Labor Day weekend with autumn weather! I didn’t think it was possible. We couldn’t resist taking a morning walk in the woods in spite of mosquito and poison ivy threats. I’ve been waiting impatiently for this kind of day all summer.
To include nature in our stories is to return to an older form of human awareness in which nature is not scenery, not a warehouse of natural resources, not real estate, not a possession, but a continuation of community. ~ Barry Lopez (High Country News, September 14, 1998)
As I’ve often said, I love the sunlight this time of year, in the months surrounding the equinoxes. It seems just right, not too dim nor too bright, and it immerses everything I see in a wonderful presence. Sometimes my camera even catches it the way I perceive it.
Any patch of sunlight in a wood will show you something about the sun which you could never get from reading books on astronomy. These pure and spontaneous pleasures are “patches of Godlight” in the woods of our experience. ~ C. S. Lewis (Not a Tame Lion: The Spiritual Legacy of C. S. Lewis & The Chronicles of Narnia)
Impermanence and fragility are essential components of beauty, and of love. In some mysterious way, we are all here together, one whole happening, awake to the sorrow, the joy, and the inconceivability of every fresh and instantly vanishing moment, each of us a bright light in the dazzling darkness. ~ Joan Tollifson (Facebook, February 24, 2021)
I had never heard of wild azaleas before. But on Wednesday, after not seeing each other for fifteen months, my good friend Janet and I took a walk in the woods where she spotted some huge blossoms, way in the distance and up in the trees. What a good eye she has!
Life is getting a little more back to normal… It was my first day out without Tim. Janet and I had a nice lunch out and then I got a chance to show her one of the walks Tim and I had discovered while in quarantine, at Sheep Farm. It was a lovely, sunny, breezy, late spring day.
I couldn’t get a good picture of the first blossoms Janet saw, too far away, but then, down by the little waterfall she noticed another bunch of them, much closer. We crossed the brook on a narrow little footbridge to get even closer and then I got some pictures!
Wild azalea is a deciduous shrub that grows up to 15 feet tall. It likes moist soil near the edges of streams and swamps, but is also drought tolerant, attracting butterflies, bees, and hummingbirds. They are native to North America.
Enjoy the photos!
Tell of ancient architects finishing their works on the tops of columns as perfectly as on the lower and more visible parts! Nature has from the first expanded the minute blossoms of the forest only toward the heavens, above men’s heads and unobserved by them. We see only the flowers that are under our feet in the meadows. ~ Henry David Thoreau (Walking)
After admiring the blossoms ‘above our heads’ we appreciated the more common flowers ‘under our feet’ on our hike back to the car.
It’s been a while since I’ve made note of our local coronavirus statistics. We have had 2,776 detected cases in our town. Connecticut has had 346,980 confirmed cases and 8,227 deaths. On May 26th we had 88 new cases. So it’s not over yet, even though we are feeling a sense of relief from being fully vaccinated. Overall, 1,855,397 people or 52% of Connecticut’s population has been fully vaccinated.
Our governor held his last COVID-19 briefing. I started thinking of them as “fireside chats” every Monday and Thursday afternoon, and found his discussions about the numbers and his executive orders and the reasons behind them very wise and reassuring. In March more than 70% of Connecticut’s residents approved of Gov. Ned Lamont’s handling of the crisis. That includes us!
On Friday we returned to Sheep Farm, last visited early in April, so we still haven’t visited when the leaves are green. Maybe next summer on a low humidity day. Autumn colors were still pronounced on this lovely day.
Most of the birds we saw were too far away but I finally spotted this goldfinch, perhaps a juvenile or nonbreeding female. I was delighted even if he/she wasn’t brightly colored or willing to come out of the foliage.
And then, after such a wonderful day, that night I had a new experience, watching a livestreaming concert on my laptop. It was wonderful!
I’ve been a Mary Chapin Carpenter fan for years. My father introduced her music to me one night when he was watching a recorded performance she had on PBS. It must have been in the late 1980s. My father played the guitar and he and I shared a love of guitar-playing troubadours. He loved Woody Guthrie. I loved James Taylor. We both loved Mary Chapin Carpenter. I started buying Mary Chapin’s CDs and playing them while driving around town in our 1988 Dodge Caravan with our first CD player that came with the car.
Then, one day in 2012, I found out that she was going to do a show on September 15 in a cabaret setting at the Jorgensen Center for the Performing Arts in Storrs, Connecticut. Right there in the town where I grew up! But everything was falling apart in our lives at the time. Tim had been hospitalized for several days in August with a cardiovascular event, my failing 97-year-old aunt was being moved from elderly housing into my father’s house, and my father was ill and wheelchair-bound. Even so, Tim and my brother-in-law John held down the fort so my sister Beverly and I could go see the concert together. Mary Chapin talked a lot between her songs about her life and her music and it felt very intimate. It was such an extraordinary evening to share with my sister, who is also a fan.
