in the doldrums

8.26.22 ~ Beach Pond

Yesterday the U.S. Department of Agriculture designated our county as a primary natural disaster area due to the drought. We did get about two and a half inches of rain on Monday and Tuesday but it wasn’t enough to end the drought or benefit beleaguered farmers. These pictures were taken at the pond yesterday, a couple of days after the rain.

We wondered at all the bubbles in the very shallow water. The poor mallard could barely swim and couldn’t dabble deep enough to get her butt elevated. πŸ˜‰

There were a few sandpipers and yellowlegs wandering around. I’m feeling too wearied to bother trying to identify them more specifically…

After a lovely week of low humidity and opened windows, the muggies returned with a vengeance, corresponding with the arrival of our granddaughter, visiting us on her own for a few days. But we made the best of our time indoors and went out one evening to see a troupe of Ukrainian dancers perform outside at Mystic Seaport. Afterwards, Kat, age 7, exclaimed that they were awesome! We thought so, too.

The rain came for the last two days of our visit. I introduced Kat to Cesar Millan: Better Human Better Dog on TV and Tim introduced her to a family board game called Rocks. I filled in a family tree fan chart for her which she examined closely and offered several very thoughtful observations. We spent another evening walking on the beach after the rain let up. Our little bright spot in the doldrums!

The following pictures were taken on August 19, before the two and a half inches of rain, a week before the ones above. It’s the lowest I’ve ever seen the pond’s water level. But for the little puddle it was dry.

8.19.22 ~ Beach Pond

I always forget how important the empty days are, how important it may be sometimes not to expect to produce anything, even a few lines in a journal. … A day where one has not pushed oneself to the limit seems a damaged damaging day, a sinful day. Not so! The most valuable thing one can do for the psyche, occasionally, is to let it rest, wander, live in the changing light of a room, not try to be or do anything whatever.
~ May Sarton
(Journal of a Solitude)

So I continue living in the changing light of this room, biding my time, dreaming of crisp, cool, walkable autumn air. And more rain, which is not in the weather forecast. Waiting somewhat patiently and keeping my wits about me — so far.

to the dinosaur place

4.1.22 ~ The Dinosaur Place
Oakdale, Connecticut

Kat’s last day with us turned out to be the season’s opening day at the Dinosaur Place. We were there when the doors opened and were the first visitors of the year! It was a chilly, dreary day and we were sprinkled with occasional raindrops, but we had fun in spite of the dismal weather.

First we spent a lot of time watching Kat play in the T-Rex Tower at Monty’s Playground. While we were waiting for the attendant to dry off its surfaces we played a couple of rounds of hide-and-seek with our granddaughter. I can’t remember the last time I played hide-and-seek!

Then we started walking on one of the trails, noticing along the way just some of the 50 life-sized dinosaurs lurking in the woods. Kat followed the signs to Carnivore Cavern.

The first time through Grandpa was brave enough to go with her. They came out smiling but Kat was covering her ears and reported that it was VERY LOUD in there.

Then Kat announced that she was going to go through all by her self, and she did. πŸ™‚

Then we found the A-MAZE-asaurus maze, complete with an observation deck, from where Grandpa and Grammy watched Kat try to make her way through. After a bit we offered suggestions. Good thing she knew her right from her left.

The exit turned out to be a tunnel slide, with a dinosaur mouth to pass through. Too bad we couldn’t scramble over there fast enough to see her at the top or landing at the bottom.

Then we followed the map to find the secret treasure, a large piece of quartz in the ground.

And some petrified wood…

And then Kat wanted to return to Carnivore Cavern to take me through. So I got a picture of inside the entrance.

And then it got very dark and then the dinosaurs in there roared. I managed to get a picture of one of the beasts!

After we that we followed another trail. I couldn’t resist getting a picture of a skunk cabbage down in the swamp.

It’s fun seeing dinosaurs outside and getting a walk in the woods in at the same time.

