Earth Day Experiences Compilation 2021
The Westerly Land Trust held its first story slam in April 2021, asking for writing piece submissions of all varieties to share with the community. Submissions were open to anyone, with the prompt simply being, “tell us your Earth Day Experience.” We received a story about a meaningful hike along Westerly’s waterways spanning our preserves, and two mesmerizing poems. Sit back, relax, and let these works take you to the still, calm, wonders of the outdoors.
Thank you for reading.
Of Time and the River
By Penny Parsekian
Our first destination was the Whitely Preserve, but before our hike, we decided to check out the Potter Hill Dam, just across the road from the Preserve. The failing dam on the Pawcatuck River had been in the news a lot lately, so we wanted to see what all the fuss was about. We parked in the grassy spot designated for Preserve hikers and walked the short distance along Potter Hill road over the river to get a better look. As we looked down into the fast-moving water, the first thing we noticed was that the river was flowing north – in the wrong direction! And maybe time was, too. At the dam was a village steeped in the past, with store fronts now transformed into living spaces and a sign for Post Office Lane with no post office in sight. The fish ladder had seen better days and the old mill was a ruin of free-standing walls and fallen granite – all that remained of what must have been a bustling industrial past. No one was around.
The trail into the Whitely Preserve beckoned us into the woods, but soon emerged on a low bluff over the river. The sky was gray and the wind raw, but the trail offered stunning views of the river. As we stopped to admire the view, two boys on bikes broke the utter silence of the place, then disappeared along the trail into the woods. Reluctantly, we left the riverbank, following the trail to where it crossed a little stream and curved back toward our starting point. Off the trail, the boys had dropped their bikes and were exploring the stream bed.
We emerged from the Preserve and followed Post Office Lane to a boat launch area down river from the dam. Here the river swung around to the south. Mystery solved!
With just enough daylight to spare, we decided to go see how the Trust is conserving pastureland down river from the dam at the Beriah Lewis Farm. We were excited, too, to see the new bridge over the river and discover how spring was unfolding at the farm.
We headed south on Potter Hill Road to the intersection with Boom Bridge Road, where we turned north and meandered a few miles, until we found ourselves back at the river’s edge where the Land Trust’s fencing was protecting water quality by keeping the cows out of the river. Up ahead was the new bridge, gracefully curving west across the river into Connecticut and rising just high enough over the water to make it seem safe from the next flood. Once we crossed the bridge, the evidence of the farm was everywhere – rolling pastures dotted with large animals, big barns surrounded by farm equipment and hill sized piles covered in tarps held down with rubber tires. As we drove along, we passed gigantic white Charolais cattle dominating the landscape, the resting ones resembling granite outcroppings. On the left, to our delight near the road, a feeding trough was encircled by Brown Swiss and Holsteins, with calves at their udders.
We decided to drive a little further to see if we could find Geoff’s old bachelor pad, a garage apartment at a dog kennel, his home when he first moved to the area. The kennel was still there. For nostalgia’s sake we pulled in to see the place where we had first spent the night together lo those many years ago. Brimming with memories, we realized time had escaped us, and we started for home. We drove back past the farm, across the bridge and into Rhode Island. But at the intersection with Potter Hill Road, we were in for a surprise: At that point, Boom Bridge Road turned into High Street, the very street on which we now live. Within a few minutes we were home. Once again, a Land Trust outing gave us a new perspective: discovering a lost village, the beauty of nature and a link to our own past that no longer seemed as distant. After all, we are just down the road from where we started.
A Single Blade of Dune Grass
A single blade of dune grass I saw,
Alone, in the path connecting beach to humans,
Between the rotting dune fence on the right,
And the sea of dune grass on the left.
Five inches high, green, yellow, scraggly, but alive.
Alone, in the path away from the others,
Alone, in the path where humans walk.
Living alone, surviving, quietly, between the footsteps.
I thought rescue. I thought saving.
But I heard no cry for help.
Dune grass survives better without humans, they say.
So I left it. And continued my walk.
I saw it the next day.
And the next day.
And the next day, too.
Then I saw it no more, never again.
© Ted Ferragut
Hope is a forest
By Donna Anderson
Hope is a forest
Awakened from sleep
Tender buds and verdant shoots
Curled up ferns and thirsty roots
A fertile earth
To drink in deep
Faith is a river
Rushing water over tumbled rocks
Released from constraint
Of icy floes and frozen stream
A joyous creek
Love is a sky
Coral morns and violet dusks
Embraced by the sun
Dove gray to bluebird blue
Assembling clouds, dispensing dew
Peace is the earth
Fragrant ground with verdant shoots
Reborn with anticipation
Lifting spirits, affirming life
Breathe in, dispelling strife
For all in creation