descriptions of commonplace things

“October” by Willard Metcalf

Back in March, when I was sorting through the boxes of family stuff, I found the following undated, typewritten account of a lovely October day Tim’s great-grandparents spent together many years ago. Charles Amos Hamilton (1866-1943) wrote it for his wife, Gertrude Mabel Hubbard (1874-1965). They lived in Batavia, New York.

AN OCTOBER DAY

Written for the delectation of my good wife, Gertrude, who delights in reading descriptions of commonplace things, written in rather grandiloquent language.

The poet wrote,
“What is so rare as a day in June,
Then, if ever, come perfect days.”

Without questioning the judgment or belittling the taste of the writer of this couplet, I make the assertion that, with equal or even greater veracity, it might have been written with the substitution of “October” for “June.” For, in old October, Nature gives us examples of a brilliance of coloring, and a tang of ozone, which June, for meteorological reasons, cannot duplicate.

I arise on a bright October morning and raise the shades of my bedroom window. What a riot of all the hues of the rainbow meet my eyes. From the pale green of maple leaves not yet touched by autumn’s frosty fingers, up through the entire gamut of the spectrum, to the vivid scarlet of maples of a different species. As the leaves rustle in the light breeze, they seem to be whispering “Goodbye” to their companions of the departed summer. The dark green limbs of the evergreens nearer the house, stand out like sentinels, bravely daring the blasts of the coming winter. The sunlight lies in little pools in the verdancy of the lawn, dotted here and there by vagrant leaves which have thus early abandoned the protection of their parent branch. The clump of spireas, which last June resembled a snow-bank, now has the appearance of a cluster of shrubs, which in the serene consciousness of a duty well done, are now nestling quietly and unobtrusively together. A belated hollyhock, and a few sturdy petunias, render an additional dash of color. Glancing from the the rear window, I behold the majestic line of cedars, bowing gently before the breeze, but standing with all the dignity of a line of knights in full armor. The row of sweet alyssum shows the same white purity it has maintained for several months. Two scarlet rose-buds, with youthful optimism, raise their heads fearlessly to the autumnal skies, disregarding the improbability of their ever being able to attain maturity.

Later in the day, we take a drive in our Buick, through the farm lands of the vicinity. The same magnificent coloring marks the foliage everywhere, outdoing the most artistic efforts of the painter’s brush. Huge stacks of golden straw stand beside the farmer’s barns, testifying to the repleteness of the barns with fodder for the stock. We know without inspection, that the cellars are well filled with fruits and vegetables, destined to adorn many a well-filled table, and to furnish apples and pop-corn for groups of merry young people. In the fields, the sheep are quietly nibbling, already comfortably clad in their winter woolens. The cows are lying placidly chewing the rumen of contentment. Everything denotes peace, harmony and plenty. Occasionally, a vagrant leaf flutters down momentarily upon the hood of the car, then, as if disdaining its warmth, flutters away to joining its companions by the roadside.

In the evening, fortified by an excellent dinner, maybe washed down by a flagon of “Old October ale,” we sit by the bright flame of our fireplace, and as we listen to the occasional snap of the apple-tree wood, and watch the sparks seek freedom via the chimney, we feel that “God’s in His heaven, all’s right with the world.” Yes, what is so rare as a day in October?

a point of connection

6.2.17 ~ Avery Pond, Groton, Connecticut ~ great egret by Timothy Rodgers

The camera is an excuse to be someplace you otherwise don’t belong. It gives me both a point of connection and a point of separation.
~ Susan Meiselas
(Whitney Museum of American Art: Handbook of the Collection)

6.2.17 ~ Avery Pond, Groton, Connecticut ~ black-crowned night heron (?) by Timothy Rodgers

One evening last week Tim took the camera down to the beach and the salt pond and came home with these beautiful shots! I’m pretty sure the bird above is a black-crowned night heron, but if I’m wrong I hope someone will correct me…

6.2.17 ~ Avery Pond, Groton, Connecticut ~ swan by Timothy Rodgers

The swan, like the soul of the poet,
By the dull world is ill understood.
~ Heinrich Heine
(Early Poems, Evening Songs)

6.2.17 ~ Avery Pond, Groton, Connecticut ~ swan and cygnet by Timothy Rodgers

When words become unclear, I shall focus with photographs. When images become inadequate, I shall be content with silence.
~ Ansel Adams
(3000 Astounding Quotes)

6.2.17 ~ Eastern Point, Groton, Connecticut ~ double-crested cormorant by Timothy Rodgers

Photography takes an instant out of time, altering life by holding it still.
~ Dorothea Lange
(Ancestors in the Attic: Making Family Memorabilia into History)