This concert was special, too, livestreaming with two hours of music, but no talking in between the songs. It must be strange singing without being able to see and get feedback from your audience. Mary Chapin’s voice has gotten deeper over the years but is still beautiful and expressive. I found myself comfy and cozy on the couch, content to be enjoying the unfolding of a new memory.
On Tuesday we took advantage of beautiful weather and took a very long walk at a new park that was created in 2010. We walked straight downhill through a forest to Fort Hill Brook, saw a small waterfall and then followed the stream down to another one. And then we climbed up a switchback trail to our starting point, a loop that took us an hour.
The Sheep Farm has a diverse habitat including rocky outcroppings, glacial erratics, bluestem meadows, deep forest interior habitat, forest edge habitat, early successional forests, extensive wetlands, seeps, shrub swamps, a string of Tier 1 vernal pools, Class A stream – Fort Hill Brook, and two waterfalls. ~ Groton Open Space Association website
Twice we moved six feet off the trail to avoid other hikers, and spotted some people on other trails on the other side of the brook.
There was a better spot to take a picture of this waterfall, but, a woman was practicing yoga in a bathing suit behind the tree so this was the best I could do. 🙂
When we got back to the parking lot we had to find a rock to sit on for quite a while. A family had parked right next to our car and they were getting in and out of their car trying to sort something or other out. They were much closer than the required six feet for social distancing! But we enjoyed looking at some plantings while we waited patiently for them to leave.
We now have 11 detected cases of coronavirus in our town. Population: 39,075. (In 2017) I find myself preoccupied with statistics these days.
If you look closely you will see me peeking from through the doorway. Another enchanted forest lies beyond this wall. This post is going to be terribly long but it was impossible to edit it down any more than I have. 🙂
There were paths and stone steps leading every which way between boulders and gnarly trees. Following the map provided was more than a little confusing.
But an occasional sign would sometimes give us a clue as to our whereabouts.
Druid’s Cave Said to once be the home of a religious hermit who was fed and cared for by the Jefferyes family… it may well have sheltered many others through the centuries.
The roots of the trees, I think most of them were Yews, were growing around the stones, and their branches made huge canopies over the rock formations.
For hundreds of years, the Blarney Witch has taken firewood from our Estate for her kitchen. In return, she must grant our visitors wishes.
If you can walk down and back up these steps with your eyes closed — some suggest walking backwards — and without for one moment thinking of anything other than a wish, then that wish will come true within a year.
We say only that the steps can be slippery and that we take no responsibility…
Historians will tell you that this was home to the very first Irish cave dwellers.
But if you arrive early enough in the morning, you may still see the dying embers of a fire.
Firewood, paid for by your wishes on the Wishing Steps, is lit every night by the Witch of Blarney, as she fights to stop shivering on her nocturnal escape from the Witch Stone.
Witch Stone It takes little imagination to see who is imprisoned here. The Witch of Blarney has been with us since the dawn of time. Some say it was she who first told the MacCarthy of the power of the Blarney Stone. Fortunately for visitors, she only escapes the witch stone after nightfall — and we close at dusk.
The faerie folk of Ireland are famed the world over for their mischief and charm.
They have of course been here longer than any of us and it is our duty to keep them safe in this special glade.
They do, however, have a native cunning.
So if you spot one, don’t let it be fooling you.
There is so much to see at Blarney Castle & Gardens! Of the 14 things we could have seen here at Rock Close we saw only 5 of them. Elsewhere on the castle grounds there are more gardens, arboretums, woodland and riverside walks, the Blarney House… I could go on. There’s no way to see all this in a single day. I do hope I get to return here some day.
On our way out something else caught our interest:
Where Two Rivers Cross
Prior to 1870, the River Blarney joined the River Martin near the Rock Close, but the course of the river was altered and the gradient was changed to increase the outflow of water when Inchancumain Bog was drained. The River Blarney was re-directed under the River Martin, which was channelled overhead via a short aqueduct.
At the point where the River Blarney emerges can be seen the remains of an old flax mill. It is a rare occurrence really in that one does not often find a place where one river passes under another. As a matter of interest, the River Martin was known as the River Aumartin in the 1600’s while the River Blarney was known as the River Whey.
Larisa picked us up and we headed back to her home. My cold by now had reached the runny nose phase and I went to bed early. Later that night Tim’s brother Josh arrived from England to visit with us for a few days. But this is the end of my photos.
