life underfoot

6.25.21 ~ very murky early morning ~ Eastern Point
lichen and moss
rabbit-foot clover
???

The wildflowers above were growing on the rocks at the beach. The garden flowers below were planted around the flag pole in front of Tyler House. Muggy days…

Her body moved with the frankness that comes from solitary habits. But solitude is only a human presumption. Every quiet step is thunder to beetle life underfoot; every choice is a world made new for the chosen. All secrets are witnessed.
~ Barbara Kingsolver
(Prodigal Summer)

at the same time

4.20.21 ~ red maple seeds
Connecticut College Arboretum, New London, Connecticut

Yesterday we took an amazing walk at the arboretum! A long one, for an hour and a half. We concentrated on the wildflower garden and the bog, both bubbling with the delightful signs of springtime.

the world’s emergence

The person who practices this exercise of concentration sees the universe with new eyes, as if he were seeing it for the first and the last time. In his enjoyment of the present, he discovers the splendor and mystery of existence and of the world’s emergence; at the same time, he achieves serenity by experiencing how relative are the things which provoke anxiety and worry.
~ Pierre Hadot
(What is Ancient Philosophy?)

skyscape
red maple

Edgerton & Stengel Memorial Wildflower Garden

striped maple
Canadian white violet
yellow trout lily
Virginia bluebells before opening
bloodroot

Can words describe the fragrance of the very breath of spring — that delicious commingling of the perfume of arbutus, the odor of pines, and the snow-soaked soil just warming into life?
~ Neltje Blanchan
(Wild Flowers: An Aid to Knowledge of Our Wild Flowers & Their Insect Visitors)

Virginia bluebells

Glenn Dreyer Bog

moss covered hunk of something
underwater art
tadpoles!
Glenn Dreyer Bog
tadpole and tadpole shadow
red maple
tree scars
peaceful pond
Canada geese

In the light shed by the best science and scientists, everything is fascinating, and the more so the more that is known of its reality. To science, not even the bark of a tree or a drop of pond water is dull or a handful of dirt banal. They all arouse awe and wonder.
~ Jane Jacobs
(Dark Age Ahead)

natural stone throne

4.7.21 ~ White-Hall Park, Ledyard, Connecticut

One of Tim’s friends told us about this lovely park. This bridge goes over the overgrown tracks of the Norwich & Westerly Railway.

The Norwich and Westerly Railway was an interurban trolley system that operated in Southeastern Connecticut during the early part of the 20th century. It operated a 21-mile line through rural territory in Norwich, Preston, Ledyard, North Stonington, and Pawcatuck, Connecticut to Westerly, Rhode Island between 1906 and 1922. For most of its length, the route paralleled what is now Connecticut Route 2.
~ Wikipedia

carolina wren

It’s a blurry picture but I was so excited to finally see a Carolina wren in Connecticut. I first heard its pretty song and saw a few of them while at my daughter’s home in North Carolina in the fall of 2018. I’ve been hearing them sing in the spring and fall since returning to to Connecticut but haven’t been able to spot one until this day.

moss on the ground alongside the trail
lichen up in the trees
northern cardinal, another blurry “masterpiece”
budding red maple, a hint of spring colors to come
this photo by Tim ~ note his walking stick leaning
against the natural stone throne

A “Natural Stone Throne” was indicated on the map but we almost missed it behind all the brush. Tim bushwhacked his way up a steep incline and got the above picture on his cell phone. I wasn’t about to follow but then he noticed a cleared trail joining the main trail a little ahead of where I was. So I walked around and up and got the following two pictures. I made one attempt to climb up and sit on it but it was too high to pull it off!

natural stone throne
natural stone throne
glacial erratic

We proceeded up the hill and found ourselves at eye level with the top of the 23-story Grand Pequot Tower at Foxwoods Resort Casino, a mile and a half away (2.4 km).

