a bit nippy

1.7.21 ~ song sparrow, Eastern Point

The song sparrow, who knows how brief and lovely life is, says, “Sweet, sweet, sweet interlude; sweet, sweet, sweet interlude.
~ E. B. White
(Charlotte’s Web)

1.7.21 ~ brants in Thames River estuary

Thursday’s afternoon walk was a bit nippy. (We thought it might be slightly warmer than our usual morning walk. It was, but still, my fingers froze. Maybe two layers of gloves in the future… Maybe stop trying to take so many pictures…) I counted five song sparrows flitting about near the thicket and sea wall. I left them a few seeds.

And we saw a huge flock of brants on the lawn. Suddenly they took off en masse to fly a short distance and alight on the river. (Attemped in-flight photos were all blurry.) If you want to hear the sound they made while flying there’s an audio clip at the bottom right side of this webpage: brant sound. It’s very different than the honking sounds Canada geese make.

Maybe they’re here for the eelgrass and will then move on to greener “pastures.” I can only imagine how much of it such a huge flock consumes in a few days.

1.7.21 ~ Canada geese in Beach Pond

Geese are friends with no one, they badmouth everybody and everything. But they are companionable once you get used to their ingratitude and false accusations.
~ E. B. White
(Charlotte’s Web)

in a thicket

12.13.20 ~ Eastern Point ~ leaves in the estuary

After my yucky week Tim made sure I got out for another walk soon, especially since we’re supposed to be having a few storms this week. I haven’t been finding many birds lately, and not even the gulls were cooperating at the beach, where we found ourselves on Sunday.

and driftwood
and seaweed
young man meditating on the rocks

But then I remembered a song sparrow I had seen back in July in a thicket near a chain link fence on top of a cement wall near the estuary. (timelessness and quiet ecstasy) I decided to see if some song sparrows were still there. Yes! They live here year round and are native to North America. Finding them made my day! 🙂

song sparrow on the lookout

in a thicket by
the sea the song sparrows are
still keeping a home

~ Barbara Rodgers
(By the Sea)

the top of a chain link fence serves a useful purpose

Feeds heavily on seeds, especially in winter, mainly those of grasses and weeds. Birds in coastal marshes and on islands also feed on small crustaceans and mollusks, perhaps rarely on small fish.
~ National Audubon Society website, page on song sparrows

If you would have the song of the sparrow inspire you a thousand years hence, let your life be in harmony with its strain to-day.
~ Henry David Thoreau
(Journal, May 12, 1857)

cattails, sand, shells

11.17.20 ~ Beach Pond ~ Groton, Connecticut

Yesterday we took a walk by the pond adjacent to our beach and enjoyed a chilly day that felt a lot more like late fall than it did during the recent warm spell. The temperature when we started our walk was 39°F (4°C) so we bundled up in winter jackets.

Sunday night we had a cold front come through with gale force winds and some more needed rain. We lost power for 45 minutes in the middle of the night and even lit some candles. The new moon had made it a very dark night. It was good to see some water in this pond once again.

All of a sudden I had the revelation of how enchanting my pond was.
~ Claude Monet
(Concise Encyclopedia of Semantics)

song sparrow
Canada goose
another Canada goose

the long tapers
of cattails
are bursting and floating away over
the blue shoulders

of the ponds,
and every pond,
no matter what its
name is, is

nameless now.

~ Mary Oliver
(In Blackwater Woods)

11.17.20 ~ Eastern Point ~ Groton, Connecticut

As we walked from the pond over to the beach we found sand along the side of the road, blown off the beach during the storm. And an oak leaf from a distant somewhere. The sand had shifted around on the beach itself. In the winter they don’t comb the sand like they do in the summer, so one can see what nature decides to do with the shoreline.

New London Ledge Light on the horizon and Tyler House

During the storm a tall tree at the beach came down and someone posted a picture of it on social media on Monday, lying flat on the lawn. But it was gone before we got to the beach on Tuesday, so the city had made quick work of that clean up. There were people operating equipment, working on the playground renovation. I’m looking forward to bringing our grandchildren here again some day.

The waves were bigger and louder than usual. In fact, we heard them while we were at the pond. Little tiny breakers. Most of the time Long Island Sound is pretty smooth.

looking out at New London Ledge Light

Quite a few treasures had been deposited on the beach. Ocean offerings.

