It was time to dust off the camera and resume taking our walks again. The big project is, for all intents and purposes, finally completed. But, I haven’t figured out how to write about it yet, so that long story will have to wait until after the holidays. Now to prepare for the coming visit of our darling grandchildren!
I added a layer of thermal leggings under my jeans for the first time this season and then we enjoyed the winter scenery along the Poquonnock River Walkway. We might be getting a coating of snow this afternoon. I love the cloudy light before snowstorms.
But the winter sun was shining brightly for the day of our walk, illuminating the tops of the reeds in a magical way.
Let us dig our furrow in the fields of the commonplace … and leave to others, more favoured by fortune, the job of explaining the world’s mechanism, if the spirit moves them. ~ Jean-Henri Fabre (The Life of the Fly: With Which are Interspersed Some Chapters of Autobiography)
We came across a large flock of house sparrows flitting around in the bushes along the boardwalk — how commonplace can it get? But a couple of them actually stayed put long enough to get their portraits taken.
It felt very good getting out of the house again and enjoying the ordinary, simple things the natural world has to offer.
This is the third year we’ve celebrated Midsummer since this endless coronavirus pandemic began. Driving on our way to a walk in the woods I was chattering to Tim about the “end” of the pandemic, how it was becoming more or less endemic now and that maybe I should stop tagging my posts with “pandemic.”
Monday was a perfect summer day and the trees were green and lovely. Tim was already wearing shorts and I was still in my hoodie, typical between-season attire for this couple. 😉 We had forgotten it was a 3-day weekend, a Monday holiday for Juneteenth, so there were lots of people in the state park. No matter, everyone was friendly and in good spirits.
We had a nice conversation with a young couple from New Hampshire who were very excited about a bird they had spotted. (We finally got a glimpse of it but couldn’t see it well enough to identify it.) And another conversation with a man, about our age, who commented on how good the honeysuckle was smelling and asked me about the zoom lens on my camera. I really didn’t feel too nervous being so close without a mask since we were outside.
I took a picture of these trees holding the boulder (above) in November 2020. See here. Interesting difference between autumn and summer surroundings.
It turned out to be the longest walk we’ve taken in ages, a whole hour and a half! And I don’t know what it is about catbirds this year — they are turning up everywhere! It was one of those days where it simply felt exhilarating to be alive and present.
I’m still enjoying daily encounters with the catbird coming to the birch tree outside my kitchen window. He usually announces the visit with a few meows and then begins his repertoire of varied melodies, songs that I imagine he has picked up and adopted along the way.
People who watch a banded gray catbird outside their window all summer will find it hard not to wonder exactly where it’s spending the winter, or to marvel that science still doesn’t have the answer. And if the catbird doesn’t come back, they, too, will inevitably wonder why. ~ Miyoko Chu (Songbird Journeys: Four Seasons in the Lives of Migratory Birds)
But perceptions will inevitably shift, as fickle as the weather. On arriving home we learned that a fully vaccinated relative has come down with covid and had a very high fever. The news shattered my hopeful illusions. Other relatives who have had the virus have said it was no worse than a cold. One of the most disconcerting things about the illness is that it is impossible to know how it will hit you until you actually catch it.
And then, the next morning I woke to the news that a play we were planning to attend outdoors this week was put on hold:
Update on PEER GYNT: Due to COVID delays, our production will not be opening this weekend (June 23-26) in Wilcox Park. We will update on our revised schedule of performances as soon as we can. Thank you for your understanding and stay safe! ~ Flock Theatre
Connecticut’s positivity rate is hovering around 8%. So, all things considered, I guess it’s too soon to remove the pandemic tag from my posts. This refreshing walk will be recalled as our third pandemic summer solstice celebration. Feeling gratitude for the company of sociable strangers, playful catbirds and a chipmunk with the munchies on this memorable, bittersweet day.
We are lucky in Groton to have a long boardwalk alongside the Poquonnock River, squeezing in a bit of nature between industrial parks, shopping centers, a small airport and the railroad tracks and bridge. The flatness of the walkway is not good for Tim’s back, which does much better on uneven terrain, but there are a few well placed benches along the way where he can sit and readjust his muscles enough times to make it a doable walk. We were wearing our winter coats this day and most of the birds and berries we saw were nestled in the reeds and trees. No waterbirds on the river, except for an occasional gull touching down for a few moments. And one amazing flyby of Canada geese high in the sky.
