Yesterday Janet and I explored Barn Island Wildlife Management Area in Stonington, the “largest primitive coastal area left unspoiled in Connecticut.” It was a cloudy, chilly winter afternoon, with snow flurries starting up just as we were leaving.
Trying to get used to this new editing page with its blocks and new steps I am having a difficult time… 🙁 But I must adapt to changes no matter how challenging this one is for me. It took me hours to create my last post but I will give it another go.
Today was a very emotional day for me. I took all the decorations off of the solstice tree, the best tree we’ve ever had. It was a Fraser fir. It smelled amazing! Its branches were strong enough to hold the glass bead garland my sister made for me years ago. I had such a good time decorating it with Tim, using all my white, silver and clear glass ornaments. A white skirt resembling snow. A white owl on top and a white fox curled up in the snow underneath it.
And while I was at it, I sorted through all the decorations I’ve been hoarding over the years and donated at least half of them. It’s funny when I think I’ve made so much progress simplifying my life and I still find object collections that have yet to be minimized. Now I have kept only the ones that truly “spark joy,” as Japanese decluttering author Marie Kondo teaches.
This holiday season was extra special for us. Nate & Shea haven’t been home to celebrate since they moved to Georgia in 2011, and Larisa & Dima were last here for the holidays in 2014. It was interesting how it worked out because we usually have our niece and her teenagers and my sister and her husband here for Christmas day but this year all of them couldn’t make it for one reason or another. We missed them!
It was wonderful having a house full of children again. I will especially remember the brisk winter walks we took. Also the first time Finn smiled at me, his whole face lighting up when he heard my voice, and holding my sleeping snuggle bug for hours… Getting two temporary PJ Masks tatoos from Katherine ~ Owlette is her favorite character from that show. She also introduced me to Puffin Rock, which has to be the most adorable children’s show ever. (It’s Irish but it can be seen on Netflix.) Katherine and I had some special moments together as she talks well enough to tell me about her life. I love listening to her observations. One time she darted down the stairs and exclaimed, “Grammy’s the best!” Talk about melting my heart…
Nate & Shea brought their nephews Julius and Dominic and they were sometimes here, too, when they weren’t visiting other Connecticut relatives, of which they have many! Julius, in his teens now, loved my meatloaf, which forever endeared me to him, and Dominic is so curious and active, he’s 10 after all, and interested in how families are related, cousins and all that. His main objective for this trip was to see snow for the first time. His chance came at 3 o’clock in the morning one day, and he was awakened to see flurries, but not the blizzard we were hoping for.
Dominic and Katherine hit it off ~ it was fun to watch them interact and listen to their conversations. Nate, Shea and I took them to a holiday light fantasia which they both enjoyed very much.
One night Shea cooked us a lovely pork dinner, and another night Larisa cooked a chicken pie. Dima saved the day on Christmas when I suddenly realized I hadn’t even thought about dessert! All the stores were closed. He scrounged around in my pantry and was able to make some gluten-free chocolate-chip cookies, using a chocolate bar for the chips. It was great having Dima’s parents join us for that day, too. We all enjoyed the crazy gift basket tradition we have. Instead of exchanging presents we fill baskets with little items and take turns pawing through them to fish out whatever we’d like to take home with us. Some gag gifts, some treasures ~ it’s always fun.
And Nate helped Tim with his honey-do list. My pantry door stays closed now, the bathroom door no longer squeaks, the hole in the kitchen ceiling is patched and the dartboard is hung securely.
It was a wonderful two weeks!
If there is any wisdom running through my life now, in my walking on this earth, it came from listening in the Great Silence to the stones, trees, space, the wild animals, to the pulse of all life as my own heartbeat.
~ Vijali Hamilton
(Of Earth & Fire: Poems & Artworks)
Six of us took another family walk in the woods the other day, in Beebe Pond Park. Nate had been there years ago but I had never had a chance to explore it.
Katherine and Dominic loved climbing on the many boulders deposited by receding glaciers millions of years ago.
It was warmish for a winter’s day, but I was happy to have my gloves.
