Posts Tagged ‘The Great Swamp’

Dad has just returned from spending a wonderful week with Jane and her family in Cape Cod.  On their last day, as Jane signed the guestbook, Dad wrote this incredible poem!

Seen from the porch

The Scene is serene

It’s where sea and sky blend

And sailboats bob by.

The breeze ruffles Jane’s hair

As she reads, then looks up and smiles

Ah, that smile that so beams

Almost always, it seems.

Lift pencil from paper

For no more need be said

Too many words hide the story

Detracting from the glory.

I’m about to leave my house to pick Dad up and bring him for his B12 shot before we take our walk.  I couldn’t resist posting this poem first, along with some photos I found while he was away.  We have been going for walks together, as adults, for a very long time!

The Great Swamp. Gramps with Mike on his shoulders

Always the teacher, pointing out interesting things….

The boardwalk at The Great Swamp, 1987

Nicole exploring at The Great Swamp, 1987


A walk through the woods, 1995

Sharing Curiosity, 1995

At the Reservoir, 1995

Always curious, always excited about discovering new treasures that nature offers us!  What a Dad!




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Thursday, June 7, 2012

Dad was in a deep sleep when I arrived.  He stumbled as he wandered over to his card table and began asking me what the different papers were on the table.  He opened his cell phone to check the date and time.  The cell phone was dead.  No wonder it transferred to the phone message when I called him to tell him I was on my way.  He looked to his calendar as if to locate himself.

“Ah…. it says it’s Grand Daddy’s Birthday!  He was born in 1898.  Is it June 7th today, Chris?”

We had a few minutes before we left to drive to Dr. Frisoli’s for Dad’s vitamin B12 shot. I handed Dad his green notebook and a mechanical pencil.


Words squeezed out

Of a sleepy brain

Trying to make sense

Seems in vain.

During the ten minute drive to the doctor’s we played the Dust Off the Cobweb Game again.  This time he remembered whom I was married to, how many children I have, as well as their sex and names!  When we arrived at the doctor’s, we had to wait again.  Out came the pencil and the book.

Illustrated Birthday Poem

Grand Daddy’s birthday

Is today

Born June 7th


How LUCKY we are

To have been born

How great a world!

How great a day!


From Dr. Frisoli’s we went to Benny’s for an early lunch.  I wanted to let them know the house sold.  Again, we found ourselves seated and waiting.  This time we were waiting for our delicious lunch to arrive.  Dad asked his favorite question (for the fourth time already that morning).

“So how’s the family?”

I told him again that Alexis and Nicole would be coming to see him next week and I repeated what each of the kids are currently doing.  When I mentioned that Mike is paragliding, Dad smiled.

“I always had a love for flying….. I always loved flying!”

Out came the book and the pencil.

Trying to remember what he was going to write about.


Flying was a dream of mine

As I watched the birds in flight

that may be one reason why

I joined the Air Force, to fly on high

It was a good choice

It took me to Yale

I received gold bars

To The Pacific took sail.

He put down his pencil and stared intently at the glass display case.

Cookies for Sale

“Why, that’s pretty darn close to thirteen dollars if you ask me.”

Helen arrived, looking gorgeous in turquoise blue.  She and Benny already knew about the house.  They had seen Jane and Dad just a few days before.  Helen shared the good news of her daughter’s recent employment as a writer.

Helen and Dad

During lunch we played a new memory game, Name the Livestock.


Guernsey – White faced, brown bodies

Jersey – Brown – almost solid brown, white nose, feet and tail

Angus – Black

Hereford – white face, brown (the description was later changed to “a young female cow of any kind.”

A pause …… “Are we talking about cows?”

“Yes, Dad, you are naming the different kinds of cows.  What about the black and white cows? Not the ones with the band around the middle, but the spotty ones.  Do you remember their name?”

“I can’t come up with it.  Pigs …. New Hampshire …. Black and White.”

Clue – “H”

Another clue – “HO….”


“Are they black and white, Dad?”

“I’ll have to think about it.” ………….”What am I fishing for?”

We moved on to pigs.


Duroc – Red pigs

New Hampshire – Black with white band and tail

“That’s all I remember.”

“What are the white pigs called?”

“Maybe Berkshire.”

“What are the black and white spotted ones?”

“Poland China. I had a Poland China, a gilt (young female).”

“What kind of pig was the one that died because you forgot to water it?”

“I don’t remember.”

“Do pigs cross mate?”

“I don’t recall that they did.  The farmers probably made sure they didn’t.”

