SLOWLY DRIVING ACROSS NEW ENGLAND – GARRY ARMSTRONG

We can still remember the good old days when we were one of the kids in the back seat pinching and punching a sibling while whining: “Are we there yet?” How come our parents didn’t kill us before we grew up?

It’s a question that has taken on considerable depths of meaning with the passing decades

Those of you who wax poetic about the wonderfulness of slowly trundling down America’s scenic back roads should take a car trip across New England.

New England roads — the good roads, the paved roads, the roads with passing lanes — run north and south. Although no one can explain why — lack of money? no interest? not enough tourists? — so only small local roads go east-west. If, for example, you are traveling the 231 miles from Jackman, Maine to Danville, Vermont, you will experience some of the nation’s most beautiful scenery. Slowly.

These are classic roads. They have not changed and in many cases have not been repaved in your lifetime.

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No limited-access highway will sully your pure travel experience. You won’t be tempted to eat fast food from familiar chains. No driver will tailgate to make you or honk for you to speed up. The car ahead of you — what we sometimes refer to as our “pace car” — will be an aging pickup truck rattling down the mountain. One of the driver’s feet will be glued to the brake pedal while he or she engages in a lively conversation with his or her partner while the truck weaves left and right and an occasional fishtail.

You’d be hard put to figure if the vehicle has a steering problem, rowdy children, or the driver is doing it on purpose to make you crazy. Whatever the reason, you are not going to pass that pickup.

You won’t find fast-food chains on this route, but you won’t starve, either. There’s plenty of good food and gasoline to pump as you pass through the quaint New England towns. Classic towns with white clapboard churches and at least one or two pizza joints. Fresh baked goods for sale. Chilled pop in bottles and cans. Clean bathrooms.

TRUCK ON ROUTE 201 IN MAINE

It’s a breathtaking journey through the mountains, valleys, rivers, and lakes. Magnificent and surreal. For the entire trip, directly in front you — on every road — will be a poky driver who will never exceed, or even approach, the speed limit. He or she would not consider letting his vehicle get within 10 miles of whatever that silly sign says is a safe, legal speed for traveling those roads.

Let’s not forget the neverending construction. It is one of New England’s seasons: winter, sort-of spring, and construction. Oddly, if you go back the next year, the construction will still be ongoing with little sign of progress. After four or five of the dozen hours of the drive, the urge to get your car up to ramming speed and push the slow drivers out of the way becomes obsessive.

Slow drivers lurk on side roads. Do they use spotter craft (drones?) so they know when we are coming? We try to pass, but they appear out of nowhere. They pull out and immediately slow to a crawl. If by some miracle, we briefly break free, another slow driver is poised for action at the next intersection.

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Supposedly Dwight D. Eisenhower built the interstate highway system in case of an emergency, so military vehicles could get where they needed to be.

Maybe there was a hidden reason. Ike came from farm country and had been traveling glorious back roads his entire life. The great general he was, he knew defeat when he saw it. Never could he or his military \ever defeat the slow drivers. And that is the real reason he built interstate highways across America, all of which currently need paving. But that’s another story.

Enjoy the beauty of New England. Just remember to enjoy it slowly. If you have a specific arrival time? Leave extra hours. Many extra hours. And remember to take a lot of deep breaths.

FLOWERS OF THE DAY: WHAT’S BLOOMING IN THE GARDEN – Marilyn Armstrong

MAY 21 – THE GARDEN GROWS

Coming home, I had my camera and stayed out long enough to get some pictures.

I missed the big blooming of the columbine, but there are some new ones with buds. I missed the daffodils, but there were a bunch of narcissus on the other side of the driveway. I don’t know how they got there since I didn’t plant them. The roses ARE back. They are just very short, but I have a feeling that one of these days they are going to go crazy. June will be the month of tearing thorns.

RED-BELLIED WOODPECKER AND THE BLUE JAY – Marilyn Armstrong

If there are two more aggressive garden birds in this part of the world, I have no idea what the might be. All garden birds are a little aggressive to other birds. Some birds, though, when they hit the feeder the other birds decide there’s a branch they’d like to visit elsewhere.

Matched pair?

All woodpeckers are aggressive — not based on their size. They are aware that they have very thick skulls to go with their deadly beak, so even bigger birds avoid them. Some of the smaller ones are more aggressive than the bigger ones.

