A weekly blog for all things conservation
by Ryan Reed An article reprinted from Forest Fridays, a DCNR publication.
Roughly 17 million acres of Pennsylvania are covered by forests; approximately one third of which is publicly accessible. We should all be thankful for these facts for so many reasons, including benefits of clean air and water, wildlife habitat, recreational opportunities, and so many more.
One reason to be thankful for forests, which I don’t often encounter in things I read, is much less quantifiable and admittedly abstract, but I would bet that many readers feel the same. I think I speak for many of us when I say that I’m thankful for our forests for the sense of wonder they inspire.
When I occupy our built environments, I generally do not get that same feeling. There’s just no wonder in observing the old gum spots on the sidewalk and the same old, boring sights of strip malls and subdivisions. When I look around these places, I know exactly what I’m getting, and my mind stops to ponder very few of the things I see. It’s quite the opposite in the forest.
In the woods, I see a tree cavity and wonder what’s in there, or perhaps a “new” species I haven’t yet observed. A fallen oak log inspires more ponderous moments. When did it fall, and why? How old this behemoth must be! How many squirrels and birds nested in it and how many deer did it feed? If the tree could talk, what stories could it tell?
Once the questions start, it’s hard stopping them. In the forest, my mind engenders a spirit of innocence not unlike that which I observe in my young daughters. In short, these things are just plain fun. “What’s that?” “It’s a shelf fungus.” “What’s this?” “That one is a turkey tail.” “Why did that tree grow like that?” “Probably because it got more sun on that side”. “Daddy, how long do you think this stump will stay here? Do you think other people have sat here? Maybe other animals sit here too! Oooh look! There’s a tiny hole in the ground. Do you think a chipmunk lives in there? Does it have a family, too?”
Many answers I know, and some make me wonder. Some I will never know, and there’s beauty in that too. What a pleasure it is to experience these wanderings together that produce so much wonder. This Thanksgiving (or any day of the year- Kevin Brown) let us all reflect on and give thanks for those priceless moments of wonder in Penn’s Woods.
To add to Ryan’s story, how many of you take the time to just stroll thought the woods and soak it all in? it is extremely gratifying. I try to do it at least a couple times a year. Look and listen to the things around you, especially as spring approaches. Wood frogs thawing out, literally, and making their mating calls. Turkeys. Tree and shrub species growing. What has fallen down recently, and why. Shed antlers. Look at wet areas. What has been visiting? If there is a pool there, what is living in it. There truly is a sense of calm that comes over you. Peaceful. It is maybe the most enjoyable thing I do all year.
Various staff at the Bradford County Conservation District