As we continue to carve out a new life for ourselves in quarantine, we have started referring to “our bubble.” Stay safe, stay home. We are wary of popping our bubble by some careless slip of protocol. We care for our safe zone (our bubble) and speak of it fondly sometimes, as we tend to it like one would a houseplant or a pet.
Yesterday we went for an early morning walk at Elm Grove Cemetery in Mystic. It’s a large scenic resting place along the Mystic River, just north of Mystic Seaport. The seaport is closed for the pandemic and many (most?) of its employees have been laid off. We parked at the south end of the graveyard where we could see the dockyard across the water and also explore the fascinating carvings on the gravestones of past sailors.
We’re going to renew our membership to Mystic Seaport anyway. Even though we have no idea when it will be safe to visit again.
I’m pretty sure that cliff and house (above) are part of the Peace Sanctuary, where Janet, her mom and I took a lady slippers nature walk back in 2013. See lady slippers.
Will the Viking ship have any adventures this year? I have my doubts there will be a Viking Days festival this June…
And we finally came around back to our car. Can’t believe it’s six years old! In some places folks aren’t permitted to drive somewhere to take a walk but we are, thankfully. Tim says it isn’t good for cars to sit without running for long periods of time. Our car is an important part of our bubble!
This was our first walk where we did not encounter a single person! Not sure if it was the location or the time of day that did the trick. I suspect there will be more cooler early morning walks as the warmer summer days come along. As long as we can manage to stay safe in our bubble.
We now have 21 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in our town.
In October my sister and I spent a couple of nights at the Nauset Knoll Motor Lodge in Orleans on Cape Cod. The big draw was that the motel had a short path to Nauset Beach, a ten mile stretch of seashore facing the open Atlantic. We could hear the waves from our motel room. Pure joy!
Wildlife sightings: from the road we saw wild turkeys and a coyote; hopping across our path to the beach we saw a bunny; and at the beach we saw gulls of course, and a little piping plover running along the water’s edge, and a seal bobbing in the waves.
One afternoon we spent two hours meandering on the beach. Nothing but sand, sea and sky as far as our eyes could see. Beverly, the geologist, was collecting stones, and I was taking pictures. And contemplating the universe, the oneness of all things.
Being awake. Resting in the happening of this moment, exactly as it is. Relaxing the need to understand or to make things different than they are. Opening the heart. Just this — right here, right now.
~ Joan Tollifson
(Resting in the Happening of this Moment)
We already have everything we need. There is no need for self-improvement. All these trips that we lay on ourselves — the heavy-duty fearing that we’re bad and hoping that we’re good, the identities that we so dearly cling to, the rage, the jealousy and the addictions of all kinds — never touch our basic wealth. They are like clouds that temporarily block the sun. But all the time our warmth and brilliance are right here. This is who we really are. We are one blink of an eye away from being fully awake.
~ Pema Chödrön
(Start Where You Are: A Guide to Compassionate Living)
Few places on the earth possess a nature so powerful and so unspoiled that it would remind anyone living in a concrete world that he once belonged to a pre-industrial civilization. ~ Liv Ullmann
It was windy and chilly and we were bundled up well. I even wore my mittens when I was not taking pictures. But eventually it was time to go back to our room and get ready for dinner. So back up the path to the motel. Our window was the one on the right in the white section of the building. There are only 12 rooms. A quiet, beautiful, windswept place to stay.
It seems that this winter has been a harsher one than average, a monotony of record low temperatures and record high amounts of snow. March came in like a lion. It must be a potent combination of cabin fever and mourning, but I still feel like I’m staggering around in a daze. Maybe it will go out like a lamb and things will settle down for a time.
Grief distracts is strange ways. There’s the usual opening of the refrigerator to get something out of the microwave, but then there’s the trying to deposit a check stub when I meant to deposit the check itself. Cracking an egg into the sink instead of the bowl. I’m starting to wonder if I’m permanently altered. If adorable Zoë wasn’t waking me up each morning for her breakfast of trout and eggs, I wonder if I’d even bother getting out of bed.
