summer solstice in the woods

6.20.22 ~ Bluff Point State Park & Coastal Reserve

This is the third year we’ve celebrated Midsummer since this endless coronavirus pandemic began. Driving on our way to a walk in the woods I was chattering to Tim about the “end” of the pandemic, how it was becoming more or less endemic now and that maybe I should stop tagging my posts with “pandemic.”

last quarter moon

Monday was a perfect summer day and the trees were green and lovely. Tim was already wearing shorts and I was still in my hoodie, typical between-season attire for this couple. 😉 We had forgotten it was a 3-day weekend, a Monday holiday for Juneteenth, so there were lots of people in the state park. No matter, everyone was friendly and in good spirits.

a peek at the Poquonnock River

We had a nice conversation with a young couple from New Hampshire who were very excited about a bird they had spotted. (We finally got a glimpse of it but couldn’t see it well enough to identify it.) And another conversation with a man, about our age, who commented on how good the honeysuckle was smelling and asked me about the zoom lens on my camera. I really didn’t feel too nervous being so close without a mask since we were outside.

it looks like these two trees are lifting the glacial erratic up off the ground

I took a picture of these trees holding the boulder (above) in November 2020. See here. Interesting difference between autumn and summer surroundings.

beach rose blossom
honeysuckle blossoms
greenery!

It turned out to be the longest walk we’ve taken in ages, a whole hour and a half! And I don’t know what it is about catbirds this year — they are turning up everywhere! It was one of those days where it simply felt exhilarating to be alive and present.

gray catbird
twig art on glacial erratic
the twig and the glacial erratic in the above picture
clover blossom
another sunlit glacial erratic
another gray catbird

I’m still enjoying daily encounters with the catbird coming to the birch tree outside my kitchen window. He usually announces the visit with a few meows and then begins his repertoire of varied melodies, songs that I imagine he has picked up and adopted along the way.

on another branch

People who watch a banded gray catbird outside their window all summer will find it hard not to wonder exactly where it’s spending the winter, or to marvel that science still doesn’t have the answer. And if the catbird doesn’t come back, they, too, will inevitably wonder why.
~ Miyoko Chu
(Songbird Journeys: Four Seasons in the Lives of Migratory Birds)

looking the other way
hawkweed (thanks to Eliza for the id)
a chipmunk on the path

But perceptions will inevitably shift, as fickle as the weather. On arriving home we learned that a fully vaccinated relative has come down with covid and had a very high fever. The news shattered my hopeful illusions. Other relatives who have had the virus have said it was no worse than a cold. One of the most disconcerting things about the illness is that it is impossible to know how it will hit you until you actually catch it.

And then, the next morning I woke to the news that a play we were planning to attend outdoors this week was put on hold:

Update on PEER GYNT: Due to COVID delays, our production will not be opening this weekend (June 23-26) in Wilcox Park. We will update on our revised schedule of performances as soon as we can. Thank you for your understanding and stay safe!
~ Flock Theatre

Connecticut’s positivity rate is hovering around 8%. So, all things considered, I guess it’s too soon to remove the pandemic tag from my posts. This refreshing walk will be recalled as our third pandemic summer solstice celebration. Feeling gratitude for the company of sociable strangers, playful catbirds and a chipmunk with the munchies on this memorable, bittersweet day.

poetry of the wild

6.11.22 ~ Lyman Allyn Art Museum, New London, Connecticut

When I read about a new Poetry of the Wild outdoor sculpture installation at the Lyman Allyn Art Museum it seemed like a great opportunity for a “new” place walk. So off we went, four days after Tim’s surgery. It’s hard to believe how much energy he has now!

close up of mini-garden by the entrance to the museum

It was one of those beautiful June days with bright sunshine, blue skies, greenery everywhere, low humidity and perfect temperatures. To get to the sculptures and poetry we walked down a grassy hill, enjoyed the antics of a catbird (they’re everywhere this summer!), crossed a picturesque wooden bridge and found ourselves in a lovely garden.

garden at the rear of the Deshon-Allyn House
rear of the Deshon-Allyn House
gray catbird

It’s hard to see in the pictures below but part of the sculpture is branches growing up out of the chairs. It’s difficult to distinguish them from the branches of the tree behind them.

“Forest Dialogue” by Ana Flores

There were three poems on display like the one below but because of the angle of the sunlight the camera couldn’t capture the other two. But this poem touched me, especially at this point in our lives when it would be nice to find it possible to live it all over again.

