strong as a great oak

3.3.21 ~ Great Oak Park, Ledyard, Connecticut

After a bitter cold snap we managed to get out for a good walk on Wednesday. Another new place for us. This time I brought my father’s cane to use as a walking stick so I wouldn’t have to find one in the woods. It fit perfectly and had a good energy! Papa was very fond of his cane because his father had carved it and used it. (A couple of pictures of him with it here.)

photo by Tim

Our daughter-in-law mailed us our old camera a couple of weeks ago so I could see how it compares to the one I’ve been using for several years now. But so far I haven’t felt inclined to pick it up so Tim took it along on this outing. It was fun with both of us having a good camera.

beautiful blue sky
still a bit of ice and snow in places

We were looking for the remains of a famous huge oak tree in the woods here. Before long we spotted the sign and were saddened to see just how very little was left of it.

During the summer of 1969, the gypsy moth defoliated an estimated 260,000 acres of trees in northeastern woodlands — more than triple the defoliated acreage of 1968.
~ Ralph L. Snodsmith
(The New York Times, April 19, 1970)

image credit: Ledyard Historical Society
The Ledyard Oak, c. 1910

The famous oak didn’t survive the gypsy moth assault in 1969. Fifty-one years later this is all that is left of it:

decomposing
devastation from an invasive species

My feet will tread soft as a deer in the forest. My mind will be clear as water from the sacred well. My heart will be strong as a great oak. My spirit will spread an eagle’s wings, and fly forth.
~ Juliet Marillier
(Daughter of the Forest)

This little oak was planted beside the original in 2009.
Maybe 400 years from now…

We continued walking and found a historical cemetery.

interesting roots
Lester family cemetery, early 1800s
In memory of Solomon Lester who died Dec. 4, 1840 aged 69
Miss Lucy Lester died Apr. 18, 1814 in her 70th year
unused fence post and its shadow on a tree
some kind of moss or lichen
a huge rooster
a hen (?) and said rooster

Within this park are more trails and the Nathan Lester House & Farm Tool Museum, presumably the home of the chickens. We will have to wait to explore when the pandemic is over.

midwinter in self-quarantine

12.21.20 ~ 7:11 am, foggy winter solstice sunrise

After nine months in self-quarantine life still seems pretty bizarre. The coronavirus pandemic still rages and is getting worse with every day. Our fervent hope is that getting everyone vaccinated will turn things around sooner than later. Two of our elderly relatives-in-law have caught it, one is still fighting for his life in the hospital and the other is still sick and isolating at home. Some of Tim’s friends have lost loved ones. These are truly dark days.

Since I took a sunset picture for the summer solstice in June I decided to take a sunrise picture for the winter one. But we had fog and clouds on solstice morning, not even a hint of daybreak in the sky. There was a travel advisory for black ice on the roads so we stayed home and I took the picture from an upstairs window.

We had tried to take a walk on Saturday but found a sheet of ice on top of the snow making it too hazardous to continue. So instead of attempting another trek out on Monday I put Grandfather Frost out on our balcony, hoping to catch him casting the longest shadow of the year at noon. At first there was no sun and no shadow but by some miracle the bright star came out from the clouds right at solar noon for just a quick minute! I took the picture and then it disappeared again. (If I had known where the railing shadows would fall I would have located him standing fully in the sunshine!)

12.21.20 ~ 11:46 am, solar noon
longest shadow of the year!

A year indoors is a journey along a paper calendar; a year in outer nature is the accomplishment of a tremendous ritual. To share in it, one must have a knowledge of the pilgrimages of the sun, and something of that natural sense of him and feeling for him which made even the most primitive people mark the summer limits of his advance and the last December ebb of his decline. All these autumn weeks I have watched the great disk going south along the horizon of moorlands beyond the marsh, now sinking behind this field, now behind this leafless tree, now behind this sedgy hillock dappled with thin snow. We lose a great deal, I think, when we lose this sense and feeling for the sun. When all has been said, the adventure of the sun is the great natural drama by which we live, and not to have joy in it and awe of it, not to share in it, is to close a dull door on nature’s sustaining and poetic spirit.
~ Henry Beston
(The Outermost House: A Year of Life on the Great Beach of Cape Cod)

12.21.20 ~ yule tree

We kept trying to get a decent picture of our lovely “snowball and icicle” tree but our cameras refused to focus — at least you can get a vague impression of it from this one. I suspect the camera doesn’t know what to do with the little lights and glass reflections. Then again, I’ve never mastered the art of indoor photography. Outdoor light is my friend. I tried to get a few close-ups of ornaments with mixed results. The best ones follow….

