Last Sunday, I managed to take a day off from working on novel #4 to join my two buddies MaryLynn Saul and Judy Jeon-Chapman for a lovely nature walk. Judy suggested that we visit Tower Hill Botanic Garden in Boylston, Ma – one of my favorite places. We also met Judy’s friend, the bubbly Christina, along the way – who shared a lovely picture of the four of us with me. In addition to wonderful plants and flowers, the Garden also has intriguing wind sculptures integrated into the greenery (amongst other colors). You can see one example behind MaryLynn and Judy here.
I also couldn’t help photographing some flowers that intrigued me, though there are too many to record. But I do love the blue color of these lovely blossoms. Are they large Forget-Me-Nots? I’d love to have them in my garden. I think they like shade. I was also delighted to see these brilliantly scarlet flowers. I had posted photos I’d seen of similar flowers when on a bike ride once, in hopes of getting an identification. Several of my friends pronounced them Cardinal Flowers, and the card underneath these confirmed that i.d. Problem solved!
The Gardens also possess a lovely wooded trail, filled with artfully placed sculpture that make you feel as if you had wandered into a Renaissance pastoral play or novel. Here’s Cupid, ready to fire off his arrows to spark the typical green- world love tangles. The glorius rays of the sun glint through the leaves, but will not burn us
An ancient Greek warrior peers out at us from the lost past, before this return to the Golden Age when honey and acorns dropped from trees.
Enjoy the ruins in which to recline and play your pipes or sigh away the hours in languid otium.
Gracefully sculpted urns are always conducive to pastoral ease – especially if they might hold delectable libation – and I’m not talking Moxie here.
My fellow mystery readers and writers might look at this picture and question, “What’s this?! What are they looking at?! Trouble in paradise? A murdered corpse discovered in the woods?” Sorry, mystery lovers. It was just a sign about fairies in the woods. If it makes you feel better, maybe they’re referring to traditional Medieval and Renaissance Fairies. Like this!
We also found this lovely rotunda with the words “Peace” inscribed on it. I thought it would be hilariously ironic for MaryLynn and I to stand under the word and pretend to strangle each other – she and Judy decided otherwise. Not everyone shares the Healy sense of humor. So, here you have a nice picture of MaryLynn and I before the structure, me holding the dahlias that Judy had purchased from the Dahlia Show that day. They actually go with my blouse.
All images, from author’s collection except:
1.the header from Christine Yen
2) the public domain image of the deamon fairy from: https://www.ancient-origins.net/myths-legends/fantasies-evil-spirits-faeries-medieval-imagination-007445
Last weekend, we had a mini-vacation in Vermont, connected to my day at Bookstock. What a great time! We’re so fortunate to be living in New England. Friday afternoon, we took a leisurely drive up to Brattleboro to have an early supper at our favorite bakery on Main Street. In a space overlooking the river and mountain, we watched a thunderstorm roll in while we enjoyed a scrumptious olive tapenade/goat cheese/walnut salad and a cappuccino. The storm passed; we rolled out for Springfield, Vermont and the Toonerville Rail Trail. It’s not a long trail, only seven miles round trip, but it runs along the Black River and through some gorgeous Vermont mountain and woodsy scenery. I even managed to spot some Phoebes and Thrushes! The river ran fast and muddy. I’m not sure if that was just from the recent rainfall. Whatever the case, there were some notable rapids. This should be a nice ride in the colorful New England fall.
The next day was my stint at the Sisters In Crime-New England Table on Woodstock Green at Bookstock. I had a wonderful time with two of my favorite writers, and pals, Leslie Wheeler and Connie Johnson Hambley. Leslie has a new book out in Rattlesnake Hill and Connie has completed her Jessica trilogy. If you’re looking for some exciting and enjoyable summer reading, these are great choices – as are Letter from a Dead Man and Bait and Switch! We have the best conversations on writing, the great stuff to do in New England, our families, etc. We also had a lot of fun talking to and getting to know readers and writers visiting our table. I can’t say enough about the great opportunities Sisters in Crime offers both readers and writers (published or not). And one of the best benefits is meeting the other members of the group. I’ve made some swell (as Anne Sheridan would have put it in a movie) friends here. At our booth, the three of us couldn’t help telling interested readers how enjoyable we found each other’s writing!
Last day of our vacation, Yang and I went to Shelburne Falls and visited the Bridge of Flowers. If you’ve never been there, this is an old foot bridge that has been planted on either side of a central path with all kinds of different, beautiful flowers and shrubs.
There are zinnias, roses, red hot poker, delphinium with bachelor buttons, Rose of Sharon, bee balm – you name it. Here are some lovely lilies.
