Saturday, June 9, 2012

A Different Jersey Boardwalk: Great Swamp National Wildlife Refuge

I had a few hours yesterday between the time my teaching job ended in one county and our younger son's playoff soccer game began in another. I hiked on one of New Jersey's other boardwalks: the one that run through a section of the Great Swamp National Wildlife Refuge in Morris County, New Jersey. Something about being alone in the wild speaks to my soul, to my innermost self. I always emerge refreshed and restored, as if a broken part of me has healed.

Over the past few weeks I have followed a structured walking program to improve my fitness. So I headed down the boardwalk at a  quick clip. I didn't see the tree swallows, the kingfishers and the other species that make the nearly 8,000-acre park their home. But I breathed in the air, so clean, so full of life, and I heard the woodpeckers and heard the geese calling to one another. I walked right past a chipmunk. 

The refuge is located in the most densely populated state and was created back in 1960 after a battle with the Port Authority of New York, which wanted to turn the wetlands into an airport. Imagine. 

As I walked, I prayed the rosary, using my fingers to count off the Hail Marys, out loud to myself with no other humans to hear me. How reassuring to think as I prayed and I walked about my fellow humans who find Beauty in the natural world.

THE WORLD is charged with the grandeur of God.
  It will flame out, like shining from shook foil;
  It gathers to a greatness, like the ooze of oil
Crushed. Why do men then now not reck his rod?
Generations have trod, have trod, have trod;        5
  And all is seared with trade; bleared, smeared with toil;
  And wears man’s smudge and shares man’s smell: the soil
Is bare now, nor can foot feel, being shod.
And for all this, nature is never spent;
  There lives the dearest freshness deep down things;        10
And though the last lights off the black West went
  Oh, morning, at the brown brink eastward, springs—
Because the Holy Ghost over the bent
  World broods with warm breast and with ah! bright wings

-Gerard Manley Hopkins S.J.


  1. That looks like a beautiful walk. I love boardwalks through swamps. They remind me of the swamp boardwalks in Louisiana. Something wildly wonderful about them. Sounds like a very peaceful place to say a rosary. Praying in front of the tabernacle is nice too, but I almost prefer to be in the great outdoors where I am reminded of God's beauty in such a tangible way.

  2. a beautiful way to pray the rosary!!