family treasures

“Bergaporten (The Entrance in the Mountain)” by John Bauer
(a guardian of family treasures?)

The real continuity, what we truly love and cherish, is not confined in the forms. And perhaps there is something infinitely freeing in letting all these relics go. Perhaps holding onto our family treasures is actually painful. Because we know deep down that we are holding onto dust. We are clinging to nothing at all. And yet, at the same time, it is beautiful to have things in my life now that were there in my childhood, things my mother and father cherished and touched, things they found beautiful.

Sometimes people feel obligated to keep family treasures that they don’t actually want. My mother was great that way. She told me repeatedly, “These are my things, from my journey, and you don’t need to keep any of them you don’t want.”

~ Joan Tollifson
(Death: The End of Self-Improvement)

the sea teaches me

10.11.20 ~ Avery Point Light, Groton, Connecticut

Sunday we took my favorite walk by the sea at the Avery Point campus of UConn. It’s good to visit on the weekends because parking isn’t restricted like it is during the week when students are in classes. There weren’t many people out and about, though, and the few people we encountered gave us a very wide berth. I think everyone is more cautious these days because southeastern Connecticut has become a coronavirus hot spot in the state, our numbers have been going up dramatically.

“Artefactual” by Eliza Evans

This sculpture was left over after the open air exhibition a couple of months ago. All the cairns were gone, however.

great egret taking off

I need the sea because it teaches me.
I don’t know if I learn music or awareness,
if it’s a single wave or its vast existence,
or only its harsh voice or its shining
suggestion of fishes and ships.
The fact is that until I fall asleep,
in some magnetic way I move in
the university of the waves.
~ Pablo Neruda
(On the Blue Shore of Silence)

great egret fishing

Flowers by the sea…

Project Oceanology Enviro-Lab Research Vessel

Although the main focus of Project Oceanology is educational, they do offer some public cruises. For years I’ve dreamed of taking one of the harbor seal watch cruises in March or April…

Canada goose ~ probably the closest I’ve ever got to one!
bee and two bugs

‘Twas a lovely hour-long walk all over the campus and now we’re tucked in for some rain. We might get an inch from the remnants of Hurricane Delta but we’re eleven inches behind normal. Our drought was elevated from severe to extreme. We’re going to need a lot of storms to catch up.

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.

transformation listens for what life itself wants

“Julie Daydreaming” by Berthe Morisot

Self-improvement is rigid and perfectionistic, driven by beliefs, expectations and old answers, while genuine transformation is flexible, open to new discoveries and rooted in not-knowing. Genuine transformation listens for what life itself wants, while self-improvement imagines that “I” know how everything “should” be. Self-improvement is judgmental, self-righteous and narrow-minded, while happiness and real change are the release of all that.
~ Joan Tollifson
(Death: The End of Self-Improvement)

It was probably inevitable, but we have just learned we now have a positive COVID-19 case in our condo complex. The news sent a chill down my spine. No doubt Dr. Fauci is right, we best prepare to hunker down for the fall and winter.

the continuation of life

tufted titmouse by Jack Bulmer (pixabay)

The idea of the unchanging song of the birds singing in our ears as well as the ears of our ancestors conjures a potent image of the continuation of life — an inheritance so subtle that we must immerse ourselves in the sound of birdcall in order to enter into its richness. The oracular calling of birds speaks directly to our hearts, bypassing our minds; it is a mode of divination that both we and our ancestors had to learn — an unchanging language of meaning.
~ Caitlín Matthews
(The Celtic Spirit: Daily Meditations for the Turning Year)

Many years ago I saw a picture of a woman from the 1800s holding a tabby cat. It startled me that the cat looked just like a cat from our time! I sort of expected the cat to look as different as the clothing and hairstyles and furniture did back then. And when reading the above words it struck me that not only did cats and other animals look the same to my ancestors, but birds sounded the same, too. It’s a lovely connection, hearing the same tunes they did.

“Morning Glory” by Dona Gelsinger

I thoroughly enjoyed doing the above puzzle as part of my celebrating First Harvest. Something about it is so appealing I had a hard time putting it away after enjoying looking at it for a few days. I suppose the scene could be set in any time period, too.

