Is not this a true autumn day? Just the still melancholy that I love — that makes life and nature harmonize. The birds are consulting about their migrations, the trees are putting on the hectic or the pallid hues of decay, and begin to strew the ground, that one’s very footsteps may not disturb the repose of earth and air, while they give us a scent that is a perfect anodyne to the restless spirit. Delicious autumn! My very soul is wedded to it, and if I were a bird I would fly about the earth seeking the successive autumns. ~ George Eliot (Letter to Maria Lewis, October 1, 1841)
You wouldn’t think it was spring, Austin, if you were at home this morning, for we had a great snowstorm yesterday, and things are all white this morning. It sounds funny enough to hear birds singing and sleigh-bells at a time. But it won’t last long, so you needn’t think ’twill be winter at the time when you come home. ~ Emily Dickinson (Letter to William Austin Dickinson, March 24, 1852)
Springtime snowstorms were not uncommon in southern New England a hundred seventy-one years ago. They happened often enough when I was a child, sixty odd years ago. I prepared this post several years ago, hoping that we might get one again and I could use Emily’s words to go along with the weather. But it was not to be and since this is my last spring in New England I decided to post it now, in fond memory of times gone by.
The ground was pretty soggy from melting snow and days of rain so we decided to take a walk in the village of Stonington Borough, rather than traipse through the muddy woods. I visited this lighthouse many years ago with my sister-in-law and climbed the very narrow circular stairs up the tower to the lantern room on the top. The view was wonderful. There wasn’t much space to move around or stretch out, though!
The Stonington Harbor Light is a historic lighthouse built in 1840 and located on the east side of Stonington Harbor in the Borough of Stonington, Connecticut. It is a well-preserved example of a mid-19th century stone lighthouse. The light was taken out of service in 1889 and now serves as a local history museum. It was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1976. ~ Wikipedia
The Stonington Harbor Light is located at the southern end of Stonington Point, marking the eastern side of Stonington Harbor. The light station consists of the tower and keeper’s house; both are built out of large granite blocks, and the keeper’s house has a wood-framed ell attached. The tower is an octagonal stone structure 35 feet (11 m) in height and 10 feet (3.0 m) in diameter, with a circular glass lantern house on top. The house is 1½ stories and about 30 feet (9.1 m) square. ~ Wikipedia
The promise of a water view behind the lighthouse lured us around the back and across the spongy lawn. How nice to see a bench there. Looks like a nice spot to enjoy a warm spring day. But no sitting for us on this wet day!
There were lots of sparrows chirping and flitting about, making it feel like a spring day. We found a sundial in a corner of the yard but it was too cloudy out for the sun to tell us the time. It might have been accurate, too, because we are not in daylight savings time. I wish they would do away with the time change. We’re only under “real” time for about four months out of the twelve…
Looking west on our way down to Stonington Point we saw a moment of blue sky! From the end of the Stonington Borough peninsula one can see two lighthouses in two different states.
Latimer Reef Lighthouse, which was placed on the western end of the half-mile-long rocky reef, consists of a prefabricated, cylindrical, forty-nine foot-tall, cast-iron tower with a cast-iron, concrete-filled foundation. … There were a number of other lights built around this time using the same design and employing the same construction methods. They were initially referred to as “Coffee Pot” lights because of their shape, but a few decades later, after the internal combustion engine was in common use, these towers became more commonly known as “Spark Plug” lighthouses. ~ Lighthousefriends.com website
A good portion of the parking lot at the point was still covered with the snow deposited there from the blizzard. It blocked a lot of the views! But in the distance between these mounds (above) I spotted Watch Hill Light, which we visited in October. So I walked across the waterlogged lawn area and used my zoom lens to get a picture of it from Stonington Point. (below)
Our plan to keep our shoes dry failed completely! But at least they were less mucky than they would have been had we gone for a walk in the woods.
