My Hampton Spot

I returned to a spot at home, one I visited daily before moving to Vermont, with a newfound curiosity. My spot at home is the woods just beyond my own backyard.

I picked this spot because I knew that now, I would be able to look at it with a knowledge I didn’t have growing up. Excitedly, I walked through my backyard, and for the first time in my life, jumped over the rock wall to explore the woods behind it, as if having been granted the password to move beyond my world into the one I haven’t yet ventured.

Despite the falling of leaves, I was able to survey the land and determine most of the species of vegetation. This woody patch was majorly Red Oak, and Eastern White Pine, with one Yellow Birch, and one Northern White Cedar that I was able to identify on our property without venturing into the neighbor’s. I also noticed that the ground was nearly untouched; the leaves that had fallen cover the land, and there are a few dead trees that are rotting in the place they fell, naturally carrying over the cycle of life without a human hand to rush it along.

Most importantly, I was able to identify my dad’s favorite tree that has been growing tall in our backyard for the entirety of our lives in Hampton. He couldn’t hide his excitement when, after telling him all about my new-fangled tree knowledge, he dragged me to the backyard to see if I could tell him what type of tree his was. Our triple-trunked tree, meaning it had been cut down twice and grew once more (showing its strength and resiliency, as I told my dad), is a Red Oak. A massive Red Oak with a bigger DBH than I could measure with only my arm span.

It was an incredible experience to be able to use the knowledge I’ve acquired since I’ve come to UVM and apply it to the life I grew up living. To see both worlds intertwine as the child of my own curiosity is a moment I won’t soon forget.

Changes to my spot

Since my last visit, my tree is farther gone. The crack in its base is wider, now filling with leaves and fallout from the canopy. More of its bark has rotted away, leaving the bare grey body to the cold. What is left of the bark is mossy and hanging by a thread, and what is left of its strength is in the tree opposite it that it lays on. Seeing the vast difference between when I first found my tree, barely able to see that it had passed, to its obvious decline is what inspired my poem.

I realized at this last visit that if everyone found a sit spot in nature, watched the natural world die and regrow, society would have a far great appreciation of the outdoors. If everyone met a tree as I did, got to know it, and watched it die, the natural world would be safe from human overuse.

My Tree

I wish I could have seen you alive

selflessly existing,

persisting,

creating, sustaining and shading life around you.

I wish I could have seen you in the fall,

with leaves turning,

falling,

dying,

feeling the loss, but with wisdom, waiting patiently for spring.

I wish that I could stop the world,

keep it from existing,

persisting,

while the human race ruins,

chops,

pollutes,

millions just like you.

I wish that I could thank you,

for existing in a world that I ruin,

for persisting in a world that’s not easy,

and for providing me with shade,

even in death.

Another Visit

My spot, where I sat beneath my dying tree and in the midst of my calming green field, did not show signs of significant change. My tree does not seem to have decayed much further, and the vegetation does not seem to be changing in the understory due to the cold. Once you look up, though, the green sky is now yellow. The cottonwoods and silver maples are showing signs of their age, and their leaves are starting to cover the floodplain’s floor.

Despite the color change, the calming familiarity of my spot has not been lost. The leaves are warming while the atmosphere cools, but the sound of woodpeckers can still be heard, and the chirp of a chickadee far away still lingers in the air. It must not be cold enough yet to have caused a migration, and I find it incredibly satisfying to be learning the migration patterns simply by careful observation of the land around me. To learn the way a landscape changes by watching it, not by memorizing facts and statistics, is a way of learning I haven’t had the privilege of doing yet but look forward to partaking in.

Upon this visit, not much felt very different, and in a way, that made me happy. My tree is still standing, persisting, despite the fact that its days are numbered. I am hoping I have the chance to get to know my tree before it falls, and that I have the chance to get to know my area before it freezes over for the winter and regrows to something new.

My First Visit

Today, I went to my sit-spot and truly got to know the area for the first time.

My sit-spot is just beyond the entrance to the Intervale, once you pass the garden and continue to the trailhead. About five minutes into the hike, veer off left into the woods and through the vegetation, and you’ve found the floodplain that I will be visiting regularly. My sit-spot is majorly consistent of cottonwoods and silver maples, as well as some basswood trees, and plenty of small, green undergrowth.

I found the entire experience of taking the time to focus on one small piece of nature incredibly impactful, and even a little enlightening. I tried to take a moment with each sense to dial in on all of the aspects of my spot as a way of appreciating it as wholly as possible.

Sight: From my spot in a little patch of dirt, I have a broken tree to my backside, just above my head, that has cracked near the base and has fallen and caught in a fork of the tree to my right. The fallen tree makes a sort of canopy that gave my spot the sense of safety that drew me to it. Ahead of me and all around me are sporadic silver maples and cottonwoods, many of which are leaning or toppling over, that provide a canopy of nearly full shade to the floodplain. Below and around me is a near sheet of light green understory that is of a vast number of species, though all similar in a gentle green coloring that, to me, is beautiful and unique. Many of the trees have hanging vines and falling branches, which give the floodplain an almost intimate feel. I noticed while walking through the plain that the vegetation seemed to progress and change throughout the walk, which is something that I don’t think I could determine the answer too, but I found fascinating.

Sound: For a while I shut my eyes, trying to determine what life was around me by the sounds of the forest. I heard the caw of a crow, the squeak of a small bird I couldn’t identify, the call of a chickadee, and the gently thumping of a small bird pecking at a branch. I hear a train pass by twice, a faint police siren, a car pass by, and two planes pass over. Truthfully, I was a little underwhelmed by the natural sounds around me and upset by the overloading of the noises from trains, planes, and cars. Though, for a few seconds, the wind stopped, no engine roared by, and the air was still. I don’t think I’ve ever truly experienced silence the way that I did in that instant. Never have I sat to focus and dial in on the lack of sound, and it was powerful.

Smell: The crisp fall air was fresh, and just a bit cold when I breathed in. It didn’t smell of anything, not of smoke or tailpipe emissions or gasoline; the air smelled pure.

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