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In the summer, I stayed away. It gets very crowded at Walden Pond, a state park popular with swimmers, and since March I’ve been worried about picking up coronavirus in a crowd.

But on a cloudy weekday morning in fall, I thought I’d give it a shot, and I’m so glad I did. It’s lovely, and I was mostly reassured by signs reminding people about masks and social distancing. Moreover, for the pandemic, the path is one-way, counterclockwise around the pond.

It wasn’t quite as empty as my photos make it seem. There were ten or 20 swimmers, gliding quietly with their orange bubbles attached for safety, and a few kayakers, paddeboarders, and fishermen. I even ran into a neighbor who was out for his constitutional.

At the farthest point from the beach house is the railroad track for the train to Boston. I remember visiting with the class when Suzanne was in second grade and studying Henry David Thoreau, and we learned that train whistles would have been a sound Thoreau heard when he lived at his cabin. (But not airplanes, the teacher reminded us.)

I have stuck the photo of Thoreau’s lodging next to the hut-site photo with his famous quotation and the memorial stones, but in fact the cabin is a replica and is located over by the parking lot across Route 126.

I loved the wavy curve of the shore in one shot. Also the woman meditating by the quiet water.

There weren’t any turtles, unless that street sign refers to me. I’m a very slow walker. Fortunately, slow walkers can turn on flashing lights to cross the road and get back to the parking lot safely.

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I’m no artist, but once in a blue moon I try watercolor because I find it relaxing. The watercolor above, a view from a window in my college dorm, reminds me of how I learned that Kennedy was shot one sad November day. A girl was running frantically across the campus crying, and I went out of my room to see if anyone knew what was going on.

In the coronavirus era, I feel I’m looking out windows a lot — you know, keeping my distance. Fortunately, outdoor meetings with friends or family and FaceTime can make one feel connected for a bit.

The first photo below shows a tiny vase Kristina gave me the other day. It attaches to the window with a suction cup. After that, I think you will recognize white hydrangea and smokebush. The blueberries belong to a neighbor and the grapes to a local business.

I was glad finally to check out the old shack by the Sudbury River, but the trail that got me there had so much mowed poison ivy, I decided to put my shoes in the machine when I got home.

Next we have a tomb inscription — about a window, in a way. It’s from Pilgrim’s Progress, by John Bunyan. I went up for a closer look when I saw the word “Pilgrim” because I thought it might have something to do with our New England Pilgrims. No. It reads in part, “The Pilgrim they laid in a large upper chamber, whose window opened towards the sun-rising. The name of the chamber was Peace.

Two plaques follow and testify to the fact that we are loaded with history in these parts. Next, “Owl’s doorknob” has been joined by an additional decorative touch. Wonder what the mystery elf will do next. Then we have photos of day lilies at dawn and purple clematis.

I’ll wind up with some armchair travel. Caroline sent the breathtaking rugged mountain vista from her home in Utah, and Stuga40 sent four pictures from Sweden. First of those is a woodland in Stockholm where she likes to walk and wildflowers she picked. Her last two photos are from the Dalecarlia region a bit further north, where you can get a red-painted wooden Dala horse if you want a souvenir.

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This is a photo from a time when I still liked to celebrate birthdays. I found it while sorting through boxes of old pictures last summer.

I’m the one in the middle with a hat and (typically) eyes closed. The girl to my left in glasses is a blog follower who attended my Sunday School. On her lap is my dear baby sister, who died of glioblastoma last year. To my right is one of two friends from my nursery school days that I keep in touch with on Facebook. The other is standing a bit behind her and to her right, with glasses.

Another of the partygoers has since died. One became a celebrated author and professor. One was ordained and headed a school in Wilmington. Another became an artist. She’s the one sitting next to my sister and wearing a big grin. On her lap is a girl who became a professional weaver. A cousin in the picture taught in inner city schools for years and later went into politics and conservation. I’m not sure what everyone else ending up doing, but I’m enjoying remembering each in turn.

I’ll also mention someone not in the picture, a former neighbor, now known as Caroline, who follows this blog. She helped me one year with writing birthday party invitations. I still remember her line about how the invitee should come “to my humble abode on Haverstraw Road”! Too funny. She thought an invitation should rhyme.

