Being Present

On Spring break, I got the great opportunity to visit Camp Dark Waters for the first time in eight years. I haven’t been back on the Pine Barrens’ soil since I was a camper at the age of fourteen. It was just as I remembered it, with small changes to the cabins because of the previous flooding that affected the camp. It was like going back home to a place I knew so well, but yet I felt so distant from the land. Everything looked active because I was so focused on attentive details. Right then and there at Camp Dark Waters, I felt so aware of my surrounds. I was being very intentional about how I interacted with this space and how being present affected my perspective. I’ve never felt so alive as I have when I am out in the wild woods of the Pine Barrens.

I should say though, that this visit was during winter, so that affected the appearance of the camp from its usual full blossom in the summer that I am used to. The temperature was 27 degrees Fahrenheit. I was bundled up with 3 layers with a hat and warm gloves to try to keep in as much body heat as possible. Parts of the creek were frozen over, most plants had not sprouted up out of the ground, and almost all the trees had naked branches because of the fallen leaves. Witnessing Camp Dark Waters in the winter, was insightful, indulging and divine because I was able to break down the components of the landscape with such a different clarity. The only vibrant colors on the land were the soft stunning green-yellow moss hardened to the frozen earth and the green needle pins of holly leaves that were clinging onto their branches.

Holly leaves (Photo Credit: by Elanna Spring 2019)
Moss by Lake Cotoxen at Camp Dark Waters (Photo Credit: By Elanna Spring 2019)

As my boots made a crunching sound on the iced earth beneath my feet, I gazed up at the trees in amazement, just as a child looks at candy. Trees swayed in the brisk winter’s air, with occasionally making a creaking sound because two trees were rubbing their trunks together to makes humming music to the ears. Along with the harmony of the scattered creaking, was the faint Canadian geese callings in the distance. It was surprising to see four Canadian geese this far North because they normally go south of the winter, but it seems their weather patterns have changed because of global warming. The creek was outstanding because sections had a thin layer of ice carefully balanced until something disturbed it. It looked like some areas of the creek had ice frozen over, but the water level decreased, but the ice still remained in the position it previously froze at creating layers of fine glass. As I continued my journey, I came across some reminiscence of past and present animal existence. This included bones of maybe a squirrel or some small rodent, footprints of deer in the mud and a half decomposed carcass of a deer. In the carcass, you could see the deers hip bones, the strong muscles, and ligament of the deer’s power. The strange part was, the legs down to the hooves and the backbone of the deer was completely covered with fur. These parts of the deer had not yet decomposed into the rich earth. I had never seen anything like it before. Next time, I will come back to the underground Aquifer in the Pine Barrens, which is an essential source of water in New Jersey.

Some type of small rodent bones (Photo Credit: by Elanna Spring 2019
A half decomposed deer carcass at Camp Dark Waters (Photo Credit: by Elanna Spring 2019)

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