begin this meal with grace

image credit: Deborah Hudson at pixabay

As we begin this meal with grace,
Let us become aware of the memory
Carried inside the food before us:
The quiver of the seed
Awakening in the earth,
Unfolding in a trust of roots
And slender stems of growth,
On its voyage toward harvest,
The kiss of rain and surge of sun;
The innocence of animal soul
That never spoke a word,
Nourished by the earth
To become today our food;
The work of all the strangers
Whose hands prepared it,
The privilege of wealth and health
That enables us to feast and celebrate.

~ John O’Donohue
(To Bless the Space Between Us)

May your Thanksgiving be blessed with good chat and cheer
and the love of family and friends!

solitary boulders, stranded here and there

11.2.22 ~ a trail at Bluff Point State Park & Coastal Reserve

Hello, November! Taking an afternoon walk instead of our usual morning saunter proved to be invigorating — we went on for an hour and a half! There are many side trails at Bluff Point and we took a couple of them, finding some summery greens, a few fall colors and many bare trees, ready for winter. And of course, glacial erratics at every turn.

dried up browned ferns surround a glacial erratic
birch leaf

As we were walking along we were surprised to witness the silent flight of an owl. We did not see or hear it swoop down to catch its prey, but we suddenly heard the moment of capture, a rustling of the dry leaves on the ground, and then saw it fly up and away, soundlessly, carrying its squirrel-sized victim.

dense woodland behind old stone wall
sunlit maple leaves

The entire Connecticut landscape is a gift of the glacier. … Our safe harbors, historic mill sites and early farm economy were made possible by an ice sheet that oozed down from Canada between 25,000 and 15,000 years ago. The ice sheet also gave us fertile lowlands along our large rivers, gracefully curved upland pastures, gravel riffles in trout streams, verdant marshes fronting shoreline villages, a patchwork of stone walls, bricks for colonial buildings and solitary boulders, stranded here and there as if they were hillside shipwrecks. All of these are glacier gifts.
~ Robert Thorson
(“Connecticut’s Glacial Gifts”, Hartford Courant, August 31, 2003)

American wintergreen

We also saw a woodpecker and a nuthatch, but couldn’t get a decent picture of either of them. It was loads of fun navigating all the side trails weaving through the woods, deciding which fork to take several times. It was almost like a maze and we did backtrack a few times when we seemed to be going in the wrong direction.

sassafras leaf
a squirrel for Linda

When we got back to the parking lot a man was feeding a couple of squirrels. I think he must be doing it regularly because the squirrels were hanging out there very close to him. There were a few birds scolding this squirrel, impatient to have at some of those seeds he was sitting on. It was such a pleasure to be deep in the woods on a warm and lovely November afternoon.

walking along a ledge

10.19.22 ~ Sassacus Nature Preserve, Groton, Connecticut

Recently we were driving down a road less traveled (by us) and spotted a sign right next to an industrial business. Sassacus Nature Preserve? The parking lot was shared with the business, and behind a chain link fence were ladders and small dumpsters available to rent. It didn’t seem to be a very natural setting. We thought we saw a path off the parking lot and decided to come back for our next walk.

When we returned we found the trail and ascended to an elevation of about 100 feet and so began our walk across a ledge. On one side of the trail was a tall, long outcrop and on the other a steep slope down to a valley. It was cool looking down onto the tops of trees.

Sassacus (Massachusett: Sassakusu (fierce) (c. 1560 – June 1637) was born near present-day Groton, Connecticut. He was a Pequot sachem, and he became grand sachem after his father, sachem Tatobem was killed in 1632. The Mohegans led by sachem Uncas rebelled against domination by the Pequots. Sassacus and the Pequots were defeated by English colonists along with their Narragansett and Mohegan allies in the Pequot War. Sassacus fled to what he thought was safety among the Iroquois Mohawks in present-day New York, but they murdered him. They sent his head and hands to the Connecticut Colony as a symbolic offering of friendship.
~ Wikipedia

Notice in the picture below how the trail squeezed its way between two glacial erratics. There was no other way around unless we wanted to tumble down the hill to the left.

