Groundhog Day

Technically winter will be over in 6½ weeks no matter what the groundhog says, but because he didn’t see his shadow today, there is hope for an early arrival of spring-like weather.

Our groundhog, Basil, refused to step outside in the raging ice storm for his shadow-less annual photo shoot. So we put him in front of the sliding glass door with one of Brigid’s lambs. No shadows to be seen anywhere! Come spring!

Basil is named for my paternal grandfather, who was born on Groundhog Day, February 2, 1882 in the village now known as Ivano-Frankovsk, Ukraine. When Pop arrived in America at Ellis Island in 1909, instead of translating his name, Wasyl, to its equivalent in English, Basil, the immigration worker wrote his name down as William, by which he was known for the rest of his life.

Last year the sun was shining brightly, so we took Basil down to Eastern Point Beach for pictures.

Avery Point

9.15.10 ~ Beach Pond

Yesterday Janet and I decided to take a walk around the Avery Point campus of the University of Connecticut, here in Groton. On our way to the entrance of the campus we spotted a white heron and I tried to get a picture of it… When I inadvertently got too close, it decided to fly over to the other side of the salt pond.

Avery Point was named for Captain James Avery (1620-1700), who was born in England, came to the colonies with his father, fought in King Philip’s War, and was an early settler of New London and Groton, Connecticut.

The college campus itself was originally a 70 acre seaside estate owned by Commodore Morton F. Plant (1852-1918), a yachtsman and financier, who in 1915, was noted for giving $1,125,000 to the founding of Connecticut College for Women (now Connecticut College) in New London. Plant’s property on Avery Point was eventually acquired by the University of Connecticut in 1969.

Besides his home at 1051 Fifth Avenue [NYC], Commodore Plant owned Branford House, a magnificent estate at Eastern Point Colony, three miles from Groton, opposite New London, on the east bank of the mouth of the Thames [River].
(The New York Times, November 5, 1918)

9.15.10 ~ Avery Point
9.15.10 ~ Avery Point, New London Ledge Light

First we strolled along the Sculpture Path by the Sea, where we took in the sparkling views of Eastern Point, New London, New London Ledge Lighthouse (above), Pine Island, Bluff Point and Groton Long Point.

9.15.10 ~ Avery Point
9.15.10 ~ Avery Point Light

The path led us by an impressive view of the 31-room mansion called Branford House, which was built in 1903, and then on to the Avery Point Lighthouse, the last lighthouse built in Connecticut in 1943. The lighthouse stopped being used in 1967 and fell into disrepair. Funds were raised by the Avery Point Lighthouse Society and in 2001 restoration began and in 2002 it was added to the National Register of Historic Places.

Now I’ve lived in Groton for several decades and I knew there was a little art gallery somewhere in Branford House, but since it is open only for a few hours on only a few days of the week, and because there are no signs indicating where one might enter the building, I have never managed to visit it.

9.15.10 ~ Avery Point
9.15.10 ~ Avery Point

Well, as we were examining all the architectural details on the outside of the building we discovered an unlocked door. Pent up curiosity pulled me in and Janet followed. There were several huge empty rooms, which I believe people have rented for functions like weddings… We poked around, admired the breathtaking views, enormous fireplace, and dark, intricately carved paneling, and eventually came to a grand staircase. Even the white ceiling (see last picture) had detailed paneling! Climbed the stairs and, what-do-you-know? We were in the lobby of the well hidden Alexey von Schlippe Gallery of Art! Alexey von Schlippe (1915-1988) was a painter and a professor of art at UConn’s Avery Point campus.

The current exhibition is a collection from the Latin Network for the Visual Arts. After viewing the colorful artwork of various current Latin artists, we noticed a very narrow staircase with marble steps! Again curiosity pulled me to go down them to what seemed to be a coat closet and another doorway to the main rooms again. Came away wishing I could get a floor plan somehow – I think it would be fascinating to see how the rooms and hallways were arranged and what each room was used for.

9.15.10 ~ Avery Point
9.15.10 ~ Avery Point
9.15.10 ~ Avery Point
9.15.10 ~ Avery Point

I should add as a footnote that Project Oceanology is also located on the Avery Point Campus. This marine science and environmental education organization offers lighthouse expeditions, oceanographic research cruises and seal watches to the public, other things I’d love to do one of these days.