One cannot collect all the beautiful shells on the beach. One can collect only a few, and they are more beautiful if they are few.
~ Anne Morrow Lindbergh
(Gift from the Sea)

another oak leaf far from home

The heart of man is very much like the sea, it has its storms, it has its tides and in its depths it has its pearls too.
~ Vincent Van Gogh
(Letter to Theo van Gogh, October 31, 1876)

by courtesy of the light

10.4.20 ~ Beebe Pond Park, Groton, Connecticut

Almost two years ago, Nate took Larisa and me and three of the grandchildren to this magical woodsy park, chock full of glacial erratics, and I couldn’t wait to share it with Tim now that he is taking walks. Originally I wanted to go to another park, but the parking lot there was overflowing so we moved on. It was a Sunday and I didn’t have much hope for this park either but when we drove up there was only one car in the tiny roadside parking area so we were in luck!

It was a beautiful, sunny, warm autumn day. We heard and saw plenty of birds but only managed to get a good picture of one, a new one for my list. Of course, every time Tim rang his bell they got quiet for a few minutes. 🙂 There were still leaves on the trees and yet many on the ground, a nice moment in the middle of autumn.

an interesting root formation
the water level on Beebe Pond is very low due to the drought
fall flowers, asters
swamp sparrow

Swamp Sparrows perch and forage in vegetation near the ground or water surface, where their rather long legs—longer than those of Song or Lincoln’s Sparrows—enable them to forage well. They typically forage near the water’s edge or in brushy patches within the habitat.
~ All About Birds website

Now that I’ve decided not to feed the birds this winter I feel blessed to have found one in the woods who allowed me to get his picture. Hopefully there will be many more on future walks. The background scenery in the woods is much nicer for pictures than our balcony.

By courtesy of the light
we have the beautiful shadows.
Because the trees darken
the ground, shade-lovers thrive.
To one who stands outside,
the woods is a wall of leaves
impassable by sight, passable
by foot or wing. Come in
and walk among the shades.

~ Wendell Berry
(This Day: Collected & New Sabbath Poems)

a dab of color
huge glacial erratics
autumn colors
gold and rust
sunlit path
the trail was very rocky and narrow at times
a rare bit of red

It’s all about the light for me. I’m glad this walk worked out on the weekend because on Monday we got some much needed rain. And then, after the rain, some excitement! A flock of pine siskins feeding on the arborvitae trees off our balcony! Another new bird for me! (And I wasn’t even in the woods…)

pine siskin

I took the pictures through the glass of the sliding glass doors and am surprised they came out as nicely as they did.

Pine Siskins often visit feeders in winter (particularly for thistle or nyjer seed) or cling to branch tips of pines and other conifers, sometimes hanging upside down to pick at seeds below them. They are gregarious, foraging in tight flocks and twittering incessantly to each other, even during their undulating flight.
~ All About Birds website

In July of 2017 we had a house finch visit our arborvitae trees, so now we have had another kind of finch enjoying the seeds. Many thanks to the good people in the What’s this Bird? Facebook group for help with both identifications.

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…

eastern towhee

5.7.20 ~ Avery Farm Nature Preserve
Ledyard & Groton, Connecticut

Back in April we had a great walk in the Candlewood Ridge open space property which led to a sand plain with a glacial erratic on top of a ridge in the distance. On May 7th we decided to explore the property north of it, Avery Farm Nature Preserve, and followed a trail to get to the elevation from the opposite direction.

5.7.20 ~ welcome!

This historic 305-acre farm spans the border of Ledyard and Groton in a scenic rural setting. It is contiguous to the 91 acre Candlewood Ridge property, Groton and Ledyard town-owned open spaces, and to the Town of Groton conservation easement on a 7-acre former cranberry bog. Combined, over 430 acres of habitat area are available for wildlife and watershed protection.
~ Groton Open Space Association website

Avery Farm is part of a critical large block of diverse wildlife habitats highlighted on the State of CT Natural Diversity Database maps: grasslands, hedgerows, early successional forest, oak-hemlock-hickory upland forest, Atlantic white cedar swamp, a habitat managed power utility corridor, forested peatlands, kettle type bogs, poor fens, multiple seeps, several Tier I vernal pools, Ed Lamb Brook, Haley Brook, and the southern portion of a 38 acre marsh.
~ Groton Open Space Association website

The walk through the woods was lovely as we ascended gradually. I took more pictures on the way to the overlook than I did on the return part of the loop trail, which went through a low wetland.

5.7.20 ~ Tim with a glacial erratic

What on earth is that noise? Who goes there?

5.7.20 ~ eastern towhee

A strikingly marked, oversized sparrow of the East, feathered in bold black and warm reddish-browns – if you can get a clear look at it. Eastern Towhees are birds of the undergrowth, where their rummaging makes far more noise than you would expect for their size. Their chewink calls let you know how common they are, but many of your sightings end up mere glimpses through tangles of little stems.
~ All About Birds website

As we were walking along we heard a lot of rustling a few feet off the path and I tried to get a picture of the bird making the commotion. The “best” one is above. At home I used my new bird identification app and learned it was an eastern towhee. Had to laugh when I read the description above. Our sighting was definitely a string of brief glimpses and the rummaging was quite loud!

