The biologists also built two ponds during my time as a student there, a small one and a large one. They seem particularly miraculous to me, since practically the instant rain filled the freshly dug holes, all kinds of water life -frogs, fish, insects- simply showed up. Okay, frogs and insects, they could have marched over from the creek nearby (but it's not that near, and besides, why bother), but fish? Okay yes, bird guano, I know, but still, wow. The larger pond was designed to be attractive to geese and ducks, meaning it's long enough and has a clear gap in the trees to give them a good runway. It was less than a year old when a pair of Canada geese began showing up every year to raise a brood. Each Spring for the past 20 years I've gotten a report from the family when the geese show up, how many goslings they raise, how many survive the snapping turtles et al, and what day they all disappear. It's become an important marker in my year.
Most of these biology experiments started while or since I was a student there; only recently did I realize that another experiment has been going on for a much longer time. See the two photos flanking Fang ? I can remember a time when those trees were mere saplings. I could see over the top of them when I was a kid. And I was a short kid.
This region butts up against the Earlham and Robinson Woods which is where I created my private Narnia. There was Clear Creek to splash in (skater bugs! crayfish! minnows! abandoned grocery carts?) and enough density to the trees and foliage to give one a delightful sense of mystery, as well as a place to disappear into, if one wanted to avoid other people (the obnoxious kids always made enough racket to warn one well in advance).
This area right next to the woods? When I was a kid, it didn't interest me much. In the center of it there was (probably still is) some weird tower/silo thingy, and the trees were small enough that you could see it from every point. An older kid decided this was Sauron's tower, so the area got turned into Mordor on a regular basis. I loved Tolkien, but didn't like this kid, so I never participated. In general I rarely found my way here; there just wasn't much to interest me.
That changed somewhat in college, and I'd say over the last quarter century or so, I've been paying it regular visits. When I lived in Seattle I usually only saw it once a year, at Christmas, when everything was dormant, but for the last thirteen I've been getting back there more frequently, and seeing it in almost every season. I have appreciated the changes, and thought I was keeping up with them.
You know how kids will sometimes just suddenly double in height over-night, and spontaneously develop breasts or deep voices and facial hair and you swear you just saw this kid last WEEK and he or she was still an adorable pixie/hyperactive brat and now suddenly you're staring UP at a enormous teenager, or worse, an adult, and you wonder, were you in a coma for decades but you can't remember, because honestly, this hulking guy/bombshell can't be that kid? You know what I'm talking about?
Well, I had something similar happen to me with this forest. I couldn't tell you exactly when, but I swear one year it was still a just a big lot with lots of saplings in it, where I could easily see in every direction... and then suddenly boom, all the trees were twice their previous height, there was dense greenery everywhere that reduced my vision to little off the path, and what's weirder, it now felt like a forest. It was no longer a random collection of unrelated trees; somehow unified, single identity had formed. I've been watching it much more closely ever since, I'd say for at least the last five years. It occurred to me this visit that this little forest may actually be fairly close to my age. I don't know when the saplings were planted, nor how old they were when they were... but I bet there's not a huge gap. Six or eight years, I'm guessing. I like that.
During this recent visit I sensed another shift in the energy of the place, not as drastic or startling as the previous one, but still noticeable. I can't quite put my finger on it, but I felt like there was a greater vigor in evidence, or maybe maturity is the word. All the expressions I want to use - more grounded, more rooted- are funny in this context; what is usually a metaphor is here quite literal, but it's the metaphorical meaning I'm reaching for.
In the next few weeks there will be hordes of first year students and biology majors combing through all these places, collecting data to add to the pot. I've never asked any of the biology professors about this place, but I will next time I see one of them. I wonder if anything about its growth has startled them?
On an unrelated note, how cute are my folks? And isn't Mom's hat fabulous? Fang, by the way, is splashing about in Clear Creek, in the 'older' forest nearby. I just liked the photo.