On this, the shortest day of all the 365, I wander over the covered paths of the garden hillside. I wade through the drifts along the swamp edge. I walk over the snow-covered ice among the catttails. The wind is gone. The day is still. The world is decorated with unmarred snow. This is winter with winter beauty everywhere. Autumn is finally, officially, gone. Like the evening of the day, the fall has been a time of ceaseless alteration. Cold, in the autumn, is overcoming the heat just as darkness, in the evening, is overcoming the light. All around, in recent months, there have been changes in a thousand forms. The days of easy warmth were passing, then past. Birds departed. Threadbare trees lost their final leaves. Nuts fell from the branches. Pumpkins and corn turned yellow in the fields. For animals and men alike, this was the time of harvest. The phantom summer, Indian summer, came and went. The chorus of the insects died away in nightly frosts. Goldenrod tarnished; grass clumps faded from green to yellow. Milkweed pods gaped open and their winged seeds took flight. The windrows of fallen leaves withered, lost their color, merged into one universal brown. Now they are buried beneath the new and seasonal beauty of the snow. Autumn, the evening of the year, is over; winter, the night of the year, has come. ~ Edwin Way Teale (Circle of the Seasons: The Journal of a Naturalist’s Year)
It was time to dust off the camera and resume taking our walks again. The big project is, for all intents and purposes, finally completed. But, I haven’t figured out how to write about it yet, so that long story will have to wait until after the holidays. Now to prepare for the coming visit of our darling grandchildren!
I added a layer of thermal leggings under my jeans for the first time this season and then we enjoyed the winter scenery along the Poquonnock River Walkway. We might be getting a coating of snow this afternoon. I love the cloudy light before snowstorms.
But the winter sun was shining brightly for the day of our walk, illuminating the tops of the reeds in a magical way.
Let us dig our furrow in the fields of the commonplace … and leave to others, more favoured by fortune, the job of explaining the world’s mechanism, if the spirit moves them. ~ Jean-Henri Fabre (The Life of the Fly: With Which are Interspersed Some Chapters of Autobiography)
We came across a large flock of house sparrows flitting around in the bushes along the boardwalk — how commonplace can it get? But a couple of them actually stayed put long enough to get their portraits taken.
It felt very good getting out of the house again and enjoying the ordinary, simple things the natural world has to offer.
In the circle of the seasons, there is no pause. Already summer slides toward autumn. On this hot afternoon, at the very summit of the season, signs of change are in the air. ~ Edwin Way Teale (Circle of the Seasons: The Journal of a Naturalist’s Year)
Every year I look forward to visiting one of the huge sunflower fields at Buttonwood Farm. Summer is my least favorite season and this harvest, for me, marks the midpoint between the summer solstice and the autumn equinox. After two years of viewing the field from the perimeter, due to the pandemic, this year we walked through. 🌻
What a thrill, walking through, looking up at the sunflowers which seemed to be looking down at us, curious about the stream of humans admiring them. There were hundreds of bees buzzing and the sky was so blue. You’d think after seeing a couple of sunflowers it might get boring but on we went, dazzled over and over again. 🌻
After going through the field we returned outside by way of the perimeter, to get a little shade from the adjoining woods. Then we climbed the viewing hill and took some more pictures. 🌻
On our way down the hill I spotted a shagbark hickory tree, and I think the nut pictured below is from that tree. A shagbark hickory nut, I do believe. 🌻
As we returned to the grassy parking field we noticed the corn field with a viewing platform. It should be ready for the corn maze in September. 🌽
Since sunflowers are the national flower of Ukraine the fate of the land of half my ancestors was very much on my mind on this day. 🌻 Sunflower in Ukrainian: соняшник (sonyashnyk) 🌻
And now, as I patiently anticipate autumn with all its bountiful harvests, I will try to focus on summer’s remaining blessings. Flowers blooming, butterflies and dragonflies, songbirds still singing, excursions to the farmers markets and pleasant warm evenings by the sea…
We got our groundhogs out for a nice walk this morning. Meet Basil and little Basil, if you haven’t already. For those of my new readers who don’t know the story, Basil is named for my paternal grandfather, who was born on Groundhog Day, February 2, 1882 in a village near the city of Stanislav, now known as Ivano-Frankovsk, Ukraine. When Pop arrived in America in 1909, instead of translating his given name, Wasyl, to its equivalent in English, Basil, he started using the name William, by which he was known for the rest of his life.
After taking the pictures we decided to walk through a meadow, a path we hadn’t had a chance to follow yet. It was lovely covered in snow, still on the ground four days after the blizzard. But today the temperature got up over freezing so it is starting to melt.
Looks like Friday will be a mess with an ice storm. I was grateful for this lovely day.
O barren bough! O frozen field! Hopeless ye wait no more. Life keeps her dearest promises — The Spring is at the door! ~ Arthur Ketchum (The Atlantic Monthly, February 1904)
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)
She’ll come at dusky first of day, White over yellow harvest’s song. Upon her dewy rainbow way She shall be beautiful and strong. The lidless eye of noon shall spray Tan on her ankles in the hay, Shall kiss her brown the whole day long.
I’ll know her in the windrows, tall Above the crickets of the hay. I’ll know her when her odd eyes fall, One May-blue, one November-grey. I’ll watch her from the red barn wall Take down her rusty scythe, and call, And I will follow her away.
So, last year we visited the sunflower field at the end of the harvest and I got a lot of pictures of blossoms past their peak, all still beautiful in their own way. This year we changed things up and went on the first day day of the gathering in and at a different time of day, evening instead of morning. Also unlike last year we’ve had plenty of rain while last summer we were dealing with a drought.
