solitary boulders, stranded here and there

11.2.22 ~ a trail at Bluff Point State Park & Coastal Reserve

Hello, November! Taking an afternoon walk instead of our usual morning saunter proved to be invigorating — we went on for an hour and a half! There are many side trails at Bluff Point and we took a couple of them, finding some summery greens, a few fall colors and many bare trees, ready for winter. And of course, glacial erratics at every turn.

dried up browned ferns surround a glacial erratic
birch leaf

As we were walking along we were surprised to witness the silent flight of an owl. We did not see or hear it swoop down to catch its prey, but we suddenly heard the moment of capture, a rustling of the dry leaves on the ground, and then saw it fly up and away, soundlessly, carrying its squirrel-sized victim.

dense woodland behind old stone wall
sunlit maple leaves

The entire Connecticut landscape is a gift of the glacier. … Our safe harbors, historic mill sites and early farm economy were made possible by an ice sheet that oozed down from Canada between 25,000 and 15,000 years ago. The ice sheet also gave us fertile lowlands along our large rivers, gracefully curved upland pastures, gravel riffles in trout streams, verdant marshes fronting shoreline villages, a patchwork of stone walls, bricks for colonial buildings and solitary boulders, stranded here and there as if they were hillside shipwrecks. All of these are glacier gifts.
~ Robert Thorson
(“Connecticut’s Glacial Gifts”, Hartford Courant, August 31, 2003)

American wintergreen

We also saw a woodpecker and a nuthatch, but couldn’t get a decent picture of either of them. It was loads of fun navigating all the side trails weaving through the woods, deciding which fork to take several times. It was almost like a maze and we did backtrack a few times when we seemed to be going in the wrong direction.

sassafras leaf
a squirrel for Linda

When we got back to the parking lot a man was feeding a couple of squirrels. I think he must be doing it regularly because the squirrels were hanging out there very close to him. There were a few birds scolding this squirrel, impatient to have at some of those seeds he was sitting on. It was such a pleasure to be deep in the woods on a warm and lovely November afternoon.

a few prosaic days

Besides the Autumn poets sing
A few prosaic days
A little this side of the snow
And that side of the Haze —

~ Emily Dickinson
(The Poems of Emily Dickinson, #123)

After a few muggy, rainy days it felt wonderful to get out for an autumn walk in good weather. It was only in the 40s Friday so we wore our winter coats and headed for Sheep Farm. I realized we had been here in September 2021 and November 2020 but never in October. Fall is in full swing now here. We started down the yellow trail.

10.28.22 ~ Sheep Farm
glacial erratic viewed from the yellow trail
new trail markers on the trees

There were so many leaves on the trail we made good use of the new trail markers to stay on track. Love walking on dry, crunchy leaves…

leaves, moss and lichen on a glacial erratic
waterfall in Fort Hill Brook
amazing root system

The drought seems to be over (or almost over) judging by the water flowing in the brook. The drought map for Connecticut puts us on the line between “none” and “abnormally dry.” We decided to cross the footbridge over the brook and get another view of the waterfall.

waterfall viewed from other side of the brook
the same root system viewed from the other side of the brook
footbridge and huge tree with its amazing roots

The we turned around, heading up the hill and branching off onto the red trail.

golden yellow and burnt orange
other side of glacial erratic viewed from the red trail
tree with leaves in shades of green, rusty orange and brick red

On our way back to the car we encountered a very large group of mothers and children of all ages. They just kept coming and coming and the air was filled with their happy, excited voices. I wondered if they were all being homeschooled. When we got back to the parking lot we laughed because when we had arrived earlier ours had been the only car parked. Now there were a dozen (we counted!) SUVs surrounding us. Can you tell which car is ours? They sure gave us plenty of elbow room!

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.

picked out by the sun

10.7.22 ~ Caroline Black Garden, Connecticut College Arboretum

Caroline Black Garden is known as the secret garden of Connecticut College, located on a steep hill between the college and the Thames River. Starting with this gate you follow paths passing through various garden “rooms.” It has four acres of native and exotic ornamental trees and bushes. We enjoyed a morning of exploration.

western red cedar
paths connected the “rooms”

Sit and be quiet. In a while
the red berries, now in shadow,
will be picked out by the sun.