Years ago I used to be a member of the Stonington Historical Society but discontinued my membership when paying the dues didn’t fit in our budget. But it was there that I found a letter written to the Society by my great-grandmother in a file. Emma Flora Atwood was asking them if they had any information about her husband’s parents, William Martin White and Ellen C. Hill, who lived in Old Mystic, another village in Stonington. I don’t know what their reply might have been, but the folder had little else in it. It was exciting to handle a piece of paper that she had touched, too. I like to think my great-grandmother was as interested in family history as I am. She was my mother’s Grammy and that’s why I wanted to be Grammy to my grandchildren. ♡
The other thing I learned while I was getting the Society’s newsletter, was about my 2nd-great-granduncle, Pvt. Rufus C. White, brother of my 2nd-great-grandfather, William M. White, mentioned above.
Rufus C. White, born 6 June 1839, died 16 May 1864, age 24, at Drewry’s Bluff, Virginia. Rufus served as a private in the Union Army, Company E, 21st Infantry Regiment, Connecticut and was killed at the Battle of Drewry’s Bluff. In the 1860 census, Rufus was recorded as a farmer with a personal estate of $100.
The following is from Stonington’s Forgotten Heroes of 1861-65 by James Boylan:
The second large Stonington unit was Company E of the 21st Infantry Regiment, which was recruited in the summer of 1862 from eastern Connecticut. About seventy Stonington men served in Company E, under Captain Charles T. Stanton, Jr., of Stonington. Like Company G of the Eighth, this company became involved in the fogbound battle of Drewry’s Bluff, in which Stanton was severely wounded, and the siege of Petersburg, where Captain Henry R. Jennings of Stonington was wounded. Partly because its term of service was shorter, it suffered fewer casualties.
And there was another pleasant memory, which Tim & I recalled as we passed the Society’s Captain Palmer House Museum on our way home. It must have been in the early 2000s, when I read with great interest, In the Heart of the Sea: The Tragedy of the Whaleship Essex by Nathaniel Philbrick. I am distantly related to some of the sailors he wrote about on that ill-fated voyage. Imagine how excited I was to attend a lecture he gave about his book at the museum. Tim and Larisa came with me and we had a brief conversation with him afterwards.
What a gorgeous day for a walk! First we strolled through a meadow full of blooming buttercups…
Even though Brown-headed Cowbirds are native to North America, many people consider them a nuisance bird, since they destroy the eggs and young of smaller songbirds and have been implicated in the decline of several endangered species. ~ All About Birds website
Nature will bear the closest inspection; she invites us to lay our eye level with the smallest leaf, and take an insect view of its plain. She has no interstices; every part is full of life. ~ Henry David Thoreau (Excursions)
We climbed until we reached the lookout indicated on the map.
Wouldn’t you know it, we spotted a tiny cemetery right below the lookout. We kept following the trail hoping to find a way down there. A man about our age came up behind us, noticed my camera and asked if I had spotted anything. I mentioned the gravestones and he led us along the path and pointed us to another path and gave us directions on how to get there.
To-day is very beautiful — just as bright, just as blue, just as green and as white and as crimson as the cherry-trees full in bloom, and half-opening peach-blossoms, and the grass just waving, and sky and hill and cloud can make it, if they try. How I wish you were here, Austin; you thought last Saturday beautiful, yet to this golden day ’twas but one single gem to whole handfuls of jewels. ~ Emily Dickinson (Letter to William Austin Dickinson, May, 1854)
It was a long way around but we finally came to the side path leading off to the right and to the cemetery. Much to my delight there was a “wolf tree” on the corner.
Sacred to the memory of Starr Chester Esqr. who was born Aug 23rd 1759 and died Feby 12th 1812 This spot contains the ashes of the just who sought to honour; and betray’d no trust. This truth he prov’d in every line he trod.
Sacred to the memory of Mary Chester relect of Starr Chester, Esqr. Born Nov 11, 1758 Died Jan 12, 1826 May faithful angels guard my moulding dust until the general meeting of the just. Then rise triumphant from the dark abode to realms of light, to love and praise the Lord.
Since I have both Starrs and Morgans (Mary’s maiden name) on my tree I imagine these are distant cousins of mine…
While inspecting the stones two unusual things happened. First, a young man appeared above us at the lookout with a dirt bike. He rode off the edge of the precipice, flew through the air and landed a few feet away from us. As if he did such things all the time, as I’m sure he does.
Another retired couple was a little ways down another path and saw the flight, too. We got to talking and stood there for at least half an hour chatting about all kinds of things. They moved here from Pennsylvania to retire. They love the area, close to the sea. They’ve explored many of the same parks we’ve been exploring.
