Category Archives: summer

Tarrying Awhile at Hearthstone Castle

I’m heading back to school this week. So before work gets too hot and heavy, I want to post a blog on one of the wonderful short trips Yang and I took when  we went away for two days.  The first day was a visit to NYC to explore Central Park and have a yummy tea at Alice’s Teacup – another blog on that later!  The second day, as we made our way back from where we’d stayed  in Milford, brought us to Danbury’s Tarrywile Park and the Hearthstone Castle.  If you click here, there’s a wonderful history on this link about the castle.

We walked up a fairly short, but decidedly steep, wooded path to be greeted with this sight.  What a pity that the castle has been defaced and let go into such disrepair.  Still, it was deliciously eerie, with the afternoon sunlight rising in a clearing amidst the trees.  Note the turrets with sharp field stones acting as the crenellation.  There in front was the portico where the wealthy would arrive in their carriages to be dropped off at the door for a summer weekend in the country or a formal dinner or ball.  They must have had a ballroom! And here I am walking quite determinedly up to get a closer view, braving  assault from ticks and poison ivy.

 

 

 

We took some neat shots of the ruins, so you could see the sky pouring blue through a window in the back wall out to you from a smashed window or a broken wall  in front of you.  Unfortunately, the sun was so bright  that it washed the blue right out of most of these shots.   I love the gorgeous turret here and wonder what kind of round rooms were inside on each floor.  The view must have been a delight. A great place to sit with your tea and a good book.  Perhaps a Scarlet Tanager or Rosebreasted Grosbeak might fly by, even perch on the ledge?  Looking through the smashed windows, where the boards had been pried away, you could also see the brick that lined or insulated the interior where the material covering the interior walls had been stripped away.  I couldn’t help recalling the marvelous ruined abbeys I’d seen on my trip to England – sky gleaming blue through soaring arches and graceful architecture.  Of course, this ruin is on a much smaller scale – and more jagged than the medieval constructions.  Still, doesn’t the setting lend itself to a novel?  Hmm, maybe that’s what I’m working out in my mind here.

 

 

 

Here’s a neat farewell shot of the ruin.  I’m not sure if Yang or I took it.  I would love to go back in the fall, when the leaves turn gorgeous!  You should make a visit, too.  And remember that the park has lots of inviting hiking trails.  Yeah, I think this place has to make it into a novel.  It’s just so Thornfield or Manderly!

P.S.  A tip of one of my many hats to Robert Johnson for putting me wise to this site.

 

A Visit to the Connecticut Shore

In the midst of all that God-awful rain last week, we had a day full of sun and warmth on Tuesday.  So we hopped in our car and headed for the Connecticut shoreline and some of our old haunts!  First, we stopped at Bill’s seafood for our annual (and more often if we can!) fix of lobster rolls!  Mmm, Bill’s has the best, with a handy helping of crisp and hearty french fries and cole slaw with a nice tang. You can see Yang enjoys his repast!

As usual, we sat on the deck, which is next to a river and salt marsh flowing to the sea.  We especially love to do that because you always see loads of seabirds there.  This time, we could espy teenage ospreys in their platform next out in the marsh, while wild cries overhead alerted us to their hunting parents flying overhead.  We couldn’t take pictures because the platform was too far out, but we’d remembered to bring binoculars.  so, we got a good look at the young osprey.

We also had the pleasure of seeing some less fierce feathered critters.  We got a few pictures of some American Black Ducks, as you can see here.

 

 

 

 

 

 

There was also a mamma Mallard with her three babies scooting around.  It was cute to watch her leisurely paddling while her kiddos worked those webbed feet furiously to keep up!  Someone commented that this must be her second clutch, since they were so little so late in the season.

