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.

water-powered up-down sawmill

sunrise at home, 5:46 am, May Day
40°F, clear with periodic clouds, light wind from the north at 7 mph
4.30.22 ~ Ledyard Up-Down Sawmill, Ledyard, Connecticut

For May Day weekend we decided to visit the historic water-powered Ledyard Up-Down Sawmill, which is only open on Saturdays in the spring and fall. Earth’s energy has shifted again as this hemisphere begins traveling closer to the sun in the brighter half of the year. All the mill’s windows and doors were wide open so it felt pretty safe (covid-wise) to go inside and see what the process of sawing wood was like in the late 1800s.

millstone, the sawmill operated briefly as a gristmill from 1858-1860
headgate controlling pond water flow through the dam into the mill water tank
vintage salesman’s model of the John Tyler Water Turbine

The finely cast and machined 19th century model is about four inches wide and has an operating gate and rotating runner.
~ Ledyard Up-Down Sawmill website

“Turning the handwheel opens and closes the turbine gate,
controlling water flow from the holding tank into the turbine.”
“The vertical turbine shaft is geared to a horizontal shaft
that ends with a heavy iron flywheel and crank under the saw.”
“A wooden pitman arm connects to the crank to the wooden saw sash,
converting the rotary motion of the flywheel into
an up and down (reciprocating) motion.”

After watching the saw operating for a minute we went outside, down some huge stone steps and into the lower level to see the turbine in action.

the turbine pit in the mill lower level

And then we went back upstairs to see more of the sawing.

“The saw cuts on the downstroke and
the log moves toward the saw on the upstroke.”

It was quite loud and the whole building vibrated while the saw was operating.

diagram of both levels

The sawmill has a great website for any who would like more details: Ledyard Up-Down Sawmill.

My father, when he was still alive, had visited this place after it was restored and opened to the public in 1975. He often said he wanted to take me to see it some day. Sadly, that never happened, but he was very much on my mind as we looked around and listened to the operators tell us about its history and how it worked.

After our trip back through time we decided to take a walk around Sawmill Pond and see what visual treats the brightness of spring had to offer.

red maple seeds
tiny bluets, a childhood favorite
an eastern painted turtle for Tim

And then, for me, a new life bird! I heard it singing and looked up into the nearest tree and there it was! What a nice surprise, the last sort of thing I was expecting to find on this day. 🙂

chipping sparrow, #69

Chipping Sparrow Spizella passerina: Widespread common migratory breeder mid-April to November; rare and local in winter; in areas with short grass and trees, residential neighborhoods, parks, open upland forest.
~ Frank Gallo
(Birding in Connecticut)

Thank you, little chipping sparrow, for singing so sweetly that I couldn’t miss seeing you!

a preserve by the railroad tracks

1.19.22 ~ Knox Preserve, Stonington, Connecticut

It’s hard to believe after almost two years of walking outings during the pandemic we’re still finding open spaces we haven’t visited yet. Tim was reading about this one, Knox Preserve, in an editorial in the Sunday paper. The writer was frustrated because a fence had been put up between the nature preserve and the railroad tracks, keeping trespassers off the tracks, yes, but also obscuring the views of Long Island Sound.

Wednesday afternoon was finally “warm” enough to head out there, bundled up, of course. (We usually walk in the morning but decided it might be warmer after lunch!) I forgot to make note of the temperature. My new mittens did a fine job keeping my fingers warm. 🙂 We headed up a muddy path along a lovely stone wall with a rusty, golden salt meadow off to our right.

muddy path along salt meadow

What I see is mine.
~ Henry David Thoreau
(A Week on the Concord & Merrimack Rivers)

At a break in the stone wall we took another very soggy path through the salt meadow, then leading up to a grassy knoll where we found a bench with a view.

While we enjoyed the view a little boy and his mother came along and sat down to wait for the next train. Mom had an app on her cell phone that let her know when the next train would be along. The little guy was very excited, even though he had done this many times before. We smiled, thinking of all the good memories they will have to look back on some day.

view of fence, Amtrak train tracks and Long Island Sound

Railroad iron is a magician’s rod, in its power to evoke the sleeping energies of land and water.
~ Ralph Waldo Emerson
(The Young American)

the controversial fence

Next we decided to follow a path into the woods and along the new fence. We heard the expected train approach and hoped the little boy was enjoying himself! It was probably a high-speed Acela train.

into the woods
train whizzing by
reindeer moss

When we came out of the woods we found ourselves at Quiambog Cove and walked along it until we came back to the salt meadow where we started. It was fun completing a loop instead of retracing our steps the way we usually do.

