Posts Tagged ‘New Jersey’

“I Remember the Scream”, Albert Kohut 1915-1989

April 26, 2015
PItcher of Moon, available from Createspace,

PItcher of Moon, available from Createspace,

He was my father.  Had he lived, he would have been 100 years old today.  He didn’t, but even after 25 years, I remember the parent that always loved me. I have nothing material of his, except a mouthpiece from his French horn, but I have his DNA and I was his first child and his only daughter.  I have a lot of memories.  I remember this man who was loved by everyone, even the caged rabbit down at Tornquist’s, the corner store in Griggstown, New Jersey.  It took me years to understand him, and unfortunately these things sometimes only come after death.  He was  kind and gentle, basically a quiet man full of accomplishments and talents. No fanfare, no hysterics, and especially loved by stray cats and dogs.  Although he died before I started to write, he did see a few small paintings and I know he is the reason I am a poet.  His heart was huge, and he stands as an example of what is good in humankind. I’m proud he was my father.

Jane Kohut-Bartels

I Remember….


I remember the scream

In the middle of the night

Of something dying

Down by the river,

Killed by an owl

Or possibly a fox.

I remember bolting awake

In my parent’s bed,

My heart in my throat

My father just died

The funeral over

Sleeping in

His bed,

Afraid to move from this reality

To the next,

No comfort to be had

Even with the scent of

His tobacco in the sheets.

I wandered the house,

Touched the walls,

Looked through windows

To a landscape not

Changed over years,

Ran my hands down the

Black walnut banister,

Smooth, smooth

As if the days would turn back

Just by this touch

And he would be here.

That scream somewhere on the banks

In the middle of the night,

When I jerked from sleep to

Awake, knowing, he was dead-

The father who loved me

Was gone forever.

I knew then

I was unmoored from life

floating out of reach of love.

A scream that challenged dreams

He would come back,

He wasn’t awaiting the fire

He would wake up,

Much as I did,

In a cold-sweat fear

And slowly, slowly

resume his place in the living.

There are unseen things

That happen in the night,

Down on the river bank,

Where life is challenged by death

Where a rabbit screams his mighty last

Where the heart leaps to the throat,

Where the most we can hope

Is a silent ghost

Who walks out of the river’s fog,

Extends his arms

And comforts the living.

Jane Kohut-Bartels

Copyrighted, 2014

“I Remember the Scream” from Pitcher of Moon, available at Createspace,, 2014

“The things you see when you don’t have a gun.”

April 10, 2013
First Spring Tulips in the Veggie Garden

First Spring Tulips in the Veggie Garden

This isn’t original to me. It’s part of a nun’s dialogue from “Call The Midwife”. My husband and I fell off the couch laughing when we heard a hard-bitten nun say this. It’s rather familiar to us, too, because my husband’s mother became a lay nun. And she had a gun…. though a .410 in the closet. A gun probably to shoot mice or small varmints, though in the middle of Miami, with the close housing, I would imagine it would be noticed.

Here in Atlanta? Nah. The local idiots have AK47s, other assault weapons, and not a hunter amongst them. They get liquored up during July 4th, New Year’s Eve and off they go. It seems like a tradition in the South, but bullets fly through the air and land in people’s skulls. When New Year’s Eve approaches, we don’t sleep under the skylights. Just a precaution.

I would not be in favor of any person having a gun, but living in Atlanta all these years…I don’t dare not have one. The police are slow, dead and swimming in the wrong direction (a bon mot by a doctor about a friend’s sperm count years ago…who went on to have two rotten boys…) and the guns we have are shotguns. They are for house defense, but in all these decades here we haven’t had to use them. I don’t even know where the shells are for them anymore, which is probably not a good thing. And even with a gun that can hit the proverbial barn door…..I am a rotten shot. Something about closing my eyes when I squeeze the trigger I’m told.

I used to hunt…or thought that was what I was doing. A couple of blog entries back I wrote about a wild turkey in neighbor’s back yard, but I didn’t think to write about my only attempt at turkey hunting three decades ago. Probably more.

Way before dawn, I went up to Lake Burton, shotgun at the ready, to hunt wild turkey. These are intelligent and wily birds, and I was told the best time is to hunt at dawn when they are picking up acorns, etc. I positioned myself under a big oak tree when it was still dark, and fell asleep. I woke up when the sun was high enough and no turkeys to be seen. I remember tripping and falling flat on my face when I was tired enough of this ‘no show’ by wily turkey and throwing the gun wide. Luckily, it didn’t go off.

