a cast of characters

8.16.19 ~ Eastern Point Beach
This is probably a laughing gull somewhere on the road to adulthood.
It takes them 2-3 years to gain adult plumage.
He kept a close eye on us, staring intently as we ate our supper.
This young ring-billed gull decided to attract our attention with all sorts of antics right in front of our bench.
His long call was not very long or very loud, thankfully.
They grey freckles on his head are fetching.
Showing off some fancy footwork.
This guy kept his distance as he was performing
the amazing “feet” of standing on one leg.
He stayed like that the whole time we were eating.
Look to the right…
Head down…
Keeping his gaze forward…
Now to the left. Perhaps he was doing some gull yoga.

There were no herring gulls there that evening, not even my friend with the mangled leg. But we were well entertained by these visitors.

do not disturb

On our next visit to the beach we sat in our usual spot to enjoy some supper and noticed that my gull friend wasn’t around. Instead we had two large juvenile great black-backed gulls (above and below) pacing back and forth in front of us, probably hoping for a handout. Eventually they will learn that these two humans never feed gulls! Perhaps they were the offspring of the gull bothering my herring gull during our previous visit?

Anyhow, after we ate we took a little walk. Tim spotted my gull friend first, sitting way out on a section of rocks where we are not allowed to climb. I called out a greeting but he seemed determined to ignore me. He turned his head a couple of times, but didn’t respond. And so parts of a Van Morrison song came to mind…

Other times you just can’t reach me
Seems like I’ve got a heart of stone
Guess I need my solitude
And I have to make it on my own

Well I guess I’m going A.W.O.L.
Disconnect my telephone
Just like Greta Garbo
I want to be alone

Too long to decode all the secrets
Have to get some elbow room
Most people think that everything
Is just what they assume

Well I know I’m going A.W.O.L.
Tell everyone I’m not at home
Just like Greta Garbo
I just want to be alone

~ Van Morrison
♫ (Just Like Greta) ♫

Having a very strong need for “alone” time myself I gave him his space and let him be.

Thompson Cemetery

7.5.19 ~ the first map used to try to locate the Thompson Cemetery

What a day! I was doing some research early in the morning and found the address to a cemetery in North Stonington where one of my 5th-great-grandfathers is buried. Tim suggested we go find it and so we set out. The address was incorrect. We couldn’t find it. But we found the town hall and a very helpful clerk there who solved the puzzle for us, using a variety of maps. We were on our way once again.

7.5.19 ~ found at last!

It’s a very small family cemetery on private property. The gate was locked so we somehow managed with our old aching bodies to climb over that stone wall. That’s determination for you. We landed in poison ivy and other greenery, full of ticks, for sure. But we found what we were looking for, tucked in the back, close to the stone wall.

In
Memory of
JAMES
THOMSON
who died
Jan. 30, 1808
Aged 92 years

In
Memory of
MARY,
wife of
James Thomson
who died
April 10, 1803
Aged 73 years

7.5.19 ~ the back of Mary’s headstone, nestled between a lovely tree, the stone wall, and her husband’s headstone

I was disappointed, but not at all surprised, to not discover Mary’s maiden name. I went to the cemetery believing she had given birth to 15 children and wondered what her life must have been like. Something about the data I had at home didn’t quite seem to add up.

When we got home we first took showers to wash away any possible poison ivy oil.

And then I was back online for hours trying to see if I could find anything else about Mary. Well, it turns out that there were two Marys! James’ first wife was Mary Dixon, the mother of 5 of his children, and his second wife was Mary Denison, the mother of 10 of his children. The Mary in the cemetery is the second wife, and my 5th-great-grandmother. It’s no wonder there is so much confusion but I think I’ve finally got it sorted out.

I descend from Mary Denison’s youngest son, Elias Thompson. He was born here in 1773 but moved to Kendall, New York and died there in 1848. His daughter, Lucy Anne, married Austin White and stayed here. I’m learning how deeply connected to southeastern Connecticut my roots are and why I feel so at home living here.