Foxwoods Resort Casino in the distance
Grand Pequot Tower
moss looking like little trees

A little farther along we got to the end of the trail at High Ledge Overlook. Thank goodness there was a fence marking the edge. It was a long way down. And then we turned around and noticed different things on our way back down the hill.

view from High Ledge Overlook
an assortment of at least 4 kinds of mosses
marcescence
seed pods
branches and vines

How little there is on an ordinary map! How little, I mean, that concerns the walker and the lover of nature…. The waving woods, the dells and glades and green banks and smiling fields, the huge boulders, etc., etc., are not on the map, nor to be inferred from the map.
~ Henry David Thoreau
(Journal, November 10, 1860)

we were struck more than usual with the mosses and lichens

4.5.21 ~ Beebe Pond Park, Groton, Connecticut

Yesterday we took a side trail in Beebe Pond Park, which led us through a field of glacial erratics and tree shadows, then circled back to the pond.

Some of the boulders were bare and some covered with mosses and lichens. It makes one wonder…

glimpse of the pond in the distance

I took so many pictures it was difficult to cull the batch down to size. The weather was perfect and breezy and we met two other pairs of hikers, a father and young son, and two women. All were wearing masks and we exchanged friendly greetings from our six-foot apart positions. The father and son were new to the park and asked us some questions about the trails. It still feels strange interacting with people in the greater world!

so many shadows, so much moss
huge clump of moss on the edge of the pond
small burl on tree near the pond

Delightful day; first walk in the woods, and what a pleasure it is to be in the forest once more! The earlier buds are swelling perceptibly — those of the scarlet maple and elm flowers on the hills, with the sallows and alders near the streams. We were struck more than usual with the mosses and lichens, and the coloring of the bark of the different trees; some of the chestnuts, and birches, and maples show twenty different shades, through grays and greens, from a dull white to blackish brown. These can scarcely vary much with the seasons, but they attract the eye more just now from the fact that in winter we are seldom in the woods; and at this moment, before the leaves are out, there is more light falling on the limbs and trunks than in summer. The ground mosses are not yet entirely revived; some of the prettiest varieties feel the frost sensibly, and have not yet regained all their coloring.
~ Susan Fenimore Cooper
(Rural Hours)

no more drought here

Six months ago when we visited the pond the severe drought had lowered the water level drastically. You can see a picture on this post: by courtesy of the light But the pond is full to overflowing now, and water is running down the stream.

skunk cabbage emerging!
Beebe Pond

There was a strong breeze this day, making little waves on the pond.

underwater #1
underwater #2
underwater #3
pink lichen?

And of course, I couldn’t resist taking pictures of the leaves left over from autumn.

On Friday it will have been two weeks from my second shot and I will join the ranks of the fully vaccinated. We made appointments to get haircuts and plan to celebrate and have our first restaurant meal in 15 months. Outside. To me, being vaccinated feels like having a parachute. Even with a parachute I don’t want to jump out of an airplane and I think going inside to get a haircut will feel almost as scary as skydiving.

bark, fungi, lichen, moss (and a bird)

3.9.21 ~ The Merritt Family Forest, Groton, Connecticut

We had a lovely winding stroll through what’s becoming my favorite woods on Tuesday. It felt like a visit to an early spring outdoor art gallery. The weather was perfect and we encountered quite a few people along the way enjoying the sunshine.

Even though there were many birds chirping and flitting about I was only able to capture one of them with my camera!

tufted titmouse

And solitary places; where we taste
The pleasure of believing what we see
Is boundless, as we wish our souls to be.

~ Percy Bysshe Shelley
(The Poetical Works of Percy Bysshe Shelley: In Three Volumes)

Wednesday we went to have our income taxes done. It was the last thing we did last year before we went into self-quarantine. We double-masked up, not knowing what to expect, and our masked preparer waved us a greeting and unlocked the door. It was good to know they weren’t letting people wander in without appointments. Someone in the office had tested positive recently so most of the preparers were at home in quarantine but ours had been fully vaccinated so she was working in the office. Glad to see there was plexiglass and hand sanitizer everywhere…

So it’s been a year. We have both had our first vaccination shots. Tim gets his second Moderna on the 17th and I will get my second Pfizer on the 26th. Looks like our self-quarantine will officially end on April 9. Plans for the little ones (and their parents!) to come for a visit are in the works, most likely in May. It’s all I can think about!