For the life of me I cannot figure out why we decided to go to a cemetery to take pictures last weekend. We just had to get out of the house and it was the only thing we could think of doing outside. Elm Grove Cemetery borders the Mystic River and the wind off the river was biting and icy. My fingers weren’t cooperating they felt so raw.
But I noticed a theme as I got in and out of the car to warm up. I was looking up at the sky and the trees and the way they framed some of the tall monuments. Breathtaking beauty. There was another theme, too, but that will be for another post…
There were a couple of poignant scenes close to the ground, too. Perhaps this flag has been weathering the winter since Veterans Day.
Finally, some leaves have appeared on my tree! I think it is an elm tree.
My grandparents had an elm tree on the northwest corner of their house lot. Its branches and leaves could almost be touched when looking out the window of the green bedroom, feeling like the leaf canopy of this elm in the above picture.
Knowing trees, I understand the meaning of patience.
~ Hal Borland
(Countryman: A Summary of Belief)
Toby went into the hospital for cancer surgery five days ago, and will probably be staying there for another week or so. The day he went into the hospital I had to go up to my father’s house for a few days to help out with the ancient ones. Chelsea had some time off so my aunt Em from Maryland came up and she and I tried our best to fill Chelsea’s shoes! It’s good to be back home now and slip into a more “normal” routine again, at least for a little while.
Up at my dad’s it was so quiet without Bernie around, but I was able to get outside for a short walk and take a few pictures. Later, while sitting on the porch watching birds with Dad, I experimented with the telescopic lens and got a fairly decent picture of a nuthatch (below), if a little blurry! But next time I think I will use the sports setting with the auto-shoot feature. It worked so well today with the flag picture this morning (above), which was whipping in the wind. Enjoy!
So far this winter has given us only very cold days alternating with unseasonably warm days. Without a blanket of snow, everything looks barren and oddly exposed. Last January was the snowiest month ever in Connecticut history and it made for some very nice pictures! But now that we have a new camera there is no inspiration to get out there and put it to good use, but we decided to give it a try anyway.
Close to home is Fort Griswold Battlefield State Park. War is not my favorite subject, but this is the site where, on September 6, 1781, the traitor and Connecticut native Benedict Arnold led the British on a raid during the Revolutionary War. About 150 colonial militia and local men under the command of Col. William Ledyard were outnumbered. The British demanded surrender but Ledyard refused at first. There were heavy losses on both sides. The last picture tells how it ended.
The first picture was taken outside the dirt and stone wall surrounding the top of Fort Griswold. The second picture is Tim standing in a trench leading up to the top of the fort. The picture above is the entrance to a tunnel leading in to the highest part of the fort, and the picture below was taken inside the tunnel.
Through the tunnel now, in the picture below we are standing inside of the stone and dirt wall, which is taller than us, looking toward the Thames River and New London.
In the next picture we have climbed up the wall and are looking down at the Thames River and New London on the other side. British troops had set most of New London on fire, and from here the men from Groton must have seen all the fires burning and the British ships in the river…
It was a gruesome battle — aren’t they all? The British made it to the top in spite of many casualties… It’s sobering considering what happened here.
I took all these pictures with my gloves on — it was cold! — and I can’t remember which settings I was using on which shot. Clearly I am going to have to wait until spring to practice with the camera outside. Will have to see what I can learn about using it inside while I’m waiting for warmer weather!
It has turned into a three-day weekend for me! Friday Janet and I got together to create pysanky – Ukrainian Easter eggs. While visiting her I was introduced to Maggie, a very sweet twelve-year-old shelter dog with arthritis who is a pit bull or mostly pit bull. She barked for a while after I arrived – Janet explained she had anxiety issues. So Maggie and I had something in common and soon relaxed around each other. Maggie kept Janet and me company as we worked on our eggs, and then the three of us took a nice long walk along the rural roads surrounding Janet’s home. It was a bright, warm-in-the-sunshine, cool-in-the-shade, day. On my way out Janet gave me some venison and a recipe for it to try out on Tim. Thanks to the GPS, I successfully navigated my way home!
