a heavily wooded glacial valley

3.16.22 ~ Paffard Woods, Stonington, Connecticut

The preserve offers diverse terrain ranging from a heavily wooded glacial valley in the northern portion to a salt marsh on a tidal cove at the southern edge. Other distinguishing features include many glacial erratics, large trees, a white pine grove, wetlands crossed by bridges, and a cultivated field.
~ Avalonia Land Conservancy website

After several weeks of being plagued with gout/tendonitis/edema, Tim’s foot was finally healed enough to take a walk! Just in time to welcome some lovely warm spring weather. We chose a new-to-us preserve, Paffard Woods and walked for over an hour, much to my delight! It was a sunny day with temperatures around 50°F (10°C).

skunk cabbage coming up, early sign of spring
glacial erratic with a split hidden in the shadow
curious markings on tree bark
(thanks to Eliza for identifying beech bark disease)
a stone crossing ~ we made it across without incident
root covered terrain leading up to a nicely placed bench on top of a ledge
looking down at glacial erratics from the top of the ledge
moss on log illuminated by sunbeam

Even though these dark-eyed junco photos are marred by twigs I was excited to see them in the woods. They used to visit my birdfeeder when I had one but these are the first ones I’ve seen in the wild.

dark-eyed junco
tree/glacial erratic buddies

And then we saw a couple of eastern bluebirds flying to and from the hole way high up in this tree. Again, it was hard to get pictures with the twigs interfering with the focus. These were the best of my dozens of attempts! (Lots of shots with blurry wing action, too.)

eastern bluebird
trunk with many legs
trunk with many arms
more skunk cabbage
even more skunk cabbage
vine strangling a trunk
marcescence

Connecticut’s positivity rate has been hovering between 2-3%. There’s talk of a fourth shot being needed for those of us over 65. Still exercising a lot of caution in stores. Putin’s cruel onslaught on Ukraine continues. But it was good to forget reality for an hour and feel grateful for a brief dose of the healing power of nature.

a living museum

2.11.22 ~ Alewife Cove Nature Walk
Ocean Beach, New London, Connecticut

When we arrived at Ocean Beach and started walking down the boardwalk to get to the Alewife Cove Nature Walk we heard a couple of starlings singing the loveliest songs and couldn’t believe our ears. (Back at home I was surprised to learn that “they have impressive vocal abilities and a gift for mimicry.”) I’ve only heard them making unpleasant noises until this day.

European starling

As we went along I spotted a cat spying on us. He must have been enjoying the spring-like weather.

The last time I was at this place was in April of 2012, almost ten years ago, with Janet and Nancy. It’s changed a lot due to the many storms forever reshaping the coastal landscape. Here is what I posted back then: walking is discovery. When Tim & I walked at Waterford Beach Park back in October we could see this nature area across the cove and so I made a mental note to revisit it soon. See: sunlight by the sea.

song sparrow
Alewife Cove and Long Island Sound
great blue heron
Alewife Cove
looking west across Alewife Cove to the walkway to Waterford Beach Park

On the walk ten years ago I discovered a praying mantis egg case like the one above. On this walk we saw dozens of them! This must be a favored habitat for them because I’ve never noticed these anywhere else on our wanderings. Apparently the nymphs, up to 300 of them, will emerge as soon as temperatures warm in spring.

praying mantis egg case

Whatever the environment from which it springs, local knowledge matters, because enchanted living begins with local living: genuinely understanding, and so living in harmony with the landscape you occupy.
~ Sharon Blackie
(The Enchanted Life, Unlocking the Magic of the Everyday)

praying mantis egg case
driftwood caught in the brush
driftwood on the sand ~ maybe part of a tree trunk?
cat hanging out at the beach pavilion

It was a great day for a walk. It’s a good thing we left when we did, though, because the Ocean Beach parking lot, which was empty when we arrived, was suddenly full of activity and people placing traffic cones everywhere to make space for lines of cars. They were setting up for free covid testing. We had to to exit out of an entrance to finally find our way out of the maze! A reminder that the pandemic is still with us. Our positivity rate is currently 5%. Seems to be going down slowly…

a preserve by the railroad tracks

1.19.22 ~ Knox Preserve, Stonington, Connecticut

It’s hard to believe after almost two years of walking outings during the pandemic we’re still finding open spaces we haven’t visited yet. Tim was reading about this one, Knox Preserve, in an editorial in the Sunday paper. The writer was frustrated because a fence had been put up between the nature preserve and the railroad tracks, keeping trespassers off the tracks, yes, but also obscuring the views of Long Island Sound.

