Yesterday Janet and I explored Barn Island Wildlife Management Area in Stonington, the “largest primitive coastal area left unspoiled in Connecticut.” It was a cloudy, chilly winter afternoon, with snow flurries starting up just as we were leaving.
Tracks are an ancient, magnetic language — pulling us in with possibility. The elusive poetry of a print, unlike the muscular certainty of a border line inked in an atlas, reveals details of a life being lived. A tracery of passing impressions, tracks can be as delicate as the brushstroke of a bird’s wings, as bold as a hunting fox. They speak a mutable tongue, transforming from the moment they appear before finally vanishing, to be eventually overlaid by another script. But if you happen upon a set of tracks in their brief and fragile time, they can tell you things you never knew. They can take you places you’ve never been, and lend form to a fleeting world.
~ Julian Hoffman
(The Small Heart of Things: Being at Home in a Beckoning World)
I’ve been waiting a long time to take a photograph to pair with this lovely quote. At first I imagined gull tracks in the sand at the beach. One day in North Carolina I found deer tracks in the mud on my way to the community compost pile, and then saw a deer enjoying some newly deposited vegetable scraps. No camera on me, though. But this morning we discovered these tracks on the balcony.
Starling tracks, no doubt. Not my favorite bird, but they spend a lot of time on the balcony, walking around, trying to figure out how to get to the woodpecker feeder. After a few hours of sunshine, the tracks and the thin layer of snow have now vanished.
This may be our winter of no snow. It snowed here in November when we were in North Carolina. It snowed in North Carolina in December when we were here in Connecticut. While we’ve had flurries now and then there has been nothing to shovel!
After nursing our terrible colds for more than a week we’re starting to get back to normal. I finally got a good start on the boxes of family history stuff and hope to keep going all winter and spring. Maybe things have settled down enough and I can actually get through this!!!
It’s simply amazing what comes into the light when cousins start exploring family history, too. Several weeks ago I shared a picture one of my maternal cousins discovered and today I’m sharing a portrait found by one of my paternal cousins.
The woman is my grandmother, Katherine, who died long before I was born. I’ve always been curious about her because she is the one grandparent I never knew.
Катерина Фюшяк (Kateryna Fusiak ~ my Aunt Lil showed me how to write her name in Ukrainian) was born on 19 November 1887 in Luzok Horishni, Ukraine, when it was part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire. She died on 22 October 1943 at New London, Connecticut.
Katherine’s parents were land-owning farmers. When her husband William, the son of peasants, left for America, she was pregnant with her second child and they already had a small daughter, Mary. According to my aunt Mary, who grew up with her grandparents in Ukraine, Katherine’s father, Konrad, who did not approve of his daughter’s marriage, was furious about not hearing from William, and with great resentment sold a cow to buy passage to America for Katherine and her new nursing baby boy, Jon. At the tender age of 22, on 19 February 1910, Katherine and 5-month-old baby Jon sailed to America on the SS Finland from Antwerp, arriving in New York City on 4 March 1910. She had no ticket, but was in possession of $19 which she used to pay passage for herself and her son. She was 4’11” tall with a fair complexion. She was identified as a “Ruthenian” on the passenger arrival record, a term used to refer to a group of Ukrainians living in Ruthenia and eastern Czechoslovakia.
Mary stayed behind with her grandparents and so Katherine did not see her firstborn daughter again until Mary was 18, when she finally joined her family in America after World War I. By then, Katherine and William were living on a farm in Montville, Connecticut.
Katherine was a devoted mother who admonished her eight children to stick together no matter what, as she believed that family was all they would have in this difficult world. Her grandchildren called her “Baba.” Katherine died of a strangulated hernia at the age of 55. She lies buried with her husband in Comstock Cemetery in Uncasville, Connecticut.
Three of her children did not survive into adulthood. Jon Stephen died when he was 9 years old, of appendicitis. Augustine was about two when he got into some pills or something that poisoned him. Olga, a toddler, met her death by scalding when she pulled a pot of boiling water off the stove, a horrific accident that my aunt Lil was old enough to remember first hand.
In the portrait above, daughter Mary is missing because she was still living in Ukraine. Jon had already died. My Aunt Jean is on the left, my father is the little boy, and my Aunt Lil is on the right. My Aunt Em was not born yet.
Katherine had a very hard life as a farmer’s wife who made it through the Great Depression living off the land. Her husband was a harsh, bitter man, who regretted leaving Ukraine and apparently hated this country. I admire her courage and fortitude.
My father always spoke of his mother with great fondness and missed her dearly. Even during his last illness he asked for her. He had enlisted in the army during World War II on 4 February 1943. Sadly, only eight months later, on 22 October 1943, his mother died. Only 22 years old, he came home on leave for her funeral and then returned to duty. I am struck with a little synchronicity here because Katherine was 22 when she saw her mother for the last time, and my father was 22 when he saw his own mother for the last time.
