a winter without winter

2.22.23 ~ Connecticut College Arboretum

Skunk cabbages (above and below) were emerging everywhere near and in the water at the arboretum on our latest walk. Three difficult weeks had passed without a walk and it was such a relief to finally be outside again.

May you have the wisdom to enter generously into your own unease
To discover the new direction your longing wants you to take.

~ John O’Donohue
(To Bless the Space Between Us)

reindeer moss on the leaves

Our longings have taken us in a new direction. We have decided to move to North Carolina this summer to be near our grandchildren! It was not an easy decision to make as we’ve lived here most of our lives and love New England. I will also miss my sister and living by the sea.

American wintergreen

Early in February we came down with our first head colds since before the pandemic began. (Our covid tests were negative.) Ten days of misery… And before he was fully recovered from his cold Tim was struck with a violent case of food poisoning. He’s okay now and we were grateful to finally take another walk!

reflections in the bog

In the arboretum there were plenty of signs of spring being right around the corner. January was the warmest one on record for Connecticut, with temperatures averaging ten degrees above average. I won’t be surprised to learn that February will be setting a similar record. Hey, if it’s not going to snow and be winter up north here we may as well move south, right?

pitcher plant in the bog
one of the few carnivorous plants in North America

While blowing my nose nonstop I kept busy online exploring the area that will become my new home, the Piedmont plateau region of North Carolina, the gentle rolling hills between the flat coastal plain and the Appalachian mountains. There are a lot of land conservancies, open spaces, state parks, botanical gardens, an arboretum and trails to keep us happy walking and exploring, at least when it isn’t too hot to go out. We suspect we will be more active in the winter down there. 🙂

fallen branch with lichen on the leaves

There might even be more birds to see. But for this chilly and raw walk we were pleased to see a pair of hooded mergansers swimming and diving for food in the pond.

male hooded merganser
female hooded merganser
stump and its reflection

Thanks to a tag on this shrub, Alnus serrulata, I was able to identify these smooth alder catkins, flowers on a spike, another sign of spring.

smooth alder catkins and fruiting cone

The [smooth alder] flowers are monoecious, meaning that both sexes are found on a single plant. Male (Staminate) catkins are 1.6-2.4 in long; female (Pistillate) catkins are 1/2 in long. Reddish-green flowers open in March to April. … The ovate, dark brown, cone-like fruit is hard with winged scales. Seeds are produced in small cones and do not have wings. Fruit usually matures during fall and is quite persistent.
~ Wikipedia

smooth alder catkins

I have to admit, thinking about the logistics involved to move is filling me with anxiety. The last time we moved was 29 years ago and that was just across town. Except for a couple of years living in Greece I’ve lived in Connecticut my whole life. When I moved to Greece with my parents I only had a trunk to fill and that was pretty simple. My parents took care of all the other planning. Now I’m coping with a chronic illness that is bound to complicate things. But we have family and friends helping us so I think we will make it somehow. And to be settled and living near our grandchildren while they are still very young will make it all worth it.

May you come to accept your longing as divine urgency.
~ John O’Donohue
(To Bless the Space Between Us)

21 thoughts on “a winter without winter”

  1. Wow, big news! A huge lifestyle change, but I understand the desire for family. I’ll miss your seaside photos, but there’ll be a whole new area to explore in NC. When are you planning on moving?

    1. We hope to move this summer, after tying up several loose ends up here. I plan to keep blogging after we get settled and keep sharing photos. It will be interesting to see where our inland wanderings will take us.

  2. good to hear from you again, dear Barbara – I esp. loved the photo of the yellow flowers in the water -may i borrow and share it on my facebookpage- of course with mentioning you as the artist?

    1. Yes, of course, feel free to share the photo, Leelah! I’m so glad you loved it — the bog was so full of lovely reflections that morning. I’ll have to visit there a few more times before we leave.

  3. I’ve missed your posts, Barbara, but now I understand why you’ve been away. A head cold is no fun and can drain you of energy; additionally, the prospect of relocating — after so many years in one place — can be daunting in itself. All the best on your upcoming move!

    1. Thank you, Debbie! Moving is listed as the third most stressful life event, after death of a loved one and divorce, so I guess it’s no wonder I am feeling so anxious. I just hope we don’t keep getting sick now. Keeping the thought of having grandchildren close by to encourage me. 🙂

  4. I can imagine how complicated the logistics of your move will be BUT think of all the new places to explore. There used to be a blogger who lived in the Piedmont plateau region of North Carolina and the photos she shared were spectacular.

    1. I am looking forward to exploring of all those new places! It’s nice to know another blogger found some dazzling things to photograph down there. I imagine once we get settled our life might resume a similar pace of walking and taking pictures. So much to see in this world.

  5. Looks like Winter and Spring are trying to blend together in the woods. Love the photos. Good luck on moving South to be near your precious grandchildren. Hope you skip anymore illnesses and food poisoning and stay healthy.

    1. Thank you so much, Peggy. We’re looking forward to the move but it will be overwhelming to plan and pull off! It seems like the weather is crazy everywhere and the seasons are so mixed up they don’t know how to proceed.

