So, last night we went down to the beach for a few minutes before getting back home for our scheduled video call with our son and daughter-in-law. The humid air was oppressive and Tim wouldn’t have lasted down there much longer anyway.
I was content to capture a few gull portraits, but then, out of the corner of my eye I spotted an oystercatcher way out on the breakwater. Zoomed out. I don’t think this one is related to the family group we’ve been seeing because it is banded.
While I was trying to get a clear picture of the oystercatcher I detected some movement near it and finally spotted a bird I’ve never seen at our beach before, a willet! (I think I may have seen them on Cape Cod, but never this close.) When it flew from the breakwater over to the rocks in front of us we could see a bold white and black stripe running the length of each wing. But once it landed on the rocks it walked all over them and didn’t fly again before we had to leave. We were mesmerized.
And after that brief but exciting visit to the beach we got back home to the air conditioning and had a wonderful long video chat with the kiddos. 💙
Trying to get used to this new editing page with its blocks and new steps I am having a difficult time… 🙁 But I must adapt to changes no matter how challenging this one is for me. It took me hours to create my last post but I will give it another go.
Today was a very emotional day for me. I took all the decorations off of the solstice tree, the best tree we’ve ever had. It was a Fraser fir. It smelled amazing! Its branches were strong enough to hold the glass bead garland my sister made for me years ago. I had such a good time decorating it with Tim, using all my white, silver and clear glass ornaments. A white skirt resembling snow. A white owl on top and a white fox curled up in the snow underneath it.
And while I was at it, I sorted through all the decorations I’ve been hoarding over the years and donated at least half of them. It’s funny when I think I’ve made so much progress simplifying my life and I still find object collections that have yet to be minimized. Now I have kept only the ones that truly “spark joy,” as Japanese decluttering author Marie Kondo teaches.
This holiday season was extra special for us. Nate & Shea haven’t been home to celebrate since they moved to Georgia in 2011, and Larisa & Dima were last here for the holidays in 2014. It was interesting how it worked out because we usually have our niece and her teenagers and my sister and her husband here for Christmas day but this year all of them couldn’t make it for one reason or another. We missed them!
It was wonderful having a house full of children again. I will especially remember the brisk winter walks we took. Also the first time Finn smiled at me, his whole face lighting up when he heard my voice, and holding my sleeping snuggle bug for hours… Getting two temporary PJ Masks tatoos from Katherine ~ Owlette is her favorite character from that show. She also introduced me to Puffin Rock, which has to be the most adorable children’s show ever. (It’s Irish but it can be seen on Netflix.) Katherine and I had some special moments together as she talks well enough to tell me about her life. I love listening to her observations. One time she darted down the stairs and exclaimed, “Grammy’s the best!” Talk about melting my heart…
Nate & Shea brought their nephews Julius and Dominic and they were sometimes here, too, when they weren’t visiting other Connecticut relatives, of which they have many! Julius, in his teens now, loved my meatloaf, which forever endeared me to him, and Dominic is so curious and active, he’s 10 after all, and interested in how families are related, cousins and all that. His main objective for this trip was to see snow for the first time. His chance came at 3 o’clock in the morning one day, and he was awakened to see flurries, but not the blizzard we were hoping for.
Dominic and Katherine hit it off ~ it was fun to watch them interact and listen to their conversations. Nate, Shea and I took them to a holiday light fantasia which they both enjoyed very much.
One night Shea cooked us a lovely pork dinner, and another night Larisa cooked a chicken pie. Dima saved the day on Christmas when I suddenly realized I hadn’t even thought about dessert! All the stores were closed. He scrounged around in my pantry and was able to make some gluten-free chocolate-chip cookies, using a chocolate bar for the chips. It was great having Dima’s parents join us for that day, too. We all enjoyed the crazy gift basket tradition we have. Instead of exchanging presents we fill baskets with little items and take turns pawing through them to fish out whatever we’d like to take home with us. Some gag gifts, some treasures ~ it’s always fun.
And Nate helped Tim with his honey-do list. My pantry door stays closed now, the bathroom door no longer squeaks, the hole in the kitchen ceiling is patched and the dartboard is hung securely.
If you look closely you will see me peeking from through the doorway. Another enchanted forest lies beyond this wall. This post is going to be terribly long but it was impossible to edit it down any more than I have. 🙂
There were paths and stone steps leading every which way between boulders and gnarly trees. Following the map provided was more than a little confusing.
But an occasional sign would sometimes give us a clue as to our whereabouts.
Druid’s Cave Said to once be the home of a religious hermit who was fed and cared for by the Jefferyes family… it may well have sheltered many others through the centuries.
