off the beaten path

12.29.20 ~ cute little sapling
Connecticut College Arboretum, New London, Connecticut

Tuesday we donned our masks and warm layers and headed over to the Arboretum to meet my sister and her husband for our first in-person visit since the pandemic started in March, unless you count video calls and quick verbal exchanges from our balcony to the parking lot. We had planned a “safe” outdoor meeting like this to celebrate Thanksgiving and then Christmas, but rain had spoiled our plans for both days.

Beverly & John, geologist and botanist, know the natural areas of the Arboretum like the backs of their hands so I was anticipating a wonderful guided tour, off the beaten path. It did feel awfully unnatural, though, keeping six feet apart behind masks for a couple of hours, but we pulled if off. It was so good being with them again. We explored the Bolleswood Natural Area.

partridge berry

Partridge Berry is a native perennial, a small, woody, trailing vine with 6 to 12 inch, slender, trailing stems that does not climb but lays prostrate on the forest floor. The trailing stems root at nodes which come in contact with the forest surface and may spread into colonies several yards across. … The fruits are tasteless and generally survive through winter and into the following spring. Birds are the primary consumer of these fruits and the subsequent distribution of seeds.
~ US Forest Service website

Knowing about our recent fascination with glacial erratics, Beverly had a surprise for us, a huge one! Our first glimpse of it is below…

first side
front side

It looks like that rotting tree grew up there and was then snapped down in a storm. But it also looks like humans have moved some wood around, making it look like the wood is holding up the stone, but it’s not. It’s resting on other erratics underground.

other side (Tim is 5’8″)
a close-up from the back
a peek underneath ~ two orbs!

After marveling over this erratic’s size and its precarious perch we continued on. Sometimes there was so much moss along the path it reminded me of a forest in Ireland.

And we finally came to a flooded bog. (The drought is definitely over.) It was beautiful with bits of moss, autumn leaves under the water, partial sheets of thin ice, sticks, and a few remaining plants and grasses.

And then John pointed out a carnivorous plant…

pitcher plant hidden in leaves

The pitchers trap and digesting flying and crawling insects, making the species one of the few carnivorous plants in North America. The hollow pitchers fill naturally with rainwater. The pitchers also have broad lips where insects land. The insects crawl into the pitcher, where stiff, downward pointing hairs prevent them from leaving. Anectdoctal evidence suggests pitchers capture less than one percent of the flies that venture into their traps, but a few insects eventually fall into the water at the base of the pitcher, where digestive enzymes secreted by the plant release the nutrients within the insects. Eventually, the nutrients are absorbed by the plant, which supplements the nutrients absorbed by the roots.
~ US Forest Service website

pitcher plant

On our way out of the Arboretum we saw…

winterberry aka black alder
oyster mushroom, thanks to Larisa’s friend for the id

It was sad to say good-bye but we were getting cold and so made our way home to some hot tea. Curled up under our blankets, we put on some music and our happy holiday hearth DVD. Very cozy after having rosy cheeks from the chilly air. Maybe we’ll do this again — hopefully soon.

shades of scarlet, saffron, and russet

10.24.20 ~ Connecticut College Arboretum
New London, Connecticut

Autumn that year painted the countryside in vivid shades of scarlet, saffron, and russet, and the days were clear and crisp under the harvest skies.
~ Sharon Kay Penman
(Time & Chance)

a copper and butterscotch harvest

The Connecticut College Arboretum Facebook page invited us over to check out the fall colors in all their glory. We were not disappointed! I had been reluctant to visit because New London was a designated coronavirus “red alert town” but now that Groton is, too, we decided we didn’t have much to lose.

black oak

One very nice feature of an arboretum is that many of the trees have identification tags on them.

fringe tree

In June, the above fringe tree has spectacular white fringe-like blossoms. (Janet may remember them!) To see a picture scroll down to the last few pictures on this post: late spring in the woods.

