giving thanks

“Autumn Landscape” by Vincent van Gogh

We’ve missed our traditional Thanksgiving celebration for the last two years, once due to a death in the family and then because our hostess extraordinaire was recuperating from surgery. It looks as if all systems are “go” this year, and we’re off to Virginia soon in a caravan of cars for a feast and grand re-connection with Tim’s side of the family. My daughter and nieces are scheming with me for a surprise for my dearly loved sister-in-law, so there is a lot of excitement in the air. It will be so good to get a change of scenery and catch up with family happenings!

Even though things have not been easy lately, I’m very thankful for the many blessings I’m still aware of in my life. The abundant gifts our mother, Earth, offers us… Family near and far away, friends, old and new ones found recently in the blogosphere… Artists and writers past and present who have shared their inspired pictures and words, themselves really… Scientists and naturalists who help me to keep my sense of wonder and awe… Musicians who bring joy to my heart… I’m full of memories of special times with people I’ve loved and still miss, and am full of warm thoughts for those I love and have with me now. I am grateful for all these connections!

Wishing everyone a blessed Thanksgiving!

first snow

“Early Snow” by Konstantin Kryzhitsky

The first fall of snow is not only an event, it is a magical event. You go to bed in one kind of a world and wake up in another quite different, and if this is not enchantment then where is it to be found?
~ J. B. Priestley

It looks as if I have a busy day ahead of me, but my spirits have been lifted by an early snowfall, and, even if the snow will melt away as the day goes on, the feeling of delight it gave me continues… I heard two rumbles of thunder during the night, so I was not expecting to see snow when I got up out of bed! It felt so good to bundle up and go out to warm up the car for Tim, and brush the thick wet stuff off of it. I know I’m weird, but I love going outside in the winter, and this is the time of year when one can see bright yellow leaves from autumn resting on the still-green grass from summer, covered with a dollop of winter white snow.

One year back in the 1980s sometime it happened to snow one day in October, during the peak of fall color on a weekend. We were on a hike deep into the woods of Pachaug State Forest with two other families. It was so very enchanting! Everything seemed bathed in a magical light… (I call it snowlight.) We cooked a meal we brought over a campfire and took in the sounds of nature, the stillness of the snow, the fading light. Even the eight little ones were quietly mesmerized and not complaining about a thing. We reluctantly turned back so we could be out of the woods by dusk.

Things are not going well for Auntie. She’s had a trip to the emergency room in an ambulance and numerous visits to doctors and clinics in the past couple of weeks. Somehow during all this she broke some of her ribs, a painful addition to all her other problems. We’re all feeling the strain.

In my moments of solitude I’ve been exploring the vast treasures to be found at Wikimedia Commons, discovering artists I never knew existed from Ukraine and Norway and other interesting places. I went through a phase years ago where I dragged Tim, Larisa or Fran with me to museums from Boston to New York to Washington, to see all the Renoir paintings I could locate. In the process Larisa fell in love with Rodin. And now that I’ve “discovered” William-Adolphe Bouguereau, I hope to be dragging one or all of them with me to find one of his paintings in the near future!

Early Snow, the painting above, is by Konstantin Kryzhitsky, an Ukrainian painter, who lived from 1858 to 1911.

a sigh of relief, holding my breath

Richard Blumenthal, West Hartford Library, Image: Sage Ross

Congratulations to Senator-Elect Richard Blumenthal!!! So there are enough people in Connecticut who were not swayed by Linda McMahon’s $50 million campaign of corporate arrogance… What a relief!! 🙂 For most of my adult life (20 years or so, I think) I’ve watched Blumenthal in the news on a regular basis as he did a fantastic job as Connecticut’s Attorney General, standing up to powerful corporations and defending the interests of the citizens of this state. Somehow it seems fitting that we had a chance to return the favor and help him fight off an opponent who was willing to spend so much money tearing him down.

And Joe Courtney trounced Janet Peckinpaugh for US Representative, so I’m very happy with who we’re sending to Washington.

