All posts by healy24yang

Out of the Fog: Long-Tailed Ducks!

We had planned last week to take a trip to Gooseberry Neck Beach on that Wednesday, since the day was supposed to be relatively warm (40s).  We didn’t plan on a fog that could make Londoners get lost.  Undaunted, we started out, first heading for Shastea in Providence for lunch.  Our hopes rose, as the fog seemed to dissipate into just a cloudy day once we got there.  So, would Gooseberry Beach be equally clear?  Nope!

The closer we drove to the ocean, the deeper the grey nothingness became.  We couldn’t even see the ocean! Nevertheless, when we pulled up at the beginning of the causeway to park, I had hopes that we might be able to see some critters swimming close to shore.  Bingo!

I got so excited, seeing this guy swimming around, taking a dive or two.  It was almost a year to the day that I’d seen my first Longtail last year at Silver Sands Beach in Ct.  Now, here was my second sighting.  Then, as my eyes adjusted to the fog, I realized that Mr. Longtail wasn’t alone.  Mrs. Longtail was also on hand in the rough and crashing seas, and she was definitely no slouch when it came to hunting. Yang took this cool picture of her arching up to dive deep for some seafood take out – which she’d be taking out herself.  You’ll have to forgive the fogginess of some of these pictures.  As I said, it was a pea souper!  I don’t know how the ducks were able to see each other!

I apologize for the fogginess of the photos – it was foggy.  If you click on the photos to enlarge them, they are clearer.

I wonder what she said to provoke THIS reaction?

Could anything be more exciting?  Yes!  as Yang and I walked  along the causeway, we came across more and more Longtails!  These guys were riding the roughest of seas.  It was fascinating to watch them crest some of those  rough swells. All told, we finally saw about three flocks of Longtailed ducks, males and females.  There must have been thirty ducks riding the rough waves, diving for food, chilling in the fog! Again, I apologize for the, literal, fogginess of the photos.  However, if you click on the picture, the enlarged version is reasonably clear.

I thought these two little ladies looked rather sweet.

 

 

 

 

I think this guy is starring in the duck version of I Had Two Wives.

 

Speaking of the moving image, how about Yang’s film clip of a diving Longtail?

 

And that’s the end of my duck tail!

 

 

Ray Thomas Birthday Tribute 2022

This may sound like a non sequitur at first, but there really is a connection between Ray Thomas and Robert Browning. One semester, I was teaching the Victorians, and when we got to my favorite, Robert Browning, I once again reflected on how his poetry and Ray’s lyrics remind me of each other. So, think about it. Where Ray lyrically faces off against uncertainty and adversity with integrity in “Our Guessing Game,” “Hey, Mamma Life,” and “Celtic Sonant,” Robert gives us “Andrea del Sarto,” “Rabbi Ben Ezra,” “Prospice,” and “Love Among the Ruins.” Where Browning has the passionate romanticism of “Meeting at Night,” “Natural Magic/Magical Nature,” and “Love among the Ruins,” Ray gave us “For My Lady,” “You Make Me Feel Alright,” and “Within Your Eyes.” Then there’s the playful wit of “Nice to Be Here” and “Floating” matched with similar qualities in “Memorabilia” and “Youth and Art.” Both men can also sharpen that wit to prick at pretentiousness, hypocrisy, and complacency. Ray in “Lazy Day” and “Dear Diary” and Robert in “House,” “Soliloquy of the Spanish Cloister,” and “Youth and Art.” And, they both can go much darker. Ray with “Sorry,” “Painted Smile,” and “Veteran Cosmic Rocker,” much like Browning in “Caliban upon Setebos,” “Porphyria’s Lover,” and “My Last Duchess,” amongst others. Unlike Browning, Ray probably hasn’t written anything about doing in folks – even as an unreliable narrator! Ramblings like these are the reason why my friend Kathy Healey threatens to get me a T-shirt with a picture of Browning over the title “Veteran Cosmic Poet.” But take a look at the pictures; they even have the same hair!

Christmas Noir three: Cover Up

Set in December, with all the holiday trimmings in view, Cover Up is definitely a Christmas movie.  Yet, its title clearly implies a noir universe where ulcerous secrets are smoothly skinned over by patterns of social respectability.  In the film, Dennis O’Keefe plays an insurance investigator sent to a small town at Christmas time to investigate whether the death of a policy holder was truly suicide. O’Keefe’s his repertoire of skeptical, somewhat hard bitten, though sometimes sympathetic noir protagonists (The Leopard Man, Raw Deal,T-Men, Walk a Crooked Mile), sets us up for a symbolic stripping away holiday cheer hiding dark secrets.