When I was younger, I used to (try) to shoot pheasant in the soy bean fields behind our property in rural New Jersey. I got so excited (and scared) by these big birds that lumbered into the air in front of me, like B-24s, who wheeled into the sun and they blinded you by this flight, and I would get one shot off (always missing) and promptly throw on the safety. I am left-handed, and could never break myself from doing so. I was using my ‘best’ gun, an old Ithaca 12 gauge and every time I got off a shot I would pummel my left shoulder. The trick (besides being a good shot and I wasn’t) is to hold the shotgun tight into your shoulder BEFORE you let off a round. The kickback will kill and bruise your shoulder. Years later, off the back end of a boat, I shot skeet and the same thing happened. A black and blue shoulder and top of the breast doesn’t look good in a strapless gown.

Actually, I never killed an animal with my stupid hunting. I did kill two beautiful butterflies out of pure meanness and I remember with great regret doing so. I never picked up that gun again. In fact, I gave it away.

I do remember though, hunting with Doug Craig, a friend from Princeton who had come back from Viet Nam with pounds of shrapnel in his gut that was slowly removed by various surgeries. Doug was a great sport, and survived my attempt to get a rabbit. I was shooting at the rabbit as he ran in a zigzag and Doug was hopping around the field trying to avoid losing his feet and legs to my hunting lack o’ skill. I guess the shrapnel he had removed (mostly) from his gut was the main event so my attempts with buck or bird shot was small potatoes. Later, Doug got a young male pheasant. We were hunting on the Staats property. We stashed the fowl in the bushes and thought perhaps we should ask surly old man Staats IF we could hunt on his property. He said no, and we left. We ignored him because his questionable sons hunted on our land and shot a beautiful buck. Actually, they never killed it, they mortally wounded it and left the buck to die. I remember my father finding the buck, hearing it thrash in the grass in this beautiful wooded glen. He killed it and brought us out to see and learn that you never shoot an animal without making sure that it’s dead. It was a lesson I learned and he had some shocked children with him learning.

After WWII my father would not allow any hunting on his land. He became a pacifist, this beautiful and gentle man. I was very surprised when in the late 70’s when I was running away from a poisonous marriage he allowed me to bring a gun on the property. He understood something I didn’t.

Between us we had one wild rabbit and one pheasant. I can still see that rabbit head whirling in slow motion as I threw it into the ravine after skinning him. My father hadn’t eaten rabbit for many decades, and was pretty proud that his only daughter cooked it for him. The pheasant was not so good because there were too many pellets in it…teeth breakers. I threw the rabbit pelt onto the tin kitchen roof where it stayed for a couple of years.

Doug died in Philadelphia, mugged in 1992. He lay in the morgue for three weeks until his father, Dr. Donald Craig came and identified him. Both good men and both dead now. Dr. Craig was a vet in Princeton, a large animal vet, and his house was from 1740’s or earlier. He had two refrigerators and it was Russian Roulette you played when you went for a snack. He held autopsy samples in one and human food in another. Some times he mixed them up…hence the Roulette. It was always a surprise when you opened the door.

This entry has nothing to do with anything, (some days I get sick of poetry…) but I am still laughing at the title. Perhaps total gun control will save wildlife from people like me. But it will be hard to pry the guns from these fool’s hands in Atlanta. Now there is a bill to allow students on college campuses to carry guns in holsters. Mix booze (to say nothing of drugs) with guns and you got worse than the wild, wild West. Already some people carry guns in church around here.

Bibles and guns….a deadly mix.

Lady Nyo

Hurricane Sandy, New Jersey and Family…..

November 1, 2012

Watching the national news this evening, the plight of the elderly stuck in high rises without food/water/heat/power just tears at the heart. These people are stuck in the chaos, and the brave first responders are attempting to reach them. And apparently, there is a Winter storm predicted for some time next week. With luck and such hard work hopefully power will be restored soon for people who are in their shattered homes and lives can be saved.

I haven’t had the heart to write anything about this horrific event. I find I am responding to this like I did with 9/11. Fear and a sense of displacement. Then I had a lot of anger, but who can get angry at a hurricane? A force of nature isn’t the same as terrorists.