Art: Wayne Thiebaud/ National Gallery of Art

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On January 15, I took a walk and encountered the astonished hellebore above. It’s not supposed to bloom until spring, but it just couldn’t help itself, the weather was so warm. Goodness knows what it thought when we went down to single-digit temperatures shortly thereafter!

I gather things have been topsy-turvy where you are, too, and I look forward to seeing other photos of out-of-season bloomings on your blogs.

Today’s collection of pictures includes a few from New York. Alice holds court at the Mad Tea Party in Central Park. I sent a close-up of the Dormouse to Carole, whose voice I still hear playing that role 65 years ago.

Building details are always fun in New York, where the ship below caught my eye. In the park one day, I also saw a panther ready to pounce.

Suzanne’s son, 7, wrote a nice essay about his vacation. And John’s daughter, 6, played a fierce game of ice hockey.

I took a picture of the flour can for no special reason at a favorite bakery in Providence.

The crooked tree continues to tempt and challenge my camera, because no matter what angle I try to take a photo from, there is always too much confusion in the background. I should get someone to hold up a white sheet for me. Perhaps you have another suggestion?

Next you can see our famous bridge and the statue of the “embattled farmer,” followed by a glimpse of town from a snowy balcony. I took three shots of a local arts center’s latest exhibit, “A Change in Atmosphere, a group show celebrating contemporary atmospheric firing of New England-based ceramic artists.” Not really sure what “atmospheric firing” means but it sounds elemental.

I liked the funny clay dwellings (which seemed both ancient and futuristic to me), the female figure bursting out of confinement in the Greek-type vessel, and the contrasting textures of the piece featured in the exhibit poster.

Jean K. tells me my photos are amusing, which has inspired me to start looking specifically for funny shots in the future. But I had to abstain from the name of a construction company on a passing truck because it would never have passed the Code of Conduct.

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What is so rare as a day in June? I wish I could capture it all. With photos, one can express delight in terms of light and shadow, but how to convey the way the air feels and the breeze? Or the effect of wraparound birdsong, the smell of white pine and hemlock, warm pavement, and the spicy fragrance of verbena and lilac. So different from even a month ago.

A really fun thing that happens around here in June is the Arlington Porchfest, in which a changing array of local bands perform on residents’ front steps. Above you see the versatile Will McMillan wearing one of his many musical hats. This particular hat is as leader of a pickup ukulele band that meets every week at the library. Wonderful old-time songs. People of all ages singing along under the shade of the trees.

You can see I’m also loving the peonies of June, the poppies, the rhododendrons, and the last of the azaleas. By the way, what is that fuzzy blue star in our yard? We have it such a short time, and it always makes me smile.

The Pink Lady Slippers, one step away from endangered, collect in small groupings in the conservation woodlands. I’m always thrilled to see them as I know they require very special growing conditions and are becoming increasingly rare.

The wonderful mural of wings is in an area sometimes called Upper South Providence, near Classical High School. The colorful art really cheers things up in that neighborhood.

And speaking of art, Concord Art has an excellent retrospective on the oeuvre of Susan Maxfield, who died last month. She worked in an impressive array of media. I especially loved her peonies and teasels, but the only photo I took was of the chair with the amusing title, “Benjamin Moore Sample Paint Colors Peony Chair, 2017.”

And I shot the museum’s stairwell with its the peony arrangement at the bottom.

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Do  birds rest before bed? It’s a serious question. I have been surprised this past week to note that some songbirds, so skittish all day, flitting hither and yon for food and flying off at the slightest human movement, just sit and take it easy in the evening. Is that a thing?

One evening, I watched a bluebird sitting on a branch and singing for the longest time. I flew away before he did. Then there was the cardinal in the photo, lounging and doing nothing that I could ascertain on the Concord Grape plaque outside the former Welch’s headquarters. Do birds get tired at the end of a busy day and rest? I’d love to know.

Speaking of Concord Grapes, they were bred by Ephraim Bull in the late 1840s. When I went to look up more online, I found something interesting I’d never heard before. Welch’s, still headquartered in Concord, is a cooperative. It’s actually owned by 900 grape growers. Imagine that!

In other recent photos, note the rope tied to a tree by the Sudbury River. It was draped over the stone wall on Elm Street to tempt daredevils. It looked dangerous to me.

Next I give you our dogwood and various nice shadows. In Sleepy Hollow Cemetery, the headstone below always draws my attention. You can see that family and friends keep alive the memory of Renée, a local writer and historian who died young. I like the small stones more than the potted plants at other graves, although plantings that don’t die off are often nicely done.

