Tuesday morning we went down to see how our beloved beach had fared in the storm. We kept taking turns with the camera so I’ll credit us both with the pictures in this post! Beach Pond Road was closed to traffic so we walked by the pond on our way to Eastern Point Beach. The storm surge had breached the dunes separating the pond from Long Island Sound, and pushed the water and debris across the street and up onto the lawns across the street.
I think city workers had already plowed away the sand on the road because we were not at all prepared for the scene that awaited us when we got to the beach itself! The road there was covered with about a foot and a half of sand!
Winter is well over the half-way point and we’ve had no snow to show for it. After last winter’s record-breaking snowfall amounts this is a bit unsettling. We did have a lot of snow and power outages for that freak Halloween Nor’easter in October, but that was an autumn storm, not truly a winter storm… What strange weather.
Bulbs are coming up months too early. Witch hazel is blooming at Mystic Seaport. Tim & I went for a walk on Saturday at Haley Farm State Park, looking for photo opportunities. The birds were chirping away as if it was a sunny spring day! This time it was warm enough for my fingers to hold the camera and take 86 pictures. Perhaps I should have tried a landscape setting for a few of them. But I’m still getting used to holding it properly and finding the shutter button at the same time…
Caleb Haley owned and farmed this land in Noank, Connecticut, and took on the daunting task of building stone walls between the pastures all over the property. The crumbling foundations of his house, stables and barns remain. In October of 1898, Walter Hill came from New York to visit his friend here and wrote an account of their time together. Excerpts following are from the Haley Farm Souvenir Book, found transcribed at the Groton History Online website.
If there is any one thing in which my friend delights more than another, it is the works of improvement which he is carrying forward at Haley Farm, Long Point; so breakfast dispatched we, of course, drove at once to the locality of the improvement now going forward.
~ Walter Hill
It may be mentioned here, that the land in this vicinity and for miles in all directions is covered with boulders, boulders large and boulders small, sometimes ledges, but boulders in all shapes, boulders in all positions, boulders on boulders—everywhere. The first settlers simply removed or cleared the smaller rocks, such as a horse could easily drag out of the way, leaving hundreds of heavier ones half embedded in the soil in all directions.
~ Walter Hill
Thus thousands upon thousands of acres of splendid soil have been fit for naught but cattle runs of natural pasturage. To clear such land of everything to obstruct the free running of a plow, is a herculean task and it is this wrestling with the stern face of nature, that I found to be the delight of my host. A forenoon spent in watching and assisting in the operations, found me deeply interested. A device called a “Stone-puller” was quite fetching, and was the invention of a near-by resident whom I was disappointed to learn had never realized much out of it, for without it, such operations as are here going forward, would be prohibited by the question of cost. Mr. H— has 428 acres of just such land as described; skirting the shores of L. I. Sound with deep coves running up on either side of his property; forming between them, Long Point, which is all included in the Haley Farm, with the exception of a tract on the extreme point, which is owned by parties who started to boom it for Summer cottage purposes, but came to a dead-lock with the town authorities regarding approaches, and who should bear their cost.
~ Walter Hill
According to the the Connecticut Department of Energy & Environmental Protection website:
In 1963 efforts to protect the farm from being sold to developers began. The State of Connecticut agreed to match funds raised for the purchase of the farm. The Groton Open Space Commission led a successful fund raising effort that led to the purchase of the property. Haley Farm became an official Connecticut State Park in July of 1970.
We found several burls on the outstretched branches of this tree:
I think this is a private boathouse across the water. I thought it looked especially cheerful and welcoming!
So we had a good time poking around our local historic “ruins” and enjoying the scenic views of Palmer Cove. It was nice enjoying a spring day in February, but I’m starting to get a little nervous about what weather we have in store for us this summer. For now, though, perhaps I can manage to stay in the present… It is what it is and what will be will be!
Our moods do not believe in each other. To-day I am full of thoughts, and can write what I please. I see no reason why I should not have the same thought, the same power of expression, to-morrow. What I write, whilst I write it, seems the most natural thing in the world; but yesterday I saw a dreary vacuity in this direction in which now I see so much; and a month hence, I doubt not, I shall wonder who he was that wrote so many continuous pages. Alas for this infirm faith, this will not strenuous, this vast ebb of a vast flow! I am God in nature; I am a weed by the wall.
~ Ralph Waldo Emerson
Groton is also home to Haley Farm State Park. Last year in February Beverly and I took a long walk here, too. This winter I have not been as interested in getting outdoors, but it’s nice to remember when I had a bit more energy, and blog about last year. Above is a lovely view of Palmer Cove from Haley Farm.
The backside of Canopy Rock, above. It seems to be a place for kids to hang out and leave artwork. We didn’t see any litter, which was thoughtful of them.