9.15.10 ~ Avery Point
9.15.10 ~ Avery Point

Greeting September

Today I have more pictures than words. The children are back in school for the year and the mood at the beach has changed dramatically. Places and moments of solitude are easier to find…

9.8.10 ~ Eastern Point
9.8.10 ~ Eastern Point

There are no more french fries and hot dog buns for the gulls to snatch, so they must  return to more natural ways of feeding themselves. Humans may resume fishing, too.

9.8.10 ~ Eastern Point
9.8.10 ~ Eastern Point

Not only is it great having a sister to share an occasional walk with, it’s handy to have a geologist pointing out that the sand tinted red is garnet sand.

9.8.10 ~ Eastern Point
9.8.10 ~ Eastern Point

There are more bird than human footprints now…

9.8.10 ~ Eastern Point
9.8.10 ~ Eastern Point

I’ve decided that my camera is an Impressionist at heart, preferring a windswept mood to sharp detail…

9.8.10 ~ Eastern Point
9.8.10 ~ Eastern Point

It’s almost noon. Not a soul in sight. Serenity…

9.8.10 ~ Eastern Point
9.8.10 ~ Eastern Point

except for the wind

"The West Wind" by Winslow Homer
“The West Wind” by Winslow Homer

There’s a Mary Chapin Carpenter song, Zephyr, that keeps tugging at my heart the past couple of months. The lyrics may be about romantic connections but they stir up feelings about family ties for me. (Some of the lyrics included in italics.)

Why do crickets chirping in August sound so sad to me?

I don’t know nothing, nothing today…

“Good” stress vs. “bad” stress. How do we know which is which? When Tim was going through his cardio-rehab program I attended the group discussion about stress with him. The nurse moderating the discussion stressed that if something seemed stressful to you then it is stressful, no matter how anyone else might feel in the same situation.

“Good” stress: Tim came home from his trip to England with an assortment of cheeses and wanted to have a cheese tasting party. An incentive to clean the house!!! The party was wonderful!!! Our home is so clean!!!

“Bad” stress: unrelenting for the past few years… I used to be known as a meticulously clean homemaker, who often rearranged furniture and redecorated, but I no longer have the energy or the inclination to stay on top of things. A homebody by nature… Well, that’s not entirely true…

I’m a zephyr on the inside
And it’s a hard ride when you feel yourself tied down
Hide-and-earth bound
But there’s no tether, on a zephyr

Because my father’s and my aunt’s situations are so distressing to me, when I find myself with “free” time I usually read or blog or redecorate my blogs, which is so very soothing and relaxing. Forget the housework. But it has been nice writing this today in a house a good deal cleaner than it’s been in a very long time.

I tried to be constant just like a star
I tried to be steady and yar
But the storms keep breaking over my head
I’m aching for blue skies instead

What is “yar,” Mary Chapin? Sounds like a sailing word… She must mean yare, which is pronounced “yar.” I love looking things up! An adjective “describing a boat that handles with little effort. A good sailing design, quick and capable.” I have the feeling I should have known this. It sounds like a word my grandparents might have used. “Steady as she goes,” I do recall. Steady and yare, steady and yare…

Wish I could handle things with just a little less effort, because

I’m a zephyr on the inside
And it’s a hard ride when you feel your heart tied down…

…All of the wings I’ve ridden back home to you
All the things I’ve given I’ve wanted to
All that you see has always belonged to you
Except for the wind…

Yes, my dear family, little ones, elderly ones, and dead ones, I’ve freely chosen to give them all I’ve had in me to give. Even if it’s hard, love keeps me from flying away… As Louisa May Alcott once wrote, “I’m not afraid of storms, for I’m learning how to sail my ship.” Steady and yare…

Love is all there is and time is just sand
And I might just slip through your hands

I took Auntie to the surgeon for a consultation again. More skin cancer to be removed, this time from her leg. It makes me remember when my children were young and Auntie was newly retired so she came to our lovely little beach with us all summer long. Time is just sand on the beach, and time often stood still on those endless days.

Those were good times, watching the kids’ swimming lessons, reading novels, chatting, soaking up the sun, damaging our skin.

