a case of mistaken identity

5.27.20 ~ “Grandmother Elm” isn’t an elm!
Stonington Cemetery, Stonington, Connecticut

In my defense, the leaves look very similar. Back in April 2013 I found this lovely tree in Stonington Cemetery and eventually identified it as an elm tree. For our walk today we decided to visit “Grandmother Elm” and wander around the hilly graveyard. When we got to the tree my eye was immediately drawn to an ID tag someone had added, evidently in 2018.

Tilia × europaea

When we got home I was very surprised to learn that tilia × europaea is a common linden! I stand corrected!

bark patterns
trunk and leaves
5.27.20 ~ common linden

After our walk we decided to go to a local nursery to buy a geranium for our balcony. Since we’re still staying home we weighed the pros and cons of doing this very carefully. We didn’t have to go inside the building because most of the plants were outside, even the cashier was outside. Everyone was wearing a mask and everyone was respectfully keeping their distance. The 6-foot-apart spaces to wait in line were well marked. Wearing our masks, we grabbed a geranium, paid for it, had the cashier keep the change, and used our hand sanitizer before getting back in the car. I was very nervous about all this. I am terrified of the virus and not ashamed to admit it. Having heard so many stories about some people taunting others for wearing masks and practicing social distancing I was concerned about a possible confrontation. But on the way home I realised my faith in human decency has been restored, at least for the time being. Thank you, my fellow Nutmeggers!

healing

5.21.20 ~ garter snake
Fennerswood Preserve, Stonington, Connecticut

Some animals are archetypal symbols of healing. The snake is one such animal. It sheds the old skin and moves into the new. It is a symbol of leaving the old behind for the new. As a symbol of transformation, meditating and focusing on the snake during times of illness will help accelerate the healing process. Animals that appear to us at times of illness, provide clues as to the best way to focus our healing energies.
~ Ted Andrews
(The Intercession of Spirits)

For the second time in a little over a month a garter snake has slithered across the path in front of me and then stopped in the leaves right beside me. The first time the snake kept its head hidden but this second snake lifted its head up and looked at me.

Rod of Asclepius

At first I was excited about the photo opportunity but after I got home I started wondering about the significance snake encounters might hold. In Greek mythology, Asclepius is a deity associated with healing and medicine. The Rod of Asclepius features a snake.

So what meaning did meeting these snakes hold for me? Since November I’ve been struggling to cope with radiation proctitis/colitis, which is incurable, but with the help of a wonderful gastroenterologist I’ve been figuring out how to manage the symptoms. It involves medication and strictly avoiding certain foods. Too many foods!

When I got my official diagnosis in January I highly doubted I would ever be able to take a long walk again. And there are still days when I’ve eaten the wrong thing and cannot leave the house.

My goal is to take a walk in the woods one of these days. And to have supper at the beach with my gull friend this summer.
~ my blog post, 8 January 2020

At first we made tentative little visits to local cemeteries to find the graves of more ancestors. I learned that three of my ancestors lost their lives in the winter of 1711-1712, probably victims of a ‘malignant distemper’ epidemic that swept through Connecticut. I had no idea our own lives would soon be turned upside down by a pandemic just two short months later. But then, on March 21, mostly because of self-quarantine and having nowhere else safe to go, it finally happened. We took a walk in the woods! And we have continued walking!

Sadly, due to the COVID-19 pandemic we probably won’t have supper at the beach with my gull friend this summer, which was my second goal. But we’ve decided to make the best of the situation so we put our outdoor dining set out on the balcony and plan to get some flowers from the nursery so we can enjoy eating outside. Who knows? Maybe we will make a new bird friend.

Our lives have definitely been transformed and I’ve experienced more healing than expected. I also started taking bioflavonoids because they are supposed to help with radiation damage, tinnitus, and allergies. It does feel like the chance meetings of two snakes in the woods highlighted us leaving the old behind for the new.

On Monday I fell. I was weeding my garden (a little plot in front of our condo), bending over at the hip. One weed resisted and I pulled harder. It let go and so I fell on my side on top of the stones bordering the garden. Nothing broken but my right shoulder, arm and leg are aching quite a lot. And I have a huge bruise on my hip! But it still felt satisfying getting the garden tidied up for the summer.

close to home

5.16.20 ~ eastern painted turtle at Beach Pond, Groton

Last weekend we took a long meandering early morning walk at Eastern Point Beach. No pictures because the place had been trashed, complete with broken beer bottles. We wanted to see it before it opened for the summer because we will not be going there much. Only before or after hours (8am-8pm) when it opens June 20. Still concerned about possible exposure to COVID-19. On the other hand, since people will have to purchase season passes to enter between 8am and 8pm, perhaps the individuals currently vandalizing the place will go elsewhere.

When we drove past Beach Pond Tim spied a turtle sitting on a rock in the pond. He loves turtles. ♡ So we stopped and I got the above photo!