James Thompson (1724-1808) & Mary Denison (1728-1803)
Elias Thompson (1773-1848)
Lucy Anne Thompson (1808-1852)
William Martin White (1836-1925)
Samuel Minor White (1873-1949)
John Everett White (1905-2001) ~ my grandfather

After getting bleary-eyed online we finally went to the beach for supper. While waiting for our order and looking out over the water I suddenly saw my gull friend sitting on one of his posts! “My friend!” I exclaimed and rushed down the stairs and over the grass to say hello. He acknowledged me and took off, flying in a great circle and then came back and landed on a rock, safely away from some gull-chasing children. We gazed at each other for a long time and then he reached down into the water and brought up a large crab. He flew his catch to a rock closer to me and proceeded to break it up and eat it. I was mesmerized. It was so wonderful to see him again.

Of course I hadn’t brought the camera or my cell phone. But Tim got this picture of him. It’s kind of amazing, I first met this gull in 2011, 8 years ago. Most gulls can survive from 10-15 years in the wild. Perhaps we’ll be friends for a few more years to come.

Our first meeting: in the offing. It was a perfect ending to a great day. (And let’s hope we don’t wake up with poison ivy tomorrow…)

to dew her orbs upon the green

6.26.19 ~ heavy with dew

And I serve the fairy queen,
To dew her orbs upon the green:
The cowslips tall her pensioners be;
In their gold coats spots you see;
Those be rubies, fairy favours,
In those freckles live their savours:
I must go seek some dew-drops here,
And hang a pearl in every cowslip’s ear.

~ William Shakespeare
(A Midsummer Night’s Dream)

6.26.19 ~ cedar waxwing enjoying a mulberry
6.26.19 ~ dragonfly landing on dewy grass

We had a very wet spring and so far it’s looking to be a wet summer, too. Tuesday we got two inches of rain! It rained all day and I enjoyed many hours of family history research. But Wednesday we emerged from our den and took a walk in the very wet woods. And we saw several cedar waxwings, a new bird for us!

6.26.19 ~ cedar waxwing
6.26.19 ~ serenity
6.26.19 ~ ferns covering a bubbling brook
6.26.19
6.26.19 ~ cedar waxwing

As I approached this tree I was trying to figure out if it might be a shagbark hickory. (Still not sure…) And then a new experience for me: orbs appeared in the viewfinder when I went to take a picture! In the past, orbs have been an occasional surprise when they show up in pictures downloaded from the camera. But these were there before I even took the picture.

6.26.19
6.26.19 ~ looking up the tree with orbs
6.26.19 ~ more magic, sunlight highlighting a stone covered in lichen

In the span of centuries the rock became glazed with a gray-green crust of lichen almost indistinguishable from the rock itself, a bare coating of life.
~ Robin Wall Kimmerer
(Braiding Sweetgrass: Indigenous Wisdom, Scientific Knowledge & The Teachings of Plants)

6.26.19 ~ juniper berries?
6.26.19

These trees and stones are audible to me,
These idle flowers, that tremble in the wind,
I understand their faery syllables,
And all their sad significance.

~ Ralph Waldo Emerson
(Collected Poems of Ralph Waldo Emerson 1823-1911)

Viking Days #2

6.2.19 ~ Viking Days at Mystic Seaport

Last year’s Viking Days at Mystic Seaport was such a success that they decided to have another one this year. The weather was cool and comfortable and there were plenty of Vikings out and about.

6.2.19 ~ Viking Days at Mystic Seaport

We again enjoyed strolling through the Viking encampment set up by Draugar Vinlands.

6.2.19 ~ Viking Days at Mystic Seaport

No Norwegian fjord horses this year, instead there were Gotland sheep, a domestic breed named for the Swedish island of Gotland.

6.2.19 ~ Viking Days at Mystic Seaport ~ weaving with Gotland sheep wool
6.2.19 ~ Viking Days at Mystic Seaport ~ a bag lunch for sheep
6.2.19 ~ Viking Days at Mystic Seaport ~ one finally came up for air
6.2.19 ~ Viking Days at Mystic Seaport ~ skeins of the wool
6.2.19 ~ Viking Days at Mystic Seaport ~ the wool is very soft
6.2.19 ~ Viking Days at Mystic Seaport ~ close up of weaving
6.2.19 ~ Viking Days at Mystic Seaport ~ ???
6.2.19 ~ Viking Days at Mystic Seaport

The Draken Harald Hårfagre Viking ship (above) spent another winter here. I’m not sure what its future plans may be. It was open for tours.