In the above side view picture the “canopy” part of the rock is clear. In the distance is the Amtrak railroad elevation. In the picture below is a tunnel under the railroad tracks, originally used for livestock – it must have been small livestock – clearance is only 4 feet! Can’t imagine a cow crawling under there!
If one doesn’t mind crawling through, our map tells us that on the other end of this tunnel are paths connecting to the trails in Bluff Point State Park. We didn’t attempt it, curious or not, we’re not engineers but we wouldn’t want to be under there if a train should zoom by overhead. A little close for comfort, too. At least we could see the light at the end of the tunnel. But, still… If we turned around now, we could see Race Track Pond, or actually the reeds surrounding it.
We decided to follow a deer trail, figuring they would know the easiest way through the reeds to find the pond for a drink of water.
We did find a spot where the ice had been broken through and guessed that might be where the deer would find their water.
I please myself with the graces of the winter scenery, and believe that we are as much touched by it as by the genial influences of summer.
~ Ralph Waldo Emerson
It was beautiful with the long winter shadows of the reeds on the snow-covered ice. We didn’t know it then, but we were to be inexplicably unable to retrace our steps. Lost!
When a man named Caleb Haley owned the farm he built a lot of stone walls around his pastures, using an ox drawn stone-puller. I meant to photograph some of them on our way out, but, we were very cold and had very likely been walking around in circles trying to figure out a badly drawn map. When we finally saw the entrance (exit!) I quickened my step and fell on an icy spot of snow. Wrenched my shoulder so badly it still hurts a little even now, a year later.
So perhaps this year, maybe in the spring, I’ll return and try to get some stone wall pictures!
Brighid of the mantle, encompass us; Lady of the Lambs, protect us; Keeper of the hearth, kindle us; Beneath your mantle, gather us, And restore us to memory
~ Caitlín Matthews
(A Blessing for Hearth Keepers)
Announced by all the trumpets of the sky, Arrives the snow, and, driving o’er the fields, Seems nowhere to alight: the whited air Hides hills and woods, the river, and the heaven, And veils the farm-house at the garden’s end. The sled and traveler stopped, the courier’s feet Delayed, all friends shut out, and housemates sit Around the radiant fireplace, enclosed In a tumultuous privacy of storm.
~ Ralph Waldo Emerson
Imbolc: February 3, 2011, 11:20 p.m
February 4, 2012, 5:13 a.m.
Candlemas Day ~ Groundhog Day
St. Brigid’s Day ~ St. Valentine’s Day
Saturday afternoon Tim and I drove north up Connecticut State Route 169, a National Scenic Byway, to do some more leaf peeping in the “Quiet Corner” of Connecticut, and have a late lunch at the Vanilla Bean Café in Pomfret.
It’s been a nasty political season in this state, with tight races for governor and US senator. Sick and tired of it, I can’t wait for election day to put us out of our misery one way or the other. It didn’t help to see huge Linda McMahon signs lining up one after another all along the roadside – I’ll stick my neck out and say I hope she will NOT be Connecticut’s new senator!!! I was hoping the ride would get my mind off such horrifying possibilities. Dick Blumenthal isn’t perfect, but I’ve watched him over the years, as our Attorney General, fight hard against the corporatocracy our government has become, and no amount of McMahon’s $50 million of corporate riches spent on advertising will tear him or his record down in my eyes.
After arriving at the popular restaurant/coffee house and settling down to chattering away and eating our salmon pesto salad and turkey sandwich, out of the blue, gubernatorial candidate Dan Malloy came up to our table and introduced himself and shook our hands! It was the first time either of us had met a politician face to face! Now to be honest, I had been supporting his opponent in the primary, but since Malloy won that contest I had shifted my support to him. Meeting him was an encouraging experience, but it was what I realized after he left that made an impression on me. It wasn’t a photo op! There were no reporters or TV cameras following him around. He was spending a Saturday afternoon out on his own, connecting with and listening to citizens in a rural town, out of the limelight. And of course, I had left my camera in the car…
After that bit of excitement we drove through Mashamoquet Brook State Park, enjoying the fall scenery and crisp autumn air, and then found two charming shops in Woodstock, the Christmas Barn (oh what a 12-room wonderland of a barn!) and Mrs. Bridges’ Pantry (British imports and a tearoom/restaurant). We found the perfect indoor pumpkin for Halloween and returned home by way of the Interstate as darkness fell around a full bright Harvest Moon. ‘Twas a good day. 🙂
Earlier today Beverly and I went hiking in the woods near Gallows Lane in New London. She was setting out flags and prizes hidden in the woods for the thirty children who will be coming to her Map & Compass activity on Saturday. The children have to use a map of the woods and a compass to locate eight places marked by the flags. Each location has a plastic box filled with a little treasures. They bring back one treasure from each box to prove they found each of the flags. (They get to keep the treasures…) I think the first kid back from the expedition gets another prize, too. It took us a couple of hours to set it all up, so they’ll be having a long walk and an adventure, too, if they manage to find them all!