These dahlias and the sunflower are all set for the Fall !
Here I am, delighted to be with a shrub with which I share a name!
You can see from the pictures how gorgeous the flowers are. Several years back, a terrible flood wiped out the bridge garden; but, as you can see, it has been restored with resounding success. Some of the flowers will last several seasons of the year, while some are more seasonal and will be replaced with flowers and plants appropriate to the autumn, later.
So many people enjoy the garden! However, as I will show you, humans aren’t the only ones who delight in the Bridge of Flowers. Yang got several wonderful pictures of one of the many Tiger Swallowtails taking a sunny Sunday brunch on the Bridge.
There was also a Hummingbird Hawk Moth, which people frequently mistake for a Hummingbird. Gorgeous and otherworldly, isn’t it?
Then, we got some shots of the real deal: this female Ruby-Throated Hummingbird. She adored the Bee Balm and the Red Hot Poker! She was also fairly undaunted by most of the humans at her restaurant. Yang got some superb shots, didn’t he? I’m happy to say that we also saw another such bird on our stroll through town and that the hummingbird who usually visits us each year at home has made several appearances already! All in all, a delightful weekend!
Wood Thrush Image: https://www.freeclipartnow.com/animals/birds/Wood-Thrush.jpg.html
All other images, author’s collection
| We’ve been enjoying nature quite a bit this summer, between our own yard and our peregrinations about the Northeast. Several of my friends have been posting images of their luscious vegetable gardens, so I thought I’d show how well our plants are doing this season. We’ve planted one patch with tomatoes, yellow beans, egg plants, and peppers. As you can see they are growing beautifully!
We have tomatoes growing apace and even eggplants developing. The plants are so much taller than in years past, probably because we have had so much rain and sunshine this year. I’m looking forward to harvesting the tomatoes and making salads and sandwiches with them – or just slicing them up and snacking on them with either a little salt or some of my homegrown basil – which also is doing nicely! Some evil insect has been gnawing on my dill, but I have still grown enough to season my cucumber sandwiches and a mackerel pie (It’s like salmon pie, except you accidentally grab a can of mackerel rather than salmon – tastes almost the same.). Fortunately, we also have lots of sprouts of dill that have reseeded themselves from last year.
The soy beans are also coming along splendidly. We actually have two patches. Homegrown ones are a little crunchier that what you get from the store. Yum. The pumpkins are also going great guns now, as well. When the embryos become visible, or even get fertilized, I’ll take some more photos of them. The plants have actually grown thicker and are starting to travel now, since I’ve taken this photo. I have all different sorts: little orange pumpkins (Jack Be Little), little white ones, big orange ones, large white ones, and various types of gourds. Some are commercial seeds and some are saved from the pumpkins that I bought last year. So far, the older home-collected seeds aren’t doing so well, but the newer ones are growing. The commercial ones are doing pretty well for the most part. What’s really interesting is that seeds that didn’t germinate from last year seem to be taking off this year. Odd, isn’t it?
It’s a good thing that we have fencing up around our vegetable garden, because we are not alone.! This is one of the rabbits that we’ve seen in our yard. He’s the smaller one. One night, Natasha saw him and chased him, though Yang’s hold on her leash prevented a disaster. I think he might have come back armed (the rabbit, not Yang), because the next evening, ‘Tasha saw him and went skulking back to the house, whimpering. Of course, I probably shouldn’t embarrass her this way. She might have just seen Monty Python’s The Holy Grail. Scary looking bunny, isn’t he? He was also quite the little stinker. Seconds after we took this picture, he sat up, snipped off the stem of the purple flower in the picture and then spit the whole thing out! Here he is, giving us a Nyah-Nyah look right before he strikes!
Herr Hare isn’t the only visitor to our yard. One afternoon, when I went out to feed the fish in our little pond, I was startled as I came around the house to see this enormous visitor! We’ve had lots of turkey sightings all over the Worcester area (and Boston, Rhode Island, the Cape, New York state), even on our street. However, this is the first guy I found in our yard. I was surprised he wasn’t in a flock, even a small one, as most of the turkeys I’ve sighted have been. He returned for several days, coming out of the woods behind our house at around 8:00 in the morning or 6:00 in the evening, but I haven’t seen him in awhile. We started calling him Raymond Burrd – I’ve been watching reruns of Ironside; what can I say?
