Must be we made ourselves useful and didn’t cause too much trouble in 2014 because our daughter Keely and her husband Mark invited us to go with them on their annual spring Florida vacation again this year. Yeah! Of course, it is such a trial (wink, wink) for us to be with our two wonderful grandchildren, not to mention our daughter and son-in-law for a whole week!
We flew down and they rented a beach condo on the Gulf coast on Gasparillo Island in Southern Florida for a whole week (in the units behind my hat) (such severe hardships, I know). Thank you so much, Mark and Keely!
Annabelle and Sam love our attention (another tough break I know). Of course we thoroughly enjoy spoiling them a little too. Annabelle started learning to crawl on our vacation. We tried to allow Keely a little more rest as Annabelle is not much of a sleeper. JoAnne greatly enjoyed the pool, doing laps early every morning before others were awake. In the evening, she and I walked on the beach at sunset while Keely and Mark were putting the children to bed.
It is always a pleasure for me to watch birds in a different location. The only time while there that I took time away to specifically bird watch, I saw jungle but no birds. Yet, for example, while pushing Sam in the swing at the Community Center, I notched two new birds as they flew over. And as we walked on the beach, there were lots of shore birds to glass.
The attached gallery is a collection of pictures from vacation, some are taken with JoAnne’s camera and some with my phone.
I love a good walk. It gets the heart pumping and fills the lungs with fresh air. It eases the tensions of to-do lists and day-to-day circumstances. Sometimes I pray aloud on my walks too. Here in Northern CT, we are blessed to live near the Granby Land Trust area as well as a rail trail. So I have places to walk. I walk for exercise first, but I love the fresh air and I love watching nature, especially birds, plants, rocks, animals and flowers and trees.
Today I walked farther than usual, hiking to Carpenter Falls, a beautiful hidden falls near the top of Broad Hill. Because of the rain last night the creek there was running a little more than usual too. One has to hike down into the small gorge to see it. The collage and the gallery with this post are from that spot today.
This spring the birds have seemed more abundant than usual. Probably I have just been walking at better times. I keep a journal of my bird walks, jotting down the species seen on each walk when I get home. In May I have seen about 36 species of birds on my walks, and I seldom stop just to bird watch for very long. I mostly just glass what moves.
I also had the unusual privilege of observing a small mink hunting up the shore line of our local creek just as I looked down from the Broad Hill Road Bridge. He darted in and out of holes in the rocks both above and below the water searching for prey. Once he swam across a section to a small group of rocks he wanted to check out.
I’ve been walking in our neighborhood for about 17 months now. I see lots of fascinating and beautiful things because I look for them. I’ve found picturesque stream crossings, a hidden falls, and a mountain overlook. Until today, the only large wildlife I’ve seen were deer. But nature has a way of surprising you.
I’m not particularly quiet as I use a walking stick and it clunks on the pavement or the snowy mountain path as I go. Today was no exception. I wasn’t even away from the houses yet on Broad Hill Rd. and there on my right just over the guardrail was a flock of turkeys. I stopped in my tracks, expecting the usually skittish birds to immediately fly away. But they did not. They just meandered in the other direction. So I took their pictures. Then, I tried to be quiet, and, assisted by the terrain, I walked back in the direction they were going, popping over to the creek bank to spy on them and taking more pictures. Two cars went by and still they did not spook. As both I and the flock approached the bridge, it became clear that they intended to cross in front of me. I just stopped and waited. After a few moments hesitation, they did just that. I took photos without scaring them.
I finished my walk up the hill and back down and then headed home. As I started up the knoll toward our house, there was the flock crossing Simsbury road in front of me again. Again I followed them without spooking them and took several more pictures.
Here is a selection from my unusual winter walk. I put in a couple in the middle of the snowy top of the hill, including a selfie of me.
