Sense of Place – 12/5

Virginia Beach Oceanfront

This Thanksgiving break, I regretedly returned to my homeown of Virginia Beach, Virginia, to spend time with family and friends. Returning to a place less concerned with sustainable building and eco-friendly constructs was quite the change. Upon returning home, my sense of place in regards to my town was noticibly diminished. Switching from such a natural, beautiful area, which I had grown accustomed to, back to an environment I have grown all too tired of was unpleasant. Socially, I enjoy the laid back, ‘we’ll get to it later’, attitude of my hometown. I feel that this attitude I have grown up with my life has truly played a significant part in who I am today. However, that aspect of this place is one that is a double edged sword. The laid back, uncaring attitude that many of the residents have is one that also harms the natural areas nearby to the city. Street litter is an extremely big issue in my town due to this, and it affects my sense of place negatively. Even in areas that should be overwhelmingly natural and untouched, it is not difficult to find litter somehwere within 500 feet of yourself. This, in combination with the general disregard for the beauty surrounding the area, has diminished my sense of place compared to prior I was able to get away to Vermont

However, it is not all bad. There are three local regions in Virginia Beach which grasps what is left of the positive sense of place I have towards Virginia Beach. They are: Pungo, Sandbridge, and Back Bay Wildlife Refuge. All three of these areas share one characteristic in common–that is, that they are all almost all completely untouched, beautiful, expansive natural areas. The seemingly endless amount of wild outcroppings you can reach by driving for 30 minutes throughout the Pungo countryside taking random roads tethered me to reality over the past few years. To have a strong sense of place for any location, access to isolated natural areas is a large factor in that. Sandbridge and Back Bay are two areas where I can easily get a satisfying dose of wildlife a relatively short distance away (~10min). Back Bay is a park built with the local marsh and coastal ecosystems in mind. Various bits of architecture such as raised wood paths to avoid trampling grasses make me appraciate the location tenfold. It’s where I am able to find all sorts of critters to observe and explore my passion for bird photography. My sense of place towards Virginia Beach should be almost soley dedicated to these three areas–where the sun never ends and the waves don’t part. Given a few more years, Vermont may firmly take the position of where I truly can find my personal sense of place.

Post #2: Mapping & Analysis

Phenology location map

My phenology location is going through many drastic changes now due to the increasing cold. Vegetation that was thriving just a month or two ago are now in the midst of decay and hibernation. The various common reeds and grasses wilt more with each visit I make to the spot. The majority of trees have shed all their leaves besides a few hanging lifelessly to the tree. I analyzed one Sumac tree and noticed a decrease from 30 to 13 fruiting Sumac bodies (5th photo).

The soil and water characteristics of my location have also faced some changes brought on by the coming season. I observed that the soil in the area is far more compact and moist than in previous weeks. However, the moisture could be attributed to a rainstorm that swept the area a few days prior. Surprisingly, some small plants are still surviving in the cold, compact soil (4th photo). There are several ponds adjacent to the walkway, which I also noted had higher water levels than usual. Again, this was likely due to the recent precipitation in the area. However, it is to be noted that many of the wetland plants are wilting despite the influx of water.

I felt that the six organisms I chose represented the different effects the fall transition has on the local area. Each photo depicts some sort of obvious change in the health and standing of the organism. However, an overall theme of death, decay, and sleep is present between all the photos. As the weather grows increasingly brutal, all organisms must engage their unique cycles in order to survive.

Mapping my phenology location enabled me to take another look at the surrounding characteristics. Often, through revisiting something familiar and analyzing it, you may notice new patterns and relationships previously ignored. It also gave me the opportunity to get a ‘full scale’ view of the location and to draw conclusions on how the surrounding area may be affecting it.

Sumac Tree fruit

Blog Post #1

My Phenology location is one defined by lush shrubs, moist, green grass, towering pines, sunset colored leaves, and marsh reeds. “The Spot” exudes an aura like none other. When you arrive at The Spot, your vibes are immediately chilled. Worries and stresses of college seemingly fade away for awhile and are replaced with cheeriness and love. However, when one is at The Spot, it is impossible not to admire the sheer amount of lush plant growth surrounding you. Considering The Spot is only a 3 minute walk from my dorm room, the escape it provides is second to none. Returning to The Spot at sunset reveals a beautiful sunset among the plants that is hard to find elsewhere. The best days are those that end at The Spot with all the boys watching the sun turn the sky into artwork. However, in order to enjoy these sights, one must know how to navigate to this mysterious area. Beginning in front of WDW on Redstone Campus, walk right as if you were going towards Simpson dining hall, but go straight. Go straight until you reach a T-intersection, then cross it and proceed onto the grass path next to the parking lot. Continue straight and follow the curve as it wraps upwards towards Redstone Lofts. As you approach the top of the bend, stop, turn around, and admire the view. Congratulations, you are at The Spot. If you notice a sudden feeling of wholeness, you know that you are in the right spot.

It is important to remember, that when at The Spot, it is your duty to keep it clean and natural. If you bring anything, no matter of what nature it may be, at least do not litter the area. It is multi-use and we all must remember that at all times. The rule “Leave No Trace” is one that is simple enough and respectable enough for us all to observe. Locations like The Spot are increasingly rare as is because many have been destroyed through the same method.

After going over my observations thus far, I foresee a good future for The Spot. In all my visits to the area, minimal if any trash was spotted. The character, above all, is the reason I encourage everyone to check this great area out.

The Spot at the beginning of the observations. September 2019.
The Spot, a little to the left compared to the first photo. Taken October 25th, 2019.

As seasons changed and developed, I noticed several biological changes at The Spot. On the deciduous trees, most leaves had fallen off. The trees with the red fruits lost all of their fern shaped leaves, but kept the fruiting body on top. Tall grasses began to take a more yellow color, rather than a rich green. Due to the lack of leaves, visibility of the surrounding area when at The Spot has increased. Furthermore, I noticed that the soil is consistently damper in late October compared to The Spot’s soil during late summer. Wildlife does not seem to have changed. Perhaps there are less squirrels and chipmunks than there were at the beginning.