fireside thoughts

“Woman Seated by a Fireplace” by Amedeo Modigliani

I sit beside the fire and think
of all that I have seen,
of meadow-flowers and butterflies
in summers that have been;

Of yellow leaves and gossamer
in autumns that there were,
with morning mist and silver sun
and wind upon my hair.

I sit beside the fire and think
of how the world will be
when winter comes without a spring
that I shall ever see.

For still there are so many things
that I have never seen:
in every wood in every spring
there is a different green.

~ J. R. R. Tolkien
(The Fellowship of the Ring)

a thing made of holes

12.7.21 ~ Pequotsepos Brook Preserve, Stonington, Connecticut

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.

the first colonial stone slab bridge we saw
lovely moss greenery in the dull landscape
path cutting through one of many stone walls
looking up into an old oak, a “wolf tree”
a relic from farms of the past when trees along the edges of open fields
could spread their branches without competition from other trees
leftover autumn leaves
Tim was captivated with this tree,
which grew sideways before it grew up
windswept pine needles
backlit oak leaf
pine sapling nursery

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)

tangled up
breaking down
Pequotsepos Brook running under another colonial stone slab bridge

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.

one morning, two walks

11.15.21 ~ New London Ledge Light from Eastern Point

Our first walk of the morning was at “our” beach. The clouds were dramatic and it was too windy so we didn’t stay very long.

hydrangea seed heads?
content Canada goose
American crow
climbing bittersweet?

We had to stop at the post office after that walk so we decided to explore a new Groton Open Space Association property. Walt’s Walls & Woods was acquired on July 31st and it is near the post office. We wound up taking another walk.

11.15.21 ~ Walt’s Walls & Woods, Groton, Connecticut

Walt’s Walls and Woods provides a small forest, wetlands, exquisite stonewalls and gardens to a neighborhood green space for the residents and visitors of downtown Groton. Wetlands surround the property on three sides, and Town-owned open spaces cover two sides. A spectacular steep ravine, part of an ancient rift valley, is located nearby, separating the Ledges and Boulder Heights properties. … Walter Watrous spent many years constructing the exquisite stonewalls in front of the cliffside ledge, using a drystone technique, backfilling with crushed stone and providing room for the roots of the weeping cherry trees. Colorful creeping phlox, heathers, azaleas, rhododendrons and purple coneflowers extend the blooming season.
~ Groton Open Space Association website

notice the seam where the tree is meeting the erratic
other side of the same erratic and tree
this erratic looked like the back of a sea lion to me
beautiful autumn sky
reflecting sunlight
moss and lichen
autumn texture
steep hill

Autumn teaches us that fruition is also death; that ripeness is a form of decay. The willows, having stood for so long near water, begin to rust. Leaves are verbs that conjugate the seasons.
~ Gretel Ehrlich
(The Solace of Open Spaces: Essays)

a stone wall interrupted by a glacial erratic
some of Walter Watrous’ stone walls
a dandelion in November?

It was a lovely walk. We’re looking forward to coming back to see the weeping cherries bloom come spring. But, first we’ll have to see what winter has in store for us.

komorebi

11.13.21 ~ Saint Patrick Cemetery, Mystic, Connecticut

The interplay between light and the leaves when sunlight filters through trees. The Japanese have a word for it: komorebi. Every spring and autumn the wonderful quality of the sunlight surrounding the equinoxes makes our walks in the woods (or cemeteries) seem so enchanting, whether the leaves are on the ground, on the trees, or fluttering around in the air. It’s starting to dim now that we are closer to the winter solstice, but I thought I might squeeze in one last batch of leaf photos!

little splotch of sunlight

We came back to this cemetery after we discovered it a couple of weeks ago. It had lots of trees and natural beauty, set on the banks of the picturesque Mystic River. A wind and rain storm was due later in the afternoon and it was already getting breezy. The sky was still blue to the east and getting pretty gray to the west. Still, enough sun came out to play at times.

