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Bronze apple knocker.

During the Civil War, I was once told, soldiers from upstate New York who knocked apples off trees with their rifles were derided as apple knockers. But as I can’t find that history on the internet, I think it may be apocryphal.

Nevertheless, the expression was definitely used to differentiate New York City folks from every other New Yorker when we lived upstate years ago.

Back then, I said to my mother that I thought someone should make a door knocker in the shape of an apple. Whether she had thought of it before or was responding to my comment, she was the one who took action.

Her little company is long defunct, but whenever I visit a home of people who knew her, I see a bronze apple knocker on their door. My own house has the one above on the back door and another on the front door. If my children are the ones to sell our home one day, I hope they remember to stipulate in the contract that the knockers stay with them — collectors’ items now.

Moving right along, I have a few recent photos to show you. Below is another of my winter hellabore photos. I can’t get enough of these flowers, also called Lenten Rose, which bloom in the coldest weather.

The two snarly-twig photos show an abandoned nest over the Sudbury River and a fancy-dress fungus near the elementary school’s playground.

The post box for Santa reminds me that my youngest grandchild just got a response from her letter to the North Pole — exciting for all concerned. The cheery toy soldier on Main Street points passersby to a staircase leading to a toy shop below.

My husband and I went to our first post-Covid show at Umbrella Arts and especially loved the non-traditional holiday songs. Today, reading headlines about all the well-vaccinated people getting the Omicron variant, we’re probably going back in hibernation like the ground hog that sees its shadow. We’re not post-Covid after all.

I made the chocolate cookies from a recipe in the newspaper. The kids decorated some of them with frosting and sprinkles.

I also have a photo from friends who set off for a Christmas vacation in Hawaii after the guy in the last photo recovered from Covid followed by pneumonia.

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Photo Reflections

The next time that I post photos, I hope I can include some action around the bird feeder. Although there are experts who recommend feeding the birds year-round, I usually wait to put seeds in the feeder until it’s really hard for birds to find other food. As of this moment, they are still having a good time with all the berries and naturally occurring seeds in our yard.

I continue to take outdoor walks in the cold, identifying birds with my Merlin app for birdsong. I’m also working with a grandson to learn more about birds through Wingspan, the board game. (I blogged about it here but didn’t understand then how difficult it is to learn the rules.)

Here are a few more photos: from cold, frosty walks; from a nice, warm art gallery featuring a circus of skate-egg-case performers; and from Kristina’s visit to balmy North Carolina.

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There were quite a lot of opportunities for photos on sunny October days this year, and I’m not even counting funny pictures from Halloween in Providence, where one grandchild was Harry Potter, another was Princess Aurora, Suzanne was the Fairy Godmother from Disney’s Cinderella, and Erik had turned into a vampire after getting vaccinated (as some would have you believe).

I didn’t get to see my young Captain Marvel and her scary brother the Mummy in person. Fortunately, their mom sent a dramatic action shot.

I do try to be a bit restrained with family photos on social media, so today I will show you other shots I’ve collected. The photo above is of a kind of mandala that a Providence resident is in the process of creating near Blackstone Park. She encourages passersby to add something. I added more red leaves.

On the library lawn back home, I got to see Dr. Seuss’s famous Thing One and Thing Two and Eric Carle’s Very Hungry Caterpillar. There was also a “walking” book, consisting of signs showing page spreads. The current choice is The Water Protectors, by Carole Lindstrom and Michaela Goade (illustrator).

My husband had been reading about Ralph Waldo Emerson — particularly about the influence that Quaker thinker George Fox had on him — and so decided it was high time to visit Emerson’s house. Among other things we learned was the fact that in the early 1800s, people didn’t know that tuberculosis was contagious. Emerson’s first wife died of it at age 18. Also, the original Emerson family still owns the home. It’s a rather dark and gloomy place, though. I preferred the recently restored barn and took a picture there.

Moving right along, I have art for you from the Umbrella. The two pieces of door art are “Pop Art on the Trail,” by Howie Green, and “Remember the Future,” by Amy Cramer.

Then there’s the art center’s fabulous annual Art Ramble in the Hapgood Wright Town Forest, which I generally hold off on visiting until the first frost kills off the mosquitoes that breed in Fairyland Pond.

The Shibori hanging series, “Windblown,” is by Kiyomi Yatsuhashi. The beautiful Luna Moth Life Cycle is by Jude Griffin. The lungs of the forest are depicted by Barbara Ayala Rugg Diehl (BARD) in a work called “In and Out.”

