midwinter in self-quarantine

12.21.20 ~ 7:11 am, foggy winter solstice sunrise

After nine months in self-quarantine life still seems pretty bizarre. The coronavirus pandemic still rages and is getting worse with every day. Our fervent hope is that getting everyone vaccinated will turn things around sooner than later. Two of our elderly relatives-in-law have caught it, one is still fighting for his life in the hospital and the other is still sick and isolating at home. Some of Tim’s friends have lost loved ones. These are truly dark days.

Since I took a sunset picture for the summer solstice in June I decided to take a sunrise picture for the winter one. But we had fog and clouds on solstice morning, not even a hint of daybreak in the sky. There was a travel advisory for black ice on the roads so we stayed home and I took the picture from an upstairs window.

We had tried to take a walk on Saturday but found a sheet of ice on top of the snow making it too hazardous to continue. So instead of attempting another trek out on Monday I put Grandfather Frost out on our balcony, hoping to catch him casting the longest shadow of the year at noon. At first there was no sun and no shadow but by some miracle the bright star came out from the clouds right at solar noon for just a quick minute! I took the picture and then it disappeared again. (If I had known where the railing shadows would fall I would have located him standing fully in the sunshine!)

12.21.20 ~ 11:46 am, solar noon
longest shadow of the year!

A year indoors is a journey along a paper calendar; a year in outer nature is the accomplishment of a tremendous ritual. To share in it, one must have a knowledge of the pilgrimages of the sun, and something of that natural sense of him and feeling for him which made even the most primitive people mark the summer limits of his advance and the last December ebb of his decline. All these autumn weeks I have watched the great disk going south along the horizon of moorlands beyond the marsh, now sinking behind this field, now behind this leafless tree, now behind this sedgy hillock dappled with thin snow. We lose a great deal, I think, when we lose this sense and feeling for the sun. When all has been said, the adventure of the sun is the great natural drama by which we live, and not to have joy in it and awe of it, not to share in it, is to close a dull door on nature’s sustaining and poetic spirit.
~ Henry Beston
(The Outermost House: A Year of Life on the Great Beach of Cape Cod)

12.21.20 ~ yule tree

We kept trying to get a decent picture of our lovely “snowball and icicle” tree but our cameras refused to focus — at least you can get a vague impression of it from this one. I suspect the camera doesn’t know what to do with the little lights and glass reflections. Then again, I’ve never mastered the art of indoor photography. Outdoor light is my friend. I tried to get a few close-ups of ornaments with mixed results. The best ones follow….

May your holidays be merry and bright and full of blessings and gratitude. As the light returns and as our days grow longer may the coming year sparkle with hope, love and peace. 🌲

cloudy light, goldfinch, concert

11.27.20 ~ Sheep Farm, Groton, Connecticut

On Friday we returned to Sheep Farm, last visited early in April, so we still haven’t visited when the leaves are green. Maybe next summer on a low humidity day. Autumn colors were still pronounced on this lovely day.

glacial erratics in a golden and russet meadow
very cloudy day
leaf love
struggling to stay green
a burl
beech bark
beech leaf
waterfall from above
waterfall from below
right side of waterfall
left side of waterfall
beech with lichen
lichen on twig
?
loved the contrast between the green and the rusty oranges

Most of the birds we saw were too far away but I finally spotted this goldfinch, perhaps a juvenile or nonbreeding female. I was delighted even if he/she wasn’t brightly colored or willing to come out of the foliage.

American goldfinch
I see you!
loved this spot of yellow in the middle of the browns
telephoto shot of the yellow
?
contrast again between green and straw colors

And then, after such a wonderful day, that night I had a new experience, watching a livestreaming concert on my laptop. It was wonderful!

I’ve been a Mary Chapin Carpenter fan for years. My father introduced her music to me one night when he was watching a recorded performance she had on PBS. It must have been in the late 1980s. My father played the guitar and he and I shared a love of guitar-playing troubadours. He loved Woody Guthrie. I loved James Taylor. We both loved Mary Chapin Carpenter. I started buying Mary Chapin’s CDs and playing them while driving around town in our 1988 Dodge Caravan with our first CD player that came with the car.

my father and me

Then, one day in 2012, I found out that she was going to do a show on September 15 in a cabaret setting at the Jorgensen Center for the Performing Arts in Storrs, Connecticut. Right there in the town where I grew up! But everything was falling apart in our lives at the time. Tim had been hospitalized for several days in August with a cardiovascular event, my failing 97-year-old aunt was being moved from elderly housing into my father’s house, and my father was ill and wheelchair-bound. Even so, Tim and my brother-in-law John held down the fort so my sister Beverly and I could go see the concert together. Mary Chapin talked a lot between her songs about her life and her music and it felt very intimate. It was such an extraordinary evening to share with my sister, who is also a fan.

