A Sap Run

3.10.13 ~ Orange, Massachusetts

Before the bud swells, before the grass springs, before the plow is started, comes the sugar harvest.  It is the sequel of the bitter frost; a sap run is the sweet goodbye of winter.
~ John Burroughs
(Signs & Seasons)

3.10.13 ~ Orange, Massachusetts

We had no idea what a treat we were in for when we checked into a motel in Orange, Massachusetts Saturday night. Our plan was to spend the night, grab a breakfast somewhere, and head over to a family reunion in the neighboring town of Athol on Sunday afternoon. In the morning we discovered a great place to have breakfast, on Johnson’s Farm, a restaurant, sugar house, and gift shop! Maple syrup production was well under way, the old-fashioned way.

3.10.13 ~ Orange, Massachusetts

Sugar weather is crisp weather.  How the tin buckets glisten in the gray woods; how the robins laugh; how the nuthatches call; how lightly the thin blue smoke rises among the trees!  The squirrels are out of their dens; the migrating waterfowls are streaming northward; the sheep and cattle look wistfully toward the bare fields; the tide of the season, in fact, is just beginning to rise.
~ John Burroughs
(Signs & Seasons)

If only some way could be found to share the smell of New England in maple sugar season on a blog post! Our olfactory receptors were tickled with delight to whiff in the aromas of wood-burning stoves and sap boiling down into syrup. We bought a couple of jugs of pure maple syrup! Mostly we’ll be using it in marinades, since pancakes are no longer on our grain-free diet…

3.10.13 ~ Orange, Massachusetts

It was if we had been transported back in time to a place in the heart of New England. It made me appreciate anew that there are more “seasons” than the four four we normally notice as the year goes around. The gnarly old tree in the above picture caught our attention – what an amazing life it has had. And I loved the knotty pine interior of the sugar house in the picture below – so typical of New England.

3.10.13 ~ Orange, Massachusetts

When we got home Sunday night Zoë and Scarby seemed a little angry with us (ears pinned back, ignoring us) for leaving them overnight, but they’re back to purring and following us around, rubbing our legs and talking to us again.

maintaining the soul…

“The Last Furrow” by Henry Herbert La Thangue

Earth laughs in flowers, to see her boastful boys
Earth-proud, proud of the earth which is not theirs;
Who steer the plough, but cannot steer their feet
Clear of the grave.
~ Ralph Waldo Emerson
(Hamatreya)

It was not meant that the soul should cultivate the earth, but that the earth should educate and maintain the soul.
~ Margaret Fuller
(Memoirs)

woods fill up with snow…

“Winter” by Ivan Shishkin

Whose woods these are I think I know.
His house is in the village though;
He will not see me stopping here
To watch his woods fill up with snow.

My little horse must think it queer
To stop without a farmhouse near
Between the woods and frozen lake
The darkest evening of the year.

He gives his harness bells a shake
To ask if there is some mistake.
The only other sound’s the sweep
Of easy wind and downy flake.

The woods are lovely, dark and deep.
But I have promises to keep,
And miles to go before I sleep,
And miles to go before I sleep.

~ Robert Frost
(Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening)

Connecticut Renaissance Faire

Last Saturday we braved the unseasonal heat and humidity and visited the Connecticut Renaissance Faire in Hebron, Connecticut.

We saw a silk aerialist on one stage:

Then we were approached by this self-proclaimed fool who invited us to see his duel on another stage.  I said we would come if he’d allow me to take his picture.  He posed willingly.

We watched another show on the stage shown below, from a distance, while eating our lunch in the shade.  Not sure what it was all about – there was a lot of splashing and towel snapping – no doubt they were poking fun at the man they coaxed up there from the audience.

There were costumes to be seen everywhere…

But our favorite part of the day was the falconry demonstration.  I’m not sure how I feel about this sport, but the falconer explained that their birds were rescue birds and that they would have perished in the wild.  In theory these birds of prey could fly away if they were unhappy with their lot in life.

I was thrilled to be so close to these beautiful creatures, but my camera was getting a workout trying to zoom in and out to get pictures of them up close and far away.  This falconer was very accommodating and kept pausing in front of me so I could get a shot.

I got the sense that these falconers love and respect their birds of prey.  They seemed genuinely interested in educating the public about their natural behavior.  No unnatural or coerced circus tricks here.

Into the Forest

Sunday turned out to be the best day for Janet and me to begin exploring Pachaug State Forest, which is the largest one in Connecticut, with a total of 24,000 acres in parts of five towns, including Voluntown, where we began.

