walk is not tedious. The pavements might not be lined with examples of flamboyant architecture, but a medley of styles, so that the mind is constantly engaged in noting the variety of architectural details thrown up along the way.

First, the unexpectedly attractive facade of the high school. Gothic Renaissance. Improved upon by the presence of trees bursting with magnolias.

Then, pretty row houses, community buildings worse for the wear, humdrum box buildings (the infamous Bayonne Boxes built in the wake of WWII — the architects who conceived them must have fallen asleep halfway through, bored by the results of their own efforts), part-brick part-clapboard houses, Victorian facades, skinny houses. Wrought-iron balconies, front porches, fire escapes climbing down big somber houses.  Sandwiched in between these is a tall building complex from the ’70s, stacked one upon the other.  Little boxes bring little joy to the eye.

However, as I near my destination, the houses begin to transform in character. These are surprisingly pleasing to the eye. Sprawling Mock Tudor houses, big clapboard houses that look like they must have been built when Bayonne started to get its first clutch of residents, elegant redstone houses with manicured lawns, wrought-iron garden chairs and tables, one of the houses with decorated carving and a small signage above the entryway stating that it was built in 1887… did anyone even live here in 1887, I think to myself.

Turns out the first person to set eyes upon the shores of Bayonne was a Florentine  named Jean de Verrazzano, as early as the 1500s. An explorer in the service of Francis I, King of France, Verrazzano had sailed into New York harbour at the time. They named the bridge connecting Staten Island with Brooklyn after the worthy Italian.

A journal entry from Henry Hudson, sometime in 1609, describes shores he came upon during his sailings upon the Hudson. He wrote about the shores, that they were “pleasant with Grasse, and Flowers, and goodly Trees”. “Sweet smells came from them.” He was referring to Kill Van Kull, which I am bound for. It is also where his party was attacked by a group of Native Americans.

A network of roads wind above me, part of the highway that leads to New York City, and as I continue walking, the scene starts veering towards industrial. A 19th century brass foundry, which once supplied brass parts to the U.S. Navy during WWI, now converted to house a dollar store. A stretch of railroad tracks, probably disused. Geese droppings on the tracks. Old factories and warehouses in tatters. Large white tanks. And an atmosphere of haunting desolation typical to industrial quarters.

The wind has turned sharp as I sight the behemoth arch of the Bayonne Bridge spanning the Kill Van Kull and dominating the skyline. These very paths I roam was once covered in dense forests. Wild animals had the run of the place. Bears and panthers, wild cats and wolves, beavers, red deer, rattlesnakes, squirrels, and foxes. The only human presence here would have been of the Sanrikan Indians, of the Delaware tribe. When there would have been no bridge, no park, no houses, but just a small village. What would the Native Americans have thought of this transformation of their place? Who knows. They have long gone and what remains is this land. With a whole lot of houses stretching along the blocks, a couple of them formerly home to author George R.R. Martin. Them, a strip of a park, the bridge, Staten Island across the waters. And a gaggle of wild geese roaming about the greens, clucking and complaining. You are in the way.

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