One might wonder how a road would come to be designated with such a morbid name. Gallows Lane. Well, it was a terrible thing that happened there. A servant woman named Sarah Bramble was executed by hanging off the cliff here in 1753. She had been convicted of murdering her illegitimate newborn daughter. So far I haven’t found out too much about her, but what I have found out makes me more curious than ever about her life.
November 21st, 1753, Sarah Bramble was executed in a cross highway that leads out of the main road to Norwich, about two miles north of the town plot. This path has ever since been known as Gallows Lane. It is a rugged, wild and dreary road, even at the present day. The fearful machine was erected in the highest part of the road, and all the hills and ledges around must have been covered with the spectators. It was computed that 10,000 assembled on this occasion; some of them probably came twenty or thirty miles to witness this repulsive exhibition. The gloom of the weather added another dismal feature to the scene, a drizzly rain continuing most of the day.
This is the only public execution of any white person that ever took place in New London. The crime of the unhappy woman was the murder of her infant illegitimate child, on the day of its birth. It was committed in April, 1752, and she was tried by the superior court the next September. But the jury disagreeing in their verdict, she was kept imprisoned another year, and sentenced October 3d, 1753. She declined hearing the sermon intended for her benefit, which was preached by Rev. Mr. Jewett, before the execution.
Frances Manwaring Caulkins, History of New London, Connecticut: From the First Survey of the Coast in 1612, to 1852, (Hartford, Connecticut: Press of Case, Tiffany & Company, 1852), 468
[September 28, 1753] “at the meeting house to hear the Tryal of Sarah Bramble for murdr of her Bastard Child in March 1752. Court Sat by Candle light.” [October 1, 1753] “the Jury brot in their verdict & found Sarah Bramble Guilty of Murdering her Bastard Child a female in march 1752.” [October 3, 1753] “Sarah Bramble Received Sentance of Death ys Day” [October 24, 1753] “went to Lectureto hear Mr Jewit who pr to Sarah Bramble &c.” [November 7, 1753] “in the aftern att Lecture. Mr Jewit preacht. the Sermon Composed to be pr to Sarah Bramble, but she declined Coming to hear itt, a Large Congregation.” [November 21, 1753] “Misty & Rain moderately. S: Bramble. I was at home foren. in the aftern I Rid up to the Cross Highway abve Jno Bolles to See Sarah Bramble Executed for the Murdering her Bastard Child in march last was a year Since. She was hanged at 3 Clock. a Crowd of Spectators of all sexes & nations yt are among us from the neighbouring Towns as well as this. Judged to be Ten Thousand. it Rained moderately most of the day.”
Joshua Hempstead, Diary of Joshua Hempstead of New London, Connecticut (New London, Connecticut: New London County Historical Society, 1901), 616-619
It strikes me how matter-of-fact and unemotional Hempstead is about this woman’s trial and execution. He doesn’t say one way or the other what he thinks about the matter. Why did the jury disagree on a verdict? Who was the father of Sarah Bramble’s child? Didn’t he have some responsibility for what happened? Was the father possibly her employer? I can’t help feeling she was probably abandoned and forced to bear the blame for the “fornication.” And why did she murder her baby, if she did? Did she want to spare it the pain of a lifetime of being referred to and excluded as a Bastard? Did she feel cornered, like there was no other way out? Honestly, I could see myself reasoning that way if I had found myself in that situation in that time period. Maybe she was suicidal…
There’s a lot of history in these woods, which are still claiming back the land the early settlers turned into farms and then abandoned when they moved westward. Today we found a pen made of stones for ewes and their lambs. The rocks were low enough for the mother sheep to leave to find food and return, but high enough to keep the lambs safe inside. Amazing how shepherds knew to build such an enclosure and how the sheep made use of it, instinctively knowing it was just what they needed for a perfect nursery!
