The Gathering

I can’t remember when our yearly ritual began but it has become tradition for three college friends and me to meet somewhere for a fall weekend. And so this year found us staying at a borrowed house in York, Maine. I was late to the gathering but we spent last night catching up as we surrounded the kitchen island. It seems like a table or island is always the spot where we spend most of our time each year while we tell new stories and recall old ones.

1-duck pond

This morning found us dining at a local restaurant. Years ago, I’d spent many an hour in York, either eating at Rick’s, combing the beaches, or standing beside a duck pond. And after this morning’s breakfast, voila–the duck pond. I’m not sure it was the one I remembered for so much had changed in town since I’d last looked for it, but still . . . it was a pond . . . with ducks.

2-fall mallards

Dabbling Mallards to be exact, their iridescent colors as brilliant as the fall foliage.

3-Long Sands Beach

Our next stop was the beach–Long Sands Beach that is. With the tide rolling out, we were able to stroll along most of its mile and a half length.

5-herring gull-shadow and reflection

Our sights included a Herring Gull in triplicate, with both its shadow and reflection cast on the watery surface.

9-ripples in the sand

Equally impressive were the ripples in the sand that matched the water that had once flowed over it,


and those in a small stream bed (which we chose not to cross).

10-snail trails

Our sense of wonder was again aroused when we saw a message in the sand and realized it was not someone writing in script, but rather the trail of a snail.

8-half dollar

We also found a few broken sand dollars, the fifty cent piece being the largest.

6-three old friends

We walked and chatted and walked and chatted some more until our time together came to an end. Once more we gathered round the kitchen counter, then shared a group hug and said our goodbyes.

12-until we meet again

But we each left knowing that when the time comes to meet again, we’ll follow the signs and pick up where we left off.

13-Nubble Light

As I turned north out of the lane, I wasn’t quite ready to hop onto the highway and find my way home, so I detoured. My first stop was a Nubble Lighthouse, where “in 1874 President Rutherford B. Hayes appropriated money to build a lighthouse on this “Nub” of land.” All these years later, it’s getting a much needed facelift.

14-Barrier Beach Trail

A wee bit further up the road, I pulled into Wells Reserve at Laudholm , a 2,250-acre estuarine zone. Trails loop about the property and I followed a few.

15-bumblebee pollination

Beside the estuary, bees aplenty buzzed about some late asters in the warmth of the sunshine.

16-yellow rump hiding

And closer to the ocean, Yellow-rumped Warblers flew and landed among the shrubs.

17-beach rose

As I walked across a boardwalk toward the beach, a few beach roses showed off their brilliant blooms.

18-Drake's Island Beach

At last I reached Drake’s Island Beach on the Atlantic Ocean, one of my old haunts on daytrips long ago.

19-more squiggles in the sand

And there, another squiggly message in the sand, longer than the first but about half as wide in trail straddle (just getting back into my winter tracking frame of mind and terminology.)

21-Rachel Carson Wildlife Reserve

On my return, I looped around on the Laird-Norton Trail, where a well-built boardwalk was decorated with so many shades of red speaking to the Acer rubra Maples that arched above.

23-garter snake

In one sunny spot, a garter snake sunned and I tried to warn a woman who was walking toward me, but she didn’t hear and the startled snake practically jumped off the boardwalk. The woman almost did as well!

24-apple tree

Snakes and apples and I began to wonder if I was in the Garden of Eden. But really, I wondered if a squirrel had wedged the apple into the nook of the tree to dry. I’ve seen the same with mushrooms and just last week watched a red squirrel snatch a dried mushroom in a movement so quick that it will remain in my mind’s eye only.

20-drone fly, looks like a European honey bee

Certainly, the bees and flies, such as this hover fly, were taking advantage of the nutrition offered at the reserve. Temperatures are forecast to dip this week, so I’ll be curious to see how long the flowers and pollinators last.


