life underfoot

6.25.21 ~ very murky early morning ~ Eastern Point
lichen and moss
rabbit-foot clover
???

The wildflowers above were growing on the rocks at the beach. The garden flowers below were planted around the flag pole in front of Tyler House. Muggy days…

Her body moved with the frankness that comes from solitary habits. But solitude is only a human presumption. Every quiet step is thunder to beetle life underfoot; every choice is a world made new for the chosen. All secrets are witnessed.
~ Barbara Kingsolver
(Prodigal Summer)

bark, fungi, lichen, moss (and a bird)

3.9.21 ~ The Merritt Family Forest, Groton, Connecticut

We had a lovely winding stroll through what’s becoming my favorite woods on Tuesday. It felt like a visit to an early spring outdoor art gallery. The weather was perfect and we encountered quite a few people along the way enjoying the sunshine.

Even though there were many birds chirping and flitting about I was only able to capture one of them with my camera!

tufted titmouse

And solitary places; where we taste
The pleasure of believing what we see
Is boundless, as we wish our souls to be.

~ Percy Bysshe Shelley
(The Poetical Works of Percy Bysshe Shelley: In Three Volumes)

Wednesday we went to have our income taxes done. It was the last thing we did last year before we went into self-quarantine. We double-masked up, not knowing what to expect, and our masked preparer waved us a greeting and unlocked the door. It was good to know they weren’t letting people wander in without appointments. Someone in the office had tested positive recently so most of the preparers were at home in quarantine but ours had been fully vaccinated so she was working in the office. Glad to see there was plexiglass and hand sanitizer everywhere…

So it’s been a year. We have both had our first vaccination shots. Tim gets his second Moderna on the 17th and I will get my second Pfizer on the 26th. Looks like our self-quarantine will officially end on April 9. Plans for the little ones (and their parents!) to come for a visit are in the works, most likely in May. It’s all I can think about!

Unlike animals, trees cannot heal a wound by repairing or replacing injured tissues. Instead they wall them off, compartmentalizing them by means of chemical and physical barriers, and subsequently form healthy new growth around them. A succession of organisms, from bacteria and fungi to slugs, insects, and other small animals, moves in to utilize the nutrients and spaces opened up by a tree wound. These organisms in turn provide an important food source for many birds and other animals who live in surrounding uplands as well as in the swamp.
~ David M. Carroll
(Swampwalker’s Journal: A Wetlands Year)

We will still wear our masks and practice social distancing in public, but I think we will go more places and are even looking forward to eating at our favorite restaurant again, starting outdoors until we feel comfortable going inside…

But, fair warning, these are the latest statistics: New London County now has 19,624 confirmed cases of COVID-19. Of those, 10 people are currently in the hospital and 417 have lost their lives. That’s 2,871 new cases since January 30 when I last reported. Will a day ever come when there are no new cases reported?

Connecticut’s positive test rate is now 3.07%. 25% of Connecticut residents have had their first dose of vaccine. Connecticut has had 7,752 deaths since the pandemic began. We are still averaging 7 deaths a day in the state. These are people and families are still being devastated by the loss of the their loved ones. Each and every one of these people represented by the numbers was the most important person in the world so someone. We still have to be very careful and not let our guard down.

My hope is, when we come out of self-quarantine, that we will continue with our nature walks and not get too swept up in the demands of a return to “normal” life.

It is easy to overlook this thought that life just is. As humans we are inclined to feel that life must have a point. We have plans and aspirations and desires. We want to take constant advantage of all the intoxicating existence we’ve been endowed with. But what’s life to a lichen? Yet its impulse to exist, to be, is every bit as strong as ours — arguably even stronger. If I were told that I had to spend decades being a furry growth on a rock in the woods, I believe I would lose the will to go on. Lichens don’t. Like virtually all living things, they will suffer any hardship, endure any insult, for a moment’s additional existence. Life, in short, just wants to be. But — and here’s an interesting point — for the most part it doesn’t want to be much.
~ Bill Bryson
(A Short History of Nearly Everything)

do not disturb

On our next visit to the beach we sat in our usual spot to enjoy some supper and noticed that my gull friend wasn’t around. Instead we had two large juvenile great black-backed gulls (above and below) pacing back and forth in front of us, probably hoping for a handout. Eventually they will learn that these two humans never feed gulls! Perhaps they were the offspring of the gull bothering my herring gull during our previous visit?

