how to take a walk

9.16.22 ~ Connecticut College Arboretum
waning gibbous moon
bee inspecting a hole in a trumpet vine blossom
blueberry life on the rocks
trumpet vine reaching for the moon
fallen leaf standing in water

We enjoyed a lovely long walk around the pond at the arboretum on Friday. I was in my sweatshirt and enjoying the fresh cool air. The trees are still green for the most part and we wondered what kind of fall color is in store for us in the wake of the drought. There were still some summer tints lingering side by side with hints of autumn hues.

half standing lily pad
pond in moderate drought
upside down

Few men know how to take a walk. The qualifications of a professor are endurance, plain clothes, old shoes, an eye for nature, good humor, vast curiosity, good speech, good silence and nothing too much. If a man tells me that he has an intense love of nature, I know, of course, that he has none. Good observers have the manners of trees and animals, their patient good sense, and if they add words, ’tis only when words are better than silence.
~ Ralph Waldo Emerson
(The Later Lectures of Ralph Waldo Emerson: 1843-1871)

We also took a side path to the Glenn Dreyer Bog which was illuminated with spots of bright sunshine. The light near the equinoxes is amazing, as I often say.

Glenn Dreyer Bog
Glenn Dreyer Bog

The woods were full of gray catbird calls and we heard them rustling around in the tree branches. Occasionally we spotted one but they were diligently avoiding my camera. This was the summer of the catbird. Not only did we have one singing in our river birch outside our kitchen window, we saw them on almost every walk we took. Back in June, though, they were out in the open and more amenable to being photographed.

gray catbird
gray catbird
gray catbird
small fern and moss

How much of beauty — of color, as well as form — on which our eyes daily rest goes unperceived by us!
~ Henry David Thoreau
(Journal, August 1, 1860)

river birch triplets

Today the humidity is creeping back with higher temperatures but it shouldn’t last for too many days. We plan to go see an outdoor Ibsen play, Peer Gynt, in the park tonight and will bring blankets to keep warm. This was supposed to happen in June but covid got the theater group and they had to postpone. We got our new bivalent booster shots last week but still plan to exercise caution as we try to move forward.

the -ber months are here!

9.2.22 ~ Haley Farm State Park

Yesterday the weather was perfect! It was so crisp and cool I had to close my windows overnight because it was so chilly. 🙂 But it wasn’t cold enough yet to immobilize the mosquito population which came after us on our otherwise lovely walk through one of the meadows at Haley Farm. The sunshine on our skin felt so good and there were whispers of autumn everywhere.

Change is a measure of time and, in the autumn, time seems speeded up. What was, is not, and never again will be; what is, is change.
~ Edwin Way Teale
(Circle of the Seasons: The Journal of a Naturalist’s Year)

common wood-nymph

At the edge of the meadow we took another path into the woods for a short way, until the whining mosquitoes and a growling dog encounter turned us around. I love seeing how the sunlight highlights little spots in the darker woods.

Came home feeling refreshed and renewed! In spite of the covid concerns remaining stubbornly in place. Our positivity rate is 9%. We keep testing our kids and our grandchildren when they come to visit. We keep wearing masks in public places. We patiently wait for our new booster shots to be available. It will be nice to finally go get a haircut…

woodland treasures

8.15.22 ~ Beebe Pond Park

Scenes from a wonderful late summer walk on an incredibly beautiful day. No humidity, comfortable temperatures in the 70s, and no mosquitoes, no doubt thanks to the continuing severe drought.

hiding in plain sight
walking over roots and around boulders to get to the pond
great blue heron way across the pond
tiny flower with orbs
Beebe Pond during severe drought
water lilies carpeting the low water level
buzzy
no standing room
a giant
(there’s a little chipmunk sitting on the rotting wood under the erratic)
hiding under the giant
as far as the eye can see, an endlessly rocky trail
the space between
impaled
marcescence
marching to the beat of a different drummer
the lofty oak

When we had arrived at the park we saw two cars from a dog day care business and wondered what situation we might encounter on the trail. Much to my relief we crossed paths with two women walking eight medium-sized dogs on leashes. The dogs were well-behaved and minding their own business. (No tugging, lunging or barking.) Cesar Millan would have approved. 🙂 I was impressed!

a new bridge

7.8.22 ~ Avery Farm Nature Preserve
daisy fleabane (?-it was a very tall plant)

Back in May a group of seven volunteers from the Groton Open Space Association replaced a dilapidated bridge over Haley Brook in this nature preserve. The new bridge is longer, wider and has more secure handrails. So on this pleasant day we decided to use some mosquito repellent and take a rare walk into the summer woods to check out the new bridge.