After about twenty minutes of walking we started to hear water rushing and then maybe five minutes later we could see a stream way down below so I used the zoom lens to get a picture.

At this point we turned around because the path was starting to look even more tricky to navigate. Retracing our steps we found that the sunlight now illuminated some colors deep in the woods.

October, the extravagant sister, has ordered an immense amount of the most gorgeous forest tapestry for her grand reception.
~ Oliver Wendell Holmes
(The Seasons)

This large glacial erratic seemed to be precariously balanced…

For the remainder of the walk back I enjoyed finding sunlight on the fallen leaves, mosses and lichens.

Truly it has been said, that to a clear eye the smallest fact is a window through which the Infinite may be seen.
~ Thomas Henry Huxley
(The Major Prose of Thomas Henry Huxley)

a little beech sapling
moss surrounding the base of a tree
in a crevice of the outcrop
sapling at eye level growing out of the outcrop

It was an adventure finding this little nature preserve in the middle of town, surrounded by railroad tracks, streets, houses and a new elementary magnet school. And then coming home to learn about Sassacus and starting to picture his people living in these woods four hundred long years ago.

picked out by the sun

10.7.22 ~ Caroline Black Garden, Connecticut College Arboretum

Caroline Black Garden is known as the secret garden of Connecticut College, located on a steep hill between the college and the Thames River. Starting with this gate you follow paths passing through various garden “rooms.” It has four acres of native and exotic ornamental trees and bushes. We enjoyed a morning of exploration.

western red cedar
paths connected the “rooms”

Sit and be quiet. In a while
the red berries, now in shadow,
will be picked out by the sun.

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

path leading to a magical pool
Tim pretending to climb a huge glacial erratic
water bubbling out from under this rock ~ a spring perhaps?
Japanese inspired water feature
THIS POOL GIVEN TO
THE CAROLINE BLACK
MEMORIAL GARDEN
BY THE NEW LONDON
HORTICULTURAL SOCIETY
1930
gate leaving pool “room”

The clearing rests in song and shade.
It is a creature made
By old light held in soil and leaf,
By human joy and grief,
By human work,
Fidelity of sight and stroke,
By rain, by water on
The parent stone.

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

prickly pear, the only cactus native to Connecticut
bee and goldenrod
another garden gate

What a natural wellspring — cooling and refreshing the years — is the gift of wonder! It removes the dryness from life and keeps our days fresh and expanding.
~ Edwin Way Teale
(Circle of the Seasons: The Journal of a Naturalist’s Year)

as you walk the meadow loop

6.24.22 ~ Denison Pequotsepos Nature Center

A lot had changed in the seven weeks between our visits to the nature center. The trees had leafed out and we could barely see the little mound where Mama Goose had been sitting on her eggs. But on this day the bullfrogs were still populating the pond. After checking out the pond we headed out to the meadow.

We’re squeezing in as many walks as we can before the weather forces us inside. The meadow was lovely with a few well-mown paths to follow through and around it. It was so refreshingly cool that in the shade I wished I hadn’t left my hoodie in the car, but in the sunshine the warmth felt so good on my bare arms. There were lots of birds flitting about, but not too many stayed still long enough for pictures.

eastern bluebird
a small portion of the large meadow
sign surrounded by orbs
birdhouse with some unique “landscaping”
honeysuckle
house sparrow (molting?)
clover blossom and bug

Then we walked back through the woods to the parking lot, and enjoyed the different things the dappled sunlight was highlighting.

ferns in a sunbeam
American robin

But beyond perpetual wonders
and mortals asking why
casting its light upon us all
is the sun’s supreme reply.

