PRIVILEGED IN THE PARK – GARRY ARMSTRONG

It was really a lovely day. Cool, bright, not humid. The car, after these months of sitting under the trees which, these days, are covered with the remnants left by Marilyn’s birds. Our Renegade was not looking her best. And, there were a lot of medications waiting at the pharmacy.

We had gotten up early because Marilyn thought we had a doctor’s appointment, but it turned out to be next Tuesday. Since I was up already, I bravely ventured out. Mailed a long-delayed letter. Picked up medications, got the car washed, bought Marilyn a bouquet of white roses, then went down to River Bend.

I found a great spot for photographs, an old Andy Griffith, Mayberry scene. And there was a mom and her two little kids playing in the river. I was also wearing both mask and gloves with my USMC T-shirt and an NCIS vest (bought directly from the CBS online shop).  I guess I didn’t look dangerous enough to call the cops.

I asked permission to take pictures of her and the kids. Eventually, I asked why none of them were wearing masks. She told me, “Thanks for asking permission for pictures. Yes, you can take them. As for no masks and gloves, I think the media is blowing this out of proportion. The President knows what he is talking about.”


Long pause from me. “Hey, ” she said, “You look familiar. Didn’t you used to be on TV? Oh, don’t tell me. I know! I grew up watching you on TV. You have a nice day, now.”

I also guess no one told her about the literally thousands of snapping turtle who live in that area of the river. That’s why you aren’t allowed to swim in it or even dangle your feet off the dock. They like to munch on toes and fingers and have the jaws to for it.


Her 5-year-old is in preschool. The 4-year-old is in nursery school. And mom watches Fox News. You can’t save them all.

MORE OF THE RED HOUSE FINCH – Marilyn Armstrong

One of the things I have been learning to do is take more pictures faster. I have a tendency to focus and try to find perfection, the result of which is often not getting the picture at all. Now, I get the bird (or squirrel) in the viewer, I shoot. My camera is fast which helps. If I keep shooting, there will be something, even if I don’t see it as I shoot.

The thing is, I’m shooting through a French door, which is made up of panels. Small panels, so while I’m quickly shooting, I often get the pieces of the window along the edges of the frame. I’m learning to live with the limitations.

Those darker edges create an abstract background that I’m learning to work with rather than fighting with it.

If you keep waiting for perfect pictures, you’ll never find one. Also, these windows are east-facing so until well  past noon, the sun is coming directly in through the doors, a problem I can’t yet fix. I’m wondering if there is a filter that would help, but it’s difficult because the sun is right in my eyes.

Spring

When the trees fill with leaves, I think it will create shade. And the woods is full of leaves or more to the point, leaf buds — and pollen.

Achoo.

Cee’s Pick Me Up …

SO WHAT’S NEXT? – Marilyn Armstrong

There’s nothing going on. I have a telephone doctor visit on Monday and in June, there are tests and examinations. I have no idea what will be going on by then.

May, last year

While the infection and death rate is slowly diminishing in Massachusetts, it isn’t nearly as low as I need it to be before I am comfortable “out there.” Really, until someone can give me even the most basic statistics of what is going on in Worcester County, how can anyone know what to do? I hear that they are making significant progress on the vaccine in England, but by the time they test it and make sure it’s safe, it’ll be another year.

I can’t believe it’s already May. April never happened. It came, we did nothing. It went. We are still doing nothing. Which is okay. I really don’t mind the isolation since we tend to be isolated anyway by choice. But the grim, cold, wet, icy, sleety weather is maddening. We have no flowers. All we have is mud. I hear flowers are blooming elsewhere, but we haven’t had two days in a row of sunshine so I guess that is a miracle of spring.

The little footbridge in the merry month of May by the dam on the Mumford

I’m not bored, but I’m restless. I’d like to go take some pictures. I’d like to see the rivers, the dams. I’d love to just see a few small buds on the trees. A blooming magnolia and a lilac. I’m being patient. Maybe if we go down to the canal late in the day when everyone else has gone home … assuming it ever stops raining … I can take a few pictures.

Photo: Garry Armstrong
Water plants along the river

Meanwhile, enjoy these pictures from days of yore when I could go places and take pictures.

FLOWERS FROM LAST MAY. IT WAS A DIFFERENT WORLD – Marilyn Armstrong

FOTD – May 2 – Flowers that bloomed in May 2019

Last May seems a decade ago. I remember this time of year we were going to the dentist. His office is right next to the waterfall and Mumford River. There were tulips and big puffy white flowers. We even had flowers in our own garden.

This year, our garden is more like a mud puddle. If it would stop raining, I bet we’d have a powerhouse of flowers. They just need some warm weather and sunshine.

SPRING HAS SPRUNG – RICH PASCHALL

Let The Sunshine In, Rich Paschall

Now that Spring has officially arrived, we are thinking more about enjoying the sun.  You may have told someone that “You Are The Sunshine Of My Life” or that you wanted to share the “Sunshine Of Your Love,” but you may be looking at this differently than we are.  Of course, “There Ain’t No Sunshine When You’re Gone,” but “Don’t Let The Sun Catch You Crying.”

If it remains cloudy where you are, don’t believe “The Sun Ain’t Gonna Shine Anymore.” Just keep telling yourself, “Don’t Let The Sun Go Down On Me” and you will soon have your “Seasons In The Sun.”  Just be sure to stay away from the “House Of The Rising Sun” and you will be fine.

So let me be your “Sunshine Superman” and offer my top 10 Sunshine Songs to brighten up the beginning of Spring:

10. You Are My Sunshine, The Pine Ridge Boys.  This 1939 “standard” has been covered by so many artists it is hard to say where I heard it first.  Originally performed as a country song, it has received a lot of musical treatments.