To compare with an autumn view of the farm relic pictured above, see here: autumn afternoon.

the new bridge
a clump of ferns by the brook
view of Haley Brook from the new bridge
spotted wintergreen flower

I didn’t want to risk contact with poison ivy or ticks so I couldn’t get too close to the spotted wintergreen flowers, but I was very excited to spot them out of the corner of my eye. I’ve only seen these plants before on my winter walks and have never seen the flowers. Tim used his walking stick to hold some of the surrounding vegetation back so I could at least get this blurry picture.

All of us derive security and comfort from the imaginary world of memories and fantasies and plans. We really don’t want to stay with the nakedness of our present experience. It goes against the grain to stay present. These are the times when only gentleness and a sense of humor can give us the strength to settle down.
~ Pema Chödrön
(The Places That Scare You: A Guide to Fearlessness in Difficult Times)

mushroom

There were lots of damselflies fluttering through the air. One finally landed on a leaf long enough to get some pictures. Unfortunately another leaf was obstructing the view of its body but I was happy to capture some of the detail on her wings. The white dots at the end of each wing identify her as a female.

female ebony jewelwing
aka black-winged damselfly
another mushroom
view of bridge from the other side, coming back
pine cone in tangle of branches and vines
someone planted a little garden in a stump

The bug repellent seems to have worked. I heard one mosquito around my ear but never got bit. Since I discovered a couple of things (wintergreen flowers and black-winged damselflies) I’d never seen before I wonder if it might be worth the trouble to take more summer walks in the woods…

And now the covid positivity rate in Connecticut is about 10%. Heading in the wrong direction…

as you walk the meadow loop

6.24.22 ~ Denison Pequotsepos Nature Center

A lot had changed in the seven weeks between our visits to the nature center. The trees had leafed out and we could barely see the little mound where Mama Goose had been sitting on her eggs. But on this day the bullfrogs were still populating the pond. After checking out the pond we headed out to the meadow.

We’re squeezing in as many walks as we can before the weather forces us inside. The meadow was lovely with a few well-mown paths to follow through and around it. It was so refreshingly cool that in the shade I wished I hadn’t left my hoodie in the car, but in the sunshine the warmth felt so good on my bare arms. There were lots of birds flitting about, but not too many stayed still long enough for pictures.

eastern bluebird
a small portion of the large meadow
sign surrounded by orbs
birdhouse with some unique “landscaping”
honeysuckle
house sparrow (molting?)
clover blossom and bug

Then we walked back through the woods to the parking lot, and enjoyed the different things the dappled sunlight was highlighting.

ferns in a sunbeam
American robin

But beyond perpetual wonders
and mortals asking why
casting its light upon us all
is the sun’s supreme reply.

~ Gunnar Reiss-Andersen
(The Magic of Fjords)

summer solstice in the woods

6.20.22 ~ Bluff Point State Park & Coastal Reserve

This is the third year we’ve celebrated Midsummer since this endless coronavirus pandemic began. Driving on our way to a walk in the woods I was chattering to Tim about the “end” of the pandemic, how it was becoming more or less endemic now and that maybe I should stop tagging my posts with “pandemic.”

last quarter moon

Monday was a perfect summer day and the trees were green and lovely. Tim was already wearing shorts and I was still in my hoodie, typical between-season attire for this couple. 😉 We had forgotten it was a 3-day weekend, a Monday holiday for Juneteenth, so there were lots of people in the state park. No matter, everyone was friendly and in good spirits.

a peek at the Poquonnock River

We had a nice conversation with a young couple from New Hampshire who were very excited about a bird they had spotted. (We finally got a glimpse of it but couldn’t see it well enough to identify it.) And another conversation with a man, about our age, who commented on how good the honeysuckle was smelling and asked me about the zoom lens on my camera. I really didn’t feel too nervous being so close without a mask since we were outside.

it looks like these two trees are lifting the glacial erratic up off the ground

I took a picture of these trees holding the boulder (above) in November 2020. See here. Interesting difference between autumn and summer surroundings.

beach rose blossom
honeysuckle blossoms
greenery!

