snow melting in the oak-beech forest

12.24.20 ~ Poquetanuck Cove Preserve, Ledyard, Connecticut

On Christmas Eve morning we headed 13 miles north to find some snow without a sheet of ice on top of it. It was melting up in Ledyard but still looking lovely and was walkable. I was delighted! I was going to get my chance to walk in the snow covered woods!

trailhead, others had been here, too

In the winter there are fewer men in the fields and woods … you see the tracks of those who had preceded you, and so are more reminded of them than in summer.
~ Henry David Thoreau
(Journal, December 12, 1859)

first glimpse of a wolf tree

The preserve’s website mentioned wolf trees, which are “relics from the agricultural era when trees along the edges of fields could spread their branches.” My curiosity piqued, I soon spotted one. I’ve seen trees like this before, but didn’t know there was a term for them.

winter shadows are long and enchanting
moss peeking through the snow
beech marcescence with splotches of lichen
part of the huge wolf tree, probably an oak

In the strictest sense, wolf trees are those spared the axe during widespread Colonial-era deforestation in order to provide shade for livestock or mark a boundary. As second- and third-growth woods filled in abandoned pasture and farmland, these titans have become crowded by dense, spindly youngsters. Where those upstarts are tall and narrow, competing fiercely for canopy light, the wolf tree they surround has fat, laterally extended boughs and a comparatively squat trunk—a testament to the open, sunny country in which it once prospered.
~ Ethan Shaw
(The Old in the Forest: Wolf Trees of New England & Farther Afield)

wolf tree bark close up
wolf tree leaves high up on a branch
my favorite picture capturing the magic of the snowy woods
Avery Hill Brook

When we got to the brook we decided to turn around because there was no bridge and crossing over by stepping on the small rocks looked like a dicey proposition. But on the way back we paid more attention to the little things peeping out from under the snow.

ice, leaves, moss, lichen, rock
oak leaf in snow
chunky snow melting on rock
lichen, moss, leaves, snow

The winter, with its snow and ice, is not an evil to be corrected. It is as it was designed and made to be, for the artist has had leisure to add beauty to use.
~ Henry David Thoreau
(Journal, December 11, 1855)

more beech marcescence
part of rock surrounded by melting snow
simplicity
puffs and sparkle

We will return some day, better prepared to cross the brook and make our way to the cove, where we might find osprey and waterfowl. It was good to get a great walk in before heading home to hunker down for the fast approaching Christmas wind and rain storm.

We wound up having a good Christmas, even though it was pouring rain all day. There were treasured video calls with family. We finished a jigsaw puzzle together while listening to my winter solstice playlist on shuffle. Watched the final episodes of a Norwegian TV series on Netflix, Home for Christmas, dubbed in English. (Hjem til Jul)

“In the Still Light of Dawn” by Alan Giana

As we started to close the drapes at dusk we found ourselves awestruck. The eastern sky, opposite of the sunset, was violet!!! We couldn’t believe our eyes! The color comes from the extra moisture in the atmosphere refracting the setting sun’s light rays so that the violet is reflected.

12.25.20 ~ eastern sky at sunset

Color! What a deep and mysterious language, the language of dreams.
~ Paul Gauguin
(Perception & Imaging: Photography as a Way of Seeing)

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. 🌲

bits of color in the woods by the cove

12.2.20 ~ Town’s End, Noank, Connecticut

We found yet another place to walk! This is a very small nature preserve, wedged between houses, a highway and Beebe Cove.

On the east side of Noank Road (Rte. 215) across from Beebe Pond Park. Approximately 0.3 mile of trails beginning behind the grey gate. Mature, mixed hardwood forest, with a narrow tidal marsh extending 900 feet along the edge of Beebe Cove.
~ Avalonia Land Conservancy website

I couldn’t help but be drawn to the little bits of color standing out in the drab woods.

And then we came across a huge glacial erratic! Complete with bench. We didn’t appreciate how big it was until he climbed up and I walked down alongside of it.

Tim bypassed the bench and headed out to the rock on top.
Tim reported that the view over the trees to the cove was “nice.”
I was about half way down to the base.
From the base.

