We shouldn’t have been surprised because it happens every year, pretty much at the same time. Middle of November, after a long period of rather warm weather, one day the temperature drops and suddenly, you feel that first bite of winter.


I remember one year, more than 20 years ago, it was November 18th. Garry and I had gone in short sleeves and no jackets to a local dive for lunch. We were living on Beacon Hill and given the perils of alternate side of the street parking, we had walked the mile.


We were there about two hours. It had been around 70 degrees when we arrived at the Bulfinch. When we emerged, the temperature was about 40 degrees and the wind was whipping around the tall building. We ran home, not stopping until the door was closed firmly behind us.


This morning, when we got up, it was warm. Not 70, but mid sixties. Overcast and a bit blowy. When a few hours later we left to drive to Milford to pick up some antibiotics for Bishop, it was still warm. I noticed it was a bit chilly when we arrived at the veterinary office at 12:30. Less than an hour later, we stopped at the grocery store. It was cold. Not cooler. Cold. Maybe 50 degrees with a brisk breeze snapping the naked trees. The sky was bright blue with a few high cirrus clouds.


The cold had come. Other shoppers were hugging themselves, still dressed in short sleeves, unprepared for the precipitous temperature drop. We had jackets on, but it was definitely time for the next level of outerwear.

Trees are bare. A few die-hard shrubs are hanging on to their leaves, but otherwise, it’s the tail-end of autumn when the world pauses, catching its breath. Feeling the first chill fingers of winter.


A good time for the casting of sharp shadows across roads and parking lots. A good time to lay in supplies for the season to come.




Photographs by Garry and Marilyn Armstrong

Veterans Day, originally Armistice Day, initially celebrated the end of the first world war. The fields in Europe where the war was fought were full of wild red poppies and for many years, red poppies were the symbol of World War I.


Fighting ended between the Allies and Germany at 11 AM on 11/11 — November 11, 1918. This is accepted almost universally as the end of “the war to end all wars.” Sadly, this barely interrupted the progression of war — and the holiday was known as Armistice Day.


After the police action in Korea concluded in 1954, “Veterans” was substituted for “Armistice.” The holiday became Veterans Day and honors veterans of all the wars we have ever fought. Which are a lot of wars and a great many veterans.

There is a Revolutionary War era cemetery in the middle of Uxbridge where you’ll find graves of those who died defending this country from early Revolutionary days, through the many “police actions” in Korea, Vietnam, Afghanistan, Iraq, Somalia … and everywhere else our military has been.

Tombstones cemetery Uxbridge

The cemetery is in the center of the town, directly across from the dam. Maybe a hundred yards from the Blackstone River. The graveyard is atop the hill, so it’s safe from spring floods.


The people who first chose that spot for the cemetery understood the river and flooding. They picked a beautiful spot, but made sure it would be dry. Safe for bones and memories.


An old cemetery, dating back to the early 1700s. It contains traces of many generations of those who lived and died in this town, this valley. Folks who lived along the Blackstone and its many tributaries, fished in its lakes and streams. They fought in our wars and are buried here — Revolutionary War soldiers, Civil War veterans as well as those who fought in all the American wars since.


Every Independence Day, Memorial Day and Veteran’s Day, the cemetery blooms with bouquets and flags. The schools bring the children here, so they will remember too and traditions will be maintained.

Revolutionary Cemetary

They bring bouquets of wild flowers or from the back garden. Lilacs and lilies, scarlet poppies … and always a miniature American flag. Even if there’s no special holiday, the cemetery always shows signs of caring, remembering.


Maybe it’s easier to remember here, with such a small population. Is that it? Or it’s just part of the air, the character, the history. The Valley has a long memory.


The cemetery is one of my favorite places. We’re newcomers after all, only living here 15 years. Our ancestors — Garry’s and mine — come from Sligo, Antigua, Minsk, Bialystok … from tiny villages in Ireland and the West Indies and the shtetl of eastern Europe.


Valley people have been here longer. Many came from French Canada in the late 19th century to work in the mills. Another large group formed the dominant Dutch population. They built churches, businesses and factories, dairy and truck farms, shops, horse farms and sawmills. Their names are prominent wherever the rivers run.


Newcomers, like us, aren’t rare anymore but far from common. We have no ancestors in the cemetery, at least none about whom we know. Anything is possible in America.

The valley is the only place I’ve lived where the majority of families have lived in the town or in a nearby villages for three, four, five generations.


“We’ve always lived in the Valley,” they say, meaning as long as anyone can remember. If prodded, they may recall how, at some long ago, they came from somewhere else but the details are gone. It was a long time ago.


I point out they must have come from somewhere because unless they are Native American, they came to this place, even if a long time since. They get misty-eyed trying to remember old family stories handed down when they were young.


Hard to remember, they tell you. “You know, that was 75 years ago … a long time.” We nod, because it was a long time ago, longer than we’ve been alive, and we aren’t young.


So another year passes and little flags and flowers bloom in the old cemetery in the middle of town.

Should you decide to accept this challenge, you can use a picture from this or any post of mine  — or any other picture you like. Write something about the picture or make something up, using a photograph — any photo — as a jumping off point.


Monthly Photo Challenge: The Changing Seasons 11

Last month was full-bore autumn. Bright trees. Yellow, orange, scarlet, bronze. And yet … and yet …


For the past few days, the leaves have been coming off the trees in a storm.


The ground is covered with oak, maple, sassafras, birch. More than ankle-deep.


The macadam is slippery with leaves. It’s almost like ice. Before there is real ice, we have to clear the driveway and backyard. Winter is close.


Not here, not yet. It’s still warm inside and outside. So warm I turned the heat off. November it may be, but it’s short-sleeved and shorts weather.

Tomorrow, it’s supposed to drop down … into the fifties. Maybe low sixties.


For November in New England, this is not cold. Barely cool.


Maybe winter will just take a pass this year and not show up at the party. I could live with that.


Cardinal Guzman, the host of this challenge, has gorgeous galleries, so please go look! 



Winter is my off-season, but it isn’t really off-season if, for example, you love skiing or ice skating. Summer — not my favorite season — is very popular. Picnics, barbecue, swimming, and hanging on the beach. To me, beach equals sun-stroke and third degree burns, with sand in unmentionable places.

Autumn is New England in its full glory. If we have an “in” season, autumn is it. So … what’s left?

Whitins Pond November

Whitins Pond – November

March and April. After the snow is gone, but before the leaves and flowers appear.

72-Glow-Snowy River-032015_32

Blackstone River – Early March

Late November and usually December. When the bright leaves are gone, but the snow hasn’t arrived.


November on the pond


December on the farm

Otherwise, New England and our valley are always in season.

cold sun 8

The cold sun in the sky and afternoon shadows herald a chilly night. Snow coming soon.

I don’t get the sun’s rays or star by using a special filter. I use just a skylight filter to protect my lens and not on every lens, either. I can get the star effect by angling the camera when the sun is in front of me. I have to twiddle with the position of the camera until I see the star and then shoot. It’s not a special effect, just optics.