sundown for the year

“Last Hour of the Day” by T. C. Steele

In the garden the dry rustle of leaves, stirred by the breeze, has taken the place of the insect music of only a month ago. Most of the crickets are gone. The clock of their little lives has run down, never to be rewound. At sunset, the breeze dies. All sounds are low or short or subdued. This is the sundown of the day and the month. It is sundown for the year as well.
~ Edwin Way Teale
(Circle of the Seasons: The Journal of a Naturalist’s Year)

walking along a ledge

10.19.22 ~ Sassacus Nature Preserve, Groton, Connecticut

Recently we were driving down a road less traveled (by us) and spotted a sign right next to an industrial business. Sassacus Nature Preserve? The parking lot was shared with the business, and behind a chain link fence were ladders and small dumpsters available to rent. It didn’t seem to be a very natural setting. We thought we saw a path off the parking lot and decided to come back for our next walk.

When we returned we found the trail and ascended to an elevation of about 100 feet and so began our walk across a ledge. On one side of the trail was a tall, long outcrop and on the other a steep slope down to a valley. It was cool looking down onto the tops of trees.

Sassacus (Massachusett: Sassakusu (fierce) (c. 1560 – June 1637) was born near present-day Groton, Connecticut. He was a Pequot sachem, and he became grand sachem after his father, sachem Tatobem was killed in 1632. The Mohegans led by sachem Uncas rebelled against domination by the Pequots. Sassacus and the Pequots were defeated by English colonists along with their Narragansett and Mohegan allies in the Pequot War. Sassacus fled to what he thought was safety among the Iroquois Mohawks in present-day New York, but they murdered him. They sent his head and hands to the Connecticut Colony as a symbolic offering of friendship.
~ Wikipedia

Notice in the picture below how the trail squeezed its way between two glacial erratics. There was no other way around unless we wanted to tumble down the hill to the left.

After about twenty minutes of walking we started to hear water rushing and then maybe five minutes later we could see a stream way down below so I used the zoom lens to get a picture.

At this point we turned around because the path was starting to look even more tricky to navigate. Retracing our steps we found that the sunlight now illuminated some colors deep in the woods.

October, the extravagant sister, has ordered an immense amount of the most gorgeous forest tapestry for her grand reception.
~ Oliver Wendell Holmes
(The Seasons)

This large glacial erratic seemed to be precariously balanced…

For the remainder of the walk back I enjoyed finding sunlight on the fallen leaves, mosses and lichens.

Truly it has been said, that to a clear eye the smallest fact is a window through which the Infinite may be seen.
~ Thomas Henry Huxley
(The Major Prose of Thomas Henry Huxley)

a little beech sapling
moss surrounding the base of a tree
in a crevice of the outcrop
sapling at eye level growing out of the outcrop

It was an adventure finding this little nature preserve in the middle of town, surrounded by railroad tracks, streets, houses and a new elementary magnet school. And then coming home to learn about Sassacus and starting to picture his people living in these woods four hundred long years ago.

flora by the sea

10.10.22 ~ Cognitive Garden at Avery Point

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)

black-eyed Susan

I wish I could include the smell of a patch of thyme for you, dear readers. What an amazing scent filled the air!

thyme ~ it smelled wonderful!
a bee enjoying the smell, too

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.

asters at Beach Pond
cattails with fluff

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)

the pond is full of water and the breeze was making little ripples
juvenile song sparrow
backside of a lingering swamp rose mallow and orbs
swamp rose mallow bud and orbs

It felt so good sauntering along and catching up with a friend!!!

picked out by the sun

10.7.22 ~ Caroline Black Garden, Connecticut College Arboretum

Caroline Black Garden is known as the secret garden of Connecticut College, located on a steep hill between the college and the Thames River. Starting with this gate you follow paths passing through various garden “rooms.” It has four acres of native and exotic ornamental trees and bushes. We enjoyed a morning of exploration.

western red cedar
paths connected the “rooms”

Sit and be quiet. In a while
the red berries, now in shadow,
will be picked out by the sun.

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

path leading to a magical pool
Tim pretending to climb a huge glacial erratic
water bubbling out from under this rock ~ a spring perhaps?
Japanese inspired water feature
THIS POOL GIVEN TO
THE CAROLINE BLACK
MEMORIAL GARDEN
BY THE NEW LONDON
HORTICULTURAL SOCIETY
1930
gate leaving pool “room”

The clearing rests in song and shade.
It is a creature made
By old light held in soil and leaf,
By human joy and grief,
By human work,
Fidelity of sight and stroke,
By rain, by water on
The parent stone.

