strong as a great oak

3.3.21 ~ Great Oak Park, Ledyard, Connecticut

After a bitter cold snap we managed to get out for a good walk on Wednesday. Another new place for us. This time I brought my father’s cane to use as a walking stick so I wouldn’t have to find one in the woods. It fit perfectly and had a good energy! Papa was very fond of his cane because his father had carved it and used it. (A couple of pictures of him with it here.)

photo by Tim

Our daughter-in-law mailed us our old camera a couple of weeks ago so I could see how it compares to the one I’ve been using for several years now. But so far I haven’t felt inclined to pick it up so Tim took it along on this outing. It was fun with both of us having a good camera.

beautiful blue sky
still a bit of ice and snow in places

We were looking for the remains of a famous huge oak tree in the woods here. Before long we spotted the sign and were saddened to see just how very little was left of it.

During the summer of 1969, the gypsy moth defoliated an estimated 260,000 acres of trees in northeastern woodlands — more than triple the defoliated acreage of 1968.
~ Ralph L. Snodsmith
(The New York Times, April 19, 1970)

image credit: Ledyard Historical Society
The Ledyard Oak, c. 1910

The famous oak didn’t survive the gypsy moth assault in 1969. Fifty-one years later this is all that is left of it:

decomposing
devastation from an invasive species

My feet will tread soft as a deer in the forest. My mind will be clear as water from the sacred well. My heart will be strong as a great oak. My spirit will spread an eagle’s wings, and fly forth.
~ Juliet Marillier
(Daughter of the Forest)

This little oak was planted beside the original in 2009.
Maybe 400 years from now…

We continued walking and found a historical cemetery.

interesting roots
Lester family cemetery, early 1800s
In memory of Solomon Lester who died Dec. 4, 1840 aged 69
Miss Lucy Lester died Apr. 18, 1814 in her 70th year
unused fence post and its shadow on a tree
some kind of moss or lichen
a huge rooster
a hen (?) and said rooster

Within this park are more trails and the Nathan Lester House & Farm Tool Museum, presumably the home of the chickens. We will have to wait to explore when the pandemic is over.

winter-patience

1.13.21 ~ Stoddard Hill State Park
Ledyard, Connecticut

Several weeks after our first visit to this state park we returned to hike up the hill to the lookout, 183 feet (56 meters) above the river. The leaf-covered path started behind the cemetery and was much more steep than we had anticipated.

looking towards the Thames River from behind Stoddard Cemetery

It wasn’t long before I covered the camera lens and grabbed two strong walking sticks to steady myself. Tim already had his walking stick and was more steady on his feet, but had to stop frequently to catch his breath. I was starting to question the wisdom of embarking on this expedition! Especially when we lost the trail and decided to just keep going up…

several kinds of moss and lichen on a rotting log

When things leveled off a bit I got a few pictures…

mushroom
princess pine trying to poke through the layers of leaves

Near the top we turned around near this ledge and saw the cemetery way down below…

Stoddard Cemetery from high above

At last we could see an opening in the woods and views of the river, trees and railroad tracks below. Tim said it was a good thing we came in the winter because the leaves on the trees would have blocked these lovely scenes. Keep in mind, under these ridges is that jumble of glacial erratics pictured in the last post. We didn’t go close enough to the edge to peek down there.

even way up here there were a few dead fish

Only with winter-patience can we bring
The deep-desired, long-awaited spring.

~ Anne Morrow Lindbergh
(The Unicorn & Other Poems)

We found the trail again and managed to follow it all the way back down to the cemetery. I’m pleased to report that neither of us fell! I slipped a couple of feet once but my sticks saved me. 🙂 That’s probably enough of steep climbs for us!

hairy woodpecker, telephoto lens
same hairy woodpecker
mallards on Stoddard Cove, also telephoto lens
thin ice on Stoddard Cove

It was nice to finally stand on level ground and take a couple of bird pictures. Phew!

persuaded to live with trees

5.14.20 ~ The Merritt Family Forest, Groton, Connecticut
a colonial stone slab bridge crosses Eccleston Brook
This property was acquired by the Groton Open Space Association
in May of 2008
5.14.20 ~ robin in the Merritt Family Forest
I loved the way this tree was growing on a flat stone “stage”