Kat resting with Grandpa
waiting for Grandpa and noticing a lot of moss behind her
observing an abundance of mosses and lichens
the king of a rocky moss-covered mountain

On the way out Kat and her grandpa got some ice cream at The Village Ice Cream Shoppe, the first customers of the season. πŸ˜‰ A perfect way to end the day. I hope we will be bringing Finn here, too, someday soon. πŸ’™

It was almost nine years ago that Tim and I came here with our grandnephews, Julius and Dominic. I’m glad to have pictures and memories from that fun day, too. Pictures here. Those little guys are teenagers now!

to the nature center

3.31.22 ~ Denison Pequotsepos Nature Center
Mystic, Connecticut

While she was visiting last week we finally got a chance to take our granddaughter, age 7, to the Denison Pequotsepos Nature Center! She was all set with her camera and water bottle and we played follow the leader as she explored the place at her own pace. Sometimes we struggled to keep up but she was patient with us and we would catch up and so we had a fantastic time. 😊

Kat playing a bird species memory game with Grandpa
taking pictures
eastern painted turtle

After exploring the indoor exhibits we headed outdoors to see the birds in the rehab enclosures. We even got to see a staff member feed the raptors dead mice. It was difficult getting pictures through the wires but these two were acceptable.

For many decades the Denison Pequotsepos Nature Center has been licensed by the U.S. Department of Fish and Wildlife to care for injured wild animals. We are part of a region-wide network of wildlife specialists that handle emergencies and help seek appropriate care for injured wildlife.
~ DPNC website

Next we followed a trail and spotted a Canada goose sitting on her nest on a hummock in the middle of a pond. Nearby her mate was patrolling the area.

Kat probably took more pictures than I did!

Our minds, as well as our bodies, have need of the out-of-doors. Our spirits, too, need simple things, elemental things, the sun and the wind and the rain, moonlight and starlight, sunrise and mist and mossy forest trails, the perfumes of dawn and the smell of fresh-turned earth and the ancient music of wind among the trees.
~ Edwin Way Teale
(Circle of the Seasons: The Journal of a Naturalist’s Year)

moss-covered glacial erratics are always fun to capture
who’s that taking pictures of me?
Kat discovers a meadow
let’s see, which way to go?
time to stop taking pictures and start consulting a map
Kat loves maps
planning our meadow route
reviewing our meadow trek with Grandpa

Kat led us back to the nature center and to the parking lot, checking rocks along the way to find dry ones for Grandpa to sit on for his rests. The occasional benches were welcome, too. She is a very curious, thoughtful and kind little sweetheart.

stone wall and daffodils across the road from the nature center

Here are two posts from the past illustrating Kat’s keen interest in maps: here (5th picture, age 4) and here (2nd picture and others, age 2).

The three of us had such a wonderful morning at the nature center! πŸ’•

wandering around rocky neck

3.22.22 ~ Rocky Neck State Park, East Lyme, Connecticut

There are still a few places to walk we haven’t visited yet so we decided to check another one off of our still-growing list. Rocky Neck State Park is a little farther west down the coastline than we usually like to go, but seeing pictures of birds taken there and posted online tempted me to give it a try. Sadly, no birds on this windy day. We had to walk through a tunnel (see above picture) under the Amtrak railroad to get to the beach.

This beach is one of the most visited beaches in Connecticut, with some of the buildings at the beach even dating back to the 1930s. This is one of the most popular beaches to visit for those in the area because of how scenic it is.
~ Roaming the USA website

The fact that it is so popular is probably another reason we never tried to come here before. Every summer weekend morning on the news we hear that the parking lot is full and no more cars are being allowed in. When traveling down the interstate we often see flashing LED changeable message signs, miles in advance, announcing the same thing.

We walked down the beach and up a ledge, following a sign saying “Pavilion.” The pavilion was huge! (Perhaps built in the 1930s?) We followed a tunnel through the bottom of it and took some stairs up the back, then came around to the front and took some pictures of Long Island Sound.

tunnel under the pavilion
pavilion balcony on top of ledge
Long Island Sound from the pavilion balcony

Behind the pavilion was a pedestrian bridge (above) back over the Amtrak railroad tracks. We decided to go for it, lured in by a point on a map of the park called Toby’s Nose Overlook. Eventually we found the spot but the viewing platform I was expecting did not exist. There was a complicated maze of trails, parking lots and driveways in the woods back there, but we finally figured out a zig-zaggy route we could take back to the car.

view of Four Mile River from Toby’s Nose Overlook
a glimpse of Long Island Sound through the woods
glacial erratic on top of a hill

When I got home and studied the map a little more closely I noticed that there was another part of the park, along Bride Brook, with a crabbing deck and an actual viewing platform. Maybe next time. Turns out we had only seen a very small portion of this place.

And now to prepare for a visit from our daughter and granddaughter! Kat has spring vacation so Larisa is going to work remotely here while we have Kat to ourselves for half the week. 😊 (Kat’s other grandparents will have her the first half of the week!)