Unlike animals, trees cannot heal a wound by repairing or replacing injured tissues. Instead they wall them off, compartmentalizing them by means of chemical and physical barriers, and subsequently form healthy new growth around them. A succession of organisms, from bacteria and fungi to slugs, insects, and other small animals, moves in to utilize the nutrients and spaces opened up by a tree wound. These organisms in turn provide an important food source for many birds and other animals who live in surrounding uplands as well as in the swamp.
~ David M. Carroll
(Swampwalker’s Journal: A Wetlands Year)

We will still wear our masks and practice social distancing in public, but I think we will go more places and are even looking forward to eating at our favorite restaurant again, starting outdoors until we feel comfortable going inside…

But, fair warning, these are the latest statistics: New London County now has 19,624 confirmed cases of COVID-19. Of those, 10 people are currently in the hospital and 417 have lost their lives. That’s 2,871 new cases since January 30 when I last reported. Will a day ever come when there are no new cases reported?

Connecticut’s positive test rate is now 3.07%. 25% of Connecticut residents have had their first dose of vaccine. Connecticut has had 7,752 deaths since the pandemic began. We are still averaging 7 deaths a day in the state. These are people and families are still being devastated by the loss of the their loved ones. Each and every one of these people represented by the numbers was the most important person in the world so someone. We still have to be very careful and not let our guard down.

My hope is, when we come out of self-quarantine, that we will continue with our nature walks and not get too swept up in the demands of a return to “normal” life.

It is easy to overlook this thought that life just is. As humans we are inclined to feel that life must have a point. We have plans and aspirations and desires. We want to take constant advantage of all the intoxicating existence we’ve been endowed with. But what’s life to a lichen? Yet its impulse to exist, to be, is every bit as strong as ours — arguably even stronger. If I were told that I had to spend decades being a furry growth on a rock in the woods, I believe I would lose the will to go on. Lichens don’t. Like virtually all living things, they will suffer any hardship, endure any insult, for a moment’s additional existence. Life, in short, just wants to be. But — and here’s an interesting point — for the most part it doesn’t want to be much.
~ Bill Bryson
(A Short History of Nearly Everything)

strong as a great oak

3.3.21 ~ Great Oak Park, Ledyard, Connecticut

After a bitter cold snap we managed to get out for a good walk on Wednesday. Another new place for us. This time I brought my father’s cane to use as a walking stick so I wouldn’t have to find one in the woods. It fit perfectly and had a good energy! Papa was very fond of his cane because his father had carved it and used it. (A couple of pictures of him with it here.)

photo by Tim

Our daughter-in-law mailed us our old camera a couple of weeks ago so I could see how it compares to the one I’ve been using for several years now. But so far I haven’t felt inclined to pick it up so Tim took it along on this outing. It was fun with both of us having a good camera.

beautiful blue sky
still a bit of ice and snow in places

We were looking for the remains of a famous huge oak tree in the woods here. Before long we spotted the sign and were saddened to see just how very little was left of it.

During the summer of 1969, the gypsy moth defoliated an estimated 260,000 acres of trees in northeastern woodlands — more than triple the defoliated acreage of 1968.
~ Ralph L. Snodsmith
(The New York Times, April 19, 1970)

image credit: Ledyard Historical Society
The Ledyard Oak, c. 1910

The famous oak didn’t survive the gypsy moth assault in 1969. Fifty-one years later this is all that is left of it:

decomposing
devastation from an invasive species

My feet will tread soft as a deer in the forest. My mind will be clear as water from the sacred well. My heart will be strong as a great oak. My spirit will spread an eagle’s wings, and fly forth.
~ Juliet Marillier
(Daughter of the Forest)

