joyful and without regret

3.29.24 ~ Bolin Forest ~ red-shouldered hawk

It seemed like a good day to take a walk in our neighborhood woods to see what it looks like early in the spring. Recent storms had left us with over two inches of rain so we thought the creek might be nice and full. As we walked down the path towards the creek a hawk kept calling out, flying to and from its nest. Other birds were singing, too.

pinecone and rue-anemone
Bolin Creek flowing fast
sunlit new beech leaves
yellow-rumped warbler

When I rise up
let me rise up joyful
like a bird.

When I fall
let me fall without regret
like a leaf.

~ Wendell Berry
(The Mad Farmer Poems)


old beech leaf, finally pushed off the tree and floating downstream
(the ending of marcescence)
loblolly pine growing on the creek bank
looking up Bolin Creek
looking down Bolin Creek
caught and suspended
a bluet poking through the moss
(my favorite childhood flower)
female downy woodpecker

Finding that little bluet made my day! I wonder if there will be more of them as the season progresses. I’m used to seeing them in small clumps. Now we’re starting to see a few bugs flying around. Pretty soon it will be time to get the bug repellent out of the closet and leave it out next to the camera!

fading autumn

11.19.23 ~ Bolin Forest, Carrboro, North Carolina

On a chilly Sunday morning my friend Susan came over so we could take a very local wander in the woodlands. Susan has been living in this area many years so she led the way. Down the hill from us, on the edge of the neighborhood, is Bolin Creek, which runs through Bolin Forest. It might become a go-to place for Tim and me when we don’t want to have to drive somewhere for a nice walk.

crossing Bolin Creek
looking up Bolin Creek
reflections
beech leaves and shortleaf pine (?) bark
little holes in the bark might be resin pockets

A very unique bark characteristic separating shortleaf pine from loblolly, longleaf, and other southern pine species. These are resin pockets, also described by various references as “spherical pitch pockets,” “small spots of resin,” and “volcanoes.”
~ N.C. Cooperative Extension website

heavily shaded pine grove
eastern white pine (?)
marcescence with pine backdrop
leaf dam in Bolin Creek

Your thoughts don’t have words every day
They come a single time
Like signal esoteric sips
Of the communion Wine

~ Emily Dickinson
(The Poems of Emily Dickinson, #1476)

the winding up of autumn

image credit: Mouse23 at pixabay

Thanksgiving is the winding up of autumn. The leaves are off the trees, except here and there on a beech or an oak; there is nothing left on the boughs but a few nuts and empty bird’s nests. The earth looks desolate, and it will be a comfort to have the snow on the ground, and to hear the merry jingle of the sleigh-bells.
~ Oliver Wendell Holmes
(The Seasons)

Happy Thanksgiving!

around the meadow, into the woods

9.28.23 ~ Hollow Rock Nature Park
Durham, North Carolina

The turtle reminds me that I owe my small human life to the generosity of the more-than-human beings with whom we share this precious homeland. The Earth was made not by one alone but from the alchemy of two essential elements: gratitude for her gifts and the covenant of reciprocity. Together they formed what we know today as Turtle Island, or North America. In return for their gifts, it’s time that we gave ours in return.
~ Robin Wall Kimmerer
(The New York Times, September 24, 2023, “What Do We Owe Turtles?”)

We found a great place to walk with uneven terrain and only two people encountered along the way! We followed a trail around a large meadow full of wildflowers and humming with insects…

pearl crescent butterfly
cricket

And then we made our way into the woods and felt grateful for all the gifts it was offering on such a lovely day.

a huge beech tree

Tim spotted this box turtle ever so slowly swallowing its breakfast. I cannot tell if he was satisfied or not when he finally got that thing down. When we came back by to check on the turtle ten minutes later he was looking more alert and I was able to get the picture at the beginning of this post.

eastern box turtle
fruit of the American hophornbeam (aka ironwood)

What would a woodland be without squirrels scampering up and down the tree trunks?

eastern gray squirrel
eastern destroying angel amanita ~ poisonous
shaggy stalked bolete

The woods here have many similarities to the ones in New England, but they do have a different feel to them. The heavy presence of loblolly pines, not found up north, is one strikingly obvious difference. Likely I will start seeing more subtle distinctions as time goes on.

