a lonely, frightened acorn

“Oak grove. Autumn” by Isaac Levitan

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.

walking along a ledge

10.19.22 ~ Sassacus Nature Preserve, Groton, Connecticut

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)

a little beech sapling
moss surrounding the base of a tree
in a crevice of the outcrop
sapling at eye level growing out of the outcrop

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.

to the nature center

3.31.22 ~ Denison Pequotsepos Nature Center
Mystic, Connecticut

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. 😊

Kat playing a bird species memory game with Grandpa
taking pictures
eastern painted turtle

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.

Kat probably took more pictures than I did!

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)

moss-covered glacial erratics are always fun to capture
who’s that taking pictures of me?
Kat discovers a meadow
let’s see, which way to go?
time to stop taking pictures and start consulting a map
Kat loves maps
planning our meadow route
reviewing our meadow trek with Grandpa

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.

stone wall and daffodils across the road from the nature center

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! 💕

with fields of lavender

6.18.21 ~ Lavender Pond Farm ~ Killingworth, Connecticut

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.

“Enjoy a relaxing game of giant chess in our 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)

a bee!

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.

“There’s nearly 10,000 lavender plants in 30+ beds.”
“On sunny days our honeybees are busy as, well, you know…
and you can see them working around the hives.”

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)

“Our farm is solar powered. In 2017 we became only the second site
in the USA and first in CT to put in a SmartFlower.”
approaching the covered bridge
“We’ve got an Arnold M. Graton authentic covered bridge at our farm.
See the work of a master bridge wright.”

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?

“Our ‘Broadway Chicks’ are always excited to make new friends.”
well, this one was too sleepy to make new friends…
1947 Ford Pickup ~ “Half Ton”

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! 🙂

strong as a great oak

3.3.21 ~ Great Oak Park, Ledyard, Connecticut

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.)

photo by Tim

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.

beautiful blue sky
still a bit of ice and snow in places

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)

image credit: Ledyard Historical Society
The Ledyard Oak, c. 1910

The famous oak didn’t survive the gypsy moth assault in 1969. Fifty-one years later this is all that is left of it:

decomposing
devastation from an invasive species

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)

This little oak was planted beside the original in 2009.
Maybe 400 years from now…

We continued walking and found a historical cemetery.

interesting roots
Lester family cemetery, early 1800s
In memory of Solomon Lester who died Dec. 4, 1840 aged 69
Miss Lucy Lester died Apr. 18, 1814 in her 70th year
unused fence post and its shadow on a tree
some kind of moss or lichen
a huge rooster
a hen (?) and said rooster

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.

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.

the season’s setting

“Autumn Landscape” by Vincent van Gogh

The little forest has caught the trick of the sunset, and glows at the season’s setting with all the glory of the evening’s western sky.
~ Charles Conrad Abbott
(Days Out of Doors)

in the dim twilight

summer wolf by Chrille Kroll

But especially he loved to run in the dim twilight of the summer midnights, listening to the subdued and sleepy murmurs of the forest, reading signs and sounds as man may read a book, and seeking for the mysterious something that called – called, waking or sleeping, at all times, for him to come.
~ Jack London
(The Call of the Wild)