AUTUMN’S ON THE WAY – Marilyn Armstsrong

September 16, 2019 – Autumn Leaves

Garry came back from the grocery and said that it looks like fall is showing up! So I’ll get some new pictures soon … if it doesn’t rain constantly. Last year, it rained almost every day through the end of September and then it got very warm and humid in early October. Instead of Autumn, the leaves just curled up and fell off the trees.

It started raining almost as soon as Garry got home, but if it will stay dry for a couple of weeks and give us some chilly nights, there will be pictures. Meanwhile, a look at previous Autumn seasons. We’ve had some really fabulous ones … and we’ve also had a bunch of duds. Let’s hope for a good one. I need a good Autumn. It would definitely lift my spirits!


We went out looking for a hint of autumn but all we saw was summer. Usually, by the end of August, you can see yellow leaves and bright colors in the vines. You can usually see changes in color in the maple and aspen trees.

Not this year. It’s as deep green as a mid-July day.

On the positive side, it was beautiful weather with a shiny river and canal that looked like a mirror. The sky was something special. It looks almost unreal with that deep blue sky and puffy little white clouds.

IT’S GONNA BE A HELLUVA WEEK – Marilyn & Garry Armstrong

It’s going to be a rough week. We are supposed to take a vacation at the end of this week — visiting friends — but I need something to get worked out here and make sure we have a house to come home to. I at least need to know what’s going on around here — if MAPFRE is going to help at all with this repair or we are just left hanging.

And I have also very quickly hire a contractor who will do a good job at a decent price. Soon. I’m almost as terrified of finding a decent contractor as I am of somehow guilting the insurance company into not abandoning us.

I had hoped by now I’d know if the insurers would come through before I tried to find a contractor, but I don’t have any time left. Summer is disappearing and suddenly, winter will drop by — and then nothing gets done until next spring.

What a sky!

It is a bit tricky without money. It’ll get done. How exactly? Good question, but it’ll get done. Somehow.

Garry looking for the best shot

Sometimes, when you are looking at what is going to be a very difficult period of time, it’s good to get out and take a few pictures, which we did. There’s not even a hint of autumn outside. Usually by September — even near the end of August — at least the maples are beginning to shift colors and the aspens are yellow. But this time, it’s just solid green, green, green.

Photo: Garry Armstrong

Photo: Garry Armstrong — The perfect canal.

On the other hand, the weather was wonderful. Cool, dry, with puffy white clouds and reflections like mirrors in the canal.

Photo: Garry Armstrong – Marilyn leaning on the fence and Garry taking great pictures.

Just be patient with us. There’s an awful lot we need to get done and we have very little time in which to accomplish it. I think the biggest miracle will be managing to get something happening before the snow flies!

Photo: Garry Armstrong – I made him leave the woods. I live in fear of lethal mosquitoes!


Cee’s Black & White Photo Challenge: Water

We live in a watershed. What, you ask, is a watershed? Well, in theory, all the world is a watershed, to some degree … but technically, a watershed is an area of land where water arrives (as in from rain or snow-melt), then drains into a common outlet. Around here, that would be the Blackstone River and its tributaries, ponds, streams, and lakes.

These are just the areas in Massachusetts with many more in Rhode Island.

Since we moved here in 2000, I’ve been taking pictures of the river, the dams. The ponds where the swans and the herons live. The ducks and the geese and the strange area on the Blackstone where about a million snapping turtles live. After almost 18 years, I haven’t yet seen even half the places we can visit, but we’re working on it!


Cee’s Odd Ball Photo Challenge: July 9, 2017

Photo: Garry Armstrong – The dock has decided to collapse and the underpinnings on the right side have broken off. Don’t know if they will remove it … or replace it. I hope they replace it!

The humidity made the air almost solid at River Bend. It was not quite as buggy as it had been around the corner on the Canal and river, but it was bad enough. This year, the insects adore Marilyn and are chewing her, not me. I know I should be sympathetic, but I can’t help it. Better her than me!

