Category Archives: Nature

Walktober: Back to the Narrows

“Walkers have walked to gain a sense of place, to improve well-being, to harness attention, to cultivate awareness, to gain new experiences, to explore new territories, to march for freedom, and to express care and devotion for others.”  –Bonnie Smith Whitehouse

Robin, at Breezes at Dawn, is hosting Walktober, where you take a  walk or a bike ride or a paddle and then share your journey. I borrowed the beginning quotation from Robin because I thought it beautifully expressed the many roles that one simple activity—walking—can provide. Symbolic, practical, protest, curiosity, devotion, exercise— all from walking. No fancy equipment necessary. Just a pair of sneakers and willing feet.

As I have mentioned in a previous post, not long ago walking was painful because of my weight and my arthritic knees. After having lost thirty pounds, walking is no longer as painful, which means I can go short distances and actually enjoy it. (Looking forward to losing more weight and going for longer winter hikes.)

One of my favorite walks is to the Narrows Ponds, about one-quarter of a mile from my house. There is lots of water in Winthrop, but surely the Narrows are among the prettiest.

Yesterday, was one of those October days that makes a person glad to be alive. All the humidity was gone, the air was crisp, and the sky was a piercing blue.

Leaving our driveway, Clif and I turned left, down the long hill to the Narrows. See? I am not exaggerating one bit when I refer to our home “in the woods.”

On the way we saw a yellow fern glowing in the sun,

a chipmunk on a rock,

and walls made long ago when the trees were chopped down and fields stretched all the way to the Narrows. Hard to imagine our road looking like this and comforting to think about how forests can make a comeback.

At the bottom of the hill, we saw a glimmer of deep blue—sky and water—through the bright lace of leaves.

Then a sign reminding us how important this water is to Winthrop.

A short ways later,  the Lower Narrows glittered to our right,

and the Upper Narrows to our left.

There’s not much color this year with the changing leaves. Perhaps it’s because of the drought. Or maybe it’s the many storms we’ve recently had, bringing relief to the drought but blowing the bright leaves off the trees. No matter. It’s a place of beauty, with or without colorful foliage.

After gazing at the water and taking pictures, we headed back up the hill, where we saw mushrooms by the side of the road,

as well as our neighbor’s chickens pecking and looking for tidbits.

Finally, our own snug home tucked in the trees.

Once inside, I made cup of cranberry-orange tea, given to me by a friend, and wrote this post, a record of a short but oh so lovely walk in October 2020,

 

 

 

 

 

A Satisfying Sunday

Sunday was one of those happy days where everything just chugged along in a quiet but satisfying way. In the morning, we Zoomed with “the kids.” It’s always wonderful to see their faces, especially since we won’t be seeing them in person until next summer at the earliest.

After Zoom and lunch, I made a lentil soup for our supper. My blogging friend Mr. Tootlepedal frequently makes lentil soup, and I vowed that as soon as the weather was cool enough, I would make some, too. Well, it’s October in Maine, and the weather is certainly cool enough now for lentil soup.

I follow a recipe from a Moosewood cookbook. I make modifications—that’s the kind of cook I am—but the results are always good. This soup that will be on a regular rotation for our supper until it gets too hot in the summer. Best yet, a serving size has a reasonable amount of carbs. It’s a hearty and filling soup with lots of spices. Perfect for a cool, fall evening.

Back before I lost weight—about 30 pounds ago—making soup would have pretty much done my knees in, and I would have had to rest before doing anything else. But losing that weight has put a new spring in my step, and after cleaning the kitchen, I was ready to head outside for a fall chore.

What to do? How about rake the driveway? Because we live in the woods, this must be done regularly when fall comes.

Before:

And afterward:

When I was done, I went out back to sit on the patio—something I won’t be able to do much longer. Naturally, I took my camera with me, and I was able to snap a picture of this fine fellow.

I think it is a purple finch, but I know house finches look similar. Any thoughts, blogging friends?

For the past week, this finch and his mate have been coming with a gaggle of fledglings, and how I love to watch those youngsters flutter and beg for food from the adults. I always have tender feelings for fledglings who look full size but are still immature and uncertain.

Right now, their parents feed them, but the day will soon come when the parents decided that it is time for the fledglings to feed themselves and make their own way in this wild, beautiful, dangerous world.

It is the way of things. But nonetheless it makes me teary eyed to think about it.

 

That Nip of Fall

Just like that, fall is here. It seems that only a short time ago we were using the air conditioner. However, the temp has dipped so low  that there have even been frost warnings all over the state. So far, our cozy home in the woods has escaped being nipped by frost. Nevertheless, we have to use heat in the morning and at night.  Too sudden? You bet. But this is Maine, and that’s how the weather rolls here.

Fortunately, it gets warm enough in the early afternoon for lunch on the patio. Yesterday, Clif grilled Beyond Beef burgers, and as a side, I had some little tomatoes courtesy of our own Farmer Kev. How nice it was to eat in the sun. (Again, what a change from a mere couple of weeks ago.)

