on the existence of atoms

“Young Girl Seated” by Amedeo Modigliani

It troubled me as once I was —
For I was once a Child —
Concluding how an Atom — fell —
And yet the Heavens — held —

The Heavens weighed the most — by far —
Yet Blue — and solid — stood —
Without a Bolt — that I could prove —
Would Giants — understand?

Life set me larger — problems —
Some I shall keep — to solve
Till Algebra is easier —
Or simpler proved — above —

Then — too — be comprehended —
What sorer — puzzled me —
Why Heaven did not break away —
And tumble — Blue — on me —

~ Emily Dickinson
(The Poems of Emily Dickinson, #516)

Zdynia, Poland

Konrad Fusiak
my great-grandfather

My paternal cousin has been doing a lot of research on our Ukrainian roots and has shared some of her discoveries with me. Our grandparents spoke Ukrainian and emigrated from there in 1909 and 1910, but it seems our grandmother’s parents were originally from elsewhere. I’ve always considered myself half Ukrainian and identifying 41% “Eastern Europe & Russia” on my DNA test seems to bear that out.

But Ukraine wasn’t showing up looking closer under that broad Eastern Europe grouping. Instead, my DNA was indicating “Poland, Slovakia, Hungary & Romania.” And then my aunt’s DNA was matched with another family from Poland! (Apparently the DNA was too diluted for my cousin and me to show up as DNA matches with these distant cousins of our great-grandfather, Konrad Fusiak.) Here’s the tentative line, yet to be proven with documents:

Piotr Fusiak (b. 1760 in Lug, Małopolskie, Poland)
Gregorius Fusiak (b. 1798 in Lug, Małopolskie, Poland)
Gabriel Fusiak (b. 1827 in Zdynia, Małopolskie, Poland)
Konrad Fusiak (b. 1855 in Zdynia, Małopolskie, Poland)
Katerina/Katherine Fusiak (my grandmother, b. 1887 in Luzok Horishni, Lviv Oblast, Ukraine)

Orthodox church in Zdynia by Tomasz Bienias

The province of Małopolskie is also known as Lesser Poland, a historical region. Zdynia is a tiny village, population 220. I can’t seem to locate Lug. (Perhaps it is Ług in Podlaskie?) From what I can tell from a cursory search there were several ethnic groups living in southern Poland. When my grandmother Katherine came to this country in 1910 she identified as a Ruthenian on the passenger ship manifest. Another aunt told me that Katherine’s mother, Ludmila Karaseck, was born in Prague and came to Ukraine to work in the salt mines. Wonder how she met Konrad from Poland? So many questions!!!

So, I’ve ordered a book, The Reconstruction of Nations: Poland, Ukraine, Lithuania, Belarus, 1569–1999 by Timothy Snyder, who “traces the emergence of Polish, Ukrainian, Lithuanian*, and Belarusian nationhood over four centuries.” I hope I can make some sense of the history of the region and gain some insight into my eastern European ancestry.

*Lithuania is a Baltic nation and in December 2019 I had 3% Baltic DNA. In September 2020 my son had 3% Baltic DNA and I didn’t show any. It seemed to be replaced with 3% Balkans. I suspect a mistake was made somewhere along the line. It will be interesting to see what shows up the next time they do an update/adjustment! See: ethnicity estimates.

reflections

12.11.20 ~ Barn Island Wildlife Management Area
Pawcatuck, Connecticut

Somehow a week passed between our walks and I was feeling the definite lack of my regular endorphin boost. How did that happen? Some of the time was spent decorating our tree, which is almost done. I’m waiting on a mail order of ornament hooks. For some reason I ran out of them before all the pretty glass icicles made it onto the tree. But mostly I’ve been puttering around aimlessly.

Barn Island is the largest coastal wildlife management area in the state. It has about 1,000 acres of deciduous forest and tidal saltmarshes and lovely views of Little Narragansett Bay. The area supports “at least 9 State-listed avian species.”

clouds reflected in a tidal creek

I love it here, even if we didn’t see any birds this time. That might be because several couples were there walking their dogs. One couple was even letting their two large rambunctious dogs off the leash, putting them on the leashes when they saw us and then letting them go again after they had passed. Infuriating!

