Friday, May 23, 2014

Rescuing ducklings

Recent stories in the news about rescuing ducklings brought back memories of ducklings crossing Nichols Street in Danvers when I was young.  Wood ducks nested in a box at the little pond by our house, and one spring we had the priviledge of watching as the mother duck called her babies out of that box. One by one they climbed over the edge and dropped into the water beside her and began swimming around. We were so happy to see a whole family of wood ducks in our pond!  But soon our joy turned to concern. That mother duck led them out of the water and started to cross Nichols Street. Oops.  We ran from the house and positioned ourselves along the road to wave cars down, making them stop for the ducklings. We were successful, mostly.  The mother duck and her brood waddled away, down along a small steam that led to a larger pond to the southeast. My mother explained that instincts probably drove her to seek a larger body of water. We wished, however, that she had chosen to stay in our safer pond, which lacked snapping turtles.  The next day we heard a frantic peeping at the pond. Sadly, one little duckling had been overlooked, and left behind.  Again, we wished the duck family had stayed in our pond.

Recent news stories:
In 2012 I wrote about watching a wood duck family emerge from the nesting box. It was a school morning, with the added drama that I might miss the school bus if I stayed to watch ducklings. My mother's suggestion worked, and the bus driver brought the bus to our house, so all the kids could watch!

Thursday, May 8, 2014

Signs of Spring, and old memories

This month's column is titled Celebrating signs of spring and includes description of daffodils in our Danvers yard. I have in my mind a colorful photo of my sister and I, and our parents, all dressed in Sunday clothes, mostly of navy blue, posing on the front lawn with beautiful daffodils beside and behind us. I think it was an Easter Sunday, and we were probably about to go to church. The brilliant daffodils provided a wonderful backdrop for this family picture. That's what I remember, but I'm still searching for the photo. Perhaps it was a colored slide; my father did prefer slides over prints. Meanwhile, here are some other spring-time images I have found.

This spring scene brings back memories:

That's the pond just south of our home on Nichols Street (today known as Conifer Hill Drive). You can see a pole and crossbar in the lower right indicating the edge of my mother's laundry yard, flooded by the rising pond water. She'd wear rubber boots as she hung out the laundry on spring days like this. In fact, she often had to wear rubber boots while operating the clothes washer (and wringer) in the cellar of our house because spring water frequently flooded over that cellar floor.

The pond photo above is undated, unlabeled. With a magnifying glass I can see two people (perhaps my parents?) in an inflatable boat in the middle of the pond. I note a patch of ice in the pond, and snow on the field beyond, so this was taken in early spring.

Below is a photo dated April 1944. Same pond, different angle. My father (with me in a homemade papoose on his back) is sitting on a log, looking west. Our house would be off to the right.

April 1944. My father with me strapped onto a back-board (home-made papoose). 
We loved that pond, and its changes through the seasons. We skated in winter, collected polliwogs in spring, watched wood ducks come and go, enjoyed the antics of the muskrats who swam back and forth bringing sticks to build their house in the water. When the water receded in August, we'd walk across the spongy pond bottom, navigating among the hummocks on which purple loosestrife plants bloomed. My father documented the seasonal changes with his camera and enjoyed showing guests his series of slides all taken from exactly the same vantage point, revealing a year in the life of our little pond.  (Someday I should find those slides, digitize them, and make an online slideshow to share via this blog. I'll continue today, however, with prints I've already found.)

April 1945: I'm in the boat (on dry land) in upper right; pond beyond.
Two of the photos above include glimpses of stonewalls that were such a familiar sight in my childhood. Last year I took photos of the new stonewalls constructed along Conifer Hill Drive, reminding me of these old ones, which preceded them.  See my October blog entry "Stone Walls." I'm happy today to have found quite a few photos that include the walls as they existed in my childhood.

In this one Jean and I are sitting at the edge of our front yard, with our backs to the street.

You can clearly see the stonewall running along the Locust Lawn property across the street.

1947 or 1948?
Next is a winter scene in similar location (slightly to the right of the above view), this time with our grandparents, William S. Nichols and Nellie ("Nana") Nichols, who lived nearby.

The wooded area visible in these two pictures has undergone changes in the decades since. Hurricanes knocked down some of the trees in the mid-1950's (including one that fell right across this road and brushed a window of our little house). Conifer Hill Commons housing now occupies that space. The Locust Lawn landscape had already changed dramatically in the 1970's with construction of Route 95, which split the property and carved down the hill. And an office park development replaced our little house, and constrained the pond to a smaller area with steeper banks. I doubt that they see spring floods of the type we experienced.

Monday, May 5, 2014

May 5

I am thinking of my mother today, May 5 -- her birthday. She particularly appreciated the flowers and new growth of springtime. I thank her for instilling in me a love of nature. She taught me the names of plants and animals; she taught me to observe and appreciate the natural world.

I am celebrating the arrival of spring, and will soon post some photos here. I have just written a column about signs of spring.  [Update: The column was posted online Sunday 5/11/14 with the title Celebrating signs of spring.]