“I’d like to see a red one with a white band.”

“I don’t think the farmers would go for that.”

“Artists would.”

“Artists ….. and the pigs probably would.”  Dad smiled.


“What about sheep?”

I don’t know if I can remember.  I don’t believe I can come up with that. Hmmmmm. Nope.  Don’t remember.”

We didn’t move on to POULTRY.  Instead, we drove to Lord Stirling Park.  We passed a gas station on the way up the hill. Dad chuckled again, seeing a sign for Premium gas at $3.99 per gallon.

“That’s pretty darn close to $4.00.”

I parked the car and we headed directly for Boondocks Boardwalk at the far end of the park.  Dad was feeling wide awake now and confident that he had the stamina for a long walk.

Honeysuckle was in full bloom along the path.

Dad picking the honeysuckle blossom

Extracting the nectar

Tasting the Honeysuckle

Dad had never tasted honeysuckle.  I taught him how to extract the nectar from the blossom.  Sadly, he couldn’t taste the sweetness.  Just as his sniffer isn’t working so well anymore, neither are his taste buds.

Further along, white wings filled the air, flitting from blossom to blossom.

Butterfly or Moth?

I still hadn’t taken the time to research whether this white-winged insect that we saw each week was a butterfly or a moth.  Dad insisted it was a moth because it didn’t have any colors.  Today, his opinion remained the same.

A diversion from journaling the day’s walk ……

During this past weekend’s Keyport Garden Walk Plein Air Event one of these winged creatures landed on a bush beside me.  I asked my friend if he thought it was a butterfly or a moth.  He, like my Dad, grew up on a farm.  “I’d call it a moth,” he said.  “Why?” I asked.  “It doesn’t have any color,” he answered.

I finally took the time to find a more definite answer.  Both butterflies and moths are classified in the order of Lepidoptera.  Butterflies and moths differ from one another in five basic ways:

1. Antenna – (Butterflies – rounded clubs on the end) (Moths – thin, often feathery)

2. Body – (B – thin and smooth) (M – thick and fuzzy)

3. Active – (B – usually during the day) (M – usually during the night)

4. Pupal Stage – (B- chrysalis) (M- cocoon)

5. Wings – (B – held vertically when resting) (M – flat against body when resting)

Only two of the above can be attributed, definitely, to the insect in question.  We definitely observe the activity during the day and the wings are definitely held vertically during the very brief moments of rest.  I believe the butterflies we see on our walks are in the family, Pieridae.  Pierids are rather conspicuous white, yellow, or orange butterflies, with around 1000 species worldwide.

I’ll never convince Dad that it is a butterfly.

Halfway to our destination I noticed an odd expression on his face.

“Are you doing okay, Dad?”

“I could use a rest stop.”


“Perfect timing, Dad.”  I pointed to the bench about four feet ahead of us.

“Not that kind of rest stop, Chris.”

We turned around and headed back toward the Visitor’s Headquarters, but we had walked too far.  Nature demanded immediate attention.  Dad tromped off into the woods.  He returned with a smile on his face.  He was determined to resume our hike to Boondocks Boardwalk.  We turned around again and headed, once more, for the far end of the park.

Picking up the pace

Dad was walking surprisingly well.  His balance was good, his gait strong and posture straight and tall.  As we walked, we shared with one another our first experiences with shitting in the woods.  I remember learning my own personal technique from my mother.  I passed the technique on to my campers when I found myself a camp counselor at Camp Speers / Eljabar, in charge of twelve girls rafting or canoeing down the Delaware River for five days straight.

Black Snake basking in the sun

We were not the only ones enjoying the heat of the day.

Left behind

It’s not unusual for us to discover abandoned equipment among the trees.

“Looks like it was used for hauling logs.  Looks like something heavy was on it.”

It seemed to me that a car would be just as heavy as logs on the frame.  I asked Dad why he thought it hauled logs instead of being the frame for a car.

“It has springs on it.”

Taking a break

A Walk In The Woods

With Chris and bugs

Sweat dripping down

Off of the chin

She’s taking pictures

And writing a bit

I’m writing too

While on a bench I sit

The day has no sound

It’s as quiet as can be

Blue sky and green leaves

Is all that I see

No it isn’t,

There’s nature all ’round

Including mosquitoes

Interrupting me now

.. Dad ..

Silence of the birds

“Don’t you hear the birds, Dad?”

