to the marsh, up the lighthouse steps

2.19.24 ~ Jekyll Island
great blue heron

Some pictures from the rest of our one sunny day… After leaving Driftwood Beach we stopped at an observation deck looking over one of Jekyll Island’s marshes. Lucky for me, I found another life bird. 🙂

Little Blue Heron, #84

A small, dark heron arrayed in moody blues and purples, the Little Blue Heron is a common but inconspicuous resident of marshes and estuaries in the Southeast. They stalk shallow waters for small fish and amphibians, adopting a quiet, methodical approach that can make these gorgeous herons surprisingly easy to overlook at first glance. Little Blue Herons build stick nests in trees alongside other colonial waterbirds. In the U.S., their populations have been in a gradual decline since the mid-twentieth century.
~ All About Birds website

juvenile little blue heron

Eventually we wound up on St. Simons Island for a late lunch and a visit to St. Simons Light.

The Lighthouse and Keeper’s Dwelling were built in 1872 to replace the original lighthouse built in 1810 by James Gould of Massachusetts, the first lighthouse keeper. The original lighthouse was destroyed by Confederate forces in 1861 to prevent the beacon’s use by Federal troops during the Civil War. The Lighthouse is one of only five surviving light towers in Georgia. The Lighthouse still serves as an active aid to navigation for ships entering St. Simons Sound, casting its beam as far as 23 miles to sea. Visitors may climb the 129 steps to the top to experience spectacular, panoramic views of the coast including Jekyll Island, the mainland (Brunswick), and the south end of St. Simons Island. The Keeper’s Dwelling is a two-story Victorian structure that was the home of lighthouse keepers from 1872 until the 1950s. Today it houses the Lighthouse Museum, and includes interactive exhibits, rare artifacts, and period rooms that reveal the history of St. Simons Island and the life of a lighthouse keeper.
~ Golden Isles website

St. Simons Lighthouse Museum
Coastal Georgia Historical Society
image credit: Wikipedia

All four of us climbed up the 129 steps, stopping at each landing to catch our breath and take pictures out the windows. I think it worked out in such a way that there was one window facing in each of the four directions. There was a sign on the wall of each landing and window, indicating the number of step remaining to climb.

The view was amazing but Tim complained of vertigo so he didn’t get to walk around the balcony up top.

waxing gibbous moon

When we got back down we toured the keeper’s quarters…

kitchen
parents’ room
children’s room
parlor

And then it was back to the vacation cottage for one last evening of conversation before we were to leave the next morning. It was a very long, wonderful day!

wildlife in the rain

White Ibis, #83

Waking up on our first morning in Georgia I looked out our vacation cottage window and spotted another life bird! It was raining but Tim got these pictures standing on the covered porch. Exciting! After breakfast, Nate & Shea picked us up and off we headed for Jekyll Island. I didn’t want to use my camera in the rain so we took a quick peek at Driftwood Beach and decided to return in a couple of days when the rain would stop.

White Ibises gather in groups in shallow wetlands and estuaries in the southeastern United States. At each step, their bright red legs move through the water and their curved red bill probes the muddy surface below. As adults, these striking wading birds are all white save for their black wingtips, but watch out for young birds that are brown above and white below. White Ibises nest in colonies in trees and shrubs along the water’s edge, changing locations nearly every year.
~ All About Birds website

Then we headed for Horton Pond where there was a covered observation deck, so I could use my camera. You can see all the raindrops hitting the water.

alligator
big turtle
alligator
my family said I should caption this “the standoff”
black-crowned night-heron hiding from the rain

As we were driving along to our next stop, Nate spotted an armadillo on the side of the road. He stopped so I could get a picture. Tim held an umbrella over me and the camera and I got quite a few shots.

nine-banded armadillo

After that bit of excitement we headed for the Georgia Sea Turtle Center, Georgia’s only sea turtle education and rehabilitation facility. Tim has been a big sea turtle fan since childhood and it was very interesting learning how they’re helping sea turtles injured and traumatized by human activity. One turtle that captivated me had some weights attached to its shell because it had a spinal injury and the weights helped it to stay balanced while it was swimming. I didn’t get any pictures in there but it was indoors and out of the rain.