May your holidays be merry and bright and full of blessings and gratitude. As the light returns and as our days grow longer may the coming year sparkle with hope, love and peace. 🌲

the first touch of winter

“At the First Touch of Winter, Summer Fades Away”
by Valentine Cameron Prinsep

The days move more swiftly now, too, with late dawns and early dusks. The days march toward the winter solstice like a winter farmhand with the wind at his back. And the long nights become the sleep of the earth itself, the rest, the waiting. The fox barks in the night, in the glitter of winter starlight. The deer shelter in the hemlock thickets on the mountain. The woodchuck sleeps, breathing only once in five minutes. And that hurrying wind whistles in the naked maples. November is at hand. This is the hurrying, impatient wind of winter that I hear in the night.
~ Hal Borland
(Hal Borland’s Book of Days)

The Plough Bed & Breakfast

2.4.18 ~ view from The Plough Bed & Breakfast, Ventry, Kerry, Ireland
morning light and the moon

After our long afternoon at Coumeenoole Beach we found our bed and breakfast, The Plough. The hostess, Beatrice, made us feel right at home. When we got warmed up and settled, we headed out again for dinner at Lord Baker’s, Dingle’s oldest gastro pub and largest restaurant. Tim & I had one of that night’s specials, Slow Roast Shank of Kerry Lamb & Red Wine Sauce. (local and grass-fed lamb) It was so delicious that we are still talking about it!

2.4.18 ~ view from the The Plough Bed & Breakfast, Ventry, Kerry, Ireland

When we returned to our B&B I was feeling chilled so Beatrice warmed up a hot water bottle with a faux fur covering to take to bed with me. I warmed up quickly and slept very soundly. 🙂

2.4.18 ~ The Plough Bed & Breakfast, Ventry, Kerry, Ireland

Sunday morning Tim & I woke up before the others and took a morning walk. The surrounding scenery was soothing and pastoral. We were overlooking Ventry Harbour and the moon was still in the sky.

some whimsy in the garden

When we returned for breakfast we had a pleasant surprise. The first thing offered was porridge and was it ever tasty! Beatrice said the “secret” ingredients were local, sweet cream and a little shot of Bailey’s. 🙂 Then we had a choice of various egg, ham, and sausage breakfast combinations.

beautiful stone wall and daffodils!
2.4.18 ~ The Plough Bed & Breakfast, Ventry, Kerry, Ireland ~ the plough
2.4.18 ~ The Plough Bed & Breakfast, Ventry, Kerry, Ireland ~ Ventry Harbour
2.4.18 ~ The Plough Bed & Breakfast, Ventry, Kerry, Ireland
daffodils in February!
2.4.18 ~ The Plough Bed & Breakfast, Ventry, Kerry, Ireland
2.4.18 ~ The Plough Bed & Breakfast, Ventry, Kerry, Ireland
a very cold me!
2.4.18 ~ The Plough Bed & Breakfast, Ventry, Kerry, Ireland
2.4.18 ~ The Plough Bed & Breakfast, Ventry, Kerry, Ireland
whimsy at the front door
reading nook

I loved the pillows Beatrice used in her sitting room! This was our first time ever staying at a bed & breakfast ~ thank you Larisa & Dima for the special treat!!!

2.4.18 ~ The Plough Bed & Breakfast, Ventry, Kerry, Ireland ~ deer pillow
2.4.18 ~ The Plough Bed & Breakfast, Ventry, Kerry, Ireland ~ woodsy pillow
2.4.18 ~ The Plough Bed & Breakfast, Ventry, Kerry, Ireland ~ robin pillow

We had a long day ahead of us and so we were then off for the next adventures.

two years old

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9.30.16 ~ Katherine painting with water

We had a wonderful vacation week visiting our granddaughter and her parents in North Carolina. Katherine just turned two years old and what a busy little girl she is! So many interests.

