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!!!

severe drought continues

8.9.22 ~ Thames River

On Tuesday we left early to vote in the Connecticut primary and then drove down to the pond by way of the road along the Thames River. Some of the river’s banks are covered with an unattractive cement ramp, but, I happened to notice a swamp rose mallow popping through it as we were driving by.

Fascinated, I asked Tim to stop the car so I could hop out and examine the wildflower up close. How could it be growing in such an inhospitable spot? It wasn’t that big yet, maybe 2 feet tall, and I wonder how high it might be able to grow there. (They can grow to 7 feet, and the flowers are 4-6 inches in diameter.)

As I was enjoying the close encounter I noticed another wildflower growing through another seam. I loved the shades of purple on its petals.


Back in the car and on to the pond. So sad to see even less water remaining in it. I’m surprised the shorebirds don’t do their fishing over at the beach but they must have their reasons for hanging out here still.

drought-stricken Beach Pond
lesser yellowlegs

Nature, like a loving mother, is ever trying to keep land and sea, mountain and valley, each in its place, to hush the angry winds and waves, balance the extremes of heat and cold, of rain and drought, that peace, harmony and beauty may reign supreme.
~ Elizabeth Cady Stanton
(Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Feminist as Thinker: A Reader in Documents & Essays)

great egrets strolling by
snowy egret with lesser yellowlegs behind him
snowy egret
great egrets mingling with snowy egrets
swamp rose mallow, this one growing by the pond

We’re supposed to get a break from the heat and humidity this weekend, which will be nice, but we also need some rain!

mourning dove photo shoot

7.6.22 ~ Griswold Point

It was a muggy but very breezy morning so a walk was possible. About half way through I spotted this sweet mourning dove perched on a rock by the Thames River, partially hidden behind some vegetation. She stayed put while I moved around trying to get her best angle.

#2 ~ feathers lift in the stiff breeze
#3 ~ neck feathers, too
#4 ~ there, that’s better
#5 ~ a different perspective
#6 ~ a very patient model
#7 ~ love those pink feet
#8 ~ this might be my favorite shot with a pair of orbs
#9 ~ another photographer position shift
#10 ~ such a friendly bird

I was surprised that she made no motion to leave until I grew tired of taking pictures and turned around to leave. Then she finally flew off. It was a treat seeing a mourning dove by the water because they usually show up on our balcony and in the trees behind our condo. I appreciated the chance to get some pictures of one in a much more natural setting.

summer solstice in the woods

6.20.22 ~ Bluff Point State Park & Coastal Reserve

This is the third year we’ve celebrated Midsummer since this endless coronavirus pandemic began. Driving on our way to a walk in the woods I was chattering to Tim about the “end” of the pandemic, how it was becoming more or less endemic now and that maybe I should stop tagging my posts with “pandemic.”

last quarter moon

Monday was a perfect summer day and the trees were green and lovely. Tim was already wearing shorts and I was still in my hoodie, typical between-season attire for this couple. 😉 We had forgotten it was a 3-day weekend, a Monday holiday for Juneteenth, so there were lots of people in the state park. No matter, everyone was friendly and in good spirits.

a peek at the Poquonnock River

We had a nice conversation with a young couple from New Hampshire who were very excited about a bird they had spotted. (We finally got a glimpse of it but couldn’t see it well enough to identify it.) And another conversation with a man, about our age, who commented on how good the honeysuckle was smelling and asked me about the zoom lens on my camera. I really didn’t feel too nervous being so close without a mask since we were outside.

it looks like these two trees are lifting the glacial erratic up off the ground

I took a picture of these trees holding the boulder (above) in November 2020. See here. Interesting difference between autumn and summer surroundings.

beach rose blossom
honeysuckle blossoms
greenery!

