fireside thoughts

“Woman Seated by a Fireplace” by Amedeo Modigliani

I sit beside the fire and think
of all that I have seen,
of meadow-flowers and butterflies
in summers that have been;

Of yellow leaves and gossamer
in autumns that there were,
with morning mist and silver sun
and wind upon my hair.

I sit beside the fire and think
of how the world will be
when winter comes without a spring
that I shall ever see.

For still there are so many things
that I have never seen:
in every wood in every spring
there is a different green.

~ J. R. R. Tolkien
(The Fellowship of the Ring)

unknown wayfarers

1.4.22 ~ Avery Farm Nature Preserve

I guess my feet know where they want me to go
Walking on a country road

~ James Taylor
♫ (Country Road) ♫

rusting away

We didn’t last too long out there, but we hadn’t had a walk since December 15th — because of all the holiday preparations and a long visit with family and bad weather — so we decided to go anyway, in spite of the temperature being 21°F/-6°C. With the light northwest wind the feels-like temperature was 10°F/-12°C. But the sunshine was bright and abundant!

frozen pool off Ed Lamb Brook

The brief moments I took my hand out of my glove to take these pictures were enough to turn my fingers painfully cold. Even quickly sticking the fingers back in the Thinsulate glove didn’t help. (All my other thermal layers were working superbly, though!) So that sent me back to the car to warm my hands in the warm air from the heater. Sigh. After we got home I looked online for some warmer mittens and will try them out as soon as they get here…

ice forming over running water

In our hurried pace back to the car we encountered an elderly man walking in the opposite direction. He gave us a very wide berth. We exchanged muffled good mornings but it was obvious that some of us are still trying to stay six feet apart, much like we were at the beginning of the pandemic. It made me reflect on how it was the same way with people when the Black Death was spreading in Scandinavia around 1350.

Ed Lamb Brook

Fourteen days later Kristin saw for the first time one sick of the plague. Rumor that the pest was raging in Nidaros and spreading through the country-side had come to Rissa — how, ’twas not easy to understand, for folk kept their houses, and every man fled to the woods or thickets if he saw an unknown wayfarer on the road; none would open his door to stranger-folk.
~ Sigrid Undset
(Kristin Lavransdatter: The Cross)

ice

Although we had a lovely visit focused on our family for the holidays there was the background worry about the continuing spread of covid. The positivity rate in Connecticut was 9% before the visit. After they left we saw it jump from 15% to 18% to 20% to 22% to 24%. We may be “done” with this pandemic but it certainly isn’t done with us. Our town has gone back to indoor mask mandates.

sunlit frozen beauty

I may be crazy, but we’re expecting a snowstorm, a good old-fashioned nor’easter tomorrow, and I am looking forward to it!!! Perhaps I should be careful what I wish for but it would be nice to feel a little bit of normal for January for a change.

in the dusk beyond

image credit: pixabay

It is in midwinter that I sometimes glean from my pines something more important than woodlot politics, and the news of the wind and weather. This is especially likely to happen on some gloomy evening when the snow has buried all irrelevant detail, and the hush of elemental sadness lies heavy upon every living thing. Nevertheless, my pines, each with his burden of snow, are standing ramrod-straight, rank upon rank, and in the dusk beyond I sense the presence of hundreds more. At such times I feel a curious transfusion of courage.
~ Aldo Leopold
(A Sand County Almanac & Other Writings on Ecology & Conservation)

’tis the season for birds

12.13.21 ~ Connecticut College Arboretum

Not the greatest pictures I’ve ever taken, but I was thrilled to see more birds than usual on this winter walk. Interesting that we didn’t encounter another human being on this day. Maybe everyone is shopping for the holidays. Not us! It was a sunny day with light westerly winds, a relatively comfortable 44°F/7°C with a feels-like temperature of 39°F/4°C. Connecticut’s positivity rate yesterday was 8.16%.

back of an American robin
back of a blue jay
blue jay, way high up in the tree
female northern cardinal on the ground
female northern cardinal, collecting wood chips?
white-throated sparrow bathing behind the reeds
white-throated sparrow, it was a quick bath
American robin, sitting very still but obscured by many twigs
tulip tree bark
the arboretum pond
hooded mergansers, second sighting!
hooded merganser
the only mallards shot I could get
my beloved eastern hemlock seed cones
view from the gazebo where we rested

