holiday lights

11.26.20 ~ Holiday Lights Spectacular
Olde Mistick Village, Mystic, Connecticut

This pandemic Thanksgiving felt so strange with just the two of us, to say the least. We had takeout turkey, worked on a jigsaw puzzle, listened to music, communicated with faraway relatives, and when it got dark and stopped raining, went to see some holiday lights at a large outdoor shopping village.

It was very pretty, although I don’t think they had all their lights up yet. There were a few families there with small children. Everyone was wearing masks and stayed quite far apart. (I’ve started wearing two masks when I go outside these days. I still won’t go inside of a building.)

After we were there a while they started playing music which was very festive but it seemed so bizarre to have to exchange muffled Happy Thanksgiving greetings from behind our masks and from a distance.

I wonder what the holiday shopping season will be like. We’ll be ordering a couple of gifts for our grandchildren from local businesses in their area so our daughter can pick them up curbside and wrap them for us.

It will be interesting to see on the news what happens for Black Friday… (Something I frown upon and have never participated in…) I hope common sense will prevail somehow.

Irish Eyes, one of our favorite stores
Bestemors, my favorite store
nisse in the store window
lights in the upstairs window
troll in another window
lights dangling from large tree

Heading out for a walk in the woods today. We decided we do want a solstice tree this year, but will wait until the middle of next week to visit the local tree farm, so as to avoid the weekend crowd. We are determined to make the best of things!

mostly dull colors

10.23.20 ~ Denison Pequotsepos Nature Center
Mystic, Connecticut

It’s been a challenge finding red leaves this autumn, while dull yellows are everywhere. Looks like our nights haven’t been chilly enough to encourage a brighter display this year. Perhaps the drought is a factor, too. But I continue the search. On Friday we walked on the Denison Farm Trail at the Denison Pequotsepos Nature Center.

amber

To get a really good, colorful display, you want to have chilly nights alongside sunny days. The sun helps stimulate the leaves to produce sugars, according to the National Wildlife Foundation. Then the cold nights close off the veins that allow the sugars to escape back into the tree. It’s these trapped sugars that eventually show off the brilliant reds and violets; if this process falters, you get more dull-looking browns and yellows.
~ Scott Sistek
(KOMO News, October 17, 2020)

nature’s art on a boulder

Our drought continues, but was lowered from extreme to severe. We’ve been getting a little rain here and there, and next week more is expected. It was a very cloudy day.

lemon chiffon

I found no pleasure in the silent trees, the falling fir-cones, the congealed relics of autumn, russet leaves, swept by past winds in heaps, and now stiffened together.
~ Charlotte Brontë
(Jane Eyre)

eastern white pine cone
beautiful erratic covered with moss, lichens, fallen leaves and vines
dull can be very pretty
turning crimson?

I have tried to delay the frosts, I have coaxed the fading flowers, I thought I could detain a few of the crimson leaves until you had smiled upon them; but their companions call them, and they cannot stay away.
~ Emily Dickinson
(Letter to William Austin Dickinson, Autumn, 1851)

Tim spotted a glacial erratic off the trail
and another one
this glacial erratic juts out into the parking lot

On the way home I finally spotted some red in Old Mystic. It wasn’t in the woods and it had wires going through it, but I took what I could get. 🙂

scarlet!

Looks like we’re hunkering down for winter and the growing surge in the pandemic. I hope our bubble holds. Statistics:

New London County now has 3,456 confirmed cases of COVID-19. Of those, 23 people are in the hospital and 136 have lost their lives. That’s 1,497 new cases since September 30 when I last reported.

Our contact tracers continue to report that they have observed many instances of family and social gathering connections. We are also seeing a significant number of cases associated with sporting events. Cases associated with institutions (schools, long-term care facilities, etc.) remain relatively low.
~ Ledge Light Health District website

Groton is now a “red alert town.” We are advised to cancel gatherings and events with non-family members. (We’ve been doing this all along, but our neighbors haven’t.) The Parks & Recreation Department has suspended all programming.