It turned out to be the longest walk we’ve taken in ages, a whole hour and a half! And I don’t know what it is about catbirds this year — they are turning up everywhere! It was one of those days where it simply felt exhilarating to be alive and present.

gray catbird
twig art on glacial erratic
the twig and the glacial erratic in the above picture
clover blossom
another sunlit glacial erratic
another gray catbird

I’m still enjoying daily encounters with the catbird coming to the birch tree outside my kitchen window. He usually announces the visit with a few meows and then begins his repertoire of varied melodies, songs that I imagine he has picked up and adopted along the way.

on another branch

People who watch a banded gray catbird outside their window all summer will find it hard not to wonder exactly where it’s spending the winter, or to marvel that science still doesn’t have the answer. And if the catbird doesn’t come back, they, too, will inevitably wonder why.
~ Miyoko Chu
(Songbird Journeys: Four Seasons in the Lives of Migratory Birds)

looking the other way
hawkweed (thanks to Eliza for the id)
a chipmunk on the path

But perceptions will inevitably shift, as fickle as the weather. On arriving home we learned that a fully vaccinated relative has come down with covid and had a very high fever. The news shattered my hopeful illusions. Other relatives who have had the virus have said it was no worse than a cold. One of the most disconcerting things about the illness is that it is impossible to know how it will hit you until you actually catch it.

And then, the next morning I woke to the news that a play we were planning to attend outdoors this week was put on hold:

Update on PEER GYNT: Due to COVID delays, our production will not be opening this weekend (June 23-26) in Wilcox Park. We will update on our revised schedule of performances as soon as we can. Thank you for your understanding and stay safe!
~ Flock Theatre

Connecticut’s positivity rate is hovering around 8%. So, all things considered, I guess it’s too soon to remove the pandemic tag from my posts. This refreshing walk will be recalled as our third pandemic summer solstice celebration. Feeling gratitude for the company of sociable strangers, playful catbirds and a chipmunk with the munchies on this memorable, bittersweet day.

crocuses, black vulture, brants, stumps

3.26.22 ~ more crocuses in my garden

As we were leaving for an intended walk at Avery Point on Saturday I was delighted to find some more crocuses opening up in the garden.


Then we drove down towards Avery Point and suddenly saw a black vulture guarding a dead racoon on the side of the road! When we slowed down to get a good look at him he started walking away, eyeing us carefully. He didn’t want to leave his prize but he also didn’t exactly want to stick around us humans.

3.26.22 ~ black vulture near Avery Pond

We finally moved on and left him in peace to tackle the task nature has assigned to him.


Distracted by seeing the vulture up close, next thing we knew we had missed our turn into Avery Point. We pulled into the Eastern Point parking lot to turn around and spotted a flock of brants swimming and feeding in the estuary. Hopped out of the car and took a few pictures. But I had my heart set on getting to Avery Point.

3.26.22 ~ brants in the Thames River estuary

On we drove to the Avery Point campus, but, there was a wedding happening and the parking lot, which is open to the public on weekends, was full. And we knew from experience that they wouldn’t allow us to walk in front of the mansion and along the seawall, spoiling the view for the guests.


We then decided to go for a walk in the muddy woods at Copp Family Park. It was a partly cloudy day, with an afternoon temperature of about 50°F (10°C). Being a weekend day we encountered quite a few people, and because there is a dog park there we also ran across a few loose dogs. (They’re supposed to be on a leash until they get into the enclosed dog park.) Sigh… Next time we’ll keep to the trails that don’t go by the dog park.

moss covered stump
a tiny princess pine with its cone-shaped flower
stump with moss and lichens
one of the trails
a tall stump at eye level
this woman was looking at her son hiding
in the space between two glacial erratics
a new stump with mushrooms

An interesting afternoon, full of surprises! Our shoes got wet but not too muddy after all.

wandering around rocky neck

3.22.22 ~ Rocky Neck State Park, East Lyme, Connecticut

There are still a few places to walk we haven’t visited yet so we decided to check another one off of our still-growing list. Rocky Neck State Park is a little farther west down the coastline than we usually like to go, but seeing pictures of birds taken there and posted online tempted me to give it a try. Sadly, no birds on this windy day. We had to walk through a tunnel (see above picture) under the Amtrak railroad to get to the beach.

This beach is one of the most visited beaches in Connecticut, with some of the buildings at the beach even dating back to the 1930s. This is one of the most popular beaches to visit for those in the area because of how scenic it is.
~ Roaming the USA website

The fact that it is so popular is probably another reason we never tried to come here before. Every summer weekend morning on the news we hear that the parking lot is full and no more cars are being allowed in. When traveling down the interstate we often see flashing LED changeable message signs, miles in advance, announcing the same thing.

