shades of scarlet, saffron, and russet

10.24.20 ~ Connecticut College Arboretum
New London, Connecticut

Autumn that year painted the countryside in vivid shades of scarlet, saffron, and russet, and the days were clear and crisp under the harvest skies.
~ Sharon Kay Penman
(Time & Chance)

a copper and butterscotch harvest

The Connecticut College Arboretum Facebook page invited us over to check out the fall colors in all their glory. We were not disappointed! I had been reluctant to visit because New London was a designated coronavirus “red alert town” but now that Groton is, too, we decided we didn’t have much to lose.

black oak

One very nice feature of an arboretum is that many of the trees have identification tags on them.

fringe tree

In June, the above fringe tree has spectacular white fringe-like blossoms. (Janet may remember them!) To see a picture scroll down to the last few pictures on this post: late spring in the woods.

sweet gum
tulip tree
a maple (no tag)

But autumn leaves have another than their natural history — like autumn sunshine they have merits that concern the rambler, who cares not a fig for their botanical significance — what may be called their sentimental history.
~ Charles Conrad Abbott
(Days Out of Doors)

russet majesty
grove on top of a hill
evidence of the severe drought in the pond
scarlet tree growing out of rock in the middle of the pond
glacial erratic framed in saffron
(probably) ruby slippers hydrangea spent blossoms
(probably) ruby slippers hydrangea leaves
thanks to Melissa for help with identification
we got a little bit lost in there
heritage river birch

This might be my favorite tree in the whole arboretum. It is so tall there is no way I could get a picture of all of it. The texture of the bark is a pleasure to behold. The trunk splits in two and the view between them is spectacular. I love its energy. I have a dwarf river birch in my garden. It’s not nearly as tall.

looking up
looking out over the arboretum

We had walked for over an hour and I came home finally feeling satisfied that I hadn’t missed anything this autumn had to offer. 🙂

mostly dull colors

10.23.20 ~ Denison Pequotsepos Nature Center
Mystic, Connecticut

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.

amber

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)

nature’s art on a boulder

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.

lemon chiffon

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)

eastern white pine cone
beautiful erratic covered with moss, lichens, fallen leaves and vines
dull can be very pretty
turning crimson?

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)

Tim spotted a glacial erratic off the trail
and another one
this glacial erratic juts out into the parking lot

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. 🙂

scarlet!

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.

Connecticut’s positive test rate is 2.9%.

autumn afternoon

10.17.20 ~ farm relic ~ Avery Farm Nature Preserve
Ledyard & Groton, Connecticut

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.

leaves in Ed Lamb Brook

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.

looking down Ed Lamb Brook
this tree with some root aboveground seems to be bound to the boulder
same tree, different angle, and an interesting assortment of orbs
sunlit sapling poking through leaf litter
bandit hiding behind glacial erratic
golden yellow
yellow and green
the largest glacial erratic of the day
tangle of twigs and leaves
crimson

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)

rusty orange
double burl
study in brown
mellow yellow
sunlit trail
burnt orange

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!

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.

crickets

“The Boys on the Grass” by Ilya Repin

Further in Summer than the Birds —
Pathetic from the Grass —
A minor Nation celebrates
It’s unobtrusive Mass.

No Ordinance be seen —
So gradual the Grace
A gentle Custom it becomes —
Enlarging Loneliness —

Antiquest felt at Noon —
When August burning low
Arise this spectral Canticle
Repose to typify —

Remit as yet no Grace —
No furrow on the Glow,
But a Druidic Difference
Enhances Nature now —

~ Emily Dickinson
(The Poems of Emily Dickinson, #895)

New London County now has 1,499 confirmed cases of COVID-19. Of those, 3 people are in the hospital and 106 have lost their lives. That’s 66 new cases but 3 fewer in the hospital since August 9. College students are returning to their dorms and time will tell how well they do with social distancing.

morningtide

6.24.20 ~ Eastern Point
Canada goose papa watching over his family in Avery Pond

One morning, four days after the beach “opened” for the season on June 20, we got up early and headed down there before it opened for the day. What a difference! Now that people have to pay for a pass to enter between 8am and 8pm the freeloaders and all their litter, cigarette butts and dog crap have disappeared. Peace is restored and we had such a lovely walk!

killdeer parent and three tiny chicks
near Avery Pond
killdeer on the run after the speedy little chicks

In contrast to the tranquil Canada goose family, the killdeer parents were beyond frantic, chasing after and chirping to their three chicks, who were darting all over the place and in every direction. It made getting their pictures next to impossible! They blended in well with the gravel.

the morning dew promised a humid day

Someone is tending some beautiful rose bushes near the entrance, along the chain link fence.

rose and chain link fence

I love the contrast between rusty old metal and fresh new flower.

rose and buds

The water was very calm on the river/estuary side of the point.

juvenile gull
female common eider
flying over the Thames River estuary
underwater and above-water seaweed
please, please, please

Another risk factor to worry about:

The two stretches of DNA implicated as harboring risks for severe COVID-19 are known to carry some intriguing genes, including one that determines blood type and others that play various roles in the immune system. In fact, the findings suggest that people with blood type A face a 50 percent greater risk of needing oxygen support or a ventilator should they become infected with the novel coronavirus. In contrast, people with blood type O appear to have about a 50 percent reduced risk of severe COVID-19.
~ Dr. Francis S. Collins
(Genes, Blood Type Tied to Risk of Severe COVID-19,
NIH Director’s Blog, June 18, 2020)

I have type A blood. Fortunately my husband, children, and grandchildren are all type O. Reading this article made me glad that we haven’t let our guard down and continue to remain firmly self-quarantined. And now our governor has ordered out-of-state travelers to quarantine for two weeks when entering Connecticut because of the way COVID-19 is spreading like wildfire in so many other states. I’m glad to know he is still looking out for us. The numbers are getting very alarming again.