My father often credited his mother with raising him to respect women and appreciate their strengths. As an example, he often told the story of her ability to drive a hard bargain. A butcher came down from Norwich to the farm in Montville three times trying to buy a calf for less than the price Katherine wanted to sell it for! But she got her original asking price, impressing her son, and the sale was finally made!
The fourth heat wave of the season begins today. It’s expected to last three days.
So far in 2018, there have been 3 heat waves: the first lasted 7 days… June 29th – July 5th; the second one was only 3 days… July 15th to the 17th; the third one was 5 days in duration… August 5th to the 9th.
Also, a record has been set for longest stretch of consecutive days 80 or higher, for the Hartford Area. The prior record of 36 days from 1939 was well surpassed, with 44 days in a row, from June 28th to August 10th of this year!
~ Mike Cameron
(Eyewitness News, Channel 3 website)
The end of this brutal summer cannot come soon enough for me!
Last night we went down to the beach to see the full moon. Even the sea breeze was humid! But on the bright side we saw a few laughing gulls, who have learned to ignore the gull repellent system, hanging out in the parking lot!!!
For many, learning is spiral, where important themes are visited again and again throughout life, each time at a deeper, more penetrating level.
~ Jerold W. Aps
(Teaching from the Heart)
For much of this summer I’ve been down in the dumps, cursing the oppressive humidity and climate change. After reading my complaining post on August 9, my kind neighbor invited me out to happy hour at Harbour House Restaurant & Bar in Mystic. I was apprehensive because bars often terrify me ~ too much noise and too many people. But I decided to go and give it a try.
We went at 3:30, before the crowds, and chose to sit outside on the deck, under the dappled shade of a gorgeous birch tree. The restaurant sits high on a hill overlooking “the best ocean view in Mystic.” There was a lovely sea breeze which made the humidity surprisingly bearable. I had a frozen lemonade and some chicken wings and celery. Delicious! It really hit the spot.
And then we were treated to a breathtaking sight. An eagle flew directly overhead with a large fish in his talons. We had a nice conversation with the young couple at the next table. I’m so glad I went ~ thank you, Susan! It was an afternoon I won’t soon forget. Sometimes the squeaky wheel does get the grease.
For me, learning is a spiral. Last summer I decided that leaving any one kind of food out of one’s diet was too extreme. After a year of eating meat, grains and legumes — everything and anything gluten-free — I was getting terrible stomach aches more and more often. Finally one night I had one that lasted for twelve hours, after a meal of gluten-free pasta, beans, goat cheese and veggies. My body was trying to tell me something. I decided to pay attention.
Over the years I’ve tried most of the diets from paleo to vegan and the one that made me feel the best was paleo. So, in the middle of July, after another flurry of research, I decided to listen to my body and go back to the paleo, eliminating beans and grains, even gluten-free grains. An “important theme” that I needed to “visit again.” It’s been about a month and I am feeling better. No more heartburn. My stomach has settled down and one of the things I remembered from the last time eating paleo has returned: I can go much longer between meals without my blood sugar dropping.
Now that Tim is retired it’s been fun trying new recipes with him, going to farmers markets and shopping together. We’re eating lots more vegetables. Tonight I went 5 hours between lunch and supper, and felt hungry but not desperate. What a blessing!
It turns out Larisa & Dima and Katherine will be moving back to North Carolina in September, which means we won’t be going to Ireland for the arrival of our new grandson. Our frequent trips to North Carolina will begin again. 🙂
Sometimes I think it must have been much easier to live and die at the time of our ancestors, the Vikings.
When they buried their relatives, they also buried many objects together with the body. This was to be sure that the dead would not miss anything in their new environment. It was also an assurance for the family members who remained that they would not become obsessed with spirits of the dead and constantly be reminded of them because their possessions were still scattered all over the tent or mud hut. Very clever.
~ Margareta Magnusson
(The Gentle Art of Swedish Death Cleaning: How to Free Yourself & Your Family from a Lifetime of Clutter)
You might guess from my recent choice of reading material that I’m still struggling with the objects and possessions I inherited from our ancestors. Things started piling up around 2008. Hard to believe it’s been 10 years! I have managed to dispose of a lot of stuff but cannot rest on my laurels. What’s left is stacked halfway to the ceiling in a corner of what is supposed to be the genealogy/guest room. The corner takes up almost half the room.
Trouble is, life (births, illnesses, travels, weddings, visitors, deaths) keeps happening and I need a good chunk of uninterrupted time to roll up my sleeves and dig in. Now that there is a lull in the stream of summer activities I am annoyed by the droning of the air conditioners. But I since learning about the autism I am aware now that I am much more sensitive to noise than neurotypical people, so, I will wait patiently for some cool, dry, quiet weather to return.
We enjoy going to estate sales. We rarely buy anything but a few days ago we found a large file cabinet in excellent shape at a great price. It is now in the genealogy/guest room waiting for me to make use of it. After my grandmother died my grandfather offered us anything we wanted in the house. I chose my grandmother’s mahogany secretary which I still have and treasure. Grandfather said he didn’t want us grandchildren to be burdened with all the stuff. I don’t want my children to be burdened either.