“I Will Want to Love You” by Michael Bradford
American robin
tulip tree blossoms
tulip tree blossom
summer sky
red maple seeds
buttercup and bug

I ask you to pass through life at my side to be my second self and best earthly companion.
~ Charlotte Brontë
(Jane Eyre)

When the hot an hazy days of summer land on us it will be nice to think back on this lovely day shared with my best friend. ❤️

house finch, gray catbird, cottontail

5.16.22 ~ house finch
Coogan Farm Nature & Heritage Center, Mystic, Connecticut

It was a lovely spring day and the air was filled with birds singing and bees buzzing. I couldn’t catch most of them with my camera but the scenery at Coogan Farm reminded me of a setting from a historical drama. I half-expected to see a character from a Jane Austen novel come around the bend on our path.

sunlight on dandelions
old farmland

It is clearly posted that dogs must be on a leash at Coogan Farm. This one arrived at the same time we did and was darting around the parking lot while its owner was getting things out of his car. We had two doors of our car open as we were getting ready for our walk, too. Next thing we knew the dog jumped into our car through the back door Tim was at, then squeezed between the front seats and exited the car through the front door I was at. She seemed very friendly and not too big so I wasn’t afraid, but, startled and annoyed. The man she belonged to called “Sadie” away and offered no apology. I assumed he would put her on a leash when he saw the signs at the trailhead. They took a different trail but our paths crossed later on and there was no leash to be seen, the man wasn’t even carrying one on his person.

We moved on, trying not to let the selfishness of others spoil a lovely walk for us.

Intensely selfish people are always very decided as to what they wish. That is in itself a great force; they do not waste their energies in considering the good of others.
~ Ouida
(Wisdom, Wit, and Pathos of Ouida Selected from the Works of Ouida)

In 2016 this tower (below) was designed by an Eagle Scout, specifically for chimney swifts. It provides a suitable nesting habitat to help increase the chimney swift population: Connecticut Project Chimney Watch

chimney swift nesting season is May to July
distant view across the Mystic River

Selfishness must always be forgiven you know, because there is no hope of a cure.
~ Jane Austen
(Mansfield Park)

gray catbird

I’m seeing and hearing so many catbirds this year! They have a way of cheering me up. 💙

dandelion magic
buttercups and dandelions
cottontail rabbit
mushroom
lupine (thanks to Mary for the identification)

Walking is the great adventure, the first meditation, a practice of heartiness and soul primary to humankind. Walking is the exact balance between spirit and humility.
~ Gary Snyder
(The Practice of the Wild: Essays)

Connecticut’s positivity rate is up to 13%. Not good. It’s been going up since its lowest point in March.

wildflower walk

5.6.22 ~ Connecticut College Arboretum

Friday afternoon my sister and brother-in-law joined us and a large group of (mostly) retired folks to take the Connecticut College Arboretum’s annual guided wildflower walk in the Edgerton & Stengel Memorial Wildflower Garden. It was outside so no masks. They hadn’t had this walk for the past two years because of the pandemic. Leading the walk this year was Miles Schwartz Sax, arboretum director, and Madison Holland, horticulturalist.

I didn’t catch the names of all the flowers but have identified the ones I’m more sure of. When we arrived we saw some arborists hard at work in the trees.

And while waiting for the talk and walk to begin I saw my first catbirds of the year! They were very busy but I did manage to get a couple of pictures. 🙂

Enjoy the spring ephemerals!

Virginia bluebells
star chickweed (thanks to John for the identification)
wild columbine
foamflower
wild geranium
wild geranium
dwarf crested iris
barren strawberry
violet
pinkshell azalea
violet
violet
herb Robert (thanks to Jane for the identification)
white baneberry
great trillium
Virginia bluebells
smooth solomon’s seal
large-flowered bellwort (merrybells)
nodding trillium

The Edgerton and Stengel Wildflower Garden is filled with wildflowers, ferns and a shrub layer of native azaleas and rhododendrons. Sheltered by a canopy of white ash and red maple, this naturalistic garden displays its beauty on a west-facing slope. The remains of stone walls are reminders of the original agricultural use of the land. Wildflowers are able to survive without the intervention of people and they add to the natural beauty of any setting.
~ Connecticut College Arboretum website

We were lucky the approaching rainstorm held off until after the walk. It was fun interacting with people again, even while everyone kept a respectable distance. Might be worth another visit in a week or two. Some flowers had gone by and some looked like they hadn’t bloomed yet.