Connecticut’s positive test rate is 2.9%.

by courtesy of the light

10.4.20 ~ Beebe Pond Park, Groton, Connecticut

Almost two years ago, Nate took Larisa and me and three of the grandchildren to this magical woodsy park, chock full of glacial erratics, and I couldn’t wait to share it with Tim now that he is taking walks. Originally I wanted to go to another park, but the parking lot there was overflowing so we moved on. It was a Sunday and I didn’t have much hope for this park either but when we drove up there was only one car in the tiny roadside parking area so we were in luck!

It was a beautiful, sunny, warm autumn day. We heard and saw plenty of birds but only managed to get a good picture of one, a new one for my list. Of course, every time Tim rang his bell they got quiet for a few minutes. 🙂 There were still leaves on the trees and yet many on the ground, a nice moment in the middle of autumn.

an interesting root formation
the water level on Beebe Pond is very low due to the drought
fall flowers, asters
swamp sparrow

Swamp Sparrows perch and forage in vegetation near the ground or water surface, where their rather long legs—longer than those of Song or Lincoln’s Sparrows—enable them to forage well. They typically forage near the water’s edge or in brushy patches within the habitat.
~ All About Birds website

Now that I’ve decided not to feed the birds this winter I feel blessed to have found one in the woods who allowed me to get his picture. Hopefully there will be many more on future walks. The background scenery in the woods is much nicer for pictures than our balcony.

By courtesy of the light
we have the beautiful shadows.
Because the trees darken
the ground, shade-lovers thrive.
To one who stands outside,
the woods is a wall of leaves
impassable by sight, passable
by foot or wing. Come in
and walk among the shades.

~ Wendell Berry
(This Day: Collected & New Sabbath Poems)

a dab of color
huge glacial erratics
autumn colors
gold and rust
sunlit path
the trail was very rocky and narrow at times
a rare bit of red

It’s all about the light for me. I’m glad this walk worked out on the weekend because on Monday we got some much needed rain. And then, after the rain, some excitement! A flock of pine siskins feeding on the arborvitae trees off our balcony! Another new bird for me! (And I wasn’t even in the woods…)

pine siskin

I took the pictures through the glass of the sliding glass doors and am surprised they came out as nicely as they did.

Pine Siskins often visit feeders in winter (particularly for thistle or nyjer seed) or cling to branch tips of pines and other conifers, sometimes hanging upside down to pick at seeds below them. They are gregarious, foraging in tight flocks and twittering incessantly to each other, even during their undulating flight.
~ All About Birds website

In July of 2017 we had a house finch visit our arborvitae trees, so now we have had another kind of finch enjoying the seeds. Many thanks to the good people in the What’s this Bird? Facebook group for help with both identifications.

morningtide

6.24.20 ~ Eastern Point
Canada goose papa watching over his family in Avery Pond

One morning, four days after the beach “opened” for the season on June 20, we got up early and headed down there before it opened for the day. What a difference! Now that people have to pay for a pass to enter between 8am and 8pm the freeloaders and all their litter, cigarette butts and dog crap have disappeared. Peace is restored and we had such a lovely walk!

killdeer parent and three tiny chicks
near Avery Pond
killdeer on the run after the speedy little chicks

In contrast to the tranquil Canada goose family, the killdeer parents were beyond frantic, chasing after and chirping to their three chicks, who were darting all over the place and in every direction. It made getting their pictures next to impossible! They blended in well with the gravel.

the morning dew promised a humid day

Someone is tending some beautiful rose bushes near the entrance, along the chain link fence.

rose and chain link fence

I love the contrast between rusty old metal and fresh new flower.

rose and buds

The water was very calm on the river/estuary side of the point.

juvenile gull
female common eider
flying over the Thames River estuary
underwater and above-water seaweed
please, please, please

Another risk factor to worry about:

The two stretches of DNA implicated as harboring risks for severe COVID-19 are known to carry some intriguing genes, including one that determines blood type and others that play various roles in the immune system. In fact, the findings suggest that people with blood type A face a 50 percent greater risk of needing oxygen support or a ventilator should they become infected with the novel coronavirus. In contrast, people with blood type O appear to have about a 50 percent reduced risk of severe COVID-19.
~ Dr. Francis S. Collins
(Genes, Blood Type Tied to Risk of Severe COVID-19,
NIH Director’s Blog, June 18, 2020)

I have type A blood. Fortunately my husband, children, and grandchildren are all type O. Reading this article made me glad that we haven’t let our guard down and continue to remain firmly self-quarantined. And now our governor has ordered out-of-state travelers to quarantine for two weeks when entering Connecticut because of the way COVID-19 is spreading like wildfire in so many other states. I’m glad to know he is still looking out for us. The numbers are getting very alarming again.