5.7.20 ~ We finally reach the large glacial erratic overlooking the sand plain!
We approached from behind it.
5.7.20 ~ we did not sit in the chairs, keeping COVID-19 in mind
5.7.20 ~ view from the overlook across the sand plain,
down to where we were standing the month before
5.7.20 ~ taken with telephoto lens

Then we climbed down the steep trail to the sand plain and returned by the lower wetland trail. On that portion of our walk we encountered four people coming from the other direction. We always got six feet off the trail and let them pass, wondering if they would have done the same for us if we hadn’t done it first. One man was operating a drone which we couldn’t see but could hear buzzing nearby. Another man was jogging. And two women were looking for a waterfall. (I think they may have mistaken this property for Sheep Farm.)

5.7.20 ~ moss and lichen
5.7.20 ~ spotted wintergreen

The walk lasted about an hour and a quarter, our longest one yet. ♡

chickadee, titmouse, junco

Up and away for life! be fleet!-
The frost-king ties my fumbling feet,
Sings in my ears, my hands are stones,
Curdles the blood to the marble bones,
Tugs at the heart-strings, numbs the sense,
And hems in life with narrowing fence.
Well, in this broad bed lie and sleep,-
The punctual stars will vigil keep,-
Embalmed by purifying cold;
The winds shall sing their dead-march old,
The snow is no ignoble shroud,
The moon thy mourner, and the cloud.
~ Ralph Waldo Emerson
(The Titmouse)

Blizzard Colbie ~ 1.27.15

1.27.15.2714
1.27.15 ~ Groton, Connecticut

Come, ye cold winds! at January’s call,
On whistling wings; and with white flakes bestrew
The earth.
~ John Ruskin
(The Poems of John Ruskin, Volume 1)

1.27.15.2733
1.27.15 ~ Groton, Connecticut

Blizzard Colbie gave us 22 24 inches of snow. I have been waiting for some decent snow this winter and it finally arrived. Zoë and I had a delightful afternoon watching the birds feeding in the snow on our balcony.

1.27.15.2751
an odd couple ~ 1.27.15 ~ Groton, Connecticut

1.27.15.2761
1.27.15 ~ Groton, Connecticut

Tim sets up a webcam when it snows up here, so our kids in Georgia and North Carolina can watch the storm as it progresses. Nate, who has loved the color red since he was a baby, pinged me to let me know I had a cardinal out there. I already knew that, but it warmed my heart to know that he is still partial to all things red.

1.27.15.2772
an angry looking jay, perhaps because I didn’t put out peanuts in the shells for him ~ 1.27.15 ~ Groton, Connecticut

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this cardinal seemed to be eating snow all afternoon ~ 1.27.15 ~ Groton, Connecticut

1.27.15.2865
Tim liked this picture a lot so I included it here ~ 1.27.15 ~ Groton, Connecticut

1.27.15.2874
oh how I love my friendly, inquisitive mourning doves ~ 1.27.15 ~ Groton, Connecticut

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a sweet little junco, he captivated Zoë’s attention for quite a while ~ 1.27.15 ~ Groton, Connecticut

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1.27.15 ~ Groton, Connecticut

They still have not come to plow the parking lot of our complex and I’m wondering what the hold up is. Tim returned from doing some volunteer work at the Red Cross shelter and got stuck in the entrance to the driveway. Fortunately our very kind neighbors dug him out and created a parking space for him, too. All the neighbors’ cars are still buried.

Edit – the morning after – the final snow total for Groton was 24 inches! The town of Thompson got 33.5 inches!

deer tidings

white-tailed yearling by Greg Thompson

Once upon a time I was as curious as the yearling above, and in possession of a keen sense of wonder. The mysteries of nature and spirit were intertwined in my young mind. One early wordless memory I have is of lying on the cold winter ground in the woods and eyeing a little princess pine peeking through the snow. I was astonished at the connection I felt to the small precious life, and how thrilled I was to be aware of its presence!

My parents and grandparents were nature lovers, but from an early age I was locking horns with my scientifically minded father over the existence of the supernatural. It distressed me to no end that he refused to believe in anything that he could not measure in physical terms.