We had to adjust to not having signs to identify the trees and plants we were looking at.  This place is pretty wild, not like the well-marked arboretum we’re used to!

There were a lot of unusual mushrooms, like the red one with white dots (above) and the huge rust colored ones sticking out of a stump (below)…

A close up…

And a cheery clump of ferns growing on top of a very tall stump!

A girl and her horse enjoying a stroll through the forest…

Next trip Janet is going to introduce me to me kayaking!  Wonder if I’ll have to leave my camera on the shore…

Who Is Elizabeth Taylor?

Elizabeth Taylor in “National Velvet”

I’ve meant to write this blog since March 23, when Elizabeth Taylor died.  Other things kept happening, though, including Tim spending five days in the hospital, and I wavered as time went by.  However I have treated myself to a late afternoon cup of coffee and feel a little more inspired now…

My perception of my mom while I was growing up was that she was a very reserved and private person, even with her daughters.  It frustrated me that she never seemed to want to share her deepest thoughts with me.  Most of my understanding of her inner life came to me in different ways after she died, and I have felt more connected to her since her death.

But I do have to admit that some things she said and did flew right by me as I was so focused on what I imagined she would share that I missed many little things she did share.  One of these things was a connection she felt with Elizabeth Taylor.

I’m guessing it might have been around 1966, when I was nine years old and when Taylor’s movie, Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? came out.  There must have been a lot of buzz about it because I remember asking my mother, who is Elizabeth Taylor?

Mom explained that Elizabeth Taylor was a very famous movie star who was only four months younger that she was and that she “grew up” with her.  She said National Velvet was her favorite movie and that she first saw it when she was 12 years old.

My own comparisons go a little further.  My mother (as a child at right) was also named Elisabeth, but she spelled it with an “s.”  Her coloring was similar, jet black hair and full dark eyebrows.  Mom’s eyes were brown, though, but she was just as beautiful.  As grownups, they could not have been more different, Taylor leading a glamorous lifestyle and Mom a down-to-earth nature and animal lover.

Somehow I have never gotten around to watching National Velvet.  Taylor’s death jogged my memory and so I added the film at the top of my Netflix list, but I guess there’s a bit of a wait because other movies keep coming ahead of it.  When it finally arrives I will enjoy watching it and imagining what it meant to my mother sixty-seven long years ago.

Image source:  People

Fjøsnisse

It’s been some time since I’ve visited any other blog so there’s that “out of the loop” feeling… I offer here (to the left) a picture of my all-time favorite Christmas card – probably posted it last year on my Gaia blog, but I’d like to have it here on WordPress, for the record. There is comfort in the familiar.

Things continue to get ever more complicated and difficult to balance caring for our elderly ones. Auntie’s endless and capricious demands are making our heads spin. To say she is keeping us on our toes is putting it mildly. And Dad is completely bewildered by recent developments. I can’t fathom much more than he does the ups and downs of his sister’s puzzling ways of coping with each new setback. Since her surgery in September it’s been one thing after another, and I think she is having much difficulty accepting the inevitability of each bit of independence lost.

On top of all this Tim got sick last week, with, of all things, a bladder infection. His habit of ignoring messages his body sends him and carrying on in spite of any sort of pain caught up with him big time. (I won’t even go into the story of how hard it was to convince him that he was having a heart attack three years ago.) Having never had a bladder infection before, he didn’t understand how sick he was until we took his temperature on Wednesday night and it was 102.4°F! Even so, he thought the thermometer might be inaccurate and insisted I take my temperature to verify. Mine was normal. No more if-s, and-s or but-s about it, I promptly escorted him to the urgent care clinic.

After many tests, the doctor there was concerned about the infection reaching Tim’s heart so he gave him an hour-long antibiotic infusion before he sent him home with an antibiotic prescription. As of yesterday (Saturday) he was still getting temperature peaks of 101°F but today it’s finally stayed normal. He’s lost ten pounds. He insists he is returning to work tomorrow and I know there is no way I can stop him. Sigh….. Fortunately he has a follow-up appointment on Thursday to make sure everything is back in working order.

In the wee hours of Tuesday morning we hope to wake up and get a peek at the total lunar eclipse and Tuesday evening we’re having our winter solstice party. I didn’t think too many would be able to make it because it will be a work night, but so far we’ve got 18 planning to come, including us! I’m very excited and am planning on spending the next two days cooking and cleaning, hopefully without any new crisis developing.

Wishing everyone very happy holidays filled with magical moments and the wonders of the season! And don’t forget to leave a bowl of oatmeal out for your local Nisse!