JULY BLUES AND SUNRISE ON THE VERNAL EQUINOX – Marilyn Armstrong

July Blues and the Sky at Dawn – Vernal Equinox 

It was dawn on the day of the Vernal Equinox and I had not closed the shades. I usually do, but I forgot. When I woke up, it looked as if the room was on fire. The blue sky turned deep red and violet before finally, the sun came up. It was the most amazing sunrise I’ve ever seen. My friend called me to ask: “Did you see that sunrise this morning? It was amazing!”

Dawn – Vernal Equinox

And I keep a camera in the bedroom, just for this kind of event. I can only get these amazing sunrises before the leaves come out. After that, the trees hide the sky.

KAYAKING ON THE BLACKSTONE – Garry Armstrong

And so on a particularly warm and bright June day, we took ourselves down to the Blackstone in Rhode Island.

Not knowing what we would find, this time we met two kayakers. Each had his and her own kayak, one blue and one red.  There was a lot of discussion about whether to paddle up or downstream.

A general consensus existed that there wasn’t very far upstream one could paddle … that it was too rocky or possibly too narrow, but they decided to give it a try anyway. I don’t know how far they got, but it was a beautiful day, so why not?

Getting the kayaks ready

Paddling up the river

BOYS STILL PLAY, AT LEAST IN THE COUNTRY – Marilyn Armstrong

A couple of weeks ago, I wrote about how we used to go out to play. Without cell phones, with no communication with home. No one got worried or frantic because a kid went missing for a few hours and I wondered if kids in this country really play anymore.

It was a beautiful, warm, sunny day today and we drove down to a branch of the Blackstone that runs through Rhode Island.

We bumped into a squadron of boys. Maybe 11 or 12? They all arrived by bicycle, ditched them along the fences, pulled off their outer clothing and jumped in the river. One of them wanted to fish and was distressed that the “no fishing” sign was up and we got into one of those adult-child conversations wherein I tried to explain that this is when the trout are breeding, so they need to protect them so that next year, there will be full-grown trout.

What is that on my foot?

I think the “cycle of life” explanation doesn’t mean a lot to 12-year old boys. They simply haven’t seen that much of life, especially when they live in the Valley.

I didn’t see a single boy with a telephone. I saw them with bikes, fishing rods, baskets to collect whatever they might find in the river. I watched them grimace as they stepped on something (yuk). Gather together to try and figure out what that thing is.

Photo: Garry Armstrong

Photo: Garry Armstrong

Photo: Garry Armstrong

They were sure we were professional photographers come especially to take their pictures. I couldn’t figure out why until I realized they never see people with actual cameras. Everyone they know takes pictures with a telephone.

Photo: Garry Armstrong

So, ergo-ipso, we must be professional photographers. After that, it was hard to get them to stop posing. They did want me to make sure to get pictures of them jumping into the river. I did, too. Proving that I haven’t completely lost my reflexes and also proving that this is a very fast camera! Garry got more pictures, from different angles.

Getting in is easier than getting out!

What IS that?

Photo: Garry Armstrong

As one of them got out shaking, I said: “Cold isn’t it!”

He said: “Wow, yeah, cold!”

It was good to see kids just playing. No phones, no electronic anything, although they sure had nicer bicycles than we did! And they had the river and that’s no small thing. No one had to wait for mom to drive them to the beach … or even older, take the subway to a beach in Brooklyn or Queens. The just got on their bikes and went to the river that had the least current and was pretty shallow. Safe enough.

Down by the swimmin’ hole …

I guess the answer is that kids still play, just like they used to, but not in cities or suburbs. Here, in the country, they play. I would have given almost anything to have a river a place where we could swim, even if the bottom was gooey with mud and other unspeakable gunk.

What a joy to be a boy on a late spring afternoon with nothing t do but gather by the river and jump in. Even if the water is really cold.