But who will be our future governor? Dan Malloy is slightly ahead (by 631 votes) but it is too close to call. They ran out of ballots in Bridgeport yesterday — unbelievable. Last I knew they were counting makeshift ballots by hand. The suspense is frustrating…

Beverly had a unique way of dealing with the stress. At 10:30 or so last night I found her outside in the cold planting some bulbs for me! Woke up early this morning, still no call. Well, we’ll just have to wait. Breathe……..

The Union

Did it again… adopted still another WordPress theme: Elegant Grunge. We were supposed to go to Sea Shanties last night, but when Tim came home from work bone tired, and with more work to do, I assured him I would be more than happy to keep myself amused playing with the new theme…

After Tim left for work this morning I rolled up my sleeves and got started on all the chores that were neglected yesterday. A little later he called and told me to come to the door because he was going to drop off a surprise for me. He had been to Starbucks and handed me the new CD, Elton John/Leon Russell/The Union! It was all I could do to finish up in the kitchen and run up here to listen to it, which I am doing as I write this. It’s fantastic!!!

A little history… When I was a teenager I had a HUGE crush on Leon Russell. The way he played the piano, his long silvery dirty blond hair, and that bizarre voice! Most of all, the intensity in his eyes when performing. A Song for You can still bring me to tears. It’s hard to believe he’s 68 years old now.

I love you in a place where there’s no space or time
I love you for my life ’cause you’re a friend of mine
~ Leon Russell
♫ (A Song for You) ♫

Well, as it turns out, Leon Russell was Elton John’s “biggest influence.” Elton says on the album notes: “…Leon was my man, he was the master as far as I was concerned.” Also, “his music takes me back to one of the most beautiful and fantastic times of my life. It’s not fair that people have forgotten about how wonderful this man’s music was and that makes me angry.” I agree!

Elton John & Leon Russell

Who can forget Leon Russell’s amazing performance at George Harrison’s Concert for BangladeshHearts Have Turned to Stone is playing now – great stuff! Elton John used to open for Leon Russell. Another treat for the ears, Neil Young singing with Elton and Leon on one track, Gone To Shiloh. It’s also remarkable that Leon had brain surgery only weeks before they recorded this album. Perhaps that experience inspired the final, beautiful song he wrote on this CD.

And they knew all the places
I needed to go
All of the people
I needed to know
They knew who I needed
And who needed me
And who would come help me
And who would just let me be

I was in the hands of angels
Until this very day
Inside the hands of angels
What more can I say

~ Leon Russell
♫ (The Hands Of Angels) ♫

After I post this I’m going to burn the album onto my iPod and then, when I’m sure the neighbors are up for the day, play it loud and get some work done around here! Thank you, Elton John, for giving your idol the recognition he so well deserves! And thank you, Tim, my angel.

meeting a politician

Mashamoquet Brook State Park ~ 10.23.10 ~ Pomfret, Connecticut
Mashamoquet Brook State Park ~ 10.23.10 ~ Pomfret, Connecticut

Saturday afternoon Tim and I drove north up Connecticut State Route 169, a National Scenic Byway, to do some more leaf peeping in the “Quiet Corner” of Connecticut, and have a late lunch at the Vanilla Bean Café in Pomfret.

10.23.10 ~ Pomfret, Connecticut
10.23.10 ~ Pomfret, Connecticut

It’s been a nasty political season in this state, with tight races for governor and US senator. Sick and tired of it, I can’t wait for election day to put us out of our misery one way or the other. It didn’t help to see huge Linda McMahon signs lining up one after another all along the roadside – I’ll stick my neck out and say I hope she will NOT be Connecticut’s new senator!!! I was hoping the ride would get my mind off such horrifying possibilities. Dick Blumenthal isn’t perfect, but I’ve watched him over the years, as our Attorney General, fight hard against the corporatocracy our government has become, and no amount of McMahon’s $50 million of corporate riches spent on advertising will tear him or his record down in my eyes.