In the woods nearby, ferns and skunk cabbage are celebrating spring. Still looking for Jack-in-the-Pulpit. Where have they all gone?

A woman who has a basement-level shop on Main Street is constantly coming up with ideas like the chalk drawings here to lure people down the stairs. I bet she wishes she never gave up her old shop at street level.

Finally, we have my first 2019 Painted Rock, a Higurashi-style wave. Plus a funny picture my husband took of two grandkids “watching” television.

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Photo: Laurie Wolf at National Geographic
A screech owl in a Florida backyard was caught cohabiting with a duckling.

My sister had an idea that I’d like this story about an owl and a duckling, and she was right. Nature has a way of delighting us even if we’re grumpy, and according to a new Gallup poll, Americans are grumpy lately. Writes the New York Times, “Americans are among the most stressed people in the world. … Last year, Americans reported feeling stress, anger and worry at the highest levels in a decade.”

I can identify with that. But as it’s too rainy today for me to calm down with a walk in the woods, I will indulge myself in a vicarious bit of nature therapy from National Geographic.

Jason Bittel interviewed the amateur photographer who captured the scene above in her backyard.

” ‘Oh, we have an owl chick. This is wonderful!’ These were Laurie Wolf’s first thoughts when she noticed something small and fluffy bobbing up and down inside the nest box in her Jupiter, Florida, backyard. An eastern screech owl had taken up residence in the box about one month before, so she suspected it was an owl hatchling. But the truth was far stranger.

“As a storm rolled in and the sky darkened, Wolf and her husband caught a glimpse of the mother owl poking her head out of the nest box. And right beside the owl was a tiny, yellow-and-black duckling.

“ ‘The two of them were just sitting there side by side,’ says Wolf, a wildlife artist and amateur photographer. ‘It’s not believable. It’s not believable to me to this day.’

“Concerned that the predatory owl might eat the wood duck chick, Wolf contacted a raptor expert, who confirmed the duckling might be in danger. A local wildlife sanctuary agreed to care for the animal if she could catch it.

“But just as Wolf and her husband were about to intervene, the wood duck chick leapt out of the box and ‘made a beeline’ to a nearby pond, and she hasn’t seen the little critter since. …

“ ‘It’s not commonly documented, but it certainly happens,’ says Christian Artuso, the Manitoba director of Bird Studies Canada, who made a similar observation back in 2005 while he was studying eastern screech owls for his Ph.D. In that case, the female owl was actually able to incubate and hatch three wood duck chicks. …

“Parent ducks will sometimes lay an egg or two in someone else’s nest—usually another wood duck or another closely related species. …

“But shouldn’t the female owl be able to realize she’s sitting on the wrong eggs? After all, wood duck eggs are not only more oblong in shape than owl eggs, they’re also about twice the volume.

“Artuso says it’s impossible to know what a wild owl is thinking, but that it could be a case of what scientists call supernormal stimuli.

” ‘The parents might be thinking, Oh my god! This egg is huge! We’re going to have the best baby in the world!’ ”

More here.

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My first glimpses of snowdrops and crocus blooms in 2019 may not look like much as photographs, but if you’ve ever lived where winter temperatures go below zero, you know what the first flowers mean to everyone in the Northeast. Hooray! Celebration time!

The other joy is the quality of the sunlight, which I have tried to capture a little here. All these Massachusetts rambles feature the welcome, warming sun.

The Paddington Bear birdhouse is from the bookshop collection that I wrote about here. The chimney against the brilliant blue sky is atop the Colonial Inn. The little stone by the Main Streets Café flower box says, “Start each day with a grateful heart.”

The meditative circle of stones on a bench was outside Emerson Hospital’s wellness center, which includes meditation in many of its classes.

Shadows from objects in a window caught my eye on my way down the stairs. The garage door is a favorite photography subject for me, probably because of the light. The cardinal and the bird feeder make me think of the wonderful children’s biography of artist Horace Pippin called A Splash of Red — a reference to one of the self-taught artist’s signature touches. My older granddaughter likes looking for the splashes of red in the book.

The last photo is of a quiet street in early morning light.

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A detail from a 4×5-inch photo depicting Billy the Kid, left, playing croquet in 1878. Worth millions of dollars, the picture was found in a junk shop and bought for $2.