However, friends from around the world have written and asked about my family in New Jersey. Specifically, they have asked about my 100 year old Aunt Jean. We were just up there in the beginning of September, for her Birthday Celebration, and if there is ANYONE who can come through a hurricane, it is my dear Aunt. This is a powerful woman, in command of all her senses and she takes no captives. But she does have power, in her very elegant suite in the assisted living complex. So, relatives have moved in with her, and I know she will soothe the great grandchildren and comfort the anxiety of the various adults. She is made that way, and I guess this is the reason she has gotten to such an age. Perhaps seeing the world over many wars, seeing the destruction of her Hungarian homeland at various times, and going back innumerable visits, well, perhaps you get a better perspective on something like a hurricane.

I don’t know, but I know I sit here, and my heart just sinks when I see the ocean cities of my youth and vacations just destroyed. The entire seaboard of New Jersey has been devastated from Cape May to the top of the state. NY is another matter, and so many friends and fellow bloggers are there and writing from a ‘boots on the ground’ perspective. Bless them for what they are now going through. (Thank you, Karin, of

Talking to Don, a cousin , apparently there was some rank stupidity on the part of the mayor of Atlantic City: The Governor ordered an evacuation of all barrier islands or low lying areas for the safety of citizens, and this mayor, Lorenzo Langford, countered this by telling people to stay put. He didn’t want ‘his’ people evacuating.

What is going on here? Is this politics or stupidity? He suggested people could shelter in a school…one block from the bay. This school is totally flooded.

The people who have to answer for this stupidity are the first responders: rescue workers, firemen, police, etc. They are the ones who have to go down the streets in boats pulling people off roofs and out of second story windows. People should seriously consider what peril they put others in when they don’t evacuate during such events. But they don’t and apparently politics takes over in the egos of some politicians.

Power is still out to over 2 million New Jersey residents. Gas fires have burned 100 houses. Gas fumes and hissing are now common in these towns, and it’s like a powderkeg waiting to blow.

There is only time and the courage of people in New Jersey. Hopefully residents have learned that you don’t ignore the power of a hurricane. The destruction around them will make this lesson stick.

Lady Nyo

I haven’t a poem to end this entry, and poetry gives comfort. But the moon has been full this week, and I remember a poem I wrote about Japan’s disaster of almost two springs ago. I know it isn’t the same, but in a way, it is. And I know for some, a poem will bring comfort.

Is there a moon viewing party
In Japan tonight?
Destruction, sorrow
Covers the land,
Despair, loss
Regulates the heart.

Perhaps the moon presence
Is of little interest
And less comfort.
Perhaps sorrow goes too deep
To raise eyes above shock and debris.

Her gleam falls upon all
A compassionate blanketing
Of the Earth,
Softening the soiled,
Ravaged landscape,
A beacon of promise
Of the return to life,
Beauty to nature.

Jane Kohut-Bartels,
Copyrighted, 2012

The Tribe of Kohuts…..

September 27, 2012

Earlier this month, we traveled to central New Jersey for the 100th Birthday Celebration of my dear Aunt Jean. We drove because I insisted on taking one of our few French pumpkins from our garden, jams and jellies and eggs from our hens as gifts to my aunt. That was a long trip, but having a car made it possible to make day trips out into the countryside to see what changes 20 years of absence had made. The poem ” The Homecoming” tells of just a few of those changes we found.

Most importantly, there were 75 plus people attending, cousins, relatives in some way, but people I had not seen in 23 and 50 years. Of course, I had never met many of the grown children from my cousins, and there were plenty in attendance. So many people remembered my father and related stories to us about him. He was well loved in his lifetime and hearing people, I was once again struck how special he was. He’s been gone for 23 years this November, but his presence was in the room; he was that loved.

There were many long-gone relatives in that banquet room. Uncle John and Aunt Margaret, Sonny’s father and mother, an uncle who was the essence of kindness, his pockets filled with candies which he rustled and we children came running like kittens; Aunt Margaret who would take me on a train to NY for lunch, first washing my face to make me presentable; Uncle Zoltan and Aunt Pauline, who stepped in to parent me when my father died. They loomed large in my life when I felt lost. Uncle Louis, Aunt Jean’s dear husband, who was my father’s favorite brother; Aunt Bubbie, Uncle Mac, Aunt Irene and Uncle Lee…so many people gone, an entire generation, with only Aunt Nancy and Aunt Jean left to herd the rest of us through life.