It’s good to know my beach sanctuary is available to me again, at least for the summer. Looking forward to many early morning walks on the sand.

The salt of those ancient seas is in our blood, its lime is in our bones. Every time we walk along a beach some ancient urge disturbs us so that we find ourselves shedding shoes and garments, or scavenging among seaweed and whitened timbers like the homesick refugees of a long war.
~ Loren Eiseley
(The Unexpected Universe)

gull tracks

I like this place, and willingly could
Waste my time in it.

~ William Shakespeare
(As You Like It)

? near Beach Pond
red-winged blackbird near Beach Pond

We are nature. We are nature seeing nature. The red-winged blackbird flies in us.
~ Susan Griffin
(Made from this Earth: An Anthology of Writings)

garden in the woods

6.3.20 ~ Connecticut College Arboretum, New London, Connecticut

This walk was from June 3rd. Still catching up!

I have the impression that Emily Dickinson enjoyed the companionship of her large dog, Carlo, while she tended her garden. I used to discuss things with Larisa’s tabby cat, Mary, while I was planting and weeding my little plot. She was always interested in what I was up to and what I thought about this or that. Emily’s poetic musings…

buttercup

Within my Garden, rides a Bird
Opon a single Wheel —
Whose spokes a dizzy music make
As ’twere a travelling Mill —

?

He never stops, but slackens
Above the Ripest Rose —
Partakes without alighting
And praises as he goes,

peaceful paths

Till every spice is tasted —
And then his Fairy Gig
Reels in remoter atmospheres —
And I rejoin my Dog,

burl

And He and I, perplex us
If positive, ’twere we —
Or bore the Garden in the Brain
This Curiosity —

rhododendron

But He, the best Logician,
Refers my clumsy eye —
To just vibrating Blossoms!
An exquisite Reply!

~ Emily Dickinson
(The Poems of Emily Dickinson, #370)

arboretum pond
flower and fern carpeting
sassafras sapling

So everything that slows us down and forces patience, everything that sets us back into the slow cycles of nature, is a help. Gardening is an instrument of grace.
~ May Sarton
(Journal of a Solitude)

cinnamon fern
rhododendron
andromeda aka lily-of-the-valley bush

My mother’s favorite flower was lily of the valley. She also had an andromeda shrub planted in the front yard, right near the dining room window.

wild geranium
rhododendron
shady spot
celandine poppy

A garden isn’t meant to be useful. It’s for joy.
~ Rumer Godden
(China Court: A Novel)

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. 🙂

outbreak

“Cleaning Corpses During an Epidemic” by Fyodor Bronnikov

The other day I finished reading a riveting book, Spillover: Animal Infections & The Next Human Pandemic by David Quammen. A terrifying account of the recent history of disease scientists investigating bizarre and unheard of new diseases of animal origins, a thriller written by a gifted storyteller. Quammen explained the science so well in layman’s terms. This is one of those rare books I couldn’t put down. The fact that it was published eight years before our current worldwide coronavirus pandemic, a fair warning, makes it all the more pertinent.

Spillover is the process by which pathogens, hiding in wild animal reservoirs (also in factory farmed animals), travel into and infect the human population. But near the end of the book, after discussing the plagues of gyspy moths, which come and go, Quammen introduced the concept of outbreaks. We had a memorable outbreak of gypsy moths here in Connecticut in the 1980s so I could easily grasp the concept.

Ecologists have a label for such an event. They call it an outbreak.

This use of the word is more general than what’s meant by an outbreak of disease. You could think of disease outbreaks as a subset. Outbreak in the broader sense applies to any vast, sudden population increase by a single species. Such outbreaks occur among certain animals but not among others. Lemmings undergo outbreaks; river otters don’t. Some kinds of grasshopper do, some kinds of mouse, some kinds of starfish, whereas other kinds of grasshopper, mouse, and starfish do not. An outbreak of woodpeckers is unlikely. An outbreak of wolverines, unlikely. The insect order Lepidoptera (moths and butterflies) contains some notable outbreakers — not just tent caterpillars of several kinds but also gypsy moths, tussock moths, larch budmoths, and others.

We are prodigious, we are unprecedented. We are phenomenal. No other primate has ever weighed upon the planet to anything like this degree. In ecological terms, we are almost paradoxical: large-bodied and long-lived but grotesquely abundant. We are an outbreak.

And here’s the thing about outbreaks: They end. In some cases they end after many years, in other cases they end rather soon. In some cases they end gradually, in other cases they end with a crash. In certain cases, even, they end and recur and end again, as though following a regular schedule.

What could account for such sudden and recurrent collapses? One possible factor is infectious disease. It turns out that viruses, in particular, play that role among outbreak populations of forest insects.

~ David Quammen
(Spillover: Animal Infections & The Next Human Pandemic)

Chills have been running up and down my spine ever since I read the excerpts quoted above. We are an outbreak on this earth. Our population explosion can be fairly compared to an infestation of gyspy moths. Provocative thought, I know. But it’s humbling and sobering to appreciate that we are part the cycles of nature and while we like to think we can control our environment to some degree, when all is said and done, we know so little about the forces shaping our existence here on this little blue planet.

We now have 114 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in our town. Our county (New London) has 1,276 confirmed cases. Of those 7 are still in the hospital and 102 have lost their lives. Hospitalizations are way down here, which is encouraging, but we are still staying home due to our health risks. Please stay safe!