~ Wendell Berry
(This Day: Collected & New Sabbath Poems)

path leading to a magical pool
Tim pretending to climb a huge glacial erratic
water bubbling out from under this rock ~ a spring perhaps?
Japanese inspired water feature
THIS POOL GIVEN TO
THE CAROLINE BLACK
MEMORIAL GARDEN
BY THE NEW LONDON
HORTICULTURAL SOCIETY
1930
gate leaving pool “room”

The clearing rests in song and shade.
It is a creature made
By old light held in soil and leaf,
By human joy and grief,
By human work,
Fidelity of sight and stroke,
By rain, by water on
The parent stone.

~ Wendell Berry
(This Day: Collected & New Sabbath Poems)

prickly pear, the only cactus native to Connecticut
bee and goldenrod
another garden gate

What a natural wellspring — cooling and refreshing the years — is the gift of wonder! It removes the dryness from life and keeps our days fresh and expanding.
~ Edwin Way Teale
(Circle of the Seasons: The Journal of a Naturalist’s Year)

woodland treasures

8.15.22 ~ Beebe Pond Park

Scenes from a wonderful late summer walk on an incredibly beautiful day. No humidity, comfortable temperatures in the 70s, and no mosquitoes, no doubt thanks to the continuing severe drought.

hiding in plain sight
walking over roots and around boulders to get to the pond
great blue heron way across the pond
tiny flower with orbs
Beebe Pond during severe drought
water lilies carpeting the low water level
buzzy
no standing room
a giant
(there’s a little chipmunk sitting on the rotting wood under the erratic)
hiding under the giant
as far as the eye can see, an endlessly rocky trail
the space between
impaled
marcescence
marching to the beat of a different drummer
the lofty oak

When we had arrived at the park we saw two cars from a dog day care business and wondered what situation we might encounter on the trail. Much to my relief we crossed paths with two women walking eight medium-sized dogs on leashes. The dogs were well-behaved and minding their own business. (No tugging, lunging or barking.) Cesar Millan would have approved. 🙂 I was impressed!

summer solstice in the woods

6.20.22 ~ Bluff Point State Park & Coastal Reserve

This is the third year we’ve celebrated Midsummer since this endless coronavirus pandemic began. Driving on our way to a walk in the woods I was chattering to Tim about the “end” of the pandemic, how it was becoming more or less endemic now and that maybe I should stop tagging my posts with “pandemic.”

last quarter moon

Monday was a perfect summer day and the trees were green and lovely. Tim was already wearing shorts and I was still in my hoodie, typical between-season attire for this couple. 😉 We had forgotten it was a 3-day weekend, a Monday holiday for Juneteenth, so there were lots of people in the state park. No matter, everyone was friendly and in good spirits.

a peek at the Poquonnock River

We had a nice conversation with a young couple from New Hampshire who were very excited about a bird they had spotted. (We finally got a glimpse of it but couldn’t see it well enough to identify it.) And another conversation with a man, about our age, who commented on how good the honeysuckle was smelling and asked me about the zoom lens on my camera. I really didn’t feel too nervous being so close without a mask since we were outside.

it looks like these two trees are lifting the glacial erratic up off the ground

I took a picture of these trees holding the boulder (above) in November 2020. See here. Interesting difference between autumn and summer surroundings.

beach rose blossom
honeysuckle blossoms
greenery!

It turned out to be the longest walk we’ve taken in ages, a whole hour and a half! And I don’t know what it is about catbirds this year — they are turning up everywhere! It was one of those days where it simply felt exhilarating to be alive and present.

gray catbird
twig art on glacial erratic
the twig and the glacial erratic in the above picture
clover blossom
another sunlit glacial erratic
another gray catbird

I’m still enjoying daily encounters with the catbird coming to the birch tree outside my kitchen window. He usually announces the visit with a few meows and then begins his repertoire of varied melodies, songs that I imagine he has picked up and adopted along the way.

on another branch

People who watch a banded gray catbird outside their window all summer will find it hard not to wonder exactly where it’s spending the winter, or to marvel that science still doesn’t have the answer. And if the catbird doesn’t come back, they, too, will inevitably wonder why.
~ Miyoko Chu
(Songbird Journeys: Four Seasons in the Lives of Migratory Birds)

looking the other way
hawkweed (thanks to Eliza for the id)
a chipmunk on the path

But perceptions will inevitably shift, as fickle as the weather. On arriving home we learned that a fully vaccinated relative has come down with covid and had a very high fever. The news shattered my hopeful illusions. Other relatives who have had the virus have said it was no worse than a cold. One of the most disconcerting things about the illness is that it is impossible to know how it will hit you until you actually catch it.