3.26.22 ~ Look who are coming for a visit!!! (Larisa & Kat)

red-tailed hawk, cutting garden, entomology

10.1.21 ~ Harkness Memorial State Park

A new bird for me! When we got to Harkness Memorial State Park on Friday morning my eyes went immediately to the top of the water tower, where I had seen the black vulture at the end of July. There were lots of small birds making a racket and then, as if on cue, this red-tailed hawk flew in for a landing. His approach must have been what was causing such a stir with the little birds.

#67

Red-tailed Hawk Buteo jamaicensis: Uncommon to locally common breeder, and common migrant and winter resident throughout Connecticut. A perch-hunting generalist found in many wooded habitats often adjacent to open fields; also hunts by roadsides.
~ Frank Gallo
(Birding in Connecticut)

After taking a zillion blurry pictures of the hawk, the cutting garden, what we really came to see, beckoned to us…

But as we stepped into it I just had to look over my shoulder, then turn around and capture the hawk from a different angle and distance.

And then I could start paying attention to all the early autumn treasures in the cutting garden.

monarch
bee buddies?
yellow!
pink!
purplish-red!
fading fast
monarch
monarch
wonder what kind of moth or fly this is?
ready to bloom
gold!
another ready to bloom
soft summer colors in the fall
(porcelain berry)

But the best part of the day was getting back into the car and checking our cell phones to find an email from our daughter in North Carolina. Kat’s second grade teacher sent her this picture with the text message: “Kat was my brave friend today and got our friend away from us at lunch!” Larisa responded to her saying, “Lol, she loves bugs, just like her great, great grandmother who was an amateur entomologist.”

My grandmother lives on in my granddaughter! β™‘ It also makes me so happy that my daughter is passing on the family stories. β™‘ And I do wonder what kind of bug that is…

If you look deeply into the palm of your hand, you will see your parents and all generations of your ancestors. All of them are alive in this moment. Each is present in your body. You are the continuation of each of these people.
~ Thich Nhat Hanh
(Present Moment Wonderful Moment: Mindfulness Verses for Daily Living)

climbing the wall

5.20.21 ~ The Book Barn ~ Niantic, Connecticut

While our grandchildren were here we visited The Book Barn. Grandpa gave Kat his card (it keeps track of how much credit we have for books sold to them) and she found an armful of books in the Book Barn Downtown branch, where the children’s books are now kept. Grandpa carried her in and out of the store and she hobbled around on her own while browsing the stacks.

Finn loves trucks and construction vehicles

Then we headed up to the main and largest location where Grandpa and Kat sat in the car reading while Grammy and Mommy took Finn out to play and see the goats.

it’s fun to imagine…
if only the steering wheel would turn…
curious goat
a reading nook
Finn at the top of the playset with orbs
beautiful surroundings
a dragon oversees the playset
more spring beauty
so, have I mentioned that Finn is a climber?
he tried the swing for a moment but wasn’t impressed
lost count how many times he climbed the wall
definitely his favorite part of the day
he had to slide down only so he could climb again and again
an open book

I kept thinking the playset needed a good cleaning and a fresh coat of paint. Larisa didn’t think the swing felt safe and I was worried about splinters from the wood. A few days later we learned that the playset had been dismantled after our visit. They’re looking into finding something to replace it.

We are saddened to report that we have had to lay to rest our beloved playset. It has served the kiddos well over the years! It’s been a kind and faithful playset to the Book Barn’s tiniest customers. May it be remembered fondly πŸ’—
~ The Book Barn
(Facebook, May 24, 2021)

When Katherine was the age Finn is now (2Β½), I took some pictures of her on one of our visits in North Carolina. It was fun looking back and comparing: into the mist.

