Truly, we live with mysteries too marvelous to be understood.
How grass can be nourishing in the mouths of the lambs. How rivers and stones are forever in allegiance with gravity while we ourselves dream of rising. How two hands touch and the bonds will never be broken. How people come, from delight or the scars of damage, to the comfort of a poem.
Let me keep my distance, always, from those who think they have the answers.
Let me keep company always with those who say “Look!” and laugh in astonishment, and bow their heads.
Brighid of the mantle, encompass us; Lady of the Lambs, protect us; Keeper of the hearth, kindle us; Beneath your mantle, gather us, And restore us to memory ~ Caitlín Matthews (A Blessing for Hearth Keepers)
Nothing there is that does not love the sun. It gives us warmth and life; it melts the bitter snow and ice of winter; it makes plants grow and flowers bloom. It gives us the long summer evenings, when darkness never comes. It saves us from the bitter days of midwinter, when the darkness is broken only for a handful of hours and the sun is cold and distant, like the pale eye of a corpse. ~ Neil Gaiman (Norse Mythology)
Back in March, when I was sorting through the boxes of family stuff, I found the following undated, typewritten account of a lovely October day Tim’s great-grandparents spent together many years ago. Charles Amos Hamilton (1866-1943) wrote it for his wife, Gertrude Mabel Hubbard (1874-1965). They lived in Batavia, New York.
AN OCTOBER DAY
Written for the delectation of my good wife, Gertrude, who delights in reading descriptions of commonplace things, written in rather grandiloquent language.
The poet wrote, “What is so rare as a day in June, Then, if ever, come perfect days.”
Without questioning the judgment or belittling the taste of the writer of this couplet, I make the assertion that, with equal or even greater veracity, it might have been written with the substitution of “October” for “June.” For, in old October, Nature gives us examples of a brilliance of coloring, and a tang of ozone, which June, for meteorological reasons, cannot duplicate.
I arise on a bright October morning and raise the shades of my bedroom window. What a riot of all the hues of the rainbow meet my eyes. From the pale green of maple leaves not yet touched by autumn’s frosty fingers, up through the entire gamut of the spectrum, to the vivid scarlet of maples of a different species. As the leaves rustle in the light breeze, they seem to be whispering “Goodbye” to their companions of the departed summer. The dark green limbs of the evergreens nearer the house, stand out like sentinels, bravely daring the blasts of the coming winter. The sunlight lies in little pools in the verdancy of the lawn, dotted here and there by vagrant leaves which have thus early abandoned the protection of their parent branch. The clump of spireas, which last June resembled a snow-bank, now has the appearance of a cluster of shrubs, which in the serene consciousness of a duty well done, are now nestling quietly and unobtrusively together. A belated hollyhock, and a few sturdy petunias, render an additional dash of color. Glancing from the the rear window, I behold the majestic line of cedars, bowing gently before the breeze, but standing with all the dignity of a line of knights in full armor. The row of sweet alyssum shows the same white purity it has maintained for several months. Two scarlet rose-buds, with youthful optimism, raise their heads fearlessly to the autumnal skies, disregarding the improbability of their ever being able to attain maturity.
Later in the day, we take a drive in our Buick, through the farm lands of the vicinity. The same magnificent coloring marks the foliage everywhere, outdoing the most artistic efforts of the painter’s brush. Huge stacks of golden straw stand beside the farmer’s barns, testifying to the repleteness of the barns with fodder for the stock. We know without inspection, that the cellars are well filled with fruits and vegetables, destined to adorn many a well-filled table, and to furnish apples and pop-corn for groups of merry young people. In the fields, the sheep are quietly nibbling, already comfortably clad in their winter woolens. The cows are lying placidly chewing the rumen of contentment. Everything denotes peace, harmony and plenty. Occasionally, a vagrant leaf flutters down momentarily upon the hood of the car, then, as if disdaining its warmth, flutters away to joining its companions by the roadside.
In the evening, fortified by an excellent dinner, maybe washed down by a flagon of “Old October ale,” we sit by the bright flame of our fireplace, and as we listen to the occasional snap of the apple-tree wood, and watch the sparks seek freedom via the chimney, we feel that “God’s in His heaven, all’s right with the world.” Yes, what is so rare as a day in October?
Last year’s Viking Days at Mystic Seaport was such a success that they decided to have another one this year. The weather was cool and comfortable and there were plenty of Vikings out and about.
We again enjoyed strolling through the Viking encampment set up by Draugar Vinlands.
No Norwegian fjord horses this year, instead there were Gotland sheep, a domestic breed named for the Swedish island of Gotland.
The Draken Harald Hårfagre Viking ship (above) spent another winter here. I’m not sure what its future plans may be. It was open for tours.