One afternoon when I was six years old I had a dazzling moment of transcendence when I encountered a stag, although I didn’t know enough to call it that when I later tried to tell my parents about it. As I was walking alone up the heavily wooded road from the school bus stop to my house, I strongly sensed that someone was watching me. When I turned around to look I was at first startled to see a huge stag with magnificent antlers. He was standing in the road, quietly staring at me, as if he recognized me, as if he knew exactly who I was. I was struck with awe. Completely enchanted, I was not at all frightened. In fact, I decided he was my guardian angel. A fatherly figure. Something about his presence was most reassuring. I never forgot him and have often felt his presence in my life, especially when spending time with my maternal grandfather in the years to come.

white-tailed buck at Parker River National Wildlife Refuge

Forty-five years later, a few years after my grandfather died, I had wonderful encounter with another deer. (Some of my readers may remember me sharing this in November 2008 on my Gaia blog.) I was visiting my father at his house in the woods, where spotting deer, coyotes, wild turkeys and fishers is not at all unusual. We were starting to watch a movie when my brother-in-law glanced out the window and noticed a doe in the yard, quite close to the house. Being so enchanted with deer I jumped at the chance to see one and went over to the window to look at her.

She was so beautiful with her large soft eyes and large ears lined in dark brown. Our eyes met and she stood there transfixed for a very long time. I could not take my eyes off of her. After a while she lay down and continued to stare at me, occasionally looking about to see what a noise might be, but then fixing her gaze back onto me. She seemed so peaceful and I wondered what, if anything, it all meant. It was as if I had lost my child’s sense of inner-knowing for a moment. Then I started to worry that my looking at her so intently might be threatening her in some way. But she was tranquil and serene. At one point a buck appeared and walked right past her and started helping himself to my father’s rhododendron. My brother-in-law was going to go shoo him away but I begged him not to. After the buck had enough to eat he slowly retraced his steps and passed by the doe again, glancing at her but unconcerned with her behavior. She ignored him completely, and kept looking at me.

white-tailed doe by Steve Hillebrand

After another long while she stood up and started nibbling at the ground, looking at me once in a while. She slowly made her way downhill around the corner of the house, so I changed my vantage point to another window on that side of the house. She was now one story below me. But she looked up to the window and saw me again and started looking at me again with the same intensity as before. Her look felt so reassuring in some way and yet I felt the thrill of butterflies in my stomach. It’s hard to put words to it. She definitely seemed to know me. It was getting darker and darker until I could barely see her, and just at the point where I felt I could see her no longer she suddenly darted away. More than an hour had passed. What an amazing gift! Even my father had to acknowledge this was an extraordinary experience.

I did finally understand the doe’s message with some help from my Reiki practitioner a few months later. I’m keeping it safe in my heart for now. I will never forget this special doe and had so often felt her guidance while caring for my father in his declining years, as well as my mother’s presence, very strongly, in my life. And it was after the doe visited the house that my father, the skeptical scientist, started reporting that he had been seeing my mother. Sometimes he would ask where she was because he was certain she had just left the room.

white-tailed doe by Greg Thompson

Fifty years after my first encounter with a deer, when I was fifty-six, my father died in his sleep in the early morning hours of September 19, 2013, under a full harvest moon. My sister called me to let me know he was gone so Tim and I left to drive up to Papa’s house to be with our family. As we reached the end of the hour-long drive, we turned onto the same road where I saw my first deer fifty years ago. In about the same spot on the road, standing quietly on the side, in the moonlight, was a lovely doe. Tim slowed the car down and she looked right into our car, into my eyes. My mother was letting me know that she had my father now. What a feeling of relief and release came over me.

Beverly and I have often noted in the months since Papa died that neither of us have felt the presence of either of our parents. But Larisa has felt her grandpa’s presence down in North Carolina. And we all see in her new baby daughter, Katie, a remarkable resemblance to him, especially in her facial expressions and the way she moves her long arms.

As I continue to mourn the loss of my father I feel like I’ve grown to a place where I can embrace being in the elder generation now, a contented crone with my fair share of hard-won wisdom to gently share with my children and grandchildren. It’s a feeling of strength, stepping into the place where my parents and my grandparents once stood.

junco-dec06
junco ~ image credit: mike at luminosity.allthepages.org

A couple of weeks I put out a couple of bird feeders and have enjoyed watching the birds who come to eat. My parents and grandparents were avid bird-watchers but I thought identifying birds was a tedious endeavor when I was a child. However, these past few days I’ve been amazed to discover that some of what they taught me got stored in my memory files. It seems like every time a new bird shows up a name pops into my head, so I look it up and find it to be correct! I’ve always loved and could identify chickadees, but when an unfamiliar bird showed up the other day and “junco” popped out of my mouth, well, I’ve fallen in love with another little one.

I almost posted the first parts of my deer story several times since I started this blog, but something kept holding me back. After I saw the doe the night my father died it became clear that the tale had not been finished. Yet something still kept making it seem like it wasn’t the time to share it. After spending three weeks with my darling new granddaughter, though, it feels like the whole picture has now been revealed.

White-Tailed Deer