bark, fungi, lichen, moss (and a bird)

3.9.21 ~ The Merritt Family Forest, Groton, Connecticut

We had a lovely winding stroll through what’s becoming my favorite woods on Tuesday. It felt like a visit to an early spring outdoor art gallery. The weather was perfect and we encountered quite a few people along the way enjoying the sunshine.

Even though there were many birds chirping and flitting about I was only able to capture one of them with my camera!

tufted titmouse

And solitary places; where we taste
The pleasure of believing what we see
Is boundless, as we wish our souls to be.

~ Percy Bysshe Shelley
(The Poetical Works of Percy Bysshe Shelley: In Three Volumes)

Wednesday we went to have our income taxes done. It was the last thing we did last year before we went into self-quarantine. We double-masked up, not knowing what to expect, and our masked preparer waved us a greeting and unlocked the door. It was good to know they weren’t letting people wander in without appointments. Someone in the office had tested positive recently so most of the preparers were at home in quarantine but ours had been fully vaccinated so she was working in the office. Glad to see there was plexiglass and hand sanitizer everywhere…

So it’s been a year. We have both had our first vaccination shots. Tim gets his second Moderna on the 17th and I will get my second Pfizer on the 26th. Looks like our self-quarantine will officially end on April 9. Plans for the little ones (and their parents!) to come for a visit are in the works, most likely in May. It’s all I can think about!

Unlike animals, trees cannot heal a wound by repairing or replacing injured tissues. Instead they wall them off, compartmentalizing them by means of chemical and physical barriers, and subsequently form healthy new growth around them. A succession of organisms, from bacteria and fungi to slugs, insects, and other small animals, moves in to utilize the nutrients and spaces opened up by a tree wound. These organisms in turn provide an important food source for many birds and other animals who live in surrounding uplands as well as in the swamp.
~ David M. Carroll
(Swampwalker’s Journal: A Wetlands Year)

We will still wear our masks and practice social distancing in public, but I think we will go more places and are even looking forward to eating at our favorite restaurant again, starting outdoors until we feel comfortable going inside…

But, fair warning, these are the latest statistics: New London County now has 19,624 confirmed cases of COVID-19. Of those, 10 people are currently in the hospital and 417 have lost their lives. That’s 2,871 new cases since January 30 when I last reported. Will a day ever come when there are no new cases reported?

Connecticut’s positive test rate is now 3.07%. 25% of Connecticut residents have had their first dose of vaccine. Connecticut has had 7,752 deaths since the pandemic began. We are still averaging 7 deaths a day in the state. These are people and families are still being devastated by the loss of the their loved ones. Each and every one of these people represented by the numbers was the most important person in the world so someone. We still have to be very careful and not let our guard down.

My hope is, when we come out of self-quarantine, that we will continue with our nature walks and not get too swept up in the demands of a return to “normal” life.

It is easy to overlook this thought that life just is. As humans we are inclined to feel that life must have a point. We have plans and aspirations and desires. We want to take constant advantage of all the intoxicating existence we’ve been endowed with. But what’s life to a lichen? Yet its impulse to exist, to be, is every bit as strong as ours — arguably even stronger. If I were told that I had to spend decades being a furry growth on a rock in the woods, I believe I would lose the will to go on. Lichens don’t. Like virtually all living things, they will suffer any hardship, endure any insult, for a moment’s additional existence. Life, in short, just wants to be. But — and here’s an interesting point — for the most part it doesn’t want to be much.
~ Bill Bryson
(A Short History of Nearly Everything)

cabin fever countermeasure

2.9.21 ~ solitary birch, Birch Plain Creek

I bundled up and braved the cold again. We decided to stay in our neighborhood for a walk in the snow. It’s been snowing a lot so far this month, and sticking around for a few days. I took fewer pictures this time out in order to keep my fingers tucked into my thinsulate gloves. We drive by this gorgeous birch tree often, but since it’s wedged between a busy road and a creek it never feels safe enough to park, get out of the car, and get a picture. So I finally walked down and got one after living here for 27 years!

red-bellied woodpecker

We heard this woodpecker calling and looked way up in the trees and at last spotted him. Not sure what he was up to but it was fun to see another being out in the frigid weather. I’ve always loved walking in the snow but it must be that getting older is making me much more sensitive to the cold. I’m torn between wanting to get out there and not wanting to feel frozen!

It was the kind of snow that brought children running out their doors, made them turn their faces skyward, and spin in circles with their arms outstretched.
~ Eowyn Ivey
(The Snow Child)

Birch Plain Creek, snow covered ice

This folding chair (below) has been sitting by the creek for years, but I’ve never seen anyone sitting on it. Sometimes it gets knocked over but most of the time we find it upright, ready and waiting for someone…

The bare trees are that smoky-lavender, gray and withdrawn. … I know a little more how much a simple thing like a snowfall can mean to a person.
~ Sylvia Plath
(The Unabridged Journals of Sylvia Plath)

One last picture before the camera battery died… Time to get back indoors! After we came inside it started snowing again. 💙

8 inches of snow!

