Sense of Place Beyond My Home Located in Sleepy Hollow, New York – Adventuring into Rockwood Hall Estate

Getting lost on the criss-crossing horse

This estate is a thousand acre park that’s located behind the hospital, where a lot of family and friends were born, that’s a short walk away from my house. My house was built by my grandfather and it’s been passed onto my father. Within me, this has developed a deep connection to the land and my local surroundings. My family also has the last privately owned forested land in my neighborhood, Philipsburg Manor. My love for my home intertwines with this forested escape. It’s full of scenic views that relaxes me and I love to bring my dog for walks when she’s feeling up for them. Her name is Anika and she’s over twelve years old, so sometimes it’s too cold outside for her. She’s a mix between a husky, collie, german shepherd, and more that we don’t know about; a beautiful mutt. Her connection and love to run around the castle-like walls and long fields, makes me fall deeper in love with this place.

This estate used to be home to John Rockefeller’s brother, William Rockefeller. It overlooks the curvatures of Hook Mountain and Rockland Lake State Park. When dusk is nearing and the sunset kisses the skyline, it creates a spectacular sight that can be viewed virtually in all open areas that aren’t blocked by trees. These trees consist mostly of hardwoods with a couple conifers like eastern hemlock that stick out every so often. The stone walls indicate that their might have been sheep grazing in this area. Nonetheless, it’s a haven full of deer, birds, snakes, hawks, reptiles, and rodents. There’s a path that connects to the Rockefeller State Park alongside Stone Barns, which leads into more nature walks.

Despite this beauty, it has lots of noise pollution with the MTA train line running right through the coast line between the Hudson River and the park. It’s upsetting to see how urbanization and it’s sprawl has affected this ecosystem. Since I’ve left for UVM, a nearby brownfield, where General Motors used to be located, has been in development to become a strip mall. This will disrupt the peaceful escape the lighthouse provides, located between the edge of construction and the river. To add on, this is going to add onto the placeless-ness within my town already and drive out lower income families from rising property taxes in riverside areas. It’s a sad endless cycle that I’ve had to see occur in many locations throughout my lifetime. This has made me develop a clear interpretation of my morals and beliefs. I am fully able to access my emotions when confronted with issues presented around me not only at home, but at Rockwood, and in my new home at the University of Vermont, where I frequent. It makes me feel more healthy when I have outdoor places to escape to wherever I am living in the moment. It’s allows for a freeing feeling to rush throughout my soul. This is my home and I care about what is happening to it. I care about the natural areas I live near, even if no one else can see beyond their expansive urban sprawl lens.

Phenology and Sense of Place Blog Post

Phenological Changes:

As the seasons change, the trees look bare, all of their leaves have shed. The animals have gone into hibernation and the insects have died. The temperature is decreasing as the weather patterns are growing more erratic. The wind gusts as the snow falls. A crisp layer of soft snowflakes sits upon the ground, waiting to be stepped upon (a much better fate than peed on). It seems empty and lonesome at first, but then you see winter's life come out. Deer run across the path, the bobcats dart along, the snow bunnies jump into the burms, and the winter birds fly towards the south, seeking refuge from this cold. As the nature changes, so does its inhabitants. 

Component of a larger place:

Taking a step back and thinking about my site through a larger lens, I can see it as a carbon sink for the planet. The trees and soil can take up the harmful emissions and reduce the damage to the atmosphere. This site helps mitigate climate change on a local level. This will ultimately slow global warming down and allow for sea levels to stop rising. This place is an escape from the large urbanized areas and their sprawl. The nature provides aesthetic value and peace of mind for humans that have stress from urban aspects of areas. 

Living Through History at this site:

This place probably looked the same years ago, before the colonists, when the Abenaki were hunting and gathering around this land. They respected the Earth, and didn't over-hunt or over-farm, which kept the soil fertile for when the colonists invaded. They started to cut down trees for lumber. They turned this area into farmland for agriculture and grazing, mostly likely cattle with corn monocultures. These practices degraded the soil and caused desertification. This is why the university bought up the land and replanted the trees, to return it to its full glorious forest roots. 

Assignment 2

October 29, 2019

Here is another iridescent bug I found, it’s called the black blister beetle. They seem to be abundant in Centennial. This shows us how bugs move around frequently in my area, maybe it’s one of their main paths. It makes me wonder, do bugs follow human paths?