sweet gum
tulip tree
a maple (no tag)

But autumn leaves have another than their natural history — like autumn sunshine they have merits that concern the rambler, who cares not a fig for their botanical significance — what may be called their sentimental history.
~ Charles Conrad Abbott
(Days Out of Doors)

russet majesty
grove on top of a hill
evidence of the severe drought in the pond
scarlet tree growing out of rock in the middle of the pond
glacial erratic framed in saffron
(probably) ruby slippers hydrangea spent blossoms
(probably) ruby slippers hydrangea leaves
thanks to Melissa for help with identification
we got a little bit lost in there
heritage river birch

This might be my favorite tree in the whole arboretum. It is so tall there is no way I could get a picture of all of it. The texture of the bark is a pleasure to behold. The trunk splits in two and the view between them is spectacular. I love its energy. I have a dwarf river birch in my garden. It’s not nearly as tall.

looking up
looking out over the arboretum

We had walked for over an hour and I came home finally feeling satisfied that I hadn’t missed anything this autumn had to offer. 🙂

the muggies are back

7.7.20 ~ tall meadow rue
Connecticut College Arboretum, New London, Connecticut

After all my kvetching on the last post a lovely day followed and we grabbed the opportunity for another early morning walk. Having visited the arboretum in early May and early June, we decided to see what might be blooming in early July. Fewer flowers but a lot more greenery.

The local weather forecaster has announced that “the muggies are back.” Dewpoints in the 70s! Tropical air is upon us and we might get a tropical depression storm Friday and Saturday. So glad we grabbed this walk when we had the chance. Enjoy!


The Bee is not afraid of me.
I know the Butterfly —
The pretty people in the Woods
Receive me cordially —

The Brooks laugh louder
When I come —
The Breezes madder play;
Where mine eye thy silver mists,
Wherefore, Oh Summer’s Day?

~ Emily Dickinson
(The Poems of Emily Dickinson, #113)

We didn’t see any “pretty people,” but felt the presence of fairies at every turn. No birds, except for one catbird who was so busy he was out of sight before I thought to try and get its picture.

tall meadow rue
red clover

O sweet the dropping eve, the blush of morn,
The starlit sky, the rustling fields of corn,
The soft airs blowing from the freshening seas,
The sunflecked shadow of the stately trees,
The mellow thunder and the lulling rain,
The warm, delicious, happy summer rain,
When the grass brightens and the days grow long,
And little birds break out in rippling song!

~ Celia Thaxter
(Compensation)

buttercup
common mullein

Please note: I haven’t posted any pandemic statistics since June 17 because many have said dwelling on the numbers produces anxiety. But for me it has the opposite effect. The numbers are a picture of the reality which keeps my imagination from running wild and panicking. I like to know what I’m up against and how best to proceed. And lately I’ve been struggling to cope with my fears. Maybe it’s because I stopped paying attention to the facts. So when I record the latest statistics in my posts, at the end sometimes, please don’t feel obliged to read them. They’re mainly for my own sanity!

We now have 135 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in our town. Our county (New London) has 1,304 confirmed cases. Of those 1 is still in the hospital and 102 have lost their lives. The last number (102) hasn’t changed since June 17, so our county hasn’t had any deaths in weeks. One thing that reminded me to start checking the statistics again is that on Tuesday, on the local news, they announced that Connecticut had its first day ever with no COVID-19 deaths reported state-wide. Our governor has a well-deserved 78% approval rating. He recently decided that bars will not be opening on July 20 even though we’re doing well. He cited what’s been happening in other states when they open their bars. I am grateful for his leadership.

garden in the woods

6.3.20 ~ Connecticut College Arboretum, New London, Connecticut

This walk was from June 3rd. Still catching up!