Christmas Barn ~ 10.23.10 ~ Woodstock, Connecticut
Christmas Barn ~ 10.23.10 ~ Woodstock, Connecticut

After arriving at the popular restaurant/coffee house and settling down to chattering away and eating our salmon pesto salad and turkey sandwich, out of the blue, gubernatorial candidate Dan Malloy came up to our table and introduced himself and shook our hands! It was the first time either of us had met a politician face to face! Now to be honest, I had been supporting his opponent in the primary, but since Malloy won that contest I had shifted my support to him. Meeting him was an encouraging experience, but it was what I realized after he left that made an impression on me. It wasn’t a photo op! There were no reporters or TV cameras following him around. He was spending a Saturday afternoon out on his own, connecting with and listening to citizens in a rural town, out of the limelight. And of course, I had left my camera in the car…

10.23.10 ~ Woodstock, Connecticut
Mrs. Bridges’ Pantry ~ 10.23.10 ~ Woodstock, Connecticut

After that bit of excitement we drove through Mashamoquet Brook State Park, enjoying the fall scenery and crisp autumn air, and then found two charming shops in Woodstock, the Christmas Barn (oh what a 12-room wonderland of a barn!) and Mrs. Bridges’ Pantry (British imports and a tearoom/restaurant). We found the perfect indoor pumpkin for Halloween and returned home by way of the Interstate as darkness fell around a full bright Harvest Moon. ‘Twas a good day. 🙂

10.23.10 ~ Woodstock, Connecticut
Southwood Alpacas ~ 10.23.10 ~ Woodstock, Connecticut

meandering

10.17.10

Yesterday Beverly, Tim and I went for a Sunday drive on the spur of the moment after we finished our brunch at our favorite Somewhere in Time Cafe. Fall colors aren’t peaking here yet, in fact many trees are still completely green. Perhaps next weekend I can find some color to photograph… I wanted to revisit a tree in North Stonington that I saw one autumn day maybe fifteen years ago when I was doing some family history research in church records out there. I don’t think we actually found it, though.

At some point we pulled over because a hawk was sitting on the fence of a pasture. When Tim sopped the car he flew off, but then came back and perched on top of a telephone pole. Not the most picturesque place for a photo shoot but I tried! What amazed us was that he kept taking off to fly in a huge circle and then land back on the telephone pole. He (she?) was eyeing us and kept spreading out his feathers to impress us, I presume.

We stopped for free-range/local eggs and had much better luck photographing a curious, healthy, and happy looking hen. No doubt we’ve had at least one or two of her eggs! But not only are we voting against cruelty to animals with our purchases, scientists are finding that, compared to typical supermarket eggs, eggs from free range hens have 4-6 times as much vitamin D, 1⁄3 less cholesterol, 1⁄4 less saturated fat, 2⁄3 more vitamin A, 2 times more omega-3 fatty acids, 3 times more vitamin E, and 7 times more beta carotene! Nature knows best.

10.17.10

In the 70s there was a television commercial for Chiffon margarine with a hook in it that stuck with me for many years, but for the opposite reasons than the corporation intended. The narrator hands Mother Nature, a woman dressed in a white robe with daisies in her hair, a tub of margarine. She is “fooled” and mistakes it for her sweet creamy butter. When the narrator tells her that it is really margarine she stands and calls for thunder and proclaims, “It’s not nice to fool Mother Nature!” Being raised by a couple of nature lovers I would never dream of trying to fool Mother Nature. Because we can’t fool her. We may think we can, but the joke winds up being on us.

We chanced to pass by an open house at a very charming Victorian for sale, so we turned around and stopped to explore it inside. It was fun imagining what we would do there if we owned it. One bedroom had its own tiny little sun porch which I fell in love with. Tim thought the attic would be a good place to spread out his computer paraphernalia. And Beverly spotted a little den off the kitchen with a convenient tiny little powder room connected to it. We all wanted to know if the cat came with the house. 🙂 It’s kind of sad, though. The house has been on the market since January and they’ve lowered the price three times already.