In the evening we traveled down to Jacksonville, Florida to visit The Catty Shack Ranch Wildlife Sanctuary, which was all outdoors and it was raining non-stop. Their mission is “to provide a safe, loving, forever home for endangered big cats, and to educate the public about their plight in the wild and captivity.” I left my precious camera in the car so it wouldn’t get wet, but got a few pictures with my cell phone.

one of the caregivers with his small cat co-pilot
they were keeping nice and dry
Rosa

I caught up with Tim who had found a dry bench under a pavilion to sit for a while. He had been watching a female lion named Rosa and told me that from the way she was acting he thought she had a migraine. My first thought was that animals don’t get migraines but then again, how would we know? They have other diseases similar to ours. Tim certainly has plenty of experience observing someone (me) suffering from a migraine.

pretty sure this is one of the Siberian tigers

After about an hour of us wandering around, the caregivers began feeding the big cats, explaining that they hunt at night in the wild and so they are fed at night here. Each cat had its own method of consuming the food offered, chicken and beef. We were told a bit about each of them, what situations they came from and what their personalities were like. While it was sad to see these wild felines behind fences we appreciated this was the best life they could be having after suffering from the ignorance and cruelty inflicted on them by some thoughtless people.

We returned to our cottage, soaked and tired from a very long rainy day! But grateful for all wildlife we were able to see.

a distinctive oak tree

2.19.24 ~ St. Marys, Georgia

As I step out and down the road I think how each individual human child will grow and be quite their very own being. And then I think how each oak tree also has its own individuality, its own essence in quite the same way, too. Each oak has a distinctiveness which may be seen, felt and known — as with my own children, as with every human that lives upon this earth.
~ James Canton
(The Oak Papers)

In front of our vacation cottage was an amazing oak tree, adorned with plants growing in its fork and Spanish moss hanging from its branches.

resurrection fern
3 fan palms growing in the oak’s fork
(thanks to Donna & Eliza for the identification)

Every morning when we left and every evening when we returned to the cottage I paused and wondered at the energy coming from this tree. It seemed to have a self-sacrificing essence, nurturing so many other lives besides its own. And I thought of my own children and what wonderful adults they became with their very different personalities, interests and talents.

ancient maritime forest

2.19.24 ~ Driftwood Beach, Jekyll Island, Georgia

It’s been so long since I’ve seen the ocean
I guess I should

~ Counting Crows
♫ (A Long December) ♫

It rained for the first two days of our three-day visit with our son and daughter-in-law in Georgia. But our spirits were not dampened and we packed a lot of fun in in spite of it. When the sun came out on day three we headed for the magical Driftwood Beach. The name of it doesn’t make a lot of sense because these ancient twisted tree trunks and branches are what remains of a maritime forest after years of erosion from the sea.

jellyfish
least sandpiper with shadow and reflection

Surprisingly, I only saw one gull there. But, the last thing I expected to see was a pair of woodpeckers! A new life bird for me!

Pileated Woodpecker, #82

The Pileated Woodpecker is one of the biggest, most striking forest birds on the continent. It’s nearly the size of a crow, black with bold white stripes down the neck and a flaming-red crest. Look (and listen) for Pileated Woodpeckers whacking at dead trees and fallen logs in search of their main prey, carpenter ants, leaving unique rectangular holes in the wood. The nest holes these birds make offer crucial shelter to many species including swifts, owls, ducks, bats, and pine martens.
~ All About Birds website

As we were leaving, walking towards the sun, I started to notice some of the shadows on the sand… and then an egret fishing in a little beach pond along the path back to the parking lot.

great egret

It was so good being near the ocean again, even if just for a few hours. More vacation pictures coming soon…

gull, oystercatcher, willet

7.14.21 ~ Eastern Point, juvenile herring gull

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.

juvenile herring gull portrait

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.

banded American oystercatcher

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.

willet

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. 💙

solstice memories

Katherine still loves her penguins

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.