The tempered light of the woods is like a perpetual morning, and is stimulating and heroic. The anciently reported spells of these places creep on us. The stems of pines, hemlocks, and oaks, almost gleam like iron on the excited eye. The incommunicable trees begin to persuade us to live with them, and quit our life of solemn trifles. Here no history, or church, or state, is interpolated on the divine sky and the immortal year. How easily we might walk onward into opening the landscape, absorbed by new pictures, and by thoughts fast succeeding each other, until by degrees the recollection of home was crowded out of the mind, all memory obliterated by the tyranny of the present, and we were led in triumph by nature.
~ Ralph Waldo Emerson
(The Essays of Ralph Waldo Emerson)

living with trees

The Merritt Family Forest is part of a large block of forested open space. The upper portion includes a steep, rocky, wooded upland with a mature hardwood forest. Descendants claim the forest remained uncut since the family acquired the property in 1848. The lower portion includes a meadow, and hosts a Tier 1 vernal pool and two Class A streams – Eccleston Brook and an intermittent tributary. Eccleston Brook flows into Palmer Cove, Fisher’s Island Sound and Long Island Sound.
~ Groton Open Space Association website

glacial erratic
moss
ferns
5.14.20 ~ Jack-in-the-pulpit, side view
5.14.20 ~ Jack-in-the-pulpit, front view

I had an especially good time enjoying the paths through the trees on that lovely, warm spring day. And I had an enjoyable afternoon creating this post today, a month later. A pleasant memory to savor. It’s been rough the past few weeks, battling the poison ivy. Tomorrow will be my last dose of prednisone and it will be nice to say goodbye to its side-effects, for me, anxiety and a headache. It’s no fun being up half the night with a panic attack! I’m ready to start living again. 🙂

enjoyable moments

5.21.20 ~ chipmunk
Fennerswood Preserve, Stonington, Connecticut

For the animal to be happy it is enough that this moment be enjoyable. But man is hardly satisfied with this at all. He is much more concerned to have enjoyable memories and expectations — especially the latter. With these assured, he can put up with an extremely miserable present. Without this assurance, he can be extremely miserable in the midst of immediate physical pleasure.
~ Alan Watts
(The Wisdom of Insecurity)

I enjoy all the hours of life. Few persons have such susceptibility to pleasure; as a countryman will say, “I was at sea a month and never missed a meal,” so I eat my dinner and sow my turnips, yet do I never, I think, fear death. It seems to me so often a relief, a rendering-up of responsibility, a quittance of so many vexatoius trifles.

It is greatest to believe and to hope well of the world, because the one who does so, quits the world of experience, and makes the world they live in.

~ Ralph Waldo Emerson
(Journal, May 1843)

a case of mistaken identity

5.27.20 ~ “Grandmother Elm” isn’t an elm!
Stonington Cemetery, Stonington, Connecticut

In my defense, the leaves look very similar. Back in April 2013 I found this lovely tree in Stonington Cemetery and eventually identified it as an elm tree. For our walk today we decided to visit “Grandmother Elm” and wander around the hilly graveyard. When we got to the tree my eye was immediately drawn to an ID tag someone had added, evidently in 2018.

Tilia × europaea

When we got home I was very surprised to learn that tilia × europaea is a common linden! I stand corrected!

bark patterns
trunk and leaves
5.27.20 ~ common linden

After our walk we decided to go to a local nursery to buy a geranium for our balcony. Since we’re still staying home we weighed the pros and cons of doing this very carefully. We didn’t have to go inside the building because most of the plants were outside, even the cashier was outside. Everyone was wearing a mask and everyone was respectfully keeping their distance. The 6-foot-apart spaces to wait in line were well marked. Wearing our masks, we grabbed a geranium, paid for it, had the cashier keep the change, and used our hand sanitizer before getting back in the car. I was very nervous about all this. I am terrified of the virus and not ashamed to admit it. Having heard so many stories about some people taunting others for wearing masks and practicing social distancing I was concerned about a possible confrontation. But on the way home I realised my faith in human decency has been restored, at least for the time being. Thank you, my fellow Nutmeggers!

healing

5.21.20 ~ garter snake
Fennerswood Preserve, Stonington, Connecticut

Some animals are archetypal symbols of healing. The snake is one such animal. It sheds the old skin and moves into the new. It is a symbol of leaving the old behind for the new. As a symbol of transformation, meditating and focusing on the snake during times of illness will help accelerate the healing process. Animals that appear to us at times of illness, provide clues as to the best way to focus our healing energies.
~ Ted Andrews
(The Intercession of Spirits)

For the second time in a little over a month a garter snake has slithered across the path in front of me and then stopped in the leaves right beside me. The first time the snake kept its head hidden but this second snake lifted its head up and looked at me.

Rod of Asclepius

At first I was excited about the photo opportunity but after I got home I started wondering about the significance snake encounters might hold. In Greek mythology, Asclepius is a deity associated with healing and medicine. The Rod of Asclepius features a snake.

So what meaning did meeting these snakes hold for me? Since November I’ve been struggling to cope with radiation proctitis/colitis, which is incurable, but with the help of a wonderful gastroenterologist I’ve been figuring out how to manage the symptoms. It involves medication and strictly avoiding certain foods. Too many foods!