Photo: Garry Armstrong – Notice that Marilyn is not (yet) falling into the canal.

Photo: Garry Armstrong – Just follow the sign!


Cee’s Which Way Photo Challenge – July 7, 2017

I thought I had lost this picture and I suppose I did. I had it printed on canvas, but I gave that away as a gift — under the assumption I could easily find the original.

It was gone. I looked through every folder I could and it was gone. I have a photograph of the print I made, but no photograph, not even a “proofed” version. Except I forgot about Facebook. I was roaming through my photos on Facebook … and there it was. So I made a copy of the copy and it’s here. If I had the original, I could have fixed the detail and generally spiffed it up a bit, but I never expected to have this, so here is my lost photograph.

Perfect path

It is the closest I’ve ever gotten to a perfect “path in the woods” shot. I wish I had the original and a wish I’d used a better camera. Except at the time, this was the best — only — camera I owned.

And now, pictures from late this afternoon, down by the river.

The path and steps to the canal. Fishing in July

Path to the river and canal

Summertime by the canal

The wide Blackstone River and the road


Photo: Garry Armstrong

This is how it works in New England. It starts with winter. Which may begin as early as September, but more typically gets moving around Thanksgiving … but may hold off until late January. The worst winter we ever had (that was measurable) started January 29, 2015. We hadn’t had so much as a serious flurry.

From the end of January until March, we were hit by just about 12 feet of snow. That is a lot of snow, no matter how you count it or what measurements you use. Other years, we’ve gotten significant snow in early November and not seen the ground until the following April.

Photo: Garry Armstrong

About spring. It’s our most ephemeral season. Many years, we go directly from winter to summer without a weekend to go buy a bathing suit. The first year I spent in New England, the temperature hit 90 degrees in early April and never dropped until suddenly, in September, the temperature fell by 60 degrees. Autumn arrived.

Pink wildflowers by the river

This year was as typical or at least as typical as spring gets. Cold, wet, cold, wet, windy, cold wet. In the middle of May, overnight, the clouds broke. The next day, it hit 96 degrees on the clock in the middle of town. While all the cold, wet, and windy weather was doing its thing, flowers were budding and leaves were beginning to pop.

Thus, I went out and took some pictures today. I was surprised that we have no sign of roses yet. Usually we see rose buds by mid May, but not this year.

Look closely and you can see the tiny black caterpillars destined to eat every leaf on the trees.

Bad news? The caterpillars are back. Tiny little Gypsy Moth caterpillars are crawling all over the oak trees along the canal. How bad will it be this year? No way to know. We had a lot of rain and that may help … but there’s really no way to know. Our property has been sprayed as much as we can without killing everything. It won’t solve the larger problem, but it will make it possible for us to come and go from our house without getting assaulted by hairy, poisonous caterpillars.

I’m trying to focus on enjoying the flowers and leaves while we have them. And hoping the trees survive another defoliation.

Photo: Garry Armstrong

There’s nothing “gradual” about weather in this part of New England. It doesn’t change a little bit from minute to minute. It can change with hilarious suddenness. Back when Garry and I were living in Boston, one warm November day, we walked to the nearby bar to grab some lunch. We were wearing shorts and tee shirts. We were there for an hour and half.

When we hit the door to depart, it was 35 degrees and blowing a minor gale. We ran all the way home.


Thursday’s Special: Calm

CALM: Noun

  1. Quiet and peaceful state or condition.
  2. Peaceful mental or emotional state.
  3. Complete absence of wind, or presence of wind having a speed no greater than one mile (1.6 kilometers) per hour. Also, a period or condition of freedom from storms, high winds, or rough activity of water. (“The calm before the storm.”)
  4. Tranquility.

 I wanted to pick just one picture, but somehow, I wound up with three. All taken on a single afternoon in the Blackstone Valley, along the River or Canal. October is the most flamboyant and colorful month. November is typically cool. Quiet. Peaceful. Tranquil.