Blue Jay

Blue Jay again

Blue Jays are aggressive. They attack the nests of other birds and eat or destroy their eggs. And if you get near a nest, don’t be surprised to have a phalanx of  Blue Jays attacking you. They don’t mess around.

One Red-Bellied Woodpecker

Eating well!

So it figures when both landed on the same feeder, it was eyeball-to-eyeball and neither backed down. They flew off together.

CHANGING SEASONS: A MONTH OF PLAGUE & FREEZING RAIN – Marilyn Armstrong

The Changing Seasons, April 2020

I don’t know how long we’ve been isolated. It was just a few days after my birthday in March, so six weeks, give or take a few days or maybe half a week. Who can tell? When you are inside all the time and never go anywhere at all, not even the grocery store, all the days are alike and it gets hard to remember what happened … or when. Or sometimes, even IF it happened.

China, east Asia, Australia, and New Zealand

I’ve been grateful to the birds, the squirrels, the flying squirrels. Even the raccoons. They are all eating an awful lot of food. Normally, there’d be plenty to eat outside, but we haven’t had two sunny days in a row. It has been very cold, windy, and endlessly rainy and gray. So, nothing is growing. No hint of leaves. no flowers. Just mud.

My orchids have grown well or had been but the lack of sun has been rough and I finally broke down and bought a grow light. The poor things have been living in a dark closet.

And finally, I’d like to say a final goodbye to Gibbs. May you live on the other side of the Rainbow Bridge in peace. We’ll meet again … maybe, I hope.


About The Changing Seasons

The Changing Seasons is a monthly challenge where bloggers around the world share what’s been happening in their month.

If you would like to join in, here are the guidelines:

The Changing Seasons Version One (photographic):

Each month, post 5-20 photos in a gallery that you feel represent your month
Don’t use photos from your archive. Only new shots.
Tag your posts with #MonthlyPhotoChallenge and #TheChangingSeasons so that others can find them.

The Changing Seasons Version Two (you choose the format):

Each month, post a photo, recipe, painting, drawing, video, whatever that you feel says something about your month
Don’t use archive stuff. Only new material!
Tag your posts with #MonthlyPhotoChallenge and #TheChangingSeasons so others can find them.

If you do a ping-back to this post, I can update it with links to all of yours.

Update

Please visit Pauline’s beautiful garden at Living in Paradise. She and Jack have been hard at work and as always it’s a visual delight.

Lani at Life, the Universe and Lani shares some thoughts and interesting images from her month in Rayong, Thailand.

A Wonderful Sheep brings us a lovely hopeful post with beautiful images of her “side of the mountain” in glorious springtime.

Tish at Writer on the Edge has been busy in her garden and allotment. Please pop over and see the fruits of her green fingers.

Sarah at Art Expedition has not only taken some beautiful photos but also baked the most delicious-looking ….  No. I’m not going to tell you — you have to visit her post to see for yourself.

FROM OUT OF THE WIND BLOWN DARKNESS, PICTURES! – Marilyn Armstrong

In the middle of the morning, the power went out. I took bird pictures, many of which were blurry, but it was raining really hard and besides, I can’t see very well.

It’s absolutely amazing that these little bright Goldfinches can fly in the middle of drenching rain with hurricane-level winds. But they do it. Maybe they find their way between the wind … a quiet place.

These birds are so bright and yellow you can see them all over the woods. I really love those bright birds. Because this was a rather grim day with no water, no heat, no computers. Good thing we have oil lamps and books, eh?

Sketchy Goldfinches

More sketchy Goldfinches

More bright yellow birds

Despite are weather, this is actually what we call spring. It’s why we don’t talk about lovely spring weather in New England. We don’t have lovely spring weather. Actually, the weather around here is pretty bad most of the year. It used to be bitterly cold in the winter, but it wasn’t this winter. It’s steamy and buggy all summer. Autumn, typically the only season we can applaud, has been getting shorter and shorter.

I hope we solve our planetary issues pretty soon. Living around here was bad enough before, but it’s a lot worse now.

IT’S ALL ON TOP – Marilyn Armstrong

EVERYTHING IS ON THE TOP

These are top pictures. Top of the line, top of the heap, top of the steeple. These are all the top of something. Exactly what depends on the picture.

