This year I am especially appreciative of essential workers, healthcare workers, scientists, teachers, first responders, food distribution volunteers, people who wear masks, video calls, poll workers, determined voters and journalists.

And as always, feeling thankful for the love of family and friends, and for the ancestors, artists, musicians, naturalists and writers, past and present, who continue to enrich my life. For Mother Earth and Presence.

Wishing everyone a blessed, socially distanced, Thanksgiving!

a squirrel’s estimate

11.6.20 ~ Bluff Point State Park & Coastal Reserve
Groton, Connecticut

A Saucer holds a Cup
In sordid human Life
But in a Squirrel’s estimate
A Saucer holds a Loaf —

A Table of a Tree
Demands the little King
And every Breeze that run along
His Dining Room do swing —

His Cutlery — he keeps
Within his Russet Lips —
To see it flashing when he dines
Do Birmingham eclipse —

Convicted — could we be
Of our Minutiae
The smallest Citizen that flies
Is heartier than we —

~ Emily Dickinson
(The Poems of Emily Dickinson, #1407)

It had been a couple of years since I’ve visited Bluff Point, but Tim hadn’t been here in ten years! There was still plenty of fall colors to enjoy.

The first time we came here was about forty years ago. I was very pregnant with our daughter and our sons were three and five years old. We walked all the way to the point, about a mile and a half, I think, maybe two, but on the way back the boys were too tired to walk any more. So Tim put the five-year-old on his shoulders and carried the three-year-old facing forward in front of him. The memory of his feat still amazes me to this day.

Ten years ago, when Tim’s cousin and her three children were visiting us for a weekend, we took them here for a long cold winter walk. Those children are grown up and on their own now, too.

We didn’t go all the way to the point this day, Tim’s hip started acting up about half an hour in. The path is pretty flat, which probably worked against him, as we learned this spring he does much better on uneven terrain. On the way back, we got off the path and wandered along the Poquonnock River bank back to the parking lot.

How different things are these days. That young couple with so much energy has vanished out of the scene. An older couple remains, strolling along, one of them stopping frequently to settle his bones while the other flutters around him, taking pictures of this and that with her camera. He’s still my best companion.

There were more people in the park than I thought there would be for a week day. Most had masks on and all were respectful of social distancing. Two squirrels were near the entrance, nibbling on something someone may have left for them earlier.

Once we encountered two women with masks on, walking down the wide path six feet apart from each other, but having a lively conversation. I guessed they might be friends meeting up for a visit. It made me start wondering if it would be safe for me to do something like that, too. Or would I be too nervous about inadvertently getting too close?

I have a feeling the pandemic will be over before I find a good way to make these decisions. For now, we’ll stay the course. This was a very refreshing walk.

it looks like these two trees are lifting the glacial erratic up off the ground
someone might be living under these roots
Poquonnock River
waning gibbous moon
I loved the sunlight on the bark of these trees
pretty bark
leaf caught by a branch on its way down
you never know where a smile might turn up
an adorable tufted titmouse
as we were leaving, a surprise in the sky, a powered hang glider

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. Three of mine died in an epidemic in the winter of 1711-1712. With this knowledge I do draw strength and nourishment.

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)

chickadee memories

image credit: pixabay

Inside their skulls, the sophistication of the neural capacity of black-capped chickadees increases in autumn. The part of the brain that stores spatial information gets larger and more complex, allowing the birds to remember the locations of the seeds and insects that they cache under bark and in clusters of lichen. The superior memory of the birds that I hear in the tips of the fir tree is a neuronal preparation for the hungry days of late autumn and winter. The seat of spatial memory in the brains of chickadees that live in these northern forests is particularly voluminous and densely wired. Natural selection has worked winter into the birds’ heads, molding the brains so that chickadees can survive even when food is scarce.

Chickadee memories also live within societal relationships. The birds are keen observers of their flockmates. If one bird should happen on a novel way of finding or processing food, others will learn from what they see. Once acquired, the memory no longer depends on the life of any individual. The memory passes through the generations, living in the social network.

~ David George Haskell
(The Songs of Trees: Stories from Nature’s Great Connectors)

Chickadees were probably the first birds I became aware of when I was a little girl. They frequented my mother’s birdfeeder which was right outside our dining room window. (Our tiny Cape Cod style house didn’t have a breakfast room or eat-in kitchen.) I still remember eating my breakfast at the table in the winter and the cold blast of air that made me shiver when Mom opened the window to spread more seeds out onto the protected platform.

