One last walk with Janet in Connecticut… (There may be walks together in North Carolina in our future…) It was a lovely, sunny, spring day. So many blossoms!!!
After enjoying the wildflower garden we crossed the college campus and visited another garden, this one of ornamental trees and shrubs from around the world.
You think winter will never end, and then, when you don’t expect it, when you have almost forgotten it, warmth comes and a different light. Under the bare trees the wildflowers bloom so thick you can’t walk without stepping on them. The pastures turn green and the leaves come. ~ Wendell Berry (Hannah Coulter: A Novel)
I will miss my adventures with Janet, sharing with each other all the little details we notice along the way.
Skunk cabbages (above and below) were emerging everywhere near and in the water at the arboretum on our latest walk. Three difficult weeks had passed without a walk and it was such a relief to finally be outside again.
May you have the wisdom to enter generously into your own unease To discover the new direction your longing wants you to take. ~ John O’Donohue (To Bless the Space Between Us)
Our longings have taken us in a new direction. We have decided to move to North Carolina this summer to be near our grandchildren! It was not an easy decision to make as we’ve lived here most of our lives and love New England. I will also miss my sister and living by the sea.
Early in February we came down with our first head colds since before the pandemic began. (Our covid tests were negative.) Ten days of misery… And before he was fully recovered from his cold Tim was struck with a violent case of food poisoning. He’s okay now and we were grateful to finally take another walk!
In the arboretum there were plenty of signs of spring being right around the corner. January was the warmest one on record for Connecticut, with temperatures averaging ten degrees above average. I won’t be surprised to learn that February will be setting a similar record. Hey, if it’s not going to snow and be winter up north here we may as well move south, right?
While blowing my nose nonstop I kept busy online exploring the area that will become my new home, the Piedmont plateau region of North Carolina, the gentle rolling hills between the flat coastal plain and the Appalachian mountains. There are a lot of land conservancies, open spaces, state parks, botanical gardens, an arboretum and trails to keep us happy walking and exploring, at least when it isn’t too hot to go out. We suspect we will be more active in the winter down there. 🙂
There might even be more birds to see. But for this chilly and raw walk we were pleased to see a pair of hooded mergansers swimming and diving for food in the pond.
Thanks to a tag on this shrub, Alnus serrulata, I was able to identify these smooth alder catkins, flowers on a spike, another sign of spring.
The [smooth alder] flowers are monoecious, meaning that both sexes are found on a single plant. Male (Staminate) catkins are 1.6-2.4 in long; female (Pistillate) catkins are 1/2 in long. Reddish-green flowers open in March to April. … The ovate, dark brown, cone-like fruit is hard with winged scales. Seeds are produced in small cones and do not have wings. Fruit usually matures during fall and is quite persistent. ~ Wikipedia
I have to admit, thinking about the logistics involved to move is filling me with anxiety. The last time we moved was 29 years ago and that was just across town. Except for a couple of years living in Greece I’ve lived in Connecticut my whole life. When I moved to Greece with my parents I only had a trunk to fill and that was pretty simple. My parents took care of all the other planning. Now I’m coping with a chronic illness that is bound to complicate things. But we have family and friends helping us so I think we will make it somehow. And to be settled and living near our grandchildren while they are still very young will make it all worth it.
May you come to accept your longing as divine urgency. ~ John O’Donohue (To Bless the Space Between Us)
We enjoyed a lovely long walk around the pond at the arboretum on Friday. I was in my sweatshirt and enjoying the fresh cool air. The trees are still green for the most part and we wondered what kind of fall color is in store for us in the wake of the drought. There were still some summer tints lingering side by side with hints of autumn hues.
Few men know how to take a walk. The qualifications of a professor are endurance, plain clothes, old shoes, an eye for nature, good humor, vast curiosity, good speech, good silence and nothing too much. If a man tells me that he has an intense love of nature, I know, of course, that he has none. Good observers have the manners of trees and animals, their patient good sense, and if they add words, ’tis only when words are better than silence. ~ Ralph Waldo Emerson (The Later Lectures of Ralph Waldo Emerson: 1843-1871)
We also took a side path to the Glenn Dreyer Bog which was illuminated with spots of bright sunshine. The light near the equinoxes is amazing, as I often say.
The woods were full of gray catbird calls and we heard them rustling around in the tree branches. Occasionally we spotted one but they were diligently avoiding my camera. This was the summer of the catbird. Not only did we have one singing in our river birch outside our kitchen window, we saw them on almost every walk we took. Back in June, though, they were out in the open and more amenable to being photographed.
How much of beauty — of color, as well as form — on which our eyes daily rest goes unperceived by us! ~ Henry David Thoreau (Journal, August 1, 1860)
Today the humidity is creeping back with higher temperatures but it shouldn’t last for too many days. We plan to go see an outdoor Ibsen play, Peer Gynt, in the park tonight and will bring blankets to keep warm. This was supposed to happen in June but covid got the theater group and they had to postpone. We got our new bivalent booster shots last week but still plan to exercise caution as we try to move forward.
Friday evening my sister and brother-in-law invited us to go with them to Music in the Meadow, a family-friendly outdoor concert in the Connecticut College Arboretum. We brought our lawn chairs and enjoyed the beautiful weather and setting. After walking through the woods we found a spot for ourselves up on a hill overlooking the lawn where most of the audience was seated.
After we got settled I took a little walk and tried to capture with my camera some of the plants growing in the meadow. Suddenly I spotted an eye, a little bunny was looking at me, frozen in place. I kept my distance and used my zoom lens, delighted with my discovery.