6.2.19 ~ Viking Days at Mystic Seaport

The majestic wooden whaleship Charles W. Morgan (above) is always a pleasure to see.

6.2.19 ~ Viking Days at Mystic Seaport ~ the blessed green of summer

I was happy to see the Denison Pequotsepos Nature Center‘s presentation about birds of prey again. The Vikings were falconers but the birds we were shown are from Connecticut. All were injured and brought to the nature center but were unable to live in the wild after their recovery.

6.2.19 ~ Viking Days at Mystic Seaport
~ screech owl with head turned away
6.2.19 ~ Viking Days at Mystic Seaport ~ short-eared owl
6.2.19 ~ Viking Days at Mystic Seaport ~ short-eared owl
6.2.19 ~ Viking Days at Mystic Seaport ~ kestrel
6.2.19 ~ Viking Days at Mystic Seaport ~ kestrel

The first birds shown we’ve seen before but a new one has joined the group. It’s a red-shouldered hawk who was found hit by a car and brought in to the nature center. He had a recently broken wing and an x-ray revealed an older break, too, that hadn’t healed well. He’s all right now, but cannot fly far enough to survive in the wild. So he’s getting used to his new life educating the public. This was only his third time being shown. He seemed as awed at the sight of us as we were of him.

6.2.19 ~ Viking Days at Mystic Seaport
~ red-shouldered hawk
6.2.19 ~ Viking Days at Mystic Seaport
~ red-shouldered hawk
6.2.19 ~ Viking Days at Mystic Seaport
~ red-shouldered hawk
6.2.19 ~ Viking Days at Mystic Seaport
~ red-shouldered hawk
6.2.19 ~ Viking Days at Mystic Seaport ~ screech owl
6.2.19 ~ Viking Days at Mystic Seaport
~ red-shouldered hawk

After the birds of prey presentation we spotted a couple of young Scottish Highland cattle. We were told they are 8 months old.

6.2.19 ~ Viking Days at Mystic Seaport ~ Scottish Highland cattle
6.2.19 ~ Viking Days at Mystic Seaport ~ Scottish Highland cattle
6.2.19 ~ Viking Days at Mystic Seaport ~ Scottish Highland cattle
6.2.19 ~ Viking Days at Mystic Seaport ~ Scottish Highland cattle

And of course, we were mingling with Vikings…

6.2.19 ~ Viking Days at Mystic Seaport
6.2.19 ~ Viking Days at Mystic Seaport
6.2.19 ~ Viking Days at Mystic Seaport
6.2.19 ~ Viking Days at Mystic Seaport

On our way out we spotted these purple alliums.

6.2.19 ~ Viking Days at Mystic Seaport ~ alliums in sea of green
6.2.19 ~ Viking Days at Mystic Seaport ~ allium

We left with three bottles of mead for summer solstice, two skeins of Gotland sheep wool, and a camera full of pictures in my backpack. It was just as much fun as last year!

out and about

5.2.19 ~ Mystic, Connecticut ~ sunbathing
5.2.19 ~ Mystic, Connecticut ~ sunbathing mate
5.2.19 ~ Mystic, Connecticut ~ surveying the pond
5.2.19 ~ Mystic, Connecticut ~ so busy eating I never did see its face
5.2.19 ~ Mystic, Connecticut ~ posing
5.2.19 ~ Mystic, Connecticut ~ spring’s beauty!
5.1.19 ~ Chapel Hill, North Carolina ~ Finn and a snake
We have another budding nature lover in the family!

I’ve been under the weather for a few weeks, but yesterday I just had to get out of the house, go for a scenic car ride, and then a walk. Trees are greening! April was the wettest month in Connecticut history so we were grabbing some prime time between rainfalls. Can’t say being out there was any good for the allergies, but it sure lifted my spirits.

4.27.19 ~ Chapel Hill, North Carolina ~ Katherine and primrose in full bloom
~ last two photos by Dima ~

television

Happy Spring!

Work on the stuff in boxes has slowed way down because one box in particular has loads of my work from grammar school. Work that my mother had saved. The trip down memory lane has been surreal… and slow…

The above drawing was with a group of papers created when I was about seven years old. We had to draw things we were thankful for. I drew my house, the American flag, and this television. It made me smile.