6.2.17 ~ Eastern Point, Groton, Connecticut ~ courting pair of double-crested cormorants by Timothy Rodgers

content with silence

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looks a little wintery ~ 12.10.15 ~ Groton, Connecticut

When words become unclear, I shall focus with photographs. When images become inadequate, I shall be content with silence.
~ Ansel Adams
(Meditation on Both Sides of the Camera: A Spiritual Journey in Photography)

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autumn hangs on ~ 12.10.15 ~ Groton, Connecticut

Life has felt pretty blurry, quiet and strange lately, what with the shingles odyssey for Tim and the unusually warm weather for this time of year. It was a welcome change to get outside and take a walk with Janet, camera in hand, to enjoy a pleasant, spring-like day in December. We found plenty of natural beauty exploring the woods behind my condo complex. Even so, I’m yearning for the first snowfall…

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12.10.15 ~ Groton, Connecticut

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12.10.15 ~ Groton, Connecticut

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contrast ~ 12.10.15 ~ Groton, Connecticut

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12.10.15 ~ Groton, Connecticut

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12.10.15 ~ Groton, Connecticut

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12.10.15 ~ Groton, Connecticut

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late autumn sun ~ 12.10.15 ~ Groton, Connecticut

At home I have two woodpeckers who frequent my suet feeder. I’ve learned their call now because they always squeak before they start eating. So while on this walk I recognized a woodpecker call in the wild for the first time and started looking around to locate it. Found him in the reeds!

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woodpecker ~ 12.10.15 ~ Groton, Connecticut

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woodpecker – symbol of determination and heightened levels of awareness ~ 12.10.15 ~ Groton, Connecticut

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12.10.15 ~ Groton, Connecticut

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forsythia in December? ~ 12.10.15 ~ Groton, Connecticut

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spent milkweed ~ 12.10.15 ~ Groton, Connecticut

And now the weekend begins. Content with silence for the time being, I hope it will be a relatively quiet one, with time for continued healing. Wishing you a great weekend, too!

a wooden way

"The Little Owl" by Albrecht Dürer (1471-1528) German Artist
“The Little Owl” by Albrecht Dürer

After great pain, a formal feeling comes –
The Nerves sit ceremonious, like Tombs –
The stiff Heart questions ‘was it He, that bore,’
And ‘Yesterday, or Centuries before’?

The Feet, mechanical, go round –
A Wooden way
Of Ground, or Air, or Ought –
Regardless grown,
A Quartz contentment, like a stone –

This is the Hour of Lead –
Remembered, if outlived,
As Freezing persons, recollect the Snow –
First – Chill – then Stupor – then the letting go –

~ Emily Dickinson
(The Poems of Emily Dickinson, #372)

swamp rose mallow

8.18.13 ~ Groton, Connecticut
swamp rose mallow ~ 8.18.13 ~ Groton, Connecticut

Those who dwell, as scientists or laymen, among the beauties and mysteries of the earth are never alone or weary of life. Whatever the vexations or concerns of their personal lives, their thoughts can find paths that lead to inner contentment and to renewed excitement in living. Those who contemplate the beauty of the earth find reserves of strength that will endure as long as life lasts. There is symbolic as well as actual beauty in the migration of birds, the ebb and flow of the tides, the folded bud ready for the spring. There is something infinitely healing in the repeated refrains of nature – the assurance that dawn comes after night, and spring after the winter.
~ Rachel Carson
(The Sense of Wonder)

Native to New England, swamp rose mallow grows along the salt pond near our beach and blooms from July to September. It is tall, reaching 4 to 7 feet high, and the lovely pink five-petal flowers are 4 to 7 inches wide. This sorrowful summer, when I’m in town, we go down to the beach nearly every day, sometimes twice a day. Enjoying the sight of these cheerful flowers en route helps me find those reserves of strength and healing Rachel Carson wrote about.

8.18.13 ~ Groton, Connecticut
8.18.13 ~ Groton, Connecticut

swirl and swing of words

6.12.10 ~ Niantic, Connecticut
We like to go in the back door! ~ 6.12.10 ~ Niantic, Connecticut

When we have house guests, more often than not we wind up taking them on a little trip to one of our very favorite places, the Book Barn, a huge used bookstore, with two satellite stores, in Niantic, Connecticut. Most of our guests are eager bookworms and they come away impressed and smiling with arms full of books. Even more often we go, just the two of us. Today we made it there early, ahead of the rain, so now we’re back home and happily tucked in for a rainy afternoon.

Lately I’ve felt like a dormant bookworm waking up from a long nap, like Rip Van Winkle, discovering that a lot has changed while I was dozing. I can’t believe how many books I’ve read the past couple of months and what sorts of things related to reading can be found on the Internet.

