Posts Tagged ‘Lord Stirling Park’

I was later than normal picking up Dad. The reason?  Shelley, Jessica and Lily came to visit .  Jessica and Lily live in Florida.  Shelley was my next door neighbor for thirteen years (I think).  We spent every morning running either the 2 mile or 4 mile loop, regardless of the weather.


Knowing my schedule was tight, I had planned on a simple picnic…. peanut butter sandwiches.  Having no peanut butter, I hoped to have time to pick up a jar on the way to Dad’s.  I sliced the bread and smeared it with the only jams I had in the fridge, Blackberry Jelly and Rhubarb Jam.

Picnic Preparation

Naturally, time ran short and stopping at the store was out of the question.  I slice up Jarlsberg cheese, grabbed a fistful of tiny tomatoes, filled my water bottle and hoped for the best.

I arrived at Chelsea at exactly 11:30….. just as I had told Dad I would.  Whew!

As usual, Dad was asleep in his chair, wearing long pants in spite of the phone call I made to remind him I was coming and to suggest he change into shorts.  While he was changing, I dashed back to the foyer to snap a shot of the quilt square that had been made by a Watchung Regional High School student in the AP History program.  After one on one interviews with a few of the Chelsea residents, short bios had been written as well as lovely squares made for the Chelsea Quilt.

The Dave Carter Quilt Square

I will ask Anna how to obtain a copy of the bio that inspired this square.

After snapping photos of the quilt I returned to Dad’s room to find him wearing shorts and smiling.  We made sure he had his keys and off we went to Lord Stirling Park.  This week’s walk would be shorter than usual. Nancy Miller’s father passed away earlier this week and I needed to leave Chelsea in time to get to the wake.  Nancy and I attended both High School and Commercial Art school together in the sixties and early seventies.  Fortunately, we are neighbors once again.  Nancy’s father was a great supporter of our adventures and crazy ideas.  He will be sorely missed.  He lived in the neighborhood next to Spring Run where my father lived until earlier this year.

When we arrived at Lord Stirling Park we headed first to the herb and flower garden to eat our lunch and to see how it had changed since late Spring.

Purple Coneflowers and Great Lobelia

First we explored the aromatic herb garden, rubbing and sniffing until our fingers and noses couldn’t tell the difference anymore between lemon scent and rose scent.

Dad sniffing herbs

After sniffing we had our picnic.  Dad, of course, thought that Jarlsberg Cheese and Rhubarb Jam on seven grain bread sounded wonderful.  I am grateful that he is so easy to please.

An odd picnic menu

“You know, Chris, the power of suggestion is pretty remarkable.”

“What do you mean, Dad?”

“Well, these grapes taste just like tomatoes, just because they look like tomatoes.”

“Dad, they taste like tomatoes because they are tomatoes”

“But they are the size of grapes!”

Dad checking the date on his phone

After lunch it was time for the pencil and paper.  While I snapped some photos of the garden herbs and flowers, Dad walked around writing down all the names of the plants, labeled in the beds.

Cardinal Flowers; White Pussy Toes; Jack in the Pulpit; Common Horsetail; Dwarf Scouring Horsetail, Hidcote Lavender; Logee Blue Rosemary; Gray Santolina; ruby Heart hens and Chicks; Lambs Ears; Sensitive Plant (I’ll have to check on that one when we visit the garden again…. it was the last on his list.)

He then checked his phone so that he could document the notes with the proper date.  I suggested he write down a few words describing how he felt about being in the garden again.

Chris’s camera and Dad’s pencil and paper,

record flowering plants surrounding the six-sided patio.

It is 6-sided, 6 feet from center post to each of the six perimeter posts.

Sandwich wrappings lie on the bench as Chris takes pictures and as I write.

The sun shines brightly,

casting vivid shadows on

the concrete and wooden-plank floors.

White billowy clouds decorate the deeply – blue sky.

the gentle, cool breeze

nudges the leaves.

In all this silence,

it is exhilarating.

We talked about what he had written.  The simple facts of our surroundings had begun to transform into beautiful imagery.  We talked about how he now wrote in prose rather than rhyme.  I asked him if he thought about rhyme anymore.

“I think I am concentrating more on what I am saying rather than how I am saying it.”

Dad searches for words

I began to draw as he began to write again.

Purple Coneflowers

The coneflowers were beginning to fade.

Blue False Indigo

The dark, hard pods of the Blue False Indigo contrasted sharply against the late-summer green of the leaves.

Cardinal Flowers

Cardinal Flowers still screamed their color of fire and passion in spite of some withering.

Dad searched for the words he thought I wanted to hear…..

On a Walk In The Woods

Chris looks to her Dad for poems

Pencil and paper are even on hand

Imaginative phrases would really be grand

The breezes are silent

The shadow from waving leaves do beckon

But the words being sought are oblivious

Nowhere at all to be found.

But wait, did I hear a couple just now?

I had better write them down.

They just might work, somehow.

View from the herb garden

We left the garden behind and followed the trail into the woods.

Leaving the garden

Once we were off the wooden path, surrounded by trees, Dad slowed down.

“These shadows are pretty tricky.”

“What do you mean, Dad?”

“It’s hard to know where I’m stepping.  The shadows are like a camouflage.”

We walked carefully and slowly along the uneven path spotted with light and shadows.

Clouds and Sky

Each time we left the woods and entered a clearing, we would stop ….. hand on hips, face to the sky, in awe of the shapes of white and blue.

The Blue Blue Sky

We made our way over to the North Tower. In the late Spring, the weeds had only been about a foot high.  Now they were taller than Dad.

Grasses taller than Dad

I mentioned it to Dad.  About twelve steps later he corrected me.

“Grasses, Chris. These are grasses, not weeds.”

