Sense of Place

I spent my Thanksgiving break in the town of Seekonk Massachusetts,  We’re one of my roommates is from. This is my first time in Seekonk so establishing a sense of place was my first task. 

Massachusetts as a whole state is much older than where I’m from,  all the time I spent there I was thinking about the historical implications, and events that have happened  All over the place.

 Ecologically Massachusetts is also very different from Northern California. The trees I saw when we went on walks around here look nothing like the tall redwoods I’m used to,  And the animals that venture out into the cold we’re relatively unfamiliar to me.

Seekonk’s a small suburban town.  my roommate lives at the end of a cute little cul-de-sac where the houses have lights in every window to celebrate the upcoming holiday season.

Massachusetts is very impacted by historical human actions. The roadways are now paved but were once built for animal-based transportation. So the towns and roads are built in older, confusing patterns. 

In my own town, The built environment doesn’t really affect my sense of place, because nature is more present in my life. I find my strongest sense of place in my hometown when I am at the beach, sitting on the bluffs. 

My sense of place at home has definitely changed over the years. When I was younger my sense of place was very based on my parents’ social circles, and events that would take place in the town square. I felt most at home at the Sunday morning farmers market, running around and talking to all of my family friends. 

Now when I’m home I find myself much less drawn to the social circle of my parents, and less drawn to the infrastructure of my town. I feel much more connected to the natural areas around me. And I’m sure that once I return after a semester establishing a strong sense of place in Burlington based on identification and understanding of my local ecosystems my sense of place at home will be even more focused on the natural world and getting to know it. 

I think both my old strong sense of place among elders and the community as well as my new ground connection to the natural world really inform who I am. I am a person who loves and places great value on the community while understanding the true beauty and importance of temporarily disconnecting with others in order to connect more fully with the natural world around you. 

Having a strong sense somewhere is definitely good for you. I know that in times of stress or when I am feeling overwhelmed I can but myself in situations that I have a strong connection to as a way to reground myself. To soothe my mind I can take the time to sit on the fountain in the middle of our downtown square and watch everyone enjoy the farmers market or I can drive out to the coast and watch the rogue waves hit the shore. And while both of these experiences are quite different, they both have a strong sense of place for me and I can use them to rebalance myself and my life. Taking a step back and feeling safe and connected to a place for a moment is a form of self-care.

Phenology and Place

This trip to my site was quite different from ones in the past. Snow-covered the ground, so the usually green path was a blanket of white. 

The snow cover changed my site quite a bit, the central area next to the footbridge that used other tall grasses growing now shows those same grasses that have turned brown and are weighed down by snow. 

There are some areas that still had green plants but they seemed like they were starting to fade.

The sense of place in my site has changed, different animals are now active, plants in different states of life now dominate the ground. 

It is obvious that there is a lot of water or snowmelt moving through the floodplain into the stream below. The footbridges are covered in snow and there were puddles of water on either side.

For me I feel my strongest sense of place in forests, so spending time at my phenology site definitely makes me feel connected. However, this was my first time being in a forest during the winter, while there was snow in the air and covering the ground. 

So while the forests have always had a strong sense of place to me seeing a forest covered in snow disconnect me from the location. The forests I am used to remaining green year-round, so exploring the snow-covered forests is a new experience that I need to get acquainted with to establish a stronger sense of place.  

My place has had many phases in its lifetime. And I’m sure that it sense of place has changed quite a bit as its uses changed. When Vermont had lots of sheep grazing and centennial woods was a part of that. My site would have been missing many of the characteristics that give it its sense of place. 

Large trees would have been removed and the floodplain would have been described and grazed which would have inhibited the ability of the floodplain to drain correctly.

Mapping and Charismatic Species

Today on my visit to Centennial Woods I found myself captivated by all of the leaf litter on the ground.   Many different types of leaves lay in piles, some of them half-buried in mud, others tucked under plants that have yet to wither for the winter. Most of the ground vegetation am I site had lost all of its colors and turn brown, but remain standing. this meant that the area was full of Long Tall reddish-brown sticks standing straight up. Beneath these plants lay a layer of leaf litter and small green plants that couldn’t have been more than 3 in tall.

 Along the south side of the Footbridge a young Norway maple study, it’s yellow leaves stretching only five feet  Into the air. even though it’s quite short it instantly catches your eye being one of the only colorful things left.

 Under the Footbridge I found both narrow Beach Ferns and the sensitive fern, the bridge provides them protection so they are still able to grow in the changing weather.

 The eastern white pines that stand along the back of my sight have needles at the top but many have fallen, mixed in with the leaf litter we’re pine needles. The pine trees stand strong in the winter, their minimal change making them a pillar of stability for the forest ecosystem. In the branches of these trees a chickadee bird. Able to be heard her quite a ways the small bird’s chirp were one of the few sounds. 

The only other animal I saw today was a small Eastern chipmunk, scampering around the area right as I entered. She quickly dashed away for protection but could be heard scampering through the Leafs for a minute or so afterward.

 My site hasn’t changed much in the last 20 days, they’re definitely more leaves on the ground and more mud next to the path. But the levels of vegetation look rather similar. And the eastern pines have changed very little. The biggest thing I noticed was the quiet today. There wasn’t the sound of bugs Orbeez buzzing around my site. The winter has seemed to make everything quieter.

 I’m sure that the increase in water flow will affect my sight, dragging away is topsoil and making it a less stable environment.

The six organisms I looked map:

  1. eastern chipmunk (Tamias striatus)
  2. Sensitive fern (Onoclea sensibilis)
  3. Narrow beech fern (Phegopteris connectilis) 
  4. Blacked capped chickadee (Poecile atricapillus)
  5. Eastern white pine (Pinus strobus)
  6. Norway maple (Acer platanoides)

I greatly enjoyed mapping my site. It forced me to look at it from a different perspective. I realized how much of a wall was made by the eastern white pines in the back and I feel like I got to really know the place. Having to draw the path that I always blindly followed made me really applicate the natural curves of the land that the path adheres to. After making this map I feel like I understand the site better.

Introduction To My Place

THURSDAY, OCTOBER 10

Walking through centennial woods you see large white pines, tall birch trees, and oaks that reach the sky, but if you wander a little further you find a footbridge. Sitting in a small, low lying clearing. If you walk to the middle of the bridge, you can pop a squat in a nice, lightly shaded zone with no overstory trees and lots of ground cover.

This place is defined by its low lying area, the muddy pathway along the footbridge and its lack of big trees.

Already you can see evidence of water running through the flood plain. The ground on either side of the walk has muddy footprints.

White flowers have bloomed on the American aster plants that grow on the upside of the bank.

Some of the taller sensitive ferns have turned brow, while others remain a light green, not yet Turing to yellow and losing their color. 

Birds can be heard in the trees nearby but this low land is only visited by the bees and mosquitoes, and the occasional Woolly bear caterpillar.

The northern white pines that stand just behind the flood plan, stand tall, still full of needles and color.

The wind is dropping some pine needles over the center, creating a change in diet for the microbes and possibly adding acidity to the soil. 

The air is moist, making the forest smell like it had just rained. Adding a freshness to it