Quiambog Cove and railroad bridge
afternoon sun

Is not January alone pure winter? December belongs to the fall — is a wintery November — February to the spring — it is a snowy March.
~ Henry David Thoreau
(Journal, February 9, 1854)

ice in the salt meadow

When we woke up this morning the wind chill was 0°F/-18°C. Needless to say, we did not take a walk. Instead, it was more yoga for me!

After peaking at 25% on January 7th, Connecticut’s covid positivity rate has slowly inched its way down to 13% yesterday. Baby steps in the right direction.

in soft silent beauty

“The Harvest Moon” by Samuel Palmer

When we were young
and feeling the need to prove ourselves,
we generated heat and energy
like the noonday sun.
But now we take time to reflect the Tao
and bathe our world in soft silent beauty
like the full moon on an Autumn evening.

An abundance of opinions will generate heat
but accomplish nothing.
You no longer have to comment
on each and every little thing.
You can observe events with a detached serenity.
When you speak,
your words are gentle, helpful, few.
Your silence is as beautiful as the Harvest moon.

~ William Martin
(The Sage’s Tao Te Ching: Ancient Advice for the Second Half of Life)

the darker half of the year

10.31.20 ~ full blue moon
Barn Island Wildlife Management Area
Pawcatuck, Connecticut

I tremble with gratitude
for my children and their children
who take pleasure in one another.

At our dinners together, the dead
enter and pass among us
in living love and in memory.

And so the young are taught.

~ Wendell Berry
(This Day: Collected & New Sabbath Poems)

It’s been almost a year since we’ve gathered to eat with our children and grandchildren and ancestors. I miss those times. Some day we will all be together again in person but for now we will be grateful for our video calls.

When we know about our ancestors, when we sense them as living and as supporting us, then we feel connected to the genetic life-stream, and we draw strength and nourishment from this.
~ Philip Carr-Gomm
(Druid Mysteries: Ancient Wisdom for the 21st Century)

We have reached the end of the harvest season and the beginning of the darker half of the year. Earth’s energy has shifted and the veil between the spirit world and our world has lifted for a few days. It’s a time to reflect on and honor the lives of our ancestors.

We’re in for a whole lot of hurt. It’s not a good situation. All the stars are aligned in the wrong place as you go into the fall and winter season, with people congregating at home indoors. You could not possibly be positioned more poorly.
~ Dr. Anthony Fauci
(CNN, October 30, 2020)

healing

5.21.20 ~ garter snake
Fennerswood Preserve, Stonington, Connecticut

Some animals are archetypal symbols of healing. The snake is one such animal. It sheds the old skin and moves into the new. It is a symbol of leaving the old behind for the new. As a symbol of transformation, meditating and focusing on the snake during times of illness will help accelerate the healing process. Animals that appear to us at times of illness, provide clues as to the best way to focus our healing energies.
~ Ted Andrews
(The Intercession of Spirits)

For the second time in a little over a month a garter snake has slithered across the path in front of me and then stopped in the leaves right beside me. The first time the snake kept its head hidden but this second snake lifted its head up and looked at me.

Rod of Asclepius

At first I was excited about the photo opportunity but after I got home I started wondering about the significance snake encounters might hold. In Greek mythology, Asclepius is a deity associated with healing and medicine. The Rod of Asclepius features a snake.

So what meaning did meeting these snakes hold for me? Since November I’ve been struggling to cope with radiation proctitis/colitis, which is incurable, but with the help of a wonderful gastroenterologist I’ve been figuring out how to manage the symptoms. It involves medication and strictly avoiding certain foods. Too many foods!

When I got my official diagnosis in January I highly doubted I would ever be able to take a long walk again. And there are still days when I’ve eaten the wrong thing and cannot leave the house.

My goal is to take a walk in the woods one of these days. And to have supper at the beach with my gull friend this summer.
~ my blog post, 8 January 2020

At first we made tentative little visits to local cemeteries to find the graves of more ancestors. I learned that three of my ancestors lost their lives in the winter of 1711-1712, probably victims of a ‘malignant distemper’ epidemic that swept through Connecticut. I had no idea our own lives would soon be turned upside down by a pandemic just two short months later. But then, on March 21, mostly because of self-quarantine and having nowhere else safe to go, it finally happened. We took a walk in the woods! And we have continued walking!

Sadly, due to the COVID-19 pandemic we probably won’t have supper at the beach with my gull friend this summer, which was my second goal. But we’ve decided to make the best of the situation so we put our outdoor dining set out on the balcony and plan to get some flowers from the nursery so we can enjoy eating outside. Who knows? Maybe we will make a new bird friend.

Our lives have definitely been transformed and I’ve experienced more healing than expected. I also started taking bioflavonoids because they are supposed to help with radiation damage, tinnitus, and allergies. It does feel like the chance meetings of two snakes in the woods highlighted us leaving the old behind for the new.

