midwinter in self-quarantine

12.21.20 ~ 7:11 am, foggy winter solstice sunrise

After nine months in self-quarantine life still seems pretty bizarre. The coronavirus pandemic still rages and is getting worse with every day. Our fervent hope is that getting everyone vaccinated will turn things around sooner than later. Two of our elderly relatives-in-law have caught it, one is still fighting for his life in the hospital and the other is still sick and isolating at home. Some of Tim’s friends have lost loved ones. These are truly dark days.

Since I took a sunset picture for the summer solstice in June I decided to take a sunrise picture for the winter one. But we had fog and clouds on solstice morning, not even a hint of daybreak in the sky. There was a travel advisory for black ice on the roads so we stayed home and I took the picture from an upstairs window.

We had tried to take a walk on Saturday but found a sheet of ice on top of the snow making it too hazardous to continue. So instead of attempting another trek out on Monday I put Grandfather Frost out on our balcony, hoping to catch him casting the longest shadow of the year at noon. At first there was no sun and no shadow but by some miracle the bright star came out from the clouds right at solar noon for just a quick minute! I took the picture and then it disappeared again. (If I had known where the railing shadows would fall I would have located him standing fully in the sunshine!)

12.21.20 ~ 11:46 am, solar noon
longest shadow of the year!

A year indoors is a journey along a paper calendar; a year in outer nature is the accomplishment of a tremendous ritual. To share in it, one must have a knowledge of the pilgrimages of the sun, and something of that natural sense of him and feeling for him which made even the most primitive people mark the summer limits of his advance and the last December ebb of his decline. All these autumn weeks I have watched the great disk going south along the horizon of moorlands beyond the marsh, now sinking behind this field, now behind this leafless tree, now behind this sedgy hillock dappled with thin snow. We lose a great deal, I think, when we lose this sense and feeling for the sun. When all has been said, the adventure of the sun is the great natural drama by which we live, and not to have joy in it and awe of it, not to share in it, is to close a dull door on nature’s sustaining and poetic spirit.
~ Henry Beston
(The Outermost House: A Year of Life on the Great Beach of Cape Cod)

12.21.20 ~ yule tree

We kept trying to get a decent picture of our lovely “snowball and icicle” tree but our cameras refused to focus — at least you can get a vague impression of it from this one. I suspect the camera doesn’t know what to do with the little lights and glass reflections. Then again, I’ve never mastered the art of indoor photography. Outdoor light is my friend. I tried to get a few close-ups of ornaments with mixed results. The best ones follow….

May your holidays be merry and bright and full of blessings and gratitude. As the light returns and as our days grow longer may the coming year sparkle with hope, love and peace. 🌲

longest night of the year

“Winter Night in Rondane” by Harald Sohlberg

🕯️

Keep me safe and hold me tight 
Let the candle burn all night 
Tomorrow welcome back the light 
It was longest night of the year 

We press our faces to the glass 
And see our little lives go past 
Wave to shadows that we cast 
On the longest night of the year 

Make a vow when Solstice comes 
To find the Light in everyone 
Keep the faith and bang the drum 
On the longest night of the year 

~ Mary Chapin Carpenter
♫ (Longest Night of the Year) ♫

the darker half of the year

10.31.20 ~ full blue moon, Barn Island Wildlife Management Area
Pawcatuck, Connecticut
~

I tremble with gratitude
for my children and their children
who take pleasure in one another.

At our dinners together, the dead
enter and pass among us
in living love and in memory.

And so the young are taught.

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

It’s been almost a year since we’ve gathered to eat with our children and grandchildren and ancestors. I miss those times. Some day we will all be together again in person but for now we will be grateful for our video calls.

When we know about our ancestors, when we sense them as living and as supporting us, then we feel connected to the genetic life-stream, and we draw strength and nourishment from this.
~ Philip Carr-Gomm
(Druid Mysteries: Ancient Wisdom for the 21st Century)

We have reached the end of the harvest season and the beginning of the darker half of the year. Earth’s energy has shifted and the veil between the spirit world and our world has lifted for a few days. It’s a time to reflect on and honor the lives of our ancestors. Three of mine died in an epidemic in the winter of 1711-1712. With this knowledge I do draw strength and nourishment.

We’re in for a whole lot of hurt. It’s not a good situation. All the stars are aligned in the wrong place as you go into the fall and winter season, with people congregating at home indoors. You could not possibly be positioned more poorly.
~ Dr. Anthony Fauci
(CNN, October 30, 2020)

the first touch of winter

“At the First Touch of Winter, Summer Fades Away”
by Valentine Cameron Prinsep

The days move more swiftly now, too, with late dawns and early dusks. The days march toward the winter solstice like a winter farmhand with the wind at his back. And the long nights become the sleep of the earth itself, the rest, the waiting.

The fox barks in the night, in the glitter of winter starlight. The deer shelter in the hemlock thickets on the mountain. The woodchuck sleeps, breathing only once in five minutes. And that hurrying wind whistles in the naked maples. November is at hand. This is the hurrying, impatient wind of winter that I hear in the night.