The Brain — is wider than the Sky —
For — put them side by side —
The one the other will contain
With ease — and You — beside —

~ Emily Dickinson
(The Poems of Emily Dickinson, #598)

a thing made of holes

12.7.21 ~ Pequotsepos Brook Preserve, Stonington, Connecticut

Properly bundled up for the weather, we had a nice long walk in this 44-acre nature preserve a couple of days ago. It was originally part of 500 acres given to Capt. John Gallup in 1643, a reward from the royal court in England for his part in the Pequot Massacre.

the first colonial stone slab bridge we saw
lovely moss greenery in the dull landscape
path cutting through one of many stone walls
looking up into an old oak, a “wolf tree”
a relic from farms of the past when trees along the edges of open fields
could spread their branches without competition from other trees
leftover autumn leaves
Tim was captivated with this tree,
which grew sideways before it grew up
windswept pine needles
backlit oak leaf
pine sapling nursery

There is a time in life when you expect the world to be always full of new things. And then comes a day when you realise that is not how it will be at all. You see that life will become a thing made of holes. Absences. Losses. Things that were there and are no longer. And you realise, too, that you have to grow around and between the gaps, though you can put your hand out to where things were and feel that tense, shining dullness of the space where the memories are.
~ Helen Macdonald
(H is for Hawk)

tangled up
breaking down
Pequotsepos Brook running under another colonial stone slab bridge

It was a sunny day, 41°F/5°C, with a feels-like temperature of 34°F/1°C, due to a moderate wind from the northwest. Connecticut’s positivity rate jumped to 8.33%. Sobering, indeed. So grateful we still have the woods to explore and fresh air to breathe.

for all who enjoy them

12.3.21 ~ Pequot Woods, Groton, Connecticut

This was my first visit to this 140-acre park in our town, but Tim hiked here many years ago with one of his friends. The Pequots were the first people living here before the English colonized what is now the town of Groton and the village of Mystic.

The infamous Pequot Massacre occurred near here on May 26, 1637.

Capt. John Mason led English, Mohegan, and Narragansett warriors in an attack on the main fortified Pequot village on the site of modern-day Mystic, Connecticut. The Pequot were surprised but quickly mounted a spirited defense that almost led to an English defeat. Realizing that he could not defeat the Pequot in the close quarters of the palisade, Mason ordered their wigwams set afire; some 400 Pequot men, women, and children were burned alive or slaughtered when they tried to escape.
~ Encyclopædia Britannica

There have been archaeological digs conducted in this park, unearthing musket balls and arrowheads. But there are no memorials here to tell the terrible story.

trailhead

After the English took over, this land was cleared for farming, and today there are plenty of stone walls remaining from those days, before farms were abandoned and many people went out west. The woods came back. Now we have hiking trails, wildlife viewing and an abandoned farm pond.

rough map carved in wood
the things this glacial erratic must have witnessed…

We gauge what we think is possible by what we know from experience, and our acceptance of scientific insights, in particular, is incremental, gained one experience at a time.
~ Bernd Heinrich
(Winter World: The Ingenuity of Animal Survival)

lots of stone walls
beech marcescence
interesting composition
shelf mushroom overlooking farm pond
colonial stone slab bridge
princess pine, first sighting since January
hummocks in the man-made farm pond
pair of mallards

It was a partly cloudy day, very cold, 41°F/5°C, with a feels-like temperature of 33°F/1°C, due to a moderate wind from the northwest. We had a nice conversation about cameras with the man in the next picture. He was trying to get a picture of the mallards, too, and wondered about my telescopic lens. His mother has a camera like mine and he’s considering getting one, too.

rescued greyhound bundled up for the cold
the uneven terrain
birdhouse in the middle of the farm pond
another delightful princess pine encounter

As far as coronavirus pandemic statistics go, I’ve decided to chronicle Connecticut’s positivity rate to make my tracking simpler. Looks like we’re headed into yet another surge. On the day of this walk our positivity rate jumped to 6.32%, the highest it’s been since last January.

down by the river

11.17.21 ~ Poquonnock River Walkway

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.

juniper berries
Canada geese

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.

downy woodpecker
downy woodpecker
golden autumn
maple leaves between beech tree trunks

I would love to live
Like a river flows,
Carried by the surprise
Of its own unfolding.

