Upon returning back to Northern Virginia (NoVa) for Thanksgiving break I spent most of my time traveling reflecting upon the semester and my past three months at the  University. Coming to school was a terrifying experience in more ways than I could accurately summarize in 600 words. But, by some story-book series of events things have turned out pretty wonderful. I have surprisingly made more friends at school than the number of people whose names I even knew In high school. I often struggle to eat a single meal by myself without running into some friends and spending far too long in the Simpson dining hall chatting away the time. This, in comparison to high school, where I ate lunch by myself for every single day from 2nd semester freshman year until my senior year has made for quite a different experience at University. 

After reflecting on all of these different things and comparing them to my experiences at home my sense of place in Virginia felt very hard to come by. The local streets and even my own room felt cold and unwelcoming. All the joys of the past 13 weeks were gone and it was as if I had been transported back in time. My home neighborhood is one of the dozens, if not hundreds of cookie-cutter upper-middle-class suburban neighborhoods were moms walk the family dog while dad works in DC for the government. After living there for 12 and a half years I felt like I had no choice whether to call it home or not. Yet, in comparison to the San Juan mountains of Colorado, or the rolling hills and Green Mountains of Vermont “home” felt like nothing of the sort. 

The sense of place in my hometown is hard to come by. With not much more than houses sprawling around in circles connected by 2 lane-roads it’s hard to have any sort of connection to this place. I feel that being from the hyper-competitive, 24/7 grind, no room for friends or relaxing region of NoVa normalized doing nothing for your own happiness and enjoyment as personal well-being doesn’t get one into college or a successful career. This toxic and fast-paced area breeds a lot of unhappiness in the people that live there. 

I struggled massively with mental-health and well being throughout the majority of my childhood through my teenage years and I’ve always longed to find somewhere to belong. Where my sense of place could come from my love for the region, the people, the environment, the culture, and my own desire to be there While that was missing for the majority of my life. After a short time at University, I feel like I’ve finally gotten out of the rut and I am discovering my own sense of place far away from where I was raised. I hope that over the next number of years here that I can develop a real sense of place in Vermont and that I will be proud to call this place home. 

With November nearing halfway over winter has come and snow is here to stay. My place has had a dramatic shift in only the past few days. As before the snow had come my site was the location from reprieve from the busy college life and was a place to escape from my responsibilities. It now has become the passage to fun and friends as we walk through my site in order to get to the golf course were we have gone skiing the past few days on the new snow and will continue to visit through the rest of the year to continue to ski. This change for my site is exciting and I am looking forward to more of my fiends visiting it as we continue to ski more throughout the winter.

My space is apart of the greater area of Burlington and is just one of the many hundreds of small clusters of forest that are scattered around suburban and urban areas in the North East. The specialness that I feel for this spot juxtaposed with its relative commonness has made me reflect more on how much I value time in nature and outdoors.

Throughout the time my site has probably been visited by thousands of people over many generations. Knowing that so many people must have been in the same place that I have been visiting for the past semester brings me joy that I can be apart of the history of this wonderful site. Perhaps one day another NR001 student will visit this site in order to blog about it.

Over the past week, I have journeyed to my spot a number of times and observed quite a few species. Some of them include Vulpes vulpes, Acer saccharinum, Betula papyrifera, Acer platanoides, Acer saccharum, and Tamias striatus.

  1. In my small spot, there are a plethora of species that inhabit this oasis of forest on the outskirts of the UVM Campus. Unfortunately, the foxes and chipmunks I was not able to photograph, as I was returning from practice and only saw quick flashes of them in the woods. But, there is clearly a community of animals that call this area home. The other species that mainly populated this site were trees that are common to wild areas in Vermont. The reason that these trees were characteristic of this site was that this site is a microcosm for Vermont wildlife in an urban environment. Maple trees and Birches are quite common in wild Vermont but with much of Burlington being urbanized and many spaces in the surrounding area having been cleared for agriculture; these species are a reminder of what Vermont truly is.
  2. Throughout the past weeks, the vegetation has begun preparing for the winter with most of the trees shedding their leaves and going dormant for the cold months ahead. Overall, not much has changed but I look forward to observing this space as it begins to grow again in the spring.
  3. Due to the heavy rains over Halloween, the ravens in my site became much deeper and spaces that had been bone dry before had transformed in major creeks. This site sits at the basin of the Redstone apartments and is in the direct line of any runoff that would come from that area. As more precipitation comes throughout the remainder of the fall I expect my site to only become increasingly saturated.
  4. Drawing a map of my place and thinking about the geographic location of my place made me think more about how the location of this space has shaped the topography of the land. Due to the number of paved surfaces that site above my site, it makes sense that the place would have high rates of water as it is the first non-permeable surface for the majority of Redstone campus and is at a much lower elevation than the majority of the campus.

This small swath of forest sites between Redstone and Athletic Campus. It sits just in front of the mountains and has mostly deciduous hardwood trees and small shrubs. This place has a small opening where there is a log that allows the sun to reach through and touch the ground. Getting to this space is relatively easy and it sits behind the Patrick gym and adjacent to the track. The character of this small area is that of refuge from the busyness of the city and college. This space is west of Spear St. and east of Prospect St. It is nestled into the back of campus behind many of the active residence halls and living areas on campus. This place provides a place to escape for a few minutes when the hecticness of life takes over. It is also insulated from the noise of the surrounding area as the trees open up to a quiet and undistrurbed piece of land where a rare moment of silence and true quiet can be achieved. Although a rare occurrence to a find an area that is devoid of human contact or noise, this place offers it and allows one to have some time to themselves. The best use for this space is to grab a book or even just some thoughts and to go and have a sit during the morning as the sun comes up over the green mountains. Not many places on campus provide so much beauty and are free from distraction but this place provides it in droves.


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