On Monday I fell. I was weeding my garden (a little plot in front of our condo), bending over at the hip. One weed resisted and I pulled harder. It let go and so I fell on my side on top of the stones bordering the garden. Nothing broken but my right shoulder, arm and leg are aching quite a lot. And I have a huge bruise on my hip! But it still felt satisfying getting the garden tidied up for the summer.

magnolia blossoms

4.16.20 ~ Elm Grove Cemetery, Mystic

Thursday was an interesting day. Changing plans is always tricky for me! (autism) I found another open space property online for a new place to walk and made a plan, map in hand. But when we arrived at the trailhead there were a number of cars and a large group of volunteers armed with tools for trail maintenance. Too many people too close for comfort so we didn’t even get out of the car.

Where to go now? We had been to the beach the day before and so we decided to go back to Elm Grove Cemetery where we found two magnolia trees in full bloom! Spring is coming! But it was cold… We started to walk but then Tim’s leg pain started up and we headed back to the car. He offered to wait in the car so I could get some exercise and I was off, feeling bad for him but exhilarating in a nice long brisk walk.

This huge cemetery is a perfect place to walk and I think it’s been discovered. We weren’t as early as we were Tuesday morning so a few other people were there but the many lanes and walkways made it so that I never crossed paths with anyone.

Finally I wound up at the White family plot, where eight of my maternal ancestors lie buried. Tim caught up with the car and snapped this picture of me standing behind the grave of my 3rd-great-grandmother, Lydia (White) Hill (1798-1877). So the sudden change in plans was accomplished without too much difficulty.

The sense of having one’s life needs at hand, of traveling light, brings with it intense energy and exhilaration. Simplicity is the whole secret of well-being.
~ Peter Matthiessen
(The Snow Leopard)

feeling warm and comforted

3.28.20 ~ Moore Woodlands, Groton, Connecticut

Perhaps kind thoughts reach people somehow, even through windows and doors and walls. Perhaps you feel a little warm and comforted, and don’t know why, when I am standing here in the cold and hoping you will get well and happy again.
~ Frances Hodgson Burnett
(A Little Princess)

Last week was a little tricky. My gut pain flared up after a relatively good spell and I was pretty down in the dumps about it. I’m trying to learn to live with the fluctuations between good days and bad days and how unpredictable it all is.

anyone know what this is?

By Thursday I was well enough to attempt a walk at the beach, thinking a familiar place would be better than a new adventure. But it was disappointing to see too many people there, many of them not respecting the social distancing obligation. Friday we tried again and I was so disheartened to find cigarette butts on the rocks and a big pile of dog crap on the lawn. No smoking is allowed on the beach property! And dogs are supposed to be on-leash and their poop scooped. I suspect some people are coming to the beach to visit with their friends because their usual hang-out places are closed. I was also depressed not seeing any gulls, although the brant geese seem to be making the beach their new home.

Saturday we sadly decided to take a walk somewhere else and found Moore Woodlands, on the other side of town. We encountered a friendly family of five on their bikes near the entrance and we all respected the 6-foot social distancing protocol, much to my relief.

As we were leaving we came across a couple looking for a nearby cemetery and had a nice conversation with them across the stone wall from a safe distance. Another family came by and also gave everyone a very wide berth. It made me feel so much better about people after the distress I felt at the beach.

It was a lovely cloudy day and the mood in the woods was tranquil, with many birds singing. It was good to get a walk in before the rain came later in the day. It was as if nature was kindly whispering the comfort I needed so badly.

3.28.20 ~ collected some additions for my wooden pine cone bowl

the world as a tree

"Lane of Poplars on the Banks of the Loing" by Alfred Sisley (1839-1899) French Impressionist Landscape Painter
“Lane of Poplars on the Banks of the Loing” by Alfred Sisley

With the passage of days in this godly isolation [desert], my heart grew calm. It seemed to fill with answers. I did not ask questions any more; I was certain. Everything – where we came from, where we are going, what our purpose is on earth – struck me as extremely sure and simple in this God-trodden isolation. Little by little my blood took on the godly rhythm. Matins, Divine Liturgy, vespers, psalmodies, the sun rising in the morning and setting in the evening, the constellations suspended like chandeliers each night over the monastery: all came and went, came and went in obedience to eternal laws, and drew the blood of man into the same placid rhythm. I saw the world as a tree, a gigantic poplar, and myself as a green leaf clinging to a branch with my slender stalk. When God’s wind blew, I hopped and danced, together with the entire tree.
~ Nikos Kazantzakis
(The Wonders of Solitude)