missing the lighthouses already

5.14.23 ~ New London Ledge Light
half a mile from Avery Point

One last walk at Avery Point…

Race Rock Light, eight miles away
from Avery Point
“Azucar” by Christopher Wynter
(Tim’s favorite sculpture)
common eider
New London Ledge Light
from the ledge in front of Branford House
in the garden on the ledge in front of Branford House
Avery Point Light
from the ledge in front of Branford House
two copper beeches on the Avery Point campus
one of the Cross Sound ferries
from New London, Connecticut to Orient Point, Long Island, New York
copper beech, gifts of healing energy for me
beautiful copper beech leaves
allium in the Cognitive Garden at Avery Point
daisy
lighthouse mosaic in the garden walkway

This brick path sculpture walk by the sea at Avery Point has been our go-to walk for many, many years. So close to home and so beautiful through all the seasons. It was the first place we walked after Tim’s heart attack and triple by-pass surgery. A place for healing and contemplation, especially to listen to the buoy bells and watch the sky when a storm was approaching. So many memories and changes through the years.

one morning in two lovely spring gardens

Edgerton & Stengel Memorial Wildflower Garden
5.7.23 ~ Connecticut College Arboretum

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!!!

golden ragwort
wild azalea
large-flowered bellwort (aka merrybells)
roseshell azalea
wild columbine (aka red columbine)
mayapple
bluets
eastern redbud
dwarf crested iris
Virginia bluebells
path into a rock garden
purple trillium
nodding trillium
yellow birch (aka swamp birch)
great white trillium
fern forest
Solomon’s seal
toadshade (aka toad trillium)
gray catbird singing for us
Caroline Black Garden
5.7.23 ~ Connecticut College Arboretum

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.

huge copper beech in the background
Janet noticed this bat lying motionless on a rock
blossoms reflected in water pool
unfurling
Janet looking into a garden “room”

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)

magnificent copper beech
stunning copper beech leaves
copper beech bark
looking up into the copper beach
eastern tiger swallowtail
dandelion seed caught on a flower stigma

I will miss my adventures with Janet, sharing with each other all the little details we notice along the way.

for it knew now where it was going

3.3.23 ~ Sheep Farm
remains of 18th century grist mill dam

We first came to this open space property three years ago, at the beginning of the pandemic, and have been here many times since. Since we know we’re going to North Carolina in a few months this visit seemed special because we were well aware that we may never pass this way again.

standing on top of the dam looking upstream at Fort Hill Brook

A few days ago I spent some time sorting through my “walks” index file, pulling our favorite walks out of the rotation so we might visit them one last time before we go. Please forgive me for this very lengthy post. I want to save as many picture memories as possible!

the lower side of the dam

Usually we walk down to the waterfall and back up the hill, but this time we explored two side trails. First we walked upstream to the dam and walked out on it until the break which lets the brook through now. Then we hopped down off the dam and walked along the brook, getting a different view. With no leaves on the trees yet we could see a lot of the features in the woods.

dam in upper left quarter of picture
the break to restore the water flow is visible between the two dam sections
the dam is above the waterfall, behind me

By the time it came to the edge of the Forest, the stream had grown up, so that it was almost a river, and, being grown-up, it did not run and jump and sparkle along as it used to do when it was younger, but moved more slowly. For it knew now where it was going, and it said to itself, “There is no hurry. We shall get there some day.” But all the little streams higher up in the Forest went this way and that, quickly, eagerly, having so much to find out before it was too late.
~ A. A. Milne
(The House at Pooh Corner)

turning around, looking down over the waterfall to the footbridge below

We had never been at the top of the waterfall before. Tim even went out over it a little bit. My legs didn’t seem long enough to jump down where he was.

Tim at the top of the waterfall
from near the top of the waterfall

Then we found the main trail again and made our way down to below the waterfall. I was looking forward to getting pictures of an old tree with amazing roots extending into the brook.

an impressive glacial erratic on along the trail down to the waterfall
the back of the old tree with amazing roots
looking at the waterfall from the footbridge downstream
looking at the waterfall from the opposite side of the brook
the front of the old tree with amazing roots

After crossing the footbridge and getting the above pictures we decided to follow a new trail for a little bit. Sheep Farm South, a property adjoining this one, was purchased by the Groton Open Space Association in April 2021. New trails were created on it and linked to the existing ones on Sheep Farm. So we started down this one which passes by a large moss covered outcrop. It was taller than Tim.

there were many kinds of mosses on this large outcrop
a dripping icicle at the end of a branch sticking out of the outcrop
layers at the top of the outcrop
moss sprouting out of lichen
looking back along the outcrop
moss at eye level, a different perspective than usual

After we passed the outcrop we found a path that went up above it and walked through the woods a bit until we circled around and spotted the waterfall below us. I’m pretty sure the little vine below is partridge berry. It looks like the plant my brother-in-law identified for us at Connecticut College Arboretum, although not as lush looking.