After a still winter night I awoke with the impression that some question had been put to me, which I had been endeavoring in vain to answer in my sleep, as what — how — when — where?
~ Henry David Thoreau
(Walden)

I’m missing my grandchildren. Most of the time I don’t dwell on it because I’m so grateful that we’re all safe and have incomes and food and roofs over our heads, the basics that so many Americans have lost or are losing soon. But recently, on a video call, Finn, age 2, called me Grammy for the first time, and the sound of his little voice coming into his own tugged at my heart.

Little Narragansett Bay in the distance
tidal creek

And then there was the evening that Katherine, age 6, created a solar system model out of Play-Doh. I watched for about an hour as she told me about the different planets and that the first four were rocky and the last four were gaseous. I was captivated.

spotted wintergreen
moss and lichen

Another morning I got a phone call, Katherine wanted to know if I still had the Barbie Animal Rescuer set she played with here over a year ago. Yes! It is waiting right here in the living room for her next visit. When she visited us that November (2019) I meant for her to take it home with her but she said no, it was to stay at Grammy’s to be played with here. We had such fun playing with it together and I had wondered if she would remember that, and she did.

tidal creek

Katherine has lost four of her baby teeth. And Finn, an agile little guy who loves speeding around on his scooter with the greatest of ease, wound up tripping over his bean bag chair in the middle of the night, hitting and cutting his lip with his tooth on the bedframe and getting 7 stitches! But it’s healing up well and the scar is almost invisible.

trees reflected in tidal creek

The beauty of the earth answers exactly to your demand and appreciation.
~ Henry David Thoreau
(Journal, November 2, 1858)

I trust that the walkers of the present day are conscious of the blessings which they enjoy in the comparative freedom with which they can ramble over the country and enjoy the landscape.
~ Henry David Thoreau
(Journal, February 12, 1851)

waning summer

9.13.20 ~ Eastern Point

Beach season ended with Labor Day weekend. We took a walk down there the following weekend and were greeted by this solitary gull on the rocks.

On the ocean, gulls are good luck. Gulls are strong, brave, commanding. They are harbingers of land, of fish just below the surface, of a coming storm. Legend has it they hold the souls of drowned sailors and fishermen, so killing one is bad luck.
~ Sara Anne Donnelly
(Yankee, July/August 2020)

nonbreeding adult laughing gulls

When we got down to the sand we found a large gathering of gulls hanging out. They have reclaimed the beach! I was delighted because the tiny laughing gulls were actually on the sand, which is a much more appealing backdrop than the asphalt parking lot where I usually see them. There was quite an assortment of sizes and colors.

juvenile laughing gull and nonbreeding adult herring gull
laughing gull, second winter and nonbreeding adult herring gull
juvenile laughing gull
nonbreeding adult laughing gull
nonbreeding adult ring-billed gull
laughing gull and herring gull, both nonbreeding adults
these two seemed to be great friends
At first I thought the large one might be a great black-backed gull because he seems pretty huge, but he doesn’t quite fit the description. I dusted off my “Gulls of the Americas” reference book and discovered that there has been some cross-breeding between the great black-backed and herring gulls. Maybe that’s what’s going on here…
perhaps a version of yoga tree pose
nonbreeding adult ring-billed gull
juvenile laughing gull
waning summer
weed and post art
jellyfish!

There really is a kind of insane beauty around us all the time. It’s just a question of learning to slow down, take a deep breath, and meet the moment.
~ Graham Nash
(Eye to Eye: Photographs)

It was fascinating watching this creature propelling itself through the murky water. It moves so fast I was surpised that some of the pictures actually came out!

The bars are still closed in Connecticut and now that the beach gate is open I’m sure it won’t be long before people start returning to the beach to socialize, bringing their dogs and leaving their trash, cigarette butts, and empty beer bottles. We will probably return to the woods soon, and try to do a better job of avoiding the poison ivy. Enjoying the autumn weather!

science is uncertainty

a man wearing a mask in 1918
image credit: Western Neighborhoods Project/OpenSFHistory

We all want answers today, and science is not going to give them. Science is uncertainty. And the pace of uncertainty reduction in science is way slower than the pace of a pandemic.
~ Brian Nosek
(The Washington Post, May 26, 2020)

I’ve been thinking about scientists a lot lately, beacuse of the pandemic, so when I read the above quote in the newspaper about “the pace of uncertainty reduction in science” it caught my attention. I remember my father teaching me that whenever science finds an “answer” it only brings more questions into focus. The more scientists learn, the more they appreciate how much they still don’t know.