Anyhow, after we ate we took a little walk. Tim spotted my gull friend first, sitting way out on a section of rocks where we are not allowed to climb. I called out a greeting but he seemed determined to ignore me. He turned his head a couple of times, but didn’t respond. And so parts of a Van Morrison song came to mind…

Other times you just can’t reach me
Seems like I’ve got a heart of stone
Guess I need my solitude
And I have to make it on my own

Well I guess I’m going A.W.O.L.
Disconnect my telephone
Just like Greta Garbo
I want to be alone

Too long to decode all the secrets
Have to get some elbow room
Most people think that everything
Is just what they assume

Well I know I’m going A.W.O.L.
Tell everyone I’m not at home
Just like Greta Garbo
I just want to be alone

~ Van Morrison
♫ (Just Like Greta) ♫

Having a very strong need for “alone” time myself I gave him his space and let him be.

the world as a tree

"Lane of Poplars on the Banks of the Loing" by Alfred Sisley (1839-1899) French Impressionist Landscape Painter
“Lane of Poplars on the Banks of the Loing” by Alfred Sisley

With the passage of days in this godly isolation [desert], my heart grew calm. It seemed to fill with answers. I did not ask questions any more; I was certain. Everything – where we came from, where we are going, what our purpose is on earth – struck me as extremely sure and simple in this God-trodden isolation. Little by little my blood took on the godly rhythm. Matins, Divine Liturgy, vespers, psalmodies, the sun rising in the morning and setting in the evening, the constellations suspended like chandeliers each night over the monastery: all came and went, came and went in obedience to eternal laws, and drew the blood of man into the same placid rhythm. I saw the world as a tree, a gigantic poplar, and myself as a green leaf clinging to a branch with my slender stalk. When God’s wind blew, I hopped and danced, together with the entire tree.
~ Nikos Kazantzakis
(The Wonders of Solitude)

a secret garden

“A secret garden. Made by Barbara Lyn (sic) Chomiak. Seven year old.”

One of the strange things about living in the world is that it is only now and then one is quite sure one is going to live forever and ever and ever. One knows it sometimes when one gets up at the tender solemn dawn-time and goes out and stands alone and throws one’s head far back and looks up and up and watches the pale sky slowly changing and flushing and marvelous unknown things happening until the East almost makes one cry out and one’s heart stands still at the strange unchanging majesty of the rising of the sun — which has been happening every morning for thousands and thousands and thousands of years. One knows it then for a moment or so. And one knows it sometimes when one stands by oneself in a wood at sunset and the mysterious deep gold stillness slanting through and under the branches seems to be saying slowly again and again something one cannot quite hear, however much one tries. Then sometimes the immense quiet of the dark blue at night with millions of stars waiting and watching makes one sure; and sometimes a sound of far-off music makes it true; and sometimes a look in some one’s eyes.
~ Frances Hodgson Burnett
(The Secret Garden)

I’m still poking around through my childhood papers and drawings. My mother was the true bookworm in our family. So many images coming back to me now, like my parents in the evening, my mother with her nose in the newspaper and my father watching television.

At bedtime, my mother read to us, even after we were old enough to read for ourselves. One of my favorite books was The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett. (Apparently I loved it so much I illustrated my own version of a secret garden.) And often my father would start playing the piano, gentle Bach lullabies sending us off to sleep.

Spring is in the air! Time to pick up the pace and plow through some more boxes. Onward!

Sea Shell Motel

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before sunrise from our balcony ~ 10.12.15 ~ Dennis Port, Massachusetts

An incurable early bird, on the last morning of our little weekend getaway I found myself unable to sleep and so decided to get up and read and gaze out of the sliding glass doors of our room at the Sea Shell Motel in Dennis Port on Cape Cod. It was about 40 minutes before sunrise and there was an intense yellow orange glow on the horizon.

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walking over the dune ~ 10.12.15 ~ Dennis Port, Massachusetts

As sunrise approached I decided to bundle up in my coat and my new Norwegian wool hat with ear flaps and walk down to the windy beach to take some pictures and enjoy some early morning solitude. It was the best moment of the day.

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sunrise on the beach ~ 10.12.15 ~ Dennis Port, Massachusetts

Thoughts turned to beloved grandparents who lived in Dennis Port, just up the street. When I was little we stayed with them at their house but sometime in the late 1980s, when my own children were little, my grandmother’s health problems became such that staying in a motel nearby became necessary. There’s no way to count the times we have stayed at the Sea Shell in the past 30 years or so. Each room is unique and charming, well-worn but clean and comfortable. No frills, just a short wooden walkway over the dune to the beach, the sounds of waves breaking close by.