The time a seagull pooped on our umbrella and us laughing at the antics of the kids dragging the umbrella to the outdoor shower in a futile attempt to clean it off with water… The times the gulls stole our fries or those scrumptious $1.50 each kraut-dogs… Melting ice cream dripping down sticky, salty bellies and legs… “Watch me swim out to the raft, Mom!” Marveling about the fact that we could hear their conversations out on the raft but they could not hear us calling them from the beach. Sound travels only one way over the water. I can still hear their voices sometimes…

The outdoorsy kid always in the water. The creative kid, drawing on or sculpting in the sand. The future social worker coming for frequent cuddles and eating all the slices of cantaloupe when no one was paying attention. The time Grandma & Grandpa came for a picnic and we all took a walk and saw three baby swans riding on a mother swan’s back as she swam around the salt pond… The year the kids were interviewed by a newspaper reporter about the Lion’s Mane Jellyfish population explosion…

Larisa K. Rodgers, a sixth grader, became a victim Monday. “All I know is, it hurts,” she said. Larisa was swimming at Eastern Point Beach when she was stung on both thighs, dashed out of the water and ran to the first aid room. “It rashes up really big,” she said, though she needn’t have explained. …. “I’ve noticed more,” said Larisa’s brother, Jonathan, who has his own method of measuring the jellyfish problem. He says he gets stung about once a summer, but this summer he’s been stung three times.

[Source: “Beware of the blob! Jellyfish numbers increase,” by Steve Grant, The Hartford Courant, Hartford, Connecticut, 13 August 1992, page 1]

As I’ve been for many years, I’m still grounded, but…

I’m a zephyr on the inside
And it’s a hard ride when you feel your life tied down
Hide-and-earth bound but there’s no tether…

strong, lusty farmer

7.11.10 ~ Eastern Point
7.11.10 ~ Eastern Point

As another batch of strong thunderstorms pass through Connecticut this evening I’ve got a bit of time to post another death by lightning account. I know the subject doesn’t match the pictures, but I have no pictures of Elmer, and I have no words for the pictures, except for a caption. The pictures were taken on July 11, a lovely sparkling evening to be near or on the water.

7.11.10 ~ Eastern Point
7.11.10 ~ Eastern Point

When I married Tim I was thrilled to be given a copy of the autobiography of his great-grandfather, Charles Amos Hamilton. Charles was born when his mother was 47 years old, and she died when he was three weeks old. He had an 18-year-old sister, Addie, and a 26-year-old brother, Elmer. The following account of Elmer’s death was written many years later by his little brother, Charles, who was 4 years old when it happened:

One of my most vivid recollections of this period is the death by a stroke of lightning on July 20th, 1870, of my only brother, Elmer Alonzo. He was my father’s first born, and had grown up into a strong, lusty farmer. He and father were more like brothers than like father and son. He was very fond of his little brother, and used to romp with me and at times good naturedly teased me. To me, there was no one in the world like Elmer. After dinner, on the day of his death, as he was starting for the hay field, I begged him to take me with him, but, as a thunder storm was looming in the west, he told me I couldn’t go. He went alone to the hay field, cocked hay until the storm came up, and a bolt of lightning ended his activities forever. His body was not discovered until the next forenoon, all covered with hay. His untimely death was a terrible blow to the entire family.

Several years ago we took a trip to western New York state to do some research on the Hamilton family. I found an article in the archives of a newspaper, Cuba True Patriot, 22 July 1870, Vol 9, No 4. The reporter got his age wrong, Elmer was actually 29 when he died:

Killed by Lightning.  On Wednesday last, Mr. Elmer Hamilton, son of Charles Hamilton, residing on Keller Hill, in this town was killed by lightning. The particulars as near as we have been able to learn them, are as follows. Just before the terrible thunder-storm of Wednesday Mr. Hamilton went over to his father’s farm, adjoining his own, and just across the Hinsdale town line, to grind his machine knives and repair his mower. Towards night as he did not return his relatives began to wonder at his long absence, and a search was instituted. They looked in every place where it might be possible he might be found, but failed to find him. A large number of neighbors were informed, who searched diligently for the missing man till about 2 o’clock A. M., when the hunt was given up till morning. Thursday morning the body of Mr. Hamilton was found, partly screened by a haycock. By his side, and protruding from the cock of hay was his pitchfork, with the tine end sticking out. Close by was his hat, which led to his discovery. One side of the head was scorched almost to a crisp, plainly indicating the cause of his death. It is supposed that Mr. Hamilton crept under the hay-cock to protect himself from the severe storm, and that the lightning struck the fork which he held in his hand. Mr. Hamilton was about 21 years of age, and a young man generally esteemed by all who knew him.

