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Friday, July 13, 2012


Meadowlands seen from Route 7
showing at least four different species of waterfowl
no copyright infringement intended

As soon as the train leaves New York City and enters New Jersey the Meadowlands come into picture: a huge wetland crossed by Hackensack and Passaic rivers, plus other creeks, that divide themselves in all kind of tributaries and then join back, to divide again, making from themselves a myriad lagoon, to flow eventually into Newark Bay. It is a fantastic landscape of marshlands where beauty and ugly coexist, as industry tried to make room for itself to be eventually beaten by the wildlife.

Meadowlands: Marshlands in Lyndhurst
photo: Eric Koppel , 2006
no copyright infringement intended

I saw it more in the reverse direction, as I was coming with Amtrak from DC to NY. It was plain day, and I was able to see the whole landscape. When I was coming back from New York, it was already dark. But in plain day, as the train is running near the wetland, and the cityscape of Manhattan is taking shape in the distance, the impression is extraordinary.

The whole zone was treated with the lack of care characteristic for the industrial epoch. Then things began slowly to change, as the word echo-system entered the usual vocabulary.

I found a blog devoted to the Meadowlands (http://www.meadowblog.net/) with lots of photos: you should browse it to see splendid birds and insects. There are inside all kind of photographic delicacies, vultures and red-winged blackbirds, and shorebirds, dragonflies and butterflies, and stuff like that. The image of a red fox called in my mind my own sudden encounter with a fox on the borders of Potomac, at Little Falls. I must tell you the story once.

Such a region has also its poets: there was two days ago a column in NY Times, authored by Dana Jennings. He is traveling daily to and from NY with the NJ Transit. For him the Meadowlands never disappoints: its shifting weave of light, color and texture hone and enchant the eye; the sure and subtle muscle of the Hackensack River is sometimes just a blue mirror, but when riled and roiled by wind and rain it becomes home to slate-gray runes; the scruff, scrub and brush are prickly and persistent, just like certain denizens of New Jersey. As the train runs, some images remain like still lives and call in mind famous painters.  Four turtles, like nesting dolls, kings of the sun who alchemizes the waters with their shapes into scales of gold, make him meditate at the canvases of Monet. The nexus of industrial and nature, with the industry like a Godzilla tossing it all into the air, sends to Roy Lichtenstein. An egret preens atop a lone pond post that has nothing to support anymore except for this unexpected guest is a call for Audubon. (and this calls for me in turn the visits I was making to the compound created by the great naturalist in the forests near Washington). The remnants of a battalion of telephone poles, like shadows out of time, remind Mr. Jennings of Hopper. And the rust never sleeping in the Meadowlands, with its abandoned cars and trucks, and tractors (and, as they say, also dead bodies) make him meditate at the works of Ed Ruscha. But you should read the whole article:

(New Jersey)


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