Recently I’ve learned that I think in pictures, rather than words or patterns. I had a reputation for being a bookworm, and I do love read, but I do it very slowly and my reading comprehension is not up to par. (I now have my grade school report cards to confirm that.) I find it very interesting that I did not draw a book for this assignment!

I still love watching T.V., although at times I am embarrassed to admit it. Some people can be pretty snooty about how mind-numbing they think most of what is offered is. And it is. But as I was growing up my parents required us to watch nature (think Jacques Cousteau), science and history documentaries. To this day I still watch and enjoy them!

After my mother died I would watch T.V. with my father on Wednesday nights, Nature and Nova on PBS. And Masterpiece Theatre on Sundays. And nowadays you will find me glued to the set when Finding Your Roots, with Henry Louis Gates, Jr. comes on!

One night in October last year, I found an episode of Nature online. I invited Katherine to watch A Squirrel’s Guide to Success with me on my laptop. To my surprise and delight, she was utterly fascinated — we do watch squirrels a lot when we’re outside — and stayed put to watch the whole program with me. 🙂

I will keep reading books, but I’m more gentle with myself now when I have difficulty following along. And in honor of my inner child, I will now be watching T.V. without apology!!!

winter in the marsh

2.20.19 ~ Barn Island ~ marsh observation area

Yesterday Janet and I explored Barn Island Wildlife Management Area in Stonington, the “largest primitive coastal area left unspoiled in Connecticut.” It was a cloudy, chilly winter afternoon, with snow flurries starting up just as we were leaving.

2.20.19 ~ Barn Island ~ Red-breasted Merganser
2.20.19 ~ Barn Island ~ moss and ice on stone
2.20.19 ~ Barn Island ~ trees with fluffy moss?
2.20.19 ~ Barn Island ~ tidal creek
2.20.19 ~ Barn Island ~ solitary evergreen
2.20.19 ~ Barn Island ~ one tree with shelf mushrooms
2.20.19 ~ Barn Island ~ feather
2.20.19 ~ Barn Island ~ ice falling into ebbing tide
2.20.19 ~ Barn Island ~ juvenile common loon
2.20.19 ~ Barn Island ~ juvenile common loon
2.20.19 ~ Barn Island
2.20.19 ~ Barn Island ~ ice falling into ebbing tide
2.20.19 ~ Barn Island
2.20.19 ~ Barn Island ~ spotted wintergreen
2.20.19 ~ Barn Island
2.20.19 ~ Barn Island
2.20.19 ~ Barn Island ~ great blue heron
2.20.19 ~ Barn Island ~ great blue heron

an ancient, magnetic language

1.31.19 ~ starling tracks and winter shadows on the balcony

Tracks are an ancient, magnetic language — pulling us in with possibility. The elusive poetry of a print, unlike the muscular certainty of a border line inked in an atlas, reveals details of a life being lived. A tracery of passing impressions, tracks can be as delicate as the brushstroke of a bird’s wings, as bold as a hunting fox. They speak a mutable tongue, transforming from the moment they appear before finally vanishing, to be eventually overlaid by another script. But if you happen upon a set of tracks in their brief and fragile time, they can tell you things you never knew. They can take you places you’ve never been, and lend form to a fleeting world.
~ Julian Hoffman
(The Small Heart of Things: Being at Home in a Beckoning World)

1.31.19 ~ 3°F (-16°C)

I’ve been waiting a long time to take a photograph to pair with this lovely quote. At first I imagined gull tracks in the sand at the beach. One day in North Carolina I found deer tracks in the mud on my way to the community compost pile, and then saw a deer enjoying some newly deposited vegetable scraps. No camera on me, though. But this morning we discovered these tracks on the balcony.

Starling tracks, no doubt. Not my favorite bird, but they spend a lot of time on the balcony, walking around, trying to figure out how to get to the woodpecker feeder. After a few hours of sunshine, the tracks and the thin layer of snow have now vanished.

This may be our winter of no snow. It snowed here in November when we were in North Carolina. It snowed in North Carolina in December when we were here in Connecticut. While we’ve had flurries now and then there has been nothing to shovel!

After nursing our terrible colds for more than a week we’re starting to get back to normal. I finally got a good start on the boxes of family history stuff and hope to keep going all winter and spring. Maybe things have settled down enough and I can actually get through this!!!


1.31.19 ~ wondering why for some step paths the feet are closer together