off the beaten path

12.29.20 ~ cute little sapling, Connecticut College Arboretum
New London, Connecticut

Tuesday we donned our masks and warm layers and headed over to the Arboretum to meet my sister and her husband for our first in-person visit since the pandemic started in March, unless you count video calls and quick verbal exchanges from our balcony to the parking lot. We had planned a “safe” outdoor meeting like this to celebrate Thanksgiving and then Christmas, but rain had spoiled our plans for both days.

Beverly & John, geologist and botanist, know the natural areas of the Arboretum like the backs of their hands so I was anticipating a wonderful guided tour, off the beaten path. It did feel awfully unnatural, though, keeping six feet apart behind masks for a couple of hours, but we pulled if off. It was so good being with them again. We explored the Bolleswood Natural Area.

partridge berry

Partridge Berry is a native perennial, a small, woody, trailing vine with 6 to 12 inch, slender, trailing stems that does not climb but lays prostrate on the forest floor. The trailing stems root at nodes which come in contact with the forest surface and may spread into colonies several yards across. … The fruits are tasteless and generally survive through winter and into the following spring. Birds are the primary consumer of these fruits and the subsequent distribution of seeds.
~ US Forest Service website

Knowing about our recent fascination with glacial erratics, Beverly had a surprise for us, a huge one! Our first glimpse of it is below…

first side
front side

It looks like that rotting tree grew up there and was then snapped down in a storm. But it also looks like humans have moved some wood around, making it look like the wood is holding up the stone, but it’s not. It’s resting on other erratics underground.

other side (Tim is 5’8″)
a close-up from the back
a peek underneath ~ two orbs!

After marveling over this erratic’s size and its precarious perch we continued on. Sometimes there was so much moss along the path it reminded me of a forest in Ireland.

And we finally came to a flooded bog. (The drought is definitely over.) It was beautiful with bits of moss, autumn leaves under the water, partial sheets of thin ice, sticks, and a few remaining plants and grasses.

And then John pointed out a carnivorous plant…

pitcher plant hidden in leaves

The pitchers trap and digesting flying and crawling insects, making the species one of the few carnivorous plants in North America. The hollow pitchers fill naturally with rainwater. The pitchers also have broad lips where insects land. The insects crawl into the pitcher, where stiff, downward pointing hairs prevent them from leaving. Anectdoctal evidence suggests pitchers capture less than one percent of the flies that venture into their traps, but a few insects eventually fall into the water at the base of the pitcher, where digestive enzymes secreted by the plant release the nutrients within the insects. Eventually, the nutrients are absorbed by the plant, which supplements the nutrients absorbed by the roots.
~ US Forest Service website

pitcher plant

On our way out of the Arboretum we saw…

winterberry aka black alder
oyster mushroom, thanks to Larisa’s friend for the id

It was sad to say good-bye but we were getting cold and so made our way home to some hot tea. Curled up under our blankets, we put on some music and our happy holiday hearth DVD. Very cozy after having rosy cheeks from the chilly air. Maybe we’ll do this again — hopefully soon.

arboretum winter walk

1.27.10 ~ New London, Connecticut
1.27.10 ~ New London, Connecticut

Here we go again! Following the repeated urgings of the local weather forecasters, yesterday I shoveled about two feet of packed layers of snow and ice off of our balcony. It was so pretty but roofs and decks all over Connecticut have given way under the weight of these record snow falls. And cold temperatures. We haven’t even had our typical January thaw!

And the forecast? Snowstorm tomorrow, ice storm Wednesday, snow storm Saturday…

1.27.10 ~ New London, Connecticut
1.27.10 ~ New London, Connecticut

These pictures are more from January a year ago, a different day when my sister and I took an early morning walk through the arboretum. Notice there is no snow on the ground, and you can see how drab Connecticut usually is for a good part of the winter. Which is probably why I love snow storms so much! But not this much!!!