On the surface, the holiday season seems to characterize this small town as an embodiment the idyllic. Right off the bat, we’re immersed in Christmas cheer and fellowship, as the investigator helps a young woman, Anita Weatherby, returning to her family, so packed with presents that they burst from her arms and off the train.  His Christmas good will in helping her is rewarded by her friendly, joking family inviting this helpful stranger to their house.  He accepts their invitation to visit and share in the brightness, warmth, and humor of their home, filled with cheery Christmas decorations.  Still, the family is not cloyingly saccharine, instead, kidding him and one another pointedly but good naturedly. In the same mood, Doro Merandes plays their housekeeper, Hilda, in Margaret-Hamilton-style – not as a Wicked Witch of the West but with salty comments delivered in perfect dead pan.  That Mr. Weatherby, the pater familias, carries the authority of bank president seems to indicate that his warmth, tempered by dry humor, is the characteristic mode of the town.

Investigator Sam sees this family as not just a haven of goodwill but a magnet drawing out the generosity and friendliness he keeps hidden beneath a protective layer of sharp cracks and skepticism.  He shows up on the Weatherby doorstep, not merely planning to kibbitz and take out Anita on a date.  He is thoughtful enough to bring a compact as an early Christmas present for the younger sister so she won’t feel slighted. He even impresses skeptical Hilda as an acceptable addition to the family circle.  His attraction to the Christmas warmth of companionship is decisively conveyed as he approaches the house in the dark shadows of late December cold, bowed against the wind, then straightens up and smiles on seeing Anita reading in the window, the lit Christmas tree in the background. In fact their friendly banter marks them as embarking on romantic adventure typical of 1940s comedy/romance.

The imagery of the town itself abounds with Christmas warmth.  As the bus carrying Anita and Sam into town from the train station arrives, a Santa Claus is merrily ringing a bell over a pot where he collects donations of holiday charity.  The Weatherby house is bright with daytime sunshine; at night electric lights, Christmas tree bulbs, and flickering hearth light create a comforting contrast to the dark December night.  The rich, warming coats of fur and wool, as well as scarves and gloves, evoke a barrier against winter freezing. There’s even a lovely Christmas tradition of the whole town coming together in celebration when old Dr. Gerrow will light the enormous town Christmas tree and hand out presents to the children.  Light against darkness.

In this moment, though, we can see the corruption skinned over by good fellowship seeping through.  The doctor, at first, is mysteriously absent, then is revealed to be dead, discovered in his out-of-town home by the sheriff.  Significantly, this scene of camaraderie in solstice celebration ends with the faces of disappointed children and the pine tree’s lights flickering against almost enveloping darkness.  Furthermore, as light and warming as are the interiors of the Weatherby home, the night outside where Sam and Anita walk and romance is surrounded by dark shadows and implied cold.  The mansion where Philips died also encompasses Anita and Sam, later Sam, Sheriff Best, and Mr. Weatherby, in shadows that distort, conceal, isolate, and threaten.  In a telling scene, flickers of light in the darkness come to imply perfidy and corruption as the “lovable” maid Hilda resolutely undercuts Sam’s quest for the truth and order by burning a beaver coat that implicates Mr. Weatherby in Phillips’s murder.  Interestingly, the coat no longer suggests protection from hostile nature but implicates the “upright” in crime.  Now suicide is revealed to be murder, while the victim is, himself, revealed to be “a malignant growth strangling the town.”  So, where does justice rest concerning this death?

All the characters Sam faces in his investigation become almost impossible to pin down. The family that had seemed to offer him the warmth and stability he’d never had, he finds cannot be trusted, their dependability, at times even their morality, twisted and tangled by loyalties, fears, or ignorance.  Mr. Weatherby, supposedly a paragon of the town and representative of its order, becomes a major suspect in the murder of Phillips.