 

After Bill’s, it was off to Old Lyme to visit Joan Bennett at the Pleasant View Cemetery.  there used to be a riding academy and horse-boarding farm across the street, so I used to think that Joan, who was a rider, would have found that view pleasant, indeed.  Today, the grass wasn’t too bad in the cemetery, and it was filled with butterflies.  I saw a Monarch, the Black Swallow Tail in this picture (thanks to Charmaine Kinton for the i.d.) and a beautiful bright yellow butterfly (no, not a Tiger Swallow Tail).  I know Joan loved yellow and butterflies are symbols of the soul.  Do you think she was  saying “hi” to me?  I also noticed that there was a sign for a house for sale on the street.  should we all chip and buy it so that we visit our friend more easily – and keep the grass trimmed?  I also noticed that Joan had a cousin, Patricia Morrison (not the actress), who died very young.  Does anyone know the story there?

Anyway, we checked ourselves for ticks before we got in the car – we were in Lyme- then went off to Rocky Neck State Park.  This park is a wonderful place to hit the beach or take hikes along trails.  Once more, we saw several nesting platforms for ospreys with young ospreys in them.   There was one that had a nest not as thick as the others, so we thought it was unfinished or abandoned.  We found out later we were wrong. Once again, thank God for binoculars!  We also saw many Cattle Egrets and Great Egrets, as well as a Kildeer!  Yang even managed to get this shot of a Green Heron!  So, in case you’re still wondering, what was the deal with the underdeveloped platform nest?  Well, we were checking it out with the binoculars when a red-tailed hawk came sailing in.  The hawk kept looking at something in the nest that we couldn’t see, but we suspect it was his/her family.  Thanks to the binoculars, we got a great closeup of the bird’s enormous eyes, powerful hooked beak, and beautiful feather patterns.  A formidable creature, indeed!

Finally, we moved on to the beach and then up to the huge, field stone pavilion that had been built in the 1930s as a WPA project.  The building was one of the reasons Yang had wanted to come here.  He’d been reading the draft of my third novel, Always Play the Dark Horse, and its description of the setting whetted his appetite to return to one of our favorite places to go walking.  The pavilion is a long building with beautiful hard wood floors inside.  Couldn’t you just picture a big band playing there, and people dancing on a summer’s eve with a tangy salt breeze cooling off all those hot cats and kittens?  It turns out you can rent it for $3,750 for a gathering of  under 200 people.  A larger number is less expensive.  Any one want to GoFund a swing night there – and I mean swing dancing!

There are also some beautiful views of the ocean from the pavilion.

 

 

 

 

Then we closed out the day with dinner at The Main Street Grille in Niantic – well, not exactly.  We also went for a 30 minute walk on the boardwalk in town as well.  No wonder I was limping on Wednesday and Thursday.  Nevertheless,  I was recovered enough to jitterbug, cha-cha, rhumba, and fox trot to Dan Gabel and the Abletones at Moseley on the Charles on Friday.  Good bless heating pads and Advil!

 

 

A New England Mini-Vacation: Bookstock and the Bridge of Flowers

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.

 

 

 

Isn’t this rose a treat?

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!

 

 

 

 

 

God knows what the heck this thing is!  I hope aliens didn’t leave it!

 

 

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

 

Spring Birds Are Back!

I’ve had the pleasure of many wonderful bird sightings since spring began.  Some are old friends, and at least one is a new addition.  Because I don’t have a fancy camera and the birds are too shy to let me get close enough or they don’t stay still long enough for me to get a good shot, some of these pictures aren’t the best and some I had to find online – but I hope you enjoy hearing about what I’ve been seeing lately.

 

One of the first signs of spring was the return of my friends, the Red-winged Blackbirds.  They’re usually the first to arrive, so I’ve been seeing them  March 6th.  They even stuck it out through our April torture by snow.  I’ve seen several males and also several females.  I guess these folks must find my feeders quite the congenial place.