My final stop of the day was to walk a trail that connects to the reserve. The Carson Trail is named for Rachel Carson. The Rachel Carson National Wildlife Refuge was created in 1966 to protect valuable salt marshes and estuaries for migrating birds. My views today included heron, an egret, and a sandpiper.


Finally it was time to head for the hills. But like the ducks and pollinators and birds that foraged for nourishment, I was grateful for the opportunity once again to gather with friends and be sustained by each other’s company.  We’d pose for our traditional selfie before heading off in individual directions to our everyday lives in Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Maine,  and Vermont. Thanks Pammie, Bev, and Becky, and a special thanks to Lynn and Tim for letting us make ourselves at home in their York place.

Until we meet again . . .


Mondate Fix

I have bad camera karma as my guy can tell you and last week my Tamron
SP 60MM F/2.0 Di II 1:1 Macro decided to quit. I know not why. But, we were headed south for today’s Mondate, so we detoured into Portland hoping for a quick fix. Not to be. Two or three weeks they said. ARGH!


C’est la vie. As my nephew once responded about thirty years ago when he was a little tyke, “La vie.” We didn’t get to see him today, but if his ears were burning it’s because we met up with his parents at the GROG in Newburyport. I needed a sister fix–and a sister hug. Thanks lmacbud and docbud 😉 And thanks also for the chocolate chip cookies. I’m amazed they survived the trip home. Guess we were full.

p-board 1

After we parted ways, my guy and I drove out to Plum Island, an 11-mile barrier island off the shore of Newburyport and Newbury, and home to the Parker River National Wildlife Refuge. Most of the parking areas along the salt marsh were closed and so we headed back and walked along the board walk in the Salt Pannes Wildlife Observation Area.

p-dunes to ocean

Due to the fact that it’s plover nesting season, we eventually reached a stopping point. According to the refuge’s Web site: “The Atlantic coast population of this small shorebird was listed as threatened on the Federal Endangered Species List in 1986. As with so many other species in decline, plover populations plummeted primarily due to habitat disturbance and loss. Plovers arrive to breed and nest on the refuge beach beginning in late March. Refuge management efforts focus on minimizing human-caused disturbance by restricting public access to the refuge beach during this critical time.”


As we stood there, we realized that there was a small cranberry bog below. And we found a little sign that listed a couple of interesting facts: 1. the bog’s sphagnum moss sits atop sand. I look at wet or damp sphagnum every day and had no idea it could survive on sand; 2. like a vernal pool, the bog is used as a breeding pool and in this case by a rare and elusive amphibian–the Eastern Spadefoot Toad. I was itching to get down there and explore, but . . .


we paused for a few more moments and then followed the board walk back.

p-board 2

Again we stopped and this time we could follow a board walk all the way to the beach. As I walked, I wondered about the crooked mile but came to the conclusion that it follows the lay of the land–or rather dunes we were crossing.


To our right, our movement was restricted. I suspect Rachel Carson would have approved of these signs. In 1947, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service published a booklet Ms. Carson wrote about the refuge.

p-beach right

We walked to the water’s edge and looked south. The stretch of beach invited exploration, but we don’t always need to get what we desire.


Nearby, my guy found a piece of drift wood to sit upon.


In no time, he was mesmerized.

p-bird 2

p-bird 1

I needed to follow in the tracks of others.


A day beside salt water always evokes memories of my childhood spent exploring the Connecticut coast. How many times did I stick a line attached to a clothespin down into the jetty in Clinton harbor to catch crabs?

p-m & r1

How many mussels did I use as crab bait? How many broken razor clam shells sliced my feet?


How many pieces of sea glass did I collect?


And how many clam shells became Christmas presents?

p-ocean 3

We couldn’t stay long and know that there is so much more to see and wonder about in this special place. Before leaving, we filled the innermost recesses of our lungs with salt air and then returned to the board walk.

Suffice it to say, for this Mondate, we got our fill of fixes.