We walked down the beach and up a ledge, following a sign saying “Pavilion.” The pavilion was huge! (Perhaps built in the 1930s?) We followed a tunnel through the bottom of it and took some stairs up the back, then came around to the front and took some pictures of Long Island Sound.

tunnel under the pavilion
pavilion balcony on top of ledge
Long Island Sound from the pavilion balcony

Behind the pavilion was a pedestrian bridge (above) back over the Amtrak railroad tracks. We decided to go for it, lured in by a point on a map of the park called Toby’s Nose Overlook. Eventually we found the spot but the viewing platform I was expecting did not exist. There was a complicated maze of trails, parking lots and driveways in the woods back there, but we finally figured out a zig-zaggy route we could take back to the car.

view of Four Mile River from Toby’s Nose Overlook
a glimpse of Long Island Sound through the woods
glacial erratic on top of a hill

When I got home and studied the map a little more closely I noticed that there was another part of the park, along Bride Brook, with a crabbing deck and an actual viewing platform. Maybe next time. Turns out we had only seen a very small portion of this place.

And now to prepare for a visit from our daughter and granddaughter! Kat has spring vacation so Larisa is going to work remotely here while we have Kat to ourselves for half the week. 😊 (Kat’s other grandparents will have her the first half of the week!)

3.26.22 ~ Look who are coming for a visit!!! (Larisa & Kat)

down by the river

11.17.21 ~ Poquonnock River Walkway

We are lucky in Groton to have a long boardwalk alongside the Poquonnock River, squeezing in a bit of nature between industrial parks, shopping centers, a small airport and the railroad tracks and bridge. The flatness of the walkway is not good for Tim’s back, which does much better on uneven terrain, but there are a few well placed benches along the way where he can sit and readjust his muscles enough times to make it a doable walk. We were wearing our winter coats this day and most of the birds and berries we saw were nestled in the reeds and trees. No waterbirds on the river, except for an occasional gull touching down for a few moments. And one amazing flyby of Canada geese high in the sky.

juniper berries
Canada geese

We avoided this walk during the pandemic because there wouldn’t be enough room to stay six feet away when passing other walkers. But since we both have had our booster shots we felt safe enough to take a chance. One jogger passed by us twice, on his way out and back. We also passed an elderly man walking along, talking to himself.

downy woodpecker
downy woodpecker
golden autumn
maple leaves between beech tree trunks

I would love to live
Like a river flows,
Carried by the surprise
Of its own unfolding.

~ John O’Donohue
(Conamara Blues: Poems)

tree silhouette reflection in water
under moss covered branch and bankside foliage
reindeer moss and lichens on dying branch
northern mockingbird with orbs
northern mockingbird
northern mockingbird

So far as our noblest hardwood forests are concerned, the animals, especially squirrels and jays, are our greatest and almost only benefactors. It is to them that we owe this gift. It is not in vain that the squirrels live in or about every forest tree, or hollow log, and every wall and heap of stones.
~ Henry David Thoreau
(Journal, October 31, 1860)

autumn river beauty
one can forget the civilization is so close by
multiflora rose hips
(thanks to Eliza for the id)
blackberry
(thanks to Leelah and Eliza for the id)
crabapples
(thanks to Eliza for the id)

The wild cherries ripen, black and fat,
Paradisal fruits that taste of no man’s sweat.

Reach up, pull down the laden branch, and eat;
When you have learned their bitterness, they taste sweet.

~ Wendell Berry
(Fall, for Wallace Fowlie)

komorebi

11.13.21 ~ Saint Patrick Cemetery, Mystic, Connecticut

The interplay between light and the leaves when sunlight filters through trees. The Japanese have a word for it: komorebi. Every spring and autumn the wonderful quality of the sunlight surrounding the equinoxes makes our walks in the woods (or cemeteries) seem so enchanting, whether the leaves are on the ground, on the trees, or fluttering around in the air. It’s starting to dim now that we are closer to the winter solstice, but I thought I might squeeze in one last batch of leaf photos!

little splotch of sunlight

We came back to this cemetery after we discovered it a couple of weeks ago. It had lots of trees and natural beauty, set on the banks of the picturesque Mystic River. A wind and rain storm was due later in the afternoon and it was already getting breezy. The sky was still blue to the east and getting pretty gray to the west. Still, enough sun came out to play at times.

And all the lives we ever lived
And all the lives to be
Are full of trees and changing leaves.

