December 2, 2011
A Walk in the Woods: In the Distance and Close at Hand
There are some newly expansive views on my woods walk: my neighbor has done some logging. In an area that was once covered with young trees, obscuring the surrounding hills, now I can see them ringing my town, and peer far off to the White Mountains of New Hampshire.
It's made me think of the changes this landscape has gone through, from heavily wooded to almost cleared at the beginning of the 20th century. I have read that Vermont, in the late 19th century, was only thirty percent wooded to seventy percent cleared and now it's the opposite; much of that clearing was done slowly, acre by acre, with hand labor along with oxen or horses. Now, that hard fought cleared land is mostly back to woods, and stone walls that once fenced in pastures and fields wind between trees. I enjoy the feeling of my body moving from enclosed space to an expansive one, and back again.
There is much to see in the wide open world, but what I love about my walks in the woods are the small things that I have to keep my eyes alert to see. A few days ago I passed this tree stump, less than two feet high, that jumped out at me as a magical sprite, horned, long-nosed, ready to jump about at the touch of a magic wand.
Looking even closer, I found a small broken branch, 5/8 of an inch at its narrow point, that held some beautiful red fungus, a red jelly, that because it is in its winter state of dryness confused me into thinking it was a lichen. When I saw it on the ground I was only aware of a mass of deep red; it wasn't until I saw it through the macro lens that I noticed its complex folds, like masses of brain tissue. The world has small treasures along with its grand dramas.