1.27.10 ~ New London, Connecticut
1.27.10 ~ New London, Connecticut

But I have enjoyed curling up with my new Kindle, a birthday gift from Tim. 🙂 The feature about it that delights me the most is that I can adjust the size of the print to make reading a breeze, no matter what mood my eyes are in. I think in the long run this will be cheaper than buying new reading glasses every time my middle-aged eyes begin to get persnickety. And maybe I can get the size of my physical library under control, while my cyber library grows.

1.27.10 ~ New London, Connecticut
1.27.10 ~ New London, Connecticut

And the day climbs down from its blue loft-bed on a slanting ladder of sunbeams,
pauses a moment between the trees, airy-light, young.

~ Hans Børli
(The Quiet Room)

I noticed two of my Facebook friends talking favorably about an author named Mary Oliver, and so selected one of her books as my first choice. I found out that she has been called the Bard of Provincetown. Already I’m enjoying all the connections the poet and author has to one of my refuges on Cape Cod. 🙂

1.27.10 ~ New London, Connecticut
1.27.10 ~ New London, Connecticut

Batten down the hatches! Are we ready for more of this unbelievable winter?

talk of the flower

7.2.10 ~ New London, Connecticut
7.2.10 ~ dragonfly ~ New London, Connecticut

This is fun, I get to use all kinds poetry to go with my photos… But after this I might run out of new poems to decorate with!

We found a meadow in the arboretum, stunningly sunny and bright. Yes, there were plenty of dragonflies in all colors and sizes. One even had a huge dark body paired with totally transparent wings. Again, the contrast between the sunlight and the shade was very sharp.

Most of my efforts to capture them with my weary camera failed, as I half expected. However, there was one very special BLUE one! And it held still for a very long time. Long enough for me to come to my senses and use the zoom and get a shot. One more click, got it again!

7.2.10 ~ New London, Connecticut
7.2.10 ~ New London, Connecticut

Poking around online I have learned (from Wikipedia) that “the Norwegian word for dragonflies is ‘Øyenstikker’, which literally means Eye Poker.” And that just as people who love to watch birds are birding, ones who love to watch dragonflies are oding. And that “oding is especially popular in Texas, where a total of 225 species of odonates in the world have been observed.” Well, that would explain why Lili gets so many great dragonfly pictures down there!

And magically, yesterday, Paul stopped by with a gift from Linda, an amazing knitted square with a dragonfly knitted right into the design! Paul said it was a pot holder but it’s too pretty and delicate to be used in the kitchen. And it doesn’t have a loop to hang it up. (And I hope I don’t get him in trouble for not delivering it sooner, he said he had carried it around for a few days – or was it weeks?)

7.2.10 ~ New London, Connecticut
liatris ~ 7.2.10 ~ New London, Connecticut

black-eyed susans ~ 7.2.10 ~ New London, Connecticut
black-eyed susans ~ 7.2.10 ~ New London, Connecticut

7.2.10 ~ New London, Connecticut
7.2.10 ~ New London, Connecticut

Silently a flower blooms,
In silence it falls away;
Yet here now, at this moment, at this place, the whole of the flower,
the whole of the world is blooming.

This is the talk of the flower, the truth of the blossom;
The glory of eternal life is fully shining here.
~ Zenkei Shibayama
(A Flower Does Not Talk: Zen Essays)

A garden chapter of this rambling account should soon follow this post…

natural internet

7.2.10 ~ New London, Connecticut
contrast of bright sunlight and shade for a mushroom ~ 7.2.10 ~ New London, Connecticut

Every time I see mushrooms I think of Paul Stamets and his theory about mycelium, “the vegetative part of a fungus consisting of a mass of branching thread like hyphae.”

