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. πŸ˜‰ 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.

for all who enjoy them

12.3.21 ~ Pequot Woods, Groton, Connecticut

This was my first visit to this 140-acre park in our town, but Tim hiked here many years ago with one of his friends. The Pequots were the first people living here before the English colonized what is now the town of Groton and the village of Mystic.

The infamous Pequot Massacre occurred near here on May 26, 1637.

Capt. John Mason led English, Mohegan, and Narragansett warriors in an attack on the main fortified Pequot village on the site of modern-day Mystic, Connecticut. The Pequot were surprised but quickly mounted a spirited defense that almost led to an English defeat. Realizing that he could not defeat the Pequot in the close quarters of the palisade, Mason ordered their wigwams set afire; some 400 Pequot men, women, and children were burned alive or slaughtered when they tried to escape.
~ Encyclopædia Britannica

There have been archaeological digs conducted in this park, unearthing musket balls and arrowheads. But there are no memorials here to tell the terrible story.

trailhead

After the English took over, this land was cleared for farming, and today there are plenty of stone walls remaining from those days, before farms were abandoned and many people went out west. The woods came back. Now we have hiking trails, wildlife viewing and an abandoned farm pond.

rough map carved in wood
the things this glacial erratic must have witnessed…

We gauge what we think is possible by what we know from experience, and our acceptance of scientific insights, in particular, is incremental, gained one experience at a time.
~ Bernd Heinrich
(Winter World: The Ingenuity of Animal Survival)

lots of stone walls
beech marcescence
interesting composition
shelf mushroom overlooking farm pond
colonial stone slab bridge
princess pine, first sighting since January
hummocks in the man-made farm pond
pair of mallards

It was a partly cloudy day, very cold, 41Β°F/5Β°C, with a feels-like temperature of 33Β°F/1Β°C, due to a moderate wind from the northwest. We had a nice conversation about cameras with the man in the next picture. He was trying to get a picture of the mallards, too, and wondered about my telescopic lens. His mother has a camera like mine and he’s considering getting one, too.

rescued greyhound bundled up for the cold
the uneven terrain
birdhouse in the middle of the farm pond
another delightful princess pine encounter

As far as coronavirus pandemic statistics go, I’ve decided to chronicle Connecticut’s positivity rate to make my tracking simpler. Looks like we’re headed into yet another surge. On the day of this walk our positivity rate jumped to 6.32%, the highest it’s been since last January.

wild unconscious depths

9.29.21 ~ Napatree Point

All these phenomena of the natural world fling forth to the human a challenge to be responded to in literature, in architecture, ritual, and art, in music and dance and poetry. The natural world demands a response beyond that of rational calculation, beyond philosophical reasoning, beyond scientific insight. The natural world demands a response that rises from the wild unconscious depths of the human soul. A response that artists seek to provide in color and music and movement.
~ Thomas Berry
(The Great Work: Our Way Into the Future)

The summer crowds are gone and we had a lovely walk at Napatree Point. This time we climbed a side dune and took in some slightly different vistas. I was bundled up in my hoodie while Tim was still in his shorts — it’s that time of year. πŸ™‚

dune grass
Watch Hill Light
breakwater from a different angle
a response that rises from the wild unconscious depths of the human soul

We saw a couple of gulls flying overhead and a couple of cormorants on buoys in the marina, but the beach itself was deserted. Lots of shells.

And there were lots of beach roses still blooming in the dunes, many rose hips and heaps of goldenrod.

After we got back to the car we drove over to find out if there was any way to visit the Watch Hill Lighthouse. It’s a long walk down a private road, but being over 65 has its perks, we were allowed to drive down! So we found out where we could park in the future and then continue walking out to the lighthouse. Watch this space!

theory of sundials

“Midsummer Twilight” by Willard Metcalf

From astronomy we find the east, west, south, and north, as well as the theory of the heavens, the equinox, solstice, and courses of the stars. If one has no knowledge of these matters, he will not be able to have any comprehension of the theory of sundials.
~ Vitruvius Pollio
(Vitruvius, the Ten Books on Architecture)

at the same time

4.20.21 ~ red maple seeds
Connecticut College Arboretum, New London, Connecticut

Yesterday we took an amazing walk at the arboretum! A long one, for an hour and a half. We concentrated on the wildflower garden and the bog, both bubbling with the delightful signs of springtime.

the world’s emergence

The person who practices this exercise of concentration sees the universe with new eyes, as if he were seeing it for the first and the last time. In his enjoyment of the present, he discovers the splendor and mystery of existence and of the world’s emergence; at the same time, he achieves serenity by experiencing how relative are the things which provoke anxiety and worry.
~ Pierre Hadot
(What is Ancient Philosophy?)

skyscape
red maple

Edgerton & Stengel Memorial Wildflower Garden

striped maple
Canadian white violet
yellow trout lily
Virginia bluebells before opening
bloodroot

Can words describe the fragrance of the very breath of spring — that delicious commingling of the perfume of arbutus, the odor of pines, and the snow-soaked soil just warming into life?
~ Neltje Blanchan
(Wild Flowers: An Aid to Knowledge of Our Wild Flowers & Their Insect Visitors)

Virginia bluebells

Glenn Dreyer Bog

moss covered hunk of something
underwater art
tadpoles!
Glenn Dreyer Bog
tadpole and tadpole shadow
red maple
tree scars
peaceful pond
Canada geese

In the light shed by the best science and scientists, everything is fascinating, and the more so the more that is known of its reality. To science, not even the bark of a tree or a drop of pond water is dull or a handful of dirt banal. They all arouse awe and wonder.
~ Jane Jacobs
(Dark Age Ahead)

on the existence of atoms

“Young Girl Seated” by Amedeo Modigliani

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

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

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

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

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

This year I am especially appreciative of essential workers, healthcare workers, scientists, teachers, first responders, food distribution volunteers, people who wear masks, video calls, poll workers, determined voters and journalists.