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

prickly pear, the only cactus native to Connecticut
bee and goldenrod
another garden gate

What a natural wellspring — cooling and refreshing the years — is the gift of wonder! It removes the dryness from life and keeps our days fresh and expanding.
~ Edwin Way Teale
(Circle of the Seasons: The Journal of a Naturalist’s Year)

how to take a walk

9.16.22 ~ Connecticut College Arboretum
waning gibbous moon
bee inspecting a hole in a trumpet vine blossom
blueberry life on the rocks
trumpet vine reaching for the moon
fallen leaf standing in water

We enjoyed a lovely long walk around the pond at the arboretum on Friday. I was in my sweatshirt and enjoying the fresh cool air. The trees are still green for the most part and we wondered what kind of fall color is in store for us in the wake of the drought. There were still some summer tints lingering side by side with hints of autumn hues.

half standing lily pad
pond in moderate drought
upside down

Few men know how to take a walk. The qualifications of a professor are endurance, plain clothes, old shoes, an eye for nature, good humor, vast curiosity, good speech, good silence and nothing too much. If a man tells me that he has an intense love of nature, I know, of course, that he has none. Good observers have the manners of trees and animals, their patient good sense, and if they add words, ’tis only when words are better than silence.
~ Ralph Waldo Emerson
(The Later Lectures of Ralph Waldo Emerson: 1843-1871)

We also took a side path to the Glenn Dreyer Bog which was illuminated with spots of bright sunshine. The light near the equinoxes is amazing, as I often say.

Glenn Dreyer Bog
Glenn Dreyer Bog

The woods were full of gray catbird calls and we heard them rustling around in the tree branches. Occasionally we spotted one but they were diligently avoiding my camera. This was the summer of the catbird. Not only did we have one singing in our river birch outside our kitchen window, we saw them on almost every walk we took. Back in June, though, they were out in the open and more amenable to being photographed.

gray catbird
gray catbird
gray catbird
small fern and moss

How much of beauty — of color, as well as form — on which our eyes daily rest goes unperceived by us!
~ Henry David Thoreau
(Journal, August 1, 1860)

river birch triplets

Today the humidity is creeping back with higher temperatures but it shouldn’t last for too many days. We plan to go see an outdoor Ibsen play, Peer Gynt, in the park tonight and will bring blankets to keep warm. This was supposed to happen in June but covid got the theater group and they had to postpone. We got our new bivalent booster shots last week but still plan to exercise caution as we try to move forward.

outdoor sculpture exhibition

9.3.22 ~ Avery Point
“Chameleon” by Helena Chastel

Saturday morning we visited Open Air 2022, an outdoor sculpture exhibit hosted by the Alexey von Schlippe Gallery of Art on the beautiful UConn Avery Point campus from July 14-September 29. This idea started in 2020 because of the pandemic, when the gallery had to remain closed. It was so popular with the public that they plan to continue with a new installation every summer.

“Noon” by Myles Nurse
“Piles” by Jack Henry

Life is a train of moods like a string of beads, and, as we pass through them, they prove to be many-colored lenses which paint the world their own hue, and each shows only what lies in its own focus.
~ Ralph Waldo Emerson
(Experience)

“Stand Up” by Margaret Roleke
herring gull with feathers ruffled in the breeze
“Silent Vanishing” by CoyWolf Collective
(Elizabeth Knowles, Steven Phillip Harris, Debra Vilen)

Silent Vanishing was my favorite sculpture, depicting melting icebergs and the snowy owls who breed in the treeless arctic tundra. Where will they go if/when the environment changes too fast for them to adapt?

one of many cairns on top of the seawall
northern mockingbird

I stopped by my beach rosebushes to see if the song sparrow was still there but a mockingbird came out to greet me instead. He posed for quite a while and I took many pictures of him.

beach rose hips
lonely little beach rose
“Movement Study: Wave” by Margaret Parsons
purple coneflowers and stone wall
“Bubbles” by Brian Walters
“And Only Its Hands Are Left Pleading for Life”
by Thomas Pilnik

For an interesting explanation of Pilnik’s crumbling sculpture (above) and a picture of what it looked like when he first created it in July follow this link: Thomas Pilnik

And now we’re getting some much needed rain!

five days later

4.16.22 ~ Denison Pequotsepos Nature Center, Mystic

We got up early Saturday morning to see if mama goose was still on her nest. She was. We’ll keep checking. It was fun being out earlier than usual for a walk, before the world is completely awake. The nature center wasn’t even open but we assumed it was okay to walk on the trails before hours.

mama must be getting awfully tired and hungry

Papa goose was still on the watch. This time he stayed in the water so I guess we’re okay to take pictures for now.