The quintessential calm before the storms of winter.

At River Bend along the Blackstone River, November 8th.

At River Bend along the Blackstone River, November 8th.

Along the Blackstone, November 8th.

Along the Blackstone, November 8th.

November 8th by the Canal in Uxbridge.

November 8th by the Canal in Uxbridge.




And so, with the temperature back in the comfortable range, Garry and I took our cameras and went down to where the Blackstone Canal and river separate.


This is a favorite place to shoot and I have a lot of pictures taken here. It is always beautiful, no matter what the season, but it is spectacular in the fall. Which is coming. Soon.


The sun was very bright. I was reminded how difficult it can be to shoot in extremely bright sunshine. Until summer’s over, we need to shoot earlier or later, but not when the sun is directly overhead.

There are a lot of ways in this little park by the dam across the Mumford River

There are a lot of ways in this little park by the dam across the Mumford River


The park along the Mumford in the middle of town offers some excellent “which way” image options. Two staircases, paths, a river, pond, canal, two dams, and no fewer than three bridges..


And then, it was time to go home.


Home again.

Cee which way photo challenge




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.



Sunday was a glorious day. Cool enough to be comfortable in nothing more than a sweatshirt. Bright, sunny, clear.


Our friend was visiting — too briefly — from Arizona. They have desert, mountains, forest … but we have water. The river, the dams, the canal.


The leaves are almost completely gone from the trees … except for a few bright yellow maple trees by the Mumford in town.


I believe this is the first time I’ve taken pictures along the canal in November. Sharp contrast, cooler colors. Interesting. Every season has a unique quality to capture. Even this short end-of-autumn time between the leaves and real winter.




Bridge across the Blackstone River

Bridge across the Blackstone River

River Bend is where the Blackstone River and Canal divide and flow side by side. It’s where a farm, built two centuries ago stands, housing a small museum and visitor center and where the trees of autumn are already starting to shed their leaves.

Bob Mielke at River Bend

Bob Mielke at River Bend

It has been an unenthusiastic autumn. Beautiful, because autumn is beautiful, no matter what. Far from one of our best or brightest. Brief, because it arrived late and appears to be departing early.


We got some color, but mostly yellows without the deep orange and reds. At least we didn’t go directly from green to brown. The river remains low, with bottom showing. The spillway between the river and canal is dry. There was a heron fishing by the spillway. I think they nest nearby.


Footbridge at River Bend park

Footbridge at River Bend park

Lots of rumors about what effect El Niño will have on the upcoming winter. Some say it will be a warm winter with less snow, others say it will be the same as last year. There are too many variables.

We weren't alone at the park

We weren’t alone at the park

If El Niño stays strong, it should bring warmer temperatures to the northeast. If El Niño pulls up stakes and moves out before January, then other forces will come to bear, including a possible polar vortex.


So really, we don’t know.

More River Bend, with Bob in the foreground

More River Bend, with Bob in the foreground

But I believe. We bought a 4-wheel drive car which is like buying a big, expensive snowblower. This usually ensures at least one snow-free winter. (If you pay more than $40,000, you might get two.)

I’m counting on it.

Peaceful Blackstone

Peaceful Blackstone

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.

This is the easiest prompt in the world.


Cee’s Fun Foto Challenge: Landscapes or Seascapes

Most of the pictures I take are landscapes. Whether it’s of water or land, there are so many it’s hard to pick a few favorites. So, I decided to take a couple from each season. This satisfies my sense of balance and makes it easier for me to make a choice. Hope you like them.


April at Manchaug falls

The Blackstone Canal in May

The Blackstone Canal in May


Sunrise - July in Rockport

Sunrise – July in Rockport

Mid-August - Cows at home

Mid-August – Cows at home


Bright color in woods bathed in twilight

Bright color in woods bathed in twilight

Morning in Vermont, October 2014

Morning in Vermont, October 2014


Red farmhouse in Snow

Red barn in Snow

snowy field in Hadley