As the semester progressed, I found my expectations and what I wanted to get out of my Phenology block each week began to change. Instead of working on the drawing of a hemlock tree that I was supposed to be doing, I started meditating for long periods of time with my eyes closed, just listening to the sounds of the forest, or sitting and just looking at things – a red squirrel darting up a tree, the tiny irregularities of different twigs, the things that were living in the ground beneath my feet. This opportunity to be quiet and think things over, to look at the ways things fit together, had more and more of an effect on the way I was on a day-to-day basis. I wasn’t making or doing anything in particular, but I felt far more productive doing nothing than I would have if I were agonizing over what my drawings were supposed to look like. I watched as the forest grew around me; the trees groaned, the snow melted away and there was green underneath.
The forest became a place to escape from civilization. When I had good news, I could share it with myself and celebrate in private. When I felt unhappy, I had somewhere I could go where I didn’t have to talk to anyone at all. I began going into the forest whenever I felt like it, not just when I was required to, and walking and exploring in the woods. I had nothing to show the change that had come over me, but I wrote and thought and once I had a good idea, it stayed in my head. I’ve gotten used to spending time outside, and while it might not seem like a practical skill for a city kid to have, I don’t believe I’ll always be living in a city. Even if I do, I now have the capacity to drive a few hours away, walk into the woods and feel connected, rooted like a tree in the ground. I thought about it a lot on my solo– what it was going to feel like when I was home and there was concrete under my feet instead of grass. I was first worried I’d forget what the forest sounded like, but I don’t think I will. I’ll try to maintain my connection with places, and keep them with me even when I’m not in the mood to write about them. Here, I have a constant recognition that I am surrounded by living things. Even the rocks move and melt and change. I began to worry less about how I portray myself and more about the way I portray my environment, in my thoughts and in my writings. This meant more to me than any of the half-finished drawings of trees and plants that I’d initially thought my project would be about. I’ve never felt able to find time, in the busy rush of the city, to just sit and let my thoughts wander, but from now on I will try. This is Chewonki, after all; why not try something different?
New York City, NY