The next photo shows Lisa Nelson’s “Waves of the Aerial Sea.” And last but not least is a huge dragonfly, or “Ethereal Dreamer,” by Laurie Bogdan and Kimberley Harding.

Thanks for joining me in New England.

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Pumpkins and More

Huge selection of pumpkins and gourds at Wilson Farm, Lexington, Massachusetts.

Most people regard Halloween as simple fun — a moment to indulge in humanity’s playful side. That’s especially true for the very young, if not for the gruesome-looking teens or mischief makers. I always love seeing the littlest ones in their Spider-Man, Snow White, or witch costumes,

But even the creepy stuff is sometimes fun. I went trick-or-treating with John when he was 10, and we loved being startled by what we thought was a bundle of old clothes on the Dallas family’s front steps when it suddenly started moaning.

Back at the house, I would usually put on Halloween-ish records and turn up the volume: “Night on Bald Mountain,” “The Ride of the Valkyries,” a pre-Cats version of TS Eliot’s Old Possum’s Book of Practical Cats (narrated in a spooky voice by Robert Donat), and the Lambert, Hendricks & Ross song below, “Halloween Spooks.” Not sure anyone else listened to that background music, but it always got me in the mood.

Nowadays, we alternate between John’s neighborhood Halloween and Suzanne’s. Since we went to his in 2019 and did nothing in the pandemic, we will be with our younger grandson and granddaughter today.

Enjoy a few pre-Halloween photos from around these parts.

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In March 1990, thieves broke into Boston’s Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum and “cut Rembrandt’s ‘Christ in the Storm on the Sea of Galilee‘ and ‘A Lady and Gentleman in Black,’ ” among other works, from their frames.

A renewed flurry of interest in the 1990 art heist at the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum occurred the week that my husband and I took Minnesota friends to see the collection.

It was the week that “Robert V. Gentile, a Connecticut mobster long suspected by federal authorities of having information about the whereabouts of $500 million worth of masterworks stolen from Boston’s Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum decades ago,” died. (See Boston Globe story.)

Visitors still flock to see the blank places where the missing pieces were once exhibited, and the museum staff is well primed on details. (Our friends asked one guard how long it took the thieves to get in and out with the goods. “Eighty-one minutes,” he answered promptly.)

So today I will share some pictures from our visit as well as a few other photos of the season.

Isabella Stewart Gardner, seen in the portrait below, was an unusual, wealthy woman who imported the courtyard and many other rooms and reconstructed them in the mansion that became a museum. She insisted in her will that nothing ever be changed after her death.

That posed a challenge for trustees. So in recent years, a separate building was constructed and connected to the mansion museum. In the new building, we saw the Titian exhibition, which features a series of paintings that Titian created between 1551 and 1562 for King Philip II of Spain. The most famous of the series is a painting Gardner actually owned.

The scenes of violence against women from Roman Mythology have forced curators to jump through a few hoops. Read about that here.

I have included a photo of the fireplace in the Dutch Room, the room from which most of the art works were stolen, and 15th century artist Paolo Uccello’s “A Young Lady of Fashion.”

The sculpture of ballet feet was outside the Mass College of Art, where we sat for a while to chat with our friends without masks that day.

Later, when I was back home, I shot the formal garden of a house in town, thinking how much it reminded me of the Gardner courtyard.

Also in town, there was a neighborly Porchfest once again, having been canceled last year because of Covid.

For the red flower picture, I very carefully tried to exclude all the clutter around it, but there is still an orange traffic hat peeking through in back. The next shot features a creative Toyota bumper.

Finally, a few photos from Rhode Island — a wall of giant stones and a Blackstone Park Eagle Scout project that created an activity space for children.

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Once a year, they close off a block on Main Street.

Saturday was quite a joyful day in town. The weather was beautiful (not too humid), the farmers market boasted vegetable car races for kids as well as vegetable stalls for grownups, and the Covid-delayed library book sale made a record haul from book lovers overjoyed to be back.

So today seems like a good day to share pictures from those events and also from late summer in general. The beach plums are in New Shoreham. My neighbor knows the secret places for every kind of berry, and he goes out at dawn to pick them so Sandra can make jams and jellies. This year was a bust for blackberries, but Sandra expects to get several batches out of the beach plums.

Next comes one of the better Painted Rock designs from 2021, followed by a photo of seining for small fish and shrimp in Great Salt Pond.

From those scenes we turn to the lobster pots and breathtaking vistas of Lewis Farm. Then a view of Old Harbor boats and the National Hotel.