It turned out to be the longest walk we’ve taken in ages, a whole hour and a half! And I don’t know what it is about catbirds this year — they are turning up everywhere! It was one of those days where it simply felt exhilarating to be alive and present.

gray catbird
twig art on glacial erratic
the twig and the glacial erratic in the above picture
clover blossom
another sunlit glacial erratic
another gray catbird

I’m still enjoying daily encounters with the catbird coming to the birch tree outside my kitchen window. He usually announces the visit with a few meows and then begins his repertoire of varied melodies, songs that I imagine he has picked up and adopted along the way.

on another branch

People who watch a banded gray catbird outside their window all summer will find it hard not to wonder exactly where it’s spending the winter, or to marvel that science still doesn’t have the answer. And if the catbird doesn’t come back, they, too, will inevitably wonder why.
~ Miyoko Chu
(Songbird Journeys: Four Seasons in the Lives of Migratory Birds)

looking the other way
hawkweed (thanks to Eliza for the id)
a chipmunk on the path

But perceptions will inevitably shift, as fickle as the weather. On arriving home we learned that a fully vaccinated relative has come down with covid and had a very high fever. The news shattered my hopeful illusions. Other relatives who have had the virus have said it was no worse than a cold. One of the most disconcerting things about the illness is that it is impossible to know how it will hit you until you actually catch it.

And then, the next morning I woke to the news that a play we were planning to attend outdoors this week was put on hold:

Update on PEER GYNT: Due to COVID delays, our production will not be opening this weekend (June 23-26) in Wilcox Park. We will update on our revised schedule of performances as soon as we can. Thank you for your understanding and stay safe!
~ Flock Theatre

Connecticut’s positivity rate is hovering around 8%. So, all things considered, I guess it’s too soon to remove the pandemic tag from my posts. This refreshing walk will be recalled as our third pandemic summer solstice celebration. Feeling gratitude for the company of sociable strangers, playful catbirds and a chipmunk with the munchies on this memorable, bittersweet day.

music in the meadow

6.3.22 ~ Connecticut College Arboretum

Friday evening my sister and brother-in-law invited us to go with them to Music in the Meadow, a family-friendly outdoor concert in the Connecticut College Arboretum. We brought our lawn chairs and enjoyed the beautiful weather and setting. After walking through the woods we found a spot for ourselves up on a hill overlooking the lawn where most of the audience was seated.

the mountain laurel was starting to bloom
in the meadow

After we got settled I took a little walk and tried to capture with my camera some of the plants growing in the meadow. Suddenly I spotted an eye, a little bunny was looking at me, frozen in place. I kept my distance and used my zoom lens, delighted with my discovery.

The bunny wasn’t there when I checked back later so I worried about it. But I think, although small and young, it was old enough to be on its own. Phew!

Baby rabbits leave the nest when they’re 3 weeks old and about the size of a chipmunk. If you find a chipmunk-sized but fully-furred rabbit with eyes open, ears erect, and the ability to hop, they are meant to be on their own. As small and helpless as they may look, they are not an orphan and doesn’t need your help.
~ The Humane Society of the United States website

meadows have so many layers and textures
our view from above
Kala Farnham

The first performer was an amazing folk singer-songwriter, Kala Farnham, and the four of us agreed her hour of singing was the highlight of the whole show.

