Twenty-five years ago I felt an immediate connection to a place I had never been before. So began my stewardship of a wooded acre and modest house. Then, as now, it is a haven for wildlife with networks of burrows inhabited by generations of groundhog, fox, opossum and rabbit. With plentiful nesting sites in the many trees and shrubs, bird life is abundant, and endangered little brown bats make their homes in the dead trees I have left standing. Squirrels travel along a trans arborway of converging branches, leaping nimbly from one area of the property to the other. As new homes and oversized additions encroach, this parcel has become a refuge for displaced wildlife in search of new homes.
Stands of hemlocks and yews provide deep cover in winter and on summer mornings after a night of rain, I can lean out my window and enter a lush rainforest. Branches laden with moisture arch over flowerbeds like swags of green velvet brocade, and my eyes are dazzled by a dizzying kaleidoscope of green in bright and muted hues of fern, moss, pine, sage and juniper.
Should I ever move, the house will be torn down the moment the deed is tendered — only the land has value. All that stands now will be desecrated to make way for a mansion or two, then this place as I know it will cease to exist.
I have found deep solace living beside trees that have been allowed to grow old but the hemlocks and yews, stately and resplendent at nearly a century and a half old, will be the first to go, then the elm, mulberry, lilacs, rhododendron, viburnum and boxwood. A moss-covered, fern-lined brick path that winds along the edge of the property will be dug up, along with the cats’ graves. All stand in the way of development.
For me, the power of this place – and all places like it – is fueled by the knowledge that it can be lost. But here, I have put down roots, tangled and thick and year after year my soul reaches for the sky.