so old, so alone

10.12.14 ~ Durham, North Carolina
dawn redwood ~ 10.12.14 ~ Sarah P. Duke Gardens, Durham, North Carolina

The tree was so old, and stood there so alone, that his childish heart had been filled with compassion; if no one else on the farm gave it a thought, he would at least do his best to, even though he suspected that his child’s words and child’s deeds didn’t make much difference. It had stood there before he was born, and would be standing there after he was dead, but perhaps, even so, it was pleased that he stroked its bark every time he passed, and sometimes, when he was sure he wasn’t observed, even pressed his cheek against it.
~ Karl Ove Knausgård
(A Time for Everything)

Fossils show that Dawn Redwood (Metasequoin glyptostroboides) was a dominant coniferous tree in much of the Northern hemisphere from about 90 to 15 million years ago. In 1941 a few living trees were surprisingly discovered in a remote part of western China. Seeds collected from them were germinated at the Arnold Arboretum of Harvard University in 1948. The next year this tree, one of the original seedlings, was planted here in Durham, North Carolina at the Sarah P. Duke Gardens at Duke University.

this old age

"Self-Portrait, 1669" by Rembrandt (1606-1669) Dutch Painter & Etcher
“Self-Portrait, 1669” by Rembrandt

Old age is the most unexpected of all things that can happen to a man.
~ Leo Tolstoy
(Promises to Keep: Thoughts in Old Age)

Old age. All the facial detail is visible; all the traces life has left there are to be seen. The face is furrowed, wrinkled, sagging, ravaged by time. But the eyes are bright and, if not young, then somehow transcend the time that otherwise marks the face. It is as though someone else is looking at us, from somewhere inside the face, where everything is different. One can hardly be closer to another human soul.
~ Karl Ove Knausgård
(My Struggle, Book One)

This old age ought not to creep on a human mind. In nature every moment is new; the past is always swallowed and forgotten; the coming only is sacred. Nothing is secure but life, transition, the energizing spirit.
~ Ralph Waldo Emerson
(Circles)

winds of consciousness

Wilson's Phalarope by Brian Harris/USFWS
Wilson’s phalarope by Brian Harris, Rachel Carson National Wildlife Refuge, Maine

And it’s a disquieting thought that not even the past is done with, even that continues to change, as if in reality there is only one time, for everything, one time for every purpose under heaven. One single second, one single landscape, in which what happens activates and deactivates what has already happened in endless chain reactions, like the processes that take place in the brain, perhaps, where cells suddenly bloom and die away, all according to the way the winds of consciousness are blowing.
~ Karl Ove Knausgård
(A Time for Everything)

great black-backed gulls

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8.19.12 ~ Eastern Point Beach

The seagulls know the truth of it
And scream it overhead
~ David Gray
♫ (Nos Da Cariad) ♫

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8.19.12 ~ Eastern Point Beach

Growing up visiting the beaches of Cape Cod I never paid close attention to seagulls, taking them very much for granted. But in 2011, after reading the book, A Time for Everything, by Karl O. Knausgård, I’ve been drawn to these interesting sea birds. However, it wasn’t until April of last year (2012) that I noticed that there are different kinds of seagulls, when I saw a pair of black-headed gulls perched on a dock at Cumberland Island National Seashore in Georgia.

Now I’m pretty sure the gulls we commonly have on our beach here in Connecticut are ring-billed gulls. One day last August (2012), Tim & I were having a light supper sitting at a picnic table on the grass at our beach. We were chatting away and I was watching a gull behind him, who was loitering on the grass, hoping for a handout. (We never give them anything, however, because our food is not good for them.) Slowly it dawned on me that this was the biggest gull I had ever laid eyes on! And yet he had the speckled coloring of an immature one.

Thankfully I had my camera, but when Tim turned around to see what I was so excited about the gull took off. He came back, however, and began strutting along the sidewalk as if he owned the place.