This afternoon I took a walk up Broad Hill Road and on up the hill. I turned left into the Holcombe Farm trails and took the High Ridge Trail. I wasn’t feeling tops, but I have found that pushing myself to walk when I am not feeling spunky often helps me in the long run. There was not a lot to see in the early spring woods. I had to watch my footing as the trail was muddy in places from small springs. But I had my trusty hiking staff to keep me steady. I always keep my eyes open and today I was especially looking for spring flowers. After all, it is May and the old adage says, “April showers bring May flowers.” I was not disappointed. On my way to the woods, I had seen red trilliums in two different gardens but I did not find any yet in the woods. However I did find a beautiful little rock garden type plant growing in the path and among the mosses. It seemed to be a more dainty version of a plant I had recently planted in my own rock garden.
I was nearly back to the beginning of the High Ridge Trail when I almost stumbled over a fallen but still intact bird’s nest. It was too small to be a robin’s nest, built of different materials, and more neatly built too. I wasn’t sure if the white material in it was some kind of fine bark or lichen. I took its picture to record another find of interest on my path. Finds like this are why I prefer outside walks to inside treadmills any day, even though I might get rained on occasionally as I did today before I got home.
I guess my walk is another illustration of how we seem to find things of interest if we are alert and looking. Just becoming an observer of nature would cure boredom for many people, I’m quite sure. I derive so much pleasure on my walks from observing different aspects of the natural world that I have taken time over the years to learn a little about –rocks, trees, birds, wildflowers, ferns, mushrooms, and animals all provide something fascinating regularly. I’m afraid many people don’t notice much. I haven’t always either.
I think the habit of looking for interesting and beautiful things in nature helps us also to get in the habit of looking for good things in all of life. We all know that if we look for trouble, we find it; and if we look for good things, we will find them too. Noticing things we can rejoice and give thanks for gives us a healthy sense of anticipation and keeps our spirits up every day.
“Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows” (Jas 1:17 NIV).
I took a walk both yesterday and today on the rail trail south from Copper Hill Road. Today, company was sparse, and what there was were mostly bicycle riders. One of the joys of the walking pace is seeing more of what is happening in nature. Yesterday I noticed a flock of birds in the blow-down area of the swamp and stopped to watch. One looks a little odd staring off into the swamp without binoculars and sure enough, someone going by asked me what I saw out there. I responded that there was a flock of beautiful warblers. At the time, I couldn’t remember the identity, but I got a close enough view of one or two so I could look them up when I returned home. Today I looked them up — yellow-rumped warblers. The male is among the most colorful of our Northeastern birds. I went back today with my binoculars and found the flock or a similar one a little farther south along the trail in a more wooded area. The bonus this time was catching a glimpse of a blue-gray gnat-catcher at work in the same area. There were plenty of gnats so he was living up to his name.
The reptiles are out now too. Last week JoAnne and I saw a garter snake on our walk up Broad Hill Road extension. Today I snapped this picture of a turtle sunning himself with a bullfrog poking his nose out a little behind him. I needed my camera with some zoom. But at least my phone camera is nearly always with me.
If you ask me the proverbial question, “Is the glass half empty or half-full?” I’m the kind of guy who always answers, “Half-full of course!” Count your blessings. So, while I could talk about things we miss from New York, my mind tends to focus instead on what I am finding delightful about living in Connecticut. Here’s a partial list.
- Number one is spending so much more time with our daughter, son-in-law and wonderful little grandson Sam. He loves holding my hand and walking around the house at this stage. I better enjoy it while it lasts. He is so huggable. Now I see him about three times per week on the average. JoAnne watches him two days per week and loves it. She is a great Grandma, and a very creative care-giver for Sam.
- The church God has given us to serve in our semi-retirement, Copper Hill UMC, is a joy. I love country churches with history. This one was organized in 1816 and we have already met many delightful new friends who are receiving our ministry with joy too.
- I wear jeans and T shirts a lot more. While I was working full-time, I only wore such relaxed apparel for an occasional gardening stint or when on vacation in the Adirondacks. Now I get to wear it multiple times per week. It feels good.