The windmills did not get much action this summer, partly because of the cost and partly because of repairs. That’s what I was told, anyway.

The fishing boat is docked in the active port of Galilee, the last stop in Rhode Island today.

Next we return to Massachusetts, where I want to share a bit regarding post-Covid life. First, a delicious Dutch pancake that I learned to make during the pandemic. Then, the story of my hair. My daughter-in-law loved how it grew out during the year and a half I stayed away from scissors, and she made beautiful braids for me. But in the end, I couldn’t manage long hair and resigned myself to easy care.

I was glad to see the Umbrella arts center still has a lot of opportunities to enjoy art outdoors. The Millbrook farm stand offers a different kind of art. Similarly, the colors of autumn sedum and lily-of-the-valley berries make an unstudied picture. The praying mantis is another work of art, busy going after the less welcome bugs in the yard.

Hello and good-bye, Happy Sunflower.

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Photo: Suzanne’s Mom.
At Verrill Farm’s Sunflower Day, lovers of pick-your-own sunflowers benefit both themselves and the pediatrics unit of the local hospital.

It’s only August, so I’ll have more summer photos down the road, but I decided to share what I have today. This collection includes both inspiration from nature and quirky things that just call out for a picture.

When you wait in line at the big grocery store in New Shoreham, RI, if your eyes wander to the ceiling, you will note the shop’s unusual version of a seahorse. More like a mermaid horse than a real seahorse. At the island’s smaller market, I was drawn to an antique cash register.

An artisan at a craft show converted watering cans and lanterns into bird houses — whether for actual birds or just for display, I don’t know.

In the woods near Ben Wohlberg‘s gallery, there was a wooden sculpture like a signpost.

The stove-in double-ender on display at the historical society is in need of some love and attention. This was historically the kind of boat island fishermen used.

Next is one of the many old, unused outhouses on the island, followed by bird nests, also unused. Then a picturesque outdoor fireplace by a stone wall.

Moving on to Massachusetts, Indian Pipes, giant tomatoes at Verrill Farm, and the farm’s version of social-distancing guidelines.

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Monarch caterpillar bulking up on milkweed in order to work a miracle.

Plenty of Monarch butterflies swooping around here lately, and I keep wondering if the hungry caterpillar I captured on video is one of them. I hope so. As much as I love birds, I hope they eat something else. We need our Monarchs.

In the first photo below, we see that something has been doing a good job of pollinating the sunflowers. Maybe Monarchs? Pollinators have also been working on the Black-Eyed Susans scattered through a field along the Greenway.

The Rose o’ Sharon and the Trumpet Vine are flourishing. So much beauty! I had to bring some of it indoors — Russian Sage and Potentilla.

Next are views of a lily pond, Fresh Pond, and a West Side New Shoreham beach, including long shadows from artists of various ages who work with stones. There’s also a shot of the Mohegan Bluffs.

And for good measure, another glamorous nature scene, but one that Caroline H. sent from Utah.

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New Shoreham, Rhode Island

Hello, Everyone. Here are a few summer photos. They mostly speak for themselves. The first eight are all of Rhode Island. As you can see, I’m fascinated by stone walls, lichen, and dirt roads.

Also, I took a shorebird hike with the Nature Conservancy and saw oyster catchers, among other cool birds. Our guide (with the telescope) taught Suzanne and John all about bird banding when they were young.

The Great Blue Heron here, however, is not the one I saw in Rhode Island but one that stood in the flooded path of Great Meadows National Wildlife Sanctuary in Massachusetts. After the heavy rains, I found I couldn’t walk there because I had no wading boots, but it was a treat to see people silently watching this bird, including a troop of little boys with bicycles. When I left, everyone was still waiting for the heron to decide what to do.

Also from Massachusetts, are photos of an agricultural lawn ornament, summer lilies and wild flowers, and Concord grapes in a vine honoring the founder of that variety, Ephraim Bull.

The last photo is neither from Rhode Island or Massachusetts but one Suzanne sent from the west coast of Sweden, where her family is renting an apartment on a horse farm near where they’re boating.

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I think I have enough June and early July photos for another round-up. Most of these were taken in Massachusetts and Rhode Island, but I’m including two that Melita sent from Madrid, where (she reports with relief) foreign nationals have finally been able to get Covid vaccinations.

Working backwards from New Shoreham’s July 4th parade, I apologize that the banner is missing an apostrophe. But there was such a sense of relief and gratitude in the air, I think I can let that go. No one knows how long our relief will last — I for one, still put up a mask when I get close to strangers — but it sure felt good for one day.