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8.19.12 ~ Eastern Point Beach

Eventually he walked up onto the rocks and posed for me.

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8.19.12 ~ Eastern Point Beach
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8.19.12 ~ Eastern Point Beach

In the pictures above and below I was trying to capture this huge baby standing as close to an adult “regular” gull as I could, to illustrate the difference in size. There were two of these large gulls present that day, but this was the one that came closer to us.

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8.19.12 ~ Eastern Point Beach

Ten days after this gull encounter at the beach we had to take Tim to the hospital in the middle of the night. At dawn I came home to shower and then return to the hospital. As I started driving down Bank Street in New London there was a seagull in the middle of the street, feasting on some roadkill. He didn’t move out of the way of my car until it was almost too late. When he did take off he didn’t fly away, though. He kept flying just a few feet in front of my car, flying very low, all the way down Bank Street to Parade Plaza.

If seagull shows up it means it’s time to clean up your home environment and let go of and recycle as much as you possibly can. … Spend a significant amount of time at the seashore meditating, allowing the rhythms of the waves and the wind to be your guiding pulse.
~ Dr. Steven D. Farmer
(Animal Spirit Guides)

It wasn’t until late September, when we took a day trip to Block Island, that we got a clue about the identity of these giant seagulls. Our tour guide asked us if we had ever seen a great black-backed gull, the largest of all gulls. Apparently they are showing up on Block Island, too!

After Tim came home from the hospital, but before we went to Block Island, son Nate came up from Georgia to help “clean out our home environment” after Tim’s hospital stay. While he was here we took him to the beach one evening, all excited about showing him the big seagulls. But they weren’t there that night. However, we sat with him there for hours, soaking up the healing power of the sea and talking about the wonders of the universe – a memory I will treasure forever. The following sketch reminds me of some of our conversations, Mr. Logic and Ms. Wonder, chatting with their son…

DougNeill.exoplanets
image: Sketchnotes: Natalie Batalha on Exoplanets & Love

Since Nate left to go back home we have spotted the great black-backed gulls at the beach again many times, even after Hurricane Sandy and Blizzard Charlotte, so it looks like the two of them are planning to stick around for a while. And my sister has reported seeing them there a couple of times, too, when she’s gone to the beach to eat a peaceful lunch in her car. Beverly thought I had to be exaggerating until she saw them for herself!

sailboats and seagulls

8.20.11 ~ Eastern Point Beach
8.20.11 ~ Eastern Point Beach

Earlier this year I read an utterly fascinating book, A Time for Everything, a historical fiction by multiple award-winning Norwegian author Karl O. Knausgård, a story unlike any I’ve ever read before. This is how the publisher describes his most unusual story:

Antinous Bellori, a boy of eleven, loses his way in the woods in the mountains behind his home. Unseen, he stumbles upon two glowing beings, an event that leads him to devote the rest of his life to the study of angels. Bellori reinterprets moments throughout the Bible where men confront angels: the expulsion from the garden, Cain and Abel, Lot in Sodom, Noah’s isolation before the flood, Ezekiel’s visions. . . .  Through his profound glimpses, Karl Knausgaard—an extraordinary storyteller and thinker—explores with spellbinding insight how the nature and roles of these intermediaries between man and the divine have shifted throughout history.

If I had to sum it up in a sentence I would say it is about the nature and evolution of angels and what day-to-day life might have been like for the various Bible characters mentioned above. And without spoiling the story, if you want to read it, I will just say that after reading it I will never look at seagulls quite the same way again.

8.20.11 ~ Eastern Point Beach
8.20.11 ~ Eastern Point Beach

Saturday evening we went down to the beach for a hot dog and a sunset. As the various seagulls came by to see if we were offering to share any of our food — we weren’t, it’s not good for them, or us, for that matter — I studied them closely and kept asking them if it was true, what Knausgård says of them. Tim kept reminding me it was fiction. He doesn’t yet appreciate the power of this amazing storyteller, nor will he unless he reads it for himself. But he probably won’t because I’ve chewed his ear off about it for a couple of months now! The seagulls only looked at me as if the question I was asking them was far too personal and none of my business.

