We achieve some measure of adulthood when we recognize our parents as they really were, without sentimentalizing or mythologizing, but also without blaming them unfairly for our imperfections. Maturity entails a readiness, painful and wrenching though it may be, to look squarely into the long dark places, into the fearsome shadows. In this act of ancestral remembrance and acceptance may be found a light by which to see our children safely home. ~ Carl Sagan & Ann Druyan (Shadows of Forgotten Ancestors)
The turtle reminds me that I owe my small human life to the generosity of the more-than-human beings with whom we share this precious homeland. The Earth was made not by one alone but from the alchemy of two essential elements: gratitude for her gifts and the covenant of reciprocity. Together they formed what we know today as Turtle Island, or North America. In return for their gifts, it’s time that we gave ours in return. ~ Robin Wall Kimmerer (The New York Times, September 24, 2023, “What Do We Owe Turtles?”)
We found a great place to walk with uneven terrain and only two people encountered along the way! We followed a trail around a large meadow full of wildflowers and humming with insects…
And then we made our way into the woods and felt grateful for all the gifts it was offering on such a lovely day.
Tim spotted this box turtle ever so slowly swallowing its breakfast. I cannot tell if he was satisfied or not when he finally got that thing down. When we came back by to check on the turtle ten minutes later he was looking more alert and I was able to get the picture at the beginning of this post.
What would a woodland be without squirrels scampering up and down the tree trunks?
The woods here have many similarities to the ones in New England, but they do have a different feel to them. The heavy presence of loblolly pines, not found up north, is one strikingly obvious difference. Likely I will start seeing more subtle distinctions as time goes on.
I was looking for a course, a way and meaning in my life and thought the answer could be found in all that wise men wrote. And they are surely not to blame if I ended up no wiser. That mystery so clear, so deep, is not to be found in books. It was in your eyes, shining, blue, that I first saw it once. Eternity opened a tiny crack, And earth and heaven sang. ~ Olav H. Hauge (The Magic of Fjords)
On this twenty-first of June, the hinge day of the seasons, the yearly tide of light reaches its flood. Tomorrow, it will begin the long rollback to the dark days of December. … And so this longest day in the year comes to an end with silver mist and low-lying land and the smell of the sea. Twilight here is doubly impressive for we are face to face with twin mysteries — the mystery of the sea and the mystery of the night. We, as diurnal creatures of the land, are looking into foreign realms, into worlds other than our own, into the mysterious dark and the mysterious depths. ~ Edwin Way Teale (Circle of the Seasons: The Journal of a Naturalist’s Year)
Salt marshes have a long memory. Humans have a short one. Like sponges, salt marshes hold onto things. But for us, it’s out of sight, out of mind. ~ Tim Traver (Sippewissett: Or, Life on a Salt Marsh)
Many years ago, my 7th grade class traveled for an hour-long ride to a field trip (48 miles away) on Barn Island on the Connecticut shoreline. Little did I know I would one day move down here to live in a neighboring town. It wasn’t until February of 2019, though, when my friend Janet suggested we take a winter walk here, that I got around to visiting it again. See: winter in the marsh. I took Tim there during the pandemic in December of 2020 when we were looking for isolated places to walk: See: reflections. So we decided to visit one last time before the big move. There is a very long path that crosses the marsh.
It was low tide and the water level in the tidal creeks was lower than it was on my other visits. I noticed a lot of clams and mussels in the exposed mud and clinging to the creek banks. The only waterbird we saw was a mallard but we encountered a lot of people and dogs, which was surprising mid-week. The woods beckoned from the other end of the path. Then we retraced our steps.
Barn Island is the largest and single most ecologically diverse coastal Wildlife Management Area in Connecticut. With over 60 years of continuous wetland research at this site, Barn Island provides a rare window into long-term marsh development both before and after restoration efforts. Its 1,024 acres are marked by centuries of cultural and biological history, once a vital resource for early colonial settlers and Native Americans and now for scientists and outdoorsmen. Its diverse habitats support rare plants and animals which add to its rich ecological resource base. Barn Island’s sprawling landscape sustains a wide variety of ecosystems and recreational activities; it consists of salt and brackish marshes, one of the state’s largest coastal forests, hilly uplands, intertidal flats, sandy beach, and a rare sea-level fen. ~ Long Island Sound Study website
The marsh is a microcosm of the world. With its peat meadows, meandering tidal creeks, microbes and mud, at the living, breathing edge of continent and ocean, it seems that life must have started here. Every microcomponent contributes to the whole. Discovering how this system works was a biogeochemical pursuit that took years and is ongoing. ~ Tim Traver (Sippewissett: Or, Life on a Salt Marsh)
In the above picture, looking south from the path, dock pilings can be seen in the distance. There is a boat landing there, on Little Narragansett Bay. We decided to drive down there and get a picture of the salt marsh from the dock. A solitary herring gull was quietly sunning himself on the dock when we arrived. He stayed put the whole time I was there.
