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!)
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)
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. 🌲
Last year’s Viking Days at Mystic Seaport was such a success that they decided to have another one this year. The weather was cool and comfortable and there were plenty of Vikings out and about.
We again enjoyed strolling through the Viking encampment set up by Draugar Vinlands.
No Norwegian fjord horses this year, instead there were Gotland sheep, a domestic breed named for the Swedish island of Gotland.
The Draken Harald Hårfagre Viking ship (above) spent another winter here. I’m not sure what its future plans may be. It was open for tours.
The majestic wooden whaleship Charles W. Morgan(above) is always a pleasure to see.
I was happy to see the Denison Pequotsepos Nature Center‘s presentation about birds of prey again. The Vikings were falconers but the birds we were shown are from Connecticut. All were injured and brought to the nature center but were unable to live in the wild after their recovery.
The first birds shown we’ve seen before but a new one has joined the group. It’s a red-shouldered hawk who was found hit by a car and brought in to the nature center. He had a recently broken wing and an x-ray revealed an older break, too, that hadn’t healed well. He’s all right now, but cannot fly far enough to survive in the wild. So he’s getting used to his new life educating the public. This was only his third time being shown. He seemed as awed at the sight of us as we were of him.
After the birds of prey presentation we spotted a couple of young Scottish Highland cattle. We were told they are 8 months old.
And of course, we were mingling with Vikings…
On our way out we spotted these purple alliums.
We left with three bottles of mead for summer solstice, two skeins of Gotland sheep wool, and a camera full of pictures in my backpack. It was just as much fun as last year!
Saturday we had perfect weather for Viking Days at Mystic Seaport.
We enjoyed strolling through the Viking encampment…
Draugar Vinlands is a historical reenactment and living history group based out of Exeter, New Hampshire that is dedicated to the accurate portrayal of combat and culture during viking-age Scandinavia. ~ Draugar Vinlands website
The costume of the Viking with the long pony tail (above) caught my eye and when I asked him if I could take his picture he posed for me. (below) 🙂
We stocked up on mead for summer solstice…
And stopped for lunch…
While we were eating (outside in the shade at a table under the trees) we spotted this artist painting…
Then we went to see a performance by Flock Theatre, “Viking Fact or Fiction?”
And then Denison Pequotsepos Nature Center gave a talk about birds of prey. The Vikings were falconers but the birds we were shown are from Connecticut. All the birds presented were injured and brought to the nature center but were unable to live in the wild after their recovery.
And finally we listened to lovely “Songs of the Sagas” by Lynn Noel.
We had hoped to attend a lecture and book-signing with author James L. Nelson about the 300-year Viking invasion in Ireland, but, alas, the hall was filled to capacity by the time we arrived and they were not allowing any more people in. However, we bought two of his books and left them there for him to sign after the lecture. We can pick them up later. (I have a small collection of books signed by the author.)
It was such a lovely day. Now we brace ourselves for a very hot and humid day, although it looks like it won’t be as bad here on the shoreline as it will be inland. Some schools have already announced early dismissals and there is an air quality alert. Looks like the air conditioner will be going on today… I will miss all the birds singing… Sigh…
The pale stars were sliding into their places. The whispering of the leaves was almost hushed. All about them it was still and shadowy and sweet. It was that wonderful moment when, for lack of a visible horizon, the not yet darkened world seems infinitely greater — a moment when anything can happen, anything be believed in. ~ Olivia Howard Dunbar (The Shell of Sense)
Last night, we took a magical evening walk in the woods, an owl prowl, offered by the Denison Pequotsepos Nature Center. And something wonderful did happen! We saw and heard a family of barred owls, a mother and three fledglings!
Before the walk we listened to a lecture about the owls found in Connecticut, some common, like the barred owl, others rare, like the snowy owl. We met a little rescued screech owl who was blind in one eye. And there was a lab where we got to crack open a sterilized owl pellet and find the bones and teeth of swallowed rodents. A very informative and enchanting evening!
Last weekend we flew to a different part of North Carolina, where Tim’s brother had rented a vacation house in the southern Appalachians. So we had a little family reunion and an early Christmas there. We spent the better part of Saturday at the Western North Carolina Nature Center in Asheville. It was very cold there in spite of the welcome bright sunshine!
We bundled up and enjoyed seeing many animals native to the Southern Appalachians. All of the animals there are rescues and could not survive in the wild. Katherine especially loved watching the river otters gliding in and out of the water, but I couldn’t get a good picture of them. They were moving too fast!
This little screech owl is blind in one eye and is being used to educate the public about rescuing wildlife. Katherine was paying close attention.
We stayed in Asheville for dinner out at the Tupelo Honey Cafe, “a southern restaurant with mountain south roots.” Tim enjoyed the food so much he bought their cookbook! And after dinner we took in the Christmas light and music extravaganza at Shadrack’s Christmas Wonderland. There were so many light displays it took us a full hour to drive through the two-mile maze, synchronized holiday music playing on our car radio! It was a pretty dazzling experience.
Sunday we stayed in the cabin, enjoying each other’s company by the fire. Dima, Larisa and Fran whipped up some scrumptious dishes for us. A perfect weekend!
The tendinous part of the mind, so to speak, is more developed in winter; the fleshy, in summer. I should say winter had given the bone and sinew to Literature, summer the tissues and blood. … The simplicity of winter has a deep moral. The return of nature, after such a career of splendor and prodigality, to habits so simple and austere, is not lost upon either the head or the heart. It is the philosopher coming back from the banquet and the wine to a cup of water and a crust of bread. ~ John Burroughs (Deep Woods)
When the cold comes to New England it arrives in sheets of sleet and ice. In December, the wind wraps itself around bare trees and twists in between husbands and wives asleep in their beds. It shakes the shingles from the roofs and sifts through cracks in the plaster. The only green things left are the holly bushes and the old boxwood hedges in the village, and these are often painted white with snow. Chipmunks and weasels come to nest in basements and barns; owls find their way into attics. At night, the dark is blue and bluer still, as sapphire of night. ~ Alice Hoffman (Here on Earth)
Then we were approached by this self-proclaimed fool who invited us to see his duel on another stage. I said we would come if he’d allow me to take his picture. He posed willingly.
We watched another show on the stage shown below, from a distance, while eating our lunch in the shade. Not sure what it was all about – there was a lot of splashing and towel snapping – no doubt they were poking fun at the man they coaxed up there from the audience.
There were costumes to be seen everywhere…
But our favorite part of the day was the falconry demonstration. I’m not sure how I feel about this sport, but the falconer explained that their birds were rescue birds and that they would have perished in the wild. In theory these birds of prey could fly away if they were unhappy with their lot in life.
I was thrilled to be so close to these beautiful creatures, but my camera was getting a workout trying to zoom in and out to get pictures of them up close and far away. This falconer was very accommodating and kept pausing in front of me so I could get a shot.
I got the sense that these falconers love and respect their birds of prey. They seemed genuinely interested in educating the public about their natural behavior. No unnatural or coerced circus tricks here.