It’s good to know my beach sanctuary is available to me again, at least for the summer. Looking forward to many early morning walks on the sand.

The salt of those ancient seas is in our blood, its lime is in our bones. Every time we walk along a beach some ancient urge disturbs us so that we find ourselves shedding shoes and garments, or scavenging among seaweed and whitened timbers like the homesick refugees of a long war.
~ Loren Eiseley
(The Unexpected Universe)

gull tracks

I like this place, and willingly could
Waste my time in it.

~ William Shakespeare
(As You Like It)

? near Beach Pond
red-winged blackbird near Beach Pond

We are nature. We are nature seeing nature. The red-winged blackbird flies in us.
~ Susan Griffin
(Made from this Earth: An Anthology of Writings)

eastern towhee

5.7.20 ~ Avery Farm Nature Preserve
Ledyard & Groton, Connecticut

Back in April we had a great walk in the Candlewood Ridge open space property which led to a sand plain with a glacial erratic on top of a ridge in the distance. On May 7th we decided to explore the property north of it, Avery Farm Nature Preserve, and followed a trail to get to the elevation from the opposite direction.

5.7.20 ~ welcome!

This historic 305-acre farm spans the border of Ledyard and Groton in a scenic rural setting. It is contiguous to the 91 acre Candlewood Ridge property, Groton and Ledyard town-owned open spaces, and to the Town of Groton conservation easement on a 7-acre former cranberry bog. Combined, over 430 acres of habitat area are available for wildlife and watershed protection.
~ Groton Open Space Association website

Avery Farm is part of a critical large block of diverse wildlife habitats highlighted on the State of CT Natural Diversity Database maps: grasslands, hedgerows, early successional forest, oak-hemlock-hickory upland forest, Atlantic white cedar swamp, a habitat managed power utility corridor, forested peatlands, kettle type bogs, poor fens, multiple seeps, several Tier I vernal pools, Ed Lamb Brook, Haley Brook, and the southern portion of a 38 acre marsh.
~ Groton Open Space Association website

The walk through the woods was lovely as we ascended gradually. I took more pictures on the way to the overlook than I did on the return part of the loop trail, which went through a low wetland.

5.7.20 ~ Tim with a glacial erratic

What on earth is that noise? Who goes there?

5.7.20 ~ eastern towhee

A strikingly marked, oversized sparrow of the East, feathered in bold black and warm reddish-browns – if you can get a clear look at it. Eastern Towhees are birds of the undergrowth, where their rummaging makes far more noise than you would expect for their size. Their chewink calls let you know how common they are, but many of your sightings end up mere glimpses through tangles of little stems.
~ All About Birds website

As we were walking along we heard a lot of rustling a few feet off the path and I tried to get a picture of the bird making the commotion. The “best” one is above. At home I used my new bird identification app and learned it was an eastern towhee. Had to laugh when I read the description above. Our sighting was definitely a string of brief glimpses and the rummaging was quite loud!

5.7.20 ~ We finally reach the large glacial erratic overlooking the sand plain!
We approached from behind it.
5.7.20 ~ we did not sit in the chairs, keeping COVID-19 in mind
5.7.20 ~ view from the overlook across the sand plain,
down to where we were standing the month before
5.7.20 ~ taken with telephoto lens

Then we climbed down the steep trail to the sand plain and returned by the lower wetland trail. On that portion of our walk we encountered four people coming from the other direction. We always got six feet off the trail and let them pass, wondering if they would have done the same for us if we hadn’t done it first. One man was operating a drone which we couldn’t see but could hear buzzing nearby. Another man was jogging. And two women were looking for a waterfall. (I think they may have mistaken this property for Sheep Farm.)