Kat reading in our library

Kat’s foot is healing. She’s walking on it again, but not fast and no running or jumping yet. Looking forward to our next visit in the near future! πŸ’•πŸ˜Š

a day at the aquarium

5.19.21 ~ Mystic Aquarium ~ Mystic, Connecticut

Oh what a joyful day it was when our grandchildren and their parents finally arrived for a post-quarantine visit!!! We hadn’t seen them in 18 months. Katherine, who is now called Kat, arrived with an injured foot, which put my dreams of a long walk in the woods or on the beach on hold again, but we managed to have a good time in spite of the challenge. Kat wanted to go to the aquarium so we borrowed a wheelchair and made a day of it.

beluga whale

While she was here Kat attended school (first grade) remotely which was fascinating to observe. When her teacher heard she was going to the aquarium she suggested Kat create a presentation for the class of the things she would see there. So she used her iPad to take videos and stills, as you can see in the picture above. Of course Finn wanted to ride along with his big sister. πŸ™‚

Steller sea lion, the largest of all sea lions
Steller sea lion, napping in the sunshine
Steller sea lion, napping in the water
rhododendron
African penguin
Kat still loves her penguins, filming them swimming underwater

The outdoor marsh habitat was full of life…

turtles
frog
polywog
rhododendron

We spent some time at the Ray Touch Pool…

Larisa and Finn touching stingrays
Kat mastered the touching technique

And took in the California sea lion training show…

I think Kat got better pictures than I did!
California sea lion

So many creatures to see in all the tanks. Tim & I were amazed at all the new exhibits they’ve added. There was some disappointment that the Jurassic Giants exhibit, ‘featuring giant animatronic dinosaurs, two 4D theaters, and visits with frogs and reptiles,’ was closed for renovations.

lions mane jellyfish

We’ve been bringing our own children (sometimes along with their grandparents!) since they were little ones, when this research aquarium was so small it was all in one building. It opened in 1973 and we moved down here in 1976 so I’d say we’ve been coming here for 45 years! Now it’s a sprawling complex, almost impossible to fit all of it into one day of exploring.

Amazon milk frog

The next day I listened as Kat made her virtual presentation to her class. It was fun listening to the voices of the other children as they asked her questions and made comments. She answered them like a marine expert! Her teacher thanked her for taking them along on such a great field trip. πŸ™‚

reflections

12.11.20 ~ Barn Island Wildlife Management Area
Pawcatuck, Connecticut

Somehow a week passed between our walks and I was feeling the definite lack of my regular endorphin boost. How did that happen? Some of the time was spent decorating our tree, which is almost done. I’m waiting on a mail order of ornament hooks. For some reason I ran out of them before all the pretty glass icicles made it onto the tree. But mostly I’ve been puttering around aimlessly.

Barn Island is the largest coastal wildlife management area in the state. It has about 1,000 acres of deciduous forest and tidal saltmarshes and lovely views of Little Narragansett Bay. The area supports “at least 9 State-listed avian species.”

clouds reflected in a tidal creek

I love it here, even if we didn’t see any birds this time. That might be because several couples were there walking their dogs. One couple was even letting their two large rambunctious dogs off the leash, putting them on the leashes when they saw us and then letting them go again after they had passed. Infuriating!

After a still winter night I awoke with the impression that some question had been put to me, which I had been endeavoring in vain to answer in my sleep, as what — how — when — where?
~ Henry David Thoreau
(Walden)

I’m missing my grandchildren. Most of the time I don’t dwell on it because I’m so grateful that we’re all safe and have incomes and food and roofs over our heads, the basics that so many Americans have lost or are losing soon. But recently, on a video call, Finn, age 2, called me Grammy for the first time, and the sound of his little voice coming into his own tugged at my heart.

Little Narragansett Bay in the distance
tidal creek

And then there was the evening that Katherine, age 6, created a solar system model out of Play-Doh. I watched for about an hour as she told me about the different planets and that the first four were rocky and the last four were gaseous. I was captivated.

spotted wintergreen
moss and lichen

Another morning I got a phone call, Katherine wanted to know if I still had the Barbie Animal Rescuer set she played with here over a year ago. Yes! It is waiting right here in the living room for her next visit. When she visited us that November (2019) I meant for her to take it home with her but she said no, it was to stay at Grammy’s to be played with here. We had such fun playing with it together and I had wondered if she would remember that, and she did.

tidal creek

Katherine has lost four of her baby teeth. And Finn, an agile little guy who loves speeding around on his scooter with the greatest of ease, wound up tripping over his bean bag chair in the middle of the night, hitting and cutting his lip with his tooth on the bedframe and getting 7 stitches! But it’s healing up well and the scar is almost invisible.

trees reflected in tidal creek

The beauty of the earth answers exactly to your demand and appreciation.
~ Henry David Thoreau
(Journal, November 2, 1858)

I trust that the walkers of the present day are conscious of the blessings which they enjoy in the comparative freedom with which they can ramble over the country and enjoy the landscape.
~ Henry David Thoreau
(Journal, February 12, 1851)