And all the lives we ever lived
And all the lives to be
Are full of trees and changing leaves.

~ Virginia Woolf
(To the Lighthouse)

view across the Mystic River

I love autumn and winter more. Something opens up in me then ~ something soft and deep and glowing ~ which is far too shy to expose itself to the inexhaustible light of summer.
~ Sharon Blackie
(The Enchanted Life, Unlocking the Magic of the Everyday)

a blue bike and a blue bug
the license plate says “OLE BUG”
same driveway as seen in above picture
love this burnt orange color
Mystic River
a rare bit of red? or burnt orange?
stuck on the fence
another view across the Mystic River
木漏れ日 (koh-mo-reh-bee)

A couple of hours after we got home a quick but terribly windy thunderstorm with heavy rain passed through. Later we learned that four confirmed tornadoes had touched down in Connecticut! One of them was an EF-1 with estimated 90 mph winds in Stonington, about 15 miles to the east of us. The other three were farther away and were EF-0s. Tornadoes in November???

The four twisters that struck Connecticut are the only four on record to occur in the state during November and the most in the state in a single day since May 15, 2018.
~ Jacob Feuerstein
(The Washington Post, November 14, 2021)

a long narrow hilltop

11.9.21 ~ Candlewood Ridge, climbing up to the ridge

Last week we revisited Candlewood Ridge, where we had an amazing walk in April 2020. This day we didn’t get as far as we did the last time because Tim’s back and hip were acting up, but it was interesting to see how different things were with the passing of time.

For one thing, we remembered spotting a glacial erratic across the ravine but there was so much vegetation now that we couldn’t even see the other side of the ravine. So we walked north along the trail at the top of the ridge and spotted an erratic that Tim had stood next to last time. The brush was so thick we couldn’t get close to it.

I put a picture of Tim by it last time below. Nature is always changing the scenery!

4.17.20 ~ Tim with the same boulder a year and seven months ago
so many orbs

After we got to the erratic above we decided to turn back. But when we got to the side trail to go back down to the car I spotted another erratic farther south on the ridge, in the direction we hadn’t taken last time. So we found a spot for Tim to sit and rest and I took off on my own to get some pictures. Little did I know I was in for a good scare.

front of the huge glacial erratic

I took pictures of the front and then went around to the back of it and took some more.

back of the huge glacial erratic

As I was taking pictures of the back I became aware of the sound of panting approaching from behind me pretty quickly. I froze, and before I knew it a loose dog appeared. I have an intense fear of large and medium size dogs so it was all I could do to keep myself from panicking. I forced myself to remember Cesar Millan’s advice, “no touch, no talk, no eye contact.” I was glad I had the camera in my hands, for some reason it made me feel less vulnerable. The dog seemed uninterested in me and kept a respectable distance, although it did circle around me a few times.

side of the huge glacial erratic

I moved to the side of the erratic and kept taking pictures, ignoring the dog. I didn’t realize he got in two of the pictures! Then I decided to start walking back to Tim, followed by the dog. After I got within earshot I called him, calmly, and asked him to come to me. Meanwhile another dog came along the path, and then about the time Tim and I met the dogs’ owner came along, too. Phew! She continued north on the trail and we took the path down to the car. My heart was pounding.

path down from the ridge

Instead of heading straight home we took another autumn drive and wound up near the Mystic River. Mallard photo op!

And berry tangles!

Like a tide it comes in,
wave after wave of foliage and fruit,
the nurtured and the wild,
out of the light to this shore.
In its extravagance we shape
the strenuous outline of enough.

~ Wendell Berry
(The Arrival)

For some reason the berries and twigs made me think of calico cloth or old-fashioned wallpaper. Autumn lingers…

house sparrow, wild turkeys, reindeer moss

11.3.21 ~ house sparrow in the river birch tree
outside my kitchen window

Now that some leaves have fallen off our tree we can see the little birds better from the kitchen window. We discovered a little nest deep in the branches. We are grateful to the tree for shading us from the hot sun all summer, and now with the leaves gone it will let some sunlight in to warm us up.