Nestled away in the Quiet Corner of rural Connecticut, a pint-sized songstress set out into the world with one vision: to inspire and heal through the transformative power of music. Decades later, Kala has performed at listening rooms across the country, garnering numerous awards and media attention, including The Rose Garden Performing Songwriter Contest 2019 winner, 2020 Falcon Ridge Folk Festival Grassy Hill Emerging Artist, and Great American Song Contest Finalist. Drawing from a classical education and a professional background in musical theater, Kala presents a hallmark reinvention of the folk tradition. Her passion for fairytales, ancient history, and storytelling draws audiences from around the country into the reinvented worlds of alternate times and places.
~ Kala Farnham website

However, our attention kept being drawn aside to the excitement of lots of children playing on the glacial erratics at the back of the lawn. Their shouts of glee as they darted from stone to stone, climbing and jumping… it was pure joy to see. To be young and that quick and flexible again…

When Kala Farnham was done with her set and The CarLeans were setting up for their hour, I took another little meadow walk. They were good, too, a blend of styles, folk, Cajun, Latin, and Americana.

meadow magic
some other kids discovered this glacial erratic up on our hill

It started getting dark when The CarLeans were done and then Ward Hayden & The Outliers (“a mix of old school country, early rock ‘n’ roll, blues, and country rock”) started setting up. We stayed for one of their songs but then headed for home because we were getting cold and tired — old folks — as my father used to say. It was a wonderful evening.

looking south after sunset
moon magic
the darkening woods behind us
one last look down at the stage

We’ve been busy the past few weeks getting ready for another change in our lives. Tim’s heart disease has progressed to the point where he now needs a pacemaker. He will be having surgery to put it in on Tuesday and will spend one night in the hospital. His cardiologist hopes this will help with his shortness of breath, abnormal fatigue and very low pulse. Time will tell. ❤️

house finch, gray catbird, cottontail

5.16.22 ~ house finch
Coogan Farm Nature & Heritage Center, Mystic, Connecticut

It was a lovely spring day and the air was filled with birds singing and bees buzzing. I couldn’t catch most of them with my camera but the scenery at Coogan Farm reminded me of a setting from a historical drama. I half-expected to see a character from a Jane Austen novel come around the bend on our path.

sunlight on dandelions
old farmland

It is clearly posted that dogs must be on a leash at Coogan Farm. This one arrived at the same time we did and was darting around the parking lot while its owner was getting things out of his car. We had two doors of our car open as we were getting ready for our walk, too. Next thing we knew the dog jumped into our car through the back door Tim was at, then squeezed between the front seats and exited the car through the front door I was at. She seemed very friendly and not too big so I wasn’t afraid, but, startled and annoyed. The man she belonged to called “Sadie” away and offered no apology. I assumed he would put her on a leash when he saw the signs at the trailhead. They took a different trail but our paths crossed later on and there was no leash to be seen, the man wasn’t even carrying one on his person.

We moved on, trying not to let the selfishness of others spoil a lovely walk for us.

Intensely selfish people are always very decided as to what they wish. That is in itself a great force; they do not waste their energies in considering the good of others.
~ Ouida
(Wisdom, Wit, and Pathos of Ouida Selected from the Works of Ouida)

In 2016 this tower (below) was designed by an Eagle Scout, specifically for chimney swifts. It provides a suitable nesting habitat to help increase the chimney swift population: Connecticut Project Chimney Watch

chimney swift nesting season is May to July
distant view across the Mystic River

Selfishness must always be forgiven you know, because there is no hope of a cure.
~ Jane Austen
(Mansfield Park)

gray catbird

I’m seeing and hearing so many catbirds this year! They have a way of cheering me up. 💙

dandelion magic
buttercups and dandelions
cottontail rabbit
mushroom
lupine (thanks to Mary for the identification)

Walking is the great adventure, the first meditation, a practice of heartiness and soul primary to humankind. Walking is the exact balance between spirit and humility.
~ Gary Snyder
(The Practice of the Wild: Essays)

Connecticut’s positivity rate is up to 13%. Not good. It’s been going up since its lowest point in March.

deepest meaning, awe-inspiring workings

“Spring Woods” by Childe Hassam

Trees in particular were mysterious and seemed to me direct embodiments of the incomprehensible meaning of life. For that reason, the woods were the places where I felt closest to its deepest meaning and to its awe-inspiring workings.
~ Carl Jung
(Memories, Dreams, Reflections)