And then, the next morning I woke to the news that a play we were planning to attend outdoors this week was put on hold:

Update on PEER GYNT: Due to COVID delays, our production will not be opening this weekend (June 23-26) in Wilcox Park. We will update on our revised schedule of performances as soon as we can. Thank you for your understanding and stay safe!
~ Flock Theatre

Connecticut’s positivity rate is hovering around 8%. So, all things considered, I guess it’s too soon to remove the pandemic tag from my posts. This refreshing walk will be recalled as our third pandemic summer solstice celebration. Feeling gratitude for the company of sociable strangers, playful catbirds and a chipmunk with the munchies on this memorable, bittersweet day.

music in the meadow

6.3.22 ~ Connecticut College Arboretum

Friday evening my sister and brother-in-law invited us to go with them to Music in the Meadow, a family-friendly outdoor concert in the Connecticut College Arboretum. We brought our lawn chairs and enjoyed the beautiful weather and setting. After walking through the woods we found a spot for ourselves up on a hill overlooking the lawn where most of the audience was seated.

the mountain laurel was starting to bloom
in the meadow

After we got settled I took a little walk and tried to capture with my camera some of the plants growing in the meadow. Suddenly I spotted an eye, a little bunny was looking at me, frozen in place. I kept my distance and used my zoom lens, delighted with my discovery.

The bunny wasn’t there when I checked back later so I worried about it. But I think, although small and young, it was old enough to be on its own. Phew!

Baby rabbits leave the nest when they’re 3 weeks old and about the size of a chipmunk. If you find a chipmunk-sized but fully-furred rabbit with eyes open, ears erect, and the ability to hop, they are meant to be on their own. As small and helpless as they may look, they are not an orphan and doesn’t need your help.
~ The Humane Society of the United States website

meadows have so many layers and textures
our view from above
Kala Farnham

The first performer was an amazing folk singer-songwriter, Kala Farnham, and the four of us agreed her hour of singing was the highlight of the whole show.

Nestled away in the Quiet Corner of rural Connecticut, a pint-sized songstress set out into the world with one vision: to inspire and heal through the transformative power of music. Decades later, Kala has performed at listening rooms across the country, garnering numerous awards and media attention, including The Rose Garden Performing Songwriter Contest 2019 winner, 2020 Falcon Ridge Folk Festival Grassy Hill Emerging Artist, and Great American Song Contest Finalist. Drawing from a classical education and a professional background in musical theater, Kala presents a hallmark reinvention of the folk tradition. Her passion for fairytales, ancient history, and storytelling draws audiences from around the country into the reinvented worlds of alternate times and places.
~ Kala Farnham website

However, our attention kept being drawn aside to the excitement of lots of children playing on the glacial erratics at the back of the lawn. Their shouts of glee as they darted from stone to stone, climbing and jumping… it was pure joy to see. To be young and that quick and flexible again…

When Kala Farnham was done with her set and The CarLeans were setting up for their hour, I took another little meadow walk. They were good, too, a blend of styles, folk, Cajun, Latin, and Americana.

meadow magic
some other kids discovered this glacial erratic up on our hill

It started getting dark when The CarLeans were done and then Ward Hayden & The Outliers (“a mix of old school country, early rock ‘n’ roll, blues, and country rock”) started setting up. We stayed for one of their songs but then headed for home because we were getting cold and tired — old folks — as my father used to say. It was a wonderful evening.

looking south after sunset
moon magic
the darkening woods behind us
one last look down at the stage