 

In April, I was further delighted by the return of the Rose-breasted Grosbeaks.  Interestingly enough, my first sighting this year was almost exactly the same date as my sighting last year.  This year, we have at least one male and one female – it’s hard to tell if I’m seeing the same or different ones every time.  Happily, even as we move through June, I still see these beauties every day.  Please forgive the fuzziness in some of the pictures.  It’s rather hard to compensate for the pattern-effect of my window screens.

 

 

 

 

 

Also back once more is our buddy from last year, turkey Raymond Burrd – though I have since figured out that “he” is a “she.”  Still, if there can be gals called Micheal, Jamie, and Ashley, having one named Raymond shouldn’t be any problem.  It’s the twenty-first century, folks.  Get over it!  She has shown up every day, sometimes more than once a day for over a week now – starting 6/4.  She’s pretty friendly – not that she’s asking me to tea or anything, but she doesn’t startle and run away or threaten me when I have to walk past her for one reason or another.  If I’m enraptured in reading, she’ll wander by quite close without turning a feather.  My neighbor said he thought she was going to hop into my lap the other day!  Although Natasha was howling out the window at Raymond in the beginning, she and Rosalind have settled down to a minor glance in the turkey’s direction while looking daggers and claws at chipmunks and morning doves.

 

We were not able to use the front porch for a while because the Robins would shout up a storm at us – they had built a nest in a rhododendron surprisingly close to one of the porch columns.  It was so surprisingly close that I happened to glance down and was shocked to see two young, speckled robins checking me out from a nest.  Needless to say, the flowers on the front steps went thirsty for awhile.  After some time, no Robins could be heard squawking in the rhododendron, so I checked and noted there were no kids in the nest or parents around.  Fledging must have occurred, and the parents probably figure they’d move to a neighborhood with less traffic for their next clutch.  That’s why I was able to take these pictures.

 

We also had a Baltimore Oriole visiting our yard.  I had heard him for some time, then found him sitting in the juniper bush outside my bedroom window.  I ran to get my camera, but he’d taken off when I got back.  I have seen him in the high trees in my backyard and hear him as well.  In fact, I’ve had lots of Oriole and Yellow Warbler sightings.  We saw both types of birds at the Blackstone River Trail and I later had about six sightings of as many as two Orioles at a time by the Quinnebaug River in Putman, Ct.  There were also plenty of Yellow Warblers, too.  I wonder if the plentitude  of Orioles has anything to do with the large number of Gypsy Moth Caterpillars invading New England now.  I could hear the caterpillars in the trees by the Q. River – I’m too delicate to tell you what I’ve been informed that I was hearing the caterpillars doing.  Let’s just say I was glad I had a hat on!

 

On a trip to the rail trail that runs from Falmouth to Woods Hole, my husband and I were lucky to see Ospreys hunting and feeding their kids. Here’s an older picture from the same area.  We also saw out first Blue-grey Gnatcatcher.  It’s quite the lively bird, and you can’t miss the white vertical bars on the sides of its tail. This link  shows the little guy in action and captures his blue-gray colors.

 

Unfortunately, I haven’t seen as many goldfinches, chickadees, Titmice, and nuthatches of late – though I have seen s few.  I know they sometimes disappear around this time to brood their young, then return with the kids, when they can fly, for family smorgasbord.  I hope they haven’t been driven out by the greedy Grackles, Mourning Doves, and Sparrows.  Though Sparrows can be pesky, I have to admit these guys are cute.

 

At least I saw the Catbird again yesterday while I was reading!  This picture is from last year.

Downy and Hairy Woodpeckers have come by, as well as a Flicker. Here are two neat, albeit window-screen-fuzzed, photos of a Hairy Woodpecker. Like most Woodpeckers, this guy just loves that suet!

 

Oriole image from Pexels.
Yellow Warbler image from:  Pixnio.

 

Carven not Craven Images: Providence

The same day that we visited Battleship Cove, we also gave ourselves a walking tour of the older architecture in the downtown section of Providence.  Yang and I had come here for a walk once before in the winter and marveled at the beautiful buildings with their ornate decorations.  We’ll start with the Shepherd Department Store Building.