My Aunt Jean, at 100, was glowing, strong and full of life: beautiful, witty, and one I wouldn’t get into any political argument. That was the general impression I got from other relatives. At 100, Aunt Jean can hold her own.

She uses a wheeled walker, but watching her, you can see she walks faster than that walker. I also saw her put aside the walker, and shove a heavy chair out of her way. There is strength and life in this 100 year young woman.

Over the years, because of distance (we are in Atlanta) and other things, I had missed the Xmas parties every year, had not extended myself to the various cousins, was sure that no one would remember me. I was very wrong. My oldest cousin, Sonny (John) Kohut, the son of my father’s oldest brother (dead) and his adorable wife, Marylou immediately embraced us. We didn’t have name tags on, but it didn’t seem to matter. I was Al Kohut’s only daughter and that was enough for this tribe.

Aunt Jean has been instrumental in my writing life: over the past 5 years she has read every poem I have sent her, and I thanked her in my last book, “White Cranes of Heaven”. She deserved thanking and more because I sent her just about everything I wrote. She complained every time my letters didn’t include some poetry. Apparently, she also passed some of these poems around the family, so I wasn’t such a stranger there.

Over the years, Aunt Jean has become “Mother Jean” and I her ‘daughter”. She also has her own daughter, Pam , and I gain a sister here. I was receiving two and sometimes three letters a week from her. Aunt Jean writes around 50 letters a month all over the world to relatives. The Kohuts are Hungarian,(Aunt Jean tells me ‘closer to the Czech side’) and most of them are bi-lingual. My Hungarian would have my tongue ripped out by wolves: it is that bad.

Mother Jean saw a daughter sorely in need of a functioning family. Her embrace of me has made all the difference in my life. She saw a woman desperately in need of the love of her tribe and made it possible in so many ways. A compassionate belief in the goodness of life and living, a fortitude against evil, and a remarkable ability to embrace the needs of others.

We came from this celebration deeply reconnected with a tribe of people who were loving and caring. The next book will be dedicated to this tribe and I will attempt to remember them for what they gave us that weekend.

It is good to belong somewhere after all these years of doubt. I am very proud of my Hungarian heritage, and my Aunt Jean has helped me feel the strength of it.

Jane Kohut-Bartels
Copyrighted, 2012

“Memories of a Rotten Childhood”….Doug Craig.

October 31, 2010


English Countryside, jkohut-bartels, watercolor, 2007


Recently I started reading this collection of essays.  It has bloomed into possibly a book.   Then again, there are things so deep down in the mists of childhood, that any dragging  them up into the light seems endless.  Childhood seemed endless.

Doug Craig was a favored childhood friend.

Lady Nyo

Chapter from “Memories of a Rotten Childhood”  (Doug Craig)

We met one fall, now years ago, when we were no longer young.  I was running from a mean early marriage.  Doug was just running.

It was 3 years since the end of the Vietnam War, and Doug had plenty of ghosts to run from.  He was to be shipped out, and the night before his platoon, company, whatever it was called….was attacked.  Doug woke up to gunfire in his tent, and got shrapnel in his torso, mainly his stomach if I remember right.

Doug was a kid I grew up with in the wilds of New Jersey back in the 60’s.  His father was the large animal vet in Princeton.  It was always a chancy issue to open the two refrigerators in their 1740’s house on Stockton Road.  One held food, and the other specimens.  It was a fearful thing for a child unaware of which door held which.  I can still hear the booming voice of this Scottish man yelling at all of us.  We lived in terror of his voice, but he was one of the kindest and gentlest men we knew.  Clearly a case of his bark worse than his bite.

Doug’s mother was the picture of elegance:  two shelties on two matching settees in the sitting room, a glowering portrait of some infamous relative over the fireplace, and his mother warm and welcoming.  We all loved this family.  Doug came from good stock.  Too bad he was so crazy.

We had a bluegrass band back then, called Marrowbone Creek Vagrants, made up of neighborhood kids.  I believe this band, in some form…with different name changes, still is viable.  Sort of like a vampires convention when the kids come back to the stomping grounds of the New Jersey countryside.

Music wasn’t the only thing we had in common.  Motorcycles, and the attendant accidents, horrible, property destroying stunts,  and basically goofing off.  But music was the river that ran through us.  Today for many of these guys and gals…it still is.

