Category Archives: Nature

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.

 

These Are the Days

This morning Clif said, “My underwear is in the mailbox.”

My first thought: What a place for underwear!

But this is life during the time of the coronavirus: Underwear in the mailbox because we don’t want to go to Target. Instead, we have been ordering online the necessities of life.

In the days before the coronavirus, we ordered online maybe five or six times a year. Now, it’s about five times a fortnight. I wonder how it will be when this is all over. Will we go back to shopping the way we did before?

Or, will this new habit of online ordering become a trend? It’s hard for me to predict. However, after a year or a year and a half of doing something, it could become permanent. We shall see.

In other groundbreaking news…Because Clif is still recovering from his sprained ankle, I hefted the round table up the bulkhead stairs from the cellar and onto the patio. Although my knees did not thank me when I was done, what a sight for sore eyes to see the table on the patio.

Soon it will be warm enough to have a glass of something nice as we sit on the patio.

After cleaning the table and taking pictures to celebrate the arrival of the table on the patio, I poked around a bit and discovered the that the ferns have begun to unfurl.

By the basement, where it’s warm.

But even a little farther away, in the leaves.

Despite having underwear in the mailbox, despite covid-19, despite the isolation and confinement, spring has arrived. The trees are in blossom, the ferns are coming up. As Natalie Merchant so beautifully sings, these are the days.

 

First Lunch on the Patio

On Saturday, the weather was so fine—at least by Maine standards—that Clif and I had our first lunch on the patio. The temperature was about 65°F with a gentle breeze. For two winter-weary elders, it was warm enough for us to leave our jackets inside as we sat and ate.

Clif made potato pancakes for our lunch. In the picture, they look like regular pancakes, but they had a lovely mashed potato and Parmesan taste. We slathered them with butter and liberally sprinkled them with salt. Very tasty indeed. Especially when eaten on the patio.

As we ate, we were treated to all manner of fluttering birds and their spring songs. The wary goldfinches, cheeping loudly, clustered in a big cedar as they waited for us to leave.

But this bird was a little braver. (I’m thinking it’s a flycatcher. Eliza, what do you think?)

And the mourning dove felt perfectly comfortable patrolling for spilled seeds not far from where we sat.

Watching over everything was the backyard Spirit of the Woods.

I know. It’s really a dead tree that should come down before it falls where we don’t want it to fall. But I will be sorry when the tree no longer stands. Not only will we lose the wood spirit, but the birds will lose a place to hunt for tidbits.

But there. For several years, Clif and I have talked about taking that tree down, and still it stands. I am hoping the tree will be there for several more years.

After lunch, I worked on removing leaves from the beds in the front yard. Why is it that outside work is more satisfying than inside housework? It probably has something to with the sun and the sky and the birds, none of which are as present when you are inside.

Later on during the weekend, thanks to technology, I visited with my daughters and my son-in-law, and much of the talk was about politics and the coronavirus.

I also “attended” Rassemblement, a yearly gathering of Franco-American artists, writers, and creatives. Usually it is held at the University of Maine at Orono, but in this time of the coronavirus, it was held virtually.

The theme of this year’s gathering was legacy. This is from the Franco American Programs website: “The dictionary definition of legacy is, ‘Something handed down from an ancestor or a predecessor or from the past.’ As Franco Americans, what was handed down to us? And how does this gift act as both an impetus to create and as a restriction on our creations? What are we handing down to those who come after us? What was and is our legacy?”

Someone—ahem!—might have brought up that one of the legacies of Franco-Americans is that it was a patriarchal ethnic group, with an unhealthy separation of men and women. A spirited discussion ensued.

But more about that later.