It seemed like I was stopping every ten steps to capture nature’s art. We finally got to the cove.

tidal marsh
seaweed
Beebe Cove

The type of magical experience that Druidry fosters is … the type of experience you get when you trek out into the wilds of nature and you are overwhelmed with a feeling of awe that has nothing to do with owning or getting anything. When you can look at life, and experience that none of it belongs to you, quite magically and paradoxically you can feel then — in the depths of your being — that you truly belong in the world.
~ Philip Carr-Gomm
(Druid Mysteries: Ancient Wisdom for the 21st Century)

oak leaf behind bars
view of the woods as we were leaving

You would never have known there was so much color under those cloudy skies and gray branches! After we got home we had some graupel, even though there was no precipitation in the weather forecast. All pictures were taken with gloves on. A chilly wintry day.

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)

morning light

10.22.18 ~ morning light ~ Chapel Hill, North Carolina

As a scientist I am indeed only an ant, insufficient and anonymous, but I am stronger than I look and part of something that is much bigger than I am. Together we are building something that will fill our grandchildren’s grandchildren with awe, and while building we consult daily the crude instructions provided by our grandfathers’ grandfathers. As a tiny, living part of the scientific collective, I’ve sat alone countless nights in the dark, burning my metal candle and watching a foreign world with an aching heart. Like anyone else who harbors precious secrets wrought from years of searching, I have longed for someone to tell.
~ Hope Jahren
(Lab Girl)

Reading Lab Girl by Hope Jahren was eye-opening for me. My father was a scientist and, like many children, I didn’t have much of a grasp on what he did all day. I knew he was researching chicken viruses in a lab at the university. Sometimes he would take my sister and me to work and I noticed all sorts of lab equipment, especially a special light he used to examine chicken embryos in their shells. I knew every couple of years he would be stressing about whether he would get funding for another couple of years. (He always did.) Once I tried to read his PhD thesis, but it was like trying to read a foreign language.

In this book Jahren, who studies plants, introduced me to the concept of curiosity-driven research. The scientist sets up and runs experiments to investigate whatever she happens to be wondering about. Any “real-world” applications of the results are not immediately apparent or sought. Collecting data is pure joy for her. She adds to the volume of scientific knowledge and leaves information for future scientists to make use of in their own research.

Now I get what my father was doing all those years! He may not have made any dazzling discoveries but he was an important ‘part of something that is much bigger than he was.’ Hope Jahren gives a very enlightening look into the everyday world of scientists, in words all of us will understand.

Nærøyfjord & Aurlandsfjord III

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5.24.15 ~ Sogn og Fjordane, Norway

I’m pretty sure these pictures were along Aurlandsfjord, as I mentioned before, I’m not certain when we left Nærøyfjord and entered Aurlandsfjord…

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5.24.15 ~ Sogn og Fjordane, Norway

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5.24.15 ~ Sogn og Fjordane, Norway

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5.24.15 ~ Sogn og Fjordane, Norway

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5.24.15 ~ Sogn og Fjordane, Norway

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5.24.15 ~ Sogn og Fjordane, Norway

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5.24.15 ~ Sogn og Fjordane, Norway

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5.24.15 ~ Sogn og Fjordane, Norway

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5.24.15 ~ Sogn og Fjordane, Norway

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5.24.15 ~ Sogn og Fjordane, Norway

What I love about the picture above is that you can see a woman in a blue jacket peering into the window of the church. 🙂

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5.24.15 ~ Sogn og Fjordane, Norway

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5.24.15 ~ Sogn og Fjordane, Norway

Our first glimpse of Flåm from the fjord. The Norwegian Star cruise ship was still there, dominating the landscape. Our hotel was the brown building to the right of the ship.

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5.24.15 ~ Sogn og Fjordane, Norway

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5.24.15 ~ Sogn og Fjordane, Norway

We were back in Flåm now but our day was not over. We picked up our bags at the hotel and boarded another ferry, this time a high-speed ferry which would take us to Bergen via Aurlandsfjord and Sognefjord in five and a half hours!

