Lime Hollow Nature Center
Covered Bridge at the Lime Hollow Visitor Center

From My Sit Spot

by Pete Angie

Sit Spot in the WoodsThe first sign came this fall as bright orange ribbons affixed to the property markers, blowing in the breeze.  When I saw a man in the woods I went out to talk with him.  He told me of his plan to sell the timber around my sit spot, and build a few apartments.  We exchanged pleasantries and then he walked on, leaving a hole opening in my chest and my mind scrambling for a way to fill it.  No doubt my yard and the plot my home sits on were cleared from the same forest in a similar manner, and I imagined the trees around my sit spot becoming useful things like furniture and firewood.  Maple and oak make beautiful cabinets and chairs, and the penetrating heat of a wood stove is like no other.  Despite the soft light I tried to cast on the situation, there is pain in the going of a natural place.

It is a grief I knew as a child, having felt the loss of a special rolling field gone for the creation of a softball complex.  Now my son, age 7, has felt it.  He raged alone in the woods on the evening of the day the first trees were felled, tears streaming down his face.  In his woods—our adopted woods—lies not only my sit spot, but also a creek and log bridge, a stump thrown, a grape-vine-playground, a hollow log long boat and the ruins of a mighty rock castle.  He wants to go back there with sticks and all of his friends and stop the work.  We tell him that maybe kids he can play with in the remaining woods will someday live in the apartments that are to be built.  We claim an isolated, trail-less portion of a nearby state park as our new woods—it is spectacular, bordering a rumbling creek for over a mile—to ease our sense of loss.  In the evening the three of us, Odin, Naomi and myself, visit the grape-vine-playground for what may be the last time and thank it; already some of it has been ruined by falling timbers.  We take back what rocks we can carry from the rock castle, placing them carefully in our yard.  This week I am home during the day so I can hear the chain saws buzz and see the bulldozers sprint through the trees only yards from my sit spot.  I feel like running out there to stop them.  But, of course, I restrain myself.

Each winter I cut firewood on a friend's land, wielding a chain saw and making mighty trees thump onto the frozen ground.  My friend manages the forest so it will always produce wood, while remaining a vibrant habitat for the deer, turkey and other animals that live there.  At home I split the logs with an ax and stack neat rows of wood.  I bring it to the house by the sled-load and bring it inside by the arm-load.  Placing the wood carefully piece by piece in the stove and putting a match to the kindling, I make my children's faces glow orangey-yellow with firelight.  Soon the warmth permeates to our very cores.  We read, play, do homework, prepare and eat meals by the saturating heat of the wood fire.  We've bathed our newborn winter babies in the comfortable radiance from former maples.  This is local, renewable heat, burning carbon that was pulled from the air by the trees, not extracted from the ground by people.  I'm proud of that, but my understanding that the woods behind my house will probably provide similar heat to families, and my hope that  playmates for my children will inhabit the new structures, does precious little to drown the rumble of the bulldozers, the howl of the chain saws and the heartbreaking crash of a wild place we know as home coming down. 

It's ironic to be watching this scene unfold on this most beautiful of winter days, sun shining full on the pure white snow.  It's a little patch of woods out back here, and if the apartments are highly energy efficient maybe in the grand scheme their arrival will be a positive step.  Either way, that step landed on my sit spot and right on our hearts.  I guess the lesson I take from this is simple: cherish it.  That quiet glade you go to, that trail you walk in wonder, that long view of rolling hills, the creek's inviting babble, the bird's voices calling you out of yourself.  And if you can, protect it.  Like the folks at the Finger Lakes Land Trust have done with thousands of local acres, like the people who had the vision and drive to create Lime Hollow and keep it natural and alive, for always.