Anita, the smart young woman whose wit and warmth had led Sam to see her as a beacon of hope for belonging, betrays his trust in order to protect her father. In fact, the reflection of her in a mirror as she hides from Sam after obstructing justice to protect her father reverses the earlier image of her as the beacon guiding him to human relations.  Here, rather than being before him, she lurks behind him as he stands uneasily sensing something is wrong, threatening.  Though both images were linked to glass, where previously the clear panes revealed her as at peace and content, now she is both more distant, existing as only a reflection, and one step removed, hidden from him, the heavy door and the lines of the mise en scène reinforcing their isolation.

The salty but lovable maid, who had seemed to welcome Sam into the family in her own reserved way, also lurks unobserved and one step removed in the mirror where she hears of Sam’s threat to her family.  She also thwarts his search for truth to protect her clan when she  unabashedly destroys evidence that would lead him to the truth and lies to his challenge, looking him dead in the eye.

Maybe the most interesting of all is William Bendix’s Sheriff Best.  Is the name ironic?  The “best” at what, one wonders, watching him: Deception? Double-dealing? Murder, itself?  How should an audience read the town’s master of law and order when with affable obduracy he insists on his suicide verdict despite all the evidence that Sam demonstrates add up to murder? Casting Bendix keeps audiences guessing by playing on the concept of the availability heuristic. For Bendix is as well-known in the noir universe as much for his lovable tough guys (The Web, Race Street, Detective Story) as for his vicious thugs (The Dark Corner, The Glass Key, The Big Steal).

These two medium closeups of Sheriff Best  capture both incarnations of the Bendix noir personae.

 

 

 

 

Finally, Sheriff Best’s setting up subtle roadblocks to the investigator’s attempts to uncover the truth, as well as his tone of laid-back affability, just suggesting steely threat, then back to easy charm, heightens uncertainty over which noir Bendix holds the power of law controlling the town.

This image from the first meeting of sheriff and investigator, where they sit down to parry verdicts back and forth brings this point home.  They are seated on opposite sides of a desk, like opponents in a chess match.  The Christmas presents  between the two in the shot do not bond them in seasonal amity, but form a barrier between opposing forces – visually emphasizing a subversion of “Christmas fellowship” as much as the men’s amiable sounding but antagonistic verbal sparring and both refusing to face the other. A wreath above and between them, just out of shop, reinforces this point. Even more sinister, in the denouement, a tone of easy good will coats but does not hide the two men’s opposition.  When Sam pleasantly checks Best by pointing out that neither has ascendancy because both carry concealed guns, Best chillingly checkmates him with the easy and reasonable delivery of his assertion that if Sam shoots him it’s killing “a law man,” but “If I [the sheriff] get you with my gun . . .it’s just a lot of votes in the next election.”

Dennis O’Keefe’s place in the noir universe as hard-bitten outsider trying to belong without sacrificing integrity makes him an apt proxy for the audience looking for order and stability in an uncertain and corrupt world. His character’s confrontation with Bendix’s sheriff in the shadows of the murder mansion where he’d planned to lure the murderer into a trap creates a disconcerting, even haunting embodiment of the danger of noir uncertainty. All on Christmas Eve. Interestingly, when the sheriff first enters, the visuals throw us off balance by placing Best more in the light and shadowing Sam, the seeker of truth, in a threatening, sneaky pose in the shadows. Which of the two antagonists can we trust?  Is Sam literally and figuratively in the dark? Is he bringing darkness into the Christmas world or revealing what was there all along? This use of shadows enveloping the men as the scene progresses creates a space of confusion and doubt that mirrors the uncertainty of reality as Sam raises suspicions and presses for honest answers, and the sheriff seeks to control that truth for unclear ends, gradually unveiling indirectly what may or not be honest.

How does the film end?  Well, that would be telling.  I wouldn’t want to spoil it for you.  Let’s just say that things are not always as they seem, that the film looks for wiggle room in what the law demands and what is fair, in what you can expect of human beings.  “Merry Christmas” was never such an ironic closing to a movie – I think!

 

 

Happy Harlequin Hunting: Only Shooting with a Camera!

For the past month, I’ve been seeing nothing but posts about all the Harlequin Ducks flocking down the coast of Massachusetts from Plum Island to Westhaven.  Never having seen one, I was eager to make a sighting.  Three trips to the coastal waters, and I was still a Harlequin virgin.  That is until Yang and I visited Sachuest (don’t ask me to pronounce it) in Rhode Island.  Of course, my prayers for a sighting weren’t answered at once.