10.17.10

We chanced to pass by an open house at a very charming Victorian for sale, so we turned around and stopped to explore it inside. It was fun imagining what we would do there if we owned it. One bedroom had its own tiny little sun porch which I fell in love with. Tim thought the attic would be a good place to spread out his computer paraphernalia. And Beverly spotted a little den off the kitchen with a convenient tiny little powder room connected to it. We all wanted to know if the cat came with the house. 🙂 It’s kind of sad, though. The house has been on the market since January and they’ve lowered the price three times already.

We rarely go out for Sunday drives any more, trying to do our share by not burning fuel unnecessarily, but it was fun to go exploring for a change of pace…

Emily Jane (1985)

Sitka black-tailed deer by Karen Laubenstein

A miscarriage is a natural and common event. All told, probably more women have lost a child from this world than haven’t. Most don’t mention it, and they go on from day to day as if it hadn’t happened, so people imagine that a woman in this situation never really knew or loved what she had. But ask her sometime: how old would your child be now? And she’ll know.
~ Barbara Kingsolver
(Animal Dreams)

Remembering with love my littlest one, Emily Jane, who died before she was ever born on October 15, 1985, and who would now have been 24 years old.

Gallows Lane

Map & Compass flag and treasure box

Earlier today Beverly and I went hiking in the woods near Gallows Lane in New London. She was setting out flags and prizes hidden in the woods for the thirty children who will be coming to her Map & Compass activity on Saturday. The children have to use a map of the woods and a compass to locate eight places marked by the flags. Each location has a plastic box filled with a little treasures. They bring back one treasure from each box to prove they found each of the flags. (They get to keep the treasures…) I think the first kid back from the expedition gets another prize, too. It took us a couple of hours to set it all up, so they’ll be having a long walk and an adventure, too, if they manage to find them all!

The cliff where Sarah Bramble was hung from the gallows…

One might wonder how a road would come to be designated with such a morbid name. Gallows Lane. Well, it was a terrible thing that happened there. A servant woman named Sarah Bramble was executed by hanging off the cliff here in 1753. She had been convicted of murdering her illegitimate newborn daughter. So far I haven’t found out too much about her, but what I have found out makes me more curious than ever about her life.

November 21st, 1753, Sarah Bramble was executed in a cross highway that leads out of the main road to Norwich, about two miles north of the town plot. This path has ever since been known as Gallows Lane. It is a rugged, wild and dreary road, even at the present day. The fearful machine was erected in the highest part of the road, and all the hills and ledges around must have been covered with the spectators. It was computed that 10,000 assembled on this occasion; some of them probably came twenty or thirty miles to witness this repulsive exhibition. The gloom of the weather added another dismal feature to the scene, a drizzly rain continuing most of the day.

This is the only public execution of any white person that ever took place in New London. The crime of the unhappy woman was the murder of her infant illegitimate child, on the day of its birth. It was committed in April, 1752, and she was tried by the superior court the next September. But the jury disagreeing in their verdict, she was kept imprisoned another year, and sentenced October 3d, 1753. She declined hearing the sermon intended for her benefit, which was preached by Rev. Mr. Jewett, before the execution.

Frances Manwaring Caulkins, History of New London, Connecticut: From the First Survey of the Coast in 1612, to 1852, (Hartford, Connecticut: Press of Case, Tiffany & Company, 1852), 468

Sunlight through the trees and spilling over the wall…

[September 28, 1753] “at the meeting house to hear the Tryal of Sarah Bramble for murdr of her Bastard Child in March 1752.  Court Sat by Candle light.”
[October 1, 1753] “the Jury brot in their verdict & found Sarah Bramble Guilty of Murdering her Bastard Child a female in march 1752.”
[October 3, 1753] “Sarah Bramble Received Sentance of Death ys Day”
[October 24, 1753] “went to Lectureto hear Mr Jewit who pr to Sarah Bramble &c.”
[November 7, 1753] “in the aftern att Lecture. Mr Jewit preacht. the Sermon Composed to be pr to Sarah Bramble, but she declined Coming to hear itt, a Large Congregation.”
[November 21, 1753] “Misty & Rain moderately. S: Bramble. I was at home foren. in the aftern I Rid up to the Cross Highway abve Jno Bolles to See Sarah Bramble Executed for the Murdering her Bastard Child in march last was a year Since. She was hanged at 3 Clock. a Crowd of Spectators of all sexes & nations yt are among us from the neighbouring Towns as well as this. Judged to be Ten Thousand. it Rained moderately most of the day.”