But they are all, definitely, absolutely and totally, on top of something! Let’s enjoy the bird’s eye view of reality. Or look at the peak and think of how high we could go.

High in the sky, a helicopter

Three top-of-the roof pigeons

On Top of the World

On top of the rail yet still looking up

ALL THROUGH THE NIGHT – Marilyn Armstrong

In the end, Owen bought an inexpensive trail camera for the back deck. It arrived yesterday and we set it up on a tripod. This morning, I put the chip in the computer and we had 137 pictures of our woodland creatures.

They arrived in three waves. The flying squirrels showed up first, at around 8:30 pm. The pictures are not exactly brilliant, but you can tell what they are by their small size … and the wings. Only one showed up last night, or at least only one we could see. Three pictures of gliding in, landing on the post, and sucking up to the big feeder.

Gliding in for a landing on the post

Landing

Feeding time for a flying squirrel

At least three mammals came to feed last night: regular squirrels, and flying squirrels, chipmunks. At about 2:30 in the morning, the masked bandits arrived.

At 3:20 AM, the masked banditos of the night arrive for some crunchies. By  now the flying squirrels have left

Pass the black sunflower seeds!

Hey, move over!

Maybe they’ll put up another feeder. I’ve got a couple of hungry cousins …

And finally, at just before five in the morning, the first squirrel arrives. Dawn is about to break and before long, several of his brethren will join him. This guy was an early starter. The camera was set to turn off at five, so tonight maybe we’ll set it to turn off closer to six.

And here is the first squirrel of the day.

First squirrel of the day

So how many animals are we feeding? It’s just as well the feeders are on the deck or we might be feeding the deer, too! So went the first night. They do seem to be taking turns. Good thing we keep filling those feeders.


NOTE: These cameras are used for security and surveillance. You know how on TV, they sharpen these pictures so that they look like they came out of your best camera? Well, it’s not true. These were as good as I could make them and I have pretty good tools!

OH, TO BE BACK IN OCTOBER AGAIN – Marilyn Armstrong

Cee’s Fun Foto Challenge: Autumn Scenes


Autumn is our season, though for the past two years, it has been abruptly shortened by unusually warm weather and far too much rain. Still, we did get at least a week or two, which is better than nothing.

My favorite house in mid-October

The shed in October

The very end of October 2019 on the Blackstone River

Maple trees in late October at River Bend

Upward from the house to the road

Mid-October, on our road towards Rhode Island

THE DAM IN WINTER: A PHOTO A WEEK CHALLENGE – Marilyn Armstrong

THE MUMFORD DAM IN JANUARY:
A PHOTO A WEEK CHALLENGE


A trip to the dentist also means a chance to photograph the dam in the middle of town since the two places are adjacent.

The cold dam at the end of January.

What made this interesting is that I’ve never taken a picture of this area in the winter. All my other shots began in the spring and through the late fall.

Taking advantage of a rare opportunity to take a few pictures in winter.

Gray, foggy afternoon in January

Light snow on our road

HARVESTING THE CORN IN VERMONT – Marilyn Armstrong

Cee’s Fun Foto Challenge: Harvest Scenes


It just happens that I have exactly the right pictures for this challenge. Now, if I can find them …

THE TRAIN THROUGH WORCESTER – OWEN KRAUS

Cee’s Black & White Photo Challenge:
Public transportation (bus, planes, trains, etc.


One day, Owen met a guy who turned out to be a conductor on a train that runs through Worcester. It’s a very old narrow-gauge train and its maximum speed is 5 mph.

“Take pictures!” I told him. He had never taken pictures except for a few snapshots, so I wasn’t expecting much. And he still rarely takes pictures, but he could. The pictures are great.

The conductor climbs up the engine into the engine

Heading into the woods

Leaving the yard

This is our train. There are two of them and our Department of Transportation runs these trains three or four times a week to keep them functional. This is the train created to run through places where no other traffic could go.

Train in the yard

Through a meadow, passing the long stone fence

Heading into a curve as the rain begins to fall

There are no roads nor will there be. The train travels through woods, swamps, and meadows. It slowly passes long-defunct mills and factories, past sludgy canals and dark swamps. Not only is this a look at an old train, but it’s also a look at parts of the Blackstone Valley no one sees because it is inaccessible.

