You wouldn’t think it was spring, Austin, if you were at home this morning, for we had a great snowstorm yesterday, and things are all white this morning. It sounds funny enough to hear birds singing and sleigh-bells at a time. But it won’t last long, so you needn’t think ’twill be winter at the time when you come home. ~ Emily Dickinson (Letter to William Austin Dickinson, March 24, 1852)
Springtime snowstorms were not uncommon in southern New England a hundred seventy-one years ago. They happened often enough when I was a child, sixty odd years ago. I prepared this post several years ago, hoping that we might get one again and I could use Emily’s words to go along with the weather. But it was not to be and since this is my last spring in New England I decided to post it now, in fond memory of times gone by.
On this, the shortest day of all the 365, I wander over the covered paths of the garden hillside. I wade through the drifts along the swamp edge. I walk over the snow-covered ice among the catttails. The wind is gone. The day is still. The world is decorated with unmarred snow. This is winter with winter beauty everywhere. Autumn is finally, officially, gone. Like the evening of the day, the fall has been a time of ceaseless alteration. Cold, in the autumn, is overcoming the heat just as darkness, in the evening, is overcoming the light. All around, in recent months, there have been changes in a thousand forms. The days of easy warmth were passing, then past. Birds departed. Threadbare trees lost their final leaves. Nuts fell from the branches. Pumpkins and corn turned yellow in the fields. For animals and men alike, this was the time of harvest. The phantom summer, Indian summer, came and went. The chorus of the insects died away in nightly frosts. Goldenrod tarnished; grass clumps faded from green to yellow. Milkweed pods gaped open and their winged seeds took flight. The windrows of fallen leaves withered, lost their color, merged into one universal brown. Now they are buried beneath the new and seasonal beauty of the snow. Autumn, the evening of the year, is over; winter, the night of the year, has come. ~ Edwin Way Teale (Circle of the Seasons: The Journal of a Naturalist’s Year)
In our little corner of southern New England the fall colors don’t peak until late October and we don’t expect the first frost before the 22nd. That makes it difficult to give much of an autumn flavor to my Walktober post. But since we never got to the gardens at Harkness Memorial State Park this summer I decided to go with it and contribute a garden walk this year.
This is my third annual Walktober post with Robin over at breezes at dawn. 🍁 If you would like to see my previous Walktober posts please click here. 🌼
When we arrived at the park there was a huge flock of starlings making quite a racket, darting from tree to tree and to the water tower en masse. Tim estimated that there were hundreds of them.
The gardens surrounding the Eolia Mansion still had a summery feel to them with many flowers in full bloom and many buds making plans to blossom before the frost comes.
I believe the nicest and sweetest days are not those on which anything very splendid or wonderful or exciting happens but just those that bring simple little pleasures, following one another softly, like pearls slipping off a string. ~ Lucy Maud Montgomery (Anne of Avonlea)
Heading for home, feeling vaguely disappointed about the lack of fall foliage, Tim spotted a bit of bright orange across the intersection as we were waiting at a traffic light. When the light changed we went for it and discovered Jordan Village Green, which belongs to the Waterford Historical Society.
And so we took another walk!
Most of the trees still had green leaves but there were enough trees turning to autumn colors to satisfy my cravings that day. 🙂
falling leaves gather rusting spokes left motionless an abiding tree ~ Barbara Rodgers (By the Sea)
The buildings were deserted, except for two blacksmiths we found busy at work in their forge. The man above was working on an axe head. They were pleased to show us their tools and creations. We were delighted to find the perfect holiday gift for someone on our list!
How smoothly nature’s vast machine whirs on with all the big and little cogs revolving in their places! Each seed and bird and flower and fly, in its apparently haphazard existence, plays its part in the output of the seasons. ~ Edwin Way Teale (Circle of the Seasons: The Journal of a Naturalist’s Year)
Now that late October is arriving we have much more of this delightful season to enjoy! And a few more walks, too, between the rainy days.
In the circle of the seasons, there is no pause. Already summer slides toward autumn. On this hot afternoon, at the very summit of the season, signs of change are in the air. ~ Edwin Way Teale (Circle of the Seasons: The Journal of a Naturalist’s Year)
Every year I look forward to visiting one of the huge sunflower fields at Buttonwood Farm. Summer is my least favorite season and this harvest, for me, marks the midpoint between the summer solstice and the autumn equinox. After two years of viewing the field from the perimeter, due to the pandemic, this year we walked through. 🌻
What a thrill, walking through, looking up at the sunflowers which seemed to be looking down at us, curious about the stream of humans admiring them. There were hundreds of bees buzzing and the sky was so blue. You’d think after seeing a couple of sunflowers it might get boring but on we went, dazzled over and over again. 🌻
After going through the field we returned outside by way of the perimeter, to get a little shade from the adjoining woods. Then we climbed the viewing hill and took some more pictures. 🌻
On our way down the hill I spotted a shagbark hickory tree, and I think the nut pictured below is from that tree. A shagbark hickory nut, I do believe. 🌻
As we returned to the grassy parking field we noticed the corn field with a viewing platform. It should be ready for the corn maze in September. 🌽
Since sunflowers are the national flower of Ukraine the fate of the land of half my ancestors was very much on my mind on this day. 🌻 Sunflower in Ukrainian: соняшник (sonyashnyk) 🌻
And now, as I patiently anticipate autumn with all its bountiful harvests, I will try to focus on summer’s remaining blessings. Flowers blooming, butterflies and dragonflies, songbirds still singing, excursions to the farmers markets and pleasant warm evenings by the sea…
Our first walk of the morning was at “our” beach. The clouds were dramatic and it was too windy so we didn’t stay very long.