I came home that fall day with two shotguns.  One a 20 gauge Mossberg, and the other one a 12 gauge Ithaca.  My father gave me a weird look when he picked me up from the airport.  He was a pacifist and wouldn’t have a gun on the property, except for a Benjamin Franklin air pistol, which shot rivets.  That he kept for shooting walnuts out of the crooks of walnut trees.  He was a marksman during WW11 and besides a bow, he would not have weapons near him.  Perhaps being in a B-24 for most of the war was deadly enough.

Doug and I decided to go hunting.  I just wanted a chance to shoot off those shotguns.  Living in urban Atlanta didn’t give me many chances.  And the woods where it was legal to shoot off guns were miles away.

We ‘hunted’ all over the back of my parent’s property.  Mostly cut down soybean fields, and what we were looking to kill, I didn’t really know.  I DID know that I was a failure when it came to birds.  We have those big pheasants up in New Jersey, the ones who come up low in front of you, and wheel into the sun so you can’t see or follow them well.  And I had the problem of automatically flipping the safety on the gun after every shot.  I never could break myself of this, and don’t know where it came from.

But hunted we did.  I should have realized Doug ‘hunted’ differently than any other person I knew. He crouched down, held the gun low and crept through the underbrush.  I didn’t realize then what I was looking at was a man who had just come back from the wars.  Apparently Doug was trained, now irreversibly, as a soldier.

He was a very brave man.  He hunted with me, a real nincompoop when it came to hunting.  We scared up a young rabbit, and I kept shooting at it as it jagged away.  Unfortunately, I was mostly shooting at Doug’s boots, and it is still a wonder that I didn’t add to his shrapnel wounds.  Doug got the rabbit.

Then we decided our luck would turn better if we trespassed on ol’ man Staats land.  Full of woods, and we were bound to find something.  Doug found a pheasant there, and bagged it on one shot.

Then we got stupid and decided to go ask Staats if we could hunt on his land.  He thought about it a moment, and said ‘no’.  Fine with us, we had bagged that pheasant on his turf, stowed it behind a tree, and besides, we were tired of hunting.  It was turning colder, and we were hungry.

We went home, Doug to his house on River Road.  He was living with other varmints and it was an old farm house, looking none the better for Doug living there.

I remember skinning the rabbit.  I had read something about this, so at least I knew what to do. Mostly.  I do remember cutting off the rabbit head, and throwing it out over the ravine.  It slowly revolved in the air, looking at me reproachfully, with every revolution.   Thirty some years later and I still remember that stare.

I cooked the rabbit for my father.  My mother wouldn’t have a thing to do with my rabbit stew.  My father said he hadn’t had rabbit in thirty years, and pronounced it ‘good’.  The pheasant was another issue.  I plucked the feathers, saving the tail for some future decoration, and draped bacon over the back of it.  Problem was this:  pheasant was full of birdshot and dried up quickly.  Eating it was a problem, so I threw it into the ravine for the raccoons.

I threw the rabbit pelt up on the copper kitchen roof.  Why, I don’t know.  I do know that my mother bitched about it for about a year until my father or someone retrieved it.  Should have been well cured by then.

Doug and I didn’t see each other again until my father lay in the hospital with a stroke twelve years later.  Doug would take me late at night to visit him, and spent hours just talking.  I was there for a week, but it took my father nine months of recovery to die.

Doug was a good friend.  We both were running from ghosts, many kinds of ghosts.  He had an old Seth Thomas clock I bought from him.  He carefully packed it up and shipped it months later.  Doug was also a very fine Kentucky rifle maker.  He was going to make me a gun. Doug, once he focused his scattered and fried, mind could excel in anything.

Two years after my father died, Doug died on the streets of Philly one night.  He was mugged and lay in the morgue until identification was possible and Dr. Craig was contacted.

I think Doug was our first childhood friend to die.  Perhaps there were others claimed by the war.  But I don’t remember.  I do remember that all of us were in shock: Doug, though living and behaving always on the edge, seemed invincible.  Didn’t he survive Vietnam?  How could something like this take him?

If it could take him, it could take the rest of us.  Life has no guarantees, obviously.

I think all of us have a Doug Craig in our lives, somewhere.  They are the people we miss the most because they have lived the fullest of lives.  We know they are part crazy, but that was also part of the times, and lots of their charm.

We live through them at times because they are braver than us.

Jane Kohut-Bartels

Copyrighted, 2010

“Bob Dylan and Me”, From “Memories of a Rotten Childhood”…..Happy 4th of July!