JAPANESE MAPLE: CEE’S FLOWER OF THE DAY IS A LEAF – Marilyn Armstrong

Japanese Maple – FOTD – 05/24/19

We had a couple of truly lovely days, so I took some pictures. I should have taken more pictures, but for at least a part of the day, I was helping trim the garden. We have a ground cover that has taken over the fence to the degree that I wasn’t sure I’d be able to open or close the gate.

And the Japanese maple looks so lovely in the sunshine and since we raised it from when it was a seedling, I’m proud of how beautiful it has become.

I love the shape of the leaves!

Sunlight on green leaves

NARCISSUS BY THE WOODS – Marilyn Armstrong

Narcissus – FOTD – 05/21/19

These flowers used to grow on the other side of the driveway. In the garden, in a grouping with the daffodils. I don’t know how they wound up on the opposite side of the tarmac.

Wind? Birds? Bees? The driveway is too wide for any kind of natural spreading, so something moved them.

I was really surprised to see them. I thought they had died. I thought a lot of things had died. Some things did.

The old Rhododendrons died, but new ones popped up and are blooming. We have to cut down the dead ones and are planning to on Wednesday. We also need to cut down the Holly which isn’t a bush and has become more of a  tree. A big, bushy tree.

We have about a thousand baby-sized maple trees trying to grow. And we have too many signs that the Gypsy moth caterpillars have come back.

NOW we need rain and a lot of it.  Maybe a solid week of rain would kill them before they get their tiny fangs into our trees.

It’s the only thing that will stop them. I get totally depressed even thinking about them. The last time they showed up, I hid in the house for weeks while they killed off all our trees. I’m trying to not see it, pretending it isn’t happening, but I’m terribly afraid that it is. And this time, I simply can’t afford to bring in the spraying people.

No money.

The irony of this is that these caterpillars BLEW HERE FROM A CITY MORE THAN 50  MILES AWAY. All that windy weather? It brought the monstrous bugs back. Again.

I’m not thinking about it because maybe it won’t happen. Talk about positive thinking, I actually think I’m more afraid of the caterpillars than Trump. That’s serious fear.

AMERICANS DON’T PICK COTTON – Marilyn Armstrong

Photography: Garry and Marilyn Armstrong

You really get a feel for rivers when you live in a regional watershed. The Blackstone and its tributaries flow down from the Worcester hills at the northern part of the state.

The Blackstone is not a wide river. Not like the Mississippi or even the Hudson. It’s a relatively narrow river that drops about 900 feet from its beginnings. It does a lot of twisting and turning, making it much more powerful than its size would suggest.

Photo: Garry Armstrong

It concludes its nearly 50-mile run as it flows into the sea down around Newport, Rhode Island. All the dams were built to power factories and mills, which is why every town in the valley is called “mill” something — or has the name of one of the mill owners.

Early greenery along the river in Rhode Island

Uxbridge is unique. We are named after Uxbridge in England. That’s our twin town, though it’s nothing like our Uxbridge. England’s Uxbridge is an affluent suburb of London. We’re not an affluent anything.

Spring by the Mumford Dam – Photo: Garry Armstrong

The problem with the dams is they block the river and make it hard for wildlife to move up and down the river and many people want to get rid of the dams.

Because this region was the “birthplace” of America’s industrial revolution (1788), most of the earth used to build the dams is hazardous. It’s amazing how much pollution we created in the good old days, before the chemical revolution. We made things every bit as poisonous as we do today.

Spring, downtown Uxbridge

So although they would like to release the dams, they can’t. That hazardous dirt would poison the river. The 45 years we’ve spent cleaning up one of the most polluted rivers in the world (as of the 1970s) would be undone. Instantly.

The train doesn’t stop here anymore – Photo: Garry Armstrong

We are — in 2019 — more or less the poor cousin to other towns in New England, but once upon a time, this was the most prosperous area in the country. Uxbridge had a population and stuff like trains, buses, and businesses.

In the early 1900s, mill owners decided they weren’t rich enough. So they moved down south to where cotton grew and where people worked cheap. By the 1920s, they had closed all the factories in New England.