And as always, feeling thankful for the love of family and friends, and for the ancestors, artists, musicians, naturalists and writers, past and present, who continue to enrich my life. For Mother Earth and Presence.

Wishing everyone a blessed, socially distanced, Thanksgiving!

timelessness and quiet ecstasy

7.14.20 ~ ring-billed gull cooling his feet at Eastern Point Beach

The humidity lowered just a tad on Tuesday morning so we snuck down to the beach for an early morning walk. The only gull out and about was on the rocks, a ring-billed one with his bright yellow legs. He wanted to be friends and walk along with us.

When we went down on the sand he decided to come, too, and lead the way.

follow me, please
pardon me while I cool off my feet again

Then Tim spotted a butterfly flitting about on the wrack line!

monarch butterfly

When it moved to the sand I tried to get a shot of it with its wings open.

shadow on the sand

Yet there are other windows through which we humans can look out into the world around us, windows through which the mystics and the holy men of the East, and the founders of the great world religions, have gazed as they searched for the meaning and purpose of our life on earth, not only in the wondrous beauty of the world, but also in its darkness and ugliness. And those Masters contemplated the truths that they saw, not with their minds only but with their hearts and souls too. From those revelations came the spiritual essence of the great scripitures, the holy books, and the most beautiful mystic poems and writings. That afternoon, it had been as though an unseen hand had drawn back a curtain and, for the briefest moment, I had seen through such a window. In a flash of “outsight” I had known timelessness and quiet ecstasy, sensed a truth of which mainstream science is merely a small fraction. And I knew that the revelation would be with me for the rest of my life, imperfectly remembered yet always within. A source of strength on which I could draw when life seemed harsh or cruel or desperate.
~ Jane Goodall
(Reason for Hope: A Spiritual Journey)

nature’s delightful composition
gull tracks
song sparrow having its breakfast

I’d sit on logs like pulpits
listen to the sermon
of sparrows
and find god in Simplicity,
there amongst the dandelion
and thorn

~ Jewel
(A Night Without Armor)

wild carrot (Queen Anne’s lace)

We now have 144 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in our town. Our county (New London) has 1,345 confirmed cases. Of those 4 are still in the hospital and 102 have lost their lives. I fret over the figures coming out of North Carolina and Georgia, where my children live. Stay safe and take care…

outbreak

“Cleaning Corpses During an Epidemic” by Fyodor Bronnikov

The other day I finished reading a riveting book, Spillover: Animal Infections & The Next Human Pandemic by David Quammen. A terrifying account of the recent history of disease scientists investigating bizarre and unheard of new diseases of animal origins, a thriller written by a gifted storyteller. Quammen explained the science so well in layman’s terms. This is one of those rare books I couldn’t put down. The fact that it was published eight years before our current worldwide coronavirus pandemic, a fair warning, makes it all the more pertinent.

Spillover is the process by which pathogens, hiding in wild animal reservoirs (also in factory farmed animals), travel into and infect the human population. But near the end of the book, after discussing the plagues of gyspy moths, which come and go, Quammen introduced the concept of outbreaks. We had a memorable outbreak of gypsy moths here in Connecticut in the 1980s so I could easily grasp the concept.

Ecologists have a label for such an event. They call it an outbreak.

This use of the word is more general than what’s meant by an outbreak of disease. You could think of disease outbreaks as a subset. Outbreak in the broader sense applies to any vast, sudden population increase by a single species. Such outbreaks occur among certain animals but not among others. Lemmings undergo outbreaks; river otters don’t. Some kinds of grasshopper do, some kinds of mouse, some kinds of starfish, whereas other kinds of grasshopper, mouse, and starfish do not. An outbreak of woodpeckers is unlikely. An outbreak of wolverines, unlikely. The insect order Lepidoptera (moths and butterflies) contains some notable outbreakers — not just tent caterpillars of several kinds but also gypsy moths, tussock moths, larch budmoths, and others.

We are prodigious, we are unprecedented. We are phenomenal. No other primate has ever weighed upon the planet to anything like this degree. In ecological terms, we are almost paradoxical: large-bodied and long-lived but grotesquely abundant. We are an outbreak.

And here’s the thing about outbreaks: They end. In some cases they end after many years, in other cases they end rather soon. In some cases they end gradually, in other cases they end with a crash. In certain cases, even, they end and recur and end again, as though following a regular schedule.

What could account for such sudden and recurrent collapses? One possible factor is infectious disease. It turns out that viruses, in particular, play that role among outbreak populations of forest insects.

~ David Quammen
(Spillover: Animal Infections & The Next Human Pandemic)

Chills have been running up and down my spine ever since I read the excerpts quoted above. We are an outbreak on this earth. Our population explosion can be fairly compared to an infestation of gyspy moths. Provocative thought, I know. But it’s humbling and sobering to appreciate that we are part the cycles of nature and while we like to think we can control our environment to some degree, when all is said and done, we know so little about the forces shaping our existence here on this little blue planet.

We now have 114 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in our town. Our county (New London) has 1,276 confirmed cases. Of those 7 are still in the hospital and 102 have lost their lives. Hospitalizations are way down here, which is encouraging, but we are still staying home due to our health risks. Please stay safe!