Another shot from New Shoreham features a blue Lace-Cap Hydrangea. How I love that flower! It says July to me. Next, I have a photo of Great Salt Pond on a cloudy day when the waves on the ocean side of the sandbar were too rough for the grandchildren. Later on, I collaborated with them to identify the Red Admiral butterfly. My husband caught it flying around the house and let it go outdoors.

The gorgeous iris and peony from Madrid are followed by the papery bark of the river birch. Such a beautiful tree! And speaking of trees, please applaud the tree puzzle I finally finished. It took me almost six months. It was the hardest puzzle I ever did. But everyone said to do a puzzle in the pandemic.

The dry cleaner’s sign speaks for itself. It’s followed by the boat house on the Sudbury River, a kind of garter snake, more flowers, and shadows. I can never resist interesting shadows.

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Probably a painted turtle looking for a spot to lay eggs

Time for another hodgepodge collection of things that caught my eye on recent walks. To start, I include a video of what I think is a painted turtle. (Do correct me if I’m wrong.) It’s being nudged along by my sneakers because it will be safer from bikes on the Bruce Freeman Rail Trail. Can you hear the audio? Jeanne and I had been referring to the turtles as “he,” but we had a suspicion they were crossing the blacktop to lay eggs. So, not “he.”

There are also flower photos from my yard and my neighborhood and several from the Buttrick Mansion, now a visitor center for the Minuteman National Park. The Buttrick gardens specialize in peonies and iris. Isn’t that black one amazing? You can see rhododendrons along a staircase going down to the Concord River and a view or the river itself in another shot. A photo of the Daniel Chester French statue of the Minuteman farmer is also included.

Everyone loves flowers. The tiny garden with the two little putti is actually in a large parking lot. Funny how the statues each have a hand to an ear. It makes me think they have cellphone earbuds!

The banner featuring blown milkweed seeds and the words “Love” and “Justice” (the latter planted in Minnesota) was part of an Umbrella Arts outdoor exhibition called “Change is in the Air.

The farm mural in West Concord, an initiative of the Village Art Room, seems to have been a group effort, with contributors assigned small squares to complete.

Moving on to Boston, where I had to go to renew my senior discount for public transit, I made a stop in Dewey Square. I always like checking out the latest Greenway mural. This one is by Daniel Gordon. It’s not as edgy as some I admired in the past.

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What’s weird about WordPress is that it keeps changing how things are done and forgets its own history. So, for example, it recently decided to congratulate people for consecutive days of posting. I guess it started counting when the new editing system went in. But when it throws exclamation points at me for “1,449!” consecutive days, it’s really a bit insulting.

Every day for ten years is 3,650 plus three leap years. So ex-cu-use me!

Well, enough of that. Today I also thought I would post some spring photos, the one above being ten years out of date. Suzanne, of course, looks exactly the same, but I really got old!

First, I want to share three pictures I took of redbud trees, which I always thought were plum trees until the dear sister who died in 2019 showed me an especially beautiful one on Fifth Avenue in New York. I realized from studying these photos that it’s the delicate shape of the branches from a distance that charms me most. And I always think of my sister now when I see redbuds.

Next are apple trees growing wild along the Sudbury River and cherry blossoms coexisting on a branch with moss and lichen.

Also looking pretty: woodland trails, dogwood, barberry flowers, rhododendron open and opening, plus a rare pink Lady Slipper.

And it wouldn’t be a Suzanne’s Mom’s Blog photo round-up without some shadows.

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It’s really spring in Massachusetts. Sometimes 70 F, sometimes 50 F. But we know where we’re headed.

I took advantage of being old to get my Covid-19 vaccinations wrapped up in March and began to visit grandchildren indoors. Below you see that piano recitals are still on Zoom. While I was visiting, I got my hair “painted” rainbow colors by the youngest grandchild. She worked on my hair while her brother read “spooky stories” to me. The stories got exciting, so she went to look at the pictures.

Easter involved an egg hunt, although some kids may be getting too old. Next year, maybe a scavenger hunt or treasure hunt would be a good variation.

Where I live, there’s a guy who rides around on his bicycle playing the guitar. I managed to capture him this week in his headless horseman costume. His day job is baker.

Also in my town, there are people who never forget that April is Natural Poetry Month. One homeowner makes poems available for free.

Most of the other pictures are about Suzanne’s Mom and her friends flipping over spring flowers. Daffodil, Andromeda, Rhododenron. Fig Buttercup, Blue Scilla, Bloodroot, Trout Lily, Magnolia.