Very sad and very sobering. According to the National Weather Service Lightning Safety website, in the United States, “an average of 58 people are killed each year by lightning. To date, there have been 15 lightning deaths in 2010.” Our local weatherman advises that if you can hear thunder or see lightning, then the storm is close enough for lightning to strike you.

Benjamin Franklin invented the lightning rod in 1752. Too late to have helped the folks in Marshfield in 1666. Perhaps by 1870 they were on most homes, but I wonder about barns… It’s good to have a healthy respect for thunderstorms and they are exciting to watch and listen to. But let’s all stay indoors or in our cars!

7.11.10 ~ Eastern Point
7.11.10 ~ Eastern Point

mead moon

6.25.10 ~ Eastern Point
mead moon ~ 6.25.10 ~ Eastern Point

At 4:00 a.m. this morning a very loud, but very pretty, bird song awakened me. It was soon joined by many others, all adding their distinct tunes. Soon I will have to start boiling the beans that were soaking overnight… We are having a belated Midsummer bonfire/cookout up at Dad’s tonight. Belated so more people could make it, having it on the weekend.

Yesterday Tim took the day off of work so we could go to Dad’s to help my sister and brother-in-law with the preparations. We were about to do some food shopping so I called Auntie to see if she needed anything at the store. (Fiercely independent, she lives near Dad in an elderly housing complex.) She sounded terrible. She said she had fallen at 3:00 a.m. and that she was in a lot of pain. After I got off the phone with her I called her doctor and he was willing to see her in an hour. When we picked her up I asked why she didn’t call us and she said she couldn’t reach the phone at first. Then  asked her why she didn’t press the life alert button on her wrist? She forgot it was there. By the time we got to the doctor I was wondering which morning it was that she actually fell…

Fortunately the doctor examined her thoroughly and said that she had a cut on her elbow that did not need stitches, and that she was badly bruised head to toe on the left side of her body, but nothing was broken or dislocated. He suggested that she start using a cane. The attention and reassurance from the doctor had lifted her spirits considerably. We drove her to the medical pharmacy in the next town and she worried all the way that she would not find one short enough for her. But we did find one. Tim is a cheerful and pleasant problem solver and he made the selection process a treat. (Had no idea there could be so many options and features on a cane! Dad had used one for years, one that his own father had carved from a branch.)

Auntie was a little grumpy about having to use a cane now. But I pointed out to her that she had done very well getting to age 95 before needing any assistance at all with walking! She tried it out on the sidewalk leading to her “cottage.” The walk has a slight decline and she was very pleased that it kept her from pitching forward. Phew! Hopefully this will work out for her.

Back to food shopping, back to Dad’s. Getting very tired… Bernie wanted a walk so I took him while the others continued laboring away. Didn’t take the camera, but rather spent the time observing Bernie to see if I could figure out how he manages so well with his blindness. I think he has a detailed memory of the lay of the land because he never bumps into anything stationary, like a tree or a stone wall. But he often bumps into small twigs sticking up from the leaves, or plants that have popped up along his usual routes. My brother-in-law leaves a dish of water on a bench outside for Bernie’s convenience. Yesterday he had moved the bowl over and placed some potted plants he was transplanting on the bench. Bernie was distressed and disoriented because he couldn’t find his water bowl. My brother-in-law figured out what the problem was and redirected him to the other end of the bench.

We finally headed home, realizing we just weren’t going to get to the fun part, decorating, until today. Going to put the beans in the slow cooker and head out to my dad’s early and cook them up there while we decorate the garden and the trees. Dad’s beloved chestnut tree is blooming, the air is filled with its scent.

We followed a lovely big full moon all the way home! I also spotted three young deer on the other side of the highway, up on the edge of some rock outcrops. They weren’t so young that they had spots, but they weren’t full-grown. Maybe “teenagers.” I hope they weren’t thinking about crossing the interstate.