I’m also sad about the changes at my beloved beach. The city has installed a gull repellent system. Every three minutes a recording of a gull in distress blares out from the loudspeakers. There are maybe two or three fearless gulls left on the roof of the beach house. All the laughing gulls are gone, all the different kinds of gulls are gone. I suppose I will never see my friend with the mangled foot again. It’s all too much for me to bear and I’ve been reduced to tears more than once this summer.
I visited my elm tree, Grandmother Elm. I cannot believe it’s been 5 years since I have gone! I used to visit all the time when Tim’s brother was living with us, the year he died here of cancer. Now she has small stems and branches growing out at the base of her trunk, covered with leaves. When I read The Hidden Life of Trees by Peter Wohlleben I believe he said this was a sign of distress. No other tree in the cemetery was like this. Perhaps she is suffering, too. Still, her wordless wisdom comforted me.
Monday morning the Viking ship Draken Harald Hårfagre set out from Mystic Seaport for her next adventure: Expedition America – East Coast Tour 2018! We were there, with many others, to see her off!
The world’s largest Viking ship sailing in modern times had arrived at Mystic Seaport in October of 2016 and has spent two winters here. It’s been fun having her so close by to go look at and dream every once in a while. I thought of all my ancestors who have bid ships farewell in the past, never knowing when (or if) they would return. I managed to get myself all worked up emotionally and shed more than a few tears during the day.
But, much to my delight, I learned that after visiting 14 ports along the east coast the crew plans to return to Mystic Seaport on October 20! That can only mean she will be spending another winter here! 🙂
We quickly left the Seaport and followed the Mystic River in order to catch sight of her again.
And then we raced over the Mystic River Bascule Bridge and found a spot just south of it.
There was so much excitement and anticipation in the air. Two shop owners standing next to me said they had closed their stores for a few minutes (in tourist season, no less!) to come see the vessel pass by. I got goosebumps when she emerged and someone on the other side of the river sounded a Viking war horn! People were cheering and waving and taking pictures. What a wonderful show of support for the sailors.
Our next plan was to proceed down to Abbott’s Lobster in the Rough, a waterside restaurant in Noank, to see whatever we might be able to see. We almost missed her when Tim spotted her out of the corner of his eye, moving at a good clip through the marina.
I scrambled up a steep little hill to get a better shot. (My muscles still hurt a bit.)
And then she was gone.
I had hoped to see her set sail but it was not to be. We went down to Costello’s Clam Shack and had lunch on the upper deck. The ship came into view briefly but she didn’t set sail and disappeared again. After lunch we went down to Groton Long Point and saw her on the horizon, but still no sail. Oh well. But there are some amazing pictures of Draken Harald Hårfagre under sail on the website.
By the way, we were delighted to see Katherine three times at the end of June and beginning of July. She is very excited to tell everyone that she will be having a baby brother soon! (End of October.)
What a delightful afternoon Svetlana and I had at the Stamford Museum & Nature Center in Stamford. Our little granddaughter led us on a grand tour of the playground, the nature trails and the animal farm. The otters were especially cute. Many thanks to Vladimir & Svetlana for always welcoming us into their home and sharing with us the never-ending joys of grand-parenthood.
Saturday we had perfect weather for Viking Days at Mystic Seaport.
We enjoyed strolling through the Viking encampment…
Draugar Vinlands is a historical reenactment and living history group based out of Exeter, New Hampshire that is dedicated to the accurate portrayal of combat and culture during viking-age Scandinavia.
~ Draugar Vinlands website
The costume of the Viking with the long pony tail (above) caught my eye and when I asked him if I could take his picture he posed for me. (below) 🙂
We stocked up on mead for summer solstice…
And stopped for lunch…
While we were eating (outside in the shade at a table under the trees) we spotted this artist painting…
Then we went to see a performance by Flock Theatre, “Viking Fact or Fiction?”
And then Denison Pequotsepos Nature Center gave a talk about birds of prey. The Vikings were falconers but the birds we were shown are from Connecticut. All the birds presented were injured and brought to the nature center but were unable to live in the wild after their recovery.
And finally we listened to lovely “Songs of the Sagas” by Lynn Noel.
We had hoped to attend a lecture and book-signing with author James L. Nelson about the 300-year Viking invasion in Ireland, but, alas, the hall was filled to capacity by the time we arrived and they were not allowing any more people in. However, we bought two of his books and left them there for him to sign after the lecture. We can pick them up later. (I have a small collection of books signed by the author.)
It was such a lovely day. Now we brace ourselves for a very hot and humid day, although it looks like it won’t be as bad here on the shoreline as it will be inland. Some schools have already announced early dismissals and there is an air quality alert. Looks like the air conditioner will be going on today… I will miss all the birds singing… Sigh…