strong as a great oak

3.3.21 ~ Great Oak Park, Ledyard, Connecticut

After a bitter cold snap we managed to get out for a good walk on Wednesday. Another new place for us. This time I brought my father’s cane to use as a walking stick so I wouldn’t have to find one in the woods. It fit perfectly and had a good energy! Papa was very fond of his cane because his father had carved it and used it. (A couple of pictures of him with it here.)

photo by Tim

Our daughter-in-law mailed us our old camera a couple of weeks ago so I could see how it compares to the one I’ve been using for several years now. But so far I haven’t felt inclined to pick it up so Tim took it along on this outing. It was fun with both of us having a good camera.

beautiful blue sky
still a bit of ice and snow in places

We were looking for the remains of a famous huge oak tree in the woods here. Before long we spotted the sign and were saddened to see just how very little was left of it.

During the summer of 1969, the gypsy moth defoliated an estimated 260,000 acres of trees in northeastern woodlands — more than triple the defoliated acreage of 1968.
~ Ralph L. Snodsmith
(The New York Times, April 19, 1970)

image credit: Ledyard Historical Society
The Ledyard Oak, c. 1910

The famous oak didn’t survive the gypsy moth assault in 1969. Fifty-one years later this is all that is left of it:

devastation from an invasive species

My feet will tread soft as a deer in the forest. My mind will be clear as water from the sacred well. My heart will be strong as a great oak. My spirit will spread an eagle’s wings, and fly forth.
~ Juliet Marillier
(Daughter of the Forest)

This little oak was planted beside the original in 2009.
Maybe 400 years from now…

We continued walking and found a historical cemetery.

interesting roots
Lester family cemetery, early 1800s
In memory of Solomon Lester who died Dec. 4, 1840 aged 69
Miss Lucy Lester died Apr. 18, 1814 in her 70th year
unused fence post and its shadow on a tree
some kind of moss or lichen
a huge rooster
a hen (?) and said rooster

Within this park are more trails and the Nathan Lester House & Farm Tool Museum, presumably the home of the chickens. We will have to wait to explore when the pandemic is over.

20 thoughts on “strong as a great oak”

    1. Thank you, Peggy! After 400 years it must have seemed like that mighty oak would live forever, but in reality life is so precarious.

      1. We have a huge oak tree in our yard, but I have no idea how old it is. When we lived North of here we had an even bigger oak in our yard, but it was struck by lighting and slowly died. I certainly missed that tree.

  1. I liked going on the walk with you and Tim and will look forward to your foray to visit the chickens and that rooster when the pandemic is over. The old Ledyard Oak was so large and it’s very sad to see what is left after the ravage of the gypsy moths. I also like the old cemeteries with their crumpled and almost illegible headstones. This was a great outing after this brutally cold and snowy February.

    1. It was good to get out for the little warm-up but we are back to frigid temps this weekend. However, the weather people on TV are promising temps in the 60s by Thursday!!! The gypsy moth caterpillars came back in 1981, the year my daughter was born. I remember my three-year-old son stomping on them every time we went outside. (Much to my horror but he was delighted!) They were squishy and crawling everywhere and you could hear them eating the leaves. I shudder at the memory.

      1. We had frigid weather the last four days – only 20 degrees when I went out to walk this morning, but it was bright and sunny, so that was nice. We have our 60s starting tomorrow through Wednesday, then rain a few days. Looking forward to a little warmer weather. We never had any gypsy moth caterpillars that I know of, but we did have birch borer disease and lost a birch from our front lawn to it. And we had carpenter ants – terrible as we lost two large oak trees in the backyard plus a honey locust in the front yard and they got into the house. Pest control service for several years trying to get rid of them.

        1. Enjoy your 60s! So many pests to worry about. We had carpenter ants in our house growing up and my parents used something that smelled horrible to deal with them. I think they found out it was toxic to humans and stopped using it, but the memory is fuzzy. Not sure what they did after that. At least carpenter ants are native and non-invasive (small comfort) but it means they must have a natural enemy.

          1. It was 68 today! Motorcycles roaring down the street and cars with windows open and music blaring – I would hear it in the house. We had some carpenter ants years before we had the invasion too. My father scattered Diazinon in places around the basement and when it rained heavily or was humid, you could smell it – not a nice smell and I think he removed it for the same reason. We got the carpenter ant invasion when a flying ant got into a fluorescent light fixture in the basement. Orkin sprayed and puffed some smelly stuff into baseboards for two years and trees were cut down, bark removed from garden – they persisted. We switched companies and got a small place which found the nest (near the light fixture) the first time. They sprayed with marigold dust (no pesticide) and they were dead shortly thereafter.

          2. Interesting… My father always planted marigolds next to his tomato plants because they kept the bugs away from them…

  2. I wasn’t expecting to see that the oak had died. 🙁 But what a lovely memorial you wrote to this precious being. I remember when the gypsy moths came from the east across into the Upper Peninsula. What a few years those were.

    1. Even though we knew the oak had died years ago we were truly shocked to see how little of it was left. That’s too bad you had a gypsy moth outbreak in your area. 🙁 Apparently we had one here again in 2016 but I wasn’t aware of it, spending my outdoor time at the beach…

  3. Enjoyed your (and Tim’s) photos. My guy and I went for a long walk in the woods yesterday – “warm” at 28 degrees and blue skies and sun, so it felt great. BUT in the trails we came across a lot of thick hard ice. I hated walking on that – it was scary – but we made it out okay. And I took a photo like yours with the sun through the trees, which looks “divine” to me. SO so so sad about that huge oak tree not making it through the gypsy moth assault. What a wonder it was. .

    1. You’re brave to go out at 28°F! Hearty soul! That’s one of our big deterrents for winter walks, ice patches. So scared of falling, even with our walking sticks. I’m glad you made it out safe and sound. 🙂 I know what you mean about the sacred beauty of the sun, sky and bare tree branches. It makes one grateful to be alive. Joy! The oak got to enjoy life for 400 years, a wonder indeed!

      1. I guess in some ways we are all strong Oaks at one point, and then we fade away. Not exactly a happy thought I guess. And I’m not a brave soul I’m just a desperate one at this point. Need to get outside! 😜

        1. Fading away is part of life, perhaps a lesson in acceptance from the aged oak tree. I went out a few times in the bone-chilling cold this winter to keep from going stir-crazy. Difficult choices to balance…

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