We avoided this walk during the pandemic because there wouldn’t be enough room to stay six feet away when passing other walkers. But since we both have had our booster shots we felt safe enough to take a chance. One jogger passed by us twice, on his way out and back. We also passed an elderly man walking along, talking to himself.
I would love to live Like a river flows, Carried by the surprise Of its own unfolding. ~ John O’Donohue (Conamara Blues: Poems)
So far as our noblest hardwood forests are concerned, the animals, especially squirrels and jays, are our greatest and almost only benefactors. It is to them that we owe this gift. It is not in vain that the squirrels live in or about every forest tree, or hollow log, and every wall and heap of stones. ~ Henry David Thoreau (Journal, October 31, 1860)
The wild cherries ripen, black and fat, Paradisal fruits that taste of no man’s sweat.
Reach up, pull down the laden branch, and eat; When you have learned their bitterness, they taste sweet.
A Saucer holds a Cup In sordid human Life But in a Squirrel’s estimate A Saucer holds a Loaf —
A Table of a Tree Demands the little King And every Breeze that run along His Dining Room do swing —
His Cutlery — he keeps Within his Russet Lips — To see it flashing when he dines Do Birmingham eclipse —
Convicted — could we be Of our Minutiae The smallest Citizen that flies Is heartier than we —
~ Emily Dickinson (The Poems of Emily Dickinson, #1407)
It had been a couple of years since I’ve visited Bluff Point, but Tim hadn’t been here in ten years! There was still plenty of fall colors to enjoy.
The first time we came here was about forty years ago. I was very pregnant with our daughter and our sons were three and five years old. We walked all the way to the point, about a mile and a half, I think, maybe two, but on the way back the boys were too tired to walk any more. So Tim put the five-year-old on his shoulders and carried the three-year-old facing forward in front of him. The memory of his feat still amazes me to this day.
Ten years ago, when Tim’s cousin and her three children were visiting us for a weekend, we took them here for a long cold winter walk. Those children are grown up and on their own now, too.
We didn’t go all the way to the point this day, Tim’s hip started acting up about half an hour in. The path is pretty flat, which probably worked against him, as we learned this spring he does much better on uneven terrain. On the way back, we got off the path and wandered along the Poquonnock River bank back to the parking lot.
How different things are these days. That young couple with so much energy has vanished out of the scene. An older couple remains, strolling along, one of them stopping frequently to settle his bones while the other flutters around him, taking pictures of this and that with her camera. He’s still my best companion.
There were more people in the park than I thought there would be for a week day. Most had masks on and all were respectful of social distancing. Two squirrels were near the entrance, nibbling on something someone may have left for them earlier.
Once we encountered two women with masks on, walking down the wide path six feet apart from each other, but having a lively conversation. I guessed they might be friends meeting up for a visit. It made me start wondering if it would be safe for me to do something like that, too. Or would I be too nervous about inadvertently getting too close?
I have a feeling the pandemic will be over before I find a good way to make these decisions. For now, we’ll stay the course. This was a very refreshing walk.
Janet and I had lunch and a lovely winter walk yesterday. The Poquonnock River Walkway runs along the east side of the Poquonnock River and we started at the north end of it. As we walked south a huge flock of Canada geese floated down the river, honking among themselves. We wondered what all the “conversations” were about. When we turned around and headed north again the geese, and a couple of swans and ducks who had joined the procession, turned around and started swimming north, too. Were they talking about us perhaps?
The trees silhouettes were so pretty against the cloudy sky.
In rivers the water you touch is the last of what has passed and the first of that which comes. So with time present. ~ Leonardo da Vinci (The Meaning of Rivers: Flow & Reflection in American Literature)
Last weekend we took a short walk on the Poquonnock River Walkway because we had heard on the news that there had been a brush fire. Fortunately the fire broke out behind the Poquonnock Bridge Firehouse, but it ignited several patches of brush along the walkway before the firemen got the flames under control. Everything is so wet there it is hard to imagine how the fire might have started.
There were many birds busy in the reeds and trees lining the walkway.
