By Michael Suchorsky
The cemetery I pass on some hikes has one grave in which the occupant was born during the French & Indian War. I like to keep that in mind when I consider my sense of place.
I weave through the same heavy underbrush and bog that Indians and the earliest trappers negotiated to reach the beaver’s elaborate system of ponds and canals. At some point in time a farmer also built a pond on the main stream. The last version of the farm probably disappeared when NYC bought the land around 1950. But beavers keep coming back, rebuilding their amazing array of structures until NYC has them killed— NYC’s efforts to keep the waters clear of Giardia. A video working at the speed of decades would show the area breathing, as the waters expanded and contracted over and over again.
On this February afternoon the water was other worldly clear and sparkling as the sun danced on the currents. One 4 inch trout darted about in the light patterns, oblivious of the fact the world of its ancestors was reduced by 95%, as the ponds and waterways disintegrated with the killing of the beavers, the departure of the ducks, heron, and geese.
I leaped over the stream, found a deer path and followed that back to the field. After locating the remains of the old homestead, I crossed the expansive sunlit February grassy field—one of the positive aspects of global warming—which delivered me to the low stonewall on the far side. I entered the open woods and realized I could easily walk all the way to the reservoir.
Proceeding, I crossed long raised rich green lines of thick moss growing atop trees that had fallen and decomposed into the forest floor. I came upon an old spring box and followed the direction of the exiting pipe, hoping to find the remains of another farmstead. Nothing materialized except a stand of maples and white pines that were 50 to100 years older than the surrounding trees. I assumed they were shade trees around the original dwelling.
Scattered about the forest were a few Mother trees—massive old maples, oaks, white pines, hemlocks. They offer nesting sites for birds; homes for fishers, raccoons, opossum, bats, owls, hawks, and eagles. These trees supported an unusually large number of invertebrates that are a food source for birds, salamanders, and snakes. Mother trees offer homes for fungi on the tree, as well as on, and below the ground. The ground fungi supports young trees and seedlings by infecting them with fungi and ferrying them the nutrients they need to grow.
Arriving waterside I saw the sun beginning to set far to the south, somewhat above the pump house. The wind brought a steady pulse of waves that moved through the chopped ice, sounding like many distant African shakeres. In the ice-free areas the little waves varied their sound by the size of the rocks they hit. The water surprised me, in that the most common sound mixed in with the sound of water gently falling into a bucket, an arm moving slowly through surface water, was “whuut. . . .errrr, whuut. . . .errrr” as tiny waves met the land. That sound stayed with me as I followed various streamlets back up the mountainside.
Merging with nature, the perfect foil for an empty intellect driving ego and its supporting commerce.~