We walked for a very long time and only turned around when Katherine got too cold and darkness was approaching…
Teach the children. We don’t matter so much, but the children do. Show them daisies and the pale hepatica. Teach them the taste of sassafras and wintergreen. The lives of the blue sailors, mallow, sunbursts, the moccasin flowers. And the frisky ones — inkberry, lamb’s-quarters, blueberries. And the aromatic ones — rosemary, oregano. Give them peppermint to put in their pockets as they go to school. Give them the fields and the woods and the possibility of the world salvaged as they learn to love this green space they live in, its sticks and leaves and then the silent, beautiful blossoms.
~ Mary Oliver
(Upstream: Selected Essays)
The other day I went out with Larisa so she could vote. (They have early voting in North Carolina. Tim & I used absentee ballots before we left Connecticut.) We pulled into the Carrboro Town Hall parking lot and a HUGE tree caught my eye. We parked under its massive branches. I looked at the leaves and said, “I bet that’s an elm tree!” An American Elm.
While Larisa went inside to vote I got out of the car and had a nice long visit with the tree. According to the Town of Carrboro, the elm has a spread of 114 ft (35 m) and a height of 40 ft (12 m). It was registered with the Elm Research Institute in 1985.
The American elm was the most popular tree to plant in the booming cities of the 19th century, so that by the 20th century many streets were lined with only elms and were shaded in summer by a cathedral-like ceiling of their branches. When Dutch elm disease (which actually originated in Asia) spread to the US in the 1950s, it was able to mow down elm after elm through their grafted root systems or with the help of a beetle. Today, arborists and foresters are careful to plant a diverse range of trees that will not all be vulnerable to any particular pest, disease or weather conditions.
~ The Morton Arboretum website
Some of my readers may remember Grandmother Elm, the tree I fell in love with when I was going through one of the most difficult years of my life. She was a great source of comfort and wisdom. Interestingly, Grandmother Elm is 60 ft (18 m) high, 20 ft (6 m) taller than Carrboro’s American Elm. But this elm is much wider than the one in Connecticut. Both of them are lovely, just the way they are.
If you rake fallen leaves into a pile and then examine them, you will see that each one shows a consummately clean break at the same place near the base of the stem. The fall of leaves is highly choreographed: First the green pigments are pulled back behind the narrow row of cells marking the border between stem and branch. Then, on the mysteriously appointed day, this row of cells is dehydrated and becomes weak and brittle. The weight of the leaf is now sufficient to bend and snap it from the branch. It takes a tree only a week to discard its entire year’s work, cast off like a dress barely worn but too unfashionable for further use. Can you imagine throwing away all of your possessions once a year because you are secure in your expectation that you will be able to replace them in a matter of weeks? These brave trees lay all of their earthly treasures on the soil, where moth and rust doth immediately corrupt. They know better than all the saints and martyrs put together exactly how to store next year’s treasure in Heaven, where the heart shall be also.
~ Hope Jahren
Sometimes I think it must have been much easier to live and die at the time of our ancestors, the Vikings.
When they buried their relatives, they also buried many objects together with the body. This was to be sure that the dead would not miss anything in their new environment. It was also an assurance for the family members who remained that they would not become obsessed with spirits of the dead and constantly be reminded of them because their possessions were still scattered all over the tent or mud hut. Very clever.
~ Margareta Magnusson
(The Gentle Art of Swedish Death Cleaning: How to Free Yourself & Your Family from a Lifetime of Clutter)
You might guess from my recent choice of reading material that I’m still struggling with the objects and possessions I inherited from our ancestors. Things started piling up around 2008. Hard to believe it’s been 10 years! I have managed to dispose of a lot of stuff but cannot rest on my laurels. What’s left is stacked halfway to the ceiling in a corner of what is supposed to be the genealogy/guest room. The corner takes up almost half the room.
Trouble is, life (births, illnesses, travels, weddings, visitors, deaths) keeps happening and I need a good chunk of uninterrupted time to roll up my sleeves and dig in. Now that there is a lull in the stream of summer activities I am annoyed by the droning of the air conditioners. But I since learning about the autism I am aware now that I am much more sensitive to noise than neurotypical people, so, I will wait patiently for some cool, dry, quiet weather to return.