We had to stop at the post office after that walk so we decided to explore a new Groton Open Space Association property. Walt’s Walls & Woods was acquired on July 31st and it is near the post office. We wound up taking another walk.
Walt’s Walls and Woods provides a small forest, wetlands, exquisite stonewalls and gardens to a neighborhood green space for the residents and visitors of downtown Groton. Wetlands surround the property on three sides, and Town-owned open spaces cover two sides. A spectacular steep ravine, part of an ancient rift valley, is located nearby, separating the Ledges and Boulder Heights properties. … Walter Watrous spent many years constructing the exquisite stonewalls in front of the cliffside ledge, using a drystone technique, backfilling with crushed stone and providing room for the roots of the weeping cherry trees. Colorful creeping phlox, heathers, azaleas, rhododendrons and purple coneflowers extend the blooming season. ~ Groton Open Space Association website
Autumn teaches us that fruition is also death; that ripeness is a form of decay. The willows, having stood for so long near water, begin to rust. Leaves are verbs that conjugate the seasons. ~ Gretel Ehrlich (The Solace of Open Spaces: Essays)
It was a lovely walk. We’re looking forward to coming back to see the weeping cherries bloom come spring. But, first we’ll have to see what winter has in store for us.
But from Labor Day through Halloween, the place is almost unbearably beautiful. The air during these weeks seems less like ether and more like a semisolid, clear and yet dense somehow, as if it were filled with the finest imaginable golden pollen. The sky tends toward brilliant ice-blue, and every thing and being is invested with a soft, gold-ish glow. ~ Michael Cunningham (Land’s End: A Walk in Provincetown)
A few days ago, I walked along the edge of the lake and was treated to the crunch and rustle of leaves with each step I made. The acoustics of this season are different, and all sounds, no matter how hushed, are as crisp as autumn air. ~ Eric Sloane (Seasons on the Farm: A Celebration of Country Life Through the Year)
So, last year we visited the sunflower field at the end of the harvest and I got a lot of pictures of blossoms past their peak, all still beautiful in their own way. This year we changed things up and went on the first day day of the gathering in and at a different time of day, evening instead of morning. Also unlike last year we’ve had plenty of rain while last summer we were dealing with a drought.
Each year we plant over 14 acres of sunflowers and harvest approximately 300,000 blooms for your viewing pleasure and to benefit the Make-A-Wish Foundation of Connecticut, a non-profit organization dedicated to granting wishes to children with critical illnesses. Sunflowers are available while supplies last. We offer cut your sunflowers with a $2 per flower donation to the Make-A-Wish Foundation of Connecticut. ~ Buttonwood Farm website
There’s a small hill to climb to get a pretty view over a large field and then several paths to follow through the sea of sunflowers. This year I became fascinated with all the blossoms getting ready to bloom and wound up taking more pictures of them than the ones at their peaks!
The crop must drink; we move the pipe To draw the water back in time To fall again upon the field, So that the harvest may grow ripe, The year complete its ancient rhyme With other years, and a good yield Complete our human hope. ~ Wendell Berry (This Day: Collected & New Sabbath Poems)
When celebrating, always take your cue from nature and adapt your rituals to circumstances. … Adapting to circumstances, like actively observing on your walks, brings you into rhythm with the natural world. And soon, checking in to a festival becomes second nature, as you remember past experience. … May the spiral of our seasonal journey be blessed. ~ Penny Billington (The Path of Druidry: Walking the Ancient Green Way)
Can you tell we’re under the flight path from New York to Europe?
It’s hard to believe that a year has passed and we’re still struggling with the coronavirus pandemic, in spite of being fully vaccinated. The delta variant is running rampant through the stubbornly unvaccinated population, but the concerning part is that even the vaccinated are at risk now. Here in Connecticut we’ve had 854 vaccinated people with breakthrough COVID cases, and 150 of them are hospitalized. We’re back to wearing masks in the grocery store and many indoor places, like our doctors, are still requiring them. So much for eating inside our favorite restaurant for a while… It’s a good thing we’ve gotten used to finding things to do outside!
Laugh though the world may at the vibrations of poet hearts echoing the songs of the youngest of seasons, how can they help it? It is never the empty vessel that brims over, and with the spring a sort of inspiration is wakened in the most prosaic of us. The same spirit of change that thrills the saplings with fresh vitality sends through human veins a creeping ecstasy of new life. ~ Marah Ellis Ryan (Told in the Hills)