The bunny wasn’t there when I checked back later so I worried about it. But I think, although small and young, it was old enough to be on its own. Phew!
Baby rabbits leave the nest when they’re 3 weeks old and about the size of a chipmunk. If you find a chipmunk-sized but fully-furred rabbit with eyes open, ears erect, and the ability to hop, they are meant to be on their own. As small and helpless as they may look, they are not an orphan and doesn’t need your help. ~ The Humane Society of the United States website
The first performer was an amazing folk singer-songwriter, Kala Farnham, and the four of us agreed her hour of singing was the highlight of the whole show.
Nestled away in the Quiet Corner of rural Connecticut, a pint-sized songstress set out into the world with one vision: to inspire and heal through the transformative power of music. Decades later, Kala has performed at listening rooms across the country, garnering numerous awards and media attention, including The Rose Garden Performing Songwriter Contest 2019 winner, 2020 Falcon Ridge Folk Festival Grassy Hill Emerging Artist, and Great American Song Contest Finalist. Drawing from a classical education and a professional background in musical theater, Kala presents a hallmark reinvention of the folk tradition. Her passion for fairytales, ancient history, and storytelling draws audiences from around the country into the reinvented worlds of alternate times and places. ~ Kala Farnham website
However, our attention kept being drawn aside to the excitement of lots of children playing on the glacial erratics at the back of the lawn. Their shouts of glee as they darted from stone to stone, climbing and jumping… it was pure joy to see. To be young and that quick and flexible again…
When Kala Farnham was done with her set and The CarLeans were setting up for their hour, I took another little meadow walk. They were good, too, a blend of styles, folk, Cajun, Latin, and Americana.
It started getting dark when The CarLeans were done and then Ward Hayden & The Outliers (“a mix of old school country, early rock ‘n’ roll, blues, and country rock”) started setting up. We stayed for one of their songs but then headed for home because we were getting cold and tired — old folks — as my father used to say. It was a wonderful evening.
We’ve been busy the past few weeks getting ready for another change in our lives. Tim’s heart disease has progressed to the point where he now needs a pacemaker. He will be having surgery to put it in on Tuesday and will spend one night in the hospital. His cardiologist hopes this will help with his shortness of breath, abnormal fatigue and very low pulse. Time will tell. ❤️
Friday afternoon my sister and brother-in-law joined us and a large group of (mostly) retired folks to take the Connecticut College Arboretum’s annual guided wildflower walk in the Edgerton & Stengel Memorial Wildflower Garden. It was outside so no masks. They hadn’t had this walk for the past two years because of the pandemic. Leading the walk this year was Miles Schwartz Sax, arboretum director, and Madison Holland, horticulturalist.
I didn’t catch the names of all the flowers but have identified the ones I’m more sure of. When we arrived we saw some arborists hard at work in the trees.
And while waiting for the talk and walk to begin I saw my first catbirds of the year! They were very busy but I did manage to get a couple of pictures. 🙂
Enjoy the spring ephemerals!
The Edgerton and Stengel Wildflower Garden is filled with wildflowers, ferns and a shrub layer of native azaleas and rhododendrons. Sheltered by a canopy of white ash and red maple, this naturalistic garden displays its beauty on a west-facing slope. The remains of stone walls are reminders of the original agricultural use of the land. Wildflowers are able to survive without the intervention of people and they add to the natural beauty of any setting. ~ Connecticut College Arboretum website
We were lucky the approaching rainstorm held off until after the walk. It was fun interacting with people again, even while everyone kept a respectable distance. Might be worth another visit in a week or two. Some flowers had gone by and some looked like they hadn’t bloomed yet.
Not the greatest pictures I’ve ever taken, but I was thrilled to see more birds than usual on this winter walk. Interesting that we didn’t encounter another human being on this day. Maybe everyone is shopping for the holidays. Not us! It was a sunny day with light westerly winds, a relatively comfortable 44°F/7°C with a feels-like temperature of 39°F/4°C. Connecticut’s positivity rate yesterday was 8.16%.
The Brain — is wider than the Sky — For — put them side by side — The one the other will contain With ease — and You — beside — ~ Emily Dickinson (The Poems of Emily Dickinson, #598)
Our peak fall foliage dates are supposed to be October 24-November 6 so as soon as we got a chance between rainstorms we squeezed in this autumn walk. We enjoyed the colors but there is still a lot of green. Climate change, I suppose. We’ve been getting a lot of rain and our temperatures have been running about 10°F above normal. Sigh…
The energy from this huge American beech resonated with me. I think it might qualify as a wolf tree! It was too wide to get in one photograph! We lingered under its branches for quite a while.
A new bird for me! When I was taking the picture above I spotted some white “circles” moving in the distance, way across the pond. We followed the path around the pond and they swam in the opposite direction. So I tried my best with the zoom lens. When we retraced our steps, they swam back to where we were. Clever little things. They are a lot smaller than mallards.
Hooded Merganser Lophodytes cucullatus: Year-round resident; fairly common to common migrant in March and from October to November; and fairly common in winter on fresh or brackish water on the coast or larger rivers. Uncommon and very local cavity-nesting breeder in secluded wooded swamps, beaver ponds with open water, mostly in the northwest hills and lower Connecticut River. ~ Frank Gallo (Birding in 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 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…
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.
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…
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
On our way out of the Arboretum we saw…
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.
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)
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.
One very nice feature of an arboretum is that many of the trees have identification tags on them.
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.
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)
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.
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. 🙂