5.16.20 ~ Calf Pasture Overlook, Groton

Then we checked out a nice mini-park with one bench and one picnic table, overlooking Baker Cove. Maybe we’ll come here for our summer outdoor suppers… (Eating in our car, of course. Just in case the virus is on the bench or picnic table.)

And then the next morning we hopped over to the Sparkle Lake Conservation Area, practically in our back yard, and enjoyed some lovely scenery and did some birdwatching.

5.17.20 ~ Sparkle Lake Conservation Area, Groton, Connecticut
5.17.20 ~ gray catbird

The catbird is a bit of a busybody. Its presence should caution you to be extra careful about what you say and to whom. Things will have a greater potential of being made public or being distorted. Its presence can hint at others being overly inquisitive about your own affairs or that you are being so about others.
~ Ted Andrews
(Animal Speak: The Spiritual & Magical Powers of Creatures Great & Small)

5.17.20 ~ red-winged blackbird

Spring is such a lovely time of year.

scarlet tanager

5.12.20 ~ Avery Tract, Waterford, Connecticut

While video chatting with our son and daughter-in-law they mentioned an open space property where they used to love hiking when they lived up here. (They live in Georgia now.) So we set about finding Avery Tract the next day. The highlight of our adventure was spotting this scarlet tanager!

5.12.20 ~ an unusual trailhead

If you squint you can see “NATURE SANCTUARY” written into the cement on the landing. Our only clue that we found the property.

5.12.20 ~ Tim spotted what little was left of this decaying tree
5.12.20 ~ an inviting path

The trail quickly started going downhill towards the Thames River and the New England Central Railroad tracks.

5.12.20 ~ looking north
5.12.20 ~ looking south towards the Gold Star Memorial Bridge

We turned around and headed back up the hill, trying to get some pictures of the scarlet tanager who was flying from treetop to treetop. He was very elusive! All taken with the telephoto lens.

The scarlet tanager sighting was definitely the most exciting part of my day!

5.12.20 ~ spring green in the woods
5.12.20 ~ pincushion moss?
5.12.20 ~ pincushion moss?

Since I am getting frustrated trying to identify mosses online I just ordered a field guide book to mosses, liverworts, and hornworts. And since I have no idea what liverworts and hornworts are it looks like I have a lot to learn.

5.12.20 ~ little sapling

Another hour long walk. Lots of huffing and puffing coming back up the hill but it was all worth the effort. Until next time…

eastern towhee

5.7.20 ~ Avery Farm Nature Preserve
Ledyard & Groton, Connecticut

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.

5.7.20 ~ welcome!

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.

5.7.20 ~ Tim with a glacial erratic

What on earth is that noise? Who goes there?

5.7.20 ~ eastern towhee

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!

5.7.20 ~ We finally reach the large glacial erratic overlooking the sand plain!
We approached from behind it.
5.7.20 ~ we did not sit in the chairs, keeping COVID-19 in mind
5.7.20 ~ view from the overlook across the sand plain,
down to where we were standing the month before
5.7.20 ~ taken with telephoto lens

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.)

5.7.20 ~ moss and lichen
5.7.20 ~ wintergreen

The walk lasted about an hour and a quarter, our longest one yet. ♡

lots of blue and light

5.5.20 ~ Connecticut College Arboretum, New London, Connecticut

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.

5.5.20 ~ garden path

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.

5.5.20 ~ purple trillium
5.5.20 ~ ostritch ferns

Watch out now, take care
Beware of falling swingers
Dropping all around you
The pain that often mingles
In your fingertips
Beware of darkness

5.5.20 ~ ?
5.5.20 ~ Virginia bluebells

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

5.5.20 ~ marsh marigolds
5.5.20 ~ bluets

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

5.5.20 ~ hyacinth before blooming (?)
5.5.20 ~ hemlock cones

Watch out now, take care
Beware of soft shoe shufflers
Dancing down the sidewalks
As each unconscious sufferer
Wanders aimlessly
Beware of Maya

5.5.20 ~ fiddlehead ferns
5.5.20 ~ Fraser magnolia bud

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) ♫

5.5.20 ~ three rows of stone walls
5.5.20 ~ two towering tulip trees

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.

rolling meadows

4.28.20 ~ Preston Nature Preserve, Preston, Connecticut

A little change of pace, out of the woods and out to cross a few meadows on gently rolling hills. The sky was beautiful, the scenery divine. As we’re learning, the uneven terrain made for easier walking with less pain for Tim. The fresh air and sunshine was restorative for this quarantine-weary couple. We eagerly kept wanting to see what was over the next hillock or down the next inviting path. There were many interlocking trails. I lost count of how many grassy fields we crossed.