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9.30.16 ~ morning light

One morning Katherine and I took a walk and sat for a little while and shared an apple. A squirrel started digging a hole for his nut very close to us. Then we watched him race up a tree and come back down with another nut which he buried in another spot. Katherine asked me to pick her up so she could follow him with her eyes, up and down the tree, burying one nut after another in the ground under the leaves. After a while Grandpa Tim found us to tell us breakfast was ready and he took the picture below.

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9.30.16 ~ squirrel magic
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9.30.16 ~ Katherine got a lot of practice saying “squirrel”
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9.30.16 ~ back home for breakfast, purse and cell phone in hand

One day we went to the Museum of Life & Science in Durham…

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10.1.16 ~ contemplating mirror images
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10.1.16 ~ Katherine loves making friends with animals
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10.1.16 ~ Katherine and friend
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10.1.16 ~ not sure what kind of animal this one is

Back at home Katherine decided that PB the Penguin needed a walk in her stroller. 🙂

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10.1.16 ~ Katherine has PB strapped in well
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10.1.16 ~ Katherine and her chicken friends
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10.1.16 ~ cute as a button
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10.1.16 ~ deer magic
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10.1.16 ~ time to take PB the Penguin back home
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10.1.16 ~ consulting with Mom about readjusting PB’s safety straps

Needless to say we had a great time on our visit!!!

midsummer magic

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6.25.16 ~ we celebrated the summer solstice on Saturday
good friends, good food and good fun…
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6.25.16 ~ bald eagle
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6.25.16 ~ gray catbird
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6.25.16 ~ downy woodpecker
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6.25.16 ~ downy woodpecker taking off
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6.25.16 ~ petunias
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6.25.16 ~ daylily
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6.25.16 ~ foxglove
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6.25.16 ~ daylily
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6.25.16 ~ fairy light
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as close as I could get to this doe before she stomped her forefeet at me
~ I backed off so she could graze in peace…
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6.25.16 ~ chipmunk
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6.25.16 ~ so many orbs on a magical night
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6.25.16 ~ after a long day of fun in the sun,
a fire to enjoy under a clear sky full of shimmering stars,
with fireflies glowing in the surrounding trees,
and fairy lights sparkling near the grass…

deer tidings

white-tailed yearling by Greg Thompson

Once upon a time I was as curious as the yearling above, and in possession of a keen sense of wonder. The mysteries of nature and spirit were intertwined in my young mind. One early wordless memory I have is of lying on the cold winter ground in the woods and eyeing a little princess pine peeking through the snow. I was astonished at the connection I felt to the small precious life, and how thrilled I was to be aware of its presence!

My parents and grandparents were nature lovers, but from an early age I was locking horns with my scientifically minded father over the existence of the supernatural. It distressed me to no end that he refused to believe in anything that he could not measure in physical terms.

One afternoon when I was six years old I had a dazzling moment of transcendence when I encountered a stag, although I didn’t know enough to call it that when I later tried to tell my parents about it. As I was walking alone up the heavily wooded road from the school bus stop to my house, I strongly sensed that someone was watching me. When I turned around to look I was at first startled to see a huge stag with magnificent antlers. He was standing in the road, quietly staring at me, as if he recognized me, as if he knew exactly who I was. I was struck with awe. Completely enchanted, I was not at all frightened. In fact, I decided he was my guardian angel. A fatherly figure. Something about his presence was most reassuring. I never forgot him and have often felt his presence in my life, especially when spending time with my maternal grandfather in the years to come.

white-tailed buck at Parker River National Wildlife Refuge

Forty-five years later, a few years after my grandfather died, I had wonderful encounter with another deer. (Some of my readers may remember me sharing this in November 2008 on my Gaia blog.) I was visiting my father at his house in the woods, where spotting deer, coyotes, wild turkeys and fishers is not at all unusual. We were starting to watch a movie when my brother-in-law glanced out the window and noticed a doe in the yard, quite close to the house. Being so enchanted with deer I jumped at the chance to see one and went over to the window to look at her.