"Anything But Costumes" water bottle

The metal water bottle that Lowell gave me with the Prop Shop logo is perfect for our walks.

In need of repair

Our progress was extremely slow.  We wound our way back toward the Sugaring Shack, past the storage sheds and this old, brick building that Dad felt was in need of a bit of repair.  When we finally reached the grove of trees behind the Sugaring Shake we rested on the benches in the shadows of the trees.

Shadow Camouflage

I suggested we put pencil to paper again and play a rhyming game.  Be forewarned …  playing rhyming games with Dad is a bit like playing Hink-Dink with Dad.

I came up with the first two lines.  Dad followed with two more, two more from me, one from Dad …. joint effort from there on…

Maple Sugar Candy

Wouldn’t that be dandy?

I can almost taste it now

But now it’s gone, somehow.

Marshmallow Fluff

Great tasting stuff

Mixed with berries and cream

Is a young farm boy’s dream.

I stepped in a hole

And dropped the bowl.

Sticky and gooey, I slipped on the slop,

Stepped in the goo, and teeth did drop.

Dad came up with the last two lines.  He commented,  “This is not very intellectual.”  But, every other line we came up with to replace them was “not very dramatic”. We settled for the drama rather than the intellect.

Dad took a break and began to swing from the limb of a nearby tree.  The motion of the limb as it bent back and forth toward the ground reminded me of the giant fan above the dining table at Longwood, an Antebellum home near Natchez, Mississsippi that we visited back in the early 60’s.  The memory of that trip inspired our next rhyming poem.

Bending branch like ancient fan

Cools the flesh as best it can.

Natchez heat in mid June

Court of Two Sisters to hear a tune.

Paper mill fumes

Filled the rooms

We held our noses

And thought of roses

But, alas, to no avail

We vomited into the pail.

Sorry.  Maybe we will do better next week.

It was getting late and I needed to be at the Funeral Parlor by seven.  We left the grove and headed to the car.

A dragonfly led the way along the path.

“Ahhh, a Snake Doctor”

“The dragonfly, Dad?”

‘We called them Snake Doctors”


“Oh… if a snake was sick, a dragonfly would land on it.”

“And then what would it do?”

“I don’t know, it was just an expression.”

“But what did the expression mean?”

“I don’t remember.  It must have meant something.”

Our rhyming game had not produced quality poetry but it had made us laugh so hard that our sides ached and tears ran down our cheeks.  We giggled and we guffawed.  The day, though short, had been spectacular.

Hours later I held my friend, Nancy, in my arms. Her Dad will no longer share our adventures, our laughter, our tears.

Even though, at the end of the day, Dad doesn’t remember our walks together, he is 100 percent there while we are together.  Wonderful memories are still being created even though I am the only one who can pass them along.  Maybe Nancy will join us on one of our walks together. We always shared our Dads.

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A quick stop at Califon Eye Associates for an eye exam before picking up Dad.

Califon Eye Associates

Then off to Chelsea. We checked Dad’s weight with Vicki before grabbing a cup of coffee and sitting outside next to the newly planted vegetable garden. I did a quick sketch of Dad using my new Ciao Copic Markers. I’m experimenting with markers because they dry immediately unlike ink and watercolor. The results so far are not too exciting.

Dad with his portrait

Dad insisted on taking a photo of the artist.

Artist wearing Beetlejuice Blouse

We returned to Lord Stirling Park. Our mission was to photograph the areas that are fenced in to prevent the deer from browsing as well as the browsed areas. Our neighbor, Celia, is writing an article in a deer magazine.

Preserving the Forest

We began our adventure in the herb garden. Dad rolled up his pants, wishing he had worn shorts. The day had already turned hot and muggy.

Getting comfortable

Dad peeled the orange to eat along with the cheese sandwiches.

Dad peeling the orange

I sketched a bit as Dad examined the plants. He was particularly interested in the horsetail plants

Horsetail plants

“I was around a lot of horsetails when I was a boy!”

A different variety of horsetail plants

Before heading into the swamp we collaborated on a page in my sketchbook. I drew the garden and Dad wrote a poem. I was so happy that he enjoyed writing again and that he wrote a whole poem!

Father Daughter collaboration

I have written the poem out on my other blog. Here is a link to that entry: Dad’s poem.

Off into swamp we tromped. At the meadow Dad told me about the day his mother suggested Dad get the 12 gauge rifle and join her to hunt pheasant in the swamp on the farm. Dad was in high school at the time and was pleased that his mother suggested a nice outing together, just the two of them. As they approached the swamp they saw two pheasants coming out of the tall grass. The pheasants took flight, Dad raised the rifle and shot, successfully bringing down one of the pheasants. They had pheasant for dinner that evening.

the swamp

Along the path, Dad found what we believe to be a turkey track.

Turkey Track

We took the photographs for Celia.

Protected saplings

We found two fenced off areas. The rest of the swamp had been over-browsed by the deer.

No saplings

Though we made it further into the swamp today than we did last week, we still turned back early due to fatigue and mosquitos. Before heading back to Chelsea we took a nice long rest at the information center, relaxing in a room filled with beautiful specimen of insects, butterflies and moths.

Unidentified Beetle

I wish I had my ink and dip pen. I didn’t do this beetle justice with my Ciao Copic Markers.

Well rested, we returned to Chelsea.

I remembered to call Dad this evening to remind him that the Ice Cream Social was in progress. He assured me he would head right up to join the crowd.

Another good day with Dad!

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Thursday is our day together. Last Thursday we visited Lord Stirling Park again and began to journal our walk with sketches and photographs. We both enjoyed it and have decided to continue to journal our days together. Rather than emails, I will post the events of the day here.

The path less traveled on

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