July 1, 2010

A few years ago, I started writing  a piece that was only to be a very short story, but it expanded into multiple chapters.  That was “Memories of a Rotten Childhood”, which were basically funny stories of growing up in rural New Jersey a long time ago.  The cast of characters were real people; neighbors, childhood playmates, parents and people that crossed our crooked paths.

A few writer friends told me that “Rotten” didn’t sound too bad, considering their own childhoods, and I thought of changing the title of this (now) developing book, but I usually fly by the seat of my pants on these things and I haven’t come up with a better title yet.

There is a lot of ‘rotten’ in our childhoods:  parents, relatives die, beloved animals die, scary adults with the twist of a word impact our thoughts and memories…..trauma abounds in childhood.  All of us go through  something of ‘rotten’, and we don’t have the discernment and distance until we are well into adulthood to figure it all out.  Of course, adulthood compounds the issues.

Such is life.

I don’t consider myself a humorous writer, but rereading some of these chapters, I laughed out loud.  Perhaps I was laughing in embarrassment, leavened with shame, because childhood is an awkward journey, and anyone who denies the humiliation of this particular period in their own lives is a liar.  Or has very selective memory.

Or Alzheimers.

Lady Nyo


I was fifteen years old and not cool.

Fifteen was after dolls, during horses, and way before boys.  I was a slow learner, combined with a timid manner and a few pimples.  My parents were no help, they were off fighting the war called marriage. We three kids were on the battlefield, carrying water to each side.

At fifteen I was barely holding on to daylight.  Life was getting complicated and I was in a permanent daydream. Now, forty years later, I understand all this was the natural process of growing up.  Then it was just massive confusion with a good dose of shame to leaven it all.

On top of this there wasn’t any real guidelines for parents back then.  No Dr. Spock or if he was around, my parents certainly didn’t read him.  Most fathers back then were WWII  veterans  and had their own view on childhood trauma. Fully half the men in my father’s B-24 squadron were under twenty. Babies flying bathtubs.  “Buck up and take it like a man”, “wrap a rag around it, it’ll stop bleeding” was what most of us heard from our fathers, and the mothers just looked away and dropped another Miltown.

I’m not much of a better parent today, just with more guilt.  Genes hold like superglue.

I remember a few rather ‘beat’ parties at our house, where my mother and father would serve white wines and people would sit on the wide plank pine floors. Each year Halloween masquerades for the adults, my mother in fishnet stockings, stiletto heels, a ballet leotard, and for some reason, cat ears on the top of her head.  I must have been pretty young, because my nursery was set up in the future upstairs bathroom.  I remember her leaning over me and the smell of Woodhue floating off her into my mouth as she kissed me good night.  Must have been some party, because I heard her complain chillingly to my father that he had ‘slipped her a Mickey.’  Apparently she had vomited in the one of the four fireplaces downstairs, and blamed my father for her drunkenness.  My mother never got drunk, so this memory remains strong of my childhood.  These things stick because they are the few times I got noticed. Maybe it’s something sensory with the perfume, but I don’t really know.

I also remember the concrete divisions between adults and children.  There was none of today’s behavior asking kids their opinions around the dinner table.  We didn’t have any. We were trying to swim through the deep waters of childhood and adult issues generally elicited a groan of having to think hard, something we only attempted in math.

High school, sometimes for all four years, was brutal.  Too big, too many stairs and too much distraction complete with cynical teachers who should have retired but were hanging on. Where else could they abuse the unworthy?  They were addicted to the power,  while we, their slaves, went under the wire.  The natural order of life back then.  The time of “squat and hug your knees”, the threat of Commies dropping bombs on our baseball fields- all good training for life.

I had a girlfriend in my sophomore year. I can’t remember her name, but except for getting two tickets to the Bob Dylan concert in McCarter Theater at Princeton University, she was unmemorable. I’ll call her Gloria for this story.

We had no idea who Bob Dylan was except for posters glued to walls calling him a  New York Folk Singer.   Both of us were in band or orchestra, depending upon the need of the teacher.  Violin and clarinet were our only forms of music back then.  Radios were tuned by my parents to classical or their big band music.  In fact, the only time I can remember listening to radio was on a Saturday night, when my brothers and I would listen to WOR in New York, and the crazy dj would try to scare us with stories about the Jersey Pine Barren Devil. Can’t remember his or the Devil’s proper names, though.

