Our friend spotted this encouraging message left on a stone in the woods while taking a nature walk with his family. Taking the suggestion to heart, I’m going to use it in my yoga practice, because I’ve noticed that my anxiety level has been increasing as rates of new COVID-19 infections have been skyrocketing around the country. Even though Connecticut is doing relatively well it’s probably only a matter of time before we get another surge here as people are relaxing and letting their guard down.
We are taking fewer walks these days now that the humidity is too oppressive for Tim. We have to be careful not to stress his heart. And honestly, I cannot bear the humidity, either, although I have no legitimate medical excuse to offer. So I am spending more time on yoga, and ordered another DVD to mix things up a bit. The air-conditioning is on now, and I am grateful that we got through June without needing it. I’m already longing for the cool, crisp days of autumn.
I’ve done all 19 of my jigsaw puzzles, some of them twice, since the pandemic started. I’ve tried ordering some more but most places are sold out and the available ones aren’t that appealing. So I’m starting to do them over, which I don’t mind at all. Perhaps I will make use of my mask to keep from inhaling the dust and start going through the old family stuff again. Seems like a productive way to pass the time… Breathe…
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)
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
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. 🙂
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.
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.
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.
What on earth is that noise? Who goes there?
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!
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.)
The walk lasted about an hour and a quarter, our longest one yet. ♡
On May 5th we took a lovely walk in the Connecticut College Arboretum. I usually walk there with Janet or Beverly so it was fun to drag Tim along this time. (I do miss my other walking buddies!) Again, he did well on the uneven terrain. At first we wore our masks, thinking it was in the city and might be more populated than the places in the woods we visit. But there weren’t many people there and no one else was wearing a mask so we felt comfortable taking them off.
One of my all time favorite music albums, since I was a teen, is All Things Must Pass by George Harrison. Lately, the song “Beware of Darkness” keeps playing in my head, and I think it is so fitting considering what all of us are going through now with the pandemic. Nights can be rough. But nature walks in the light of day are the perfect counterbalance.
Watch out now, take care Beware of falling swingers Dropping all around you The pain that often mingles In your fingertips Beware of darkness
Watch out now, take care Beware of the thoughts that linger Winding up inside your head The hopelessness around you In the dead of night
Beware of sadness It can hit you It can hurt you Make you sore and what is more That is not what you are here for
Watch out now, take care Beware of soft shoe shufflers Dancing down the sidewalks As each unconscious sufferer Wanders aimlessly Beware of Maya
Watch out now, take care Beware of greedy leaders They take you where you should not go While Weeping Atlas Cedars They just want to grow, grow and grow Beware of darkness
~ George Harrison ♫ (Beware of Darkness) ♫
Governor Ned Lamont today (May 9) announced that his administration has released documents detailing specific rules that eligible businesses falling under phase 1 of Connecticut’s reopening plans must follow amid the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. The first phase – which includes restaurants; offices; hair salons and barbershops; retail stores; and outdoor museums and zoos – is currently planned to take effect beginning May 20. The governor stressed that the decision to reopen during this phase rests with each individual business owner – they are not required to open if they do not choose, however if they do they must follow the rules as prescribed. ~ The Office of Governor Ned Lamont website
We now have 97 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in our town. Our county (New London) has 784 confirmed cases and 56 deaths. I don’t think I’m ready to come out of our bubble yet. Will wait and see what happens to the numbers after May 20.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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)
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.
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.
Every autumn we take a leaf-peeping drive up Rte. 169 in the “Quiet Corner” of Connecticut. The state highway winds slowly through scenic countryside but it’s almost impossible to stop and photograph anything because there are no breakdown lanes on the side of the road. We stopped at a cemetery, however, and found two beautiful trees, one in full fall color and one with about half of its leaves already down on the ground.
We were headed for the Vanilla Bean Café in Woodstock where we enjoyed a lunch made from local farm-to-table ingredients. We missed coming last year because we were in North Carolina welcoming Finn into the family. (The little explorer has started walking! He’s been raring to go since before he was born, so it’s not too surprising. He’ll be a year old on November 1st.)
After lunch I was disappointed to find the Christmas Barn was closed for the Columbus Day holiday. And then Tim was very disappointed to find that Mrs. Bridge’s Pantry had gone out of business. A lot can change in two years. But we found a new antique place, the Rusty Relic, which we both enjoyed exploring before we set out on the return trip home.
Recently I have discovered cassava flour. And the discovery has come at a most opportune time because my gut problems have been getting worse over the past year. Bad enough to send me to a gastroenterologist. In addition to sticking to the paleo diet, I am now incorporating a low-FODMAP diet into the plan.
I’ve always been sensitive to wheat and milk and because of this have not had pancakes in many years. For a while I could eat some gluten-free pancakes, but they were often made with almond flour and I’ve developed a sensitivity to nuts. But cassava flour is made from a root vegetable (thank goodness I can still eat those!) and I found a paleo recipe for cassava pancakes made with coconut milk. (grain-free, gluten-free, dairy-free, nut-free) We tried them and couldn’t believe how good they tasted!!! Tim even said he didn’t think he could tell the difference between them and wheat pancakes.
So now we’re enjoying a new (revived) tradition, Sunday morning pancakes. And that is part of what was very nice about our autumn drive this year. We had cassava pancakes at home before we left and felt like real New Englanders for the rest of the day, taking in all the sights and sounds and tastes of a crisp fall day.
And I serve the fairy queen, To dew her orbs upon the green: The cowslips tall her pensioners be; In their gold coats spots you see; Those be rubies, fairy favours, In those freckles live their savours: I must go seek some dew-drops here, And hang a pearl in every cowslip’s ear. ~ William Shakespeare (A Midsummer Night’s Dream)
We had a very wet spring and so far it’s looking to be a wet summer, too. Tuesday we got two inches of rain! It rained all day and I enjoyed many hours of family history research. But Wednesday we emerged from our den and took a walk in the very wet woods. And we saw several cedar waxwings, a new bird for us!
As I approached this tree I was trying to figure out if it might be a shagbark hickory. (Still not sure…) And then a new experience for me: orbs appeared in the viewfinder when I went to take a picture! In the past, orbs have been an occasional surprise when they show up in pictures downloaded from the camera. But these were there before I even took the picture.
In the span of centuries the rock became glazed with a gray-green crust of lichen almost indistinguishable from the rock itself, a bare coating of life. ~ Robin Wall Kimmerer (Braiding Sweetgrass: Indigenous Wisdom, Scientific Knowledge & The Teachings of Plants)
These trees and stones are audible to me, These idle flowers, that tremble in the wind, I understand their faery syllables, And all their sad significance. ~ Ralph Waldo Emerson (Collected Poems of Ralph Waldo Emerson 1823-1911)