~ Gunnar Reiss-Andersen
(The Magic of Fjords)

summer solstice in the woods

6.20.22 ~ Bluff Point State Park & Coastal Reserve

This is the third year we’ve celebrated Midsummer since this endless coronavirus pandemic began. Driving on our way to a walk in the woods I was chattering to Tim about the “end” of the pandemic, how it was becoming more or less endemic now and that maybe I should stop tagging my posts with “pandemic.”

last quarter moon

Monday was a perfect summer day and the trees were green and lovely. Tim was already wearing shorts and I was still in my hoodie, typical between-season attire for this couple. 😉 We had forgotten it was a 3-day weekend, a Monday holiday for Juneteenth, so there were lots of people in the state park. No matter, everyone was friendly and in good spirits.

a peek at the Poquonnock River

We had a nice conversation with a young couple from New Hampshire who were very excited about a bird they had spotted. (We finally got a glimpse of it but couldn’t see it well enough to identify it.) And another conversation with a man, about our age, who commented on how good the honeysuckle was smelling and asked me about the zoom lens on my camera. I really didn’t feel too nervous being so close without a mask since we were outside.

it looks like these two trees are lifting the glacial erratic up off the ground

I took a picture of these trees holding the boulder (above) in November 2020. See here. Interesting difference between autumn and summer surroundings.

beach rose blossom
honeysuckle blossoms
greenery!

It turned out to be the longest walk we’ve taken in ages, a whole hour and a half! And I don’t know what it is about catbirds this year — they are turning up everywhere! It was one of those days where it simply felt exhilarating to be alive and present.

gray catbird
twig art on glacial erratic
the twig and the glacial erratic in the above picture
clover blossom
another sunlit glacial erratic
another gray catbird

I’m still enjoying daily encounters with the catbird coming to the birch tree outside my kitchen window. He usually announces the visit with a few meows and then begins his repertoire of varied melodies, songs that I imagine he has picked up and adopted along the way.

on another branch

People who watch a banded gray catbird outside their window all summer will find it hard not to wonder exactly where it’s spending the winter, or to marvel that science still doesn’t have the answer. And if the catbird doesn’t come back, they, too, will inevitably wonder why.
~ Miyoko Chu
(Songbird Journeys: Four Seasons in the Lives of Migratory Birds)

looking the other way
hawkweed (thanks to Eliza for the id)
a chipmunk on the path

But perceptions will inevitably shift, as fickle as the weather. On arriving home we learned that a fully vaccinated relative has come down with covid and had a very high fever. The news shattered my hopeful illusions. Other relatives who have had the virus have said it was no worse than a cold. One of the most disconcerting things about the illness is that it is impossible to know how it will hit you until you actually catch it.

And then, the next morning I woke to the news that a play we were planning to attend outdoors this week was put on hold:

Update on PEER GYNT: Due to COVID delays, our production will not be opening this weekend (June 23-26) in Wilcox Park. We will update on our revised schedule of performances as soon as we can. Thank you for your understanding and stay safe!
~ Flock Theatre

Connecticut’s positivity rate is hovering around 8%. So, all things considered, I guess it’s too soon to remove the pandemic tag from my posts. This refreshing walk will be recalled as our third pandemic summer solstice celebration. Feeling gratitude for the company of sociable strangers, playful catbirds and a chipmunk with the munchies on this memorable, bittersweet day.

water-powered up-down sawmill

sunrise at home, 5:46 am, May Day
40°F, clear with periodic clouds, light wind from the north at 7 mph
4.30.22 ~ Ledyard Up-Down Sawmill, Ledyard, Connecticut

For May Day weekend we decided to visit the historic water-powered Ledyard Up-Down Sawmill, which is only open on Saturdays in the spring and fall. Earth’s energy has shifted again as this hemisphere begins traveling closer to the sun in the brighter half of the year. All the mill’s windows and doors were wide open so it felt pretty safe (covid-wise) to go inside and see what the process of sawing wood was like in the late 1800s.

millstone, the sawmill operated briefly as a gristmill from 1858-1860
headgate controlling pond water flow through the dam into the mill water tank
vintage salesman’s model of the John Tyler Water Turbine

The finely cast and machined 19th century model is about four inches wide and has an operating gate and rotating runner.
~ Ledyard Up-Down Sawmill website

“Turning the handwheel opens and closes the turbine gate,
controlling water flow from the holding tank into the turbine.”
“The vertical turbine shaft is geared to a horizontal shaft
that ends with a heavy iron flywheel and crank under the saw.”
“A wooden pitman arm connects to the crank to the wooden saw sash,
converting the rotary motion of the flywheel into
an up and down (reciprocating) motion.”