The next picture is looking north to the salt marsh (between the woodlands) from the dock on Little Narragansett Bay. There are some people walking along the path that crosses the marsh, where we had taken our walk and had taken pictures. I zoomed in on them in the second picture, as much as possible.
On the way home we spotted two ospreys above a much smaller marsh near Paffard Woods, a preserve of the Avalonia Land Conservancy. We pulled over on the very busy road and tried my luck with the zoom lens. Unfortunately it was a very windy day and the car was shaking a lot.
We stopped again on the way home to pick up a cod loin for dinner and wondered what kind of fish we will find plentiful in North Carolina. Also, living by the sea it is breezy and windy here more often than it is calm. I started wondering what the wind will be like in our new inland home. And then we got back to our sorting and packing…
Experience is the Angled Road Preferred against the Mind By — Paradox — the Mind itself — Presuming to it lead
Quite Opposite — How complicate The Discipline of Man — Compelling Him to choose Himself His Preappointed Pain —
~ Emily Dickinson (The Poems of Emily Dickinson, #899)
I’m not quite sure what Emily is getting at with this poem but it did get me thinking. Many folks say that experience is the best teacher, but personally experiencing all that life has to offer would take forever and, in my mind, often amounts to wasting time and learning things the hard way. But is it any better to submit to the discipline given by other people, obeying potentially immoral rules from authorities that might oppress or harm ourselves or others? Perhaps experience and discipline are opposite sides of the same coin. Perhaps we are as likely as our teachers to make painful mistakes in judgment as we learn ways to make sense of the world.
On this, the shortest day of all the 365, I wander over the covered paths of the garden hillside. I wade through the drifts along the swamp edge. I walk over the snow-covered ice among the catttails. The wind is gone. The day is still. The world is decorated with unmarred snow. This is winter with winter beauty everywhere. Autumn is finally, officially, gone. Like the evening of the day, the fall has been a time of ceaseless alteration. Cold, in the autumn, is overcoming the heat just as darkness, in the evening, is overcoming the light. All around, in recent months, there have been changes in a thousand forms. The days of easy warmth were passing, then past. Birds departed. Threadbare trees lost their final leaves. Nuts fell from the branches. Pumpkins and corn turned yellow in the fields. For animals and men alike, this was the time of harvest. The phantom summer, Indian summer, came and went. The chorus of the insects died away in nightly frosts. Goldenrod tarnished; grass clumps faded from green to yellow. Milkweed pods gaped open and their winged seeds took flight. The windrows of fallen leaves withered, lost their color, merged into one universal brown. Now they are buried beneath the new and seasonal beauty of the snow. Autumn, the evening of the year, is over; winter, the night of the year, has come. ~ Edwin Way Teale (Circle of the Seasons: The Journal of a Naturalist’s Year)
As we begin this meal with grace, Let us become aware of the memory Carried inside the food before us: The quiver of the seed Awakening in the earth, Unfolding in a trust of roots And slender stems of growth, On its voyage toward harvest, The kiss of rain and surge of sun; The innocence of animal soul That never spoke a word, Nourished by the earth To become today our food; The work of all the strangers Whose hands prepared it, The privilege of wealth and health That enables us to feast and celebrate. ~ John O’Donohue (To Bless the Space Between Us)
May your Thanksgiving be blessed with good chat and cheer and the love of family and friends!
On Indigenous Peoples’ Day my good friend Janet and I took a long afternoon walk from Eastern Point to Avery Point and back again, passing by Beach Pond both ways. The weather was picture perfect, if a bit on the breezy side.
After admiring the views of Long Island Sound and identifying the various islands and lighthouses we could see on a clear day, we found the “Cognitive Garden” on the Avery Point campus. There was still a lot of interest to see there in the middle of autumn. Textures and colors.
Cognition means to acquire knowledge through the senses, experience, and thought. A cognitive garden encourages learning through these three processes while exposing people to nature. While the beneﬁts of nature extend to all ages, young children learn primarily through their senses and a multitude of studies have demonstrated a correlation between sensory stimulation and brain development. ~ University of Connecticut, Avery Point Campus website
The naturalist is a civilized hunter. He goes goes alone into a field or woodland and closes his mind to everything but that time and place, so that life around him presses in on all the senses and small details grow in significance. He begins the scanning search for which cognition was engineered. His mind becomes unfocused, it focuses on everything, no longer directed toward any ordinary task or social pleasantry. ~ E. O. Wilson (Biophilia)
I wish I could include the smell of a patch of thyme for you, dear readers. What an amazing scent filled the air!
On the way back I was happy to see that Beach Pond was full of water again, although we were still in a moderate drought that day. I suspect Thursday’s torrential rains may have moved us up into the abnormally dry category. No waterbirds around but still some flowers blooming, and others spent.
So come to the pond, or the river of your imagination, or the harbor of your longing, and put your lips to the world. And live your life. ~ Mary Oliver (Red Bird: Poems)
It felt so good sauntering along and catching up with a friend!!!