Katherine with the snow orb tree behind her

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 Finn ~ Shea is Dominic’s aunt and Nate is Finn’s uncle.
That makes them cousins, sort of, right?

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.

It was a wonderful two weeks!

Rock Close ~ Druid’s Cave ~ Wishing Steps ~ Witch’s Kitchen ~ Witch Stone ~ Fairy Glade ~ Where Two Rivers Cross

2.5.18 ~ Rock Close, Blarney Castle, Blarney, Cork, Ireland

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. 🙂

2.5.18 ~ Rock Close, Blarney Castle, Blarney, Cork, Ireland

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.

2.5.18 ~ Rock Close, Blarney Castle, Blarney, Cork, Ireland

But an occasional sign would sometimes give us a clue as to our whereabouts.

2.5.18 ~ Rock Close, Blarney Castle, Blarney, Cork, Ireland

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.

entrance to Druid’s Cave
inside of Druid’s Cave
window at the back of Druid’s Cave
looking at the window (looks like a black hole near the bottom of the picture)
from the outside of Druid’s Cave

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.

2.5.18 ~ Rock Close, Blarney Castle, Blarney, Cork, Ireland
2.5.18 ~ Rock Close, Blarney Castle, Blarney, Cork, Ireland
2.5.18 ~ Rock Close, Blarney Castle, Blarney, Cork, Ireland
2.5.18 ~ Rock Close, Blarney Castle, Blarney, Cork, Ireland
2.5.18 ~ Rock Close, Blarney Castle, Blarney, Cork, Ireland
2.5.18 ~ Rock Close, Blarney Castle, Blarney, Cork, Ireland

Wishing Steps

looking down the Wishing Steps

For hundreds of years, the Blarney Witch has taken
firewood from our Estate for her kitchen.
In return, she must grant our visitors wishes.

at the bottom of the Wishing Steps

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.

looking left from the exit of the Wishing Steps

We say only that the steps can be slippery and that we take no responsibility…

cannot remember what this was…

Witch’s Kitchen

Witch’s Kitchen

Historians will tell you that this was home to the very first Irish cave dwellers.

Witch’s Kitchen

But if you arrive early enough in the morning,
you may still see the dying embers of a fire.

Witch’s Kitchen

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’s Kitchen
another leprechaun bridge!
another friendly robin

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.

2.5.18 ~ Rock Close, Blarney Castle, Blarney, Cork, Ireland ~ Witch Stone

Fairy Glade

2.5.18 ~ Rock Close, Blarney Castle, Blarney, Cork, Ireland

The faerie folk of Ireland are famed the world over for their mischief and charm.

2.5.18 ~ Rock Close, Blarney Castle, Blarney, Cork, Ireland

They have of course been here longer than any of us and it is
our duty to keep them safe in this special glade.

2.5.18 ~ Rock Close, Blarney Castle, Blarney, Cork, Ireland

They do, however, have a native cunning.

we just missed seeing the fairy who darted inside
and firmly closed the door

So if you spot one, don’t let it be fooling you.

more tempting paths to follow

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.

so many majestic trees…

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.

where two rivers cross

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.

persistently, abundantly, miraculously

1.22.18 ~ Cork, Ireland
Katherine has been taking good care of her beloved Purple Penguin ♡
photo by Larisa

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. ♡

golden pheasant

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.

3.19.17 ~ female golden pheasant ~ Valdosta, Georgia

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!

3.19.17 ~ male golden pheasant ~ Valdosta, Georgia

I darted out of his way and captured a side view as he quickly made his way over to his mate.

3.19.17 ~ male golden pheasant ~ Valdosta, Georgia