Passing trains

About to pass

Looking out the window into the rain

Pulling back into the yard

Welcome to the Blackstone Valley. Have a look at our history as the home of America’s industrial revolution. This is where all manufacturing industries began in the U.S. and why we are a historical corridor.

A WALK IN THE WOODS: A SYMBOLIC JOURNEY WITH PICTURES – Marilyn Armstrong

There used to be a game we played. Not so much a game as a mental imaging exercise. I originally heard it in the 1960s when I was in college. I was told it wasn’t psychology, but rather drew on symbolism, images out of mythology and folklore. And, of course, our subconscious.

If you feel inclined, come along with me. The meanings, to the degree I understand them, are at the bottom of the page after the photo gallery. I’m pretty sure if you Google this, you’ll find other versions.

1. Imagine you are going to take a walk in the woods. What kind of day is it (sunny, cloudy, raining, warm, cold, summer, winter, autumn, spring)? It can be anything, whatever you see.

2. There is a path ahead of you. Describe the path (open and clear, full of rocks and other hazards, overgrown, etc.).

3. What is the woods like? Pine? Oak? Lots of shrubs? Does the sun filter through the trees??

4. As you walk along the path, you see a structure. What is it? It can be any kind of structure — house, shed, ruin, church, modern — anything. Describe it, please. Does anybody live there? Are they home? Do you go inside? How do you feel about the place?

5. Now it’s time to leave the house. You are back on the path and you come to a body of water. What kind of water (stream, river, ocean, lake, puddle, creek, swamp, etc.). You need to get to the other side. How do you cross the water? (Let your imagination roam free!)

6. Having crossed the water, you rejoin the path. As you stroll or stride along the path, you look down and see a cup. What does it look like? Do you pick it up? Keep it or not?

7. Further down the path, you spy a bear. What is the bear doing? What do you do about the bear?

8. You have passed the bear and you have walked a distance until you come to a wall. What does the wall look like? Can you see over it? Do you know (or can you see) what is on the other side of the wall?

What it means? This is what I learned. If you know another interpretation, you are welcome to tell me about it. I’ve been trying to find out the source of the “walk” for a very long time. Most of my adult life, actually.

1. The walk is life and the day is how you see life — dark or bright, shadowy or sunny. All that you see is part of your vision of life. Whether or not there are obstacles in the path or the path is clear are also parts of it. The nature of the woods is also descriptive of how you see life.

Little house and big maple tree

2. The structure is your childhood. Many people see a storybook house, gingerbread or the woodsman’s cottage out of Hansel and Gretel. Some people find it terrifying. Some people go inside and don’t want to leave.

3. The body of water indicates how you feel about the challenges in your life. The body of water can be just a puddle you step across or an ocean that requires you conjure up an ocean liner to cross. It can be deep and dark, scary or someplace lovely into which you want to wade or swim. How difficult (or easy) it is to cross the water talks about how you feel about overcoming obstacles you {did, are, will} face.

4. The bear equals responsibility. Some people run, others freeze. Some people make friends with the bear and it accompanies them for the rest of the walk. It’s all in your imagination and there are no limits.

5. The wall is death. The most common things to see on the other side are a beautiful mansion (heaven?) … more forest (reincarnation or just a continuation?) … the ocean … One guy saw a burning forest (ouch). What you see is what you see and it may not be what you expect.

I have done this several times at different ages and stages of my life. My answers were different each time, reflecting my current self and shows development. What little I know of this and its origins makes me suspect it was created during the 1800s.

I hope you enjoyed your stroll.

WINTER SCENES – Marilyn Armstrong

Cee’s Fun Foto Challenge: Winter Scenes


It certainly is winter here and today, it was actually cold. The earlier parts of the month were springlike, sometimes downright summery. Today, cold. Tomorrow? Snow? Sleet? Rain? Cold? Warm? All of the preceding?

NOW you’re talking. our precipitous winter days have mostly been a bit of everything, usually in about 12-hours. Although we have rapidly changing weather, it doesn’t usually all happen in a single day between dawn and the late news.

Junco in a bird’s winter

Waiting to a place at the feeder

Home in the snow – Photo: Garry Armstrong

A bench on the Common with snow – Photo: Garry Armstrong