After we parted ways, we finished following the other trail, stopping to see the wolf tree as we joined it. When we got close to the car I heard and finally spotted another catbird. 🙂 What a lovely ending to a pleasant ramble!
Yesterday we took a walk by the pond adjacent to our beach and enjoyed a chilly day that felt a lot more like late fall than it did during the recent warm spell. The temperature when we started our walk was 39°F (4°C) so we bundled up in winter jackets.
Sunday night we had a cold front come through with gale force winds and some more needed rain. We lost power for 45 minutes in the middle of the night and even lit some candles. The new moon had made it a very dark night. It was good to see some water in this pond once again.
All of a sudden I had the revelation of how enchanting my pond was. ~ Claude Monet (Concise Encyclopedia of Semantics)
the long tapers of cattails are bursting and floating away over the blue shoulders
of the ponds, and every pond, no matter what its name is, is
~ Mary Oliver (In Blackwater Woods)
As we walked from the pond over to the beach we found sand along the side of the road, blown off the beach during the storm. And an oak leaf from a distant somewhere. The sand had shifted around on the beach itself. In the winter they don’t comb the sand like they do in the summer, so one can see what nature decides to do with the shoreline.
During the storm a tall tree at the beach came down and someone posted a picture of it on social media on Monday, lying flat on the lawn. But it was gone before we got to the beach on Tuesday, so the city had made quick work of that clean up. There were people operating equipment, working on the playground renovation. I’m looking forward to bringing our grandchildren here again some day.
The waves were bigger and louder than usual. In fact, we heard them while we were at the pond. Little tiny breakers. Most of the time Long Island Sound is pretty smooth.
Quite a few treasures had been deposited on the beach. Ocean offerings.
One cannot collect all the beautiful shells on the beach. One can collect only a few, and they are more beautiful if they are few. ~ Anne Morrow Lindbergh (Gift from the Sea)
The heart of man is very much like the sea, it has its storms, it has its tides and in its depths it has its pearls too. ~ Vincent Van Gogh (Letter to Theo van Gogh, October 31, 1876)
It’s been a challenge finding red leaves this autumn, while dull yellows are everywhere. Looks like our nights haven’t been chilly enough to encourage a brighter display this year. Perhaps the drought is a factor, too. But I continue the search. On Friday we walked on the Denison Farm Trail at the Denison Pequotsepos Nature Center.
To get a really good, colorful display, you want to have chilly nights alongside sunny days. The sun helps stimulate the leaves to produce sugars, according to the National Wildlife Foundation. Then the cold nights close off the veins that allow the sugars to escape back into the tree. It’s these trapped sugars that eventually show off the brilliant reds and violets; if this process falters, you get more dull-looking browns and yellows. ~ Scott Sistek (KOMO News, October 17, 2020)
Our drought continues, but was lowered from extreme to severe. We’ve been getting a little rain here and there, and next week more is expected. It was a very cloudy day.
I found no pleasure in the silent trees, the falling fir-cones, the congealed relics of autumn, russet leaves, swept by past winds in heaps, and now stiffened together. ~ Charlotte Brontë (Jane Eyre)
I have tried to delay the frosts, I have coaxed the fading flowers, I thought I could detain a few of the crimson leaves until you had smiled upon them; but their companions call them, and they cannot stay away. ~ Emily Dickinson (Letter to William Austin Dickinson, Autumn, 1851)
On the way home I finally spotted some red in Old Mystic. It wasn’t in the woods and it had wires going through it, but I took what I could get. 🙂
Looks like we’re hunkering down for winter and the growing surge in the pandemic. I hope our bubble holds. Statistics:
New London County now has 3,456 confirmed cases of COVID-19. Of those, 23 people are in the hospital and 136 have lost their lives. That’s 1,497 new cases since September 30 when I last reported.
Our contact tracers continue to report that they have observed many instances of family and social gathering connections. We are also seeing a significant number of cases associated with sporting events. Cases associated with institutions (schools, long-term care facilities, etc.) remain relatively low. ~ Ledge Light Health District website
Groton is now a “red alert town.” We are advised to cancel gatherings and events with non-family members. (We’ve been doing this all along, but our neighbors haven’t.) The Parks & Recreation Department has suspended all programming.
