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Hope is the Thing With Feathers

An excerpt from a poem by Massachusetts’ own Emily Dickinson.

“Hope” is the thing with feathers –
That perches in the soul –
And sings the tune without the words –
And never stops – at all –

-Emily Dickinson

Prime Time

The primary colors in my yard put on a delightful show today. No cable connection needed.

Paying Attention

Tomie dePaola, the popular author of hundreds of children’s books, died recently.

His works were featured in my elementary classroom throughout my career. He reminded teachers to never talk down to children, to speak to them in a natural voice and not to shy away from difficult social subjects. His thoughtful and beautiful illustrations are filled with details that encourage children to look deeply at them. Indeed, Tomie dePaola makes a perfect at-home author study for children of diverse ages. The whole family, including adults, can enjoy these stories together.

“Strega Nona”, the story of a “grandmother witch” and her magic pasta pot, is his most beloved book. The character of Big Anthony, who did not pay attention, was dePaola’s cautionary tale for children. Big Anthony clamors for the praise of the crowd without thinking about the calamity his actions will cause. It is only the quiet, steady wisdom of Strega Nona that averts disaster.

May we be Strega Nonas in these difficult times, and strive to “pay attention”.

Strega Nona, which means “grandmother witch” in Italian, is a wise old women who has served her village will for many years. Hard-working and attentive, she would never forget the magic that would stop her pasta pot from boiling over.
Big Anthony does NOT pay attention. He forgets (or never hears) the magic that will stop the pasta from spreading all over the town, risking all those around him.

Home Comforts

Here are some easy-to-make nutritious foods I’ve enjoyed preparing during my home-bound time. These offerings are meatless. I feel fortunate to have had these ingredients available locally.

Easy Popovers in a regular muffin pan. https://www.allrecipes.com/recipe/7238/popovers/
Spaghetti and added “zucchini pasta” made with the spiralizer.
Easy no-yeast flat bread.
https://www.recipetineats.com/easy-soft-flatbread-yeast/
Beans and rice. Uncle Ben’s Quick-Cooking Rice with black beans, kidney beans and corn.
Vegetable lasagna made with green beans, carrots, celery and mozzarella.
Boiled polenta (cornmeal).
Power Puffs. Lots of protein, no cooking. https://www.lowfodmap.com/low-fodmap-power-poppers-recipe/
Fresh apple sauce made with local apples. Just the apples-no sugar added.
A welcoming and cheerful table can lift your spirits during these isolating times.

Free Gifts

Nature decorates the stones in my yard with its own festive gift-wrappings.

Bringing Cheer

During this difficult time, the reappearance of the American Robin in my yard is a rejuvenating and stabilizing sight.

American Robins are known to run a few steps, then stop abruptly, both to listen for danger and watch for worm movement in the ground.
Robins usually hop through tall grasses; this robin is hopping through the last of the snow.

Ancient Companions

Mosses appeared on Earth more than 400 million years ago, predating dinosaurs. On this early Spring day, these everlasting benign plants with their cushiony forms and lush green tones brighten up my yard, like old friends.

Get the Snow Shovel Out

Here in Massachusetts, the forsythia and red maples are in bud, and a Winter Storm Warning for several inches of snow is in effect. As Mark Twain famously said, “if you don’t like the weather in New England, just wait a few minutes.”

Seed Need

The irrepressible gray squirrel never passes up a chance to scout for tidbits under the bird feeders.

Getting Along

Inspirational examples of coexistence are common in every season at the Wachusett Meadow Audubon in Princeton, MA.

More Than Green

Visitors are startled by the vibrant and spectacular leaves in the Orangerie at Tower Hill Botanic Garden in Boylston, MA .

Roaring to Read

March is National Reading Month.
Here’s hoping all the young readers in my town go “on the prowl” at the local library!

-Gale Free Library, Holden, MA

A “Sweet” Protest

In New England, mid to late February is the start of the maple syrup making season.

Up until the Civil War, using maple sugar was an act of political protest for many northern abolitionists, who refused to use cane sugar produced by slave colonies in the Caribbean. New England forests had been over logged to build ships for the slave trade of the era. Abolitionists attempted to reseed decimated areas with maple trees, and use maple sugar rather than cane for their needs.

The “Sap Castle” in Rutland, MA welcomes visitors to view the sugaring process and learn about its history during February and March.

The family living in this house have been making maple syrup for three generations.
Two kinds of taps: traditional metal and modern plastic.
The sap castle in operation, with smoke from the wood-fired stove billowing out of the chimney.
The sap boiler, also called the sap evaporator.
The wood fire is kept roaring!
Final filtering.
Testing the sugar content of the syrup.
This simple window display shows the grades of syrup.
The 24/7 self service maple syrup box. It runs on the honor system.
Choose your syrup, and slide your payment through a nearby slot.
A rock “maple leaf” guards the castle.

Stopping at the Lodge

Canada Geese are often seen near beaver lodges in the early Spring. The activity of the beavers leads to earlier thawing of the ice, providing the geese with a welcome habitat and food resources. This is an example of a symbiotic relationship in nature.

-Wachusett Meadow Audubon, Princeton, MA

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