 

 

 

The Shepherd Department store was once the largest department store in the country, covering an entire block and consuming three buildings.  First built in 1880, the store continued to grow and became a mainstay for about 100 years.  Unfortunately, like many of the other big department stores (Bon Marche, Filenes, G. Fox) it was undone by the viral spread of malls.  Check out the interesting background info on this store and on it and  similar ones.  Fortunately, Shepherd’s facade has been preserved, with a major portion of the building serving as  campuses for URI and CCRI, as well as offices for the RI Department of Education, making the relief of the owl pictured above both prescient and appropriate!

 

 

The archways on each of these street-corner main entrances are extraordinary to to view.

And of course, you can’t help but admire this fierce lion head  decorating the building.

 

 

He isn’t the only lion.  This building, now a dance club, is  protected by a line of threatening Panthera Leo – so you’d darn well better heed the sign warning that the rest rooms are only for patrons!

 

 

There are also far less threatening carvings or reliefs.  With this building that was once a nineteenth-century performance center, we have musical instruments:  mandolin and horn on one side and lyre on the other.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

On another building, I found these reliefs:  a pilgrim-looking guy and the female head from the old dimes.  How wise to pick a relief that has rays coming from her head that can also double as pigeon repellers. Note that anchor relief just around the corner.

 

Between them was a medallion with this cherub.

 

I was  struck by the Providence Performing Arts Center.  This gorgeously ornate building covers an enormous amount of territory.  It seems like an entire block.  The front is impressive, predominating the view at this end of Weybosset Street.  The sides are no less impressive. Originally built as Loewe’s Movie Palace  in 1928, the theatre opened to an audience of 14,000. Loewe’s went through some tough times in the latter half of the twentieth century before its redesign as a  successful  multipurpose performance venue.  Click here for  background on this magnificent building.

 

Here, Yang caught me giving the side view of the theatre a once over. Yes, I do have a hat! There are plenty more shots that we took that day – the photographic not the liquid kind.  However, I don’t want to make this post too long.  Looks as if I’ll have to do a Providence,  part II!

Battleship Cove – Connecting to Dad

Last week, Yang and I finally got the opportunity to do something we’ve been promising ourselves for years:  visit Battleship Cove.  As someone who is fascinated by the WWII years and who had a father who served in the Navy, this was a special treat for me.  I’ve long heard of my Dad’s various adventures, both in the Armed Guard doing convoy duty in the North and South Atlantic and on the U.S.S, Hudson in the Pacific Theatre. Here’s a picture of the Hudson (DD475) from the USS Hudson Homepage.

We first checked out a landing vehicle, then moved on to two different PT Boats.  These guys were supposed to be small, but the one we photographed looks awfully intimidating.  Maybe its the big shark’s maw painted on it?  Small, though they may have been considered, they were pretty darned effective with their wooden construction giving them speed and agility and their firepower allowing them to take some nasty bites out of  the enemy tonnage.

 

I was especially interested in USS Jospeh P. Kennedy,  because, as it was a destroyer built during WWII, I thought it might give me a good idea of the type of vessel on which my Dad served.  The Kennedy wouldn’t be an exact match, as a Gearing-class destroyer, where the Hudson was a Fletcher-class.  The Gearing class is somewhat bigger, and this ship was in its 1970s update state; however, I thought I might still get something of an idea.  I can’t get over how you can pack so many people in this space, though it is a big ship.  When I was in the rooms where the men slept, I pitied the 60 or so guys my Dad must have tortured with his snoring.  They must have thought they were under attack!  I was also struck with how athletic you have to be to get around and stay on your feet with the steep climbs and the narrow corridors – and I didn’t have to contend with roaring seas or battle conditions!  I was stiff for days afterwards!  Still, the space was luxurious compared to what we saw on the submarine Lionfish – more about that later.