We’ve been busy the past few weeks getting ready for another change in our lives. Tim’s heart disease has progressed to the point where he now needs a pacemaker. He will be having surgery to put it in on Tuesday and will spend one night in the hospital. His cardiologist hopes this will help with his shortness of breath, abnormal fatigue and very low pulse. Time will tell. ❤️

it’s like the woods

4.4.22 ~ Denison Pequotsepos Nature Center

Four days after we visited the nature center with Kat I wanted to return to see if the Canada goose was still sitting on her eggs. She was, and had turned and was facing the other direction. This time we walked on some other trails through the woods and the meadow. There are still more loops to follow so we plan to return once a week to see the Canada goose, and if we’re lucky, some goslings one day.

eastern white pine sapling growing in the swamp
glacial erratic on top of Council Rock

It’s like the Light —
A fashionless Delight —
It’s like the Bee —
A dateless — Melody —

It’s like the Woods —
Private — Like the Breeze —
Phraseless — yet it stirs
The proudest Trees —

It’s like the morning —
Best — when it’s done —
And the Everlasting Clocks —
Chime — Noon!

~ Emily Dickinson
(The Poems of Emily Dickinson, #302)


I imagine ‘it’ in Emily’s poem is Presence.

We also found six locations along the Meditation Walking Path, “each selected to provide a place for quiet reflection or meditation.” The path follows some of the other trails and the shortcuts between them. A little confusing but I think we sorted it out.

plentiful skunk cabbage
the leaves are food for the Canada goose couple
a blind for meadow bird photographers
a view from the blind
birdhouse in the woods
red-bellied woodpecker
Canada goose on her nest
notice the turtle climbing up the rocks
mama
seed pods, goose feather and moss on water
papa’s morning nap

The light is so magical this time of year!

Sadly, Connecticut’s covid positivity rate is going up again. On Friday it was over 5%. I got my second booster shot that day and felt malaise all weekend, but it wasn’t too bad. Feeling overwhelming mourning and anticipatory grief for Ukraine…

to the dinosaur place

4.1.22 ~ The Dinosaur Place
Oakdale, Connecticut

Kat’s last day with us turned out to be the season’s opening day at the Dinosaur Place. We were there when the doors opened and were the first visitors of the year! It was a chilly, dreary day and we were sprinkled with occasional raindrops, but we had fun in spite of the dismal weather.

First we spent a lot of time watching Kat play in the T-Rex Tower at Monty’s Playground. While we were waiting for the attendant to dry off its surfaces we played a couple of rounds of hide-and-seek with our granddaughter. I can’t remember the last time I played hide-and-seek!

Then we started walking on one of the trails, noticing along the way just some of the 50 life-sized dinosaurs lurking in the woods. Kat followed the signs to Carnivore Cavern.

The first time through Grandpa was brave enough to go with her. They came out smiling but Kat was covering her ears and reported that it was VERY LOUD in there.

Then Kat announced that she was going to go through all by her self, and she did. 🙂

Then we found the A-MAZE-asaurus maze, complete with an observation deck, from where Grandpa and Grammy watched Kat try to make her way through. After a bit we offered suggestions. Good thing she knew her right from her left.

The exit turned out to be a tunnel slide, with a dinosaur mouth to pass through. Too bad we couldn’t scramble over there fast enough to see her at the top or landing at the bottom.

Then we followed the map to find the secret treasure, a large piece of quartz in the ground.

And some petrified wood…

And then Kat wanted to return to Carnivore Cavern to take me through. So I got a picture of inside the entrance.

And then it got very dark and then the dinosaurs in there roared. I managed to get a picture of one of the beasts!

After we that we followed another trail. I couldn’t resist getting a picture of a skunk cabbage down in the swamp.

It’s fun seeing dinosaurs outside and getting a walk in the woods in at the same time.

Kat resting with Grandpa
waiting for Grandpa and noticing a lot of moss behind her
observing an abundance of mosses and lichens
the king of a rocky moss-covered mountain

On the way out Kat and her grandpa got some ice cream at The Village Ice Cream Shoppe, the first customers of the season. 😉 A perfect way to end the day. I hope we will be bringing Finn here, too, someday soon. 💙

It was almost nine years ago that Tim and I came here with our grandnephews, Julius and Dominic. I’m glad to have pictures and memories from that fun day, too. Pictures here. Those little guys are teenagers now!