We enjoy going to estate sales. We rarely buy anything but a few days ago we found a large file cabinet in excellent shape at a great price. It is now in the genealogy/guest room waiting for me to make use of it. After my grandmother died my grandfather offered us anything we wanted in the house. I chose my grandmother’s mahogany secretary which I still have and treasure. Grandfather said he didn’t want us grandchildren to be burdened with all the stuff. I don’t want my children to be burdened either.
I’m also sad about the changes at my beloved beach. The city has installed a gull repellent system. Every three minutes a recording of a gull in distress blares out from the loudspeakers. There are maybe two or three fearless gulls left on the roof of the beach house. All the laughing gulls are gone, all the different kinds of gulls are gone. I suppose I will never see my friend with the mangled foot again. It’s all too much for me to bear and I’ve been reduced to tears more than once this summer.
I visited my elm tree, Grandmother Elm. I cannot believe it’s been 5 years since I have gone! I used to visit all the time when Tim’s brother was living with us, the year he died here of cancer. Now she has small stems and branches growing out at the base of her trunk, covered with leaves. When I read The Hidden Life of Trees by Peter Wohlleben I believe he said this was a sign of distress. No other tree in the cemetery was like this. Perhaps she is suffering, too. Still, her wordless wisdom comforted me.
The wood is decked in light green leaf.
The swallow twitters in delight.
The lonely vine sheds joyous tears
Of interwoven dew and light.
Spring weaves a gown of green to clad
The mountain height and wide-spread field.
O when wilt thou, my native land,
In all thy glory stand revealed?
~ Ilia Chavchavadze
(Anthology of Georgian Poetry)
“Summer is coming!” the soft breezes whisper;
“Summer is coming!” the glad birdies sing.
Summer is coming — I hear her quick footsteps;
Take your last look at the beautiful Spring.
~ Dora Read Goodale
(Summer Is Coming)
To be interested in the changing seasons is a happier state of mind than to be hopelessly in love with spring.
~ George Santayana
(Words of Wisdom & Quotable Quotes)
How many Flowers fail in Wood —
Or perish from the Hill —
Without the privilege to know
That they are Beautiful —
How many cast a nameless Pod
Opon the nearest Breeze —
Unconscious of the Scarlet Freight —
It bear to other eyes —
~ Emily Dickinson
(The Poems of Emily Dickinson, #534)
Honor the space between no longer and not yet.
~ Nancy Levin
(Grief Interrupted: A Holistic Guide to Reclaiming Your Joy)
It’s been a whirlwind here since December, with lots of traveling to visit loved ones, surgery, radiation treatments, and exhaustion (for me), unemployment, an unrelenting cough and a diabetes diagnosis (for Tim). After a few months of contemplation Tim has finally decided to retire. And so begins a new chapter of our lives.
We won’t be bored, that’s for sure. One thing we did was visit Mystic Seaport on a weekday to renew our membership. It was an unseasonably hot day and we had a good chuckle over the sign inviting us in to warm up with a cup of hot cocoa. 🙂
The Draken Harald Hårfagre has spent two winters at the Seaport now and the crew is planning to leave in June for “Expedition America – East Coast Tour 2018.” I hope I will be here when the Viking ship sets sail because I missed her arrival. I’m also looking forward to a special exhibition coming May 19: The Vikings Begin.
One of the world’s finest early Viking-age collections is coming to Mystic Seaport. Priceless treasures, including helmets, shields, weapons, glass, and other artifacts are safeguarded at the Gustavianum Museum of Uppsala University in Sweden, Scandinavia’s oldest university. These collections, dating as early as the seventh century, are now the focus of a major research initiative designed to significantly advance our understanding of how the Norse culture evolved. Thematic sections on Viking warfare, trade, the Baltic Sea, a ship burial, Norse gods, and relations to other cultures will employ rare archaeological finds in the discovery of how this maritime society lived more than a millennium ago. This exhibition represents the first instance most of these artifacts will have ever left Sweden.
~ Mystic Seaport website
Tim has been enjoying more time for his ham radio clubs and activities. We signed up together for a Tai Chi class at the senior center. And I signed up for a Photoshop class. Katherine has been here for short visits several times since we left Ireland. We love our busy and playful little munchkin! Life is good.