We went down to a cove and saw two huge flocks of Buffleheads bobbing and diving in the waves.  They are adorable with their big white spots on the sides of their heads that look like ear muffs.  But no Harleys!  Then, coming back to the parking lot, to start the trail leading around the other side of the point, we saw four deer grazing nonchalantly in the marsh field.  Beautiful in their heavy winter coats – but not ducks.

 

We later even found a family of Eider Ducks, one adult male, one juvenile male and two females – joined by a Bufflehead, who popped up out of nowhere – but no Harlequins.

So, we made our way down onto a rocky beach after we spied some Lesser Scaups ( a first sighting, ever!),  some Surf Scoters, and a female Redbreasted Merganser, but no …wait!  What’s that black and white thing bobbing and diving out there? 

See the tiny white and black thing in the middle of the screen?  It was clearer and bigger with the binoculars.  I said to Yang, “It’s, wait , I think it’s, yes!  It’s a male Harlequin.”  Now before you say, “Hey, I can’t see a darned thing, wait, big deal,” it gets better.  After watching this guy and some Redbreasted Mergansers for a while, we moved on  – and came across another Harlequin chilling with some Scaups.  A little later, we came across a lone pair of Harlequins.  These shots are better, but not our top prizes.  I just love this one of the male flapping at us.  Camera shy or a show off?  You judge.

 

 

 

 

It’s really interesting to me that when the males look at you head on, with the light colored beak and the white stripe on their face, they appear more white-faced than they actually are.  When we got to another spot, Yang got some gorgeous shots that show off all their glorious markings. So, here you go with a set of photos of another  Harley pair from much closer up.

Here’s the male by himself.  Take a gander at that gorgeous splash of chestnut on his side, the way the white stripes demarcate the patches of black, and look carefully for that line of chestnut down the back of his head.

 

 

 

Here is the pair together.    Sometimes they point those short but sharp tails upward. Notice how the female has those lovely three white spots on the side of her head.  

 

 

I think they must have had an argument.  Yang and I noticed that the female did most of the diving/hunting.  Maybe she got sick of her hubbie posing for the papparazzi when she was doing all the work. Anyway, they briefly went separate ways.

Well, deers, er, dears, that’s all for now.

Return to Riverside Cemetery: Autumn Leaves Bursting with Color

This past October. we returned to the Riverside Cemetery in Waterbury with hopes of seeing the statuary complemented by gorgeous fall colors.  Yang and I were not disappointed!

The entrance was serene and gracious, with background colors hinting at the beauty we would find beyond.

The highlight that these fall colors brought t o the monuments was deliciously melancholy.  The leaves behind this woman leaning on a cross brought forth the saffron beauty of autumn.

 

 

 

 

 

Then there was the flame of orange encompassing this melancholy dame, flaring against the shadows of a of grey autumn day.

 

 

 

 

 

Or there was this lone, proud figure fronting a brilliant crimson of oak trees.

I loved this shot from behind of the woman gazing out over the rolling hills of autumn glory.

I think this deer must feel at home, encompassed by the gorgeous green morphing to yellow-gold of fall.

Likewise, this pensive young woman is lost in deep thought while greens turn to flame and yellow-green.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I was especially enchanted by so many trees that combined various colors as their leaves slowly shut down the ports to chlorophyll and let their true hues burst froth in brilliant glory.

Green and Gold

 

 

 

 

 

Orange and Red, like a flame reaching heavenward.

And then, some trees seemed to  us gifted with four colors at once!

Well, maybe that’s a Japanese maple photo bombing the sugar maple.

Just gazing across the cemetery, you see slopes rolling with gorgeous fall glory:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The trees were so gorgeous, Yang decided to stick one in his back pack to carry it home.

Just kidding:  optical illusion.

 

I particularly loved this sage woman’s pensive and imposing presence, her blue-green copper complementing the reds and greens of the trees behind her.

And that, my friends, is all she wrote.

 

 

Mallard, Mallard, Merganser?!

The nature trail through the marsh/river across from Holy Cross has presented us with many an interesting critter.  We’ve seen deer, black snakes, muskrats and turtles.  Our avian sightings have included Great Blue Herons, Kingfishers, Red-winged Blackbirds, and assorted warblers.  Once, we even met up with a Bob White strolling back and forth in front of us along the promenade.  There hasn’t been a shortage of aquatic birds, mostly Canada Geese and Mallards.  However, for the past week, we noticed a Mallard flock of about 15-20 had an interesting guest!

