A year ago we were enjoying a different outdoor sculpture exhibition by the sea in Connecticut: Open Air 2022. This September we visited the 35th annual Sculpture in the Garden at the North Carolina Botanical Garden. It also features the work of local artists but it has many more installations! We didn’t even see all 86 of them but I am sharing a few of my favorites here. It was a lovely walk.
Because I’m so drawn to them I bought a little guide to dry plants in winter called Winter Weed Finder by Dorcas S. Miller, illustrated by Ellen Amendolara. It will be fun to learn about pods, capsules, siliques, calyxes, bracts and burrs.
I noticed how similar the shape of a cicada wing was to the shape of a maple seed. In this sculpture I decided to merge the two. The result is a subtly whimsical form that appears more delicate and fluid than the industrial rebar would seem to allow. I love the unexpected and even paradoxical result. ~ Sam Spiczka
My favorite sculpture is “Cicada Maple Seed.” Something about it captivated me; finding the figure hanging from a tree was an unanticipated pleasure. I’m also fond of maple seeds. You may remember how many pictures I post of them every spring!
We first came to this open space property three years ago, at the beginning of the pandemic, and have been here many times since. Since we know we’re going to North Carolina in a few months this visit seemed special because we were well aware that we may never pass this way again.
A few days ago I spent some time sorting through my “walks” index file, pulling our favorite walks out of the rotation so we might visit them one last time before we go. Please forgive me for this very lengthy post. I want to save as many picture memories as possible!
Usually we walk down to the waterfall and back up the hill, but this time we explored two side trails. First we walked upstream to the dam and walked out on it until the break which lets the brook through now. Then we hopped down off the dam and walked along the brook, getting a different view. With no leaves on the trees yet we could see a lot of the features in the woods.
By the time it came to the edge of the Forest, the stream had grown up, so that it was almost a river, and, being grown-up, it did not run and jump and sparkle along as it used to do when it was younger, but moved more slowly. For it knew now where it was going, and it said to itself, “There is no hurry. We shall get there some day.” But all the little streams higher up in the Forest went this way and that, quickly, eagerly, having so much to find out before it was too late. ~ A. A. Milne (The House at Pooh Corner)
We had never been at the top of the waterfall before. Tim even went out over it a little bit. My legs didn’t seem long enough to jump down where he was.
Then we found the main trail again and made our way down to below the waterfall. I was looking forward to getting pictures of an old tree with amazing roots extending into the brook.
After crossing the footbridge and getting the above pictures we decided to follow a new trail for a little bit. Sheep Farm South, a property adjoining this one, was purchased by the Groton Open Space Association in April 2021. New trails were created on it and linked to the existing ones on Sheep Farm. So we started down this one which passes by a large moss covered outcrop. It was taller than Tim.
After we passed the outcrop we found a path that went up above it and walked through the woods a bit until we circled around and spotted the waterfall below us. I’m pretty sure the little vine below is partridge berry. It looks like the plant my brother-in-law identified for us at Connecticut College Arboretum, although not as lush looking.
Before crossing the footbridge I noticed a side view of the tree with the water hugging roots. It was a rough trip back up the long hill to the parking lot because Tim’s sciatica started acting up, but he made it. Perhaps we strayed a little too far this time but we did get to see a lot of things we haven’t seen before.
Packing boxes have arrived and I’m feeling overwhelmed with the enormity of the task before us but it was great spending a little time outside in the woods we will miss so much.
It’s hard to believe we haven’t been back to the nature center since June! For this nice walk we found lots of mosses to satisfy some craving for color. And we enjoyed seeing the latest patients in the outdoor rehab enclosures.
Mosses are prolific under the moist shaded canopy of evergreens, often creating a dense carpet of green. But in deciduous forests, autumn makes the forest floor virtually uninhabitable by mosses, smothering them under a dark wet blanket of falling leaves. Mosses find a refuge from the drifting leaves on logs and stumps which rise above the forest floor like buttes above the plain. Mosses succeed by inhabiting places that trees cannot, hard, impermeable substrates such as rocks and cliff faces and bark of trees. But with elegant adaptation, mosses don’t suffer from this restriction, rather, they are the undisputed masters of their chosen environment. ~ Robin Wall Kimmerer (Gathering Moss: A Natural & Cultural History of Mosses)
Last night an acorn awakened when the forest was still. Everything was off in its own dream world And she was lonely, maybe frightened. She was too shy to wake some company For they’d ask why and she’d have no answer. So she went to sleep again, And fell off the old oak tree. Having braved this alone she was free And felt truly beautiful falling in love with the earth now holding her. ~ Barbara Chomiak, age 16
I haven’t been posting — or walking — much lately because I’ve been working on a big project, which I hope to finish by winter solstice. While sorting through things I discovered the above poem which I wrote almost 50 years ago! It captures the essence of that adolescent angst I remember so well. Anyhow, I may not be posting for a bit longer but will return as soon as possible.