This concert was special, too, livestreaming with two hours of music, but no talking in between the songs. It must be strange singing without being able to see and get feedback from your audience. Mary Chapin’s voice has gotten deeper over the years but is still beautiful and expressive. I found myself comfy and cozy on the couch, content to be enjoying the unfolding of a new memory.

holiday lights

11.26.20 ~ Holiday Lights Spectacular
Olde Mistick Village, Mystic, Connecticut

This pandemic Thanksgiving felt so strange with just the two of us, to say the least. We had takeout turkey, worked on a jigsaw puzzle, listened to music, communicated with faraway relatives, and when it got dark and stopped raining, went to see some holiday lights at a large outdoor shopping village.

It was very pretty, although I don’t think they had all their lights up yet. There were a few families there with small children. Everyone was wearing masks and stayed quite far apart. (I’ve started wearing two masks when I go outside these days. I still won’t go inside of a building.)

After we were there a while they started playing music which was very festive but it seemed so bizarre to have to exchange muffled Happy Thanksgiving greetings from behind our masks and from a distance.

I wonder what the holiday shopping season will be like. We’ll be ordering a couple of gifts for our grandchildren from local businesses in their area so our daughter can pick them up curbside and wrap them for us.

It will be interesting to see on the news what happens for Black Friday… (Something I frown upon and have never participated in…) I hope common sense will prevail somehow.

Irish Eyes, one of our favorite stores
Bestemors, my favorite store
nisse in the store window
lights in the upstairs window
troll in another window
lights dangling from large tree

Heading out for a walk in the woods today. We decided we do want a solstice tree this year, but will wait until the middle of next week to visit the local tree farm, so as to avoid the weekend crowd. We are determined to make the best of things!

the sound of outer ocean on a beach

11.20.20 ~ ring-billed gull
Bluff Point State Park & Coastal Reserve

The three great elemental sounds in nature are the sound of rain, the sound of wind in a primeval wood, and the sound of outer ocean on a beach. I have heard them all, and of the three elemental voices, that of the ocean is the most awesome, beautiful, and varied. For it is a mistake to talk of the monotone of the ocean or of the monotonous nature of its sound. The sea has many voices.
~ Henry Beston
(The Outermost House: A Year of Life on the Great Beach of Cape Cod)

cattails, sand, shells

11.17.20 ~ Beach Pond ~ Groton, Connecticut

Yesterday we took a walk by the pond adjacent to our beach and enjoyed a chilly day that felt a lot more like late fall than it did during the recent warm spell. The temperature when we started our walk was 39°F (4°C) so we bundled up in winter jackets.

Sunday night we had a cold front come through with gale force winds and some more needed rain. We lost power for 45 minutes in the middle of the night and even lit some candles. The new moon had made it a very dark night. It was good to see some water in this pond once again.

All of a sudden I had the revelation of how enchanting my pond was.
~ Claude Monet
(Concise Encyclopedia of Semantics)

song sparrow
Canada goose
another Canada goose

the long tapers
of cattails
are bursting and floating away over
the blue shoulders

of the ponds,
and every pond,
no matter what its
name is, is

nameless now.

~ Mary Oliver
(In Blackwater Woods)

11.17.20 ~ Eastern Point ~ Groton, Connecticut

As we walked from the pond over to the beach we found sand along the side of the road, blown off the beach during the storm. And an oak leaf from a distant somewhere. The sand had shifted around on the beach itself. In the winter they don’t comb the sand like they do in the summer, so one can see what nature decides to do with the shoreline.

New London Ledge Light on the horizon and Tyler House

During the storm a tall tree at the beach came down and someone posted a picture of it on social media on Monday, lying flat on the lawn. But it was gone before we got to the beach on Tuesday, so the city had made quick work of that clean up. There were people operating equipment, working on the playground renovation. I’m looking forward to bringing our grandchildren here again some day.

The waves were bigger and louder than usual. In fact, we heard them while we were at the pond. Little tiny breakers. Most of the time Long Island Sound is pretty smooth.

looking out at New London Ledge Light

Quite a few treasures had been deposited on the beach. Ocean offerings.