We also found a pretty little princess pine forest…
Yesterday I was thinking about posting a few recent pictures taken on another walk with Bernie when a morning thunderstorm came through, kind of unusual for these parts. Off went the computer and off I went to enjoy the storm while paying bills – ugh – and finishing reading The Maytrees by Annie Dillard. The book was set in Provincetown, and although the story took place in a time period previous to our days there, it was enjoyable reading a book and being able to picture so clearly the streets and the dunes and the fishermen…
A few years ago while researching my ancestors, I came across a story about the sudden death of one of my 8th-great-grandfathers, William Shurtleff, who was born in 1624 in England, and died on 23 June 1666 at Marshfield, New Plymouth Colony, now Massachusetts, age 42. Whenever there is a thunderstorm I think of him, and his wife Elizabeth, who lived on to marry two more husbands. To me, the story illustrates how precarious life is, and that people in other generations have also had strings of incredibly bad luck. Helps to keep life’s annoying chores in perspective…
When William came to America he was apprenticed as a carpenter, and later became a surveyor. Early in the year 1666, William & Elizabeth’s house was destroyed by fire. Their neighbor, John Phillips, gave the couple and their two sons, William and Thomas, shelter in his home. Elizabeth was pregnant with their third son. According to Benjamin Shurtleff, in his book, Descendants of William Shurtleff of Plymouth and Marshfield, Massachusetts, Vol I:
While [William Shurtleff] was partaking of the hospitality of Mr. Phillips, it appears that one of those dreadful droughts occurred which were so very distressing to our early planters and which threatened to destroy all the the fruits of their spring labor. On this account the good people of several neighboring congregations observed a day of fasting and prayer as they were wont to do in those days when suffering afflictive dispensations. Soon after this, on June 23, 1666, happened the terrific thunderstorm which is so graphically described in a letter of Rev. Mr. Arnold. At the time of this storm there were fourteen people in the common sitting-room of the house of Mr. Phillips. … They were mostly seated around the room. Mr. Shurtleff was sitting beside his wife, holding her hand in his and having one of their children in his arms, the other being between him and a table, under which was a dog. The storm of rain came on with great violence and Mrs. Phillips requested to have the door closed. Whereupon a stroke of lightning passed down the chimney, which it rent to pieces, smote down most of the people if not all, instantly killing Mr. Shurtleff, Mrs. Phillips and Jeremiah Phillips, and then passed out through the door, splitting it into fragments. This occurred on Saturday and they were buried on the following day, being the twenty-fourth, according to an entry made in the Marshfield town records.
The third son, Abiel, was born soon after this tragedy.
Abiel Shurtleff was born soon after the untimely death of his father and there was a considerable debate as to what his name should be. By some it was thought that he should be called after Boanerges (Children of Thunder), as mentioned in the New Testament; but the difficulty of converting the plural name into the singular number fortunately prevailed against the infliction of an appellation which was far from being euphonious. The scriptural name Abiel, which interpreted into English from the Hebrew, signifies ‘God, my father,’ was adopted as the most satisfactory, since it was sufficiently indicative of his posthumous birth.
William lies buried in the Old Winslow Burying Ground in Marshfield, Massachusetts.
So the bills got paid and the ancestors were remembered by this descendant… Thank you, Mother Earth, for your electrifying reminders.
…Cool, verdant spaces Beneath the trees Secret empty places Nobody knows…
~ Mary Chapin Carpenter
♫ (I Have a Need for Solitude) ♫
Last week we had a spell of absolutely perfect weather. No humidity and comfortable mid-70 temperatures. One morning Janet and I went out for a lengthy walk deep into the woods. We were beckoned off the paths a few times and got a little lost, well, not terribly lost, just a little confused… As far as I can tell, we only went around in a circle once, and only had to retrace our steps one time.
I have only recently learned that stone walls, which I see everywhere I go, are almost completely absent outside of New England. The first European settlers to arrive here started clearing the woods for their farms, and the exposed topsoil began to erode. Rain would soak deeper into the subsoil, which was full of rocks. When the moisture froze and expanded, it pushed these rocks to the surface, and they began to call them New England potatoes. What better thing to do with the “crop” than to clear them off the fields and build them into stone walls?
In the 1800s people began abandoning their farms to live in cities or to move out west as pioneers in the westward expansion, and the woods came back to much of New England. And so it is that one cannot take a walk in the woods without encountering at least one of these ubiquitous grey stone walls.
On this day the sky was bluer than blue and the sun was so bright, its light penetrating through the tree canopy wherever the leaves let it through. The contrast between the splotches of bright light and dark cool shade was striking.
To see the Summer Sky
Is Poetry, though never in a Book it lie –
True Poems flee – ~ Emily Dickinson
(The Poems of Emily Dickinson, #1491)
Sun-stone’s kiss, midsummer pleasure,
Welcome all and some. ~ Caitlín Matthews
(The Celtic Spirit: Daily Meditations for the Turning Year)
The stars speak through the stones. Light shines in the densest matter. Earth and heaven are one. Our physical beings and our heavenly souls are united in the mystery of being. ~ Philip Carr-Gomm
(Druid Mysteries: Ancient Wisdom for the 21st Century)