The majority of my experiences in the woods thus far have consisted of me wandering around, relatively clueless about the details that lay in the midst of the landscape. This sense of unfamiliarity allowed me to simply be within the location, to understand the larger forces at play and find a feel for the world around me.
However, when presented with an opportunity to venture outdoors as a class and begin identifying some of the species in the woods, I was ecstatic! Coming into the world of nature writing daunted me because I never felt knowledgeable enough to write about a location and do its natural features true justice, and I had hopes of starting to reverse that mentality during this walk. Strolling into the chilly day jolted me awake from my half-asleep state. This is one of my favorite transitions, the blossoming of spring. This is the time when the temperatures become more bearable, but pollen has yet to blanket every still object in sight. People always pick favorite seasons and kinds of weather as they attempt to funnel every intricate natural phenomenon into massively generalized categories. I never understood this… why do we always ignore what happens in these natural transitions? Being present outside during this time was invigorating (especially since it was my only refuge from a day otherwise filled with exams).
Our rather large group encountered fresh cedar wood, the slightly damp grass, and headed towards the Guilford Woods. We passed around a small block of the cedar wood, taking in its sharp, earthy scent. The first leg of our walk consisted of stops along the way to identify some of the white and Live Oaks in and around the Quad, eventually coming to a stop near the Guilford Lake. I captured the image of the reflective surface of the water in my mind, making a mental note to revisit the location on my own time.
Near the entrance, we identified a few different types of trees, including the maple trees along the path. Maple trees provide wood that is often used to produce various musical instruments as well as furniture items. We also passed by a gorgeous Sweetgum tree. While this type of tree can also be used for lumber, seeing it made me go back in time to memories of crisp fall weather and intense colors bursting through the fallen foliage. The tree today was relatively bare, preparing to host its leaves and carry their green hue, symbolizing a season of rebirth and renewal. Walking past these trees, we funneled into a more obscure trail leading into the woods in order to further immerse ourselves in the setting and encounter new species that I’ll discuss more in my next post!