midwinter in self-quarantine

12.21.20 ~ 7:11 am, foggy winter solstice sunrise

After nine months in self-quarantine life still seems pretty bizarre. The coronavirus pandemic still rages and is getting worse with every day. Our fervent hope is that getting everyone vaccinated will turn things around sooner than later. Two of our elderly relatives-in-law have caught it, one is still fighting for his life in the hospital and the other is still sick and isolating at home. Some of Tim’s friends have lost loved ones. These are truly dark days.

Since I took a sunset picture for the summer solstice in June I decided to take a sunrise picture for the winter one. But we had fog and clouds on solstice morning, not even a hint of daybreak in the sky. There was a travel advisory for black ice on the roads so we stayed home and I took the picture from an upstairs window.

We had tried to take a walk on Saturday but found a sheet of ice on top of the snow making it too hazardous to continue. So instead of attempting another trek out on Monday I put Grandfather Frost out on our balcony, hoping to catch him casting the longest shadow of the year at noon. At first there was no sun and no shadow but by some miracle the bright star came out from the clouds right at solar noon for just a quick minute! I took the picture and then it disappeared again. (If I had known where the railing shadows would fall I would have located him standing fully in the sunshine!)

12.21.20 ~ 11:46 am, solar noon
longest shadow of the year!

A year indoors is a journey along a paper calendar; a year in outer nature is the accomplishment of a tremendous ritual. To share in it, one must have a knowledge of the pilgrimages of the sun, and something of that natural sense of him and feeling for him which made even the most primitive people mark the summer limits of his advance and the last December ebb of his decline. All these autumn weeks I have watched the great disk going south along the horizon of moorlands beyond the marsh, now sinking behind this field, now behind this leafless tree, now behind this sedgy hillock dappled with thin snow. We lose a great deal, I think, when we lose this sense and feeling for the sun. When all has been said, the adventure of the sun is the great natural drama by which we live, and not to have joy in it and awe of it, not to share in it, is to close a dull door on nature’s sustaining and poetic spirit.
~ Henry Beston
(The Outermost House: A Year of Life on the Great Beach of Cape Cod)

12.21.20 ~ yule tree

We kept trying to get a decent picture of our lovely “snowball and icicle” tree but our cameras refused to focus — at least you can get a vague impression of it from this one. I suspect the camera doesn’t know what to do with the little lights and glass reflections. Then again, I’ve never mastered the art of indoor photography. Outdoor light is my friend. I tried to get a few close-ups of ornaments with mixed results. The best ones follow….

May your holidays be merry and bright and full of blessings and gratitude. As the light returns and as our days grow longer may the coming year sparkle with hope, love and peace. 🌲

the first touch of winter

“At the First Touch of Winter, Summer Fades Away”
by Valentine Cameron Prinsep

The days move more swiftly now, too, with late dawns and early dusks. The days march toward the winter solstice like a winter farmhand with the wind at his back. And the long nights become the sleep of the earth itself, the rest, the waiting.

The fox barks in the night, in the glitter of winter starlight. The deer shelter in the hemlock thickets on the mountain. The woodchuck sleeps, breathing only once in five minutes. And that hurrying wind whistles in the naked maples. November is at hand. This is the hurrying, impatient wind of winter that I hear in the night.

~ Hal Borland
(Hal Borland’s Book of Days)

migrating sandpipers

8.16.20 ~ two kinds of sandpipers, Eastern Point

On the weekend we finally got a break from the heat and humidity and when we went down to the beach early Sunday morning I was very surprised to see some very tiny shorebirds on the rocks. After careful investigation I believe they are two different kinds of sandpipers because of some small differences in size and beak shape. The smaller one in front with the yellow legs and the slightly curved bill is a least sandpiper. The slightly larger one in back with the black legs (legs seen in following pictures) and a stouter bill is a semipalmated sandpiper.

They were a little difficult to capture with my camera, but in the picture above you can see the semipalmated’s (lower left) black legs. The least sandpiper (upper right) is only slightly larger than a sparrow.

least sandpiper

Least Sandpipers breed in tundra and boreal forests across the extreme northern regions of North America. They nest in coastal wetlands, bogs, sedge meadows, and tussock heaths. At the southern reaches of their breeding range, in Nova Scotia and British Columbia, they also nest in sand dunes. During migration they stop on coastal mudflats, rocky shorelines, and inland habitats including wet meadows, flooded fields, and muddy edges of lakes, ponds, and ditches. They winter from the southern United States through the northern half of South America in lagoons, mangrove forests, wet ditches, swamps, wet fields, mudflats, saltmarshes, tidal sloughs, and the edges of lakes, ponds, and rivers.
~ All About Birds webpage

My guess is that this flock is migrating south and stopped on our “rocky shoreline.” The “All About Birds” webpage also says they flock with other shorebirds during fall migration, including with the semipalmated sandpipers.

semipalmated sandpiper

The Semipalmated Sandpiper has three North American breeding populations: western (Alaska), central (western Canadian Arctic), and eastern (eastern Canadian Arctic). A 2012 study estimated a total population of 2.26 million breeding birds, with 1.45 million in the western population, and 810,000 in the central and eastern populations. Population trends have fluctuated over the last several decades. Overall, it appears that the Alaskan and central populations are currently stable, with possible increases in some areas, and the eastern population is declining. Semipalmated Sandpiper is on the 2014 State of the Birds Watch List, which lists bird species that are at risk of becoming threatened or endangered without conservation action.
~ All About Birds webpage

There were fewer semipalmated sandpipers in the flock than the least sandpipers, which makes sense if they are declining. It seems this little guy flew here from the eastern Canadian Arctic. Good luck on the rest of your journey, little one!