One cannot collect all the beautiful shells on the beach. One can collect only a few, and they are more beautiful if they are few.
~ Anne Morrow Lindbergh
(Gift from the Sea)

another oak leaf far from home

The heart of man is very much like the sea, it has its storms, it has its tides and in its depths it has its pearls too.
~ Vincent Van Gogh
(Letter to Theo van Gogh, October 31, 1876)

lost caravan

11.10.20 ~ foggy morning outside my kitchen window
dwarf river birch leaves in autumn

Latest statistics: New London County now has 4,668 confirmed cases of COVID-19. Of those, 33 people are currently in the hospital and 155 have lost their lives. That’s 1,212 new cases since October 24 when I last reported.

Connecticut’s positive test rate is now 6.4%. (It was 2.9% on October 24.)

Is your caravan lost?

It is,
If you no longer weep from gratitude or happiness,
Or weep
From being cut deep with the awareness
Of the extraordinary beauty
That emanates from the most simple act
And common object.

~ Hafiz
(Someone Untied Your Camel)

looking forward to ‘finding my caravan’ again soon…
11.10.20 ~ last three pictures taken in
Colonel Ledyard Cemetery, Groton, Connecticut

black-bellied plover

11.10.20 ~ Harkness Memorial State Park
Waterford, Connecticut

This is another state park we have avoided during the pandemic because it is so popular that it has closed early many times after its parking lot became filled to maximum capacity. We tried now on a weekday and found it busy but not crowded. There is much to see here, beautiful gardens and a mansion, but we headed for the nature preserve. A squirrel was here to greet us at this park, too.

Not sure what the above bush is but I liked the way it looked. The seed pods, below, remind me of pictures of the coronavirus, though. Sigh…

The path down to the cove was nice and wide, but we needn’t have worried about it because we didn’t encounter anyone down there. I took lots of pictures of the plants, the colors and textures were so pleasing to our eyes. The air was full of insect hums and buzzes.

When we got down to Goshen Cove I spotted a lone shorebird on the tidal mudflat, new to me, which my Facebook group helped me to identify: a juvenile black-bellied plover, or possibly a nonbreeding adult.

juvenile black-bellied plover

In breeding plumage, Black-bellied Plovers are a dazzling mix of snow white and jet black, accented by checkerboard wings. They are supreme aerialists, both agile and swift, and are readily identified at great distance by black axillaries (“armpit” feathers) in all plumages—and by their distinctive, mournful-sounding call. The largest and heaviest of North American plovers, Black-bellied is also the hardiest, breeding farther north than other species, at the very top of the world. It is also a very widespread shorebird, occurring on six continents.
~ All About Birds webpage

Tim took particular notice of this tree

After coming up from the nature preserve we followed a path across the lawn and down to the beach. We then encountered some people, some with masks and some without, but there was plenty of space to give them a nice wide berth.

Gratitude doesn’t change the scenery. It merely washes clean the glass you look through so you can clearly see the colors.
~ Richelle E. Goodrich
(Smile Anyway: Quotes, Verse & Grumblings for Every Day of the Year)

The whole setting had the feeling of an impressionist painting.

Our weather has been warmer than average and we broke a record for number of days in a row above 70° F (21° C) in November. Seven. The old record was four days in a row set in 2015 and 1975. It feels very unnatural.

Another public health doctor, Ashish Jha, has been on TV saying he’s not going to visit his parents for Thanksgiving, his example strengthening yet again our resolve to celebrate by ourselves, with video calls to the family. A vaccine seems to be close at hand now, maybe even by April, so it would be foolish to let our guard down at this point.

To lose patience is to lose the battle.
~ Mahatma Gandhi
(Insipiring Thoughts Of Mahatma Gandhi)

a squirrel’s estimate

11.6.20 ~ Bluff Point State Park & Coastal Reserve
Groton, Connecticut

A Saucer holds a Cup
In sordid human Life
But in a Squirrel’s estimate
A Saucer holds a Loaf —

A Table of a Tree
Demands the little King
And every Breeze that run along
His Dining Room do swing —

His Cutlery — he keeps
Within his Russet Lips —
To see it flashing when he dines
Do Birmingham eclipse —

Convicted — could we be
Of our Minutiae
The smallest Citizen that flies
Is heartier than we —

~ Emily Dickinson
(The Poems of Emily Dickinson, #1407)

It had been a couple of years since I’ve visited Bluff Point, but Tim hadn’t been here in ten years! There was still plenty of fall colors to enjoy.

