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. 🙂

enjoyable moments

5.21.20 ~ chipmunk
Fennerswood Preserve, Stonington, Connecticut

For the animal to be happy it is enough that this moment be enjoyable. But man is hardly satisfied with this at all. He is much more concerned to have enjoyable memories and expectations — especially the latter. With these assured, he can put up with an extremely miserable present. Without this assurance, he can be extremely miserable in the midst of immediate physical pleasure.
~ Alan Watts
(The Wisdom of Insecurity)

I enjoy all the hours of life. Few persons have such susceptibility to pleasure; as a countryman will say, “I was at sea a month and never missed a meal,” so I eat my dinner and sow my turnips, yet do I never, I think, fear death. It seems to me so often a relief, a rendering-up of responsibility, a quittance of so many vexatoius trifles.

It is greatest to believe and to hope well of the world, because the one who does so, quits the world of experience, and makes the world they live in.

~ Ralph Waldo Emerson
(Journal, May 1843)

visit from a mourning dove

4.19.20 ~ mourning dove on my balcony

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)

4.19.20 ~ this might be my favorite pose

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.

4.19.20 ~ showing off her feathers

‘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)

magnolia blossoms

4.16.20 ~ Elm Grove Cemetery, Mystic

Thursday was an interesting day. Changing plans is always tricky for me! I found another open space property online for a new place to walk and made a plan, map in hand. But when we arrived at the trailhead there were a number of cars and a large group of volunteers armed with tools for trail maintenance. Too many people too close for comfort so we didn’t even get out of the car.

Where to go now? We had been to the beach the day before and so we decided to go back to Elm Grove Cemetery where we found two magnolia trees in full bloom! Spring is coming! But it was cold… We started to walk but then Tim’s leg pain started up and we headed back to the car. He offered to wait in the car so I could get some exercise and I was off, feeling bad for him but exhilarating in a nice long brisk walk.

This huge cemetery is a perfect place to walk and I think it’s been discovered. We weren’t as early as we were Tuesday morning so a few other people were there but the many lanes and walkways made it so that I never crossed paths with anyone.

Finally I wound up at the White family plot, where eight of my maternal ancestors lie buried. Tim caught up with the car and snapped this picture of me standing behind the grave of my 3rd-great-grandmother, Lydia (White) Hill (1798-1877). So the sudden change in plans was accomplished without too much difficulty.

The sense of having one’s life needs at hand, of traveling light, brings with it intense energy and exhilaration. Simplicity is the whole secret of well-being.
~ Peter Matthiessen
(The Snow Leopard)

our bubble

4.14.20 ~ morning moon

As we continue to carve out a new life for ourselves in quarantine, we have started referring to “our bubble.” Stay safe, stay home. We are wary of popping our bubble by some careless slip of protocol. We care for our safe zone (our bubble) and speak of it fondly sometimes, as we tend to it like one would a houseplant or a pet.

4.14.20 ~ Elm Grove Cemetery, Mystic, Connecticut

Yesterday we went for an early morning walk at Elm Grove Cemetery in Mystic. It’s a large scenic resting place along the Mystic River, just north of Mystic Seaport. The seaport is closed for the pandemic and many (most?) of its employees have been laid off. We parked at the south end of the graveyard where we could see the dockyard across the water and also explore the fascinating carvings on the gravestones of past sailors.

4.14.20 ~ Mystic Seaport from a distance
4.14.20 ~ sailing poetry on a headstone
4.14.20 ~ Mystic Seaport buildings

We’re going to renew our membership to Mystic Seaport anyway. Even though we have no idea when it will be safe to visit again.

4.14.20 ~ looking across the Mystic River

I’m pretty sure that cliff and house (above) are part of the Peace Sanctuary, where Janet, her mom and I took a lady slippers nature walk back in 2013. See lady slippers.

4.14.20 ~ Draken Harald Hårfagre, still covered for winter

Will the Viking ship have any adventures this year? I have my doubts there will be a Viking Days festival this June…

4.14.20 ~ a soggy stuffed bunny hiding
4.14.20 ~ New London Ledge Lighthouse
4.14.20 ~ one of the cemetery’s peaceful ponds
4.14.20 ~ a lighthouse for a monument
4.14.20 ~ a small decorative well that Tim loved
4.14.20 ~ another peaceful pond

And we finally came around back to our car. Can’t believe it’s six years old! In some places folks aren’t permitted to drive somewhere to take a walk but we are, thankfully. Tim says it isn’t good for cars to sit without running for long periods of time. Our car is an important part of our bubble!

This was our first walk where we did not encounter a single person! Not sure if it was the location or the time of day that did the trick. I suspect there will be more cooler early morning walks as the warmer summer days come along. As long as we can manage to stay safe in our bubble.

We now have 21 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in our town.

revisiting a journey in memory

“Mountain Lakes, Olden, Norway” by Willard Metcalf

Another thing we can do in our own rooms is to return to travels we have already taken. This is not a fashionable idea. Most of the time, we are given powerful encouragement to engineer new kinds of travel experiences. The idea of making a big deal of revisiting a journey in memory sounds a little strange – or simply sad. This is an enormous pity. We are hugely careless curators of our own pasts. We push the important scenes that have happened to us at the back of the cupboard of our minds and don’t particularly expect to see them ever again.
~ The Book of Life ~ On Confinement