Clicking around from blog to blog this past week I was amazed to find that there are more than a few blogs about books, just books, and there is a social network named GoodReads, and site called the Historical Fiction Network. Not to mention many websites devoted to some of my favorite authors. There will probably be a lot about books in the future of this blog, but I’m not going to limit myself to this subject. But for now, to celebrate my reading revival it seemed like a trip to the Book Barn was in order…

6.12.10 ~ Niantic, Connecticut
“New Arrival Mysteries Only” ~ 6.12.10 ~ Niantic, Connecticut

When we go to the Book Barn we usually go our separate ways, Tim favoring science fiction and I love exploring historical fiction, among other things, like genealogy and consciousness. Greedy thing that I am, when we meet up my pile of books is usually higher than his, no matter how much I set out to come away with fewer books than he does…

6.12.10 ~ Niantic, Connecticut
this cat followed us around ~ 6.12.10 ~ Niantic, Connecticut

The store is actually a huge three-story barn and several smaller buildings and makeshift nooks and crannies surrounding it. Cats roam freely inside and outside. One can snuggle up in a chair with a cat if one so desires… Gardens filled with ornaments and baubles line the paths between the buildings. Two goats have an enclosure to themselves. The business even expanded to two “downtown”  and “midtown” branches, ¾ and 1 mile away.

6.12.10 ~ Niantic, Connecticut
“The Underworld” ~ 6.12.10 ~ Niantic, Connecticut

When I was in ninth grade, many moons ago, I had a few “defining moments” about reading and writing that left an impression on me.

My English teacher said that we would be spending a good part of the school year reading the Bible as literature. That kind of excited me because my father was an atheist so I knew nothing about the Bible, except that my maternal grandparents loved reading the same passages of it every night while they were separated and attending different colleges. Seemed very romantic to me! So in class we studied the Hebrew scriptures pretty thoroughly. When it came time to start on the Greek scriptures, to my shock and disbelief, the instructor announced that this part of the Bible was obviously written by delusional people so it wasn’t worth covering. Excuse me?? Our last weeks were spent studying science fiction, at which I turned up my nose. The teacher – don’t even remember her name – told me in no uncertain terms that science fiction was written by very intelligent people and enjoyed by very intelligent people. I was not convinced at that time, equating it with the trashy stuff it seemed my then boyfriend liked to read. Still can’t get into it much, although husband and sons and even daughter have tried to warm me up to it. And yes, they are all very intelligent!  🙂

6.12.10 ~ Niantic, Connecticut
word wagons and garden ~ 6.12.10 ~ Niantic, Connecticut

I also took Creative Writing in ninth grade. Turned in a short story assignment and the teacher – can’t remember his name either – asked me to see him after class. He told me my short story was very well written and that I should consider becoming a writer! Couldn’t believe my ears! He also told me I should read a John Updike novel, because I had a similar writing style. Don’t remember which one I tried to read, but I disliked it. I couldn’t see the similarity in any way, shape, or form!

Adults are so hard for confused ninth graders to figure out!

6.12.10 ~ Niantic, Connecticut
one cannot get lost, confused, but not lost ~ 6.12.10 ~ Niantic, Connecticut

When I was in tenth grade, we were living in Greece and I attended an international high school. When we were asked to write a short story, out of laziness, or maybe I really did want a second opinion, I turned in the same short story I wrote in ninth grade. Again it was praised, and this teacher wrote some very helpful comments about why she thought it was good, for which I am grateful, even if I still feel a little guilty about my deception.

6.12.10 ~ Niantic, Connecticut
contentment ~ 6.12.10 ~ Niantic, Connecticut

And the memory losses of middle age are sometimes hard to fathom. When my children were very small I read a James A. Michener novel, and I’ve been trying desperately all day to remember which one it was. None of them ring a bell of recognition. But I did read one and remember being very impressed when I learned how much meticulous research he used to do before writing each book. It was that book that made me realize how much I love the historical fiction genre and how much respect I have for the authors who do the research so thoroughly. Sigrid Undset comes to mind, and a book I couldn’t put down this past week, Snow Flower and the Secret Fan, by Lisa See. Surely there are many others.

I love writing.  I love the swirl and swing of words as they tangle with human emotions.
~  James A. Michener

6.12.10 ~ Niantic, Connecticut
“Haunted Book Shop” ~ 6.12.10 ~ Niantic, Connecticut

My darling husband startled me when, out of the blue, he explained to the owner of the Book Barn that I was taking these pictures for my blog. I wanted to crawl under a rock  But the owner said, “That’s wonderful!  We welcome the exposure!” So if you are ever close enough to make a trip, be sure to stop in!

6.12.10 ~ Niantic, Connecticut
lobby in the main barn ~ 6.12.10 ~ Niantic, Connecticut

For more pictures, a slide show can be found on the Book Barn website.