The first time we came here was about forty years ago. I was very pregnant with our daughter and our sons were three and five years old. We walked all the way to the point, about a mile and a half, I think, maybe two, but on the way back the boys were too tired to walk any more. So Tim put the five-year-old on his shoulders and carried the three-year-old facing forward in front of him. The memory of his feat still amazes me to this day.

Ten years ago, when Tim’s cousin and her three children were visiting us for a weekend, we took them here for a long cold winter walk. Those children are grown up and on their own now, too.

We didn’t go all the way to the point this day, Tim’s hip started acting up about half an hour in. The path is pretty flat, which probably worked against him, as we learned this spring he does much better on uneven terrain. On the way back, we got off the path and wandered along the Poquonnock River bank back to the parking lot.

How different things are these days. That young couple with so much energy has vanished out of the scene. An older couple remains, strolling along, one of them stopping frequently to settle his bones while the other flutters around him, taking pictures of this and that with her camera. He’s still my best companion.

There were more people in the park than I thought there would be for a week day. Most had masks on and all were respectful of social distancing. Two squirrels were near the entrance, nibbling on something someone may have left for them earlier.

Once we encountered two women with masks on, walking down the wide path six feet apart from each other, but having a lively conversation. I guessed they might be friends meeting up for a visit. It made me start wondering if it would be safe for me to do something like that, too. Or would I be too nervous about inadvertently getting too close?

I have a feeling the pandemic will be over before I find a good way to make these decisions. For now, we’ll stay the course. This was a very refreshing walk.

it looks like these two trees are lifting the glacial erratic up off the ground
someone might be living under these roots
Poquonnock River
waning gibbous moon
I loved the sunlight on the bark of these trees
pretty bark
leaf caught by a branch on its way down
you never know where a smile might turn up
an adorable tufted titmouse
as we were leaving, a surprise in the sky, a powered hang glider

circling around the kettle

11.4.20 ~ Kettle Hole Trail
Ledyard, Connecticut

Kettles form when blocks of ice are broken off of the glacier and then buried in drift. When the retreating glacier melts, so does the block of ice, leaving a depression. Kettles can be very small and hard to find if they are obscured by foliage, and if the water remained in the hole, they can become lakes.
~ Jessica Cobb
(Connecticut’s Landscape Is the Story of Glaciers website)

a stone wall surrounded most of the kettle,
it’s hard to see how far the land drops down beyond the wall

While trying to learn more about glacial erratics online I discovered kettles, and learned that we had one nearby. And so Tim & I were off to have a look at Kettle Hole in Ledyard. A loop trail circles along the perimeter. Well, it was very large and easy to find, even though it was obscured by foliage, and was not filled with water. Unfortunately, this kettle was not easy to capture in a photograph, its depth (perhaps about 50′ – 15m) just didn’t show up in a flat picture. Sigh.

Tim thought the drop might be more visible from this angle
this rock looked like it had started to tumble into the kettle

All the same, we had a very pleasant walk on a lovely autumn day. And enjoyed photographing other things. We’ve had some rain here and there so our drought level has dropped to moderate, so we’re headed in the right direction.

rotting log covered with moss
not sure what to make of this,
it looked like a miniature fern growing out of and lying on top of the moss

All through autumn we hear a double voice: one says everything is ripe; the other says everything is dying. The paradox is exquisite.
~ Gretel Ehrlich
(The Solace of Open Spaces: Essays)

acorns and oak leaves on moss
fading fall colors
princess pines ♡ little fairy forests in my mind
spotting these evokes sweet memories from my childhood

The green branchlets and stems of princess pines stay fresh-looking all winter, and they stand out prominently on the dry browns of a forest floor. Being evergreen like that may have contributed to the name, even though princess pines do not make pine cones. People often collect the tough, pliable plants and make Christmas wreaths and lush table arrangements out of them. They last a long time that way, despite the dryness of life on bare walls and tabletops. All you have to do is soak them in water for an hour or so to revive them. Although princess pines do a fine job of evoking holiday spirit, I do not want to encourage you to go out and collect great heaps of them every year. So many people are doing it already that some of these plants are in danger of being wiped out.
~ Curt Stager
(Field Notes from the Northern Forest)