Tim was working off and on this weekend, but we did get out a little on Saturday, stopping by the grocery store to get some more ingredients for the venison stew. It was very windy and we were amazed to see the flag over the grocery store flying straight out. Storm clouds were gathering, but I managed to get a picture of the chionodoxa popping up through the periwinkle and dead leaves in my garden. Tim returned to working, from home, and I watched a couple of other versions of Jane Eyre from Netflix. The rain came down hard overnight, but this day dawned bright and sunny again, a bit warmer than it was Friday.
Is it so small a thing To have enjoyed the sun, To have lived light in the spring, To have loved, to have thought, to have done?
~ Matthew Arnold
Today was a slow cooker day. The recipe Janet gave me for the venison stew was given to her by Erik, Janet and Tim’s stepdad, who died in 2008. He was a fantastic cook! When I first read through the recipe, I noted with a smile that it was from an out-of-print cookbook Erik had, called Glorious Stew by Dorothy Ivens. This brought back a pleasant memory. Many years ago Tim had enjoyed a stew Erik had prepared so much that he wanted the recipe. When Erik showed him the cookbook Tim decided he had to have one, too, but it was already out of print. So Tim asked the Book Barn to set aside a used copy for him, if one ever came into the store. A used copy did show up after what seemed like a very long time, so Tim was thrilled to finally have his own copy! 🙂
So… I modified the recipe a bit for the slow cooker and it smelled so good cooking away all day. Being a morning person, I love slow cookers because I can prepare something yummy early in the morning when I’m fresh and alert and then have something wonderful to eat in the evening, when I’m too tired, cranky and overwhelmed to cook. When Tim got a break this afternoon, we went out for a walk around Olde Mistick Village and when we arrived back home the stew smelled tangy and very tempting. It was delicious!
I took some pictures of the ducks and shops on our walk. Yes, today we have enjoyed the sun…
Saturday afternoon Tim and I drove north up Connecticut State Route 169, a National Scenic Byway, to do some more leaf peeping in the “Quiet Corner” of Connecticut, and have a late lunch at the Vanilla Bean Café in Pomfret.
It’s been a nasty political season in this state, with tight races for governor and US senator. Sick and tired of it, I can’t wait for election day to put us out of our misery one way or the other. It didn’t help to see huge Linda McMahon signs lining up one after another all along the roadside – I’ll stick my neck out and say I hope she will NOT be Connecticut’s new senator!!! I was hoping the ride would get my mind off such horrifying possibilities. Dick Blumenthal isn’t perfect, but I’ve watched him over the years, as our Attorney General, fight hard against the corporatocracy our government has become, and no amount of McMahon’s $50 million of corporate riches spent on advertising will tear him or his record down in my eyes.
After arriving at the popular restaurant/coffee house and settling down to chattering away and eating our salmon pesto salad and turkey sandwich, out of the blue, gubernatorial candidate Dan Malloy came up to our table and introduced himself and shook our hands! It was the first time either of us had met a politician face to face! Now to be honest, I had been supporting his opponent in the primary, but since Malloy won that contest I had shifted my support to him. Meeting him was an encouraging experience, but it was what I realized after he left that made an impression on me. It wasn’t a photo op! There were no reporters or TV cameras following him around. He was spending a Saturday afternoon out on his own, connecting with and listening to citizens in a rural town, out of the limelight. And of course, I had left my camera in the car…
After that bit of excitement we drove through Mashamoquet Brook State Park, enjoying the fall scenery and crisp autumn air, and then found two charming shops in Woodstock, the Christmas Barn (oh what a 12-room wonderland of a barn!) and Mrs. Bridges’ Pantry (British imports and a tearoom/restaurant). We found the perfect indoor pumpkin for Halloween and returned home by way of the Interstate as darkness fell around a full bright Harvest Moon. ‘Twas a good day. 🙂
Earlier today Beverly and I went hiking in the woods near Gallows Lane in New London. She was setting out flags and prizes hidden in the woods for the thirty children who will be coming to her Map & Compass activity on Saturday. The children have to use a map of the woods and a compass to locate eight places marked by the flags. Each location has a plastic box filled with a little treasures. They bring back one treasure from each box to prove they found each of the flags. (They get to keep the treasures…) I think the first kid back from the expedition gets another prize, too. It took us a couple of hours to set it all up, so they’ll be having a long walk and an adventure, too, if they manage to find them all!