Experiment, observe and gather data. Make educated guesses and investigate some more. My father spent his entire research career studying chicken viruses. It’s kind of astonishing that there could be so much to learn about just one kind of virus. Years and years of probing and analysis.

My father at work at the University of Connecticut,
sometime in the 1960s
~ photo by Thommie White, my grandmother

As far as I can tell, the scientists studying the coronavirus pandemic have been very candid about what they still don’t know. Yet, their best guess is that wearing a mask makes sense because it will likely protect other people from you if you happen to have the virus (with no symptoms) and are spreading it without realizing it. Combined with social distancing and frequent hand-washing, this is our best strategy for slowing down the spread of COVID-19 for now. Rest assured scientists are still searching for answers, hoping to reduce the uncertainty as soon as humanly possible!

close to home

5.16.20 ~ eastern painted turtle at Beach Pond, Groton

Last weekend we took a long meandering early morning walk at Eastern Point Beach. No pictures because the place had been trashed, complete with broken beer bottles. We wanted to see it before it opened for the summer because we will not be going there much. Only before or after hours (8am-8pm) when it opens June 20. Still concerned about possible exposure to COVID-19. On the other hand, since people will have to purchase season passes to enter between 8am and 8pm, perhaps the individuals currently vandalizing the place will go elsewhere.

When we drove past Beach Pond Tim spied a turtle sitting on a rock in the pond. He loves turtles. ♡ So we stopped and I got the above photo!

5.16.20 ~ Calf Pasture Overlook, Groton

Then we checked out a nice mini-park with one bench and one picnic table, overlooking Baker Cove. Maybe we’ll come here for our summer outdoor suppers… (Eating in our car, of course. Just in case the virus is on the bench or picnic table.)

And then the next morning we hopped over to the Sparkle Lake Conservation Area, practically in our back yard, and enjoyed some lovely scenery and did some birdwatching.

5.17.20 ~ Sparkle Lake Conservation Area
Groton, Connecticut
5.17.20 ~ gray catbird

The catbird is a bit of a busybody. Its presence should caution you to be extra careful about what you say and to whom. Things will have a greater potential of being made public or being distorted. Its presence can hint at others being overly inquisitive about your own affairs or that you are being so about others.
~ Ted Andrews
(Animal Speak: The Spiritual & Magical Powers of Creatures Great & Small)

5.17.20 ~ red-winged blackbird

Spring is such a lovely time of year.

once more

4.25.20 ~ fledgling

Once more, my now bewildered Dove
Bestirs her puzzled wings.
Once more, her mistress, on the deep
Her troubled question flings —

~ Emily Dickinson
(The Poems of Emily Dickinson, #65)

Six days after the last mourning dove photo shoot I came downstairs to find that my dove had brought her fledgling here for a visit. The walk we were about to take was postponed for a few minutes so I could take some baby pictures.

And there my little doves did sit,
With feathers softly brown,
And glittering eyes that showed their right
To general Nature’s deep delight.

~ Elizabeth Barrett Browning
(Elizabeth Barrett Browning: Selected Poems)

I couldn’t get the camera to focus well on mama and her little one in the same frame, but I wanted this picture below for size comparison. All the other pictures are of the fledgling.

The blur is mama taking off, ending the delightful visit. Baby soon followed her and we were off for our walk which will be the subject of the next post.

sitting ducks

“Sick Maria” by Joaquín Sorolla

Prepare, don’t panic. Difficult to do when one feels there is no available protection against the spreading new coronavirus. But we are obediently following the directions given by authorities. Doing something feels better than doing nothing. Two weeks of food and supplies — check. Now what?

So far there are no detected cases of COVID-19 in Connecticut, although surrounding Rhode Island, Massachusetts and New York have some. Apparently there is no evidence of widespread transmission — yet. It’s a creepy feeling, waiting and wondering…

An email came from my insurance company yesterday, outlining preventative measures and assuring me that should I get sick I would be covered — shouldn’t that go without saying? — and that the test would be covered, too.

I am, reasonably, I think, concerned because we seem to be in the population group most at risk for dying of this, over 60 and with underlying health conditions. On the other hand, our grandchildren will likely be fine even if they do come down with it. Uncertainty reigns, as always.

So I wonder this, as life billows smoke inside my head
This little game where nothing is sure
Why would you play by the rules?
Who did? You did. You…

~ Dave Matthews
♫ (Dodo) ♫