On Friday we decided to take a walk in the woods at a town park we’ve driven past many times, not realizing it wasn’t just a dog park, which is only a small part of the huge property. But first, as we were driving by the post office we had a close encounter with Thelma & Louise, a pair of male wild turkeys.

They are local celebrities and even have their own Facebook page, where humans post pictures of their sightings. A biologist weighed in and said they were two males, but the names Thelma & Louise remain stuck to them. They hang out in downtown Groton and regularly stop traffic as they stroll across the streets.

But nobody seems to get irritated with them as they wait patiently for the turkeys to get out of harm’s way.

We’ve crossed paths with them many times but this was the first time there was a place we could pull over and get a few pictures. I posted these on Facebook. 🙂


On to Copp Family Park. It was gorgeous! And we had a nice long walk because the uneven terrain on the trails was good for Tim’s back and hip. We even had to cross a stream using stepping stones. It felt so good to be deep in the woods again. No mosquitoes! In fact, we were wearing our winter coats because it was only 37°F (3°C) when we left the house.

The picture below is a failed attempt to capture a woodpecker, but I kind of like the pleasing composition.

I found a tree hosting lots of reindeer moss, at least I’m pretty sure that’s what this lichen is called…

I was holding a small clump of reindeer moss in one hand, a little piece of that branching, pale green-grey lichen that can survive just about anything the world throws at it. It is patience made manifest. Keep reindeer moss in the dark, freeze it, dry it to a crisp, it won’t die. It goes dormant and waits for things to improve. Impressive stuff.
~ Helen Macdonald
(H is for Hawk)

I even spotted some on the ground farther along the trail.

orbs and orange leaves
the largest glacial erratic we encountered
the other side of the glacial erratic
spiral growth?

After we got back to the car we decided to go for a leaf peeping drive and wound up at the cider mill and a cemetery. Will share those pictures in the next post!

autumn images

10.29.21 ~ Connecticut College Arboretum
poison ivy climbing a flowering dogwood

Our peak fall foliage dates are supposed to be October 24-November 6 so as soon as we got a chance between rainstorms we squeezed in this autumn walk. We enjoyed the colors but there is still a lot of green. Climate change, I suppose. We’ve been getting a lot of rain and our temperatures have been running about 10°F above normal. Sigh…

mottled colors

The energy from this huge American beech resonated with me. I think it might qualify as a wolf tree! It was too wide to get in one photograph! We lingered under its branches for quite a while.

American beech
American beech leaves starting to turn
interesting scars
other side of American beech
hints of Yuletide
tulip tree leaf
paper birch bark
paper birch leaves
sunlit changes
Tim contemplating a glacial erratic he might have climbed in his younger years
glacial erratic overlooking the amphitheater and pond
glacial erratic in pond supporting all kinds of life and a blueberry bush

A new bird for me! When I was taking the picture above I spotted some white “circles” moving in the distance, way across the pond. We followed the path around the pond and they swam in the opposite direction. So I tried my best with the zoom lens. When we retraced our steps, they swam back to where we were. Clever little things. They are a lot smaller than mallards.

male hooded merganser, #68

Hooded Merganser Lophodytes cucullatus: Year-round resident; fairly common to common migrant in March and from October to November; and fairly common in winter on fresh or brackish water on the coast or larger rivers. Uncommon and very local cavity-nesting breeder in secluded wooded swamps, beaver ponds with open water, mostly in the northwest hills and lower Connecticut River.
~ Frank Gallo
(Birding in Connecticut)

female hooded merganser
the red leaves are a reflection in the water,
the green leaves are hanging over the water
view of pond through the underside of leaves
orbs and sunlit leaves
one final spot of color

It was a refreshing, wonderful autumn walk!

