Leaving the confines of the small, mildly suffocating Frasier building— which has come to be an Early College “safe haven” on campus— to get fresh air seemed like the perfect way to end a Friday afternoon. I convinced two of my best friends to go out with me on a walk despite the slight chill in the air for two reasons: (1) Chick-fil-A didn’t seem like the most attractive destination on a sunny day and (2) I wasn’t exactly sure where I was going or where I’d end up.
It’s crazy how you can spend so much time on a campus and still not be familiar with the natural features it possesses. I have fond memories of nights spent at bonfires by the lake and games of sand volleyball, but I never truly explored the environment surrounding these places that allowed for those memories to be created. Walking past the lake and stepping into the woods, I felt almost daunted. There was a strong sense of familiarity that captured me yet I didn’t feel truly immersed into the setting either. Is it even possible to be so simultaneously serene yet overwhelmed?
I was consumed by the presence of the natural juxtaposition of shadows and light, with the longleaf pines and oak trees casting patterns throughout the space. Even in the middle of winter, hints of green were to be found in the moss covering the tree trunks as well as in the evergreen leaves up above. As we walked along, avoiding the tree roots and lamenting our poor choices in footwear, I thought back to my previous experiences in the woods. Back in Michigan, we used to go to a park in Sterling Heights. In the park, I would run around, ride my bike, and most memorably create giant piles of leaves with my friends for us to jump in. We would run off and say to our parents, “We’ll come back to the tree!” Of course, there were several trees, but this one in particular was a beautiful red oak that assumed the most vibrant colors in the fall; this tree became our spot.
Flash forward to the present day, I managed to pinpoint why I didn’t feel the same degree of comfort in these woods: I had yet to find my spot. It’s going to take a lot more than a short stroll to discover my “place” in this location, but I did get a chance to explore with nothing but the sound of leaves crunching and the gentle breeze. Today was simply a chance to walk over to the lake and enter the woods briefly, but I’m excited to go back and keep walking down the trail I saw.
Before this day I wasn’t sure if the Guilford Woods were where I’d want to spend a decent amount of my time this semester. However, what I saw today has given me more questions to ask and more areas to explore. The rich history, both human and natural, that resides in these woods has caught my attention and hopefully becomes something that we all understand a little more over the course of this project.