The majestic wooden whaleship Charles W. Morgan(above) is always a pleasure to see.
I was happy to see the Denison Pequotsepos Nature Center‘s presentation about birds of prey again. The Vikings were falconers but the birds we were shown are from Connecticut. All were injured and brought to the nature center but were unable to live in the wild after their recovery.
The first birds shown we’ve seen before but a new one has joined the group. It’s a red-shouldered hawk who was found hit by a car and brought in to the nature center. He had a recently broken wing and an x-ray revealed an older break, too, that hadn’t healed well. He’s all right now, but cannot fly far enough to survive in the wild. So he’s getting used to his new life educating the public. This was only his third time being shown. He seemed as awed at the sight of us as we were of him.
After the birds of prey presentation we spotted a couple of young Scottish Highland cattle. We were told they are 8 months old.
And of course, we were mingling with Vikings…
On our way out we spotted these purple alliums.
We left with three bottles of mead for summer solstice, two skeins of Gotland sheep wool, and a camera full of pictures in my backpack. It was just as much fun as last year!
For all the products making claims, exercise may be the only miracle cure for both physical and mental health. ~ Mark Bertin (Mindful, December 2017)
So, after so many years of Tim’s health problems (2007 – heart attack followed by triple by-pass surgery ~ six years of diverticulitis attacks followed by a sigmoid colon resection last January) it looks like it’s my turn for surgery, a hysterectomy. My uterus is full of pre-cancerous cells. Sigh. After spending 26 years wondering if I might get breast cancer like my mother it was a surprise to discover that it is my womb in danger.
Surgery tomorrow. One night in the hospital. If all goes as planned I will be home Wednesday in time to watch the first episode of season 5 of Vikings. 🙂 Then we can plan our trip to Ireland! I cannot wait to take a very long walk with my granddaughter ~ I miss her so much!
Hæreid Iron Age Burial Site, also in Eidfjord, is the largest collection of ancient burial sites in western Norway, with 350 Iron Age and Viking graves dating from 400 – 1000 AD., located on the Hæreid plateau in Eidfjord. This is where we spent the morning of our last day in Norway, after our enchanting overnight at the top of Vøringfossen falls.
It’s been about six months since I posted the last set of pictures from our trip to Norway. Too much going on! Right now I am in North Carolina visiting Katherine and her parents while our bathroom is being renovated back home. Katie seems to be going by Katherine these days. Poor little thing came home from daycare Friday with a fat lip and Saturday morning she woke up with a runny nose and a fever. But we’re managing to have a little fun between bouts of understandable fussiness.
Friday Larisa and I went into Raleigh to attend a Bernie Sanders rally. Sadly, we were among the 1,000 people who did not get into the 2,300 seat venue, after waiting in line for 2 hours. But it was exciting seeing all the support there is for Sanders here. And Larisa definitely “felt the Bern” (one of Bernie’s campaign slogans) by getting a sunburn.
The energy at the Hæreid burial site felt ancient, peaceful and earthy. The graves were large mounds of rocks with meadow, moss and trees growing all around them. Grazing sheep kept the grass trimmed, and the majestic mountains surrounded the plateau where the burial ground is situated.
It’s entirely possible one of my unknown and very distant ancestors lies buried here. I left with that same feeling of connection and continuity I get when I visit the graves of my known ancestors in Connecticut and Massachusetts.
Thanks to Ancestry, I have traced my Norwegian ancestors back a few generations, the earliest known so far is my 6th-great-grandmother, Kristin Hendriksdatter, who was born in 1710 in Hovland in Vestfold. So far I’ve found ancestors who were born or who died in four counties, Telemark, Vest-Agder, Aust-Agder and Vestfold, of southern Norway. All located by the sea.
At Hæreid we can follow traces of human activity all the way back to the Iron Age, i.e. to between 1,000 and 2,500 years ago. The oldest traces are mainly in the form of graves situated on a terrace and divided into two burial grounds: Sjohaug at the northern end and Hæreidsmoen in the south. The whole terrace contains almost 400 preserved graves. Hæreidsmoen, with around 350 graves, is the largest Iron Age burial ground in West Norway. We know from old descriptions of the area that the burial ground extended further north than it does today. The entire terrace was probably covered in graves at some point. Some of the finds are from the Early Iron Age (500 BC – 575 AD), but most can be dated to the Late Iron Age (575-1050 AD). Some of the objects are from the Viking Age (800-1050 AD): weapons, implements and jewellery. Nowhere else in Hardanger can boast so many finds from the Iron Age as this particular site.
Although visiting Norway was the highlight of our trip to Europe for me, we did also go to Venice and several places in Germany. I will try to share those pictures as well, as time allows. 🙂