Photo: Garry Armstrong

The south got the mills, the dams, and the pollution. Then, they realized they were rich, but not rich enough, so they said “Screw the USA” and moved the mills to the far east where people were willing to work for pennies, including children as young as four or five.

Suddenly, all the modestly priced cotton sheets we used to buy became expensive. Between moving the mills and fabric factories to another continent, they simultaneously realized it was also cheaper to buy the cotton there, too. Like, from India, Pakistan, Israel, and places in North Africa.

So it was and so it has remained.

Roaring Dam: Photo: Garry Armstrong

It’s why you can’t find decent percale sheets anymore. The cotton they grow overseas is different than the cotton we grew. It’s finer and silkier, but not as strong or crisp.

To finish us off, we then banned immigrants from picking crops. The idea was that Americans would pick cotton once those brown-colored foreigners were gone. Instead, it turned out that no American of any color, race, or creed will pick cotton. The professional pickers are gone and so are the farms where cotton grew.

Bridge over the Blackstone River

Americans will not pick cotton. Not only do we not do the job well, but we refuse to do it at all. Today’s Americans do not pick cotton. Not white, brown, black or any shade in between. We would rather starve.

John Grisham wrote a book about growing up in the south and picking cotton called “The Painted House.” It’s his little autobiography about before he became a lawyer, then an author. It’s enlightening.

Early autumn at Manchaug

David Baldacci has written something along the same lines about his native West Virginia and how it has been completely destroyed, its people uprooted and ruined. These lawyer-writers are interesting guys. They are more than lawyers, more than writers. They are thinkers.

These southern authors come in two varieties: racist and incredibly liberal.

Guess which ones I read?

SPRING AND CACTUS FLOWERS – Marilyn Armstrong

Fresh forest leaves, a Chickadee, and cactus flowers – 05/12/19

Usually, I limit these posts to actual flowers, but it was such a glorious, lovely, warm, bright day and all the new leaves in the woods look like flowers. Even the birds look like flowers.

A flyaway Chickadee

We intended to go take pictures, but we wound up cleaning the house, which badly needed it. I had to clear the dead leaves off the deck and also clear off at least some of the millions of seeds. Then there was vacuuming and floor washing and sofa cover changing, and the vacuum cleaner bag exploded.

You know. A lovely weekend day at home.

I also have a little bird story.

Very red cactus flower

Yesterday I was in the bathroom about to do something I felt was somewhat urgent, but I made the mistake of looking out the window. “Holy Moly!” I cried. There was a Pileated Woodpecker on the flat-feeder. That’s the really big woodpecker who looks just like  Woody Woodpecker. He has a hammer-shaped head with a huge, heavy beak.  He’s a big guy, too. About as big as a medium-sized hawk.

My azalea

That beak that can break through a chunk of live oak in search of a bug and they have no objection to whacking some other bird over the head if he or she gets in the way.

So the Pileated Woodpecker who I have seen before, but never gotten a picture of him, was right there. There were also about a dozen Brown-headed Cowbirds lined up on the railing, waiting for him to leave. One Cowbird (they aren’t afraid of anything, probably because following herds of buffalo had its own perils) jumped up on the feeder and without a second thought, Mr. Pileated Woodpeckeder bonked him on the head.

Cowbird returned to the railing. Brave, but not stupid.

A crowd of cowbirds

I ran to the dining room, grabbed my camera, turned it on. And, of course, the woodpecker was gone. Vamoose.

Meanwhile, the cowbirds were jumping onto the feeder. I guess they felt they’d waited long enough.

Baby leaves

Me? I sighed, turned off the camera and went back to the bathroom. I’m getting used the disappearing act. So is Garry. He can’t understand how they completely vanish in literally the blink of an eye. But they do. Kind of amazing in a frustrating way.

Baby oak leaves and a very blue sky

So today, I took pictures. Mostly of plants and trees because they do not disappear. They sit still, roots firmly in the ground or in their pots. They let me take their pictures and do not fly away while I turn on the camera.