Another neighbor’s cat tried to stalk the turkey a couple of times and was ignored at first. Then he made a charge and that bird just did one arched extension of the wings – Clover took off. My cats enjoyed watching that, since Clover was on their turf. Anyway, I haven’t seen him in some days. I guess he found some more fruitful scratching grounds. The birds on my feeders apparently weren’t dropping enough seed for him. We did see three adults and several chicks the other day about a mile or so from our house. Unfortunately, by the time we turned our car around to go back and take a picture, the birds were deep into someone’s yard, and we didn’t want to trespass – even if the turkeys weren’t so particular.
I haven’t seen my friend the Fox, whom I call Mulder, around lately. Maybe it’s fortunate for the rabbit. I think the turkey might be a little much for him. However, on a bicycle trail in Fairhaven, MA. Yang and I got a good look at a beautiful black fox kit! He came out of the woods next to the road, looked us over, ran to the middle of the road, gave a little hopping prance, then ran back the way he’d come and disappeared into the woods. From his size and leanness, he looked much like pictures of black fox kits that I found on line. Apparently, though black foxes are rare in England (see this cool article), they are not so uncommon here in North America. Darn it all! he was gone before I could get out my camera! But here are some shots from the web that perfectly match the neat little guy that we saw. Here’s a Youtube video of a Fox hunting mice, for your edification.
Black Fox photo #1 https://www.pinterest.com/pin/85779567874103887/
Balck Fox Photo #2 Source no longer available
Many moons ago, back in grad school, my friend Andrea Rossi Reder told me about this wonderful museum of Medieval and Renaissance art, the Cloisters, that was constructed like a medieval cloistered monastery. It took me a few years to get there, but my husband and I visited one spring some time ago. It was a beautiful place, near Fort Tryon Park, overlooking the Hudson River. I not only enjoyed all the exquisite art and the ancient-styled construction, but loved wandering the herbal garden in the sun and warmth of spring. Last week, my husband proved is is indeed “goals” by taking me back there after another stretch of many years. This winter visit had charms of its own. I had forgotten just how much I enjoyed the museum.
After taking the A-train from the 125th St. station, we hopped the 100 Bus to St. Nicholas Street, then another subway, and we were right outside Fort Tryon Park. Crossing the park showed us the bleak beauty of winter, the red bar berry bushes, crimson hemlock berries, and the frosty-blue berries of another type evergreen. We even got to see a fluffy, black squirrel, rare in my neck of the woods. Then the Cloisters loomed through the trees against azure shading down to soft winter-blue skies .
These sculpture, likely not Medieval, greeted us as we made our way up the drive. We took turns guessing what the hell they were as we approached. I hit the jackpot with the conjecture of, “Pears?” For once, modern sculpture stuck in the middle of nature didn’t appear so terribly intrusive.
I like this shot of the arched entry way. Note the cobblestone drive way. We had to dodge a few not so Medieval buses dropping off passengers here. I’ll apologize in advance for not having pictures of Yang. We used his Ipad and I hate trying to take pictures with the darned thing.
After entering and moving through the great hall, we moved off to the side to the square surrounding the cloisters garden, now closed off from us by glass – allowing us to look out at the neatly mown ghost of the summer garden, while keeping the December cold outside. During the warmer months, this area is all open. When I visited Mont St. Michel and saw their cloister garden growing within the monastery, high atop the island mountain, I realized the inspiration for the Cloisters garden. Even with winter’s hand stilling the garden, the December sunshine filled the indoor court surrounding it with brightness and beauty. The carvings on the capitals of the columns were fascinating – humans, beasts (mythological and fanciful), gods – I could swear I saw C’thullu.
We went back into the building proper, then wandered from room to interconnected room, drinking in the sacred images culled from monasteries, churches, and castles – excited to find these treasures opened up to our experience, but, perhaps, a bit troubled that they had been stripped from their original homes. Still, here, they are restored, protected, and cherished. Towards the end of our meander, we came across this carved altar with the golden reliquaries of a saint and her attendants – I think St. Ursula.
Female and male martyrs of the early Church were honored in stained glass, wooden statuary, and paintings. There were tons of artwork of St. Margaret. However, in honor of my BFF Barbara, I have to include this statue of St. Barbara.
From the other side of the arch in the same chamber, here is one of my favorite statues of the Virgin Mary with the baby Jesus. She is clothed in the sun and stands on the crescent moon. Just to the left, you can see a carving of St. Christopher bearing the child Jesus. These statues are more colorful than some of the others. I don’t remember if their paint had been restored. Most likely the case.
Here are some more particularly striking carvings of Virgin and Child. What must the colors have been like when this piece was even relatively new? The thought takes my breath away. If you can look closely at the folds of Mary’s robes and the strands of her hair, you’ll be filled with amazement at the workmanship. Truly, this work is a loving prayer.