The moon was so pretty we went down to the beach to see it shining over the water. Took a picture, but because of the moon illusion the camera did not capture the hugeness of it perceived with our naked eyes.

6.25.10 ~ Jeff’s notecards

Came home and found that Jeff’s cards had arrived! They will serve as stunning invitations to next year’s summer solstice gathering… Who knows, maybe Jeff will create something wonderful we can use for our winter solstice gathering…

muggy ↔ migraine ↔ mulling

6.4.05 ~ Eastern Point

Yesterday the first muggy day of the season arrived, and with it, not surprisingly, a humidity-triggered migraine. As I thanked the Universe and Science for Zomig nasal spray, I turned on the air conditioner and then shot the potion up my nose and snuggled up on the couch to rest while it worked its Magic.

So much for zipping through my chores to spend an afternoon in the blogosphere!

But I mustn’t complain!

Migraine had been the center of my life since early childhood. And since I had colic and some scientists think colic (and motion-sickness, too) is a form of migraine, I suspect I could quite honestly claim that migraine has plagued me since infancy. The only sustained relief I had until four years ago was during my pregnancies. Turns out progesterone quite nicely cancels out the estrogen dominance factor that is my strongest migraine trigger.

Finally at the age of 49, my sister, who also suffers from this neurological disorder, as did both of our parents, dragged me to a neurologist and for the first time in my life I came away from a doctor with some effective tools – three different drugs – two for prevention and the Zomig to abort the headaches that break through that line of defense. Believe me, I had already tried just about every natural remedy under the sun, and badly wished that one of them would have worked for me.

6.4.05 ~ Eastern Point

Some choices are difficult, trying to weigh the various factors. When I run the air conditioner it bothers my conscience. But the Zomig is so powerful that it causes liver damage and I’m only allowed six doses a month. So I can’t just run around recklessly ignoring my triggers and taking Zomig every day. One must always pay the piper, one way or another. So the air conditioner is on and I will obsessively keep my eye on the dew point from now until late in the fall. Any chance to open the windows on a relatively dry day I will seize!!!

Sometimes it’s still frustrating being the one who succumbs to anything my hyper-sensitive nerve metabolism senses in the environment to be a trigger. I often feel like I’m walking around on eggshells. Too many triggers to list here – some I can avoid, some I cannot.  Zomig is for those. It has given me much more of a life than I had before!

Took a quick look at the calendar as I recorded yesterday’s dose – nine days since the last dose. Pretty good! It’s not all that bad living in a bubble of sorts, keeping the menacing triggers “out there.” And if I tire of the great indoors I can hop in the car and go down to the beach, where the humidity doesn’t seem to collect and settle, and breathe in the healing energy of the sea.

goose family walk

Reading Terrill’s blog post, Canada Geese on family swim day, reminded me of a blog post I wrote last year, so I decided to post it on this blog today. The following blog was originally posted on Gaia Community on 25 May 2009:

5.24.09 ~ Beach Pond
5.24.09 ~ Beach Pond

Yesterday we were about to start our morning walk in the mist when we heard a clap of not-too-distant thunder. So we got back in the car and decided to watch two Canada geese families weather the storm. One family had four little ones and an unattached aunt or uncle spending time with them. The other family only had two goslings, and they were smaller than the four the other family had. Not sure if they were younger or just smaller for some reason. Dad had an awfully ugly and uncomfortable looking tag around his neck. They were all strolling along at leisurely pace, grazing on the grass…

When the rain started the smaller goslings made a mad dash for their mom, who indulged them for a bit by letting them huddle underneath her. The larger ones looked curious and flapped their wings a few times, imitating their parents. Then they all stood quite still for several minutes, facing into the wind and thrusting their chests out in front of them. After that they decided to ignore the rain and continued walking and feeding. When one of the small goslings got to a small puddle that had formed in the grass, he walked in, but when it got deeper he was surprised and suddenly started swimming, almost tipping over! He looked just as surprised when he had to start walking again!

Wish the pictures had come out better, but I did learn a few more things about my camera. Fiddled with settings and kept wiping rain drops off, and got petty soaked in the process. I know Canada Geese are pretty commonplace, but they were still a wonder to observe more closely than we usually bother, to take the time to enjoy them.