Spring & a Sense of Place

A sense of place emerges through knowledge of the history, geography and geology of an area, its flora and fauna, the legends of a place, and a growing sense of the land and its history after living there for a time.

The feel of the sun on your face or the rain on your back, the rough and smooth textures of the land, the color of the sky at morning and sunset, the fragrance of the plants blooming in season, the songs and antics of the birds and the cautious ramblings of mammals are environmental influences that help to define a place

Dr. Thomas A. Woods, Making Sense of Place, Inc.

How many of us have an emotional connection to our backyard or our favorite recreation spot? Can we name the birds that live there or the trees that grow there? We are lucky to live in a place that encourages us to be outside. The dominating sports in this town involve getting out and recreating on public and conserved land whether that is walking your dog down the Quiet Path or skiing the backcountry in Sterling Forest. For those of us that get out to the same places often enough, we start to notice small changes like a fallen log that’s moved, a new patch of wildflowers, or an animal burrow that wasn’t there last week. It’s this development of local knowledge and understanding that connects us to the places we love and live in. The best way to deepen this knowledge is to simply experience the natural events that happen around us every day.

As the weather starts to turn around and we transition into spring, it is an excellent opportunity to get to know our surroundings. Our favorite hiking, biking, and paddling spots are likely still patchy with snow or squelchy with an impassable layer of mud. This restriction opens up the possibility of a different routine for a little while. There are so many things to hear and witness in the spring. The natural progression from winter to summer teems with the chance for new experiences. Have you ever sat and watched a robin hop around the yard? Have you tasted a wild onion? It seems that everything is changing at a much more rapid pace now than at other times of the year and if you blink the state of the environment will have already changed.

I have used the opportunity to slow down this spring to take more of an interest in the birds that live in my yard. In the morning or after work I’ve started sitting quietly on my deck and observing. I have been rewarded with hearing the dulcet tones of a pileated woodpecker (although I have yet to see it!), and a positive identification of an Eastern Phoebe who was serenading me from a nearby birch tree. I am hoping as we continue towards summer I will notice more bird species and that my ability to identify them will slowly expand.

Pileated Woodpecker
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Eastern Phoebe
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So I encourage you to pick a sunny spot and on nice days this spring head out and relax. If you have kids, encourage them to join you or to pick their own spots. Pay attention to what you see and hear and try to compare observations from one day to the next time you are able to get out. The library has a great collection of field guides which could help identify what you’re seeing. Taking the time to simply be outside is an easy way to both satisfy the springtime urge to run wild outdoors and connect ourselves more deeply with the chunk of the world we inhabit. 

Things to Notice in Spring