Wednesday afternoon was finally “warm” enough to head out there, bundled up, of course. (We usually walk in the morning but decided it might be warmer after lunch!) I forgot to make note of the temperature. My new mittens did a fine job keeping my fingers warm. 🙂 We headed up a muddy path along a lovely stone wall with a rusty, golden salt meadow off to our right.

muddy path along salt meadow

What I see is mine.
~ Henry David Thoreau
(A Week on the Concord & Merrimack Rivers)

At a break in the stone wall we took another very soggy path through the salt meadow, then leading up to a grassy knoll where we found a bench with a view.

While we enjoyed the view a little boy and his mother came along and sat down to wait for the next train. Mom had an app on her cell phone that let her know when the next train would be along. The little guy was very excited, even though he had done this many times before. We smiled, thinking of all the good memories they will have to look back on some day.

view of fence, Amtrak train tracks and Long Island Sound

Railroad iron is a magician’s rod, in its power to evoke the sleeping energies of land and water.
~ Ralph Waldo Emerson
(The Young American)

the controversial fence

Next we decided to follow a path into the woods and along the new fence. We heard the expected train approach and hoped the little boy was enjoying himself! It was probably a high-speed Acela train.

into the woods
train whizzing by
reindeer moss

When we came out of the woods we found ourselves at Quiambog Cove and walked along it until we came back to the salt meadow where we started. It was fun completing a loop instead of retracing our steps the way we usually do.

Quiambog Cove and railroad bridge
afternoon sun

Is not January alone pure winter? December belongs to the fall — is a wintery November — February to the spring — it is a snowy March.
~ Henry David Thoreau
(Journal, February 9, 1854)

ice in the salt meadow

When we woke up this morning the wind chill was 0°F/-18°C. Needless to say, we did not take a walk. Instead, it was more yoga for me!

After peaking at 25% on January 7th, Connecticut’s covid positivity rate has slowly inched its way down to 13% yesterday. Baby steps in the right direction.

unknown wayfarers

1.4.22 ~ Avery Farm Nature Preserve

I guess my feet know where they want me to go
Walking on a country road

~ James Taylor
♫ (Country Road) ♫

rusting away

We didn’t last too long out there, but we hadn’t had a walk since December 15th — because of all the holiday preparations and a long visit with family and bad weather — so we decided to go anyway, in spite of the temperature being 21°F/-6°C. With the light northwest wind the feels-like temperature was 10°F/-12°C. But the sunshine was bright and abundant!

frozen pool off Ed Lamb Brook

The brief moments I took my hand out of my glove to take these pictures were enough to turn my fingers painfully cold. Even quickly sticking the fingers back in the Thinsulate glove didn’t help. (All my other thermal layers were working superbly, though!) So that sent me back to the car to warm my hands in the warm air from the heater. Sigh. After we got home I looked online for some warmer mittens and will try them out as soon as they get here…

ice forming over running water

In our hurried pace back to the car we encountered an elderly man walking in the opposite direction. He gave us a very wide berth. We exchanged muffled good mornings but it was obvious that some of us are still trying to stay six feet apart, much like we were at the beginning of the pandemic. It made me reflect on how it was the same way with people when the Black Death was spreading in Scandinavia around 1350.

Ed Lamb Brook

Fourteen days later Kristin saw for the first time one sick of the plague. Rumor that the pest was raging in Nidaros and spreading through the country-side had come to Rissa — how, ’twas not easy to understand, for folk kept their houses, and every man fled to the woods or thickets if he saw an unknown wayfarer on the road; none would open his door to stranger-folk.
~ Sigrid Undset
(Kristin Lavransdatter: The Cross)

ice

Although we had a lovely visit focused on our family for the holidays there was the background worry about the continuing spread of covid. The positivity rate in Connecticut was 9% before the visit. After they left we saw it jump from 15% to 18% to 20% to 22% to 24%. We may be “done” with this pandemic but it certainly isn’t done with us. Our town has gone back to indoor mask mandates.