Since I started with an abundant animal, I thought I might as well follow up with another. This is a picture of a chipmunk that was within the same tree trunk I saw the other one pictured a while back. This tree seems to be a popular place for the species, maybe they have their own home within the trunk. I could only imagine the vast tunnels they have within that tree.

This is a furry white caterpillar. This gives us a glimpse to the future of how the place will look when it is full of butterflies. The creature is just so cute and kind, it’s hard to resist to pet it.

This is a photo of some grass and daisies. It shows us the living natural systems within the spot that are often overlooked, but still vital to the spot. It’s not only vital to the soil health, but also the environment’s aesthetic. It really makes the place feel more inviting.

Another photo of a tree hollow, but this one looks much more rotted over. It has lots of sandy looking dirt inside of it. The hole looks bigger than the chipmunk one, this may be for a squirrel or even a small bird to next in, considering all the bark erosion underneath the hole. This shows us how the same use of one item, may correspond with different stories behind the history of it.

This is some moss with fallen pines on top of it. The moss is soft and feels like a blanket. When I meditate, I like to run my hands through it, to feel at home. It’s a beautiful small plant that I feel like holds a lot of life within it. It’s basically the forest’s carpet

The area now has lots more leaf litter and less leaves on the trees. Everything seems more dead, as winter approaches and the temperatures are dropping. However, these creatures give back the site life.

The soil in this area in very compacted down, because of all the foot traffic. Considering it is the crossroad to three different paths, it makes sense that people have walked through it so much. My spot have a steep decline when continuing the main path into the deciduous forest, while the path to go to the hardwoods is still a decline, but not as sharp. The path to leave Centennial inclines. The site’s elevation varies accordingly. There are some pines on the outskirts and mostly hardwoods when you get in the middle, like paper and yellow birch and maple varieties.


My spot is a small clearing in Centennial Woods. The majority of the trees are hardwoods, but the ground is compact from all of the humans walking on the path. Typically, this causes there to be less understory, but that doesn’t stop the random patches of grass and baby trees. There’s this beautiful plant with large green oval leaves that is thriving in this environment. This shows the semi-productive soil in my area that homes a variety of aged trees and understory. Most of the trees look like they’re old, since they have thick trunks. There are a few dead trees, some being standing dead, and one of them being split in half. These photos are from October 1 and October 11, 2019.

The plant

The unique bark and age of the trees defines this place. The branches are angled upwards enough for you to get a beautiful view of the Centennial Wood’s little stream and low lying plant area. It’s quite a beautiful destination to have your own space. There’s not an abundance of leaf litter or grass on the ground. However, you can find some nifty roots in the ground with green mulch growing out of the middle which show cases the beauty of micro-scale ecosystems.

The character of the place is really the animals and insects that scurry along. I saw a chipmunk running in and out of a tree, which shows a symbiotic relationship between the tree and the chipmunk. He was quite a marvelous creature, carefully keeping an eye on us while going amongst his duties. There’s also a couple of caterpillars and irreverent beetles that I’ve located in this spot. They scurry along the forest floor, straying from our presence.

I feel so comfortable in this spot, it’s truly my place if I ever want to escape anywhere. I feel connected to the trees, the soil, the creatures, and the whole ecosystem. Everything is in motion surrounding me at my location, photosynthesis occurs in the baby trees trying to grow up into the bigger and older trees we have in this site that are home to many kinds of critters like the famous chipmunks and birds jump about their branches.

The tree that has glorious looking branches in my spot.

Centennial Woods has been a part of close to all my classes here at the University of Vermont, so I’ve had to study the various species of trees throughout this research forest. In the spot, we have paper and yellow birches, various breeds of oak, among other low-lying plants. I started to go to this spot almost every other day on my own accord because I needed a dose of nature relaxation and meditation.

My beautiful phenology spot’s view.

My experience in this spot is ethereal. I am in my own world here. I see the history of this place inside the split tree with a dark center showing its rotting core. The other trees has little branch nubs sticking out in different heights. The tree seems to be stuck in time whenever I come here, and that kinda makes me stuck in time, too.

The Split Tree
Field Notes