My blogging friend Linda noticed something about Papa goose that I missed. Two white spots above his eyes. After browsing around online I’m guessing he might be a Canada goose subspecies, either a moffitti or a maxima or even a hybrid.

at least papa can swim around
moss and/or lichen clump on a branch reaching out over the pond

It was so peaceful and quiet. Even the birds were singing softly.


On the way home we decided to drive by Walt’s Walls & Woods. We discovered this open space in November and decided to come back in the spring to see the weeping cherry trees bloom. It looks like they are just starting so we’ll come back in a few days. Link to our last visit: here.

4.16.22 ~ Walt’s Walls & Woods, Groton
weeping cherry tree
creeping phlox and Walt’s stone walls
creeping phlox

While we were out and about we decided to drive through at Avery Point before going home. Much to my delight a killdeer was running around on the rocks, chirping about something. What a sweet little voice she had! We didn’t see any babies. I can’t believe these pictures came out. I was in the car and taking them leaning across Tim and out of his open window!

4.16.22 ~ Avery Point, Groton

The sharp thrill of seeing them [killdeer birds] reminded me of childhood happiness, gifts under the Christmas tree, perhaps, a kind of euphoria we adults manage to shut out most of the time. This is why I bird-watch, to recapture what it’s like to live in this moment, right now.
~ Lynn Thomson
(Birding with Yeats: A Memoir)

song sparrow near a thicket

One more stop, at Calf Pasture Overlook, where a squirrel was striking a pose on the stone wall by the parking lot. This fuzzy picture was through the car’s windshield. It seemed like the perfect portrait to me.

4.16.22 ~ Calf Pasture Overlook, Groton

Back at home my favorite chionodoxa bulbs were blooming by my river birch. I call them my little blue stars.

4.16.22 ~ chionodoxas in front of the river birch tree in my garden

Blessed are they who see beautiful things in humble places where others see nothing.
~ Camille Pissarro
(Word Pictures: Painting with Verse)

yellow sun-bonnets

4.11.22 ~ Denison Pequotsepos Nature Center

A week after our last visit we returned to the pond at the nature center to see the nesting Canada goose again. Our first encounter was a mallard bobbing for food.

Mama goose was still sitting on her nest. 🙂

Papa goose eyed us and started swimming towards us.

But I continued with my photo shoot…

…until he decided to come even closer and make his point.

He came out of the water so we backed away and gave him some space, while continuing to take pictures. No need for a confrontation.

And then the mallard decided to come out of the pond, too. They seemed to be friends, nibbling on the same patch of moss.

violet (?) growing out of a crack in a big rock

On our way back to the car we spotted another trail that seemed to lead toward the Denison Homestead, a historic museum across the road from the nature center, where the daffodils were still blooming. We followed it to a crosswalk which led us to a great picture-taking spot.

4.11.22 ~ Denison Homestead

I never saw daffodils so beautiful. They grew among the mossy stones, about and above them; some rested their heads upon these stones, as on a pillow for weariness; and the rest tossed and reeled and danced, and seemed as if they verily laughed with the wind that blew directly over the lake to them.
~ Dorothy Wordsworth
(Journal, April 15, 1802)

She wore her yellow sun-bonnet,
She wore her greenest gown;
She turned to the south wind
And curtsied up and down.
She turned to the sunlight
And shook her yellow head,
And whispered to her neighbor:
“Winter is dead.”

~ A. A. Milne
(Daffodowndilly)

spotted this periwinkle on the way back to the nature center

We plan to come back every week, hoping to catch the goslings swimming in the pond one day. The average number of eggs is five and the parents take them to a brooding area soon after they hatch. I hope the brooding area is nearby so we don’t miss seeing them.