This little oak was planted beside the original in 2009.
Maybe 400 years from now…

We continued walking and found a historical cemetery.

interesting roots
Lester family cemetery, early 1800s
In memory of Solomon Lester who died Dec. 4, 1840 aged 69
Miss Lucy Lester died Apr. 18, 1814 in her 70th year
unused fence post and its shadow on a tree
some kind of moss or lichen
a huge rooster
a hen (?) and said rooster

Within this park are more trails and the Nathan Lester House & Farm Tool Museum, presumably the home of the chickens. We will have to wait to explore when the pandemic is over.

tipping rock

2.24.21 ~ Hewitt Farm, North Stonington, Connecticut

Because of the winter storms we hadn’t had a real walk in the woods in over a month. “Get out there!” my favorite TV weatherman advised on Wednesday morning. We opened the door and the birds were singing and it felt like a spring day at 45°F (7°C). Most of the snow had melted. So we headed out to a new park for us, the Hewitt Farm in North Stonington.

This 104-acre park and recreation area was purchased by the Town of North Stonington in 2008 for the enjoyment of its residents and visitors to the region. The property consists of forests, fields, wetlands and streams; more than a mile of hiking trails, including the town’s Bicentennial Trail; the Shunock River; 3.5-acre Lower Hewitt Pond and dam; and several structures. The dam originally provided water-power to John Dean Gallup’s woolen mill located nearby.
~ Hewitt Farm Trail Map

a preview of the bigger rock to come

We took the Bicentennial Trail. It felt so good to be outside with a just a sweatshirt and no gloves needed! We walked for an hour and a half, up a hill to Tipping Rock, a huge glacier erratic that didn’t disappoint. From the top of the hill we could see the wooded landscape 360° all around us. But there was also lots to see along the way.

moss texture
another glacial erratic with a different energy
interesting root formation

For most of us knowledge comes largely through sight, yet we look about with such unseeing eyes that we are partially blind. One way to open your eyes is to ask yourself, “What if I had never seen this before? What if I knew I would never see it again?”
~ Rachel Carson
(The Sense of Wonder)

perhaps the largest burl we’ve encountered

Not sure how long the trail would be we were thinking of turning back but then we saw the sign. So we pressed on up the hill…

first glimpse (telephoto lens)
what? could that be a ladder?
yes, indeed
no, we do not “do” ladders!
photo by Tim

After much oohing and aahing we headed back down the hill. It was a lot easier and faster than climbing up, but we still paused to see a lot of nature’s delights.

pincushion moss, I think
another interesting root formation

About half way down we heard the delighful sounds of excited children approaching. Two mothers with two babies and four little ones between them were coming up the trail so we took our usual six-feet-off-the-trail position as they passed. We exchanged pleasant greetings. They were wondering about the ladder…

remnants of autumn and winter

We were so happy to be out and about, as much as is possible, during the pandemic. Tim got his first shot on the 17th. Next one scheduled for March 17. My age group opens up on Monday but it may take a while to get an appointment because there are a lot more people in my age group than there are in Tim’s.

winter-patience

1.13.21 ~ Stoddard Hill State Park
Ledyard, Connecticut

Several weeks after our first visit to this state park we returned to hike up the hill to the lookout, 183 feet (56 meters) above the river. The leaf-covered path started behind the cemetery and was much more steep than we had anticipated.

looking towards the Thames River from behind Stoddard Cemetery

It wasn’t long before I covered the camera lens and grabbed two strong walking sticks to steady myself. Tim already had his walking stick and was more steady on his feet, but had to stop frequently to catch his breath. I was starting to question the wisdom of embarking on this expedition! Especially when we lost the trail and decided to just keep going up…

several kinds of moss and lichen on a rotting log

When things leveled off a bit I got a few pictures…

mushroom
princess pine trying to poke through the layers of leaves

Near the top we turned around near this ledge and saw the cemetery way down below…

Stoddard Cemetery from high above

At last we could see an opening in the woods and views of the river, trees and railroad tracks below. Tim said it was a good thing we came in the winter because the leaves on the trees would have blocked these lovely scenes. Keep in mind, under these ridges is that jumble of glacial erratics pictured in the last post. We didn’t go close enough to the edge to peek down there.

even way up here there were a few dead fish

Only with winter-patience can we bring
The deep-desired, long-awaited spring.