The second to last photo was taken in Central Park by Ying-Ying, who was thrilled to get out of Arizona for a New York spring. And the last was taken by Melita in Madrid, where she’s been living during the pandemic.

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I found it harder than usual this year to wait for spring flowers, so I ordered bulbs online. The way the tulips opened was really intriguing. Do all tulips emerge from under a leaf as if from under a wing or from a womb? I had never noticed that before.

Signs of spring appeared outdoors in due time, but first I took plenty of snow, lichen, and shadow photos.

The bird feeder kept me entertained all winter, especially when rare visitors like bluebirds showed up. Another hit in lockdown was Kim’s lecture series about New Shoreham, RI, nature, where I learned that the fuzzy growth on the Massachusetts tree below is Bushy Beard Lichen.

One funny thing: I was excited about seeing pussywillows, but when my Arlington family saw the photo, they thought there must be a hidden image. My granddaughter suggested there was a snake in the foreground, and my grandson saw a turtle. Now I’m inspired to seek photos of snakes and turtles!

I hope you remember my Afghan mentee, Shagufa. She has the world’s best host family, helping her in countless ways. This month they gave her the first birthday party of her life. You never heard anybody so amazed and delighted by a cake with her name and age — and candles!

Meanwhile in Stockholm, the seniors continue outdoor dance exercise no matter how cold it gets. Stuga40, their volunteer leader, says that in addition to the health benefits, the point is to have fun. When a preschool group came walking through the park, the children were invited to join in.

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Photo: Nick Dymond.
Nick Dymond took his bags of old slides to the Shetland Islands recycling center. Paul Moar rescued them for posterity.

This why I have such a hard time throwing anything out. I say to myself that I really need to deal with the clutter here and leave less of a mess for my children. But then I think, what if these old letters, these old photos, etc., turn out to have value for posterity? I have read too many biographies that lament someone’s friend or grandmother burning precious material!

Megan Specia reported recently at the New York Times that a Shetland Islands resident who was cleaning house never considered that anyone would care about his slides of the old days. Fortunately, someone who did care saw them.

“After working for years at a recycling center in the Shetland Islands, at the northernmost reaches of the British Isles, Paul Moar is used to helping the public get rid of unwanted items.

“But when an older man walked into the recycling center in Lerwick, the capital of the archipelago in the North Atlantic, carrying two large bags heaving with old photograph slides, he quickly realized that this intended trash might be worth keeping.

“In the bags, he found a wealth of old pictures of the Shetland Islands taken in the 1960s and ’70s — old farmers shearing sheep by hand, views of dirt roads winding between small stone houses, and fishers rowing small dinghies ashore.

” ‘My jaw hit the ground,’ said Mr. Moar, a local history buff. ‘Some of them were these amazing snapshots into island life, and other ones were just scenic photos,’ he said. ‘But I knew I’d stumbled on a little bit of treasure.’

“In the days since, Mr. Moar has worked on digitizing the 300 images, tracked down the photographer and shared dozens of the pictures online. There, they have proved a sensation for residents of the islands, which have a population of just 22,000 or so, who have helped piece together when they were taken, identified the people in the photographs, and shared their own memories of the islands. …

“Through a neighbor, Mr. Moar reached out to Nick Dymond, the local resident who dropped off the bags and who took the photographs, and with his permission, uploaded a number of the images to a Shetland memories Facebook group

Overnight, dozens of people [on Facebook] were leaving messages and helping to identify the people featured, chiming in with notes on family homes and sharing memories of places they spent time as children. …

“One member of the Facebook group where Mr. Moar first shared the images said it was ‘giving everyone such a boost in these dark times.’

“Mr. Moar said his own passion for the history of the islands — where his family can trace ancestors back to the 1400s — was what had initially drawn him to save the pictures. …

“Mr. Dymond, 77, … is originally from Bedford, England, but in the 1960s, he made his home on the Shetland Islands, … and in the 1970s, he began leading bird and wildlife tours in the summers. He served as a warden for the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds, a charity, and later wrote a book on birding in the islands

“Mr. Dymond said that viewing the photographs was a journey back into small moments of his life that he had not thought of in some time. … One of his favorites is a photograph of a farmer kneeling to feed a lamb, taken on the tiny island of Fetlar, which had a population of just 100 during the seven years that Mr. Dymond lived there. He recognized the man, Lollie Brown, a neighbor, who died years ago.

“ ‘He was just a wonderful man,’ he said. ‘That was a great reminder for me.’ ”

More at the New York Times, here. See the Shetland Museum site, here.

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