5.7.20 ~ moss and lichen
5.7.20 ~ wintergreen

The walk lasted about an hour and a quarter, our longest one yet. ♡

rolling meadows

4.28.20 ~ Preston Nature Preserve, Preston, Connecticut

A little change of pace, out of the woods and out to cross a few meadows on gently rolling hills. The sky was beautiful, the scenery divine. As we’re learning, the uneven terrain made for easier walking with less pain for Tim. The fresh air and sunshine was restorative for this quarantine-weary couple. We eagerly kept wanting to see what was over the next hillock or down the next inviting path. There were many interlocking trails. I lost count of how many grassy fields we crossed.

Two trails featuring varied land features and vegetation, including two hills, a valley, hardwood and cedar forest, brushland, meadows, pastures, swamps and ponds. Well-established 0.5 mile trail system with bridges.
~ Avalonia Land Conservancy website

I have to say, there were more than two trails, even on the map, and we certainly walked more than half a mile! But we didn’t walk all the trails and perhaps we will return some day.

4.28.20 ~ up a hill
4.28.20 ~ in the middle of a lovely meadow
4.28.20 ~ another meadow beyond

As with our other walks, the songs of birds filled the air. And we had a few bumble bees follow us a time or two.

4.28.20 ~ so inviting
4.28.20 ~ another hill to climb
4.28.20 ~ another trail to follow
4.28.20 ~ what is it???
4.28.20 ~ the inside of it???
4.28.20 ~ we passed by a swamp with skunk cabbage
4.28.20 ~ bluets!
4.28.20 ~ yet another trail to follow
4.28.20 ~ another meadow
4.28.20 ~ a female bluebird ~ thanks to Nancy for the identification
4.28.20 ~ the birdhouse the bluebird flew out of

Before you thought of Spring
Except as a Surmise
You see — God bless his suddenness —
A Fellow in the Skies
Of independent Hues
A little weather worn
Inspiriting habiliments
Of Indigo and Brown —
With Specimens of Song
As if for you to choose —
Discretion in the interval
With gay delays he goes
To some superior Tree
Without a single Leaf
And shouts for joy to Nobody
But his seraphic self —

~ Emily Dickinson
(The Poems of Emily Dickinson, #1484)

4.28.20 ~ down one more valley and up one more hill to reach our car

a hemlock tree

4.25.20 ~ Woodlot Sanctuary, Stonington, Connecticut

On the last Saturday in April we took a nice walk through the woods at the Woodlot Sanctuary. It was the first time in the spring that we needed bug spray! We loved all the stone walls.

4.25.20 ~ sign of the times

Three lots totaling approximately 29 acres include a variety of habitats. Much of the central portion is upland forest featuring rocky outcrops and glacial erratics. The landscape shows a history of varied forestry practices over decades. It is now dominated by oak and beech with hickory, sassafras, and scattered evergreens as well, and offers an excellent understory of huckleberry and lowbush blueberry. The eastern border is comprised of wetlands that emerge into a brook that flows ultimately into Stonington Harbor; wetlands in the western portion drain directly into the Deans Mill Reservoir. The preserve is home to a variety of wildlife including several species which have special status in CT. Box turtles and spotted turtles have been found on the property. Red-shouldered hawks and broad-winged hawks are regular nesters as well.
~ Avalonia Land Conservancy website

4.25.20 ~ an inviting turn on the path

When we spotted the huge boulder below I was so surprised by what I found behind it. A hemlock tree! There aren’t too many of these beloved trees left in Connecticut because of the woolly adelgid infestation. You can imagine I spent a lot of time communing with this one.

hemlock tree trunk

It’s not easy to get to the lower branches. I remember getting a chair or a stepladder to help me get to the bottom branches so I could climb my tree.

underside of lower branches
looking up

For a child, the branches are nice and close together, making the climb feel pretty safe. I don’t think I could fit between those branches as an adult! After I grew up my mother told me that she couldn’t keep watching if she looked out the window and saw me climbing my favorite hemlock tree. But she never stopped me.

the bark

How do parents feel about children climbing trees these days? There are so many safety rules, like wearing bike helmets or harnesses in high chairs, that we never had when I was a child.

what a beauty

I would have loved to climb this hemlock! But it was so pleasant spending some time with it and touching it and appreciating its being. I hope it’s okay. I wonder how it survived. When you think of it, trees have suffered from their own pandemics over time. The deaths of my childhood hemlocks were very prolonged and painful for me to witness.

one of many stone walls
4.25.20 ~ princess pine poking through the leaves

We now have 86 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in our town. Our county (New London) has 623 confirmed cases and 43 deaths. Still rising. But, I’m starting to feel a little bit of hope.