When I was growing up, kids regularly played games of “cowboys and Indians.” My brother and I had cowboy and cowgirl outfits and toy guns, “six-shooters.”

How times change! Today I am much more aware of the injustices done to tribes, and my preoccupation with better gun laws makes kids running around and shooting seem uncool.

But for sure, back then we thought cowboys were great: Roy Rogers, Gene Autry, Hopalong Cassidy — and the real Wild West holy terror, Billy the Kid.

I hadn’t thought about these guys for years, and then my husband pointed me to this article on a Billy the Kid photo.

Peter Walker writes at the Guardian, “Henry McCarty, known in Wild West lore as Billy the Kid, lived a brief and violent life, stealing and killing before his death in a gunfight aged 21. He lived with a gun in his hand – and sometimes, it seems, a croquet mallet.

“In a surprising historical twist, the second photo of McCarty ever to be authenticated shows him and his posse, the Regulators, playing the sport in New Mexico in 1878.

“The faded image was among a pile of photos inside a cardboard box at a junk shop in Fresno, California, unearthed by a collector in 2010. Randy Guijarro paid $2 for the image, which is now estimated to be worth millions of dollars. The only other confirmed photo of Billy the Kid, from 1880, sold for $2.3m in 2011.

“The photo was authenticated by a San Francisco-based Americana company, Kagin’s, which identified Billy the Kid along with several members of the Regulators, as well as friends and family. It was taken after a wedding in the summer of 1878, just a month after the gang took part in the brutal Lincoln County war.

“When the photo was first brought to the company, its experts were ‘understandably skeptical,’ said David McCarthy from Kagin’s. ‘An original Billy the Kid photo is the holy grail of Western Americana.

“ ‘We had to be certain that we could answer and verify where, when, how and why this photograph was taken. Simple resemblance is not enough in a case like this – a team of experts had to be assembled to address each and every detail in the photo to ensure that nothing was out of place.’

“The team spent a year investigating the photo, and even found the location where it was taken, in Chaves County, New Mexico. There they unearthed the remains of the building shown. …

“Liz Larsson, from the UK’s Croquet Association, said the series of photos from the scene left little doubt what game was being played: ‘It’s clearly croquet. You can see the hoops, the balls, the mallet, the centre peg. They’re all there. It’s a fascinating picture.’

“The first croquet club in England was founded in 1865, the same year the game was immortalised in Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland, Larsson said. …

“[It was] not a game for the masses. … Things were, however, slightly different in the US, where companies making croquet gear created a smaller-scale version of the sport, which could be played on rougher turf, using cheaper, lightweight equipment. …

“All types of Americans played. In 1867, General George Custer wrote to his wife, Elizabeth, from his frontier fort in Kansas, asking her to ‘bring a set of field-croquet’ when she next visited. Thom Ross, a US artist specialising in historic scenes, has previously painted both Native Americans and cowboys playing croquet, saying this is based on extensive historical research.”

More here.

My brother’s cowboy hat.

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Transitions. In September, the meadow along the Sudbury River was green. Last week it was ice.

As kids, John and Suzanne used to skate on the meadow as soon as the river’s overflow ice was strong enough. Perhaps the wooden posts have something to do with a new generation planning to play there. Nowadays, John puts up a backyard rink in winter — just the thing for his family of skaters.

The next photo was taken by my sister in New York City. She says it’s unusual for Riverside Park to have icy puddles like that — one more example of the weather we’ve been experiencing in the Northeast. In my town, Thursday’s deluge came on top of melting snow and ice, and kept my husband bailing out the basement all day.

Next, you see our neighborhood before dawn and after dark, at sunrise and at sunset, in light and in shadow.

I had to include some lovely fungus, of course, and a message in stone that persons unknown left at a pocket park downtown.

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My new photography resolution, which I hope to stick to through the winter, is to capture shadows whenever the sun is out. Apart from the fact that I really like sunlight and shadow, I know I can find examples even in months when the photographic attractions of flowers and sailboats are not in evidence.

Today’s photo collection includes Massachusetts fall color, decorations for Halloween (I particularly liked that there were three witches, as in Shakespeare), curiosities from the MIT Museum (I loved Arthur Ganson‘s walking wishbone — and all his kinetic sculptures), and a graffiti warning in a Central Square alley.