My Dad was a gunner on the Hudson, Sfc, but I don’t think he said he was on one of these monsters.  If you look at the second picture, you see the red circle warning you to stay outside the guns’ turn radius.  You wouldn’t want to get hit by this monster – unless you’d always had a hankering to turn into a pancake.  You’ll notice that I was going down the stairs here.  Too steep to descend facing down!  I think guys used to almost slide down with both hands on the rails.  But I could be wrong.

 

 

I found this picture online of the Hudson’s crew in 1945, and I think I can pick out my Dad.  He’s the one with the beard and the cocky expression on the right, in the second row, behind the last seated guy on the right with his cap on. I know that expression well! You better click on the picture and enlarge!  My Dad had a wonderful album from his Navy days, but either my brother or one of my nephews has it now.  I really want to get my hands on it so that I can scan the pictures!  If you click here, you can see the crew list with my Dad’s name!  This is also from the Hudson Homepage.  For more history of the Hudson, you can also click here.

Finally, we went on the WWII sub, the Lionfish.  this was my second visit to a WWII-era sub, as Yang and I had also scrambled through the Tigershark in Baltimore Harbor many years back.  All I can say is, tall or wide people don’t bother!  It’s amazing how much equipment and machinery you can cram into such a narrow passage.  What killed me was moving from compartment to compartment, because the hatches require you to step up and pull your legs up and along to get through.  Now you know why you see guys grab the hatchways on either side and swing their legs straight through.  It’s only for the young!  I don’t think I’d particularly enjoy bunking over a torpedo, either.  Maybe that’s just me!

 

By the time we finished the destroyer and the sub, we didn’t have it in us to explore the battleship, the biggest of the lot!  So, another day, another visit!  This display of ships was a cool experience.  Oh, and we did see that the sailors weren’t the only ones in dress whites that day.

 

Swan Point Twilight – Don’t Blink!

Last weekend, Yang and I paid a twilight visit to the Swan Point Cemetery in Providence.  It’s a beautiful cemetery on the bay, encircled and populated by graceful old trees.  The graveyard is designed in the Romantic style initiated by the Mt. Auburn Cemetery in Cambridge and emulated by others, such as Forest Hills in Jamaica Plain, the Lowell Cemetery (guess where), and Sleepy Hollow in Concord – Tarrytown, too!

This style is characterized by sloping greens; stately, shady trees; ponds; and monuments created to reflect both the sadness of loss and the serenity of eternal peace.  Keats and Shelley would just die, so to speak, for a sojourn here.

This cemetery is surrounded on the street side by a stone wall of large rocks.  So, it captures the New England tradition of dry stone walls, but adds solemn majesty by using boulders as its dry stones.  I love this configuration near the entrance.  We came here close to dusk because Rosie and ‘Tasha kept us out later than usual walking in the yard.  So, we had to hurry  a bit and were unable to stroll and take photographs at our leisure.

 

 

 

The posture and positioning of many of these statues seem to tell a moral about death.  Perhaps women were usually chosen to immortalize in keeping with Poe’s dictum that the saddest thing in the world is the death of a beautiful woman.  Each of these beautiful figures seems to convey a message back to the living.   This woman looks down on our world, bearing a veiled gift.  The broken column signifies a life cut off.  I’m not sure where I learned about the column, but I do remember it was a legitimate source.

 

 

 

 

 

Here, a woman peers off into the beyond, urging us to look upward and outward, past this vale of tears – or is that veil of tears?  Either makes sense in this context.  She also holds an anchor on her far side.  Does it symbolize that she is anchored to us, though she is looking to attain something beyond the earthly realm – or is she from a seafaring family?

 

 

I’m particularly interested in this figure, looking down at us from the heights of a pillar, perhaps symbolizing she is no longer anchored to this earth but soars above us toward the empyrean.  Still, her gaze of concern is fixed on us suffering mortals below.