sunlit frozen beauty

I may be crazy, but we’re expecting a snowstorm, a good old-fashioned nor’easter tomorrow, and I am looking forward to it!!! Perhaps I should be careful what I wish for but it would be nice to feel a little bit of normal for January for a change.

a thing made of holes

12.7.21 ~ Pequotsepos Brook Preserve, Stonington, Connecticut

Properly bundled up for the weather, we had a nice long walk in this 44-acre nature preserve a couple of days ago. It was originally part of 500 acres given to Capt. John Gallup in 1643, a reward from the royal court in England for his part in the Pequot Massacre.

the first colonial stone slab bridge we saw
lovely moss greenery in the dull landscape
path cutting through one of many stone walls
looking up into an old oak, a “wolf tree”
a relic from farms of the past when trees along the edges of open fields
could spread their branches without competition from other trees
leftover autumn leaves
Tim was captivated with this tree,
which grew sideways before it grew up
windswept pine needles
backlit oak leaf
pine sapling nursery

There is a time in life when you expect the world to be always full of new things. And then comes a day when you realise that is not how it will be at all. You see that life will become a thing made of holes. Absences. Losses. Things that were there and are no longer. And you realise, too, that you have to grow around and between the gaps, though you can put your hand out to where things were and feel that tense, shining dullness of the space where the memories are.
~ Helen Macdonald
(H is for Hawk)

tangled up
breaking down
Pequotsepos Brook running under another colonial stone slab bridge

It was a sunny day, 41°F/5°C, with a feels-like temperature of 34°F/1°C, due to a moderate wind from the northwest. Connecticut’s positivity rate jumped to 8.33%. Sobering, indeed. So grateful we still have the woods to explore and fresh air to breathe.

snow melting in the oak-beech forest

12.24.20 ~ Poquetanuck Cove Preserve, Ledyard, Connecticut

On Christmas Eve morning we headed 13 miles north to find some snow without a sheet of ice on top of it. It was melting up in Ledyard but still looking lovely and was walkable. I was delighted! I was going to get my chance to walk in the snow covered woods!

trailhead, others had been here, too

In the winter there are fewer men in the fields and woods … you see the tracks of those who had preceded you, and so are more reminded of them than in summer.
~ Henry David Thoreau
(Journal, December 12, 1859)

first glimpse of a wolf tree

The preserve’s website mentioned wolf trees, which are “relics from the agricultural era when trees along the edges of fields could spread their branches.” My curiosity piqued, I soon spotted one. I’ve seen trees like this before, but didn’t know there was a term for them.

winter shadows are long and enchanting
moss peeking through the snow
beech marcescence with splotches of lichen
part of the huge wolf tree, probably an oak

In the strictest sense, wolf trees are those spared the axe during widespread Colonial-era deforestation in order to provide shade for livestock or mark a boundary. As second- and third-growth woods filled in abandoned pasture and farmland, these titans have become crowded by dense, spindly youngsters. Where those upstarts are tall and narrow, competing fiercely for canopy light, the wolf tree they surround has fat, laterally extended boughs and a comparatively squat trunk—a testament to the open, sunny country in which it once prospered.
~ Ethan Shaw
(The Old in the Forest: Wolf Trees of New England & Farther Afield)

wolf tree bark close up
wolf tree leaves high up on a branch
my favorite picture capturing the magic of the snowy woods
Avery Hill Brook

When we got to the brook we decided to turn around because there was no bridge and crossing over by stepping on the small rocks looked like a dicey proposition. But on the way back we paid more attention to the little things peeping out from under the snow.

ice, leaves, moss, lichen, rock
oak leaf in snow
chunky snow melting on rock
lichen, moss, leaves, snow

The winter, with its snow and ice, is not an evil to be corrected. It is as it was designed and made to be, for the artist has had leisure to add beauty to use.
~ Henry David Thoreau
(Journal, December 11, 1855)

more beech marcescence
part of rock surrounded by melting snow
simplicity
puffs and sparkle

We will return some day, better prepared to cross the brook and make our way to the cove, where we might find osprey and waterfowl. It was good to get a great walk in before heading home to hunker down for the fast approaching Christmas wind and rain storm.

