Properly bundled up for the weather, we had a nice long walk in this 44-acre nature preserve a couple of days ago. It was originally part of 500 acres given to Capt. John Gallup in 1643, a reward from the royal court in England for his part in the Pequot Massacre.
There is a time in life when you expect the world to be always full of new things. And then comes a day when you realise that is not how it will be at all. You see that life will become a thing made of holes. Absences. Losses. Things that were there and are no longer. And you realise, too, that you have to grow around and between the gaps, though you can put your hand out to where things were and feel that tense, shining dullness of the space where the memories are. ~ Helen Macdonald (H is for Hawk)
It was a sunny day, 41°F/5°C, with a feels-like temperature of 34°F/1°C, due to a moderate wind from the northwest. Connecticut’s positivity rate jumped to 8.33%. Sobering, indeed. So grateful we still have the woods to explore and fresh air to breathe.
A new bird for me! When we got to Harkness Memorial State Park on Friday morning my eyes went immediately to the top of the water tower, where I had seen the black vulture at the end of July. There were lots of small birds making a racket and then, as if on cue, this red-tailed hawk flew in for a landing. His approach must have been what was causing such a stir with the little birds.
Red-tailed Hawk Buteo jamaicensis: Uncommon to locally common breeder, and common migrant and winter resident throughout Connecticut. A perch-hunting generalist found in many wooded habitats often adjacent to open fields; also hunts by roadsides. ~ Frank Gallo (Birding in Connecticut)
After taking a zillion blurry pictures of the hawk, the cutting garden, what we really came to see, beckoned to us…
But as we stepped into it I just had to look over my shoulder, then turn around and capture the hawk from a different angle and distance.
And then I could start paying attention to all the early autumn treasures in the cutting garden.
But the best part of the day was getting back into the car and checking our cell phones to find an email from our daughter in North Carolina. Kat’s second grade teacher sent her this picture with the text message: “Kat was my brave friend today and got our friend away from us at lunch!” Larisa responded to her saying, “Lol, she loves bugs, just like her great, great grandmother who was an amateur entomologist.”
My grandmother lives on in my granddaughter! ♡ It also makes me so happy that my daughter is passing on the family stories. ♡ And I do wonder what kind of bug that is…
If you look deeply into the palm of your hand, you will see your parents and all generations of your ancestors. All of them are alive in this moment. Each is present in your body. You are the continuation of each of these people. ~ Thich Nhat Hanh (Present Moment Wonderful Moment: Mindfulness Verses for Daily Living)
Trees blossoming like nerves racing through the skin. Memories of angels with hand on cheek on a traveling cloud. Perceived like flocks of snow-white deer in full flight through my garden. ~ Astrid Hjertenæs Andersen (Seasons)
Truly, we live with mysteries too marvelous to be understood.
How grass can be nourishing in the mouths of the lambs. How rivers and stones are forever in allegiance with gravity while we ourselves dream of rising. How two hands touch and the bonds will never be broken. How people come, from delight or the scars of damage, to the comfort of a poem.
Let me keep my distance, always, from those who think they have the answers.
Let me keep company always with those who say “Look!” and laugh in astonishment, and bow their heads.
We all want answers today, and science is not going to give them. Science is uncertainty. And the pace of uncertainty reduction in science is way slower than the pace of a pandemic. ~ Brian Nosek (The Washington Post, May 26, 2020)
I’ve been thinking about scientists a lot lately, beacuse of the pandemic, so when I read the above quote in the newspaper about “the pace of uncertainty reduction in science” it caught my attention. I remember my father teaching me that whenever science finds an “answer” it only brings more questions into focus. The more scientists learn, the more they appreciate how much they still don’t know.
Experiment, observe and gather data. Make educated guesses and investigate some more. My father spent his entire research career studying chicken viruses. It’s kind of astonishing that there could be so much to learn about just one kind of virus. Years and years of probing and analysis.
As far as I can tell, the scientists studying the coronavirus pandemic have been very candid about what they still don’t know. Yet, their best guess is that wearing a mask makes sense because it will likely protect other people from you if you happen to have the virus (with no symptoms) and are spreading it without realizing it. Combined with social distancing and frequent hand-washing, this is our best strategy for slowing down the spread of COVID-19 for now. Rest assured scientists are still searching for answers, hoping to reduce the uncertainty as soon as humanly possible!
In my defense, the leaves look very similar. Back in April 2013 I found this lovely tree in Stonington Cemetery and eventually identified it as an elm tree. For our walk today we decided to visit “Grandmother Elm” and wander around the hilly graveyard. When we got to the tree my eye was immediately drawn to an ID tag someone had added, evidently in 2018.
When we got home I was very surprised to learn that tilia × europaea is a common linden! I stand corrected!