Joshua Hempstead, Diary of Joshua Hempstead of New London, Connecticut (New London, Connecticut: New London County Historical Society, 1901), 616-619

Stone walls in the woods…

It strikes me how matter-of-fact and unemotional Hempstead is about this woman’s trial and execution. He doesn’t say one way or the other what he thinks about the matter. Why did the jury disagree on a verdict? Who was the father of Sarah Bramble’s child? Didn’t he have some responsibility for what happened? Was the father possibly her employer? I can’t help feeling she was probably abandoned and forced to bear the blame for the “fornication.” And why did she murder her baby, if she did? Did she want to spare it the pain of a lifetime of being referred to and excluded as a Bastard? Did she feel cornered, like there was no other way out? Honestly, I could see myself reasoning that way if I had found myself in that situation in that time period. Maybe she was suicidal…

There’s a lot of history in these woods, which are still claiming back the land the early settlers turned into farms and then abandoned when they moved westward. Today we found a pen made of stones for ewes and their lambs. The rocks were low enough for the mother sheep to leave to find food and return, but high enough to keep the lambs safe inside. Amazing how shepherds knew to build such an enclosure and how the sheep made use of it, instinctively knowing it was just what they needed for a perfect nursery!

We also found a pretty little princess pine forest…

Enchanting princess pine forest…

M. C. Escher: Impossible Reality

M. C. Escher − Drawing Hands, 1948 – Image via Wikipedia

Saturday Larisa, Dima, Tim & I were very excited to visit this special exhibition at the New Britain Museum of American Art. There were 130 works of the Dutch graphic artist M. C. Escher on display, most, if not all of them, from the collection owned by the Herakleidon Museum in Athens, Greece. There is a photo gallery at the bottom of this web page that shows many of the works we got to examine yesterday.

The Herakleidon Museum’s collection consists of more than of 250 of Escher’s “most important and rare works as well as woodcuts, mezzotints, lithographs, photographs of the artist, sculptures and many of his personal items.” At the New Britain Museum of American Art we got to see “the extremely rare lithograph stone for the making of Flat Worms.”

According to the museum’s website: “Maurits Cornelis Escher (1898-1972) has earned worldwide acclaim as a master printmaker, draftsman, book illustrator, and muralist. Though never having studied extensively in mathematics, the mind-bending techniques and impossible realities depicted in M. C. Escher’s works prove him a brilliant mathematician. Much of Escher’s work is intuitive; without focusing on labels, Escher created what came to him instinctively.

I picked up this book in the gift shop which includes Escher’s comments on some of his works. Wish I could include some illustrations in this post, but every picture of his work is copyrighted! But here is a link to the Oldest Escher Collection on the Web.

My two favorites were “Hand with reflecting globe” and “G.A. Escher,” a drawing of his father at age 92, reading a paper with a magnifying glass. We also learned that Escher had a half-brother, Berend George Escher, a Dutch geologist, who influenced M. C.’s work with his knowledge of crystals. Tim had four favorites: “Metamorphose,” “Mosaic I,” “Moebius band II,” and, shown at the beginning of this post, “Drawing hands.”

The exhibit will be in New Britain, Connecticut, until November 14, and then will be traveling to the Akron Art Museum in Akron, Ohio. Not sure if that’s it, but it is definitely worth making an effort to see. I loved one of Escher’s quotes they had on display:

He who wonders discovers that this is in itself a wonder.
~ M. C. Escher

The Oldest Escher Collection on the Web