splish splash, catbird taking a bath…

7.17.21 ~ Wilcox Park, Westerly, Rhode Island
gray catbird cooling off in birdbath
what are you looking at?
gray catbird drying off in a tree
pictures taken on our hot and humid walk through the park
after visiting the outdoor Virtu Art Festival

light-laden air

6.2.21 ~ Moore Woodlands, Groton, Connecticut

Another delightful walk to start off the summer season! It was nice to explore Moore Woodlands again. Last year when we came it was early in the spring, just at the beginning of our pandemic quarantine: feeling warm and comforted. On this visit we were welcomed by a gray catbird. I love how often they keep showing up on our walks.

gray catbird

Hopefully we avoided all the poison ivy and ticks. Everything was lush and green after a three-day weekend of much needed rain. The day before this walk we got our front garden mulched and set up the table and chairs on the balcony. The fairy garden is set up to welcome visitors and a new summery wreath is on the front door.

patches of summer sunshine
there were all kinds of small white flowers everywhere
welcome to the woods
there are many paths here to explore
what happened here?
still life on top of stump

Realising that spirit, recognising my own inner conciousness, the psyche, so clearly, I cannot understand time. It is eternity now. I am in the midst of it. It is about me in the sunshine; I am in it, as the butterfly floats in the light-laden air. Nothing has to come; it is now. Now is eternity; now is the immortal life. Here this moment, by this tumulus, on earth, now; I exist in it.
~ Richard Jefferies
(The Story of My Heart: My Autobiography)

shed hiding in the greenery
now is eternity
didn’t see the bee in this picture until I got home
Norway spruce
Norway spruce
some kind of oak?
the bark on the same sapling
triplets
in the midst of it

If only summer could stay this pleasant, with mild temperatures and low humidity. Sigh… Dreading the inevitable start-up of the air conditioning but determined to enjoy this weather while it lasts!

to whole handfuls of jewels

5.11.21 ~ Haley Farm State Park
Groton, Connecticut

What a gorgeous day for a walk! First we strolled through a meadow full of blooming buttercups…

a sea of buttercups
brown-headed cowbird

Even though Brown-headed Cowbirds are native to North America, many people consider them a nuisance bird, since they destroy the eggs and young of smaller songbirds and have been implicated in the decline of several endangered species.
~ All About Birds website

path leading uphill to a forest
“the smallest leaf”

Nature will bear the closest inspection; she invites us to lay our eye level with the smallest leaf, and take an insect view of its plain. She has no interstices; every part is full of life.
~ Henry David Thoreau
(Excursions)

“an insect view”
Tim looking out

We climbed until we reached the lookout indicated on the map.

looking back down at the meadow
Chester Cemetery from above

Wouldn’t you know it, we spotted a tiny cemetery right below the lookout. We kept following the trail hoping to find a way down there. A man about our age came up behind us, noticed my camera and asked if I had spotted anything. I mentioned the gravestones and he led us along the path and pointed us to another path and gave us directions on how to get there.

more small details
the woods seemed to go on forever
“just as bright, just as blue, just as green”

To-day is very beautiful — just as bright, just as blue, just as green and as white and as crimson as the cherry-trees full in bloom, and half-opening peach-blossoms, and the grass just waving, and sky and hill and cloud can make it, if they try. How I wish you were here, Austin; you thought last Saturday beautiful, yet to this golden day ’twas but one single gem to whole handfuls of jewels.
~ Emily Dickinson
(Letter to William Austin Dickinson, May, 1854)

for my snagged oak leaf collection
unfurling
on and on we walked

It was a long way around but we finally came to the side path leading off to the right and to the cemetery. Much to my delight there was a “wolf tree” on the corner.

one side of the wolf tree

For an explanation of wolf trees see this post: snow melting in the oak-beech forest

Chester Cemetery

Sacred
to the memory of
Starr Chester Esqr.
who was born
Aug 23rd 1759
and died
Feby 12th 1812

This spot contains the ashes of the just
who sought to honour; and betray’d no trust.
This truth he prov’d in every line he trod.

Sacred
to the memory of
Mary Chester
relect of
Starr Chester, Esqr.
Born Nov 11, 1758
Died Jan 12, 1826
May faithful angels guard my moulding dust
until the general meeting of the just.
Then rise triumphant from the dark abode
to realms of light, to love and praise the Lord.

Since I have both Starrs and Morgans (Mary’s maiden name) on my tree I imagine these are distant cousins of mine…

While inspecting the stones two unusual things happened. First, a young man appeared above us at the lookout with a dirt bike. He rode off the edge of the precipice, flew through the air and landed a few feet away from us. As if he did such things all the time, as I’m sure he does.

the other side the wolf tree

Another retired couple was a little ways down another path and saw the flight, too. We got to talking and stood there for at least half an hour chatting about all kinds of things. They moved here from Pennsylvania to retire. They love the area, close to the sea. They’ve explored many of the same parks we’ve been exploring.