So Gloria somehow gets two tickets to a Bob Dylan concert.  We, at fifteen, decide our Sunday best would be appropriate. It’s a concert after all, and this signals dress up. On the afternoon before the event, we curled and sprayed and flipped our hair, put on white dresses with pearls and our white low heeled Sunday shoes and went to McCarter Theater.  I don’t remember much about it, except they set up the stage with chairs, right behind Dylan, for the overflow of audience.  Somebody thought it cute to put the two strange girls in matching white dresses right behind the singer.  I remember sitting there very primly, our hands crossed in our laps, trying to take it all in, watching his ass.

The stage lights of course were glaring in our eyes, and drunken frat boys yelling, “Hey! Bobby! Play Blowing in the Wind!”  “Hey, Bobby, get some singing lessons!” “Hey, Bob, …..”  A couple of cans of something were thrown on the stage, probably beer.

I remember Dylan looking mystified as he turned and looked behind him.  I didn’t know the word then, but now I would say his thoughts were clearly: “What the fuck?”  Each time he turned we would beam and clap. He would bow.  We were his own cheering section as the cans of soda and beer came hurling from the balcony.

As I write this, I am laughing but there is also embarrassment I was such a hick.  I got cooler as the 60s progressed.


Jane Kohut-Bartels

Copyrighted 2009

Harvest Home

September 6, 2009
Our first Grape Jam from our vine.

Our first Grape Jam from our vine.

My hometown, Griggstown, New Jersey on August 22, celebrated the 127th Harvest Home.  I haven’t been there for all of them, but some mornings it seems so.

Harvest Home was put on by the Dutch Reformed Church on Canal Road and that church was there from the 1840’s.  The whole state, at least the lower middle portion where we lived, was settled in the 1660’s by the Dutch, the English and much later the Norweigans.  The names I grew up with were Staats, Van Doren, Wyckoff,  Cortelyou, Campbell, Beekman, VanderVeer, Terhunes,  Van Nostrand, Veghte, etc. Some of my childhood friends are still  there:  David Olsen and his Irish wife, Pat, Jerry Steele and others. Some have died too young, like Doug Craig, but others remain and don’t stray too far from the farmlands which now have MacMansions on them.

One man, Mr. Herbert Brush, lived in the “Manse” next to the church.  Mr. Brush was influential in my younger years, as he taught me chess and his house was a wonder of books, from floor to ceiling in two stories.  He was a fixture in his old Buick, as he made the rounds to visit the housewives during the week, and we loved to see him because he carried old and stale hard candies in his coat pockets.  We didn’t care, it was a treat back then for country kids.  Mr. Brush gave me books, mostly art books, and mostly (quel dommage…) in French.  He was earlyon a schoolteacher I believe, but he also was a fine draftsman.  I have a pix of him in a smart carriage with a beautiful black horse as he went ‘acourting’ with the young teacher who became his wife.  Mr. Herbert Brush died in 1976 at the age of 93.  I knew he was dying because I was winning our chess games.  That never happened before.  He was buried in the graveyard next to the Manse, in fact he could have spit out his window onto his grave.

The Madsens, Olsens, Tornquists, and us, the Kohuts, were latecomers, and the first were Norweigans. We were Hungarian on my father’s side,  but my mother was a Wyckoff early on.  So we belonged…sort of.

Harvest Home was an early celebration of the harvest and Griggstown and the surrounding environs were farming country.  New Jersey is, after all, the “Garden State”.  But the harvest wasn’t in yet, and wouldn’t be until late September or October.

Harvest Home is generally celebrated around September 25.  It’s tied to the autumnal equinox, when the sun crosses the equator on its apparent journey southward, and we have a day and night that is of equal duration.  Up until Harvest Home, the daylight has been greater than the hours from dusk to dawn.  But from then on, the reverse is true.

Mythically, this is the day of the year when the God of Light is defeated by his twin and alter ego, the God of Darkness. Mythically speaking, it is the only day of the year when Llew (Light) is vulnerable and possible of defeat.  Llew now stands on the Balance (Libra/autumnal equinox) with one foot on the Cauldron (Cancer/ summer soltice) and his other foot on the Goat (Capricorn/winter solstice).  Thus he is betrayed by Blodeuwedd, (the Welsh Virgin (Virgo) and transformed into an Eagle (Scorpio)

Two things now likely occur in this myth.  Having defeated Llew, Goronwy (Darkness) now takes over Llew’s functions, both as lover to Blodeuwedd, the Goddess, and as king of our own world.  Goronwy now is the Horned King, who sits on Llew’s throne and begins his rule, but his formal coronation will not be for another 6 weeks, Halloween, or Samhain, when he becomes the Winter Lord, or Dark King, Lord of Misrule.