After watching the saw operating for a minute we went outside, down some huge stone steps and into the lower level to see the turbine in action.

the turbine pit in the mill lower level

And then we went back upstairs to see more of the sawing.

“The saw cuts on the downstroke and
the log moves toward the saw on the upstroke.”

It was quite loud and the whole building vibrated while the saw was operating.

diagram of both levels

The sawmill has a great website for any who would like more details: Ledyard Up-Down Sawmill.

My father, when he was still alive, had visited this place after it was restored and opened to the public in 1975. He often said he wanted to take me to see it some day. Sadly, that never happened, but he was very much on my mind as we looked around and listened to the operators tell us about its history and how it worked.

After our trip back through time we decided to take a walk around Sawmill Pond and see what visual treats the brightness of spring had to offer.

red maple seeds
tiny bluets, a childhood favorite
an eastern painted turtle for Tim

And then, for me, a new life bird! I heard it singing and looked up into the nearest tree and there it was! What a nice surprise, the last sort of thing I was expecting to find on this day. 🙂

chipping sparrow, #69

Chipping Sparrow Spizella passerina: Widespread common migratory breeder mid-April to November; rare and local in winter; in areas with short grass and trees, residential neighborhoods, parks, open upland forest.
~ Frank Gallo
(Birding in Connecticut)

Thank you, little chipping sparrow, for singing so sweetly that I couldn’t miss seeing you!

on the morning of the month’s first day

4.30.22 ~ tulips in my garden

But May is a month to be enjoyed, not coldly discussed, and enthusiasm should thrill to the very finger-tips of every one who, on the morning of the month’s first day, hears the thrush, grosbeak, oriole, and a host of warblers as they great the rising sun. And rest assured, dear startled reader, that unless you are astir before the sun is fairly above the horizon you will never know what bird-music really is. It is not alone the mingled voices of a dozen sweet songsters; for the melody needs the dewy dawn, the half-opened flowers, the odor-laden breeze that is languid from very sweetness, and a canopy of misty, rosy-tinted cloud, to blend them to a harmonious whole, and so faintly foreshadow what a perfected world may be.
~ Charles Conrad Abbott
(Days Out of Doors)

yellow sun-bonnets

4.11.22 ~ Denison Pequotsepos Nature Center

A week after our last visit we returned to the pond at the nature center to see the nesting Canada goose again. Our first encounter was a mallard bobbing for food.

Mama goose was still sitting on her nest. 🙂

Papa goose eyed us and started swimming towards us.

But I continued with my photo shoot…

…until he decided to come even closer and make his point.

He came out of the water so we backed away and gave him some space, while continuing to take pictures. No need for a confrontation.

And then the mallard decided to come out of the pond, too. They seemed to be friends, nibbling on the same patch of moss.

violet (?) growing out of a crack in a big rock

On our way back to the car we spotted another trail that seemed to lead toward the Denison Homestead, a historic museum across the road from the nature center, where the daffodils were still blooming. We followed it to a crosswalk which led us to a great picture-taking spot.

4.11.22 ~ Denison Homestead

I never saw daffodils so beautiful. They grew among the mossy stones, about and above them; some rested their heads upon these stones, as on a pillow for weariness; and the rest tossed and reeled and danced, and seemed as if they verily laughed with the wind that blew directly over the lake to them.
~ Dorothy Wordsworth
(Journal, April 15, 1802)

She wore her yellow sun-bonnet,
She wore her greenest gown;
She turned to the south wind
And curtsied up and down.
She turned to the sunlight
And shook her yellow head,
And whispered to her neighbor:
“Winter is dead.”

~ A. A. Milne
(Daffodowndilly)

spotted this periwinkle on the way back to the nature center

We plan to come back every week, hoping to catch the goslings swimming in the pond one day. The average number of eggs is five and the parents take them to a brooding area soon after they hatch. I hope the brooding area is nearby so we don’t miss seeing them.