She was so beautiful with her large soft eyes and large ears lined in dark brown. Our eyes met and she stood there transfixed for a very long time. I could not take my eyes off of her. After a while she lay down and continued to stare at me, occasionally looking about to see what a noise might be, but then fixing her gaze back onto me. She seemed so peaceful and I wondered what, if anything, it all meant. It was as if I had lost my child’s sense of inner-knowing for a moment. Then I started to worry that my looking at her so intently might be threatening her in some way. But she was tranquil and serene. At one point a buck appeared and walked right past her and started helping himself to my father’s rhododendron. My brother-in-law was going to go shoo him away but I begged him not to. After the buck had enough to eat he slowly retraced his steps and passed by the doe again, glancing at her but unconcerned with her behavior. She ignored him completely, and kept looking at me.

white-tailed doe by Steve Hillebrand

After another long while she stood up and started nibbling at the ground, looking at me once in a while. She slowly made her way downhill around the corner of the house, so I changed my vantage point to another window on that side of the house. She was now one story below me. But she looked up to the window and saw me again and started looking at me again with the same intensity as before. Her look felt so reassuring in some way and yet I felt the thrill of butterflies in my stomach. It’s hard to put words to it. She definitely seemed to know me. It was getting darker and darker until I could barely see her, and just at the point where I felt I could see her no longer she suddenly darted away. More than an hour had passed. What an amazing gift! Even my father had to acknowledge this was an extraordinary experience.

I did finally understand the doe’s message with some help from my Reiki practitioner a few months later. I’m keeping it safe in my heart for now. I will never forget this special doe and had so often felt her guidance while caring for my father in his declining years, as well as my mother’s presence, very strongly, in my life. And it was after the doe visited the house that my father, the skeptical scientist, started reporting that he had been seeing my mother. Sometimes he would ask where she was because he was certain she had just left the room.

white-tailed doe by Greg Thompson

Fifty years after my first encounter with a deer, when I was fifty-six, my father died in his sleep in the early morning hours of September 19, 2013, under a full harvest moon. My sister called me to let me know he was gone so Tim and I left to drive up to Papa’s house to be with our family. As we reached the end of the hour-long drive, we turned onto the same road where I saw my first deer fifty years ago. In about the same spot on the road, standing quietly on the side, in the moonlight, was a lovely doe. Tim slowed the car down and she looked right into our car, into my eyes. My mother was letting me know that she had my father now. What a feeling of relief and release came over me.

Beverly and I have often noted in the months since Papa died that neither of us have felt the presence of either of our parents. But Larisa has felt her grandpa’s presence down in North Carolina. And we all see in her new baby daughter, Katie, a remarkable resemblance to him, especially in her facial expressions and the way she moves her long arms.

As I continue to mourn the loss of my father I feel like I’ve grown to a place where I can embrace being in the elder generation now, a contented crone with my fair share of hard-won wisdom to gently share with my children and grandchildren. It’s a feeling of strength, stepping into the place where my parents and my grandparents once stood.

junco-dec06
junco ~ image credit: mike at luminosity.allthepages.org

A couple of weeks I put out a couple of bird feeders and have enjoyed watching the birds who come to eat. My parents and grandparents were avid bird-watchers but I thought identifying birds was a tedious endeavor when I was a child. However, these past few days I’ve been amazed to discover that some of what they taught me got stored in my memory files. It seems like every time a new bird shows up a name pops into my head, so I look it up and find it to be correct! I’ve always loved and could identify chickadees, but when an unfamiliar bird showed up the other day and “junco” popped out of my mouth, well, I’ve fallen in love with another little one.

I almost posted the first parts of my deer story several times since I started this blog, but something kept holding me back. After I saw the doe the night my father died it became clear that the tale had not been finished. Yet something still kept making it seem like it wasn’t the time to share it. After spending three weeks with my darling new granddaughter, though, it feels like the whole picture has now been revealed.

White-Tailed Deer