I had to stop by a house I’m watching for an out-of-town neighbor this morning and it was on the way to some town-owned conservation land, so I abandoned my plans to go to Moose Hill and opted for a different route today. I packed my bag and when I left home it was cold and windy, but crystal clear and sunny. Friday night’s snow became Saturday’s rain and slush that set the stage for Sunday’s crunchy snow and ice. Walking through the neighborhood, I heard the cardinals staking out their territories and the singing of one of the song sparrows that have been back for a week or so. Woodpeckers were tapping out their staccato love messages. The 27-degree temperature could not completely hide the fact that we had entered March and spring was rapping gently on the door.
I walked down
I took the trail – blazed with the blue marks of a side trail – into the woods and down to Massapoag Brook where I crossed the rain-swollen stream on a make-shift bridge of boards nailed to a couple of downed trees. A few more minutes of crunching through the snow brought me to Devil’s Rock. This is a huge granite glacial erratic that is 20 or so feet tall at its triangular peak. Its shape reminds me of a tiny Yosemite Half Dome. Nearby is another big stone, possibly the sheared-off half of Devil’s Rock, that has split yet again to form a cozy – if narrow - shelter. Like just about any big rock around here, this one has a stone-ringed fire pit. These fireplaces are used mostly by beer-drinking teenagers these days, but I have little trouble imagining that these big boulders were something of a
I found a sunny snow-free spot against a white pine where I could gaze at the Rock while I had breakfast. The woods were quiet. The singing birds up among the houses were absent here. I looked down at my shirt cuffs and my mind drifted back to the day before when I sat quietly in the house with needle and thread sewing buttons on some old shirts. I hate to throw things away if I think I might be able to fix them and use them some day. Besides, one of the shirts was from L.L. Bean in the days when they actually sold things made in the
Now, any good American would toss a shirt with a missing button in the trash and drive down to Mega Mart to buy a new one from
I remember my mother had an old tin candy box full of hundreds of buttons of all kinds. As a little kid, I loved to dig through the wild assortment and pick out the most unusual ones. Later, in high school, I would repair the worn-out stitching on the fly of my blue jeans with big loops of white thread. As an idealistic and enthusiastic college freshman I proudly sewed my forestry school patch on my green and black checkered wool jac-shirt. I thought it was good for an independent man to have skills – even if rudimentary – like that.
I was getting cold just sitting there, so I packed up my stuff and headed for home. I retraced my steps on the blue side trail to join the main orange-blazed Massapoag Trail. As I understand it, this trail was created by the Sharon Friends of Conservation in about 1966 to traverse a green belt that runs through the center of town, but it was soon neglected. About a dozen years ago I tried to carefully locate the entire length of the original trail and refresh the orange blazes. Here I was, over a decade later, following my own paint. The paint was visible enough, but the trail was in tough shape. We had a tornado-like microburst a few summers ago and a nasty ice storm a few weeks ago so many large trees and branches are blocking the trail and making a general mess of the woods.
Maybe it was the torn-up nature of the forest, or maybe the Devil still lurks among the rocks and was following me out of the woods. He began to insinuate himself into my thoughts and my mood changed. They say the Devil is in the details, and that may be true, but at that moment I was thinking that the Devil is really in the big choices we make. I looked at the devastation around me and knew there were no Town resources to clean up this public land. The scale of the damage is much greater than any Cub Scout troop could ever make a dent in. I understand that the woods and wildlife don’t care and may even benefit from the disturbance, but to this human eye, the place is a mess and not much fun to visit. The forester in me hates to see all that timber going to waste.
My mood continued to darken. How many shirts could I buy with my share of the Iraq War? How many buttons could I sew in the time it takes me to earn enough to pay my share of the obscenely wasteful
As I neared
I can’t help it if I worry about things like squandered resources and pointless consumerism. That’s just the way I am and I’ve always been that way. Maybe it was the influence of my mother who suffered through poverty as a child. Maybe evening walks along county lanes with my father when I was very young taught me a love of nature. Perhaps I just understand that if we use things up now, they won’t be there for our grandchildren. Maybe I’m just easily amused and don’t need a constant stream of new stuff to make me feel good.
On the other hand, I know I’m no monk. I live in a single family home that uses natural gas and electricity from the grid. And, as I am growing all too aware, that house is full of stuff. I drive fossil fuel vehicles. My footprint is much larger than that of the average global citizen. I try not to be ignorant of my impact on the world and I try to be realistic about the positive effect my modest conservation efforts can have. It may be simplistic, but I think there is a deep wisdom in the belief that less is more and I want to live a life that seeks that wisdom.
My mood was lifting already. Who can stay depressed when cardinals are calling, woodpeckers are drumming and robins will soon be hopping across the lawn, pausing to cock their heads sideways and peer from one eye at fat worms below?