Corrections or additions?
This article by Carolyn Foote Edelmann was prepared for the June 29,
2005 issue of U.S. 1 Newspaper. All rights reserved.
Heralding the Natural Shore . . .
You can tell a true New Jersey resident by what happens when you
mention “the Shore.” In our state, this phrase is capitalized, even
out loud. Watch your listener go all daft and dreamy, what we could
term “The Brigadoon Effect.” No, the Shore doesn’t disappear for 100
years like that enchanted village — but it can seem to vanish for nine
People don’t have to own a Shore house to exhibit symptoms of Shore
mania. There are no synonyms for “the Shore”: the Coast doesn’t do it;
the Beach, well, close but no cigar. True Jerseyans know there is only
one Shore, shimmering between Sandy Hook and Cape May. Shore syndrome,
of course, peaks in summer. Yet others insist the obsession is worst
Now the Shore-obsessed can endure the off-months. Down the Shore
Publishing and Plexus Press have come out with new volumes on that
unique region of sands, waters, and pines. A thesis of both books is
that there ARE no off-months. In word and image, these beautiful
volumes reveal the allure of the Shore and the Pines (that’s the Pine
Barrens) in every season.
“Natural Wonders of the Jersey Pines and Shore,” published by leading
regional publisher Plexus in Medford, is written by Robert A.
Peterson, who tragically died before he could hold his book in hand.
More than 50 nature essays appear, written by Peterson, a former
headmaster of Egg Harbor City’s Pilgrim Academy. In depth and wonder,
the segments reveal Peterson’s secondary career as a journalist.
Photographers Michael A. Hogan and Steve Greer literally cover the
waterfront. New Jersey has more coastline than most realize. “Natural
Wonders” honors the too-often-unsung Delaware Bayshores, as well as
the Atlantic Coast. With national and international reputations, both
artists give full vent to their passion for both the Pines and the
Shore (290 pages, $49.95).
Down the Shore Publishing offers “Four Seasons at the Shore,”
featuring the stunning work of 49 photographers. In this work, text is
admittedly secondary to electrifying images. Shore natives Rich
Youmans, Sandy Gingras, Larry Savadove, and Margaret Thomas Buchholz
provide memorable prose. In the book’s prologue, readers are welcomed
by John T. Cunningham, New Jersey’s best known popular historian,
a.k.a. “Mr. Jersey” (222 pages, $48).
The 300 photographs in “Four Seasons” conjure startlingly recognizable
scenes, many of which you thought you alone had found or observed.
Here is the Shore in solitude, then crowd-infused. Encounter it at
dawn and dusk, then moonlight. In flat calm and full tempest. Discover
the Shore of joggers and surfers, fishermen and gamblers. Even that of
Lucy, the Margate elephant. Open to the child’s Shore, awash in
shells; that of teen-agers, full of possibility. Experience it as
consolation of the aged. Regard the Shore of battered boats and
spiffed-up Cape May mansions. Survey the attenuated Shore from
overhead and from deep in the troughs of sharp waves.
The text reminds us to bring all of our senses to our Shore. Do the
same with these pages: absorb salt tang and clam broth, the pungent
sweetness of cotton candy and saltwater taffies; whiff artist’s
turpentine, fishermen’s bait. Blink before violent dark/light
contrasts as a cold front moves through — a birder’s nirvana. Feel
dense fog of several seasons on your skin. Shiver at the
ice-surrounded “Old Barney” Light. Hear the clunk and clatter of
mating horseshoe crabs, the clamor of shorebirds. In “Four Seasons,”
lost avian crowds still flutter and contend.
“Natural Wonders of the Jersey Pines and Shore” marches to a different
drummer. Text comes first, in the knowledgeable hands of its late
author. Photographers Hogan and Greer spend much to most of their
lives in the Pines; they clearly know every sugar-sand road, capturing
with their lenses the rarest plants and elusive critters, obscure
scenes to new scrutinies. Their lyrical images marry well with author
Peterson’s rigorous prose.
The distilled foreword of “Natural Wonders” — written by the dean of
Pinelands naturalists, Howard Boyd — is a welcome introduction to this
mysterious region. Ever since John McPhee’s warnings in the Pine
Barrens, outsiders have hesitated to set foot and/or tire upon Piney
trails. Yet Boyd himself is the quintessential insider. A genius of
word and image, he has crafted several of my Pinelands “Bibles,” not
limited to “Wildflowers of the Pine Barrens of New Jersey” and “A Pine
Barrens Odyssey.” Boyd revels in this mystical region, with its wild
rarities and 17-trillion-gallon aquifer. His concise prose reveals the
Pinelands stretching “from mountains (he names four and hints at
others) to the ocean, white with foam.”
I have but a few quibbles about “Four Seasons at the Shore. One, that
the “male northern harrier” identified in Rich King’s arresting
photograph is no doubt an owl. Two, that autumn gets short shrift. I
know, the Shore doesn’t provide many red leaves but I would have
relished more text. Works by Buchholz and Youmans continue a legacy of
satisfying works as editors of “Shore Stories, An Anthology of the
Jersey Shore” and “Shore Chronicles: Diaries and Travelers’ Tales,”
both from Down the Shore Publishing, among many others.
I have stronger qualms about “Natural Wonders.” There are brilliant,
unforgettable images between its covers. Yet I yearn for a ruthless
photography editor. The cover image, for example, looks as if it could
be any sunset anywhere. Any of a number of magnificent scenes on the
inside, had they been used on the cover, would compel the curious to
pick up and purchase this book.
A photo editor with a sharper eye would have left more images on the
cutting room floor. The Pine Barrens are scintillating scenery, yet
too many scenes in this book exist as illustration or example, as in a
picture dictionary. More accurate cropping, to home in on the
essential esthetic and visual elements of the photographs, would have
served to engage the reader more quickly and dramatically. The
emphasis on wide-format is useful for this seemingly limitless region
yet I feel that a certain addiction to that shape shackles this fine
I hesitate to critique the text, since its author never had the chance
to read galley proofs. His subjects are fascinating, some areas new
even to those who spend many hours each month in those alluring
reaches. “Ice Fishing” is delightful in information and images, and
“Fire in the Pines” is extremely well done. I savor the story of the
Pinelands horse named Cranberry, whose victory at Ascot won Britons
over to Hammonton’s scarlet jewels. But I wonder, for example, that
Peterson neglects Chatsworth, heart not only of the cranberry
industry, but of the Pines themselves. I also miss regional foods,
except in their raw state.
Even as I appreciate its thoroughness, I find the text simplistic —
perhaps betraying years the author must have spent translating the
region for the admittedly accomplished students of Pilgrim Academy. I
puzzle over Biblical naming of the otherwise intriguing earth, air,
fire, and water sections: “Wonders of the Deep,” “Lilies of the
Field,” “Beasts of the Earth.”
But I forgive every apparent lapse for the joy of Steve Greer’s fine
images of the Pine Barrens tree frog and eagle-eyed sharp-shinned
hawk; Hogan’s seductive curled red fox; and the luminosities of his
throw-away scenes of Pinelands bogwaters. For these photographs alone,
“Natural Wonders” is a worthwhile addition to the library of any true
Both books, too, would serve as hand-held blessings to armchair
travelers, those now unable to walk our silken strands, who are held
at arm’s length by distance and/or infirmities. People who once formed
young character by contending with wind and waves, who matured in the
full glare of Beach Blanket Bingo, can rediscover, in these pages,
their many selves as child, teen, or young adult, among evocations of
the New Jersey Shore’s unequaled beauty.
Corrections or additions?
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