Recently we were driving down a road less traveled (by us) and spotted a sign right next to an industrial business. Sassacus Nature Preserve? The parking lot was shared with the business, and behind a chain link fence were ladders and small dumpsters available to rent. It didn’t seem to be a very natural setting. We thought we saw a path off the parking lot and decided to come back for our next walk.
When we returned we found the trail and ascended to an elevation of about 100 feet and so began our walk across a ledge. On one side of the trail was a tall, long outcrop and on the other a steep slope down to a valley. It was cool looking down onto the tops of trees.
Sassacus (Massachusett: Sassakusu (fierce) (c. 1560 – June 1637) was born near present-day Groton, Connecticut. He was a Pequot sachem, and he became grand sachem after his father, sachem Tatobem was killed in 1632. The Mohegans led by sachem Uncas rebelled against domination by the Pequots. Sassacus and the Pequots were defeated by English colonists along with their Narragansett and Mohegan allies in the Pequot War. Sassacus fled to what he thought was safety among the Iroquois Mohawks in present-day New York, but they murdered him. They sent his head and hands to the Connecticut Colony as a symbolic offering of friendship. ~ Wikipedia
Notice in the picture below how the trail squeezed its way between two glacial erratics. There was no other way around unless we wanted to tumble down the hill to the left.
After about twenty minutes of walking we started to hear water rushing and then maybe five minutes later we could see a stream way down below so I used the zoom lens to get a picture.
At this point we turned around because the path was starting to look even more tricky to navigate. Retracing our steps we found that the sunlight now illuminated some colors deep in the woods.
October, the extravagant sister, has ordered an immense amount of the most gorgeous forest tapestry for her grand reception. ~ Oliver Wendell Holmes (The Seasons)
This large glacial erratic seemed to be precariously balanced…
For the remainder of the walk back I enjoyed finding sunlight on the fallen leaves, mosses and lichens.
Truly it has been said, that to a clear eye the smallest fact is a window through which the Infinite may be seen. ~ Thomas Henry Huxley (The Major Prose of Thomas Henry Huxley)
It was an adventure finding this little nature preserve in the middle of town, surrounded by railroad tracks, streets, houses and a new elementary magnet school. And then coming home to learn about Sassacus and starting to picture his people living in these woods four hundred long years ago.
While she was visiting last week we finally got a chance to take our granddaughter, age 7, to the Denison Pequotsepos Nature Center! She was all set with her camera and water bottle and we played follow the leader as she explored the place at her own pace. Sometimes we struggled to keep up but she was patient with us and we would catch up and so we had a fantastic time. 😊
After exploring the indoor exhibits we headed outdoors to see the birds in the rehab enclosures. We even got to see a staff member feed the raptors dead mice. It was difficult getting pictures through the wires but these two were acceptable.
For many decades the Denison Pequotsepos Nature Center has been licensed by the U.S. Department of Fish and Wildlife to care for injured wild animals. We are part of a region-wide network of wildlife specialists that handle emergencies and help seek appropriate care for injured wildlife. ~ DPNC website
Next we followed a trail and spotted a Canada goose sitting on her nest on a hummock in the middle of a pond. Nearby her mate was patrolling the area.
Our minds, as well as our bodies, have need of the out-of-doors. Our spirits, too, need simple things, elemental things, the sun and the wind and the rain, moonlight and starlight, sunrise and mist and mossy forest trails, the perfumes of dawn and the smell of fresh-turned earth and the ancient music of wind among the trees. ~ Edwin Way Teale (Circle of the Seasons: The Journal of a Naturalist’s Year)
Kat led us back to the nature center and to the parking lot, checking rocks along the way to find dry ones for Grandpa to sit on for his rests. The occasional benches were welcome, too. She is a very curious, thoughtful and kind little sweetheart.
Here are two posts from the past illustrating Kat’s keen interest in maps: here(5th picture, age 4) and here(2nd picture and others, age 2).
The three of us had such a wonderful morning at the nature center! 💕
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! 🙂
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.)
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.
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)
The famous oak didn’t survive the gypsy moth assault in 1969. Fifty-one years later this is all that is left of it:
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)
We continued walking and found a historical cemetery.
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.
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.
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.