What was an adult male Hooded Merganser doing in that flock?  There he was, swimming up and down the river with the flock – just one of the guys.  Occasionally, he’d disappear in a dive for food.  Then, back up he’d pop to join the crowd.  He seemed especially to bond with a Mallard couple.  Yang thinks that he was adopted as a duckling.  Who knows?  What do you think?  He is quite the beauty.  If only people could be as welcoming to the “different” as these birds.  After all, we’re all ducks.

 

Fairhaven, Fair Gothic

At the end of September, Yang and I finally made it back to Fairhaven, Mass. for a fun bicycle ride.  We didn’t see loads of critters; however, passing by a marsh we did come across a Great White Egret convention.  Yes, take a closer look: those white blobs in the trees are  EGRETS!  And there was one Great Blue Heron.  Master of ceremonies.  We were especially happy to discover that the trail had been extended and is supposed to reach the next town in November.  It’s a sweet spot for a long ride through trees, fields, marshes, and along the ocean.

 

 

All that said, what we found especially intriguing was our walk through the town of Fairhaven, where we came across some absolutely delightful gothic architecture!  The person responsible for this gorgeous architecture was nineteenth-century millionaire, Henry Huttleston Rogers.  He not only funded the design and construction of the Town Hall, seen to the left, but the library and the Unitarian Universalist Church.  The Town Hall was dedicated by none other than Mark Twain, and the library, still a free public library, was  designed “in 1893, [as} a memorial to his beloved daughter, Millicent, in the form of an Italian-Renaissance palazzo” (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fairhaven,_Massachusetts).  Here’s the library below:

The “Italian-Renaisance design” certainly explains the outside relief on the building.  Notice the  cherubs peeking on either side of the column.

And who’s that poking his head right out front?  Why it’s Dante himself!  I had conjectured to Yang, when I saw that kisser, that it must be Dante.  And now I understand why the library is called The Millicent Library.  A beautiful memorial to a daughter taken from her father too soon.  We didn’t get a chance to  explore the inside of the building; however, as I said to Yang, here’s a library to put on my list for trying to do a reading. Next spring or fall?  I may have another novel out by then!

 

Yet the most spectacular of the edifices was The Unitarian Church.  We’d spied the tower through the trees as we walked along checking out these other buildings.  We were drawn like iron filings to a magnet to discover what kind of Gothic delights this building might hold.  Gosh!  We were more than delighted with what we found!

 

 

We were expecting a Catholic, or at least an Episcopal. cathedral. So imagine our surprise that this ornately appointed church  turned out to be a Unitarian/Universalist place of worship.  Even the Parish house of the Unitarian Memorial Church was replete with gargoyles and saints.

 

We not only found gargoyles on all the corners, but saints and patriarchs beneath the gargoyles.

 

 

 

 

 

 

And even a few patriarchs and saints on their own.

 

 

 

 

 

The Church, itself, was  designed by architect Charles Brigham of Boston (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Unitarian_Memorial_Church), and is decorated with so many fascinating types of gargoyles on its corners and cornices.  There were owlgoyles.

 

 

 

 

Cat-or-pumagoyles

 

 

 

 

 

As well as your standard flying dragony-type things, maybe with one have a hint of the leonine.

Particularly interesting, were the head sculptures adorning the outer walls of the church.  I wondered if some of them reflected the founding members of the Church – not all of them, though.  You’ll see what I mean when you take a gander at some of their visages.  Here is a solemn  dame, who seems right at home in a Medieval world. 

 

 

Here is a beautiful young girl, who would seem at home in a world of Medieval romance.

 

 

 

 

This chap looks as if he would have been one of the better fed pilgrims to Canterbury.

 

 

 

 

This guy has a perfect 1960s-style flip.  Must be the early inventor of Dippity-Do.

 

 

 

What can I say?  St. Theresa of Avila stuck next to Pickle Puss!

There were also other fascinating sculptures adorning the church.  An angel holds a book of good works or devotions or philosophy.

Another angel stands guard.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Four women represent the celestial power of music.

 

Here, Yang stands before one of the entrances, Mr. Pudgy Pilgrim looking over his shoulder.

 

 

 

For the official website for this church click here.

 

Finally, we found another intriguing building, though not nearly so ornate, right where the trail enters the town.  I’m not sure what this abandoned brick building once was, now overgrown with trees, holes in its roof.  A factory?  A school?  Who knows.  I don’t, but I wonder what story it could tell us.