I remember playing out in the snowy winter woods with the chickadee fee-bee song playing in the background. And the well known chickadee-dee-dee alarm call. My father taught me to recognize their warning call, which I often hear out of the blue on our walks in the woods these days. My guess is we might be entering someone’s territory so we respectfully move on quickly.

10.25.15 ~ woodpecker
photo by Tim

For many winters now we’ve been hanging a suet feeder on our condo balcony to attract the woodpeckers I also love. Chickadees hang around and glean the seeds that fall out of the suet while the woodpeckers are feeding. Unfortunately starlings have figured out how to hang onto the suet feeder and they wreak havoc with their large numbers. Why can’t they come one or two at a time like the woodpeckers and chickadees? We also welcome a fair number of titmice, nuthatches and juncos.

Every winter our neighbor complains that the birds poop on his balcony. For this winter I had planned to not put out the suet feeder in the interest of being neighborly but, unbeknownst to me, my thoughtful husband bought a few months worth of suet cakes he found on sale. A woodpecker already came by the other day and was hanging onto the sliding glass door screen, inquiring within about the missing feeder, no doubt. And the chickadees have also been checking out the balcony, it seems to be much earlier than usual this year. I used to put the feeder out mid-October, after Columbus Day. But the fall colors have arrived two weeks early; perhaps the birds are ahead of schedule, too.

Because our neighbor goes out on his balcony to smoke a cigar and the unpleasant fumes come into our unit even when the windows are shut, we’ve mostly ignored his complaints about our bird feeding. Tit for tat. I have a funny feeling my resolve to not feed the birds this winter is crumbling. Watching them brings me so much joy in the winter! Maybe just one more winter, since we are in quarantine? I’m going around in circles weighing the pros and cons… I have to decide now!!!

Wish the bird feeding quandary was the worst of my worries. Connecticut College now has 24 students in quarantine, a cluster of 4 positive cases and their friends. One of the students was in my sister’s class a week ago. All her classes are outdoors and all her students are wearing masks, still, I worry about her safety. It’s a grim feeling, the virus keeps coming closer and closer…

And now our reckless president has tested positive for COVID-19.

autumn equinox in self-quarantine

9.22.20 ~ our pumpkin and gourds

There is something in the autumn that is native to my blood —
Touch of manner, hint of mood;
And my heart is like a rhyme,
With the yellow and the purple and the crimson keeping time.

~ Bliss Carman
(A Vagabond Song)

Not only is this our first autumn in self-quarantine, it is my first one without apples since my radiation proctocolitis diagnosis. If you’ve been reading this blog for a few years you know how much I LOVE apples. But they make me ill now. 🙁 In spite of this I wanted to go to Holmberg Orchards to celebrate the equinox anyway. We didn’t pick any apples because Tim doesn’t want to eat stuff I can’t have in front of me, even though I keep telling him he doesn’t have to give things up just because I have to.

9.22.20 ~ morning at Holmberg Orchards

Today was a perfect autumn day…. And there I go, slipping out of fall into autumn…. All right, a perfect fall day, too.
~ Hal Borland
(Hal Borland’s Book of Days)

But it was fun to pick out a pumpkin and some gourds for our garden and the corn maze was open! We felt it was safe enough as everything was outside and everyone was required to wear masks and keep 6′ away from each other. When we got to the corn maze we were happy to see a sign that said there were no dead ends this year, because of the pandemic. You were to just follow the winding path and keep six feet apart. No getting hopelessly lost. Being there early on a Tuesday morning we were the only ones in the maze. Yay! It took us half an hour to walk through it.

9.22.20 ~ our dinner

I am inclined to think of late that as much depends on the state of the bowels as of the stars.
~ Henry David Thoreau
(Journal, December 12, 1859)

We had grilled marinated swordfish and green beans for dinner out on the balcony. Simple but delicious and that’s how life has got to be these days. 🙂 Keeping my gut soothed is of utmost importance! I’ve had a few setbacks since the midsummer alcohol fiasco but feel that on the whole, things are better. As far as autumn goes, I’m going to try to focus on the leaves changing colors and long walks in the fresh air and not think so much about apples!

midsummer in self-quarantine

6.20.20 ~ our geranium
“Calliope Medium Pink Flame”

All change is a miracle to contemplate; but it is a miracle which is taking place every instant.
~ Henry David Thoreau
(Walden)

Oh my, how things do change! Perhaps because of the poison ivy blunder, and the coronavirus pandemic, as Midsummer approached I was feeling pretty glum. Wistfully my thoughts drifted to memories of celebrations gone by, like the ones in 2016 and 2009. But then I remembered Tim & I had celebrated alone before. 2011. So we tried to make this Midsummer special, too.