It’s disheartening to see all the illegally discarded garbage exposed by the fire. Wish I knew why some people cannot make the effort to dispose of their waste materials properly at the “transfer station.” When I was little we called it a “dump” and we took to heart all the public service ads on TV encouraging us not to be litter bugs!
For my sister and me Saturday trips to the dump were fun! Perhaps once or twice a month Dad would load up the back of his pick-up truck with our family’s trash. Beverly and I would then climb into the cab and snuggle up to our papa as closely as we could. This was back before the days of seat belts. The reason we held on tight was that the passenger door would sometimes swing open when the truck turned a corner. (The problem was eventually repaired.) What a thrilling adventure! And the chance to feel the strong arms of our father holding us securely, the chance to feel like precious cargo!
On the way home from the dump we got to ride in the back of the pick-up truck! We begged and pleaded and were sometimes rewarded with a side trip up and back down Route 320, a road with many wonderfully smooth bumps – riding over them would make us feel like we left our stomachs on the truck while our bodies were lifted into the air by some mysterious force for a fraction of a moment. These days I’m sure Dad would be arrested for endangering minors, but for me these were the spicy experiences of my young life!
The whispers of shared ecstasy are choral. ~ George Steiner (Grammars of Creation)
Happy to report that we are safe and sound and the kids are as well. We partially lost our power early this morning, so we have no air conditioning – ugh! We ran an extension cord into the kitchen to keep the refrigerator running. We’re only getting a couple of cable stations. We brought our laptops down here to the living room and set them up where we have power. There’s a good stiff breeze, but it’s still a pretty humid breeze.
We slept through the worst of it and were lucky to have no damage. We did lose part of a tree in our condo complex (above). Then we decided to go out for a drive… This tree (below) was behind the Groton Town Hall.
The storm surge at low tide still swelled the Poquonnock River…
A large family of swans on the Poquonnock River seems to be all accounted for…
This tree was near the Groton-New London Airport…
Irene was a tropical storm when she got to us so we were very grateful – things could have been so much worse. With the windows open now I’m smelling the aroma of someone’s delicious dinner coming in on the wind. Tim’s asleep and I’m hoping Irene washed all the ragweed pollen out of the air!
It was 4°F when I got up this morning. A year ago in January it wasn’t this cold when we had visitors for a weekend, Tim’s youngest cousin and her three children. Allegra is 18 years younger than Tim, who is the oldest in that group of cousins. (The span between the oldest – Nate – and the youngest – Lizzie – second cousins is even greater – 30 years! But they are not part of this particular story.) I hadn’t started By the Sea yet, so I’m remembering this wonderful day here now.
So… on one day of the visit we decided that taking a long cold walk at Bluff Point would be an invigorating way to release some pent-up energy…
Bluff Point is a 1½ mile long peninsula here in Groton which juts out into Long Island Sound. It is part Connecticut State Park and part Coastal Reserve. The trails meander through the woods and open areas and finally lead to the bluff. The main trail is a four mile loop.
Winter is an etching… ~ Stanley Horowitz
The Poquonnock River (above) is on the west side of the peninsula, and on this day we followed the river. Cold as it was there were lots of people out and about, walking dogs, riding horses, and jogging, as well as walking like we were.
The winter sun is striking… Families who come outdoors find some satisfaction for the hunger to connect with nature and with each other, in any season.
A glimpse of a beach in the distance helps to encourage us forward, in spite of very rosy cheeks!
We didn’t make it to the bluff because we took a detour to Bluff Point Beach, which faces the sound and stretches into a barrier between the sound and the river, Bushy Point Beach. The Great Hurricane of 1938 (aka the Great New England Hurricane) washed away more than a hundred cottages here, which were never rebuilt. (Mother Nature doesn’t have to tell the typical New Englander twice when rebuilding would be a bad idea!) The storm surge also breached Bushy Point Beach which created an island at its western end.
We endured the wind a little while to explore the beach, and Allegra found a whelk egg case.
We were so cold by then that we decided to retrace our steps back to the car. So in the end we walked almost four miles, according to the pedometers. We came home to a round or two of hot cocoa…
Maybe our family will come see us again in a different season, and perhaps then we’ll make it to the bluff – we were so close! – and finish the loop on the other, eastern side of the peninsula!
Each of our lives is a path. To know this requires intuition and trust. If we are true to the steps we take, the travel makes sense and the journey confirms itself. ~ Lin Jensen