~ Virginia Woolf
(To the Lighthouse)

view across the Mystic River

I love autumn and winter more. Something opens up in me then ~ something soft and deep and glowing ~ which is far too shy to expose itself to the inexhaustible light of summer.
~ Sharon Blackie
(The Enchanted Life, Unlocking the Magic of the Everyday)

a blue bike and a blue bug
the license plate says “OLE BUG”
same driveway as seen in above picture
love this burnt orange color
Mystic River
a rare bit of red? or burnt orange?
stuck on the fence
another view across the Mystic River
木漏れ日 (koh-mo-reh-bee)

A couple of hours after we got home a quick but terribly windy thunderstorm with heavy rain passed through. Later we learned that four confirmed tornadoes had touched down in Connecticut! One of them was an EF-1 with estimated 90 mph winds in Stonington, about 15 miles to the east of us. The other three were farther away and were EF-0s. Tornadoes in November???

The four twisters that struck Connecticut are the only four on record to occur in the state during November and the most in the state in a single day since May 15, 2018.
~ Jacob Feuerstein
(The Washington Post, November 14, 2021)

steps of passing ghosts

10.22.21 ~ Florence Griswold Museum
dragonfly from “Twisted Sisters Magical Menagerie” by Kristen Thornton

Last week, Janet, Tim and I visited the annual Wee Faerie outdoor art exhibit at the Florence Griswold Museum in Old Lyme, Connecticut. They have a different theme every year and the trail is open for the whole month of October. This year’s theme was Folly Woods, Awesome Wee Faerie Architecture.

butterfly from “Twisted Sisters Magical Menagerie” by Kristen Thornton

Historic real-world follies are ornamental buildings designed to enhance the view at grand estates, public parks, and gardens. The fanciful forms of a folly is its function. Often inspired by the classical architecture of the ancient Greeks and Romans, folly architects also borrow decorative elements from Egypt, India, and Japan. This year, the wee faeries present FOLLY WOODS, a collection of miniature architectural masterworks for you to enjoy.
~ Folly Finder program

butterfly and bee homes from
“Arden’s Edenesque Escape” by Vanessa Bunnell

Janet and I first started coming to these in 2011! I’ve missed a year or two for various reasons but it’s always exciting to come back and see the newest creations. Spending time with Janet is always a gift. It’s such a lovely setting on the banks of the Lieutenant River that we found ourselves captivated by the trees and flowers as much as by the little fairy buildings.

Gothic-style pavilion from
“Periwinkle’s Picturesque Pavilion” by Lynda Cmara & Bettina Rowlands
the Green Man tucked behind a net, waiting for spring
from “Periwinkle’s Picturesque Pavilion” by Lynda Cmara & Bettina Rowlands
fall colors in the Lieutenant River
“Gwyndolyn’s Gatehouse” by The Vernons
black walnut
from “Avery’s Surreal Aviary” by Madeline Kwasniewski & T. Arthur Donnelly
Avery’s special bluebird from
from “Avery’s Surreal Aviary” by Madeline Kwasniewski & T. Arthur Donnelly
“Flora’s Artistic Atrium” by Jessica Zeedyk

Listen …
With faint dry sound,
Like steps of passing ghosts,
The leaves, frost-crisp’d, break free from the trees
And fall.

~ Adelaide Crapsey
(November Night)

a barn owl from “Baron Belfield’s Arch” by Kathryn Stocking-Koza
“Baron Belfield’s Arch” by Kathryn Stocking-Koza
details from “Baron Belfield’s Arch” by Kathryn Stocking-Koza
One never knows when a fairy might appear!
giant turtle foundation of “Serena’s Sylvan Shelter” by Nancy MacBride
turtle top of of “Serena’s Sylvan Shelter” by Nancy MacBride
mushrooms from “Faye’s Mystic Garden” by Bill Vollers & Dawn Hutchins
from “Faye’s Mystic Garden” by Bill Vollers & Dawn Hutchins
“Rodger Dodger’s Hodge-Podge Lodge” by Billie Tannen & Bob Nielsen

If you want to see some highlights from past years just click on the Florence Griswold Museum category below and you will find all my past wee faerie posts. 🧚 Some of the artists have contributed before so if you click on their names in the categories below you might find things they’ve created in past years.

As nature descends into the sacred darkness it’s the season for me to honor my departed ancestors. This is the time of year when I feel their presence the strongest. The blessings of All Hallows Eve.

May you know that absence is alive with hidden presence, that nothing is ever lost or forgotten. May the absences in your life grow full of eternal echo. May you sense around you the secret Elsewhere where the presences that have left you dwell.
~ John O’Donohue
(To Bless the Space Between Us)