I have the impression that Emily Dickinson enjoyed the companionship of her large dog, Carlo, while she tended her garden. I used to discuss things with Larisa’s tabby cat, Mary, while I was planting and weeding my little plot. She was always interested in what I was up to and what I thought about this or that. Emily’s poetic musings…

buttercup

Within my Garden, rides a Bird
Opon a single Wheel —
Whose spokes a dizzy music make
As ’twere a travelling Mill —

?

He never stops, but slackens
Above the Ripest Rose —
Partakes without alighting
And praises as he goes,

peaceful paths

Till every spice is tasted —
And then his Fairy Gig
Reels in remoter atmospheres —
And I rejoin my Dog,

burl

And He and I, perplex us
If positive, ’twere we —
Or bore the Garden in the Brain
This Curiosity —

rhododendron

But He, the best Logician,
Refers my clumsy eye —
To just vibrating Blossoms!
An exquisite Reply!

~ Emily Dickinson
(The Poems of Emily Dickinson, #370)

arboretum pond
flower and fern carpeting
sassafras sapling

So everything that slows us down and forces patience, everything that sets us back into the slow cycles of nature, is a help. Gardening is an instrument of grace.
~ May Sarton
(Journal of a Solitude)

cinnamon fern
rhododendron
andromeda aka lily-of-the-valley bush

My mother’s favorite flower was lily of the valley. She also had an andromeda shrub planted in the front yard, right near the dining room window.

wild geranium
rhododendron
shady spot
celandine poppy

A garden isn’t meant to be useful. It’s for joy.
~ Rumer Godden
(China Court: A Novel)

lots of blue and light

5.5.20 ~ Connecticut College Arboretum, New London, Connecticut

On May 5th we took a lovely walk in the Connecticut College Arboretum. I usually walk there with Janet or Beverly so it was fun to drag Tim along this time. (I do miss my other walking buddies!) Again, he did well on the uneven terrain. At first we wore our masks, thinking it was in the city and might be more populated than the places in the woods we visit. But there weren’t many people there and no one else was wearing a mask so we felt comfortable taking them off.

5.5.20 ~ garden path

One of my all time favorite music albums, since I was a teen, is All Things Must Pass by George Harrison. Lately, the song “Beware of Darkness” keeps playing in my head, and I think it is so fitting considering what all of us are going through now with the pandemic. Nights can be rough. But nature walks in the light of day are the perfect counterbalance.

5.5.20 ~ purple trillium
5.5.20 ~ ostritch ferns

Watch out now, take care
Beware of falling swingers
Dropping all around you
The pain that often mingles
In your fingertips
Beware of darkness

5.5.20 ~ ?
5.5.20 ~ Virginia bluebells

Watch out now, take care
Beware of the thoughts that linger
Winding up inside your head
The hopelessness around you
In the dead of night

5.5.20 ~ marsh marigolds
5.5.20 ~ bluets

Beware of sadness
It can hit you
It can hurt you
Make you sore and what is more
That is not what you are here for

5.5.20 ~ hyacinth before blooming (?)
5.5.20 ~ hemlock cones

Watch out now, take care
Beware of soft shoe shufflers
Dancing down the sidewalks
As each unconscious sufferer
Wanders aimlessly
Beware of Maya

5.5.20 ~ fiddlehead ferns
5.5.20 ~ Fraser magnolia bud

Watch out now, take care
Beware of greedy leaders
They take you where you should not go
While Weeping Atlas Cedars
They just want to grow, grow and grow
Beware of darkness

~ George Harrison
♫ (Beware of Darkness) ♫

5.5.20 ~ three rows of stone walls
5.5.20 ~ two towering tulip trees

Governor Ned Lamont today (May 9) announced that his administration has released documents detailing specific rules that eligible businesses falling under phase 1 of Connecticut’s reopening plans must follow amid the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. The first phase – which includes restaurants; offices; hair salons and barbershops; retail stores; and outdoor museums and zoos – is currently planned to take effect beginning May 20. The governor stressed that the decision to reopen during this phase rests with each individual business owner – they are not required to open if they do not choose, however if they do they must follow the rules as prescribed.
~ The Office of Governor Ned Lamont website

