Celestial viewing and spring renewal in the early morning

Book by former state foresters details Delaware’s interesting history with trees
April 29, 2022

The day this column runs in print is Arbor Day 2022, which is why I had intended it to be primarily about trees. However, the morning I sat down to write it, in the span of less than three hours, a trio of events occurred that got another area of my brain working. They don’t mean much in the grand scheme of things, but serve as reminders – to me, anyway – that getting outside is important, and that it’s not just humans trying to navigate life on this planet or others.

As the officers from the Milton Police Department could attest, I run before dawn pretty much every day. Most mornings, I head out and it’s just me, a few vehicles, one or two other early morning souls, wildlife and the stars.

This past week has been prime stargazing time – I like how I feel after the run, but it’s a monotonous task and I’ve got to do something when I’m not avoiding cars in the dark. The mornings have been clear, and it’s been pretty cool to see the moon, Jupiter, Venus, Mars and Saturn slowly align. On this particular morning, as I approached the farm field on the corner of Route 16 and Country Road, an orange-tinted, waning-crescent moon sat just above the tree line, with the four planets aligned nicely in a row above it. An only-in-the-movies touch would have been a shooting star, but wishing for that would have been greedy, and being around for a once-in-a-thousand-years event works for me.

A few times a week while I’m running, I come across wildlife that is not expecting to see me. That’s what happened on this morning, but it was still specifically unusual. As I was nearing the end of my run, a family of red foxes – one adult, two babies – sprinted across the road. They stopped and stared. I stopped and made it obvious I wanted significantly less to do with them than they wanted to do with me. They kept moving, then I did too. I believe I may have been watched from the side of the road, but I don’t recall coming across a family out in the open like that before.

Finally, I’ve already written about how I walk my kids to school, which I was doing a couple hours after my run. As we approached Mulberry Street from Mill Park, the three of us, plus a woman walking her dog, saw two goslings trying to climb onto the sidewalk on the Wagamons Pond side of the street. They were trying hard, but their little legs just weren’t able to make the curb. Not surprisingly, my kids really, really wanted me to try to save the goslings. As I crossed the street, one found the curb cut for the entrance to the pond’s parking lot, but the second ran in the opposite direction. After a few hectic seconds of me trying to corner it, without also stepping on it, I managed to get it onto the sidewalk. I wouldn’t say I threw the gosling, but it was definitely a scoop with a little more air to it than anticipated. It lay there recovering for a few seconds, then righted itself and wobbled on its way. The kids and the woman were happy. On the way back from dropping my kids off, I saw the family of geese – two adults and three goslings – making their way across the pond. 

I’m not sure why my brain made me change the course of my column, but I guess you can blame those oxygen-producing trees for giving me a runner’s high that morning.

Delaware has an interesting history with its trees

Because of Arbor Day, the original focus of this column was attending a recent lecture at the Lewes Public Library given by former Delaware State Forester Bob Tjaden. That’s why this column has a photo of Tjaden with it and not any of my morning adventures – I can’t have a camera with me all the time.

About this time last year, Tjaden released a book called “Beneath the Canopy: A Historical View of Forestry in Delaware.” He co-wrote the book with Walt Gabel, who was state forester from 1974 to 1991 and Tjaden’s immediate predecessor.

Tjaden said he recognized the forest industry has all but left the state, which is why he and Gabel, who died in 2016, wanted to write the book. There were a lot of people with stories to tell who were passing away, he said.

During his lecture, Tjaden said Delaware’s forests contain an interesting mix of tree species because it’s about as far south as some northern tree species grow and about as far north as other tree species grow.

He spent the next hour talking about how that mix of trees provided Delawareans across the state with material for a number of uses – shipbuilding in Milford and Milton, paper making and gunpowder in New Castle County, charcoal and wooden basket production in western Sussex, holly wreath making in Milton. He talked about how the sycamore trees along DuPont Highway were planted because Alice du Pont, wife of Coleman du Pont, wanted them. He talked about how the machine allowing for a continuous roll of paper was invented in Delaware and how the peace treaty ending World War II was printed on paper produced in Delaware.

Basically, the book is an interesting read, and I appreciate Tjaden taking the time to put this portion of the state’s history down for the record.

Joke of the Week:

It’s Arbor Day and at some point the weather will turn, so today’s joke is a combo. As always, joke submissions can be sent to

Q: What did the tree wear to the pool party?

A: Swimming trunks!


  • Chris Flood has lived in or visited family in Delaware his whole life. He grew up in Maine, but a block of scrapple was always in the freezer of his parents’ house during his childhood. Contact him at

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