The roots of the trees, I think most of them were Yews, were growing around the stones, and their branches made huge canopies over the rock formations.
For hundreds of years, the Blarney Witch has taken firewood from our Estate for her kitchen. In return, she must grant our visitors wishes.
If you can walk down and back up these steps with your eyes closed — some suggest walking backwards — and without for one moment thinking of anything other than a wish, then that wish will come true within a year.
We say only that the steps can be slippery and that we take no responsibility…
Historians will tell you that this was home to the very first Irish cave dwellers.
But if you arrive early enough in the morning, you may still see the dying embers of a fire.
Firewood, paid for by your wishes on the Wishing Steps, is lit every night by the Witch of Blarney, as she fights to stop shivering on her nocturnal escape from the Witch Stone.
Witch Stone It takes little imagination to see who is imprisoned here. The Witch of Blarney has been with us since the dawn of time. Some say it was she who first told the MacCarthy of the power of the Blarney Stone. Fortunately for visitors, she only escapes the witch stone after nightfall — and we close at dusk.
The faerie folk of Ireland are famed the world over for their mischief and charm.
They have of course been here longer than any of us and it is our duty to keep them safe in this special glade.
They do, however, have a native cunning.
So if you spot one, don’t let it be fooling you.
There is so much to see at Blarney Castle & Gardens! Of the 14 things we could have seen here at Rock Close we saw only 5 of them. Elsewhere on the castle grounds there are more gardens, arboretums, woodland and riverside walks, the Blarney House… I could go on. There’s no way to see all this in a single day. I do hope I get to return here some day.
On our way out something else caught our interest:
Where Two Rivers Cross
Prior to 1870, the River Blarney joined the River Martin near the Rock Close, but the course of the river was altered and the gradient was changed to increase the outflow of water when Inchancumain Bog was drained. The River Blarney was re-directed under the River Martin, which was channelled overhead via a short aqueduct.
At the point where the River Blarney emerges can be seen the remains of an old flax mill. It is a rare occurrence really in that one does not often find a place where one river passes under another. As a matter of interest, the River Martin was known as the River Aumartin in the 1600’s while the River Blarney was known as the River Whey.
Larisa picked us up and we headed back to her home. My cold by now had reached the runny nose phase and I went to bed early. Later that night Tim’s brother Josh arrived from England to visit with us for a few days. But this is the end of my photos.
The next day we went into Cork’s city center and spent the day shopping and visiting different pubs. It’s all a blur to me now because I left my camera at home and spent the day blowing my nose and feeling miserable. But I did manage to find some connemara marble for my sister!
And the day after that I stayed in bed while the others went to the Titanic Experience Cobh and saw Josh off at the airport later that day. That night Tim & I spent our last delightful evening with Katherine and her wonderful au pair, Anna, while Dima & Larisa went out on a date.
We arrived home on a Thursday and flew down to Georgia on Friday. Not pleasant flying so much with a clogged head! As it turned out Shannon had a sinus infection so we sat around talking ~ misery loves company. Tim and Nate were puttering around tending to techie projects and bringing us food. One afternoon we got ourselves out to a flea market and then a nice dinner out. And it was good seeing Julius and Dominic again ~ I cannot believe how much they have grown!
We flew home on Tuesday and I had my final radiation treatment on Wednesday. Phew! That was quite a vacation!
Today old man winter came back for a morning visit and left us 4 more inches of snow. A perfect day to snuggle in and finally finish these posts about our trips to Ireland and Georgia.
One morning you might wake up to realize that the knot in your stomach had loosened itself and slipped away, and that the pit of unfilled longing in your heart had gradually, and without your really noticing, been filled in — patched like a pothole, not quite the same as it was, but good enough.
And in that moment it might occur to you that your life, though not the way you planned it, and maybe not even entirely the way you wanted it, is nonetheless — persistently, abundantly, miraculously — exactly what it is.
~ Lynn Ungar (The Way It Is)
After recovering from surgery and the bad cold I then had about a week of feeling good. I couldn’t wait to get back to my chores and even happily spent a morning giving the bathroom a thorough cleaning. It was fun to go food shopping with Tim, run errands together, cook a few meals, do some laundry, and enjoy a lovely long walk on the beach.
Then Wednesday I had my first radiation treatment and it went very well. But the predicted side effect of fatigue hit the next morning and I wound up sleeping most of the day. If that is the only side effect, though, I am grateful. I still feel sapped. Being a morning person usually full of vim, vigor and vitality, I woke up this morning wondering why on earth I felt so sluggish and it took me an hour or so to figure out that it must be lingering fatigue from the treatment. (And why was I looking for the eggs in the dishwasher?)
