Usually, when I publish pictures of swans, I clean up the water, but these are the originals … the way the photographs looked before clearing out the rubbish.

As we again approach America’s “Earth Day,” I find myself ready to go on the “lecture tour.” I grew up in a country setting. Technically, it was part of New York, but really, it was a strange little farming community that got surrounded by a city, but never became a part of it.

I grew up with people who raised plants. Wheat and corn. Who raised horses and burros and geese. Who nursed sick birds. Who cared for the trees.

Along the shore – where all the garbage lives

We were surrounded by woods and trees. We learned how to find rare plants and we played in the woods … and apparently children don’t notice mosquitoes as do their elders because we must have been chewed to pieces. But we never seemed to care.

Photo: Garry Armstrong

That didn’t make me “ecology” conscious, of course. What made me conscious of the ecology was — you guessed it — my mother. She grew up on the Lower East Side of Manhattan. That was where most new immigrants grew up, especially Jewish and Italian immigrants.

As a result, my mother believed all trees were sacred — and her personal crusade.  She could not bear the idea of anyone cutting down a tree and that’s why we had so much land. When our neighbors decided to sell the woods next to our house, my mother told my father that he was going to borrow however much money it would cost him to get that parcel because someone else might build factory or an apartment house.

Photo: Garry Armstrong

Those were her trees. Really, they were all her trees. From tiny little sprigs to the giant white oaks that towered over the house, they were hers.

Every year, she called the city’s tree specialists to check out the condition of the white oaks on our property. They were the last remaining white oaks in the five Burroughs, all the rest having been cut down to use as masts on sailing ships. How they missed that little corner of New York? Just luck.

I still hate the idea of cutting down trees, even when its obvious the tree needs cutting. We had to take down some trees that were too close to the chimney and we had a cutter come and cut down about two dozen more oaks because they were growing so close together, it was unhealthy. Also, we had no light in the house at all. But it hurt me to see the trees being felled, even though it was necessary, safe, and would in the end, improve the forest.

Photo: Garry Armstrong

I grew up hating trash. I grew up believing littering was a crime. That hurting any living creature was cruel and even though I never made it to vegetarian, I feel guilty eating meat. I don’t believe that vegan is a healthier way to eat, but I dislike knowing something died so I could eat. I don’t think it will ever stop bothering me.

I learned early that breakwaters damaged the sea-shore. That sandy beaches can disappear during a hurricane. Several local beaches did exactly that while I was growing up on Long Island. That dune buggies destroy the dunes, the nests, the birds, the baby birds.

Dirty water swan

And my loathing of people who throw trash into the woods or the river grows with every passing year. Every time we go down to the river to take pictures of the swans, I see them swimming through trash and wonder how they can eat whatever is growing in the grungy water that’s full of filth.

It wasn’t hard to make me ecologically conscious and six years working at the University of Jerusalem’s Environmental Health Laboratory taught me much more than I wanted to know. I saw the plumes of pollution pouring out of the rivers into the Mediterranean. I saw the reports of what was in those plumes.

I understood also that just because a microbe is in the water does not mean you will necessarily catch it because not all microbes are absorbed the same way … but after seeing those pictures, I could never bring myself to swim in the Mediterranean again.

At this point, I don’t even like swimming pools. All I see are tubs of microbes.


The Changing Seasons: November 2017

November is one of the two non-photogenic months in the valley, the other being March. Last year, we got lucky. We had an exceptionally long autumn that lasted through most of November.

The perfect image for the month

Not this year, though. Autumn came late and ended early and now, we have mostly bare trees with some hanging brown leaves. And unlike in the bigger cities, we don’t have much hint of Christmas here. Not yet. Around the second week in December, everything will light up, but until then, it has been gray and rainy and cold.

And windy, I should add.

Please visit Max, Cardinal Guzman to see his wonderful pictures!

What’s this «Changing Seasons» blogging challenge?

«The Changing Seasons 2017» is a blogging challenge with two versions: the original (V1) which is purely photographic and the new version (V2) where you can allow yourself to be more artistic and post a painting, a recipe, a digital manipulation, or simply just one photo that you think represents the month.

These are the rules for Version 1 (The Changing Seasons V1):

  • Tag your posts with #MonthlyPhotoChallenge and #TheChangingSeasons
  • Each month, post 5-20 photos in a gallery.
  • Don’t use photos from your archive. Only new shots.

These are the rules for Version 2 (The Changing Seasons V2):

    • Tag your posts with #MonthlyPhotoChallenge and #TheChangingSeasons
    • Each month, post one photo (recipe, painting, drawing, whatever) that represents your interpretation of the month.
    • Don’t use archive stuff. Only new material!

The Changing Seasons is a Monthly Photo Challenge started by


72-Window Dressing_04

It’s such a brief period of time. Autumn comes and goes in a few weeks. The shortest of our seasons, the most spectacular. The most yearned for.

72-Window Dressing_09

For these brief weeks, I look out my window and it makes me happy. This is the view right now and for a few more days … until the leaves turn brown and the wind carries them away.




Nice to have a challenge for which I am very well positioned, what with living in the middle of the woods and all.