The next day we went into Cork’s city center and spent the day shopping and visiting different pubs. It’s all a blur to me now because I left my camera at home and spent the day blowing my nose and feeling miserable. But I did manage to find some connemara marble for my sister!
And the day after that I stayed in bed while the others went to the Titanic Experience Cobh and saw Josh off at the airport later that day. That night Tim & I spent our last delightful evening with Katherine and her wonderful au pair, Anna, while Dima & Larisa went out on a date.
We arrived home on a Thursday and flew down to Georgia on Friday. Not pleasant flying so much with a clogged head! As it turned out Shannon had a sinus infection so we sat around talking ~ misery loves company. Tim and Nate were puttering around tending to techie projects and bringing us food. One afternoon we got ourselves out to a flea market and then a nice dinner out. And it was good seeing Julius and Dominic again ~ I cannot believe how much they have grown!
We flew home on Tuesday and I had my final radiation treatment on Wednesday. Phew! That was quite a vacation!
Today old man winter came back for a morning visit and left us 4 more inches of snow. A perfect day to snuggle in and finally finish these posts about our trips to Ireland and Georgia.
Our last stop for the day was at Killarney National Park where we walked a trail leading to Torc Waterfall. The forest we walked through was enchanting and wild. Unfortunately, it was here that I first felt an ominous scratch in my throat. But I was able to enjoy the hike and push away that nagging feeling that I was going to be in for it, a least for a couple more hours…
I think I love the woods as much as the sea. It was a wonderful day!
Saturday morning Dima, Larisa, Katherine, Tim & I piled into a rented car and took off for the Dingle Peninsula on the west coast of Ireland. Larisa drove.
Going through the mountains of the peninsula we traveled on a one lane road and frequently had to pull to the side to squeeze by cars coming from the other direction. Had to remember to pull to the left because they drive on the left side of the road in Ireland. This took some getting used to.
We finally came to a rest area with parking and got out to take some pictures of the breathtaking scenery.
It was a grey, damp and chilly day.
And then we headed down to the town of Dingle where we found a place for lunch. The rest rooms were so cold! But the food was yummy and I learned what a standard breakfast in Ireland consisted of. (I ordered breakfast because they served it all day and with a wheat allergy it can be difficult to order a sandwich without bread.) Only one egg! Two huge pieces of ham, two huge links of sausage, and the option of adding on blood sausage (in addition to the regular sausage) which they call blood pudding.
While we were eating the sun came out and we decided to go to Coumeenoole Beach for the afternoon.
Dinner is served from 7-9 p.m. at the Fossli Hotel and we were treated like royalty – my goodness everything was so fancy! I had reindeer for the first time in my life and it was delicious. And the distinctive cool water in that pitcher was straight from a nearby glacier.
The company was great, the view amazing, and the food delectable! The other family and we had the place to ourselves!
After dinner we went back outside, amazed that it was still light out. It was still quite cold up there in the mountains in May.
It was time for bed. It was still light out when we went to bed and already light out when we woke up the next morning. We could hear the waterfall lulling us to sleep. Sweet dreams…
Back in May, after a long day of traveling up the north side of Hardangerfjord we ventured inland a little, up a steep valley, Måbødalen (more like a canyon!), to breathtaking Vøringfossen, a waterfall in Eidfjord. The road was full of hairpin turns and tunnels. We arrived at the Fossli Hotel just in time to take a quick peek at the falls before dinner.
Apparently Edvard Grieg lived in Fossli Hotel during the summer of 1896, where he composed Norwegian Folk Songs, Opus 66.
To have the ability to withdraw into oneself and forget everything around one when one is creating. That, I think is the only requirement for being able to bring forth something beautiful. The whole thing is a mystery. ~ Edvard Grieg (Edvard Grieg: 16 Lyric Pieces)
A couple of tourist buses stopped to let passengers get out to see the falls, but after that we had the place to ourselves. There was only one other family staying overnight at the hotel, a couple and their young son. It was wonderful hearing nothing but the roar of the waterfalls…
I had hoped to get all my pictures from this trip onto my blog by the end of the summer, but it didn’t happen. Perhaps by the end of autumn?
Last week we had another visit from Katie and nobody got sick this time, although the terrible humidity did spoil our plans to go apple-picking. But we managed to enjoy the great indoors with our granddaughter. The humidity finally vanished the day after she left – sometimes that’s just the way the cookie crumbles, as my mother used to say.
This week Nate & Shea are coming up from Georgia!!! It’s been way too long, although we did see them last year at Dima & Larisa’s in North Carolina when they came up to see the new baby. Hopefully we will get around to apple-picking while they are here, and we are all excited about the supermoon and lunar eclipse coming on Sunday night.