We are lucky in Groton to have a long boardwalk alongside the Poquonnock River, squeezing in a bit of nature between industrial parks, shopping centers, a small airport and the railroad tracks and bridge. The flatness of the walkway is not good for Tim’s back, which does much better on uneven terrain, but there are a few well placed benches along the way where he can sit and readjust his muscles enough times to make it a doable walk. We were wearing our winter coats this day and most of the birds and berries we saw were nestled in the reeds and trees. No waterbirds on the river, except for an occasional gull touching down for a few moments. And one amazing flyby of Canada geese high in the sky.
We avoided this walk during the pandemic because there wouldn’t be enough room to stay six feet away when passing other walkers. But since we both have had our booster shots we felt safe enough to take a chance. One jogger passed by us twice, on his way out and back. We also passed an elderly man walking along, talking to himself.
I would love to live Like a river flows, Carried by the surprise Of its own unfolding. ~ John O’Donohue (Conamara Blues: Poems)
So far as our noblest hardwood forests are concerned, the animals, especially squirrels and jays, are our greatest and almost only benefactors. It is to them that we owe this gift. It is not in vain that the squirrels live in or about every forest tree, or hollow log, and every wall and heap of stones. ~ Henry David Thoreau (Journal, October 31, 1860)
The wild cherries ripen, black and fat, Paradisal fruits that taste of no man’s sweat.
Reach up, pull down the laden branch, and eat; When you have learned their bitterness, they taste sweet.
I bundled up and braved the cold again. We decided to stay in our neighborhood for a walk in the snow. It’s been snowing a lot so far this month, and sticking around for a few days. I took fewer pictures this time out in order to keep my fingers tucked into my thinsulate gloves. We drive by this gorgeous birch tree often, but since it’s wedged between a busy road and a creek it never feels safe enough to park, get out of the car, and get a picture. So I finally walked down and got one after living here for 27 years!
We heard this woodpecker calling and looked way up in the trees and at last spotted him. Not sure what he was up to but it was fun to see another being out in the frigid weather. I’ve always loved walking in the snow but it must be that getting older is making me much more sensitive to the cold. I’m torn between wanting to get out there and not wanting to feel frozen!
It was the kind of snow that brought children running out their doors, made them turn their faces skyward, and spin in circles with their arms outstretched. ~ Eowyn Ivey (The Snow Child)
This folding chair (below) has been sitting by the creek for years, but I’ve never seen anyone sitting on it. Sometimes it gets knocked over but most of the time we find it upright, ready and waiting for someone…
The bare trees are that smoky-lavender, gray and withdrawn. … I know a little more how much a simple thing like a snowfall can mean to a person. ~ Sylvia Plath (The Unabridged Journals of Sylvia Plath)
One last picture before the camera battery died… Time to get back indoors! After we came inside it started snowing again. 💙
Several weeks after our first visit to this state park we returned to hike up the hill to the lookout, 183 feet (56 meters) above the river. The leaf-covered path started behind the cemetery and was much more steep than we had anticipated.
It wasn’t long before I covered the camera lens and grabbed two strong walking sticks to steady myself. Tim already had his walking stick and was more steady on his feet, but had to stop frequently to catch his breath. I was starting to question the wisdom of embarking on this expedition! Especially when we lost the trail and decided to just keep going up…
When things leveled off a bit I got a few pictures…
Near the top we turned around near this ledge and saw the cemetery way down below…
At last we could see an opening in the woods and views of the river, trees and railroad tracks below. Tim said it was a good thing we came in the winter because the leaves on the trees would have blocked these lovely scenes. Keep in mind, under these ridges is that jumble of glacial erratics pictured in the last post. We didn’t go close enough to the edge to peek down there.
Only with winter-patience can we bring The deep-desired, long-awaited spring. ~ Anne Morrow Lindbergh (The Unicorn & Other Poems)
We found the trail again and managed to follow it all the way back down to the cemetery. I’m pleased to report that neither of us fell! I slipped a couple of feet once but my sticks saved me. 🙂 That’s probably enough of steep climbs for us!
It was nice to finally stand on level ground and take a couple of bird pictures. Phew!
Inside their skulls, the sophistication of the neural capacity of black-capped chickadees increases in autumn. The part of the brain that stores spatial information gets larger and more complex, allowing the birds to remember the locations of the seeds and insects that they cache under bark and in clusters of lichen. The superior memory of the birds that I hear in the tips of the fir tree is a neuronal preparation for the hungry days of late autumn and winter. The seat of spatial memory in the brains of chickadees that live in these northern forests is particularly voluminous and densely wired. Natural selection has worked winter into the birds’ heads, molding the brains so that chickadees can survive even when food is scarce.Chickadee memories also live within societal relationships. The birds are keen observers of their flockmates. If one bird should happen on a novel way of finding or processing food, others will learn from what they see. Once acquired, the memory no longer depends on the life of any individual. The memory passes through the generations, living in the social network. ~ David George Haskell (The Songs of Trees: Stories from Nature’s Great Connectors)
Chickadees were probably the first birds I became aware of when I was a little girl. They frequented my mother’s birdfeeder which was right outside our dining room window. (Our tiny Cape Cod style house didn’t have a breakfast room or eat-in kitchen.) I still remember eating my breakfast at the table in the winter and the cold blast of air that made me shiver when Mom opened the window to spread more seeds out onto the protected platform.