“Come away, O human child!
“To the waters and the wild
“With a faery, hand in hand,
“For the world’s more full of weeping than you can understand.”

Read the rest of the W.B. Yeats poem here.

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There’s been a bit of a drought in my picture taking. I got so tired of winter, and now in spring I’m reluctant to shoot the same photos I shoot every year. Although when you think about it, it’s kind of beautiful that the same crocus, hellabore, and winter aconite pop up over the same creative neighbor’s stonewall year after year.

We’ve finally had some spring in New England. The very best sign of that was a lemonade stand I saw yesterday.

Two young girls were selling lemonade and flavored iced tea ($.75, mint leaves optional) and Rice Krispies Treats ($.25) while playing duets on the clarinet and violin. They told me they were raising money for a charity that provides instruments and music lessons to children in Haiti.

They were adorable. One girl pointed out their homemade signs. She said, “We didn’t have any big cardboard to make signs, so we got pizza for dinner last night.” The pizza box provided the needed cardboard.

The other pictures are pretty self-explanatory. The crocus flowers peeked up just before we had one of our numerous late snowstorms. The gorgeous architecture and shadows are thanks to the preservation ethos in Providence.

I was thrilled to see the opportunistic pansy poking through a stone curb. And the trout lilies. I had to take two shots of the trout lilies, the only wildflowers that still flourish after I took a walking class in local conservation lands 25 years ago.

(No worries: I didn’t steal flowers from the woods but was able to buy several varieties of wildflowers at a plant sale. Sometimes a solitary May Apple shows up near the trout lilies in my yard, but it is sad and lonely. The trillium never had a prayer as it is fussy about soil and likes to hang with a group. Perhaps the wild geraniums will bloom this year.)

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When you don’t have to travel, ice and snow are not the burden they are to a driver. You can wander a little outside your home and take pictures, bake banana bread, put out carrots for the bunny that appears at dawn, feed the birds, make ice lanterns.

The ice lanterns above were made by John’s children, and the photo was taken by my daughter-in-law. I love the smoky, swirly, mysterious aura that she captured.

My own 2018 ice lantern is below. My husband was critical to the enterprise. If you want to make an ice lantern yourself, check out an earlier post, here. You need a really cold day.

Right before Christmas, I took several photos of ice on trees and bushes because it looked so pretty. I know it’s not good for plants, though.

Sandra M. Kelly is the photographer behind the two photos of frozen bodies of water in New Shoreham — water that hardly ever freezes. It didn’t stay frozen long enough for her to get shots of ice boat racing, however. New England is swinging too quickly from deep freeze to balmy.

The big snow January 4th produced the mountain I noticed in a parking lot and the deceptive cushions on Suzanne’s porch furniture.

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Today’s Bonus Tidbit

Suzanne will be showing Luna & Stella antique lockets Fridays at noon (Eastern Standard Time) through December 22 on Instagram Live. Go to @Lunaandstella .

You can also see these one-of-a-kind lockets on her Facebook page, https://www.facebook.com/lunaandstella/. Suzanne will size and place a photo of your loved one in the locket of your choice. A few of the antique lockets are shown below.

Suzanne’s Mom

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I’ll start with the parrot.

Do you ever think about how a slight change of routine can lead to something interesting? When I was commuting every day, I often missed my train, so I would tell myself maybe it’s OK. Maybe this means I’ll run into an old friend or make a new one or see something amazing out the window that I would have missed otherwise.

Last week, I walked home from an errand on a different side of the street because it was shadier, and I’m pretty sure I would have missed the parrot if I had stuck with routine. Such a small change! The owner returned as I was taking pictures and told me it was an Amazon Parrot. I was impressed that it hadn’t tried to exit the open window.

The next photos are of a local community garden. I tried to find out if the food bank could do gleaning there as I know the original donor wanted the land to feed the poor. Still researching that. It looked like a lot was going to waste there.

Next comes Verrill Farm, with flowers in pots and flowers you can pick yourself — under amazing skies. That farm seems to have especially wonderful skies. I also liked the sky over the church steeple.

The tree, of course, has a face. I don’t know if it’s an Ent. I hope so, but it wasn’t talking.

The next shot shows the early morning sun over Minuteman Park. Then you have some dancing ladies near the deciduous holly. And a photo of the parrot looking at me indignantly.

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