 

 

Autumn in and Around Auburn

. Yang and I do travel around the Northeast quite a bit to enjoy the fall colors; however, we’ve also enjoyed some striking foliage almost in our own backyard.  Actually, our back, front, and side yards are turning gorgeous shades of red, yellow, orange, and maroon, but that’s material for a different blog.  So, two local spots where we’ve enjoyed some leaf-appreciation are Dorothy Pond in Auburn and the forest and reservoir across from the stone church in West Boylston.

Dorothy Pond is circled by trails and is bisected by a berm of earth that once carried an older railroad.  In the summer, we’d seen lots of ducks and other birds in the area, even a beaver.  This day, we mostly saw the foliage, though there was this gorgeous Great Blue Heron that was too distant for a photograph.  Only binoculars let us get a good look. There were lots of splashes of brilliant red amidst the green and yellow.  Leaves and beautiful berries contributed scarlet – as did a male downy woodpecker who would not deign to show his face.  Or maybe he was just showing off his patch of crimson feathers.

 

 

We also saw this friendly Garter Snake.  The cold day made him (or her) a little sluggish, but the little critter sure had a friendly face.  It was also fun, when we passed along a marsh, to see the eyes and heads of frog peeping through the fairy moss greening the waters.  A great place for a morning walk in crisp autumn.

 

And there’s not much more pleasing to the eye than the harmony of gold, autumn green, and pure October blue. 

 

 

 

 

 

Everyone flocks to the old stone church in West Boylston, but they often don’t realize that there’s a lovely forest across the road, displaying the other half of the reservoir and forest trails of wonderful fall colors.  As you leave the parking lot, there are the gorgeous orange flames of sugar maples, even before you enter the woods.

 

 

 

 

 

Moving toward the forest, you can see  red flaming up through the green and yellow …

… while greens give way to golds, oranges, and reds of autumn.

  

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Even I can get into the act! But I can’t compete with autumnal glory!

Along the way, we paused to take in the soft orchid of wild asters, with a bumble bee seeking out a last pollen catch.

 

 

 

 

Now, we’re in the forest. This is the chartreuse light of an autumn trail that I tried to describe in in my WIP Shadows of a Dark Past.

 

 

 

 

 

How beautiful to be the one scarlet leaf amongst a thicket of green.

 

 

 

 

 

I was so moved by this bouquet of young maroon oak leaves.  Why is it that oak leaves only seem to be this deep red when the tree is very young?

The woods were also filled with feathered fauna:  Chickadees, Nuthatches, Kinglets, Yellow-Rumped Warblers.  Unfortunately, the little critters moved so fast, we could never get a picture of them!

Here’s my favorite fauna – and my favorite picture!

 

 

Lee Library Author Event: A Walk on the Noir Side in Shades of Autumn

Since some of the Covid issues have waned, I’ve started going back to doing in-person author readings.  Friday, October 14th, I had the good fortune to do an event at the Lee Library in Lee, Massachusetts.  What a wonderful day!  Lee is in the western part of Massachusetts, so my husband and I had an exciting drive through all the gorgeous fall foliage to arrive at our destination.  Lee is a neat little town with a main street of equally neat shops, and in an antique store I found a 1940s movie magazine with pictures of favorite stars.  The main street has lots of  tasty restaurants.  We had our lunch at The Starving Artist Cafe, where they craft the yummiest sandwiches and
crêpes. They made a pumpkin latte that was absolutely perfect – not all sugary and fake whipped cream, but good coffee, the flavor of pumpkin spice, and steamed milk.  We sat outside at the street seating on a warm October day and enjoyed the small-town scenery, great food, and trees dressed in their autumn flames and oranges.After a stroll amongst the shops and a peek at some of  the gorgeous Victorian houses in town, we went to the library for my talk.  You can see what a beautiful old building the library is.  When visiting the town earlier, I was taken with the building and thought, “I’d like to do a talk here.”  Well, I contacted Jodi Magner at the library, and she was tremendously welcoming and enthusiastic at the prospect of my doing an event.  She told me that they loved mysteries in that town!

