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.
After our walk and leaf peeping last Friday we stopped at one of Tim’s (and son Nate’s!) favorite places for some freshly pressed apple cider. I can’t believe I’ve never created a post about this local treasure. Maybe because it’s so popular and crowded on the weekends but now that we’re retired we have the luxury of visiting during the week when there are fewer people around and a better chance to get unobstructed photos.
Family-owned and operated since 1881, B.F. Clyde’s Cider Mill is a piece of living history. Every September 1st, we open our doors and sell sweet cider, hard cider, wine, cider donuts, and many local goods. We craft our sweet cider and hard ciders the same way that generations before us perfected. Enjoy cider-making demonstrations, wine and hard cider tastings, and our renowned cider donuts while making your own new traditions ~ B. F. Clyde’s Cider Mill website
Although cider was produced on individual farms for private use, the centrally located mill became popular for farmers who would sell surplus apples to the mill and bring back the juice to ferment into hard cider. In 1881 Benjamin Clyde began pressing his apples at local mills and soon rented his own press. In 1897 he purchased the mill and installed the screw press (No. 2) from Boomer & Boschert of Syracuse. Boomer and Boschert also supplied the apple grater, apple elevator, and cider pump, as well as the plans for the building. ~ American Society of Mechanical Engineers website
Although cider making has changed little over the centuries, this mill featured a sophisticated method of grinding and a press capable of applying pressure at three speeds. Using all steel construction, it was considered the finest screw cider press ever made. The cider mill at B.F. Clyde’s also represents one of the final screw presses. In the 20th century, the hydraulic press came into widespread use. ~ American Society of Mechanical Engineers website
We went down another scenic road on our way home and enjoyed many more fall colors. We happened to notice a cemetery with open gates and drove in, finding some spectacular views of the Mystic River. We’ll have to go back some day to explore. But I was getting hungry and ready to go home. Before we left I spotted a squirrel eating on top of a headstone. A perfect ending to a great outing.
There is something in the autumn that is native to my blood — Touch of manner, hint of mood; And my heart is like a rhyme, With the yellow and the purple and the crimson keeping time. ~ Bliss Carman (A Vagabond Song)
Not only is this our first autumn in self-quarantine, it is my first one without apples since my radiation proctocolitis diagnosis. If you’ve been reading this blog for a few years you know how much I LOVE apples. But they make me ill now. 🙁 In spite of this I wanted to go to Holmberg Orchards to celebrate the equinox anyway. We didn’t pick any apples because Tim doesn’t want to eat stuff I can’t have in front of me, even though I keep telling him he doesn’t have to give things up just because I have to.
Today was a perfect autumn day…. And there I go, slipping out of fall into autumn…. All right, a perfect fall day, too. ~ Hal Borland (Hal Borland’s Book of Days)
But it was fun to pick out a pumpkin and some gourds for our garden and the corn maze was open! We felt it was safe enough as everything was outside and everyone was required to wear masks and keep 6′ away from each other. When we got to the corn maze we were happy to see a sign that said there were no dead ends this year, because of the pandemic. You were to just follow the winding path and keep six feet apart. No getting hopelessly lost. Being there early on a Tuesday morning we were the only ones in the maze. Yay! It took us half an hour to walk through it.
I am inclined to think of late that as much depends on the state of the bowels as of the stars. ~ Henry David Thoreau (Journal, December 12, 1859)
We had grilled marinated swordfish and green beans for dinner out on the balcony. Simple but delicious and that’s how life has got to be these days. 🙂 Keeping my gut soothed is of utmost importance! I’ve had a few setbacks since the midsummer alcohol fiasco but feel that on the whole, things are better. As far as autumn goes, I’m going to try to focus on the leaves changing colors and long walks in the fresh air and not think so much about apples!
On Monday we tried to beat the humidity and went down to the beach early. Sometimes there’s no beating the humidity this time of year. Even at that early hour we lasted barely half an hour before Tim felt unwell. But before retreating I did see something new. A ring-billed gull had scavenged an apple and was diligently making a meal out of it.
We got in the car, defeated. Turned on the air conditioner and then noticed a small colony of laughing gulls gathered in the parking lot! They’re back!
Back in March, when I was sorting through the boxes of family stuff, I found the following undated, typewritten account of a lovely October day Tim’s great-grandparents spent together many years ago. Charles Amos Hamilton (1866-1943) wrote it for his wife, Gertrude Mabel Hubbard (1874-1965). They lived in Batavia, New York.
AN OCTOBER DAY
Written for the delectation of my good wife, Gertrude, who delights in reading descriptions of commonplace things, written in rather grandiloquent language.
The poet wrote, “What is so rare as a day in June, Then, if ever, come perfect days.”
Without questioning the judgment or belittling the taste of the writer of this couplet, I make the assertion that, with equal or even greater veracity, it might have been written with the substitution of “October” for “June.” For, in old October, Nature gives us examples of a brilliance of coloring, and a tang of ozone, which June, for meteorological reasons, cannot duplicate.
I arise on a bright October morning and raise the shades of my bedroom window. What a riot of all the hues of the rainbow meet my eyes. From the pale green of maple leaves not yet touched by autumn’s frosty fingers, up through the entire gamut of the spectrum, to the vivid scarlet of maples of a different species. As the leaves rustle in the light breeze, they seem to be whispering “Goodbye” to their companions of the departed summer. The dark green limbs of the evergreens nearer the house, stand out like sentinels, bravely daring the blasts of the coming winter. The sunlight lies in little pools in the verdancy of the lawn, dotted here and there by vagrant leaves which have thus early abandoned the protection of their parent branch. The clump of spireas, which last June resembled a snow-bank, now has the appearance of a cluster of shrubs, which in the serene consciousness of a duty well done, are now nestling quietly and unobtrusively together. A belated hollyhock, and a few sturdy petunias, render an additional dash of color. Glancing from the the rear window, I behold the majestic line of cedars, bowing gently before the breeze, but standing with all the dignity of a line of knights in full armor. The row of sweet alyssum shows the same white purity it has maintained for several months. Two scarlet rose-buds, with youthful optimism, raise their heads fearlessly to the autumnal skies, disregarding the improbability of their ever being able to attain maturity.