I found this stylized monument of an angel  particularly intriguing.  Yang thought it had an Egyptian look, but I find it much more art deco.  It seems to flow down into the ground – or does it shoot upward?I didn’t have a chance to check the date on it to see if it fit into the deco period.  I’m so impressed by its soft but still clean lines.

 

 

The weathering of this limestone angel blurs and softens it’s features so that it seems ethereal – and more than a little eerie.  What do you think?  What does she perceive hovering above even her?  Don’t blink!

 

 

 

 

 

The cemetery has other lovely qualities. There is a pond surrounded by hedges, but I didn’t get any pictures this time.  We had to rush.  However, I did get a shot of this gazebo.  What a wonderful place to sit and read.  Yang graded papers here, while I attended a Renaissance Conference in town one time.

 

 

I have to add that there are some impressive selections of Celtic crosses.    Some in family groupings.

 

 

 

 

 

Others even in pairs.

 

 

I especially loved the balustrades or curved stone work surrounding or leading up to family burial plots.  The first of these pictures shows a lovely plaza surrounded by a bowed stone rail.  I remember when there were actually a barrier of tall yews forming a second circle inside the balustrade.  You couldn’t see within the green cavern it created.  One of the grounds-people told me they had to cut  down the yews because weird stuff went on in there at times.  This was some time ago that I heard this tale.  I hadn’t heard any tales about these gently curving steps and barrier, leading to this prominent family’s plot.  I do love the graceful shape.

 

 

 

 

 

Of course, here are the pictures that all you faithful Lovecraftians are waiting for:  Mr. Lovecraft’s family plot and monuments.  We actually had some shots of me next to the monuments, but I looked awful enough to give a Shuggoth the willies.  So, vanity prevailed and I ditched them.  You may notice that there were deposits of presents by Mr. H.P.’s grave.  If you look carefully on the gravestone, you can see that his birthday had been just a few days before.

 

 

 

 

 

There are lots of beautiful scenes that I hadn’t time to photograph that twilight, but seeing that I couldn’t fit in all the wonderful images that I took this trip, I don’t feel too bad now about not getting them.  There should be another trip, maybe when the fall colors are aflame.  Won’t that be a treat to see?  So, with this proud, victorious angel, I will bid you adieu and slip away into the gloaming – whatever the heck a gloaming is!

A Stroll along the Hudson

A few weeks back, Yang and I had the pleasure of a stroll along the cliff walk in Nyack by the Hudson river.  My friend and author  Mya O’Malley had told me about this beautiful hike the day before when we went to see her at the West Nyack Free Library Book Fair.  The walk runs along the bottom of these magnificent cliffs, just above the Hudson.  Here’s a view of river and the trail as we started off.  Even the area near where we started was really neat, check out the stone walls above.

 

 

 

 

While we strolled along, we were preceded by this charming fellow for the first 10 minutes of so.  Does anyone know if this is a dragonfly or a damsel fly?  Is this guy a particular breed of either?  He was certainly a pleasant companion.  Speaking of pleasant companions, there were plenty of people of all ages and backgrounds  bicycling or walking (often with a dog or two), though not so many to make you feel crowded.  Everyone had a friendly hello or smile or was happy to chat about the gorgeous day and the magnificent surroundings – such as the cliffs you saw if you turned to your left and looked straight up.

 

For much of the trail, woods rose up and obscured views of the striking rock wall, but frequently they cleared to show you these inspiring cliffs.  Yang pointed out that you can also walk trails along the top of the cliffs – and walking along the river trail, you could see some trails leading upwards through the woods. I think a return in the fall, when autumn colors are blooming is clearly in order!

 

 

 

 

 

 

We didn’t see a much wildlife, but I was curious about these berries.  They look a great deal like black caps, but they are much bigger and the pod left over after the fruit is gone is definitely larger and a different color from that of black caps.  Anyone have any conjectures on identity?