That day, Jodi and her daughter Megan made me so welcome and helped my husband and I set up.  I was delighted that my friend, mystery writer, Leslie Wheeler could join us, as well as other women whom I’d never met before.  We were a small group, but we had a great time.  I got so many intelligent questions, and people seemed interested in my inspiration from film noir and haunting movies of the 1940s like Val Lewton’s films and The Uninvited.  They seemed to get a kick out of the excerpts that I read from Bait and Switch, Letter from a Dead Man, and Always Play the Dark Horse to illustrate how the dark, dreamy elements of noir and the smart talking gals of the 1940s influenced my writing!  One of the women even said that a friend, sometime earlier,  had been suggesting she read the Jessica Minton series.  I’m getting a fan base! And now you can read all three Jessica Minton novels through the Lee Library.

Say, how do you like the pin-stripe black suit and the black fedora?  I thought the gold blouse was just right to add fall color. Should I have brought along a gat?

I’m hoping to go back in the summer, after the fourth novel comes out:  Shadows of a Dark Past.  Maybe I’ll see you there!

Return to Colebrook Reservoir

Two years ago, Yang and I made our first trip to Colebrook Reservoir on a brisk Halloween afternoon.  What a treat!.  After at least a year of drought, the old Rte. 8 was completely clear and dry of the water.  We even saw part of the “ghost bridge” and the stone walls marking the boundaries of farms in what had once been a community displaced by the formation of the reservoir.  That day, we saw our first slate-colored juncos of the season, while the fall colors were still in bloom.  (Check out an earlier blog on our adventure here).

We came back last year, after an extremely rainy summer and discovered just how quickly a reservoir can fill up!  Not even a trace of the road we traveled between a slope of boulders and the water.  We were lucky the parking lot wasn’t swimming!

Ah, but 2022 brought another summer drought – and maybe the only good thing about the dearth of precipitation was that the way at Colebrook became so much clearer – though not nearly as clear as two years ago!

So, here’s my report, with photographic evidence!  On a gorgeous September afternoon, we were able to take the road (old Rte. 8) down from the parking lot for a bit of a stroll, until the inundation of the low road cut us off.  Were we daunted?  Not we two Yangs!  We scrambled over 1/8 to 1/4 of a mile of boulders flanking the waters.  You can get a bit of a picture from this photo, though you can’t see quite how steep the slope was – it was too hard to take pictures and scramble at the same time!

 

Where the road rose on higher ground, it was clear of water.  Unfortunately, there were gaps of low lying road that were inundated.  So, we managed to circle around the submerged road through rock-strewn mud flats, where we saw all kinds of fauna tracks:  deer, lynx, big herons.  We also saw some neat flora, as well.  I was taken with these nettles, some of which were accompanied by red berries.  Anybody recognize them?  We kept an eagle eye out for ticks!  Also, for fellow MSTKies, we did watch out for snakes.  None sighted – not even in the water.

It was fascinating to see how the wash of waters over the past few years had covered what was left of some of the road with gravel and how the flooded areas created islands of what had once been  roads.  Yang and I were both struck by how torn up the exposed blacktop had been since the last time we’d walked this road.  When we went through a stand of trees, we found some big trees down that we had to climb over.  No riding our bikes here the way we did two years ago when we had returned the day after Thanksgiving.

Last time we were here,  we had walked out to a highway bridge from the 1950s that crossed a stream emptying into what was originally a river (now the reservoir).  There was even a jetty to walk out on a little further along.  Well, at least the bridge was still there, but water was almost even with it.  Still we had a nice walk there and a little beyond, until the road dipped and the water filled in everything.  As you can see, we weren’t the only ones who enjoyed the bridge.  The area seemed to have become the playground for female and juvenile male Common Mergansers.  These ducks were having a grand time strolling about, splashing, and playing in the water.

Speaking of birds, Yang was disappointed not to see any Juncos (though it’s a bit early).  Nevertheless, he more than made do with the many water birds we saw.  Across the waters were Great Egrets, and on our side we saw several interesting types.  On the left is one of the Spotted Sandpipers we saw, though we usually saw only one at a time.  Maybe it was the same one a few times over?  We also saw this Greater Yellow Legs.  It might have been a Lesser Yellow Legs, but we didn’t have anything with which to compare him.  Less than whom?  There were plenty of Cormorants, too.

This was a pretty scene of the shore across the reservoir.  I really enjoyed the view.  Too bad we won’t be able to go back this year when the colors really go full-on autumn.

Of course, this is my favorite view.

 

 

 

 

 

I hope you’ll pardon me while I duck out now.