I was blessed as a child, growing up in a small New England town just north of Boston, to have a couple hundred acre woods kinds of places. One was the big wooded area behind my cousin’s house that had, no doubt, been the kitchen gardens for all the houses that enclosed it before the era of the community grocery. Time had passed and it was now over grown with 30 year old trees. Things grow fast in the Northeast. There were Jack in the Pulpits, Lady Slippers, and ferns of all kinds. We were all fascinated with something we called “Prickly Cucumber”. It was a vine with prickly fruits on it. I have no idea what it really is. Across the street and behind those houses was another wooded hill were we all played kick the can, capture the flag and hide and seek. On a big summer night there could be nearly 20 of us. Usually there were 7 to 10 kids running around up there.

In addition to these community spots, I had my own wood. It was tucked at the top of the hill where we played our games and was bordered by the cemetery on one side and more houses on the others. There was a meadowish sort of place, a pond and lots of trees. The cemetery provided a kind of creepy ambiance for a child with a vivid imagination and timid disposition. I tended to avoid that side. I liked to climb the trees and read, it was a good way to avoid being seen (no-one ever looks up) by the few people who wandered up there. I would remain very still, glaring at these intruders, until they went on their way. I did not like to share my place.

The thing of hundred acre woods is that they are small enough to be intimate and large enough to hold the occasional surprise. In the hundred acre wood you can hunt for hephalumps and still have time to visit your friends Piglet and Eeyore. There is time to sit on bridges and make boat had s of sticks and watch them float under the bridge swirling and dipping in the water.

At the time I lacked the curiosity to learn the names of the plants I saw. I don’t recall and birds or critters up there. Perhaps I was simply unobservant. Perhaps it was a residual of the Silent Springs we had made with chemical pesticides. I think it was something of both. Even so, the time I spent there was formative. I would go there to read. I would go there to write; I still have my journal full of its teenage angst that is timeless. Sometimes I would go and just sit. From this time I learned the value of stillness. This is a value I hold and treasure today. I go out of my way to schedule still time in each day.

Hundred acre woods places are small and near at hand. My current “wood” is a small pond down the road between my home and the Laguna Madre. It is currently home to 100 or so Red Headed Ducks, Herons, the occasional Pied Bill Grebe and a pair of Osprey. In late March or early April the ducks and grebes will leave on their journeys to the north. About Earth-day the Osprey will follow. This summer I will follow the lives of the swallows, spoonbills cardinals and other summer residents. I can get to my wood with short walk. I can go, sit, read, think or just watch. At my wood I find surprises, like hephalumps, and friends, like grebes. I always find rest.

What about you? What are your hundred acre woods places?

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