We now have 97 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in our town. Our county (New London) has 784 confirmed cases and 56 deaths. I don’t think I’m ready to come out of our bubble yet. Will wait and see what happens to the numbers after May 20.

late spring in the woods

6.6.18 ~ wild geranium, Connecticut College Arboretum
New London, Connecticut

The wood is decked in light green leaf.
The swallow twitters in delight.
The lonely vine sheds joyous tears
Of interwoven dew and light.

Spring weaves a gown of green to clad
The mountain height and wide-spread field.
O when wilt thou, my native land,
In all thy glory stand revealed?

~ Ilia Chavchavadze
(Anthology of Georgian Poetry)

6.6.18 ~ Connecticut College Arboretum, New London, Connecticut

“Summer is coming!” the soft breezes whisper;
“Summer is coming!” the glad birdies sing.
Summer is coming — I hear her quick footsteps;
Take your last look at the beautiful Spring.
~ Dora Read Goodale
(Summer Is Coming)

6.6.18 ~ Connecticut College Arboretum, New London, Connecticut
6.6.18 ~ Connecticut College Arboretum, New London, Connecticut

To be interested in the changing seasons is a happier state of mind than to be hopelessly in love with spring.
~ George Santayana
(Words of Wisdom & Quotable Quotes)

notice the ant in the middle of the flower
new growth on a hemlock ~ might the woolly adelgid infestation be subsiding?
sunbathing on a boulder

How many Flowers fail in Wood —
Or perish from the Hill —
Without the privilege to know
That they are Beautiful —

How many cast a nameless Pod
Opon the nearest Breeze —
Unconscious of the Scarlet Freight —
It bear to other eyes —

~ Emily Dickinson
(The Poems of Emily Dickinson, #534)

6.6.18 ~ Connecticut College Arboretum, New London, Connecticut
sweet little bluets
6.6.18 ~ Connecticut College Arboretum, New London, Connecticut
6.6.18 ~ Connecticut College Arboretum, New London, Connecticut

Honor the space between no longer and not yet.
~ Nancy Levin
(Grief Interrupted: A Holistic Guide to Reclaiming Your Joy)

Janet overlooking the lawn where the audience sits
to watch outdoor theater in the summer
fringe tree blossoms
more fringe tree blossoms
and still more fringe tree blossoms

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.

blossoms and birdhouses

6.10.17 ~ Connecticut College Arboretum ~ mountain laurel

So… there were other treasures waiting to be discovered while we were on our long hike Saturday. In 1907 the mountain laurel, a lovely native American shrub, was designated as the official state flower of Connecticut. They are just starting to blossom and we saw loads of them.

wild geranium, another native wildflower

I was raised by the melody
Of the whispering grove
And learned to love
Among the flowers.
~ Friedrich Hölderlin
(Odes & Elegies)

eastern blue-eyed grass, another native wildflower
ferns and saplings filling the edge of a meadow

Now, the staff at the arboretum is keeping a meadow open for habitat for several kinds of animals and birds. They also erected several birdhouses and we did see a tree swallow looking out the “window.”

6.10.17 ~ Connecticut College Arboretum ~ tree swallow and orbs

These shots were very hard to get because they were taken from so far away. I didn’t have a tripod to stabilize the camera and the zoom lens. I climbed a bank on the side of the trail, through a thicket of plants and saplings, and then leaned one arm on a tree to steady my grip, trying to avoid the gypsy moth caterpillars. (I wound up bringing at least one tick home – I hope I won’t find any more…) Even though I had to delete most of the shots I took it was a thrill to get home and find that these three came out!