steps of passing ghosts

10.22.21 ~ Florence Griswold Museum
dragonfly from “Twisted Sisters Magical Menagerie” by Kristen Thornton

Last week, Janet, Tim and I visited the annual Wee Faerie outdoor art exhibit at the Florence Griswold Museum in Old Lyme, Connecticut. They have a different theme every year and the trail is open for the whole month of October. This year’s theme was Folly Woods, Awesome Wee Faerie Architecture.

butterfly from “Twisted Sisters Magical Menagerie” by Kristen Thornton

Historic real-world follies are ornamental buildings designed to enhance the view at grand estates, public parks, and gardens. The fanciful forms of a folly is its function. Often inspired by the classical architecture of the ancient Greeks and Romans, folly architects also borrow decorative elements from Egypt, India, and Japan. This year, the wee faeries present FOLLY WOODS, a collection of miniature architectural masterworks for you to enjoy.
~ Folly Finder program

butterfly and bee homes from
“Arden’s Edenesque Escape” by Vanessa Bunnell

Janet and I first started coming to these in 2011! I’ve missed a year or two for various reasons but it’s always exciting to come back and see the newest creations. Spending time with Janet is always a gift. It’s such a lovely setting on the banks of the Lieutenant River that we found ourselves captivated by the trees and flowers as much as by the little fairy buildings.

Gothic-style pavilion from
“Periwinkle’s Picturesque Pavilion” by Lynda Cmara & Bettina Rowlands
the Green Man tucked behind a net, waiting for spring
from “Periwinkle’s Picturesque Pavilion” by Lynda Cmara & Bettina Rowlands
fall colors in the Lieutenant River
“Gwyndolyn’s Gatehouse” by The Vernons
black walnut
from “Avery’s Surreal Aviary” by Madeline Kwasniewski & T. Arthur Donnelly
Avery’s special bluebird from
from “Avery’s Surreal Aviary” by Madeline Kwasniewski & T. Arthur Donnelly
“Flora’s Artistic Atrium” by Jessica Zeedyk

Listen …
With faint dry sound,
Like steps of passing ghosts,
The leaves, frost-crisp’d, break free from the trees
And fall.

~ Adelaide Crapsey
(November Night)

a barn owl from “Baron Belfield’s Arch” by Kathryn Stocking-Koza
“Baron Belfield’s Arch” by Kathryn Stocking-Koza
details from “Baron Belfield’s Arch” by Kathryn Stocking-Koza
One never knows when a fairy might appear!
giant turtle foundation of “Serena’s Sylvan Shelter” by Nancy MacBride
turtle top of of “Serena’s Sylvan Shelter” by Nancy MacBride
mushrooms from “Faye’s Mystic Garden” by Bill Vollers & Dawn Hutchins
from “Faye’s Mystic Garden” by Bill Vollers & Dawn Hutchins
“Rodger Dodger’s Hodge-Podge Lodge” by Billie Tannen & Bob Nielsen

If you want to see some highlights from past years just click on the Florence Griswold Museum category below and you will find all my past wee faerie posts. 🧚 Some of the artists have contributed before so if you click on their names in the categories below you might find things they’ve created in past years.

As nature descends into the sacred darkness it’s the season for me to honor my departed ancestors. This is the time of year when I feel their presence the strongest. The blessings of All Hallows Eve.

May you know that absence is alive with hidden presence, that nothing is ever lost or forgotten. May the absences in your life grow full of eternal echo. May you sense around you the secret Elsewhere where the presences that have left you dwell.
~ John O’Donohue
(To Bless the Space Between Us)

red-tailed hawk, cutting garden, entomology

10.1.21 ~ Harkness Memorial State Park

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.

#67

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.

monarch
bee buddies?
yellow!
pink!
purplish-red!
fading fast
monarch
monarch
wonder what kind of moth or fly this is?
ready to bloom
gold!
another ready to bloom
soft summer colors in the fall
(porcelain berry)

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)