When I got my official diagnosis in January I highly doubted I would ever be able to take a long walk again. And there are still days when I’ve eaten the wrong thing and cannot leave the house.

My goal is to take a walk in the woods one of these days. And to have supper at the beach with my gull friend this summer.
~ my blog post, 8 January 2020

At first we made tentative little visits to local cemeteries to find the graves of more ancestors. I learned that three of my ancestors lost their lives in the winter of 1711-1712, probably victims of a ‘malignant distemper’ epidemic that swept through Connecticut. I had no idea our own lives would soon be turned upside down by a pandemic just two short months later. But then, on March 21, mostly because of self-quarantine and having nowhere else safe to go, it finally happened. We took a walk in the woods! And we have continued walking!

Sadly, due to the COVID-19 pandemic we probably won’t have supper at the beach with my gull friend this summer, which was my second goal. But we’ve decided to make the best of the situation so we put our outdoor dining set out on the balcony and plan to get some flowers from the nursery so we can enjoy eating outside. Who knows? Maybe we will make a new bird friend.

Our lives have definitely been transformed and I’ve experienced more healing than expected. I also started taking bioflavonoids because they are supposed to help with radiation damage, tinnitus, and allergies. It does feel like the chance meetings of two snakes in the woods highlighted us leaving the old behind for the new.

On Monday I fell. I was weeding my garden (a little plot in front of our condo), bending over at the hip. One weed resisted and I pulled harder. It let go and so I fell on my side on top of the stones bordering the garden. Nothing broken but my right shoulder, arm and leg are aching quite a lot. And I have a huge bruise on my hip! But it still felt satisfying getting the garden tidied up for the summer.

close to home

5.16.20 ~ eastern painted turtle at Beach Pond, Groton

Last weekend we took a long meandering early morning walk at Eastern Point Beach. No pictures because the place had been trashed, complete with broken beer bottles. We wanted to see it before it opened for the summer because we will not be going there much. Only before or after hours (8am-8pm) when it opens June 20. Still concerned about possible exposure to COVID-19. On the other hand, since people will have to purchase season passes to enter between 8am and 8pm, perhaps the individuals currently vandalizing the place will go elsewhere.

When we drove past Beach Pond Tim spied a turtle sitting on a rock in the pond. He loves turtles. ♡ So we stopped and I got the above photo!

5.16.20 ~ Calf Pasture Overlook, Groton

Then we checked out a nice mini-park with one bench and one picnic table, overlooking Baker Cove. Maybe we’ll come here for our summer outdoor suppers… (Eating in our car, of course. Just in case the virus is on the bench or picnic table.)

And then the next morning we hopped over to the Sparkle Lake Conservation Area, practically in our back yard, and enjoyed some lovely scenery and did some birdwatching.

5.17.20 ~ Sparkle Lake Conservation Area, Groton, Connecticut
5.17.20 ~ gray catbird

The catbird is a bit of a busybody. Its presence should caution you to be extra careful about what you say and to whom. Things will have a greater potential of being made public or being distorted. Its presence can hint at others being overly inquisitive about your own affairs or that you are being so about others.
~ Ted Andrews
(Animal Speak: The Spiritual & Magical Powers of Creatures Great & Small)

5.17.20 ~ red-winged blackbird

Spring is such a lovely time of year.

scarlet tanager

5.12.20 ~ Avery Tract, Waterford, Connecticut

While video chatting with our son and daughter-in-law they mentioned an open space property where they used to love hiking when they lived up here. (They live in Georgia now.) So we set about finding Avery Tract the next day. The highlight of our adventure was spotting this scarlet tanager!

5.12.20 ~ an unusual trailhead

If you squint you can see “NATURE SANCTUARY” written into the cement on the landing. Our only clue that we found the property.

5.12.20 ~ Tim spotted what little was left of this decaying tree
5.12.20 ~ an inviting path

The trail quickly started going downhill towards the Thames River and the New England Central Railroad tracks.

5.12.20 ~ looking north
5.12.20 ~ looking south towards the Gold Star Memorial Bridge

We turned around and headed back up the hill, trying to get some pictures of the scarlet tanager who was flying from treetop to treetop. He was very elusive! All taken with the telephoto lens.

The scarlet tanager sighting was definitely the most exciting part of my day!

5.12.20 ~ spring green in the woods
5.12.20 ~ pincushion moss?
5.12.20 ~ pincushion moss?

Since I am getting frustrated trying to identify mosses online I just ordered a field guide book to mosses, liverworts, and hornworts. And since I have no idea what liverworts and hornworts are it looks like I have a lot to learn.

5.12.20 ~ little sapling

Another hour long walk. Lots of huffing and puffing coming back up the hill but it was all worth the effort. Until next time…

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 ~ spotted wintergreen

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