Archive for December, 2018

Observational Sketches from Over the Weeks

History of the Area

Though my spot in Centennial sits in a place surrounded by trees, mostly sheltered from the outside world of Burlington – it was not always that way.  This land was part of where the Abenaki lived for many years. They hunted here, gathered here, and made some of their livelihood in this familiar patch of woods. After Europeans arrived, Centennial used to be part of a group of farms, with land belonging to several different gentlemen by the names of C. Baxter, H. Stevens, Hickok, Kirby, Unsworth, and the Ainsworth family. The agricultural use of the land is evidenced both through the natural species that are occurring there as well as some leftover human evidence. In the case of nature, there are many areas dominated by Eastern White pine, which, as an intermediately tolerant species, would do well re-growing in the post-farming soil. They, along with a few other species such as young beech trees, show that there was a disturbance and they grew quickly once the land use had changed. Additionally, there are leftovers of human activity in the form of barbed wire left in the woods, which is an easy nod to the farming of animals.

Though this is the last official visit I will take to my spot, it is not going to be the forever final. Over the past few weeks I have enjoyed getting to know this place and getting to love it – I have spent so much time in the tranquil air of the forest, and it has helped rejuvenate me so many times. As I walk to Centennial today, it is cold, but it is so nice to see the sun again. The previous weeks have been gloomy, shrouded with clouds and snow. The snow I enjoy, but the persistent gloom makes it difficult to be anything but tired. The crisp air, though I can feel the ends of my just barely dried hair freezing, feels good in my lungs and on my face as I move through the snow towards my spot. It’s not as deep as the last time I was here, with more plants and baby trees shooting up towards the sun. There are no ferns in sight, and the deciduous trees are especially bare now. Whatever leaves they had been clinging to are now gone, giving me easy sight through the canopy. The birds are especially quiet today, and I sit on a log for a while to wait, to see if they’ll show themselves one more time.

In the snow, there are squirrel tracks, and other footprints of human and dog. The culprits don’t show themselves during my time there, and I wait almost an hour before I decide to return to campus. Centennial is now a natural area, purchased by UVM in the 1970s to be used for research, teaching and just plain recreation. Hiking is most of the human traffic now, but plenty of students go there to learn, just as I have done for the past few weeks.

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