6.10.17 ~ Connecticut College Arboretum ~ tree swallow and orbs
6.10.17 ~ Connecticut College Arboretum ~ tree swallow and orbs

I love all the orbs I captured…

6.10.17 ~ Connecticut College Arboretum ~ mosses and grasses

We were just thinking of turning around and retracing our steps when Beverly was beckoned by yet another tree growing through the rocks. So we left the path and carefully navigated our way through uneven terrain of rocks and bushes. I found a spot to take the picture. More orbs!

6.10.17 ~ Connecticut College Arboretum ~ tree with orbs
looking up the same majestic tree

After finding our way back to the trail I finally put away the camera, took a long drink of water, sprayed on some more bug repellent and enjoyed the long walk back, hands free.

May 2, 2020: When this post was first published I misidentified the bird as a baby bluebird, a mistake that was pointed out to me recently by much more knowledgeable friends. Consensus is that the brightly colored bird is an adult tree swallow! I have edited the text above, but the comments below reflect my original error. Sorry about that!

deep in the woods

6.10.17 ~ Connecticut College Arboretum

On Saturday afternoon my sister and I did some hiking in the uncultivated part of the Connecticut College Arboretum. It was like being in the woods we played in and rambled through as children. We encountered a doe along our path, she stopped short when she spotted us and then darted off sideways into the woods.

6.10.17 ~ Connecticut College Arboretum

Nature — sometimes sears a Sapling —
Sometimes — scalps a Tree —
Her Green People recollect it
When they do not die —
~ Emily Dickinson
(The Poems of Emily Dickinson, #457)

gypsy moth caterpillar, an invasive forest pest from Europe

When I was at the doctor for a check-up last week he said it seemed like he was treating nothing but rashes from these little villains. Why do people even touch them, I wondered? But they can dangle from invisible threads and I was startled when I walked right into one. No rash, so far…

Death is like the insect
Menacing the tree
Competent to kill it,
But decoyed may be.

Bait it with the balsam
Seek it with the saw,
Baffle, it cost you
Everything you are.

Then, if it have burrowed
Out of reach of skill —
Wring the tree and leave it.
‘Tis the vermin’s will.

~ Emily Dickinson
(The Poems of Emily Dickinson, #1783)

6.10.17 ~ Connecticut College Arboretum

For some reason I am drawn to trees that seem dead, but sculptural, and yet still have a few green leaves up near the crown. Sometimes dying is a very gradual process.

this feels like a carefully composed still life to me

And this, our life, exempt from public haunt,
Finds tongues in trees, books in the running brooks,
Sermons in stones, and good in everything.
~ William Shakespeare
(As You Like It)

6.10.17 ~ Connecticut College Arboretum ~ roots

One will see roots while looking down (photo above), of course, but also when looking up (photo below). The tree below decided it could grow sticking out of a rock face, high above the ground. There must have been just enough soil between the layers of rock for it to sustain itself. Maybe it is strong enough to move the rock some to give the roots more space.

tree growing out from between two layers of rock

One impulse from a vernal wood
May teach you more of man,
Of moral evil and of good,
Than all the sages can.
~ William Wordsworth
(The Tables Turned)

ferns and mosses on the rock face

Ferns (above) with visible roots growing on the rock face. Plenty of moss to soften the surface, too.

6.10.17 ~ Connecticut College Arboretum

A tree (above) seems to have been blown over in a storm and left with a large cavity between its roots and the rock below. Stones and boulders, dumped by receding glaciers eons ago, are so ubiquitous in Connecticut and it seems the trees have no choice but to grow above, below, around and between them.

two more of Emily’s “scalped” trees
a stone benchmark?

I wondered if someone might have set this stone deliberately pointing up as a benchmark for future hiking adventures. It’s amazing to contemplate that these stone walls deep in the woods once surrounded fields and pastures in colonial days. Farmers used the stones cluttering their land to build the walls but in the end, growing crops was difficult. Many eventually abandoned their homes and headed west for better farmland. The woods slowly came back and claimed the landscape once again.