~ Hal Borland
(Hal Borland’s Book of Days)

autumn equinox in self-quarantine

9.22.20 ~ our pumpkin and gourds

There is something in the autumn that is native to my blood —
Touch of manner, hint of mood;
And my heart is like a rhyme,
With the yellow and the purple and the crimson keeping time.

~ Bliss Carman
(A Vagabond Song)

Not only is this our first autumn in self-quarantine, it is my first one without apples since my radiation proctocolitis diagnosis. If you’ve been reading this blog for a few years you know how much I LOVE apples. But they make me ill now. 🙁 In spite of this I wanted to go to Holmberg Orchards to celebrate the equinox anyway. We didn’t pick any apples because Tim doesn’t want to eat stuff I can’t have in front of me, even though I keep telling him he doesn’t have to give things up just because I have to.

9.22.20 ~ morning at Holmberg Orchards

Today was a perfect autumn day…. And there I go, slipping out of fall into autumn…. All right, a perfect fall day, too.
~ Hal Borland
(Hal Borland’s Book of Days)

But it was fun to pick out a pumpkin and some gourds for our garden and the corn maze was open! We felt it was safe enough as everything was outside and everyone was required to wear masks and keep 6′ away from each other. When we got to the corn maze we were happy to see a sign that said there were no dead ends this year, because of the pandemic. You were to just follow the winding path and keep six feet apart. No getting hopelessly lost. Being there early on a Tuesday morning we were the only ones in the maze. Yay! It took us half an hour to walk through it.

9.22.20 ~ our dinner

I am inclined to think of late that as much depends on the state of the bowels as of the stars.
~ Henry David Thoreau
(Journal, December 12, 1859)

We had grilled marinated swordfish and green beans for dinner out on the balcony. Simple but delicious and that’s how life has got to be these days. 🙂 Keeping my gut soothed is of utmost importance! I’ve had a few setbacks since the midsummer alcohol fiasco but feel that on the whole, things are better. As far as autumn goes, I’m going to try to focus on the leaves changing colors and long walks in the fresh air and not think so much about apples!

a little stardust caught

“Field of Corn” by Louis Valtat

The true harvest of my daily life is somewhat as intangible and indescribable as the tints of morning or evening. It is a little stardust caught, a segment of the rainbow which I have clutched.
~ Henry David Thoreau
(Walden)

the muggies are back

7.7.20 ~ tall meadow rue
Connecticut College Arboretum, New London, Connecticut

After all my kvetching on the last post a lovely day followed and we grabbed the opportunity for another early morning walk. Having visited the arboretum in early May and early June, we decided to see what might be blooming in early July. Fewer flowers but a lot more greenery.

The local weather forecaster has announced that “the muggies are back.” Dewpoints in the 70s! Tropical air is upon us and we might get a tropical depression storm Friday and Saturday. So glad we grabbed this walk when we had the chance. Enjoy!

The Bee is not afraid of me.
I know the Butterfly —
The pretty people in the Woods
Receive me cordially —

The Brooks laugh louder
When I come —
The Breezes madder play;
Where mine eye thy silver mists,
Wherefore, Oh Summer’s Day?

~ Emily Dickinson
(The Poems of Emily Dickinson, #113)

We didn’t see any “pretty people,” but felt the presence of fairies at every turn. No birds, except for one catbird who was so busy he was out of sight before I thought to try and get its picture.

tall meadow rue
red clover

O sweet the dropping eve, the blush of morn,
The starlit sky, the rustling fields of corn,
The soft airs blowing from the freshening seas,
The sunflecked shadow of the stately trees,
The mellow thunder and the lulling rain,
The warm, delicious, happy summer rain,
When the grass brightens and the days grow long,
And little birds break out in rippling song!

~ Celia Thaxter
(Compensation)

buttercup
common mullein

Please note: I haven’t posted any pandemic statistics since June 17 because many have said dwelling on the numbers produces anxiety. But for me it has the opposite effect. The numbers are a picture of the reality which keeps my imagination from running wild and panicking. I like to know what I’m up against and how best to proceed. And lately I’ve been struggling to cope with my fears. Maybe it’s because I stopped paying attention to the facts. So when I record the latest statistics in my posts, at the end sometimes, please don’t feel obliged to read them. They’re mainly for my own sanity!

We now have 135 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in our town. Our county (New London) has 1,304 confirmed cases. Of those 1 is still in the hospital and 102 have lost their lives. The last number (102) hasn’t changed since June 17, so our county hasn’t had any deaths in weeks. One thing that reminded me to start checking the statistics again is that on Tuesday, on the local news, they announced that Connecticut had its first day ever with no COVID-19 deaths reported state-wide. Our governor has a well-deserved 78% approval rating. He recently decided that bars will not be opening on July 20 even though we’re doing well. He cited what’s been happening in other states when they open their bars. I am grateful for his leadership.

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!