“No, I don’t.  I have ringing in my ears.  Maybe it’s the same frequency and I can’t tell the difference.  No …. I don’t hear birds at all. Do you hear birds?”

“Yes, Dad, they are louder than that plane….. Do you hear the plane?”

“Yes, I do hear the plane.  But I don’t hear birds.”

Boardwalk to Nowhere

We reached the beginning of Boondocks Boardwalk!

A bloom between the boardwalk boards

The swamp plants are varied and spectacular.

Swamp Plants

I can’t resist snapping photos of the variety of shapes.

Dad’s shadow shape

“Don’t you want the shape of my shadow in your photo?”

“Sure, Dad.”

Around the next curve, the boardwalk was blocked by golf carts filled with tools.  Beyond the carts were several men rebuilding a section of the boardwalk.  Ever so carefully we navigated our way around the carts.

Boardwalk Repairs

The men were a bit startled by our arrival and our desire to continue our walk.

“Do you think we can make the step across?” I asked.

They looked even more startled.

“How about if we lay a plank across,” they offered as they warmed up to our adventure.


Laying the plank

“So …. you’re going to make your Dad walk the plank?  What kind of way is that for you to treat your Dad?”

Now everyone was totally into the adventure.

“How about two planks?”

“Sure, that’s even better.”

Laying the second plank

As they lay the second plank they warned me about the topsy-turvy nature of the boardwalk up ahead.

“Thanks.  We’ve walked it before.  I hold my Dad’s hand while we’re on the roller coaster section.”

“You wouldn’t mind then, sir, if we hold your hand while you walk the planks?”

“No….. not at all.”

Walking the Planks

A good time was had by all.  Dad and I continued along our way.

Tipped pilings

Gentle tips and turvies

Check the earlier Boondocks Boardwalk post to see photos of the extreme slants of the boardwalk as it winds its way through the far end of the swamp.

Dad’s energy level was starting to drop.  We stopped for another rest at what is called The Dance Floor.

Writing the last poem of the day

I see that I’ve written

about mosquitoes and sweat

well, both are still here

A’plenty, you bet!

We left the boardwalk behind and started back toward the car.  The path was level and without obstructions.  No need to hold Dad’s hand.  We paused every now and then to drink more water.  Dad’s fatigue was beginning to show by the shuffle of his feet.  His posture was a bit more stooped, but his balance was still quite good ….. or so I thought.

For no apparent reason Dad lost his balance.  In an effort to catch himself, he grabbed my arm with both of his hands and jerked me to the ground, much to the displeasure of my titanium hip.  We both lay still for a moment, neither one of us able to get up.  Slowly, I managed to stand.  My hip hurt, but I was pretty certain it was okay.  I think the muscles were wrenched in an unusual way and they were letting me know.  Dad still lay on the ground.

“What just happened?  Why did I fall?  Did I trip on something?  Why can’t I get up?”

“Relax, Dad.  Just give me a minute.”

I tried to help him up, but he wasn’t doing anything on his own.  He grabbed onto me and pulled.

“Dad, let go!  You’re going to pull me down again!”

He let go.

“Okay….. let’s do this carefully.  You’re going to have to stand up on your own, Dad.  I can help balance you, but I can’t hold all of your weight.”

It took at least five minutes for him to make the necessary maneuvers.

“Why can’t I do this?  I can’t believe that I fell.  I can’t believe it is so difficult for me to get up…………”

When he was finally standing.  We waited another few minutes before moving on.

“Dad, we are going to hold hands and we are going to walk very, very slowly.”

I didn’t dare let go of him even to get a walking stick for him to use.  Had I thought about it, I would have grabbed a stick before he stood up.

We made it to the parking lot and almost to the car.  He started to lose his balance again and grabbed my arm with his free hand.  Fortunately, there was a parked car in front of mine.  We fell against the parked car instead of landing on the sharp gravel.

Once again, I brought my Dad back to Chelsea covered in blood.  He had scraped his arm badly when he fell in the woods.  Vicki cleaned him up nicely and scheduled an evaluation for him.  Hopefully, he will begin to get physical therapy to maintain and build strength that he has lost by spending most of his time sleeping in his chair instead of taking his seven mile daily hikes and maintaining a one acre yard and a crumbling house.

Walking sticks will be our constant companions from now on!

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In spite of the rain Dad and I headed to Lord Stirling Park to picnic among the aromatic mints and lavender.

