Picnic in Nonotuk Park,

“Tiny rituals hold together the seams of human life”, by Maggie O’Farrell in The Vanishing Act of Esme Lennox

When I visited the east coast recently I was able to visit with three different sets of friends. While staying with women in Easthampton, a woman friend who lives over an hour away drove down to meet me. She had a time frame of visiting with me from 10-2:00. Instead of eating lunch at a crowded, impersonal restaurant, I volunteered to bring lunch for us. When I asked if she had any food restrictions she said she didn’t.

I had made a large batch of our Savory Muffins before I arrived in Easthampton to help sustain me during my visit there. These muffins are so nutritious, but low in carbohydrates, that Jeanne and I have been cooking them as a main dish. For this picnic, I put together a salad of dark leafy greens, carrots, red cabbage and a few tomatoes as a side dish to go with our savory muffins.

It was a cool early spring day in Massachusetts–about a month behind our Arkansas spring weather. Earlier in the week, I’d gone to a thrift store to find a light weight coat because I had not packed for cool weather. I needed that extra layer as we explored the park.

Nonotuck Park was just a few blocks from where I was staying. We wandered around relieved to be out of doors and with each other. We had a lot of catching up to do on the events in each of our lives. I carried my camera to photograph anything that caught my eye. The light filtering through the trees continued to capture my attention.

It was cool enough that when it was time to eat lunch we decided to return to the sun-warmed car and to eat together there. We continued our conversation in the warmth of the car–laughing and sympathizing about various challenges in our lives. We talked about mutual friends and shared updates about each. I was also warmed by her nurturing attitude and steady disposition. Later she asked for the savory muffin recipe which I will share at the end of this blog.

After lunch we strolled another section of the park moving across the silent pine needles. This simple bench gave us a chance to be together and enjoy our surroundings–bird voices and little traffic noise.

We were both startled when my friend pointed to a recently chewed-on-by-beaver tree directly in front of us. This was one busy beaver anxious to fell this tree for a new damn. We looked for evidence of the damn, but did not see one in the nearby area.

This beaver-destroyed tree reminded her of a city beaver damn near her home north of here. Late one evening she was returning home and was astonished to see traffic stopped in both directions as a beaver carefully crossed the highway. Her curiosity took her back in daylight and she later sent me these photos of the beaver damn beginning against the concrete support.

She wrote me that the beaver “have built 5 lodges under the interstate. The trouble in Massachusetts is it is illegal to relocate wildlife. So they either have to be trapped and killed or left alone. The idiocy of man made laws…”

Further, she called the Audubon Society and they referred her to the public works department who felt that although the beaver was seen crossing the road if they’ve lived there this long they are probably alright. They were going to “check on them” and get back to her…so she’s just waiting. She concluded, “How amazing the persistence of life.”

My artist friend took this flattering photo of me that early spring day by the lake in Nonotuk Park

That day in the park we were dining on savory muffins and savoring each other’s company while the beaver colony was resting up for their night’s adventure. Tiny rituals do hold together all of life on this amazing mother planet!

Savory Muffin recipe:

1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp baking soda
1 tbsp gluten powder (needed to hold together)
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp pepper
1/4 tsp garlic powder
1/4 tsp dried oregano
1 cup raw almond four (or blanched almond flour which has more carbs, but okay to use)
1 cup coconut flour (or paleo baking flour for a lighter muffin)
4 eggs
1/3 cup heavy cream
1/2 cup melted butter (1 stick)
2-3 cups packed baby spinach, roughly chopped (or kale)
3-4 tbsp sun dried tomatoes, soak briefly in hot water, then finely chopped. Save this liquid in case you need more moisture in the batter.
1/2 cut finely crumbled feta cheese
2 tbsp grated Parmesan cheese

Step 1
Preheat oven to 400°F (200°C). Line 12 muffin cups with paper liners; set aside. Assemble all ingredients for easy access!
Step 2
Whisk together flour, baking powder, baking soda, gluten, salt, pepper, garlic powder and oregano; set aside. In separate bowl, whisk together eggs, cream, and melted butter until blended; stir into dry ingredients just until combined (do not overmix). Fold in spinach, tomato, feta and Parmesan cheese until combined.
Step 3
Spoon into prepared muffin cups. Bake until tester (toothpick) comes out clean, about 20 to 25 minutes; let cool in pan on wire rack for 10 minutes before turning out muffins. Let the muffins cool completely and store in airtight containers and refrigerate for up to 6 days or freeze for up to 1 month.

To do your own modifications to the original recipe, check here: https://www.eggs.ca/recipes/savoury-muffins-with-spinach-tomato-and-feta-cheese

POSTSCRIPT: This 1917 photo by Frances Benjamin Johnston relates to Lila’s comment below.

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2 Responses to Picnic in Nonotuk Park,

  1. Lila says:

    Your recipe is making me hungry!
    I still need to try it!

    There are some wonderful photos of something I love here….the reflections in the water of the spring green trees and blue sky with clouds!

    • Paula says:

      Lila, I am still shocked by the quality of photos my cell phone produces. Of course, I do take some credit for noticing photogenic spots and opportunities. And it keeps me humble to remember the work of the early women photographers who developed their own film and were intimately involved in the whole process. One of these women who I admire is Frances Benjamin Johnston (1864-1952).

      Johnston was one of the first American women to achieve prominence as a photographer. Trained at the Académie Julian in Paris, she studied photography upon her return to Washington, D.C., in the mid-1880s and opened a professional studio circa 1890. Her family’s social position gave Johnston access to the First Family and leading Washington political figures and launched her career as a photojournalist and portrait photographer.

      Johnston turned to garden and estate photography in 1910s. She executed a systematic survey of southern architecture known as the Carnegie Survey of the Architecture of the South. This Pasadena, California, “Lower garden stairs” photo was taken in 1917.

      I found her photo (posted above) with sky reflections as an example of her garden architectural photographs. After taking the black and white photo, she hand colored it–one of the many steps I avoided in creating these photos. Thanks again for your thoughtful comments!

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