Nærøyfjord & Aurlandsfjord II

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More pictures from our ferry ride on Nærøyfjord and Aurlandsfjord…

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our traveling companions, Tim’s brother, Dan, and his wife, Fran ~ yes, it was COLD!…

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sheep, I think

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That tiny little house (above) captured my imagination. I wonder what it would be like to live there, especially in the winter. The ferry does run, although less frequently, in the winter.

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Those colorful dots (above) near the waterfall are kayakers! In the picture below is the same waterfall, the barely visible kayakers dwarfed by the mountain!

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Still more pictures coming!

Nærøyfjord & Aurlandsfjord I

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After we took our bus through the mountains we emerged in the tiny village of Gudvangen, located at the end of Nærøyfjord, which is an arm of Aurlandsfjord, which in turn, is an arm of Sognefjord. Getting off of our bus we immediately boarded our ferry for an eleven mile ride on Nærøyfjord.

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Nærøyfjord is named after Njord, a Norse god associated with wind, seafarers, coasts, and inland waters. It is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and if I had to choose, this may have been my favorite part of our whole trip. The scenery was spectacular, and even though it was raining for most of our ferry ride we were spellbound.

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I wasn’t quite sure at what point we left Nærøyfjord and entered Aurlandsfjord so I’m posting these pictures together, and, I’m splitting them into three posts so this post won’t be unbearably long. However, they are in the order they were taken. It was difficult deciding which pictures to use, but I think I managed to cull the cream of the crop for my readers!

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I couldn’t get over how tiny the houses seemed sitting at the base of the mountains. The mist and clouds offered a heightened sense of drama. And as we were learning about Norway, there was always another waterfall to be seen as we sailed on. On the shores we also saw small villages, farms, sheep and goats.

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It is steep and deep, shallow and wide, wild and gentle. Nærøyfjord is a 18 km long branch of the worlds second longest fjord Sognefjord (204 km). It is only 250 metres at the narrowest, and more than one kilometres at the widest. The depth varies between 10 and 500 metres. The surrounding mountains are up to more than 1400 metres high.
~ www.naeroyfjord.com

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More pictures coming!

Flåm

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Morning light in Flåm, Norway, looking off the balcony of our hotel room. (above) Morning is my favorite time of day and this particular morning we did not have to rush off to catch a train or a ferry or a bus so we could enjoy a a few leisurely hours in the village before our next adventure.

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good morning! ~ friendly little curious female house sparrow

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later on we would cross this bridge on a bus to get to a long tunnel to Gudvangen

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it didn’t take me long to find a few gulls

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entrance to Ægir Brewery & Pub, where we had dinner the night before

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wood carvings in a dead tree near our hotel

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so many lovely birch trees

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Ægir Brewery & Pub ~ it’s only open for dinner

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Flåmsbrygga Hotel, the warmth of knotty pine floors and doors

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Ægir Brewery, sign above entrance

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Tim on a little stone seat sticking out of the wall of the Flåmstova Restaurant

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wall in the Flåmstova Restaurant, where we had breakfast

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ceiling in the Flåmstova Restaurant

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While we were eating breakfast by a picture window, enjoying the view of garden, fjord and mountain, a cruise ship very slowly pulled into port! Then we could barely see the mountain over the top of it! Cruise ships are amazingly large – Flåm was such a tiny port I am sure it couldn’t possibly accommodate more than one of them at a time.

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I still can’t get over how it was spring on the fjord and winter in the mountains

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there was a hiking path up through the farms hugging the side of the mountain

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wish we had time to hike up there, but the zoom lens came in handy to capture this scene

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We boarded a small bus to take us through the mountains to Gudvangen. This is the entrance to Flenja Tunnel (above) which is 5,053m long. (16,578′). We came out of it for only 500m (1,640′) before entering Gudvanga Tunnel, which is 11,428m (7.1 mi) long, Norway’s second longest road tunnel.

Next stop: Ferry ride on Nærøyfjord from Gudvangen back to Flåm.