partridge berry (Tim found it!)
waterfall viewed from up high above the outcrop
scorias spongiosa on beech leaves
scorias spongiosa coating beech twigs
one side of the old tree with amazing roots

Before crossing the footbridge I noticed a side view of the tree with the water hugging roots. It was a rough trip back up the long hill to the parking lot because Tim’s sciatica started acting up, but he made it. Perhaps we strayed a little too far this time but we did get to see a lot of things we haven’t seen before.

one side of broken tree with hole
other side of broken tree with hole

Packing boxes have arrived and I’m feeling overwhelmed with the enormity of the task before us but it was great spending a little time outside in the woods we will miss so much.

winter wanderings

1.22.23 ~ Leo Antonino Preserve, Groton, Connecticut
first brook crossing on the yellow trail

On a cold and cloudy winter morning we decided to explore a relatively new open space property pretty close to home. Leo Antonino Preserve was acquired by the Avalonia Land Conservancy in 2018. What a pleasant surprise we had as we meandered along the loop trail, so many twists and turns, ups and downs and bubbling brooks to cross. We haven’t had any accumulating snow this January, not even a coating. But the woods did smell like winter and the crisp cold air soon gave us rosy cheeks and runny noses.

spotted wintergreen

We were curious about this mysterious black stuff we saw on lots of the beech trees. Is it another symptom of beech bark disease?

The Leo Antonino Preserve is an unexpected tract of woods, wetland, rock outcroppings and erratics … The trail includes short sections of wide-open travel on packed earth and longer stretches of single-file trail that are rocky and rooty with elevation changes. The trail travels through areas of beech and oak and along vernal pools and active brooks. Erratics and upthrust sections of granite illustrate the geologic history of this section of Connecticut. Also illustrative of the history of this property, the yellow trail features the wreck of an old Chevy truck. The section of the yellow trail north of the Chevy is the most challenging with a scramble over a steep rocky ridge.
~ Avalonia Land Conservancy website

beech marcescence
very green mosses were everywhere

We made several crossings over a (or two?) brook. There were no bridges so we used the stepping stones, feeling grateful that we didn’t slip on the mosses!

another crossing
Tim left the trail, climbed the hill and then appeared from behind these erratics
yet another crossing
the wreck of an old Chevy truck
spotted wintergreen
a rusting metal circle hanging from a branch
ferns growing on top of a rock outcropping
lichen with moss
moss and lichen on different levels
sitting on top of a rocky ridge
American wintergreen
woodpecker work, I presume
???

Near the end of the trail we spotted these black lines on the path. I can’t help wondering if it’s the same black stuff we saw on the beeches…

I’ve been trying to be more selective and to include fewer pictures in my posts, but I had to make an exception for this one. When we started this hike I didn’t expect to take many pictures but it seemed like around every turn there was something interesting to notice. We’re looking forward to returning and trying the blue trail through these woods.

moments of wonder and joy

1.7.23 ~ song sparrow at Moore Woodlands

Resuming our walks! When we arrived at Moore Woodlands the birds were singing and it sounded like spring. It was 44°F/7°C and cloudy on this warm-for-January day. As we started walking around the meadow a song sparrow came down to the bushes and started singing for us. This made my whole day!

standing out in the meadow
lone tree in the meadow
beech marcescence

It is not enough to weep for our lost landscapes; we have to put our hands in the earth to make ourselves whole again. Even a wounded world is feeding us. Even a wounded world holds us, giving us moments of wonder and joy. I choose joy over despair. Not because I have my head in the sand, but because joy is what the earth gives me daily and I must return the gift.
~ Robin Wall Kimmerer
(Braiding Sweetgrass: Indigenous Wisdom, Scientific Knowledge & The Teachings of Plants)

wondering what those rusty maroon blobs are growing with the reindeer moss
~ amber jelly roll mushrooms ~
(thanks to Eliza for the identification)

In the woods we found a great many eastern red cedar trees that must have come down in a storm. Where they fell across the trail they had been cut and moved off to the side. It was interesting seeing the redness of the freshly cut wood.

We also saw a lot of English ivy growing on the ground and climbing some of the trees. I did some research when I got home and learned that the ivy is invasive and greatly weakens the trees they climb, making them more likely to fall during strong winds. It looks like the Avalonia Land Conservancy has been working to remove the ivy from this patch of woodland. We also saw quite a few eastern white pine saplings.

It also looks like the land conservancy is starting to identify the trees with little tags! I’d like to get more familiar with our local trees and welcome this new aid. This was a lovely first walk for the new year. 🙂