8.20.11 ~ Eastern Point Beach
8.20.11 ~ Eastern Point Beach

While I was busy photographing the uncooperative beings an alluring schooner appeared on the horizon. I’m pretty sure it was the Mystic Whaler. We watched her approach to the Thames River, spellbound. Many years ago my aunt and I sailed on her for a two-night cruise to Block Island…

8.20.11 ~ Eastern Point Beach
8.20.11 ~ Eastern Point Beach

There were other boats around, too. The Hel-Cat II, with the dubious distinction of being New England’s largest party fishing boat. Sport fishing, that is. And on board there was a party well under way, even before she reached Long Island Sound, music and revelry blaring across the water…

8.20.11 ~ Eastern Point Beach
8.20.11 ~ Eastern Point Beach

Then there was the ferry, coming in from Long Island…

8.20.11 ~ Eastern Point Beach
8.20.11 ~ Eastern Point Beach

And then a smaller sailboat appeared, hugging the shore, stirring up memories for Tim of sailing with his brother in Provincetown Harbor and Chesapeake Bay.

8.20.11 ~ Eastern Point Beach
8.20.11 ~ Eastern Point Beach

As the sailboat approached New London Harbor Lighthouse, across the Thames River, the light came on for the evening, “three seconds white alternating with three seconds darkness, with red sector.”

8.20.11 ~ Eastern Point Beach
8.20.11 ~ Eastern Point Beach

And then the little sailboat passed by the setting sun. Sweet dreams, dear sailors!

8.20.11 ~ Eastern Point Beach
8.20.11 ~ Eastern Point Beach

After sunset, on the way home, we saw an amazing sight, a flock of about two dozen egrets (white herons?) resting in the trees in the middle of the salt marsh, seemingly all spread out to be equidistant from each other, so far apart they wouldn’t all fit in one picture… At first glance we thought someone had draped white cloths on the trees. The pictures are disappointing…

8.20.11 ~ Groton, Connecticut
8.20.11 ~ Avery Pond, Groton, Connecticut

But it was a sight to behold and a surprise ending to a lovely evening!

Some believe seagulls embody the souls of sailors lost at sea. Karl Ove Knausgård has some other ideas…

Salem Herbfarm

5.27.11 ~ Salem, Connecticut
5.27.11 ~ Salem, Connecticut

Last weekend we took a ride out to The Salem Herbfarm. It was a hot and humid day so we didn’t last too long. Took a few pictures and bought a moonflower and a bamboo pole for it to climb on. Fortunately the weather has cooled off for now, after a wild evening of violent thunderstorms, which produced devastating tornadoes in Springfield and Monson, Massachusetts…

5.27.11 ~ Salem, Connecticut
5.27.11 ~ Salem, Connecticut

This weekend Tim has been working from home and a kind of lethargy has set in, in spite of the delightful weather. This past week I got a lot of work done on my garden and the living room. Janet and I are making plans…

5.27.11 ~ Salem, Connecticut
nemesia ~ 5.27.11 ~ Salem, Connecticut

No more house centipede sightings and yesterday I finally got up the nerve to sit on the couch again…

5.27.11 ~ Salem, Connecticut
5.27.11 ~ Salem, Connecticut

Reading a fascinating book: A Time for Everything by Karl Ove Knausgård. It’s an unusual piece of historical fiction, based loosely on the lives of characters from the Bible. But it gets into their heads and reinterprets the ways Cain or Noah, for example, might have experienced Biblical events. The author’s descriptions of the natural world of pre-flood times are detailed and vivid. The book is supposed to examine the nature of angels, too, but I’m only a little less than half way through.