  6. Oh Barbara! So wonderful that you will be near grandchildren. I think you’ll enjoy North Carolina. That’s my home state and I miss it. Especially in the spring and fall. I trust you will find interesting and historical places to visit and explore. I sometimes compare the summer heat of FLorida to a New England winter – one is forced to be inside because of the weather. After Connecticut, you will find NC winters very gentle. I hope your move goes smoothly!

    1. Thank you, Anna! I’ve been hearing how nice North Carolina is in the spring and fall and am looking forward to it. Each year the cold winters up here are getting to me more and more so it will probably be a welcome change in climate. (Never thought I’d say that!) As long as I have a space to do some yoga while stuck inside in the summer I should be okay. While visiting my daughter I’ve already done some exploring and it will be nice to be there full-time to do even more. What part of NC did you come from?

      1. I grew up in Lenoir, NC, just a short drive to the mountains. I spent many years in Chapel Hill before making the move to Florida.

        1. Did you attend UNC in Chapel Hill? My daughter lives in Chapel Hill and I imagine we will wind up there or nearby. It’s a beautiful city and I’m looking forward to exploring it more than I could on short visits. I’m also looking forward to browsing in all the bookstores, like Flyleaf Books. 🙂

  7. Changing your environment is always a difficult thing. So much to decide what to take and what to leave. So much to look forward to: a new environment, new plants to discover, family to enjoy, friends to make. Just take one step or box at a time and you and Tim will be fine. Good luck on your travels. Love, Liz

    1. It is so overwhelming! We got our first packing boxes and a roll of bubble wrap and I have no idea where to begin. But we’ll figure it out. It’s a good thing Tim is usually unflappable — lol! I’ve seen some pictures from NC posted on Facebook and it looks like spring blooms are well underway down there already. Thanks so much for the encouragement, Liz. ❤️

  8. This is exciting news Barbara and quite an undertaking for you and Tim, but, as a person with no family members, I “get” your decision. There is not only the opportunity to be closer to your grandchildren while they are growing up, but getting rid of the snow, ice and cold will be welcome since you both like hiking and now can do year-around. I wonder if you will venture onto parts of the 2,200-mile Appalachian Trail? Lots to look forward to for you and Tim and for your fellow bloggers as we follow your new adventures. A fellow blogger who lives in Waynesville (near Asheville), NC and a high school Facebook friend who lives in Cary, NC have both posted pics of their Daffodils and other Spring blooms, something neither of us will see for a while yet in our respective venues. This was a nice walk to welcome you back to nature after enduring bad colds and Tim with his bout of food poisoning. I especially like the stump and its reflection and the catkins and the fresh sprig of Wintergreen amongst last year’s decaying leaves. Your last quote says it all and ratifies this big decision.

    1. Lots of mixed emotions to process for us but being near the grandchildren will make it worth all the upheaval. 🙂 I doubt we’ll be walking year-round, though, I expect the summer heat will keep us indoors down there about as much as the winter snow, ice and cold keeps us inside up here. The Appalachian Trail looks to be a three and a half hour drive away, too far for me to travel with my gut. I have to laugh, Tim & I don’t actually hike, our walk outings are more like sauntering. How else could I take so many pictures and Tim take so many hip and back muscle rests? But I am looking forward to many new adventures in the Chapel Hill area. Like your friends are posting, flowers are already blooming in the North Carolina Botanical Gardens! (I’m following them on Facebook.) I liked that “floating” stump, too. The quotes aptly resonated with how we came to this decision.

      1. Unfortunately, I am hearing that w are transitioning from La Nina to El Nino, which means a hot Summer across the U.S., but it’s been hot and humid following a wet Spring for many the last few years. As for hiking, I wouldn’t say I really hike either – even in the bigger parks. I am in walking shoes and not climbing up hills … you and Tim climb the glacial erratics – I’m not even doing that. And, after I got lost in the middle of Crosswinds Marsh a few years ago, I am careful not to let that happen again … it was hot, I was embedded in a forest where they had over 200 species of wildlife … I thought what exactly would I encounter. Yesterday at my regular Park, I saw two Turkey Vultures perched on branches, in two different trees. One had its wings spread like a Cormorant. I’ve never seen that before. A young couple and I were watching this. I didn’t have the camera so didn’t take a photo. I said I normally walk in the morning and she asked if it was safe to do so. They also live in the same city as me. Then she told me they saw a brown recluse spider fall from a tree there at the Park. It fell on someone’s arm and they brushed it off. I didn’t know we had them around here. A bite can be deadly … I wished I could “unhear” that. Your Botanical Gardens in NC will be enjoyable like Heritage Park’s Botanical Gardens are to me. The Dow Gardens, a little too far for me to travel as I’d need to take the expressway has their annual butterfly exhibit. I would love to see it someday. A temperature-controlled area where butterflies of every species are released and fly about freely. But crowds too … there are probably bus tours, but avoiding crowds. Oh well. I thought that the quotes matched your decision … I am sure it wasn’t easy to pull up stakes after living there all your life.

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