So Tim volunteered to do some food shopping today. And I am going to make a packing list!
Tim and the kids planned visits to fill the two week period between my 2nd and 3rd treatments! I will be getting my 2nd treatment (at Smilow Cancer Hospital in New Haven) on Wednesday and then going straight to Providence to catch a flight to Ireland to see Larisa & Dima and Katherine!!! And then the next week we will go to Georgia to see Nate & Shea!!! We will arrive home the night before my 3rd and final treatment.
I may be a tired blob but at least these trips will help pass the time and my radiation oncologist thinks they are a great idea. I do hope I get to see Blarney Castle and more of Cumberland Island National Seashore. But whatever happens it will be wonderful seeing the kids again. ♡
On a recent trip to Georgia to see Nate & Shea, Julius and Dominic we visited an adventure park where I spotted this female golden pheasant, which is native to the forests and mountains of western China.
As I was photographing the rather plain female, I happened to look down and saw a colorful male briskly walking straight toward me. What a face!
I darted out of his way and captured a side view as he quickly made his way over to his mate.
Last weekend we flew to a different part of North Carolina, where Tim’s brother had rented a vacation house in the southern Appalachians. So we had a little family reunion and an early Christmas there. We spent the better part of Saturday at the Western North Carolina Nature Center in Asheville. It was very cold there in spite of the welcome bright sunshine!
We bundled up and enjoyed seeing many animals native to the Southern Appalachians. All of the animals there are rescues and could not survive in the wild. Katherine especially loved watching the river otters gliding in and out of the water, but I couldn’t get a good picture of them. They were moving too fast!
This little screech owl is blind in one eye and is being used to educate the public about rescuing wildlife. Katherine was paying close attention.
We stayed in Asheville for dinner out at the Tupelo Honey Cafe, “a southern restaurant with mountain south roots.” Tim enjoyed the food so much he bought their cookbook! And after dinner we took in the Christmas light and music extravaganza at Shadrack’s Christmas Wonderland. There were so many light displays it took us a full hour to drive through the two-mile maze, synchronized holiday music playing on our car radio! It was a pretty dazzling experience.
Sunday we stayed in the cabin, enjoying each other’s company by the fire. Dima, Larisa and Fran whipped up some scrumptious dishes for us. A perfect weekend!
Our son and daughter-in-law are visiting us from Georgia. Last night we went down to the beach for supper and a gull came over near to our picnic table. He was resting quietly on the grass for a while, and then he started voicing all kinds of mournful cries. We spoke to him a little bit and then, he stood up. That’s when I noticed his mangled foot and recognized him to be the gull I wrote about last September in this post: a long fine life.
So, he made it through the winter after all!
I had been a little sad I hadn’t seen him until now, fearing he hadn’t survived. But then one of Tim’s ham radio contacts mentioned a gull fitting his description was visiting a dock about a mile up the river. People were feeding him, which they shouldn’t do, but perhaps that’s why he hadn’t been down to the beach.
The gull then walked over to my side of the picnic table and sat down again. I spoke to him for a little while, unable to conceal my excitement over seeing him again. 🙂 I didn’t have my camera but he sat still while I got out my cell phone and snapped this picture.
In the past he would visit us by standing on whichever white post was closest to us. This is the first time he was sitting on the grass. And he vocalized for much longer than he has in the past. I like to think he was telling us about his winter and his plans for the summer.
Finally, he flew off and started hovering over a man with a hot dog in his hand. Still up to his old tricks… It was so good to see him.
Nate & Shea are visiting us and last night the clouds held off so we could share viewing the supermoon eclipse combo with them. Lucky for us because apparently this won’t happen again until 2033. We went down to Avery Point to see the moonrise at 6:27 pm but somehow missed it behind a building. After walking around the campus a bit we finally found it, too late to catch a picture of it on the horizon. But it was still impressively large, and as most of us know, the camera does not capture the moon illusion that our eyes see.
After we watched the moonrise we returned to our house and watched the lunar eclipse from the balcony, which began a couple of hours later.
We were exhausted from a long day. In the afternoon we had taken a lighthouse ferry cruise on Long Island Sound. Nate and I stayed up until the middle of the total lunar eclipse (10:47 pm according to one website) and then turned in. The clouds came in overnight so we could not see the moon setting this morning. But we were grateful we stayed awake long enough to see half of this rare event.
If a child is to keep alive his inborn sense of wonder … he needs the companionship of at least one adult who can share it, rediscovering with him the joy, excitement and mystery of the world we live in. ~ Rachel Carson (The Sense of Wonder)