(with thanks to Mike Nichol’s articles at “The Witches Sabbats”)

Llew’s sacrificial death at Harvest Home also identifies him with John Barleycorn, spirit of the fields.  Corn dolls were woven from the last sheaves of corn harvested and hid in a house to be used symbolically in the planting of seed at the first of the spring  planting.

There is also that questionable “Wicker Man” made infamous by the movie of the same name.  Aside from that, farmers did collect the stalks of the corn and bundled them up and set them aflame during the harvests.  They were beacons at this night of festival, and probably had more significance than just beacons.

I think all this pagan symbolism was too much for the staid Dutch Reformed Christians, so they pushed up the festival to late August, fully a month from the usual fete. Possibly to  sanitize this festival and hopefully obscure the pagan roots. But there was a frisson, an excitement every year, especially when we rolled out of the Church Hall, our bellies filled with good Dutch and Norweigan cooking, and eyed the young men and women, mostly teens and younger, most of whom we knew, but a hayride under the rising moon is still a magical time at any age.  Many of our neighbors, the ‘elders’, met at the yearly Harvest Home and got married.

I now live, and have for almost 40 years, in urban Atlanta….3 miles from downtown.  To call this urban is a bit of a misnomer, because we live in a little area that has roots back before 1858.  Sherman didn’t get everything.  But it is mostly urban people and now, the new urban pioneers.  Most of us, the long settled people of Capitol View and Sylvan Hills, and Capitol View Manor, have gardens, and though we don’t have an actual Harvest Home, we do have an exchange of the bounty of our gardens or our labors.

We have a garden full of tomatoes this year, a wanky grape vine, plum/apple/peach trees, a watermelon vine that has three watermelons growing up into the patio, and a strange squash growing over the tomato cages:  it looks like a large turban, up four feet in the air.  Was supposed to be a crooked neck squash.  Our neighbors have lots of tomatoes and okra, squash, and we have a casual exchange each fall:  our hen’s eggs, our tomatoes, and our kudzu jelly  in exchange:  venison steaks, bread puddings, more tomatoes, chow chow and chutneys.  Some times oranges from the State Farmer’s Market well south of us, but it’s all welcome.  Our shelves are full of canned jellies, applesauce and chow chow;  we just have to remember to eat them, to rotate their existence.

And….I read very recently that home gardeners were leading in keeping the heirloom seeds for tomatoes and other plants going:  so many species have disappeared because only a few ‘engineered’ crops have been pushed by the big nurseries.  We have a mission here, us home gardeners.

Yesterday we harvested our first grapes:  tiny, perfect bunches, looking like black bbs.  Not the plump, green seedless Thompson Seedless we were told we would get from that vine.  But it has been 4 years at least since we planted  that ‘gift’ vine from some new neighbors.  I made my first homegrown grape jelly and it was so thick and dark I had to keep diluting with water.  I got 6 good jars of it, and this morning tasted it for the first time.  It was rich and not that it was so sweet, but it had something of the ‘mystical’ in it.  It was a grape jam to savor, and that it came from our vine and was the first, well, it deserved honor.

In the rhythm of the year, Harvest Home marks a time of rest after hard work.  The crops are gathered in, and winter is still far away.  We have a frog that croaks loudly in our small goldfish pond under the full moon.  The birds are just starting to think of migration, and the Sandhill cranes can be seen during the brittle light of a fall day circling around the ether, honking and looking like their GPS isn’t working.  We are starting to see the geese,  those Canadian geese who foul our lawns, those “Hounds of Annwn”  who bay at the moon, that Harvest Moon, or Corn Moon, silhouetted against it like so many Witches on their brooms.

Lady Nyo


Gather in, gather in,
The Horn of Plenty manifest
From seed to ripened fruit
The Corn Moon’s cooling gaze
Looks down on passing season.

Gathered in, gathered in
The toil is done,
The grains are in
The bounty of the Earth
Once more links
Our presence to the Infinite.

Jane Kohut-Bartels
Copyrighted, 2009

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