I took some pictures of the wood yesterday because I noticed the first yellow leaves showing on the trees, but they are intended to show color, so it’s back to the archives.


last snow bark winter

Natural black and white. Winter in New England IS monochrome. A few minor color accents, but otherwise, black and white.




It’s a pretty river. Small compared to the Blackstone — which itself is not a giant. But this is an elegant little river, curving prettily through woods and miniature beaches where people picnic, fish, and sometimes bathe.

Not this day, though. It was too chilly for any kind of outside getting wet. Maybe next week.


A few days ago, I took some selfies to illustrate how to make an older person look good in a portrait. I’m not sure if the pictures qualify as real selfies since I didn’t hold the camera backwards and shoot towards myself. Instead, I used a mirror. Then I processed the hell out of the photos. Everyone says I look beautiful.

What does it mean? My pictures look lots better than I do. I’m afraid to meet anyone because they will be terribly disappointed when they see me in person. Wherein lie the perils of post processing.

72-Inside Snowy Day_05

It’s closing on the end of January. Usually, by this point in the winter, we’re buried. In ice and snow. Someone has pneumonia. Or is scheduled for major surgery. Spring seems a million years in the future. Looking out on the Siberian landscape in front of our house, we wonder if the snow will melt or will turn glacial and start to move until it consumes the house and everything in its path.

This year is different. We aren’t buried. The snow which started falling last night is the first significant snow of the season. Everyone is suffering from “the thing-that’s-going-around” which means Garry isn’t the only member of the family who can’t hear. But no one has pneumonia (at least I don’t think so). No one is scheduled for surgery.


It was warm until yesterday. Above freezing. The falling snow changed to light rain before it changed to snow again late at night. It was magical first thing in the morning. About five inches, the perfect amount to look beautiful without being a serious inconvenience.

The cortisone shots I got in my hips are working. I can go up and down the stairs almost like a normal person. It’s a temporary fix, but it’s a welcome relief. If only it would stay this way. So, aside from The Cold From Hell which has my ears clogged and my bronchial tubes begging for mercy, so far so good. It’s not perfect, but it’s better than last year.

We need something to look forward to. Garry and I have birthdays in March and April, so I booked us a few days in April at a nice motel in Cooperstown. The last time we were there, we were celebrating Garry’s 50th birthday. This time, we are celebrating his 73rd. Time flew.

deck and snowy woods

You know you’re getting old when don’t stay at the historic inn (it looks like Hill House from The Haunting) in favor of Comfort Inn. Comfort Inn has elevators and we don’t want to haul our tired old bodies and our stuff up the stairs, even though it looks like a classic haunted house.

So, as we round the corner towards February (go Pats!), we are doing reasonably well. Who’d have thunk it?


If forecasts are correct, we are about to get hit by a blizzard. Depending on who you believe, it could rival the blizzard of 1978, which was a doozy. Here in south central Massachusetts, we have an odd weather pattern. For example, we didn’t get hit by Hurricane Sandy, yet we often get buried when everyone else merely gets flurries. It’s a bit of a crap shoot and I can hope we will be spared the worst of the weather.

Wishful thinking aside, it’s a very large storm. We will get snow. At least a foot, hopefully not more than two. It won’t be the end of the world, but it is going to be difficult for a while. I’m more worried about wind, than snow. As usual, I’m worried about losing power. If the power goes out, we don’t have water (no pump) or heat. In a nutshell, without power, we ain’t got nothin’ much.

National Grid is run by a bunch of morons who believe we can report outages on their website. What is it about “power outage” that eludes their understanding?

If you don’t hear from me … well … we’ve been weathered.


Morning woods in summer

Morning. Although I want to sleep late, I almost never do. On summer mornings, I drink my coffee and watch the early sun filter through my woods. Each day, the world is made anew.

Morning sun in summer

Cat Stevens’ rendition of this traditional Christian hymn is beautiful, as is the presentation. I ask that you please leave your prejudices behind. It is a beautiful song of praise.

It’s the bonus you get if you arise early. Late sleepers, make an occasional exception and see the world in a different light.

Summer early morning woodland


Two paths before you, one paved and smooth, the destination known. The other is rough, the destination unclear.

You stand, you look, you ponder. Then … you  must choose. Which of the two paths will take you where you want to go?

Where do you want to go?


two paths choice

Other Entries:


The morning after a snowstorm, the air is absolutely clear, washed clean by wind and snow. The skies are robin’s egg blue, sunshine the bright pale yellow of winter. The day after a storm, our woods is perfect. All its rough edges are smooth and white. Grand, indeed — hushed, crystalline and sparkling.



Morning in summer …

Just after sunrise, the sun low in the sky.

Morning. Although I want to sleep late, I almost never do. On summer mornings, I drink my coffee and watch the early sun filter through my woods. Each day, the world is made anew.

The sun has risen higher in the sky. It’s about 7:30 in the morning.

Cat Stevens’ rendition of this traditional Christian hymn is beautiful, as is the presentation. I ask that you please leave your prejudices behind. It is a beautiful song of praise.

it is the bonus you get if you arise early. Late sleepers, make an occasional exception and see the world in a different light.

And now, coffee finished, the sun is high in the sky and the day has begun.