Two trails featuring varied land features and vegetation, including two hills, a valley, hardwood and cedar forest, brushland, meadows, pastures, swamps and ponds. Well-established 0.5 mile trail system with bridges.
~ Avalonia Land Conservancy website

I have to say, there were more than two trails, even on the map, and we certainly walked more than half a mile! But we didn’t walk all the trails and perhaps we will return some day.

4.28.20 ~ up a hill
4.28.20 ~ in the middle of a lovely meadow
4.28.20 ~ another meadow beyond

As with our other walks, the songs of birds filled the air. And we had a few bumble bees follow us a time or two.

4.28.20 ~ so inviting
4.28.20 ~ another hill to climb
4.28.20 ~ another trail to follow
4.28.20 ~ what is it???
4.28.20 ~ the inside of it???
4.28.20 ~ we passed by a swamp with skunk cabbage
4.28.20 ~ bluets!
4.28.20 ~ yet another trail to follow
4.28.20 ~ another meadow
4.28.20 ~ a female bluebird ~ thanks to Nancy for the identification
4.28.20 ~ the birdhouse the bluebird flew out of

Before you thought of Spring
Except as a Surmise
You see — God bless his suddenness —
A Fellow in the Skies
Of independent Hues
A little weather worn
Inspiriting habiliments
Of Indigo and Brown —
With Specimens of Song
As if for you to choose —
Discretion in the interval
With gay delays he goes
To some superior Tree
Without a single Leaf
And shouts for joy to Nobody
But his seraphic self —

~ Emily Dickinson
(The Poems of Emily Dickinson, #1484)

4.28.20 ~ down one more valley and up one more hill to reach our car

a hemlock tree

4.25.20 ~ Woodlot Sanctuary, Stonington, Connecticut

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.

4.25.20 ~ sign of the times

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

4.25.20 ~ an inviting turn on the path

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.

hemlock tree trunk

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.

underside of lower branches
looking up

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.

the bark

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.

what a beauty

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.

one of many stone walls
4.25.20 ~ princess pine poking through the leaves

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)

candlewood pines

4.17.20 ~ Candlewood Ridge, Groton, Connecticut

On Friday we tried the new-to-us park again and this time there was noone in sight at the trailhead – yay! This property was acquired in 2013. After crossing a little bridge over a brook we climbed up to Candlewood Ridge and enjoyed looking up and down the ravine on the other side. We followed the trails for over an hour. Tim’s legs and back did much better and I’m wondering if walking on the earth is better for him than walking on hard surfaces like pavement and concrete.

4.17.20 ~ crossing a stream, skunk cabbage

Candlewood Ridge is part of a critical large block of diverse wildlife habitats highlighted on the State of CT Natural Diversity Database maps: early successional forest, oak-hemlock-hickory upland forest, native shrubby and grassy habitat, forested peatlands, kettle type bogs, tussock sedge, poor fens, multiple seeps, several Tier I vernal pools, and streams.
~ Groton Open Space Association website

4.17.20 ~ almost to the top of the ridge
4.17.20 ~ a very tall bare tree trunk
4.17.20 ~ taken with telephoto lens, a huge boulder across the ravine

The songs of birds filled the air! A chickadee scolded us from a branch so close I could have reached out and touched it. But he flew off before I could lift the camera…

4.17.20 ~ the glacial erratics found here were fewer and more
widely spaced than the ones we saw in Ledyard’s Glacial Park

We followed the trail north along the top of the ridge and then it slowly went downhill until we reached a bridge across another stream. From studying the map it looks like the two unnamed streams join and then eventually merge with Haley Brook.

4.17.20 ~ second bridge on the trail
4.17.20 ~ a squirrel nest
4.17.20 ~ the little stream
4.17.20 ~ vernal pool?

All the green under the water (above) looked to me like drowning princess pines.

4.17.20 ~ taken with telephoto lens across the sand plain
4.17.20 ~ the sand plain with glacial erratic in the distance

We turned around here without crossing the plain and climbing that ridge!

4.17.20 ~ might these be the candlewood pines
(pitch pines) the ridge is named for?
4.17.20 ~ pussy willows
4.17.20 ~ one tree favors moss, the other lichens

Crossing the stream on the return trip, a tiny bright spot of yellow-orange caught my eye. What is it??? I used the telephoto lens to get a picture and tried to identify it when I got home. Hope I got it right. A mushroom.

4.17.20 ~ calostoma cinnabarinum, telephoto lens
(stalked puffball-in-aspic or gelatinous stalked-puffball)

Just before crossing the second stream on the return walk, a garter snake slithered across the path right in front of me. Startled, I then spotted him trying to hide in the leaves. Don’t think I’ve seen a garter snake since I was a child, sunning themselves on the stone walls around the garden.

4.17.20 ~ hiding garter snake

It was a wonderful walk!

4.17.20 ~ beauty in a vernal pool

I go to Nature to be soothed and healed, and to have my senses put in tune once more.
~ John Burroughs
(The Gospel of Nature)