~ Anne Morrow Lindbergh
(The Unicorn & Other Poems)

We found the trail again and managed to follow it all the way back down to the cemetery. I’m pleased to report that neither of us fell! I slipped a couple of feet once but my sticks saved me. 🙂 That’s probably enough of steep climbs for us!

hairy woodpecker, telephoto lens
same hairy woodpecker
mallards on Stoddard Cove, also telephoto lens
thin ice on Stoddard Cove

It was nice to finally stand on level ground and take a couple of bird pictures. Phew!

off the beaten path

12.29.20 ~ cute little sapling
Connecticut College Arboretum, New London, Connecticut

Tuesday we donned our masks and warm layers and headed over to the Arboretum to meet my sister and her husband for our first in-person visit since the pandemic started in March, unless you count video calls and quick verbal exchanges from our balcony to the parking lot. We had planned a “safe” outdoor meeting like this to celebrate Thanksgiving and then Christmas, but rain had spoiled our plans for both days.

Beverly & John, geologist and botanist, know the natural areas of the Arboretum like the backs of their hands so I was anticipating a wonderful guided tour, off the beaten path. It did feel awfully unnatural, though, keeping six feet apart behind masks for a couple of hours, but we pulled if off. It was so good being with them again. We explored the Bolleswood Natural Area.

partridge berry

Partridge Berry is a native perennial, a small, woody, trailing vine with 6 to 12 inch, slender, trailing stems that does not climb but lays prostrate on the forest floor. The trailing stems root at nodes which come in contact with the forest surface and may spread into colonies several yards across. … The fruits are tasteless and generally survive through winter and into the following spring. Birds are the primary consumer of these fruits and the subsequent distribution of seeds.
~ US Forest Service website

Knowing about our recent fascination with glacial erratics, Beverly had a surprise for us, a huge one! Our first glimpse of it is below…

first side
front side

It looks like that rotting tree grew up there and was then snapped down in a storm. But it also looks like humans have moved some wood around, making it look like the wood is holding up the stone, but it’s not. It’s resting on other erratics underground.

other side (Tim is 5’8″)
a close-up from the back
a peek underneath ~ two orbs!

After marveling over this erratic’s size and its precarious perch we continued on. Sometimes there was so much moss along the path it reminded me of a forest in Ireland.

And we finally came to a flooded bog. (The drought is definitely over.) It was beautiful with bits of moss, autumn leaves under the water, partial sheets of thin ice, sticks, and a few remaining plants and grasses.

And then John pointed out a carnivorous plant…

pitcher plant hidden in leaves

The pitchers trap and digesting flying and crawling insects, making the species one of the few carnivorous plants in North America. The hollow pitchers fill naturally with rainwater. The pitchers also have broad lips where insects land. The insects crawl into the pitcher, where stiff, downward pointing hairs prevent them from leaving. Anectdoctal evidence suggests pitchers capture less than one percent of the flies that venture into their traps, but a few insects eventually fall into the water at the base of the pitcher, where digestive enzymes secreted by the plant release the nutrients within the insects. Eventually, the nutrients are absorbed by the plant, which supplements the nutrients absorbed by the roots.
~ US Forest Service website

pitcher plant

On our way out of the Arboretum we saw…

winterberry aka black alder
oyster mushroom, thanks to Larisa’s friend for the id

It was sad to say good-bye but we were getting cold and so made our way home to some hot tea. Curled up under our blankets, we put on some music and our happy holiday hearth DVD. Very cozy after having rosy cheeks from the chilly air. Maybe we’ll do this again — hopefully soon.