We wound up having a good Christmas, even though it was pouring rain all day. There were treasured video calls with family. We finished a jigsaw puzzle together while listening to my winter solstice playlist on shuffle. Watched the final episodes of a Norwegian TV series on Netflix, Home for Christmas, dubbed in English. (Hjem til Jul)

“In the Still Light of Dawn” by Alan Giana

As we started to close the drapes at dusk we found ourselves awestruck. The eastern sky, opposite of the sunset, was violet!!! We couldn’t believe our eyes! The color comes from the extra moisture in the atmosphere refracting the setting sun’s light rays so that the violet is reflected.

12.25.20 ~ eastern sky at sunset

Color! What a deep and mysterious language, the language of dreams.
~ Paul Gauguin
(Perception & Imaging: Photography as a Way of Seeing)

black-bellied plover

11.10.20 ~ Harkness Memorial State Park
Waterford, Connecticut

This is another state park we have avoided during the pandemic because it is so popular that it has closed early many times after its parking lot became filled to maximum capacity. We tried now on a weekday and found it busy but not crowded. There is much to see here, beautiful gardens and a mansion, but we headed for the nature preserve. A squirrel was here to greet us at this park, too.

Not sure what the above bush is but I liked the way it looked. The seed pods, below, remind me of pictures of the coronavirus, though. Sigh…

The path down to the cove was nice and wide, but we needn’t have worried about it because we didn’t encounter anyone down there. I took lots of pictures of the plants, the colors and textures were so pleasing to our eyes. The air was full of insect hums and buzzes.

When we got down to Goshen Cove I spotted a lone shorebird on the tidal mudflat, new to me, which my Facebook group helped me to identify: a juvenile black-bellied plover, or possibly a nonbreeding adult.

juvenile black-bellied plover

In breeding plumage, Black-bellied Plovers are a dazzling mix of snow white and jet black, accented by checkerboard wings. They are supreme aerialists, both agile and swift, and are readily identified at great distance by black axillaries (“armpit” feathers) in all plumages—and by their distinctive, mournful-sounding call. The largest and heaviest of North American plovers, Black-bellied is also the hardiest, breeding farther north than other species, at the very top of the world. It is also a very widespread shorebird, occurring on six continents.
~ All About Birds webpage

Tim took particular notice of this tree

After coming up from the nature preserve we followed a path across the lawn and down to the beach. We then encountered some people, some with masks and some without, but there was plenty of space to give them a nice wide berth.

Gratitude doesn’t change the scenery. It merely washes clean the glass you look through so you can clearly see the colors.
~ Richelle E. Goodrich
(Smile Anyway: Quotes, Verse & Grumblings for Every Day of the Year)

The whole setting had the feeling of an impressionist painting.

Our weather has been warmer than average and we broke a record for number of days in a row above 70° F (21° C) in November. Seven. The old record was four days in a row set in 2015 and 1975. It feels very unnatural.

Another public health doctor, Ashish Jha, has been on TV saying he’s not going to visit his parents for Thanksgiving, his example strengthening yet again our resolve to celebrate by ourselves, with video calls to the family. A vaccine seems to be close at hand now, maybe even by April, so it would be foolish to let our guard down at this point.

To lose patience is to lose the battle.
~ Mahatma Gandhi
(Insipiring Thoughts Of Mahatma Gandhi)

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!

enjoyable moments

5.21.20 ~ chipmunk
Fennerswood Preserve, Stonington, Connecticut

For the animal to be happy it is enough that this moment be enjoyable. But man is hardly satisfied with this at all. He is much more concerned to have enjoyable memories and expectations — especially the latter. With these assured, he can put up with an extremely miserable present. Without this assurance, he can be extremely miserable in the midst of immediate physical pleasure.
~ Alan Watts
(The Wisdom of Insecurity)

I enjoy all the hours of life. Few persons have such susceptibility to pleasure; as a countryman will say, “I was at sea a month and never missed a meal,” so I eat my dinner and sow my turnips, yet do I never, I think, fear death. It seems to me so often a relief, a rendering-up of responsibility, a quittance of so many vexatoius trifles.It is greatest to believe and to hope well of the world, because the one who does so, quits the world of experience, and makes the world they live in.
~ Ralph Waldo Emerson
(Journal, May 1843)