We haven’t used our balcony for outdoor living in a long time because it is badly deteriorated and needs replacing. Our turn to have it replaced hasn’t come up yet, but we decided to bring the little outdoor dining set out of storage and make the best of it. We had also bought a pink geranium at the end of May and it was blossoming profusely. In fact, I had to deadhead it before I could take the picture. 🙂

6.20.20 ~ our dinner

Each new season grows from the leftovers from the past. That is the essence of change, and change is the basic law.
~ Hal Borland
(Sundial of the Seasons)

Since before my radiation proctocolitis diagnosis in January, food has been a big problem for me. I’m still losing weight and have now lost 40 lbs. since November. Sticking to a low-FODMAP diet seems to be my only option for avoiding painful flare-ups.

So we splurged and grilled a marinated swordfish steak to celebrate. Delicious! And we made a low-FODMAP potato salad from my new cookbook, which was pretty good. The Gut-Friendly Cookbook: Delicious, Low-FODMAP, Gluten-Free, Allergy-Friendly Recipes for a Happy Tummy by Alana Scott.

Last fall I had a margarita and got pretty sick, and have avoided alcohol since, but for this occasion I decided to try a Cape Codder made with gluten-free vodka. Mistake. I enjoyed it but a couple of hours later I was very sorry. 🙁 It looks like alcohol is out of the picture for me for good. Lesson learned.

6.20.20 ~ sunset at Avery Point

The changes we dread most may contain our salvation.
~ Barbara Kingsolver
(Small Wonder: Essays)

Fortunately we were able to go down to Avery Point to see the sunset before my gut turned on me. It was beautiful! We had a nice chat with another couple from behind our masks and from a distance. They were sitting on their own lawn chairs. Why hadn’t we thought of that? Instead of going to the beach and sitting on public park benches this summer, which we have decided isn’t an option for us, we can bring our lawn chairs to Avery Point and sit for a while. 🙂

Things change, we make adjustments, modify our habits. Nothing will ever be the same.

garden in the woods

6.3.20 ~ Connecticut College Arboretum, New London, Connecticut

This walk was from June 3rd. Still catching up!

I have the impression that Emily Dickinson enjoyed the companionship of her large dog, Carlo, while she tended her garden. I used to discuss things with Larisa’s tabby cat, Mary, while I was planting and weeding my little plot. She was always interested in what I was up to and what I thought about this or that. Emily’s poetic musings…

buttercup

Within my Garden, rides a Bird
Opon a single Wheel —
Whose spokes a dizzy music make
As ’twere a travelling Mill —

?

He never stops, but slackens
Above the Ripest Rose —
Partakes without alighting
And praises as he goes,

peaceful paths

Till every spice is tasted —
And then his Fairy Gig
Reels in remoter atmospheres —
And I rejoin my Dog,

burl

And He and I, perplex us
If positive, ’twere we —
Or bore the Garden in the Brain
This Curiosity —

rhododendron

But He, the best Logician,
Refers my clumsy eye —
To just vibrating Blossoms!
An exquisite Reply!

~ Emily Dickinson
(The Poems of Emily Dickinson, #370)

arboretum pond
flower and fern carpeting
sassafras sapling

So everything that slows us down and forces patience, everything that sets us back into the slow cycles of nature, is a help. Gardening is an instrument of grace.
~ May Sarton
(Journal of a Solitude)

cinnamon fern
rhododendron
andromeda aka lily-of-the-valley bush

My mother’s favorite flower was lily of the valley. She also had an andromeda shrub planted in the front yard, right near the dining room window.

wild geranium
rhododendron
shady spot
celandine poppy

A garden isn’t meant to be useful. It’s for joy.
~ Rumer Godden
(China Court: A Novel)

enjoyable moments

5.21.20 ~ chipmunk
Fennerswood Preserve, Stonington, Connecticut

For the animal to be happy it is enough that this moment be enjoyable. But man is hardly satisfied with this at all. He is much more concerned to have enjoyable memories and expectations — especially the latter. With these assured, he can put up with an extremely miserable present. Without this assurance, he can be extremely miserable in the midst of immediate physical pleasure.
~ Alan Watts
(The Wisdom of Insecurity)

I enjoy all the hours of life. Few persons have such susceptibility to pleasure; as a countryman will say, “I was at sea a month and never missed a meal,” so I eat my dinner and sow my turnips, yet do I never, I think, fear death. It seems to me so often a relief, a rendering-up of responsibility, a quittance of so many vexatoius trifles.

It is greatest to believe and to hope well of the world, because the one who does so, quits the world of experience, and makes the world they live in.

~ Ralph Waldo Emerson
(Journal, May 1843)

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.