Each year we plant over 14 acres of sunflowers and harvest approximately 300,000 blooms for your viewing pleasure and to benefit the Make-A-Wish Foundation of Connecticut, a non-profit organization dedicated to granting wishes to children with critical illnesses. Sunflowers are available while supplies last. We offer cut your sunflowers with a $2 per flower donation to the Make-A-Wish Foundation of Connecticut. ~ Buttonwood Farm website
There’s a small hill to climb to get a pretty view over a large field and then several paths to follow through the sea of sunflowers. This year I became fascinated with all the blossoms getting ready to bloom and wound up taking more pictures of them than the ones at their peaks!
The crop must drink; we move the pipe To draw the water back in time To fall again upon the field, So that the harvest may grow ripe, The year complete its ancient rhyme With other years, and a good yield Complete our human hope. ~ Wendell Berry (This Day: Collected & New Sabbath Poems)
When celebrating, always take your cue from nature and adapt your rituals to circumstances. … Adapting to circumstances, like actively observing on your walks, brings you into rhythm with the natural world. And soon, checking in to a festival becomes second nature, as you remember past experience. … May the spiral of our seasonal journey be blessed. ~ Penny Billington (The Path of Druidry: Walking the Ancient Green Way)
Can you tell we’re under the flight path from New York to Europe?
It’s hard to believe that a year has passed and we’re still struggling with the coronavirus pandemic, in spite of being fully vaccinated. The delta variant is running rampant through the stubbornly unvaccinated population, but the concerning part is that even the vaccinated are at risk now. Here in Connecticut we’ve had 854 vaccinated people with breakthrough COVID cases, and 150 of them are hospitalized. We’re back to wearing masks in the grocery store and many indoor places, like our doctors, are still requiring them. So much for eating inside our favorite restaurant for a while… It’s a good thing we’ve gotten used to finding things to do outside!
Picking our own strawberries used to be a favorite way of marking the summer solstice, but since my diet is so restricted now we decided to visit a different kind of farm this year. The beautiful, sweet-smelling Lavender Pond Farm fit the bill perfectly.
I had to laugh at myself. We were almost there when I realized I still had my house slippers on! So I wore my slippers all day! (Absent-minded old lady!) Thankfully there was no mud on the ground to deal with.
There were quite a few attractions and activities and it looks like they are still adding more. First we took a walk through the formal garden.
The air was fragrant with a thousand trodden aromatic herbs, with fields of lavender, and with the brightest roses blushing in tufts all over the meadows. ~ William Cullen Bryant (Prose Writings, Volume 5)
Then we took a nice long, slow train ride on the purple Lavender Express, through the lavender fields and around the ponds. We also passed by more than a few fairy gardens in the woods.
We are wont to forget that the sun looks on our cultivated fields and on the prairies and forests without distinction. They all reflect and absorb his rays alike, and the former make but a small part of the glorious picture which he beholds in his daily course. In his view the earth is all equally cultivated like a garden. ~ Henry David Thoreau (Walden)
After the train ride, we did a quick walk-through in the gift shop, which smelled lovely, and then met a sleepy rooster outside. Tim spent a fair amount of time admiring a very old red truck. It felt a little strange being so close to people without a mask on, actually, just being close to people, period. I never know what to make of people who are wearing masks. Are they unvaccinated? Or playing it safe?
We had a lovely taste of the best kind of summer morning, with low humidity and comfortable temperatures. On the way home we stopped at my favorite restaurant for lunch, where they graciously take and prepare my special order. 🙂
The next day we went to an estate sale, something we haven’t done since before the pandemic started. Again I felt uncomfortable being in such close proximity to people with and without masks. (We’re not wearing them unless required by an establishment.) But I found a nicely-framed needlepoint of two chickadees on a branch, for only $5! And since the garden rake we use to spread mulch every year was falling apart we found one in good condition to replace it, also for $5. It doesn’t take much to delight us! 🙂
One of Tim’s friends told us about this lovely park. This bridge goes over the overgrown tracks of the Norwich & Westerly Railway.
The Norwich and Westerly Railway was an interurban trolley system that operated in Southeastern Connecticut during the early part of the 20th century. It operated a 21-mile line through rural territory in Norwich, Preston, Ledyard, North Stonington, and Pawcatuck, Connecticut to Westerly, Rhode Island between 1906 and 1922. For most of its length, the route paralleled what is now Connecticut Route 2. ~ Wikipedia
It’s a blurry picture but I was so excited to finally see a Carolina wren in Connecticut. I first heard its pretty song and saw a few of them while at my daughter’s home in North Carolina in the fall of 2018. I’ve been hearing them sing in the spring and fall since returning to to Connecticut but haven’t been able to spot one until this day.
A “Natural Stone Throne” was indicated on the map but we almost missed it behind all the brush. Tim bushwhacked his way up a steep incline and got the above picture on his cell phone. I wasn’t about to follow but then he noticed a cleared trail joining the main trail a little ahead of where I was. So I walked around and up and got the following two pictures. I made one attempt to climb up and sit on it but it was too high to pull it off!
We proceeded up the hill and found ourselves at eye level with the top of the 23-story Grand Pequot Tower at Foxwoods Resort Casino, a mile and a half away (2.4 km).
A little farther along we got to the end of the trail at High Ledge Overlook. Thank goodness there was a fence marking the edge. It was a long way down. And then we turned around and noticed different things on our way back down the hill.
How little there is on an ordinary map! How little, I mean, that concerns the walker and the lover of nature…. The waving woods, the dells and glades and green banks and smiling fields, the huge boulders, etc., etc., are not on the map, nor to be inferred from the map. ~ Henry David Thoreau (Journal, November 10, 1860)