Thursday, October 2, 2008

Sense of Place

On another note, I walked through Pease Park today after some time away from the area. The stream is completely dried up. Those purple flowers I noticed that once, gone. A thin film of pale dust coats the stream-bed stones.

I remember another site changing as I watched. Much more closely I followed this other site. In my Ecology: Natural History class at College of the Atlantic, each of us chose a small site–no more than 15 square feet–to frequent for the term. Our teacher asked us to spend 10 minutes a day observing changes in the site: keeping a field journal of notes, sketches, photographs. I picked an abandoned lot, with remnants of an old house foundation, across the street from the house I rented at the time. Goldenrod, aster, dandelion, a rhubarb patch, a few sunflowers, timothy, clover, and vetch competed for space among other vegetation. Tiny young oak saplings tried to take root in the sunny far left. The snow, when it came and covered the spot, left some brown, dead weeds sticking up through.

The first day, I took note of as many different plants as I could find on my site. In September, many plants were still in flower, though past prime, and by October, most turned to seed, dropped off, browned, blew away. I lifted pieces of brick and bark and discovered earwhigs, centipedes, grubs, worms, ants. I noted different birds passing over and the stray cats in the neighborhood, the number of acorns that dropped from the parent tree nearby. The bumblebees–how the bees frequented less and less, disapearing altogether by mid-october. Bits of glass, metal wire, wrappers, rotten wood, rusty nails.

Its funny how I remember that site so well, 3 years later, because of how often I sat in stillness watching and listening. I can close my eyes now and feel I'm there. There is something to be said for observing one small place or one thing and sensing it change, room to grow a relationship between self and place. A constant space to observe change. My back yard here? Will do.

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