After we parted ways, we finished following the other trail, stopping to see the wolf tree as we joined it. When we got close to the car I heard and finally spotted another catbird. 🙂 What a lovely ending to a pleasant ramble!

gray catbird

cutting garden

5.6.21 ~ Harkness Memorial State Park
Waterford, Connecticut

Finally a spring day found us both feeling well and free of appointments. Off to explore the gardens at Eolia, the elegant summer mansion at Harkness Memorial State Park. So many birds and greenery to delight the senses. I took more pictures than usual and will probably make three posts out of our visit. 🙂 First, the cutting garden. Not too many flowers yet but plenty of birds and squirrels and even a bunny, who was too quick to be photographed.

gray catbird singing its heart out

His black cap gives him a jaunty look, for which
we humans have learned to tilt our caps, in envy.
When he is not singing, he is listening.
Neither have I ever seen him with his eyes closed.
Though he may be looking at nothing more than a cloud
it brings to his mind several dozen new remarks.
From one branch to another, or across the path,
he dazzles with flight.

~ Mary Oliver
(Catbird)

gray catbird
copper beech leaves
bluebells
northern mockingbird

I was very excited to spot this mockingbird. I had taken a picture of one back in 2011 but didn’t know what it was. Not too long ago I was going through old pictures and decided to post that old picture on the “What’s This Bird?” Facebook group and they identified it for me. I was pleasantly surprised to correctly identify this one when I saw it, but I did check with the group to make sure. (I’ve been known to get my shorebirds wrong…)

northern mockingbird
northern mockingbird
110-year-old Japanese threadleaf maple

I spent quite a bit of time lingering under this enchanting tree. The birds seemed very fond of it, too, singing away in the upper branches. Peeking out I could see Long Island Sound in the distance. A perfect place to curl up with a good book and, just as I was thinking that, a woman showed up with a book, looking for a place to read where she couldn’t hear the lawnmower. It wasn’t until she mentioned it that I noticed the noise droning away in the background. The lawns of the grounds of this old mansion property are vast and must require a lot of maintenance! Anyhow, I hope she was able to get some peaceful reading in, listening to all the birds.

Long Island Sound in the distance

As we left that wonderful tree Tim spotted three squirrels chasing each other in another tree. They were so cute!

playful squirrel
scratching acrobatics
dandelion dreams
beautiful mourning dove
mourning dove

Pretty doves, so blithely ranging
Up and down the street;
Glossy throats all bright hues changing,
Little scarlet feet!

~ Harriet McEwen Kimball
(The Doves)

mourning dove
tulip
Jonquil ? and ?

I will try to make my next posts about the west, box and rock gardens. We didn’t even get to the east garden and the orchard! Another time…

close to home

5.16.20 ~ eastern painted turtle at Beach Pond, Groton

Last weekend we took a long meandering early morning walk at Eastern Point Beach. No pictures because the place had been trashed, complete with broken beer bottles. We wanted to see it before it opened for the summer because we will not be going there much. Only before or after hours (8am-8pm) when it opens June 20. Still concerned about possible exposure to COVID-19. On the other hand, since people will have to purchase season passes to enter between 8am and 8pm, perhaps the individuals currently vandalizing the place will go elsewhere.

When we drove past Beach Pond Tim spied a turtle sitting on a rock in the pond. He loves turtles. ♡ So we stopped and I got the above photo!

5.16.20 ~ Calf Pasture Overlook, Groton

Then we checked out a nice mini-park with one bench and one picnic table, overlooking Baker Cove. Maybe we’ll come here for our summer outdoor suppers… (Eating in our car, of course. Just in case the virus is on the bench or picnic table.)

And then the next morning we hopped over to the Sparkle Lake Conservation Area, practically in our back yard, and enjoyed some lovely scenery and did some birdwatching.

5.17.20 ~ Sparkle Lake Conservation Area
Groton, Connecticut
5.17.20 ~ gray catbird

The catbird is a bit of a busybody. Its presence should caution you to be extra careful about what you say and to whom. Things will have a greater potential of being made public or being distorted. Its presence can hint at others being overly inquisitive about your own affairs or that you are being so about others.
~ Ted Andrews
(Animal Speak: The Spiritual & Magical Powers of Creatures Great & Small)

5.17.20 ~ red-winged blackbird

Spring is such a lovely time of year.