There’s a chance that hundreds of millions of doses of a potential COVID-19 vaccine could be available by early next year, Dr. Anthony Fauci, a key member of the White House coronavirus task force, said Thursday, even though the federal government has not approved a vaccine against the virus.
~ Brakkton Booker
(National Public Radio, April 30, 2020)

two little waterfalls

4.7.20 ~ Sheep Farm, Groton, Connecticut

On Tuesday we took advantage of beautiful weather and took a very long walk at a new park that was created in 2010. We walked straight downhill through a forest to Fort Hill Brook, saw a small waterfall and then followed the stream down to another one. And then we climbed up a switchback trail to our starting point, a loop that took us an hour.

4.7.20 ~ first waterfall

The Sheep Farm has a diverse habitat including rocky outcroppings, glacial erratics, bluestem meadows, deep forest interior habitat, forest edge habitat, early successional forests, extensive wetlands, seeps, shrub swamps, a string of Tier 1 vernal pools, Class A stream – Fort Hill Brook, and two waterfalls.
~ Groton Open Space Association website

4.7.20 ~ moss and lichen on pretty striped boulder
4.7.20 ~ skunk cabbage

Twice we moved six feet off the trail to avoid other hikers, and spotted some people on other trails on the other side of the brook.

4.7.20 ~ we didn’t see one
4.7.20 ~ second waterfall

There was a better spot to take a picture of this waterfall, but, a woman was practicing yoga in a bathing suit behind the tree so this was the best I could do. 🙂

4.7.20 ~ I’m noticing boulders more these days
4.7.20 ~ almost there!

When we got back to the parking lot we had to find a rock to sit on for quite a while. A family had parked right next to our car and they were getting in and out of their car trying to sort something or other out. They were much closer than the required six feet for social distancing! But we enjoyed looking at some plantings while we waited patiently for them to leave.

We now have 11 detected cases of coronavirus in our town. Population: 39,075. (In 2017) I find myself preoccupied with statistics these days.

feeling warm and comforted

3.28.20 ~ Moore Woodlands, Groton, Connecticut

Perhaps kind thoughts reach people somehow, even through windows and doors and walls. Perhaps you feel a little warm and comforted, and don’t know why, when I am standing here in the cold and hoping you will get well and happy again.
~ Frances Hodgson Burnett
(A Little Princess)

Last week was a little tricky. My gut pain flared up after a relatively good spell and I was pretty down in the dumps about it. I’m trying to learn to live with the fluctuations between good days and bad days and how unpredictable it all is.

anyone know what this is?

By Thursday I was well enough to attempt a walk at the beach, thinking a familiar place would be better than a new adventure. But it was disappointing to see too many people there, many of them not respecting the social distancing obligation. Friday we tried again and I was so disheartened to find cigarette butts on the rocks and a big pile of dog crap on the lawn. No smoking is allowed on the beach property! And dogs are supposed to be on-leash and their poop scooped. I suspect some people are coming to the beach to visit with their friends because their usual hang-out places are closed. I was also depressed not seeing any gulls, although the brant geese seem to be making the beach their new home.

Saturday we sadly decided to take a walk somewhere else and found Moore Woodlands, on the other side of town. We encountered a friendly family of five on their bikes near the entrance and we all respected the 6-foot social distancing protocol, much to my relief.

As we were leaving we came across a couple looking for a nearby cemetery and had a nice conversation with them across the stone wall from a safe distance. Another family came by and also gave everyone a very wide berth. It made me feel so much better about people after the distress I felt at the beach.

It was a lovely cloudy day and the mood in the woods was tranquil, with many birds singing. It was good to get a walk in before the rain came later in the day. It was as if nature was kindly whispering the comfort I needed so badly.

3.28.20 ~ collected some additions for my wooden pine cone bowl