9.  California Sun, The Rivieras.  The 1961 song by Joe Jones became a big hit when The Rivieras covered it in 1964.  The 1977 Ramones version also became a hit and showed up on various albums.

8.  Walking On Sunshine, Katrina and the Waves.  The 1985 hit was a consistent seller for the record company and pure gold for the artists who retained the publishing rights and songwriter royalties.

7.  Soak Up The Sun, Sheryl Crow. It’s her only number one hit and you can probably sing along with the chorus.  The 2002 release was written by Crow and Jeff Trott.

6.  I’ll Follow The Sun, The Beatles.  The Paul McCartney, John Lennon composition was written as early as 1960 but the Beatles hit was released in 1964 with lead vocals by McCartney.

5.  We’ll Sing In The Sunshine, Gale Garnett.  This happy pop tune was released in 1964 and won the Grammy for Best Traditional Folk Recording in 1965.  Yes, it was the era for Folk Rock.

4.  Good Day Sunshine, The Beatles  There was no plan to add multiple Beatles songs.  I made up a list and then gave them a ranking.  This 1966 Lennon, McCartney composition also has McCartney on lead vocals.  Paul played piano on the track and later overdubbed his bass part.  I could not find a Beatles performance, but Sir Paul can still bring it.

3.  Let The Sun Shine In, The 5th Dimension.  The recording by the 60’s pop group is actually a medley of two songs from the musical, Hair.  It was at the top of the charts for 6 weeks in 1969.  Opening with “Aquarius,” the sound was sometimes called “Psychedelic Pop.”

2.  Sunshine On My Shoulders, John Denver.  Co-written and recorded by Denver for his 1971 album Poems, Prayers & Promises, it was released as a single in 1973.  By early 1974 it reached number 1.  When the album came out, I recall singing this song over and over with a friend.  I think our performance may have been fueled by adult beverages.  It will always hold great memories from a youth well spent.

1. Here Comes The Sun, The Beatles  This time it is a George Harrison composition that brings The Beatles back to the list.  Recorded in 1969 for the Abbey Road album, it was never released as a single.  Nevertheless, the track received critical acclaim and has been played and downloaded often.

Click on any title to go to the You Tune video, or let all of these songs shine down on you from playlist here.

THE END OF THE WAR ON THE POND – Marilyn Armstrong

And when the nest-building and love-making are done, as the long spring afternoon stretches ahead, Mr. Mute-Swan stretches his wings and heads over to the other side of the pond to harass the demon Geese who stole his nest. No matter that he has built a new nest and it is a fine nest.


“Never forgive, never forget” is his motto. He will get the geese out of the pond. There is no forgiveness between swans and geese. This appears to be a permanent grudge.

Casually paddling cross the pond towards the old homestead.
Casually paddling across the pond towards the old homestead.

“What ho! Incoming” cry Mr. and Mrs. Canada-Goose. “Prepare to repel Mute-Swan!”

Incoming, 12 o'clock!
Incoming!!

In the assault, notice that our swan does not actually attack the geese directly. Instead, he attacks their nest. There’s no physical contact between the warring birds. It’s a war of principle, not annihilation.

Attack!
Attack!

Perhaps that is one of the differences between “creatures” and “humans.” We actually kill each other for far less worthy reasons than having had our nest stolen. Mostly, animals don’t kill each other unless they are hungry. Or it’s mating season and there’s a lady creature to be won. Cherchez la femme, even when you are a bird.

A new nest
Full-on attack mode! Swan is much bigger, but the goose is strong.

The attack continues.

Confrontation!
Confrontation!

And again, from another angle … still, with no direct contact.

Another battle
Another battle!

The geese don’t look all that upset. Is the attack part of an ongoing ritual? All parties seems to know the rules of the game. They were probably born knowing.

Paddling like mad, the attack continues!
Paddling like mad, the attack continues!

“I think I hear my wife calling,” says Mr. Swan. He slowly circles the nesting geese one final time. “But I’ll be back. Don’t think this is over. It won’t be over until you are gone from this pond.”

I shall return!
I shall return!

And it the end, the Canada geese gave up and moved to a different part of the river. It’s hard to figure why they bother to fight since there is so much water around. There is more than enough room for both of them and all the other waterfowl, too.

Be at peace, larger feathered friends.

SPRING IN THE VALLEY – CEE’S FUN FOTO CHALLENGE – Marilyn Armstrong

Cee’s Fun Foto Challenge: Spring Scenes and flowers of the day

We don’t have much of a spring season here. It tends to stay cold until suddenly in May, the leaves pop out of the trees and everything blooms during one, sunny midday. The process takes just a few hours. It’s amazing. One year, it was winter when we went into the grocery and summer when we came out.

Autumn to winter can be like that too. Garry and I went out for lunch in Boston wearing tee-shirts and shorts,. Two hours later, we came out and it was near freezing, We ran home — which, fortunately, wasn’t very far.

We do get spring flowers, though. And birds. I hope that will count because otherwise, I’m just out of luck!

Harbinger of spring – our purple crocuses
Columbine
More yellow daffodils
The Goldfinch turning bright yellow for mating season.
Spring along the river
Our last Tulip.
More bright Goldfinch
Baby oak leaves and a very blue sky
Along the fence, Forsythia flowers
And the House Finch turns brighter too
Spring on the Mumford River
Solomon’s Seal
Springtime on the Commons

FOTD – January 14, 2020 – Daffodils in Bloom

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.