The garden is definitely past its best.

But along the edge of our yard, asters are still in bloom.

And the leaves are just beginning to change.

This is a busy time for me. The proof copy of my YA fantasy Out of Time is in. Now begins the extremely picky task of going over the book line by line to catch any errant typos or formatting errors.

Onward, ho!

Once More to the Narrows

Time was when I walked to the Narrows every day with my trusty Sheltie Liam beside me and my wee camera tucked in my pocket.

But Liam died two years ago, and without a dog to walk, my creaky knees grew even creakier. Walking down the hill to the Narrows and back up again proved too painful.

But this year, facing Covid-19, Clif and I resolved to do what we could to become more healthy. I have chronicled Clif’s successful low-carb diet. For me, becoming more healthy meant losing weight and exercising regularly.

I am happy to report that after losing twenty-five pounds and riding my exercise bike at least five days a week, my knees are no longer as creaky. I can walk to the Narrows and back again without any great discomfort.

A wonderful feeling, and I plan to walk at least weekly to these two beautiful bodies of water—the Upper and Lower Narrows—that are called ponds but are really deep and big enough to be considered lakes. I’ll chronicle the seasons, because the Narrows are beautiful any time of year, even in March, when Maine is in peak ugliness.

Here is what they looked like in mid-September, with the leaves just starting to change.

First, the Lower Narrows.

Then the Upper Narrows.

Sometimes, you even find surprising creatures like, say, a dragon or an orca.

Like our hummingbirds, the dragon and the orca will soon be going away to someplace safe, albeit much nearer than where those tiny winged creatures fly.

I imagine the dragon and the orca tucked away in a snug, dry shed or garage. As the snow falls and the Upper Narrows freezes, they wait, wait, wait until soft spring comes and then summer, when they can return to the water.

But I’m getting ahead of myself. Technically, fall isn’t here at all, and there might be a week or two left of swimming. But the nights have been getting colder, and in northern Maine, there have been frosts.

Winter is coming, and we all know it, but until then Clif and I will revel in autumn, surely one of the best and glorious times in Maine.

Sounds of Late Summer and Other Things

At our home in the woods in mid-August, crickets have begun their late summer song that will continue until a hard frost nips their sweet, high voices.

On Sunday, I sat on the patio, and two hummingbirds whirred by, chasing each other as they tried to defend the feeders. The fountain bubbled and flowed—a comforting sound. A male cardinal sang its trilling song. In the dense green of the late summer woods, the red flash of his feathers eluded me.

Next door, the rooster crowed, a high pitched warning to any roosters that might be nearby. (There were none.) The hens clucked softly as they pecked and scratched at the lawn, looking for tasty tidbits. Get those ticks, hens!

Cars went by. Even though we live in the woods, the road is nearby.  On this hot afternoon, there were no walkers.

Little Miss Watson meowed and trilled hello as she came onto the patio for a visit. I admired those little white whiskers.

The garden is nearly past its best, but I still enjoyed looking at it.

Sunday on the Narrows Pond Road.  I could almost pretend it was just another lazy afternoon in August, that a silent invisible enemy was not out there doing its worst.

At the same time, it’s hard to envision returning to the free and easy life we once had. Will we, even when a vaccine comes out?

That is to be determined.

 

 

 

Of Hurricanes, Hummingbirds, and Cardinals

For those of us who live on the East Coast of the United States, August has come in with a bang. Hurricane Isaias is ripping its way north. According to ABC, it sideswiped Florida and is now bearing down on North Carolina. (Fortunately my daughter and son-in-law live too far west to be bothered by the hurricane.)

Normally, Maine is too far north to be bothered by hurricanes. However, this one, forecasted to be soon downgraded to a tropical system, might very well come for a visit, bringing heavy rain to our area and the dreaded power outages in some places.

So, this afternoon I’ll be scrubbing buckets with lids and getting water ready should worse come to worst. So far we’ve been lucky with power outages and storms. Will our luck hold? We shall see.

In the meantime, here are Clif’s pictures of a hummingbird and a cardinal that visited our yard not long ago. They sometimes come at the same time, and Clif and I love watching them. The hummingbirds fly with a whir, and the male cardinal has one of the loveliest songs I have ever heard.

The pictures were taken with our not-so-wee camera, but the light was low, and the photos of the hummingbird are not as crisp as we we would like.

Never mind! I knew my blogging friends would enjoy seeing them.

And for those who live along the East Coast, stay safe!

Six for a Blue Monday

As I just wrote to a blogging friend,  although blue is my favorite color, I am feeling blue in the sad sense. It seems as though our country is far, far away from getting covid-19 under control. And yet out everyone goes.

Not coincidentally, cases of covid-19 are rising around the country. To me, feeling safe seems like a distant dream, and the same is true for getting together with family and friends.