12.17.20 ~ nisse by our dwarf river birch 

Nothing captures our imagination more than the idea of nature spirits. Stories about them are found in every tradition upon the planet, and they never fail to touch us in some way. The truth is that most of us have had amazing nature spirit encounters, but we have either forgotten them, didn’t realize what they were at the time or allowed others to convince us that they weren’t real. But the truth is that Nature is one of the most powerful realms of spirit contact and guidance available to us.
~ Ted Andrews
(The Intercession of Spirits)

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

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 force of happiness

5.17.19 ~ bark of dwarf river birch, my garden

Such is the Force of Happiness —
The Least — can lift a ton
Assisted by it’s stimulus —

Who Misery — sustain —
No Sinew can afford —
The Cargo of Themselves —
Too infinite for Consciousness’
Slow capabilities —

~ Emily Dickinson
(The Poems of Emily Dickinson, #889)

5.17.19 ~ new leaves of our dwarf river birch

We planted this tree in our garden in the spring of 2014 and it has brought me so much happiness. Especially in this season, when the leaves come in and start competing with the bark curls for visual interest. When I open my kitchen shades each morning and see more and more green ~ pure joy. In summer it protects the kitchen windows from the harshest afternoon sun.

Yes, happiness is uplifting, and misery weighs us down, too heavy, impossible to carry alone. Grieving a loss is often a slow process, and might last a lifetime.

I count having the company of this tree as one of my many blessings.

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.

Heddal Stavkyrkje

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scenery on the road between Skien and Notodden, Norway

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more scenery

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one of countless food storage houses (stabbur) we saw everywhere

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when I dream of Norway I see many birch trees

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Heddal Stave Church in Notodden

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memorial to Olea Crøger

Olea Crøger (1801-1855) was the daughter of a pastor from Heddal Stave Church, known for collecting Norwegian folk music and folklore.

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the church was dedicated to the Virgin Mary in 1242

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on a headstone in the churchyard

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in the cemetery

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the west side of the church, and main entrance

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altarpiece

After the Reformation alterations to the church were slowly made. The date of the painting showing the crucifixion of Jesus by an unknown artist is 1667. The one above it, of Christ rising from his tomb, was painted by Lars Osa about 1908.

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above the altar

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The Heddal portals are a mixture of fauna and floral ornamentation. The western portal is dominated by leaf carvings but the vines transform into snake shapes with poisonous heads. Other animal bodies can also be seen. … These motifs were renown in Norse religion and superstition but were reinterpreted in Christian art. They did of course provide a sense of familiarity for churchgoers who found it difficult to let go of their old heathen faith. At the same time these wild depictions became a symbol of the battle between good and evil in the world. This was a central topic both in the new and old faith.
~ Heddal Stavechurch guidebook

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I noticed that most of the columns inside the church had a simple carving at the bottom of the arches, but on either side of the southern entrance portal columns there was a carving of a creature of some sort (above). In the picture below you can see the simple carvings of three oval leaves (?) on the bottom of the arches, about the same level as the lights.

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So I asked the docent about it. She explained that men used to enter the church from the southern portal and were thought to be more likely to bring corruption into the church, so the gargoyle was needed to scare off the evil. The women, on the other hand, used the northern portal and were already protected by the Virgin Mary.

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based on “Soria Moria Castle” by Theodor Kittelsen

It was chilly that day and we appreciated a cup of hot cocoa in the visitor center. I was delighted to find these copies of paintings on the backs of a couple of chairs. I’ve been using Theodor Kittelsen’s calendar art in my posts on the 15th of each month since August.

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based on “White Bear King Valemon” by Theodor Kittelsen

Next stop: Viking Ship Museum in Oslo.

numinous mystery

"October" by Efim Volkov (1844-1920) Russian Realism Painter
“October” by Efim Volkov

How lovely trees are. The human species grew up in and around them. We have a natural affinity for trees. … We human beings don’t look very much like a tree. We certainly view the world differently than a tree does. But down deep, at the molecular heart of life we’re essentially identical to trees.
~ Carl Sagan
(Cosmos)

When a man plants a tree, he plants himself. Every root is an anchor, over which he rests with grateful interest, and becomes sufficiently calm to feel the joy of living.
~ John Muir
(Steep Trails)

A tree is a self: it is unseen shaping more than it is leaves or bark, roots or cellulose or fruit. … We can not point to anything physical and say, “There is the self!” This holds for the tree’s activity as well as for the human’s. What it means is that we must address trees. We must address all things, confronting them in the awareness that we are in the presence of numinous mystery. Who shapes the tree? Who shapes my thoughts? We are in the mystery of the self.
~ Brian Swimme
(The Universe Is a Green Dragon: A Cosmic Creation Story)