We don’t usually take walks after lunch, but yesterday Tim had a lot of meetings in the morning so we decided to take an afternoon walk. We visited Avery Farm Nature Preserve back in May so this time we went back and took a different trail. We got some rain a couple of times last week, so it was good to see a brook with some water in it.
There is still a lot of green on the trees, and mostly yellow on the ones that have turned. It was a challenge finding red or orange ones, but maybe they will appear next week when the colors are supposed to peak.
I wonder what you are doing to-day — if you have been to meeting? To-day has been a fair day, very still and blue. To-night the crimson children are playing in the west, and to-morrow will be colder. How sweet if I could see you, and talk of all these things! Please write us very soon. The days with you last September seem a great way off, and to meet you again, delightful. I’m sure it won’t be long before we sit together. ~ Emily Dickinson (Letter to Josiah Gilbert Holland & Elizabeth Chapin Holland, Late Autumn, 1853)
The light was beautiful, the air crisp and delightful to breathe in. We even caught a whiff of smoke from someone’s woodstove. Quite a few excited woodpeckers were calling and flitting from tree to tree. Autumn. It felt good to be alive!
Mourning doves have been visiting me off and on since my mother died twenty-eight years ago. They seem to arrive when I could use a little encouragement. When I used to garden one would often sit near me and watch me as I worked. Once one walked with me all the way from my garden to the swimming pool in our complex. Lately one comes to sit on the balcony almost daily and coos for as long as an hour at a time. I find her company very comforting.
Sunday morning I decided to try to photograph her through the sliding glass doors and was thrilled with the results. She didn’t seem to mind posing. I know they are plain birds, but that’s exactly why I find them so beautiful! I love them the same way I love my gulls.
In this sad world of ours, sorrow comes to all; and, to the young, it comes with bitterest agony, because it takes them unawares. The older have learned to ever expect it. ~ Abraham Lincoln (Letter to Fanny McCullough, December 23, 1862)
When I first read the Lincoln quote six years ago, after my father died, I remember thinking how true it was. When my mother died I was so young it came as a terrible blow and I needed therapy to work through the grief. By the time my father died it was no longer such a shocking experience. I deeply felt the pain of loss, but it wasn’t unexpected.
We now have 36 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in our town. There are moments I feel terribly anxious about this. It’s starting to sink in that it may be be many months or even more than a year before it will be safe to visit our grandchildren again. As it stands now, I don’t think I will feel free from danger before there is a vaccine. But we are trying to make the best of it and even find a sense of humor at times.
I find myself wondering how my parents would respond to the coronavirus pandemic. I imagine they would probably be just as blindsided as the rest of humanity. But since Mother Nature sees fit to send me such a sweet comforter as this lovely mourning dove I will stay grateful.
It’s not true that life is one damn thing after another — it’s one damn thing over and over. ~ Edna St. Vincent Millay (Letter to Arthur Davison Ficke, October 24, 1930)
The Millay quote has been one of my favorites for a long time. It amuses me and helps me to laugh at the ironic situations I think I find myself in. The coronavirus pandemic feels unprecedented, and perhaps it is in my lifetime, but not at all in the history of the world.
In the trilogy Kristin Lavransdatter by Sigrid Undset, the protagonist, Kristin, dies from the Black Death at the end. It’s one thing to read about plague statistics in history books, quite another to experience what it must have been like while reading the words of an excellent storyteller. It comforts me to know others have felt the same fear.
Being a highly sensitive child, whenever I would lament about the sad things happening in the world my father would sigh and advise me, “‘Twas ever thus.” When my mother was dying of cancer and my heart ached for her suffering he would gently remind me that “every creature struggles for life.” He was a naturalist and scientist who taught us compassion for animals and people, but also prepared us for loss. Whenever one of our pets died he would tell us to “remember the good times.” I am so grateful for the lessons he taught me.
‘Twas ever thus — from childhood’s hour I’ve seen my fondest hopes decay, I never loved a tree or flower but ’twas the first to fade away. ~ Charles Dickens (The Old Curiosity Shop)