We now have 155 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in our town. Our county (New London) has 1,433 confirmed cases. Of those 6 are still in the hospital and 103 have lost their lives. That’s 31 new cases in this county and 4 more in the hospital since the last time I looked on August 3rd. It’s ticking up again…

a little stardust caught

“Field of Corn” by Louis Valtat

The true harvest of my daily life is somewhat as intangible and indescribable as the tints of morning or evening. It is a little stardust caught, a segment of the rainbow which I have clutched.
~ Henry David Thoreau
(Walden)

William White, Englishman

This sketch of Salisbury is perforce an epitome; a catacomb of facts, tedious in the extreme, unless viewed sympathetically. The statistician’s only hope lies in the imagination of the reader. Then be a lithe hunter in the trackless wilds, a shrewd and cautious Hollander, a spare, twang-tongued New Englander, a Whig, a Tory, what you will, for there is no limit to your fictitious past. Leave for an hour the world of 1900 and these dry bones will be re-animated and invested with the charm of life in other days. The scene is set; you must be the player.
~ Malcolm Day Rudd
(An Historical Sketch of Salisbury, Connecticut, July 18, 1899)

The above note “to the reader” made me smile. While I find family history endlessly engrossing, most people I know find it “tedious in the extreme,” or at least, not viewed very “sympathetically.” It would seem to be the same for this writer 120 years ago!

But I have found an ancestral line I’ve been researching forever. My poor mother spent the last couple years of her life searching, too, mostly in person, traveling to town halls, county courthouses and historical societies with my father’s devoted assistance. I recently found some notes he took for her and added them to Ancestry.com. It didn’t take too long for “hints” to start popping up. Some didn’t fit, but some did.

My grandfather, John Everett White, had been told he descended from William White, the Mayflower passenger. They say most family legends have a grain of truth in them. As it turns out, his 5th-great-grandfather was a William White, but not that William White!

The line I had went back only 4 generations…

John Everett White 1905-2001 (my grandfather)
Samuel Minor White 1873-1949
William Martin White 1836-1925
Austin White 1806-1882
Oliver White 1764-1822

William Martin, Austin and Oliver all lived here in southeastern Connecticut and lie buried in Elm Grove Cemetery in Mystic. But where Oliver came from remained a stubborn mystery. My parents spent a lot of time trying to connect him to the Whites living in Rhode Island, many of them descendants of the Mayflower‘s William White. (I was interested, but very busy raising children.) Apparently not long before my mother died in 1991, they had set their sights on Salisbury, way up in the opposite (northwestern) corner of Connecticut. There a Lawrence White had a son named Oliver who was born the same year as our Oliver.

My father’s handwritten notes state this information was found in the Historical Collections of the Salisbury Association, Inc., Vol. II, p. 119. Whether they actually traveled to Salisbury or not is unclear to me. They might have found the book on one of their visits to the Connecticut Historical Society Museum & Library in Hartford.

After adding this information to Ancestry and piecing together the resulting hints, the line now goes back 3 more generations to an English ancestor, who arrived in America 59 years after the Mayflower!

Oliver White 1764-1822
Lawrence White 1732-1812
George White 1694-1776
William White 1664-1750 (my 7th-great-grandfather)

I found the following paragraph about William in An Historical Sketch of Salisbury, Connecticut (1899) by Malcolm Day Rudd. When this pandemic is over I see a day trip to Salisbury in the works, health permitting.

William White, an Englishman, who died Jan. 5, 1750-51, in his 85th year, had long been a resident of the Dutch settlements, married a Dutch wife and was a sergeant in the Manor Company of 1715.

William was born about 1664 in Brading (Isle of Wight) England and died in Salisbury (Litchfield) Connecticut. He arrived in America in 1679, when he was about 15 years old. He apparently married Mary (Meales) Hayes, a young widow, about 1690. They were the parents of eight children.

Williams’s sons, George (my 6th-great-grandfather), Joshua and Benjamin are on the list of original proprietors of Salisbury, when the new township was publicly auctioned at Hartford in May 1738. The town was incorporated in October of 1741.