One might wonder how a road would come to be designated with such a morbid name. Gallows Lane. Well, it was a terrible thing that happened there. A servant woman named Sarah Bramble was executed by hanging off the cliff here in 1753. She had been convicted of murdering her illegitimate newborn daughter. So far I haven’t found out too much about her, but what I have found out makes me more curious than ever about her life.
November 21st, 1753, Sarah Bramble was executed in a cross highway that leads out of the main road to Norwich, about two miles north of the town plot. This path has ever since been known as Gallows Lane. It is a rugged, wild and dreary road, even at the present day. The fearful machine was erected in the highest part of the road, and all the hills and ledges around must have been covered with the spectators. It was computed that 10,000 assembled on this occasion; some of them probably came twenty or thirty miles to witness this repulsive exhibition. The gloom of the weather added another dismal feature to the scene, a drizzly rain continuing most of the day.
This is the only public execution of any white person that ever took place in New London. The crime of the unhappy woman was the murder of her infant illegitimate child, on the day of its birth. It was committed in April, 1752, and she was tried by the superior court the next September. But the jury disagreeing in their verdict, she was kept imprisoned another year, and sentenced October 3d, 1753. She declined hearing the sermon intended for her benefit, which was preached by Rev. Mr. Jewett, before the execution.
Frances Manwaring Caulkins, History of New London, Connecticut: From the First Survey of the Coast in 1612, to 1852, (Hartford, Connecticut: Press of Case, Tiffany & Company, 1852), 468
[September 28, 1753] “at the meeting house to hear the Tryal of Sarah Bramble for murdr of her Bastard Child in March 1752. Court Sat by Candle light.” [October 1, 1753] “the Jury brot in their verdict & found Sarah Bramble Guilty of Murdering her Bastard Child a female in march 1752.” [October 3, 1753] “Sarah Bramble Received Sentance of Death ys Day” [October 24, 1753] “went to Lectureto hear Mr Jewit who pr to Sarah Bramble &c.” [November 7, 1753] “in the aftern att Lecture. Mr Jewit preacht. the Sermon Composed to be pr to Sarah Bramble, but she declined Coming to hear itt, a Large Congregation.” [November 21, 1753] “Misty & Rain moderately. S: Bramble. I was at home foren. in the aftern I Rid up to the Cross Highway abve Jno Bolles to See Sarah Bramble Executed for the Murdering her Bastard Child in march last was a year Since. She was hanged at 3 Clock. a Crowd of Spectators of all sexes & nations yt are among us from the neighbouring Towns as well as this. Judged to be Ten Thousand. it Rained moderately most of the day.”
Joshua Hempstead, Diary of Joshua Hempstead of New London, Connecticut (New London, Connecticut: New London County Historical Society, 1901), 616-619
It strikes me how matter-of-fact and unemotional Hempstead is about this woman’s trial and execution. He doesn’t say one way or the other what he thinks about the matter. Why did the jury disagree on a verdict? Who was the father of Sarah Bramble’s child? Didn’t he have some responsibility for what happened? Was the father possibly her employer? I can’t help feeling she was probably abandoned and forced to bear the blame for the “fornication.” And why did she murder her baby, if she did? Did she want to spare it the pain of a lifetime of being referred to and excluded as a Bastard? Did she feel cornered, like there was no other way out? Honestly, I could see myself reasoning that way if I had found myself in that situation in that time period. Maybe she was suicidal…
There’s a lot of history in these woods, which are still claiming back the land the early settlers turned into farms and then abandoned when they moved westward. Today we found a pen made of stones for ewes and their lambs. The rocks were low enough for the mother sheep to leave to find food and return, but high enough to keep the lambs safe inside. Amazing how shepherds knew to build such an enclosure and how the sheep made use of it, instinctively knowing it was just what they needed for a perfect nursery!
We also found a pretty little princess pine forest…