Tuesday, December 15, 2015

A Magical Time of Year

Photo by Robert Slack

I wanted to share with everyone a Christmas story, THE TREE FARM, which I wrote and recorded at WAMC, Northeast Public Radio in Albany, NY. It tells the story about a family run tree farm where I found more than our tree, I found the spirit of Christmas.  
Please click this link to listen:  THE TREE FARM
I wish you all a very Happy Holiday!

(*I recently returned to WAMC to record my new essay, PUMPING GAS. More details to come.)

Friday, October 30, 2015

Discovering Trail Wood

Photos by Robert Slack

I wish I had met Edwin Teale, a Pulitzer Prize winning author, and his wife, Nellie. Both were naturalists. I treasure his words in his book, A Naturalist Buys an Old Farm. It captures not only the beauty, but the magic of Trail Wood, a 168 parcel of land in Hampton, Connecticut where they lived.

As October’s chill crisps the air, I wish I could have visited them in their white Cape style house at the end of the lane and share a pot of hot tea in front of the fieldstone fireplace. His writing allows me to imagine their conversations; Nellie chatting about her latest fern discovery, number 26, Edwin noting they had exceeded 140 in their bird species tally, and how he hid behind a blueberry bush while he watched a beaver break through the pond’s frozen surface. As meticulous and serious as Edwin was about recording the wildlife around him, it makes me laugh when he speaks about the staring contest he had with a woodchuck and the number of times each of them blinked. The woodchuck won. Who tries to stare down a woodchuck? Or knows how many tons of snowflakes fell on Trail Wood during one snowstorm? Edwin. It’s all in his book. And yet as knowledgeable as Edwin’s writing is, brilliant perhaps, he doesn't lecture or speak down to the reader, rather his words invite us all to share in his discoveries. 

On Saturday October 17, my husband and I visited Trail Wood, with a camera, binoculars, and open hearts. As my husband and I walked up towards their white house, I knew we wouldn’t find Nellie or Edwin at home. Edwin passed away close to this day on October 18, 1980 at the age of 81. Before his death, the Teales deeded their land to the Connecticut Audubon Society, which opens Trail Wood to the public daily. Nellie continued to reside at Trail Wood and told the NY Times in an interview in 1990, “One afternoon, we were driving to Indianapolis, and Edwin noticed the beautiful sunset . . . I had never been out with a man that had ever paid attention to sunsets.” Edwin’s love for Nellie was reflected in one of his earlier book’s dedication, “. . . to the sun and the moon and Nellie; to the pasture rose and the bluebird and Nellie; to the starlight and the rainbow and Nellie; to all that means the most to me at Trail Wood especially Nellie."

Nellie had insisted Edwin's office remain unchanged. I peak through the window. A beam of late afternoon sunlight falls across the room highlighting the rocking chair by the fireplace. Three walls of built-in shelves support rows of books, pens lay-in-waiting beside the blotter on Edwin’s large desk, and several rocks are perched on the windowsill. I need to make an appointment and step inside someday, but I feel another tug and turn way. The Writing Cabin beckons.  

The Cabin, a ten by fourteen foot long log structure, is where Edwin escaped to write and think about the natural beauty that graced his cabin’s doorstep. I sit on the same slabs of lichen covered stone, breathe deeply, and try to quiet my mind. Around me the wind whispers through the yellowing aspen leaves. Below, "Hidden Pond" is a portrait of nature's watercolors. The surrounding tree's reflections of reds, yellows and oranges are smeared across the water’s surface. The quiet is interrupted, but not interfered with, by the chatter of chipmunks and the click of my husband’s camera.

Ready to explore we follow the trail past Seven Springs Swamp through West Woods and pause by ferns struggling to hold onto summer’s breath. Heading towards Beaver Pond we turn down a path blanketed in a colorful mosaic of fallen leaves. We listen for the songbirds and remember a Common Yellow Throat we tracked through the brush around the water’s edge last summer. It is a lonelier place without his cheerful voice.

Stepping out of the woods into the open pasture we startle a deer, who turns and leaps out of sight. Taking the trail down by the brook we notice the water is running low and wonder how many animals come by to quench their thirst. We spot a lone red leaf on a round rock left behind like a love note. My husband steals a kiss by the darkening grays of a stonewall.

I have often wished that one night my husband and I could stargaze in the meadow they named Starfield. Edwin wrote, “Over me streams that river of stars, the Milky Way, known to the ancient Chinese as the ‘Little Sister of the Rainbow.’” I imagine lying there next to my husband, holding hands, watching that sparkling rainbow and wondering if it’s an astral pathway to the Heavens and I would smile just in case Edwin and Nellie were watching.  

To learn more about Trail Wood - The Edwin Way Teale Memorial Sanctuary visit the Connecticut Audubon Society at:

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

The Supermoon's Eclipse

Photo by Robert Slack

On Sunday, Sept 26, in Connecticut's northeast corner, the breezy night air carried a slight chill and the sky was sprinkled in starlight. My husband and I stood out on the deck watching the Supermoon come into focus through our lens, his camera, my binoculars. Sleep beckoned us. Our older black Labrador Retriever, usually interested in the night calls of the coyotes, opted for the comforts of the couch indoors. Our four-month-old chocolate Labrador gnawed on the tripod legs, followed by my slippers. As the Harvest moon gradually adorned her red glow, the tired pup curled up on a lounge chair. Part of me wanted to curl up beside her.

I had heard scientific explanations about this astronomical event and was drawn to Dr. Sarah Noble's (a program scientist from NASA) comment in the NY Times, "You're basically seeing all of the sunrises and sunsets across the world, all at once, being reflected off the surface of the moon." 

Meanwhile, astrologers blogged about the moon operating under independent Aries while the sun would be in peaceful Libra. One mentioned lunar nodes. (I had to look nodes up . . . who knew?) Some think this phenomenon creates the potential for a huge shift in everyone's consciousness enabling the heart to open up to the universe.

I am a believer in opening up my heart, however, understanding the workings of the universe is beyond me. Can a Supermoon's eclipse open a gateway to creativity? A bridge for me to write my first blog entry? I can picture some family members rolling their eyes. And I don't blame them. I don't know what it all means. But that night standing on the deck, glancing up past the swaying treetops towards the magnificent Supermoon aglow in red, the moon not only captured our attention, it connected us all to the universe.