- There is more sunshine. After all, Syracuse is tied with Portland, OR for most number of cloudy days so I should have expected it. But this year, even the folks from CT are saying the weather has been great so I think it has been unusually nice. We are loving it.
- I am walking more. The parsonage is about 15 minutes’ walk from a forest preserve with a great uphill trail that has been providing good exercise. So far I’ve only lost about 5 pounds but I’m in much better shape. We have lots of good conversations with people we meet along the way too.
- Since I am a history buff, I’m loving living where the timeline of local history commonly stretches back another 100 years to 150 years compared to Western NY. This area of Connecticut began to be settled in the late 1600’s. For a history buff, it’s like adding one-third more stuff to the pages. Instead of 2 centuries of local history, there are three.
- The area of CT where our parsonage is located is very rocky. Our lawn has rock ledges and walls. Our cellar is a rock foundation. Walking in the forest preserve, we see huge rock outcroppings. It reminds us some of the Adirondacks where we often vacationed when we lived in Syracuse. I had a rock collection as a kid too.
- God has blessed us with a parsonage that fits us very well. JoAnne and I both have separate roomy offices in it, something we probably could not have afforded if we had purchased a home. It has lawn and garden spots, a garage, and bedroom space for guests too. It has also provided more than enough DIY projects to keep me happy.
We love walking
JoAnne and I love walking at Green Lakes. It’s good exercise, it’s calming to the spirit, and there is just something about nature that invigorates. I think God made it that way. If we are walking together, we can talk over things. If she has gone on ahead to conquer more territory, I often pray as I walk. I enjoy greeting the other people walking and occasionally, I’m privileged to pet a dog or two as well.
Lots of animals and birds to see
We have observed all kinds of creatures while walking; deer are regulars—four at once on this walk. As a bird-watcher I’ve observed many birds there too—owls, pileated woodpeckers, a pheasant, wild turkey, crows, ravens, vultures, geese, to name the bigger birds. Probably the rarest ones for this area that I’ve seen were an orchard oriole and a fox sparrow. This past summer I was overjoyed to spot a scarlet tanager in full color.
Fall pictures on the path by Round Lake
Speaking of full color, fall is such a gorgeous time to walk in the falling leaves. Here are some pictures I snapped with my old Kodak digital. It has such blue blues.
My wife and I so much enjoy walking at Green Lakes State Park. Green Lakes is such a gift to all of us. Monday morning was a beautiful early fall day for such a walk. Yes, I know it was technically still summer, but here in Kirkville the feel definitely changed to fall a week or so ago. The smell in the air, the crisp mornings with fog hanging over the corn field across the road from my house, the alternation of clear blue days and soggy gray ones; all tell us that it is September.
Walking and praying go together
Even though Monday was perfect for walking, not many people were out so I was mostly left to my own thoughts. I love to pray aloud as I walk and I did. Holding a conversation with God while meandering on a woodland trail is refreshing at multiple levels. I’m relaxing; I’m breathing fresh air; I’m getting some exercise. I’m also unloading my cares to God and listening for his Spirit’s still small voice of counsel in return. I’m participating in the spiritual work of intercession for others too. There’s something about being out in nature that rejuvenates us all. There’s something about personal times of prayer that does the same. Doing both together is like working a team of horses, the result is more powerful than the sum of the parts.
I’m a nature observer
Another joy of Green Lakes hikes are the nature observations. Being a bird watcher, I’m always on the lookout for rarer birds, especially pileated woodpeckers which are not really rare at Green Lakes. I didn’t see one Monday, only a hairy woodpecker. But, this past summer I saw a male scarlet tanager, one of the few times I have seen one of those in my life. However, it is not just birds that get my attention; I also look at the ferns, the fish, and the fungi among other things. Okay, so I’m a nature nut. I have numerous guide books and sometimes actually look at them too. I prefer to think of myself as simply a good observer.