To cheer myself up and to remind myself, yet again, how lucky I am to live here, I am sharing six recent pictures that I took around the yard.

A visit from Mrs. Cardinal is always welcome. It’s a pity I couldn’t get a picture of her being fed by her devoted husband, as she often is. When I am on the patio, I’ll keep my camera at the ready. Maybe I’ll be able to capture this sweet exchange.

Shannon and Mike sent me these flowers for Mother’s Day. I had to keep them inside for a while as the beginning of May was decidedly chilly.  However, the weather improved, and into a pot these impatiens went. Perky and bright, they make me smile whenever I go out onto the porch.

In the front garden, I find the colors and textures of the hosta and fern pleasing and soothing.

Unfortunately my irises did poorly this winter. Some pulled through, but there are few blooms.  But here is one for me to marvel over. I certainly hope that 2021 is a better year for my irises. (And for many other things as well.)

Wild daisies have sprung up in various places in my garden. Blown in, perhaps, or dropped by birds. Whatever the case, I leave them where they come up. It seems to me that it would be churlish to pull them just because they are not exactly in the right spot.

For the last one, back to hostas, to Frances Williams, a plant with leaves so large it looks as though it belongs in the Jurassic period. This close-up shows the textures and patterns on this giant of a hosta.

Onward we go. I hope you find at least six things to make you happy this week.

 

How Are We So Lucky?

Is it early summer or late spring? The leaves, fully mature, tell a summer story. The weather—thankfully a little cool after an unprecedented heat wave the end of May—speaks of late spring.

Whatever the case, it is a time of beauty. The biting blackflies are gone, and the mosquitoes are few in numbers. We can sit on the patio until six and not be bothered. Not at all usual for this time of year when the mosquitoes are generally out in force. I expect it’s because May has been dry. While we surely need the rain, I am grateful that this weather is keeping the mosquitoes down. Last year, with a cold, rainy June, it was just the reverse, and the mosquitoes came in hordes, tormenting us until fall.

Therefore, at the end of the day, Clif and I relax on the patio with a snack and a drink, sometimes alcoholic, most times not. In the woods, in the distance, a wood thrush sings its ethereal song. Closer to us on the edge of the yard are the goldfinches, tweeting and quarreling. There are woodpeckers and hummingbirds. Cardinals. Nuthatches. Sometimes, from the nearby Narrows, we hear loons. Dragonflies zoom with astonishing precision. Chipmunks race after each other.

Surrounded by the flutter and dash of life, I ask Clif, “How are we so lucky?”

After a few moments of silence, he replies, “We made the right choice.”

That we did. Not always a given as Clif and I are not known for our practicality. But when we moved to Winthrop, we  were debating between two houses—one in a little development and one in the woods.

We chose the home in the woods.

Here are some pictures taken in the last day or two at our home in the woods:

The flash of red, a cardinal at the feeder.

The bubbling of the blue fountain.

A dandelion poking its head up among the ferns.

And finally, the front yard, green against red, edged by many hostas.

For years and years, I yearned for a cottage garden bursting with color. While this love of color will never go away, my home in the woods, surrounded by green, is the place I want to be.

 

A Shift in Tone

As I sit at my desk, I can hear the summer rustle of the new leaves as a soft wind blows through them. The leaves are nearly full size, and in a month they went from the red fringe of delicate flowers to yellow to a soft green and now to the deeper green of maturity.

Being of a fanciful nature, I usually stop to listen when the leaves rustle. It seems to me that they are talking, and if I listen hard enough, I will understand what they are saying as they tell the story of trees and woods and animals.

There are other stories around the yard in late spring.

Of lilies of the valley,

of dandelions,

of unfurling hosta leaves,

of chives ready to bloom,

of a little kingdom through the metal circle.

But there are other things to think about, too, and nowhere near as pleasant as the beauty of spring. Recently there was yet another brutal murder of a black man in police custody. In response, there have been protests. And riots.  Once more, the lid flies off the pot because the pressure has become unbearable.

2020 seems to be the year that keeps giving. Or taking, depending on your point of view.

Pardon me for the shift in tone, from rustling leaves to the murder of a man.

But there it all is, the sublime and the abominable.

I can’t look away from either.

 

 

Everything Is Waiting…

Despite the coronavirus, here we are at last, in spring, that green, blooming time of year. To paraphrase David Whyte’s moving poem, everything is waiting for me.

The ferns that continue to unfurl,

the tiny white violets on the lawn,

the tender blush of the newly emerging leaves,

and back inside, for our supper, a salad made with Farmer Kev’s greens and radishes, our neighbor’s eggs, and other bits and bobs.

Here is the last stanza of David Whyte’s Everything Is Waiting for You

Put down the weight of your aloneness and ease into the
conversation. The kettle is singing
even as it pours you a drink, the cooking pots
have left their arrogant aloofness and
seen the good in you at last. All the birds
and creatures of the world are unutterably
themselves. Everything is waiting for you.

Even now.

Always.