Later in the day, we take a drive in our Buick, through the farm lands of the vicinity. The same magnificent coloring marks the foliage everywhere, outdoing the most artistic efforts of the painter’s brush. Huge stacks of golden straw stand beside the farmer’s barns, testifying to the repleteness of the barns with fodder for the stock. We know without inspection, that the cellars are well filled with fruits and vegetables, destined to adorn many a well-filled table, and to furnish apples and pop-corn for groups of merry young people. In the fields, the sheep are quietly nibbling, already comfortably clad in their winter woolens. The cows are lying placidly chewing the rumen of contentment. Everything denotes peace, harmony and plenty. Occasionally, a vagrant leaf flutters down momentarily upon the hood of the car, then, as if disdaining its warmth, flutters away to joining its companions by the roadside.
In the evening, fortified by an excellent dinner, maybe washed down by a flagon of “Old October ale,” we sit by the bright flame of our fireplace, and as we listen to the occasional snap of the apple-tree wood, and watch the sparks seek freedom via the chimney, we feel that “God’s in His heaven, all’s right with the world.” Yes, what is so rare as a day in October?
Idunn was married to Bragi, god of poetry, and she was sweet and gentle and kind. She carried a box with her, made of ash wood, which contained golden apples. When the gods felt age beginning to touch them, to frost their hair or ache their joints, then they would go to Idunn. She would open her box and allow the god or goddess to eat a single apple. As they ate it, their youth and power would return to them. Without Idunn’s apples, the gods would scarcely be gods … ~ Neil Gaiman (Norse Mythology)
Iduna (Iðunn, Idun, Idunn, Ithun, Idunna) is my favorite Norse goddess, mostly because of the apples, my favorite fruit. It’s been my experience that an apple a day does keep the doctor away. And now, during apple picking season, my thoughts turn to Iduna and the art depicting her I’ve posted to my blog in the past.
Nine years ago I posted this story about my father, who was still alive at the time:
When my father was a boy growing up on a New England farm during the Great Depression, his family picked as many apples as they could and stored some of them in a barrel in the root cellar. Of course he ate as many as he could while picking them, but his parents had a rule about the ones in the barrel he found exasperating. If anyone wanted an apple later in the fall or winter, he was required to take one that was the least fresh. By the time they got to the fresher ones they had also become much less fresh! So all winter he was having to make do with eating not-so-great apples. If only he had known he might have called on Iduna to keep the apples fresher longer!
Dad’s favorite variety was the McCoun. After six years, I still miss him. Will be stopping by the orchard again soon. ♡
Not from successful love alone, Nor wealth, nor honor’d middle age, nor victories of politics or war; But as life wanes, and all the turbulent passions calm, As gorgeous, vapory, silent hues cover the evening sky, As softness, fullness, rest, suffuse the frame, like fresher, balmier air, As the days take on a mellower light, and the apple at last hangs really finish’d and indolent-ripe on the tree, Then for the teeming quietest, happiest days of all! The brooding and blissful halcyon days! ~ Walt Whitman (Sands at Seventy)
The first time I ever saw a print of this painting was at an estate sale, not long after my father died on September 19th in 2013. The expression on the man’s face reminded me of my father and the little girl reminded me of myself so I bought it. It’s not in the greatest condition and the coloring is way off. Perhaps the coloring on this digital copy is off, too. Some day I may replace it with a better copy.
He’s been gone for three years now and I still miss him, my favorite teacher. Papa taught me how to wash my hair, how to cross the street, how to trust my own instincts, how to treat animals, how to be compassionate and kind, how to swim, how to ice skate, how to paddle a canoe, how to chop an onion, how to look up words in a dictionary, how to do research, how to enjoy bird-watching, how to garden, how to walk (and play) in the woods — the list goes on. I think of him every time I do any of those things.
It’s almost autumn and I will be eating as many Macoun apples as I can while the season lasts. They were his favorites. He often told me the following story when I was growing up. (It first appeared almost 6 years ago on my blog!)
When my father was a boy growing up on a New England farm during the Great Depression, his family picked as many apples as they could and stored some of them in a barrel in the root cellar. Of course he ate as many as he could while picking them, but his parents had a rule about the ones in the barrel he found exasperating. If anyone wanted an apple later in the fall or winter, he was required to take one that was the least fresh. By the time they got to the fresher ones they had also become much less fresh! So all winter he was having to make do with eating not-so-great apples. If only he had known he might have called on Iduna to keep the apples fresher longer! ~ Barbara Rodgers (Iduna: Keeper of Apples)
But perhaps I miss him the most whenever I hear a story on the news about a threat from a new virus or other infectious agent. Dad was a microbiologist and was utterly fascinated with microorganisms — viruses, bacteria, spirochetes, amoebas, fungi, parasites. He would never tire of explaining things about them to me and correcting any misinformation the media might be passing along to his fellow citizens. And I never tired of listening. I find myself wondering what he would have had to say about the Zika virus. It’s not easy finding someone so interested in this subject!
I didn’t notice it at first, but my father died on his older brother’s birthday. Jon Stephen was born on September 19th in 1909 in Ukraine. My father, Theodore William, never knew his older brother because Jon died of a ruptured appendix on March 15th in 1919 in New York, when he was only 9 years old. Papa was born three years later on March 13th in 1922. A little bit of synchronicity there I think.