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the sun keeps rising ~ 10.12.15 ~ Dennis Port, Massachusetts

I wanted to come here for old times’ sake. So often on this recent trip nature would vividly illustrate the simple truth that nothing is solid in the boundless flow of time and place, there is nothing to grasp. It was here that my grandparents embraced me with abiding wisdom and persisting love. But now they are long gone, even though I feel their presence still. The waves break on the sand and disappear and yet are still there, like the voices of my small curious children. Cape Cod is slipping into the sea.

so old, so alone

10.12.14 ~ Durham, North Carolina
dawn redwood ~ 10.12.14
Sarah P. Duke Gardens, Durham, North Carolina

The tree was so old, and stood there so alone, that his childish heart had been filled with compassion; if no one else on the farm gave it a thought, he would at least do his best to, even though he suspected that his child’s words and child’s deeds didn’t make much difference. It had stood there before he was born, and would be standing there after he was dead, but perhaps, even so, it was pleased that he stroked its bark every time he passed, and sometimes, when he was sure he wasn’t observed, even pressed his cheek against it.
~ Karl Ove Knausgård
(A Time for Everything)

Fossils show that Dawn Redwood (Metasequoin glyptostroboides) was a dominant coniferous tree in much of the Northern hemisphere from about 90 to 15 million years ago. In 1941 a few living trees were surprisingly discovered in a remote part of western China. Seeds collected from them were germinated at the Arnold Arboretum of Harvard University in 1948. The next year this tree, one of the original seedlings, was planted here in Durham, North Carolina at the Sarah P. Duke Gardens at Duke University.

Vøringfossen I

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Vøringfossen ~ 5.25.15 ~ Eidfjord, Hordaland, Norway

Back in May, after a long day of traveling up the north side of Hardangerfjord we ventured inland a little, up a steep valley, Måbødalen (more like a canyon!), to breathtaking Vøringfossen, a waterfall in Eidfjord. The road was full of hairpin turns and tunnels. We arrived at the Fossli Hotel just in time to take a quick peek at the falls before dinner.

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Fossli Hotel ~ 5.25.15 ~ Eidfjord, Hordaland, Norway

Apparently Edvard Grieg lived in Fossli Hotel during the summer of 1896, where he composed Norwegian Folk Songs, Opus 66.

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Måbødalen ~ 5.25.15 ~ Eidfjord, Hordaland, Norway

To have the ability to withdraw into oneself and forget everything around one when one is creating. That, I think is the only requirement for being able to bring forth something beautiful. The whole thing is a mystery.
~ Edvard Grieg
(Edvard Grieg: 16 Lyric Pieces)

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Vøringfossen ~ 5.25.15 ~ Eidfjord, Hordaland, Norway
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Fossli Hotel ~ 5.25.15 ~ Eidfjord, Hordaland, Norway

A couple of tourist buses stopped to let passengers get out to see the falls, but after that we had the place to ourselves. There was only one other family staying overnight at the hotel, a couple and their young son. It was wonderful hearing nothing but the roar of the waterfalls…

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Måbødalen ~ 5.25.15 ~ Eidfjord, Hordaland, Norway
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close-up of the rocks for my sister the geologist
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5.25.15 ~ Eidfjord, Hordaland, Norway
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Måbødalen ~ 5.25.15 ~ Eidfjord, Hordaland, Norway
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Vøringfossen ~ 5.25.15 ~ Eidfjord, Hordaland, Norway

I had hoped to get all my pictures from this trip onto my blog by the end of the summer, but it didn’t happen. Perhaps by the end of autumn?

Last week we had another visit from Katie and nobody got sick this time, although the terrible humidity did spoil our plans to go apple-picking. But we managed to enjoy the great indoors with our granddaughter. The humidity finally vanished the day after she left – sometimes that’s just the way the cookie crumbles, as my mother used to say.

This week Nate & Shea are coming up from Georgia!!! It’s been way too long, although we did see them last year at Dima & Larisa’s in North Carolina when they came up to see the new baby. Hopefully we will get around to apple-picking while they are here, and we are all excited about the supermoon and lunar eclipse coming on Sunday night.

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Dan at the viewing area Vøringfossen ~ 5.25.15 ~ Eidfjord, Hordaland, Norway

Next: dinner and more scenery…