Lots of work left to do…

timelessness and quiet ecstasy

7.14.20 ~ ring-billed gull cooling his feet at Eastern Point Beach

The humidity lowered just a tad on Tuesday morning so we snuck down to the beach for an early morning walk. The only gull out and about was on the rocks, a ring-billed one with his bright yellow legs. He wanted to be friends and walk along with us.

When we went down on the sand he decided to come, too, and lead the way.

follow me, please
pardon me while I cool off my feet again

Then Tim spotted a butterfly flitting about on the wrack line!

monarch butterfly

When it moved to the sand I tried to get a shot of it with its wings open.

shadow on the sand

Yet there are other windows through which we humans can look out into the world around us, windows through which the mystics and the holy men of the East, and the founders of the great world religions, have gazed as they searched for the meaning and purpose of our life on earth, not only in the wondrous beauty of the world, but also in its darkness and ugliness. And those Masters contemplated the truths that they saw, not with their minds only but with their hearts and souls too. From those revelations came the spiritual essence of the great scripitures, the holy books, and the most beautiful mystic poems and writings. That afternoon, it had been as though an unseen hand had drawn back a curtain and, for the briefest moment, I had seen through such a window. In a flash of “outsight” I had known timelessness and quiet ecstasy, sensed a truth of which mainstream science is merely a small fraction. And I knew that the revelation would be with me for the rest of my life, imperfectly remembered yet always within. A source of strength on which I could draw when life seemed harsh or cruel or desperate.
~ Jane Goodall
(Reason for Hope: A Spiritual Journey)

nature’s delightful composition
gull tracks
song sparrow having its breakfast

I’d sit on logs like pulpits
listen to the sermon
of sparrows
and find god in Simplicity,
there amongst the dandelion
and thorn

~ Jewel
(A Night Without Armor)

wild carrot (Queen Anne’s lace)

We now have 144 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in our town. Our county (New London) has 1,345 confirmed cases. Of those 4 are still in the hospital and 102 have lost their lives. I fret over the figures coming out of North Carolina and Georgia, where my children live. Stay safe and take care…

persuaded to live with trees

5.14.20 ~ The Merritt Family Forest, Groton, Connecticut
a colonial stone slab bridge crosses Eccleston Brook
This property was acquired by the Groton Open Space Association
in May of 2008
5.14.20 ~ robin in the Merritt Family Forest
I loved the way this tree was growing on a flat stone “stage”

The tempered light of the woods is like a perpetual morning, and is stimulating and heroic. The anciently reported spells of these places creep on us. The stems of pines, hemlocks, and oaks, almost gleam like iron on the excited eye. The incommunicable trees begin to persuade us to live with them, and quit our life of solemn trifles. Here no history, or church, or state, is interpolated on the divine sky and the immortal year. How easily we might walk onward into opening the landscape, absorbed by new pictures, and by thoughts fast succeeding each other, until by degrees the recollection of home was crowded out of the mind, all memory obliterated by the tyranny of the present, and we were led in triumph by nature.
~ Ralph Waldo Emerson
(The Essays of Ralph Waldo Emerson)

living with trees

The Merritt Family Forest is part of a large block of forested open space. The upper portion includes a steep, rocky, wooded upland with a mature hardwood forest. Descendants claim the forest remained uncut since the family acquired the property in 1848. The lower portion includes a meadow, and hosts a Tier 1 vernal pool and two Class A streams – Eccleston Brook and an intermittent tributary. Eccleston Brook flows into Palmer Cove, Fisher’s Island Sound and Long Island Sound.
~ Groton Open Space Association website

glacial erratic
moss
ferns
5.14.20 ~ Jack-in-the-pulpit, side view
5.14.20 ~ Jack-in-the-pulpit, front view

I had an especially good time enjoying the paths through the trees on that lovely, warm spring day. And I had an enjoyable afternoon creating this post today, a month later. A pleasant memory to savor. It’s been rough the past few weeks, battling the poison ivy. Tomorrow will be my last dose of prednisone and it will be nice to say goodbye to its side-effects, for me, anxiety and a headache. It’s no fun being up half the night with a panic attack! I’m ready to start living again. 🙂