View from the Scent Garden

The morning started with juggled rescheduling of plans.  I regret that we canceled meeting Corina and Chloe at Watchung Reservation.  I knew my tolerance level was diminished due to my lingering head cold.  I couldn’t count on myself to keep four soggy walkers in good spirits.  It turned out that the rain stopped when we arrived at Lord Stirling Park.

Before our excursion to the swamp, I cleaned Dad’s room a bit, sorting through piles of paper that accumulated on his floor and tables.  Along with the abundance of napkins and score sheets games Dad continues to win, I found several books that he had borrowed from the Chelsea library.  I found twenty-two books to be exact, each with a napkin marking his place, somewhere between page fifteen and page thirty of each book.

Dad was baffled by the pile of books, not knowing where they had come from.  He sorted through the pile eight times before we carried them upstairs to return them to the library where he sorted through them another three times.  The problem was that one of them had been inscribed “Happy Birthday, Dad.  Love, Mark, Joanne and Chris.”  He was sure the book was his because it said “Happy Birthday, Dad” and because one of the names was Chris.  It didn’t seem to matter that he doesn’t have any children or mates of children who are named Mark or Joanne.  The only names that mattered were Dad and Chris.  He kept asking me how the books got into his room if they weren’t his.  Eventually, we were able to leave the stack of books behind and left for Lord Stirling Park.

In spite of my impaired patience I felt optimistic about the day.  A birthday card from Jane and Dad had been placed on Dad’s table to welcome me.  I opened it to discover that Dad had written a wonderful birthday poem for me. There is even a bit of rhyming in it! (Thank you, Jane!)

It is a very special scene

The date of October nineteen,

For on that date some years ago

A brand new life was to be seen.

Candles were lit

On that day ever since

to celebrate

That very special birth.

And may it be

for many years more

A great life to celebrate

From shore to shore and shining shore.

Love, Dad

I am still smiling inside, treasuring such a special gift.  I have noticed that it is increasingly difficult for Dad to put words together on paper.  I knew that our opportunities today were limited due to the rain-soaked benches that we would ordinarily use for drawing and writing.  I did bring plastic garbage bags to sit on, but the mosquitoes were ravenous and disturbed our moments of creative solitude.

Dad gently rubbing the scented leaves

Though it has been about two months since we visited the Scent Garden, Dad immediately began rubbing the leaves and smelling them.

Yellow leaves

The yellow and red of the autumn leaves made up for the lost color of faded flowers.


Was it a creature

Dashing across the path?

Or was it just a leaf

Shoved by the breeze?

I caught only a glimpse of it

Whatever it was is gone

All is still

Silence reigns on.

The Track Garden

On our previous visits, we missed seeing the Track Garden.  Dad’s response to the round markers along the perimeter brought to mind the first trip to the Museum of Natural History with Alexis, Nicole and Michael.  Michael was probably 4 and the girls almost 6.  After initially being awestruck by the dioramas of the animals the children began to question how the animals had ended up in the museum, especially the mothers with their young, a difficult question to answer gently.  Though a bit dismayed, we continued through the dioramas, making our way downstairs to the aquatic scenes.  At the far end of the room, one of the windows displayed a sponge diver………

When Dad saw the circular markers around the edge of the garden I noticed the same expression that had appeared on the faces of the children when they saw the sponge diver behind the glass.

“Do you think they’re all buried in the garden beneath the plants?” Dad asked.  The question would not have been quite so unsettling if it hadn’t been for the marker directly in front of us.  A squirrel under the bush is one thing…. a human is quite another matter.

Another view of the Track Garden

We left the Track Garden behind and ventured into the swamp.

Off to Oz

The wet leaves upon the boardwalk caused slippery walking conditions.

The straight, tall trees

As we walked, Dad recalled walking along the wooded trails in Idaho with his friend Merle Bunker while fighting forest fires one summer during college.  Merle and Dad were lab partners.  Bunker was the last of the “B” names and Carter was the first of the “C” names.  They became lifelong friends.  Dad talked about the “windfall” logs being so abundant that they walked along them, not stepping on the ground for a good half mile.

Twisted Trunk Tree

The trees stood naked in the misty forest.  Without their frocks of leaves, the shapes of limbs, darkened by the recent rain, stood our starkly against the blanket of gold and brown.

Dad finding his stride

After oiling his joints, Dad rolled up his sleeves and picked up his pace.  We walked about three times the distance I had expected.  Not once did we sit and take a break.  “I need to do that more often.” he remarked as we got into the car to return to Chelsea.

Searching for words

Back in his room, there was one more poem to be written.  This time, the words did not come.

There is always next time…..

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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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