After our walk we decided to go to a local nursery to buy a geranium for our balcony. Since we’re still staying home we weighed the pros and cons of doing this very carefully. We didn’t have to go inside the building because most of the plants were outside, even the cashier was outside. Everyone was wearing a mask and everyone was respectfully keeping their distance. The 6-foot-apart spaces to wait in line were well marked. Wearing our masks, we grabbed a geranium, paid for it, had the cashier keep the change, and used our hand sanitizer before getting back in the car. I was very nervous about all this. I am terrified of the virus and not ashamed to admit it. Having heard so many stories about some people taunting others for wearing masks and practicing social distancing I was concerned about a possible confrontation. But on the way home I realised my faith in human decency has been restored, at least for the time being. Thank you, my fellow Nutmeggers!
Shakespeare possesses the power of subordinating nature for the purposes of expression, beyond all poets. His imperial muse tosses the creation like a bauble from hand to hand, and uses it to embody any caprice of thought that is uppermost in his mind. The remotest spaces of nature are visited, and the farthest sundered things are brought together, by subtle spiritual connection. We are made aware that magnitude of material things is relative, and all objects shrink and expand to serve the passion of the poet. ~ Ralph Waldo Emerson (Treasury of Thought: Forming an Encyclopædia of Quotation from Ancient & Modern Authors)
Last autumn we lost our aunt, who lived to be 101 years old. The various stories behind the above drawing presented a puzzle for us but after comparing memories we finally decided that the sketch was probably drawn on one of Auntie’s cruises. She kept it hanging above her bed for as long as I can remember, flanked on either side with the senior high school pictures of my sister and me.
Following is the obituary I wrote for the newspapers:
Lillian Elizabeth (Chomiak) Rioux, 101, of Storrs, Connecticut, died on October 27, 2016, at Mansfield Center for Nursing & Rehabilitation, after a short illness.
Lillian was born on January 30, 1915 in New York City, the daughter of the late William & Katherine (Fusiak) Chomiak, both immigrants from Ukraine. She married Leo Oscar Rioux on November 30, 1934 at Montville, Connecticut. Her husband died on June 5, 1957, leaving her a widow for 59 years. Lillian was predeceased by their two sons, Leo Adrian Rioux (1936-1984) and Lance William Rioux (1950-1979).
Lillian was also predeceased by six siblings, Mary Riback, Jon Stephen Chomiak, Augustine Chomiak, Augusta Jean Hereth, Olga Chomiak, and Theodore William Chomiak. She is survived by her sister, Ludmila Sabatiuk of West Virginia, her grandchildren, Leo Rioux, Jr. of Montville and Sarah James of Tennessee, seven nieces and nephews, four great-grandchildren, and a great-great-grandson.
Lil was a graduate of Norwich Free Academy and was a seamstress employed at Hendel Manufacturing Company in New London for many years. She was a long time resident of Montville and later moved to Juniper Hill Village in Storrs to live closer to her brother. An avid traveler, beach bum and shell collector, she loved to sew, cook, grow orchids, do jigsaw puzzles and work with her hands.
A memorial gathering will be planned for next spring. Memorial donations can be made to Mansfield Town Senior Center, 303 Maple Rd, Storrs, CT 06268.
We had our memorial gathering for her on May 6, spreading her ashes on the graves of her parents and her husband and two sons, as she had directed. My Aunt Em read to us her memories of Aunt Lil’s earlier years.
Every year on Memorial Day, my father would drive Aunt Lil to these two adjacent cemeteries, so she could plant geraniums in front of the headstones, each one a different shade of red or pink. When my father could no longer drive, my sister and brother-in-law stepped in to take her. As he has been doing for years now, John once again planted the geraniums that meant so much to her, this time with family spreading ashes and telling stories.
The story Auntie told me was that it was not permitted for her to be buried in the Catholic cemetery with her husband and sons because she never converted to Catholicism. But she married a Catholic and had her sons baptized in the church. It was her wish to join them in the cemetery by spreading her ashes on their graves.
At the last grave Tim read a poem my sister Beverly wrote in memory of Auntie for the occasion.
They were worker’s hands, never soft, never still. It took me fifty years to catch them, hold them, keep them safe and warm. A thousand times I watched them go: knit and purl peel and chop turn the pages stir the pot.
If hands could talk what would they say? It took me fifty years to hear them, know them, find out how they spoke. A thousand times I felt their love: show and tell hug and pat acts of kindness pet the cat.
I’d come to love her knobby hands that always showed me what to do. How those hands have touched my life! They’ve one more job before they’re through: stitch and mend my broken heart.
~ Beverly Chomiak (Her Hands)
Then we all went to eat at one of her favorite restaurants, Old Tymes in Norwich, finishing the meal with dishes of Auntie’s favorite black raspberry ice cream. ❤