I see the mycelium as the Earth’s natural Internet, a consciousness with which we might be able to communicate. Through cross-species interfacing, we may one day exchange information with these sentient cellular networks. Because these externalized neurological nets sense any impression upon them, from footsteps to falling tree branches, they could relay enormous amounts of data regarding the movements of all organisms through the landscape.
~ Paul Stamets
(Mycelium Running: How Mushrooms Can Help Save the World)

7.2.10 ~ New London, Connecticut
7.2.10 ~ New London, Connecticut

I first read about Stamets a few years ago when I was waiting and skimming through magazines at my aunt’s dentist’s office. The idea of the earth being conscious was something I already believed in and the article I was reading mentioned something about the connections between fungi physically resembling the neurons in human brains. I was captivated and ordered his book that night. At some point I found a talk he gave on TED, 6 Ways Mushrooms Can Save the World.

7.2.10 ~ New London, Connecticut
the first tree that grabbed our attention ~ 7.2.10 ~ New London, Connecticut

I have to admit that I began reading the book but couldn’t continue because it was scientifically way over my head. I brought the book to my Dad, the microbiologist, and my brother-in-law, the botanist, and they devoured it and were impressed by the theory as well. My brother-in-law commented that the idea was in line with what they were researching when he used to work at The New Alchemy Institute, before it evolved into The Green Center.

But I digress and must return to our walk. Yesterday I was having a lot of trouble organizing the post and accidentally published it before I was done. Wasn’t sure if I could un-publish it without deleting it so I decided to call it a day.

Janet and I kept leaving the trails in pursuit of getting a closer look at some of the more unusual trees. The first one had a benign tumor, or a burl. The burl could have been caused by an injury, infection, or an unformed bud gone haywire. Any of these things can trigger the cells to grow excessively and unevenly, leaving it with unique shapes and ring patterns. Woodworkers and artists often find creative ways to use the patterns found in burled wood.

7.2.10 ~ New London, Connecticut
close up of burl ~ 7.2.10 ~ New London, Connecticut

We saw a lot of poison ivy and thought we did a pretty good job of avoiding it. But it would seem I got zapped somehow and within 48 hours broke out in a mild rash. Apparently as we age there is a tendency for the reaction we get to be less severe, which seems to be what is happening with me. Benadryl is keeping the itch pretty tolerable. One thing is puzzling though, the rash is on my neck and arms. I’ve had it on my neck another time – four years ago after we attended outdoor concerts two nights in a row at the amphitheater in Saratoga Springs, New York. We were in the woods but stayed on the sidewalks. On our way home the rash broke out so I went to the walk-in clinic here and they said it was poison ivy! Such a possibility had never entered my mind.

I wonder why it broke out on my neck that time and this time, too. The only other time I’ve had it was when I was a kid and it was all over my face and arms. That time I could logically trace it to the fact that I had been crawling around on my hands and knees playing hide and seek in the bushes at a picnic. It was a crummy way to start the summer, and it was much worse than this episode.

7.2.10 ~ New London, Connecticut
a closer look ~ 7.2.10 ~ New London, Connecticut

Janet noticed a tree which seemed to have four or five trunks reaching up from the main trunk. So off we went to get a closer look, leaving the trail behind us – somewhere…. Goodness knows what we were walking through…

Still can’t figure out what was so mesmerizing abut this tree. I just had to touch it. It has a very strong energy and I bet we couldn’t find it again if we were required to. (I’m still looking for another tree I saw there last winter…)

A Murmur in the Trees – to note –
Not loud enough – for Wind –
A Star – not far enough to seek –
Nor near enough – to find –
~ Emily Dickinson
(The Poems of Emily Dickinson, #433)

After meandering around, not really that lost, we spotted a bright sunny clearing beyond the trees! So we forgot about locating the trail again, and headed off to discover what we might find in a  summer meadow. Maybe dragonflies?

7.2.10 ~ New London, Connecticut
a glimpse of a sunny meadow ~ 7.2.10 ~ New London, Connecticut

The meadow chapter of the story will have to be put into the next post…

He walked and he walked, and the earth and the holiness of the earth came up through the soles of his feet.
~ Gretel Ehrlich
(Legacy of Light)