 

 

 

Something else  we saw that I found fascinating were curious rock formations.  Now look at this one.  Isn’t it much like a monstrous head?  Note the circles of lichen that are shaped like and located where you’d expect to see eyes.  Then there are the indentations between those circles, evoking the image of a nose.  How can you miss the giant, horizontally elongated mouth with crooked teeth of rock?

 

Right here is one of the most interesting formations in the cliff.  Can you pick out the skull in the upper part of the cliff, just to the right of center, with almost square indentations for eyes sockets and an upturned nose with the slash of tiny mouth beneath?

 

 

 

 

 

 

No?  How about in this close up?  Seems like an inspiration for a story of horror or fantasy, doesn’t it? Maybe more fantasy than horror, since the skull seems to be a bit on the cheery side – or is it delighted at the prospect of perpetrating hideous havoc?.

 

 

 

 

 

 

The towering cliffs certainly inspire an intimidating, eerie grandeur, don’t they?  I wonder if they inspired Mya O’Malley when she wrote her supernatural mystery/romance Maggie?  I could see them when I was reading her novel.

 

Still, the hike was not entirely eerie.  As I said, we met and talked with many nice people – some of whom suggested different roads we might take along the trail.  This was my favorite sight on the trail, the handsome guy who accompanied me! 

Birds, Beasts, and Flora

 

 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

Late Summer Birds and Flora

 

Summer is almost officially past, so I’m posting some images from my gardens.  We have three kinds of morning glories flowering in our yard.  We’d have four, if the large blue ones would flower,garden1 but they won’t.  So, we have some deep purple, some magenta, and some orchid ones.  I don’t know all the names of the types, but they are lovely.  Every year, I collect the seeds from these flowers to replant them in the spring.  Sometimes, we get some interesting hybrids.  I managed to get pictures of one of my favorites.  Sometimes the orchid morning glories will sport a  broad, deep purple  stripe, as you see here. garden2 The seeds will actually reflect the  combined types.  Orchid seeds are cream colored and purple or magenta ones are black.  These hybrid seeds are usually cream with a black stripe.  Sometimes, the orchid ones will also blend with the magenta to produce a pink flower.  Unfortunately, I didn’t get a picture of the one pink flower I’ve seen so far, but I did tag the flower so that I can retrieve the seeds.

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The birds have also been having a grand time in our yard.  We’ve seen lots of cardinals, garden5including the Daddy Cardinal taking the kids out for dinner.  We also have Hairy and Downy Woodpeckers, scads of Gold Finches and Purple Finches, Chickadees, Titmice, and Nuthatches.  I even saw a hummingbird three times this year!  One time was in early September!  The young gentleman Coopers Hawks have since taken offhawk1 and rarely visit now.  We named them Shawn and Gus – I know you know that I AM telling the truth about that!  In this picture, you can see one hawk in the foreground and if you look carefully, the other is in silhouette in the triangle of railings on the right.
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The drought has certainly left my pumpkins gasping for life.  I’ve seen so many pumpkin and gourd embryos wither and die.  Still, some made it. garden10 Here is an odd shaped pumpkin, which some critter took a chunk out of.  Still, the pumpkin lives and now resides on my sideboard in the dining room.  The pumpkin below isn’t a rogue that needs to be caged to protect the other flora and fauna. The vine climbed over the garden fence and the pumpkin embryo became fertilized hanging over the outside of the garden.  Since we found evidence of some creature trying to dig into the garden,  we developed protective caging from milk cartons. garden7 The ploy worked, for this pumpkin matured and now resides in state on the what-not table in my parlor.  You can also see a crown of thorns embryo ready to flower and be fertilized.  The good news is that this little guy is happily growing away.  Maybe I’ll have some more pictures of it later.  garden9
Here are some of our eggplants and peppers. These guys were delicious!  Yang can cook!  So, I guess the drought didn’t totally blacken my green thumb.garden8