~ John O’Donohue
(Conamara Blues: Poems)

tree silhouette reflection in water
under moss covered branch and bankside foliage
reindeer moss and lichens on dying branch
northern mockingbird with orbs
northern mockingbird
northern mockingbird

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)

autumn river beauty
one can forget the civilization is so close by
multiflora rose hips
(thanks to Eliza for the id)
blackberry
(thanks to Leelah and Eliza for the id)
crabapples
(thanks to Eliza for the id)

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.

~ Wendell Berry
(Fall, for Wallace Fowlie)

one morning, two walks

11.15.21 ~ New London Ledge Light from Eastern Point

Our first walk of the morning was at “our” beach. The clouds were dramatic and it was too windy so we didn’t stay very long.

hydrangea seed heads?
content Canada goose
American crow
climbing bittersweet?

We had to stop at the post office after that walk so we decided to explore a new Groton Open Space Association property. Walt’s Walls & Woods was acquired on July 31st and it is near the post office. We wound up taking another walk.

11.15.21 ~ Walt’s Walls & Woods, Groton, Connecticut

Walt’s Walls and Woods provides a small forest, wetlands, exquisite stonewalls and gardens to a neighborhood green space for the residents and visitors of downtown Groton. Wetlands surround the property on three sides, and Town-owned open spaces cover two sides. A spectacular steep ravine, part of an ancient rift valley, is located nearby, separating the Ledges and Boulder Heights properties. … Walter Watrous spent many years constructing the exquisite stonewalls in front of the cliffside ledge, using a drystone technique, backfilling with crushed stone and providing room for the roots of the weeping cherry trees. Colorful creeping phlox, heathers, azaleas, rhododendrons and purple coneflowers extend the blooming season.
~ Groton Open Space Association website

notice the seam where the tree is meeting the erratic
other side of the same erratic and tree
this erratic looked like the back of a sea lion to me
beautiful autumn sky
reflecting sunlight
moss and lichen
autumn texture
steep hill

Autumn teaches us that fruition is also death; that ripeness is a form of decay. The willows, having stood for so long near water, begin to rust. Leaves are verbs that conjugate the seasons.
~ Gretel Ehrlich
(The Solace of Open Spaces: Essays)

a stone wall interrupted by a glacial erratic
some of Walter Watrous’ stone walls
a dandelion in November?

It was a lovely walk. We’re looking forward to coming back to see the weeping cherries bloom come spring. But, first we’ll have to see what winter has in store for us.

komorebi

11.13.21 ~ Saint Patrick Cemetery, Mystic, Connecticut

The interplay between light and the leaves when sunlight filters through trees. The Japanese have a word for it: komorebi. Every spring and autumn the wonderful quality of the sunlight surrounding the equinoxes makes our walks in the woods (or cemeteries) seem so enchanting, whether the leaves are on the ground, on the trees, or fluttering around in the air. It’s starting to dim now that we are closer to the winter solstice, but I thought I might squeeze in one last batch of leaf photos!

little splotch of sunlight

We came back to this cemetery after we discovered it a couple of weeks ago. It had lots of trees and natural beauty, set on the banks of the picturesque Mystic River. A wind and rain storm was due later in the afternoon and it was already getting breezy. The sky was still blue to the east and getting pretty gray to the west. Still, enough sun came out to play at times.

And all the lives we ever lived
And all the lives to be
Are full of trees and changing leaves.

~ Virginia Woolf
(To the Lighthouse)

view across the Mystic River

I love autumn and winter more. Something opens up in me then ~ something soft and deep and glowing ~ which is far too shy to expose itself to the inexhaustible light of summer.
~ Sharon Blackie
(The Enchanted Life, Unlocking the Magic of the Everyday)

a blue bike and a blue bug
the license plate says “OLE BUG”
same driveway as seen in above picture
love this burnt orange color
Mystic River
a rare bit of red? or burnt orange?
stuck on the fence
another view across the Mystic River
木漏れ日 (koh-mo-reh-bee)

A couple of hours after we got home a quick but terribly windy thunderstorm with heavy rain passed through. Later we learned that four confirmed tornadoes had touched down in Connecticut! One of them was an EF-1 with estimated 90 mph winds in Stonington, about 15 miles to the east of us. The other three were farther away and were EF-0s. Tornadoes in November???

The four twisters that struck Connecticut are the only four on record to occur in the state during November and the most in the state in a single day since May 15, 2018.
~ Jacob Feuerstein
(The Washington Post, November 14, 2021)