Friday, July 14, 2017

Andy Still Wins Rutgers Sustainable Raritan Award

(Photo care of Andy Still.)

If you want to see hardcore environmental action at work, I urge you to go to Save the Raritan River on Facebook. Like the page. There you will see scads of photos featuring what Andy Still and the Central Jersey Stream Team do. Tons of junk they remove from the Raritan River System.

I volunteered once last year, gathering tires and shooting photos of the event I hope I can yet get published to give the efforts some more profile. It's only because I get no time off on weekends and only day off mid-week besides, that I haven't volunteered this year. It might look like a lot of strained labor--and it is true; they work hard--but everyone has a good time together.

Andy Still puts in his time on the river and online. He is a 2017 recipient of the Sustainable Raritan Award, given by Rutgers Sustainable Raritan River Initiative.

I've never seen anything like it before, and doubt I ever will again. Andy and the CJST have worked at cleaning up the river week after week for years now. The amount of good one man, unfunded, can do is staggering. What other word describes the way anyone might feel who sees post after post of dozens of tires, here and there a refrigerator, engine manifold, mattress, and two cars removed with the help of Somerset County Parks, etc. come out of the river system. This world seems to be about collective agencies and massive funds, but history shows individuals always make the critical differences.

Andy Still in Action

That is heftly pay off for Andy's friend Ken (Photo care of Andy Still)

Wednesday, July 12, 2017


Yesterday was a good day off from the job, and the point of the previous post is relevant but seems to downplay ambition. I later felt as if I had denied its need. Of course, a day off spent relaxed can make me feel that way, but speaking for myself, life isn't easy and I hope I bring this life to a better self-establishment before I "retire." (I plan to keep on writing.) That's not likely, and if I don't earn enough royalties to finally let go of wage jobs, retirement will get me out of them anyway.

Many years ago at Hampshire College where all of us, students and faculty alike, labored under the motto "To know is not enough," attributed to ancient Athenian philosopher Aristotle, I received stellar evaluations for my first semester's work. Then I went to the shore for the summer, into my sixth year licensed as a commercial clammer, and felt a very deep affirmation for that work in the wild bays, the freedom of that self-employed lifestyle, and the depth of insight this life engendered. I went back for the fall semester and found myself completely at odds with the college program. In December, I took a leave of absence, booked an apartment in Beach Haven, struggled to decide whether or not to return to college...and after a month of back-and-forth, withdrew my enrollment. I did earn an Associate degree--Liberal Arts--at Raritan Valley Community College, 2006.

I had gone on clamming until 1993. When I returned to mainstream America, I had no degree, no regular employment to claim on a resume. Pretty much no more than a social security number. I asked myself what I had for any woman to feel any interest in dating me. One of my many notebooks bears the answer. "Language." She would have to be intellectual, of course. She would have to be this in any case. Actually, I found I had more than words, as my wife, Patricia, was attracted to my family's musical endeavor. My father is now Director Emeritus of the American Boychoir School.

Finding employment wasn't difficult. I built up a resume and by 2001 landed a good job in Operations with New Jersey's largest credit union. They eliminated my position in 2015, and since then, I've found work, but not corporate work as was my former job and I yet hope to find. It won't be a job involving long driving distance every day. Such jobs have vanished not only from the credit union I worked for.

I have to pay for the freedom I enjoyed in the past. Clamming paid well. But of course, it couldn't last, not in an honorable way fitting a man with the family background I have and the need of social connection a writer depends on. My dad was trenchantly emphatic. He wanted me out of clamming long before I left the Island. It's why I've worked wage jobs ever since. But better than pay for that freedom as if it were a sin, maybe it can yet inspire my best written work. And any of you who read this blog regularly, you know I express connection to the wilds and account for them not as something other than the real world, but as essential to what the real world is. I was deep into the wilds before I went to the shore, but those early years and the shore ensure days like yesterday relieve me of job hardship.  

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

River Respite

Last Thursday or Friday, I saw the local river--North Branch Raritan--flooded almost to the edge of its banks. Last year's drought is long gone. Today it flows clear and neither low nor high. I went over with my black Lab Sadie and my camera bag. I had thought last night of bringing my 2-weight fly rod, but I didn't wake up until 2:30, having stayed up last night until 6:00 a.m., writing. So this would be a shorter jaunt and that it was. I wore the Simms wading boots I love, got in the water and carefully negotiated my steps among stones, finding here and there an image to capture with the Nikon, which certainly should not take a dunking. I still managed to get over to the condo association pool for laps.

I recently visited posts from last year, particularly those about the river. I enjoyed catching little sunfish on that 2-weight. I caught a trout on June 21st over here at the AT&T stretch, the popular Zoo abandoned. Once the stocking trucks stop coming, the only other visitors I see, they pass through on the Hike & Bike Trail. Most of all, photography compelled me. And it did today, though I'm keeping the shots for my files. I hope to get a book of Raritan River System photography published 10 or 15 years from now.

I'm a dreamer, but I know something of how hard it is to convince people with the means to publish such a actually do that. I believe the most important thing about dreams is the happiness they bestow in the present. You find they're not "dreams" (unreal), but life experiences without the clutter and hard edges of simple obvious stuff. To merely use experience valuable as an end in itself as means towards something "great" like a book's publication, is to miss the point of living.

My photo files aren't there just to serve my ambition. Once and awhile I enjoy viewing them.