As I was oohing and aahing over the sandpipers a herring gull came over, wondering why I wasn’t taking his picture…

herring gull

As we continued our walk we tried to make a Marco Polo video message of ourselves for Katherine and Finn. We love it when they send us one. 🙂 I hope it came out all right. We want them to remember the beach. It was just over a year ago that they were here!

There was an unusually large group of cormorants gathered on the breakwater. Just a tad closer to me than normal, but not quite close enough to get the “perfect” picture I dream about.

pair of double-crested cormorants

I’m pretty sure the ducks below are mallards.

mallard
mallard looking out to sea

On the way home we saw a large flock of Canada geese resting and preening on logs in Beach Pond, which seems to have a little more water in it from a recent rainstorm. Not sure where the logs came from.

Canada geese in Beach Pond

We drove through the Avery Point campus looking for American oystercatchers that someone spotted a few days ago. Didn’t see any, just a group of crows.

An early morning walk is a blessing for the whole day.
~ Henry David Thoreau
(Journal, April 20, 1840)

crow walking along a seawall at Avery Point

It was definitely a bird walk!

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)

after dinner light

“Picking Honeysuckle”
by Sophie Gengembre Anderson

Morning — is the place for Dew —
Corn — is made at Noon —
After dinner light — for flowers —
Dukes — for setting sun!

~ Emily Dickinson
(The Poems of Emily Dickinson, #223)

7.5.20 ~ sunset at Eastern Point

the muggies are back

7.7.20 ~ tall meadow rue
Connecticut College Arboretum, New London, Connecticut

After all my kvetching on the last post a lovely day followed and we grabbed the opportunity for another early morning walk. Having visited the arboretum in early May and early June, we decided to see what might be blooming in early July. Fewer flowers but a lot more greenery.

The local weather forecaster has announced that “the muggies are back.” Dewpoints in the 70s! Tropical air is upon us and we might get a tropical depression storm Friday and Saturday. So glad we grabbed this walk when we had the chance. Enjoy!

The Bee is not afraid of me.
I know the Butterfly —
The pretty people in the Woods
Receive me cordially —

The Brooks laugh louder
When I come —
The Breezes madder play;
Where mine eye thy silver mists,
Wherefore, Oh Summer’s Day?

~ Emily Dickinson
(The Poems of Emily Dickinson, #113)

We didn’t see any “pretty people,” but felt the presence of fairies at every turn. No birds, except for one catbird who was so busy he was out of sight before I thought to try and get its picture.

tall meadow rue
red clover

O sweet the dropping eve, the blush of morn,
The starlit sky, the rustling fields of corn,
The soft airs blowing from the freshening seas,
The sunflecked shadow of the stately trees,
The mellow thunder and the lulling rain,
The warm, delicious, happy summer rain,
When the grass brightens and the days grow long,
And little birds break out in rippling song!

~ Celia Thaxter
(Compensation)

buttercup
common mullein

Please note: I haven’t posted any pandemic statistics since June 17 because many have said dwelling on the numbers produces anxiety. But for me it has the opposite effect. The numbers are a picture of the reality which keeps my imagination from running wild and panicking. I like to know what I’m up against and how best to proceed. And lately I’ve been struggling to cope with my fears. Maybe it’s because I stopped paying attention to the facts. So when I record the latest statistics in my posts, at the end sometimes, please don’t feel obliged to read them. They’re mainly for my own sanity!

We now have 135 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in our town. Our county (New London) has 1,304 confirmed cases. Of those 1 is still in the hospital and 102 have lost their lives. The last number (102) hasn’t changed since June 17, so our county hasn’t had any deaths in weeks. One thing that reminded me to start checking the statistics again is that on Tuesday, on the local news, they announced that Connecticut had its first day ever with no COVID-19 deaths reported state-wide. Our governor has a well-deserved 78% approval rating. He recently decided that bars will not be opening on July 20 even though we’re doing well. He cited what’s been happening in other states when they open their bars. I am grateful for his leadership.

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. 🙂

morning at the beach

4.1.20 ~ sidewalk greetings, Eastern Point Beach

Noon — is the Hinge of Day —
Evening — the Tissue Door —
Morning — the East compelling the Sill —
Till all the World is ajar —

~ Emily Dickinson
(The Poems of Emily Dickinson, #1060)

4.1.20 ~ treasures in the sand

On Wednesday we went down to the beach earlier in the morning and found it less populated and more peaceful. Chilly, but wonderful! Staying connected with family and friends and even feeling better physically. Full of gratitude.

4.1.20 ~ looking east
4.1.20 ~ looking west, New London Ledge Lighthouse and Tyler House
4.1.20 ~ looking north, Zbierski House
4.1.20 ~ looking down
4.1.20 ~ specks of garnet in the sand
4.1.20 ~ solitary tree, Thames River

Spring! Back at home in my garden, the chionodoxa (glory of the snow) are out! What a cheerful greeting and welcome home. ❦

4.1.20 ~ chionodoxa popping through the mulch