I remember playing out in the snowy winter woods with the chickadee fee-bee song playing in the background. And the well known chickadee-dee-dee alarm call. My father taught me to recognize their warning call, which I often hear out of the blue on our walks in the woods these days. My guess is we might be entering someone’s territory so we respectfully move on quickly.
For many winters now we’ve been hanging a suet feeder on our condo balcony to attract the woodpeckers I also love. Chickadees hang around and glean the seeds that fall out of the suet while the woodpeckers are feeding. Unfortunately starlings have figured out how to hang onto the suet feeder and they wreak havoc with their large numbers. Why can’t they come one or two at a time like the woodpeckers and chickadees? We also welcome a fair number of titmice, nuthatches and juncos.
Every winter our neighbor complains that the birds poop on his balcony. For this winter I had planned to not put out the suet feeder in the interest of being neighborly but, unbeknownst to me, my thoughtful husband bought a few months worth of suet cakes he found on sale. A woodpecker already came by the other day and was hanging onto the sliding glass door screen, inquiring within about the missing feeder, no doubt. And the chickadees have also been checking out the balcony, it seems to be much earlier than usual this year. I used to put the feeder out mid-October, after Columbus Day. But the fall colors have arrived two weeks early; perhaps the birds are ahead of schedule, too.
Because our neighbor goes out on his balcony to smoke a cigar and the unpleasant fumes come into our unit even when the windows are shut, we’ve mostly ignored his complaints about our bird feeding. Tit for tat. I have a funny feeling my resolve to not feed the birds this winter is crumbling. Watching them brings me so much joy in the winter! Maybe just one more winter, since we are in quarantine? I’m going around in circles weighing the pros and cons… I have to decide now!!!
Wish the bird feeding quandary was the worst of my worries. Connecticut College now has 24 students in quarantine, a cluster of 4 positive cases and their friends. One of the students was in my sister’s class a week ago. All her classes are outdoors and all her students are wearing masks, still, I worry about her safety. It’s a grim feeling, the virus keeps coming closer and closer…
And now our reckless president has tested positive for COVID-19.
When words become unclear, I shall focus with photographs. When images become inadequate, I shall be content with silence. ~ Ansel Adams (Meditation on Both Sides of the Camera: A Spiritual Journey in Photography)
Life has felt pretty blurry, quiet and strange lately, what with the shingles odyssey for Tim and the unusually warm weather for this time of year. It was a welcome change to get outside and take a walk with Janet, camera in hand, to enjoy a pleasant, spring-like day in December. We found plenty of natural beauty exploring the woods behind my condo complex. Even so, I’m yearning for the first snowfall…
At home I have two woodpeckers who frequent my suet feeder. I’ve learned their call now because they always squeak before they start eating. So while on this walk I recognized a woodpecker call in the wild for the first time and started looking around to locate it. Found him in the reeds!
And now the weekend begins. Content with silence for the time being, I hope it will be a relatively quiet one, with time for continued healing. Wishing you a great weekend, too!
Mountain laurel, which is in the heath family, is Connecticut’s state flower and is abundant in moderately shaded woods in this state. The flower of the native shrub produces clusters of beautiful pinkish white blooms between Fathers Day and Fourth of July in this part of the state. The foliage is evergreen so it stays green all winter long. Hiking in the woods one may come across a thicket of mountain laurel and wonder if it is at all possible to penetrate through the tangled branches that grow close to the ground. ~ Mountain Laurel Sanctuary
There was a blue dragonfly flitting about us (not to mention hoards of mosquitoes!) but it wouldn’t stay still long enough to be photographed. A few days later, however, Janet found a more cooperative blue dragonfly resting on one of her tomato cages at home and sent me this picture!
So, a numerologist on TV said that 11.11.11 (yesterday) was an auspicious day to begin a new chapter in one’s life. It turned out to be the day that Nate & Shea finished packing up their belongings, loaded up a U-Haul truck, and took off to make a new home for themselves in Georgia. I tried so hard not to cry, but it proved to be impossible.
Making the trip with them is Mr. Puffer (above), Nate’s petpuffer-fish. We got attached to him when we fed him while Nate & Shea were away on vacation last summer. We’re keeping our fingers crossed that he will make the thousand mile journey safely in his special traveling cooler/tank under Nate’s watchful eyes.
I’ve made some good progress this week at chopping vegetables, and then the knife slipped and I cut the index finger on my left hand, but that should heal up more quickly as it was a clean little slice. One morning I got up and rearranged the shelves in the refrigerator to accommodate storing our new food choices and am so delighted with the new sense of organization and purpose.
But I’ve promised a few more fairy tale birdhouses at the Florence Griswold Museum from October…
#3. “The Beat of a Different Drummer” by Judy Preston, based on How Drummer the Woodpecker Came by His Red Cap.
#5. “Spinning a Yarn” by Bill Vollers, based on Rumpelstiltskin.
#50. “Pea Snoop” by Jennifer L. Johnson, based on The Princess & The Pea.