Field Notes: Second Week of March


Late winter is my favorite time to go off trail. It’s the only (snowless) time of year when the poison ivy doesn’t rule the landscape, and the ticks aren’t too active. I went for a wandering hike the other day, and, after falling twice in the leaves, I knew I had gotten a tick. Sure enough, when I got home, I found one crawling on my ankle. It’s already time to be more careful.

The walk, however, was still worth it. It felt fruitless at first. I climbed a rocky hill overlooking a rushing stream, and when I got to the top, I felt let down. It was a scrabbly spot that felt wrong somehow—the initial feeling was of disarray, unwelcoming even. I felt distinctly agitated. It was a high peak but packed with downed trees, and lots of spindly young ones, many of which were broken. As I struggled to walk through the mess, it dawned on me. The area must have been hit by a recent windstorm, or even tornado cell, as there were trees and branches both new and old everywhere, and it soon became clear to me that this area had been recently devastated. Was I feeling the devastation? I moved on, still feeling uncomfortable.

Down a sloping hill, wending my way through the tree carcasses, I heard some running water. When I happened upon a gentle stream I suddenly felt a warmth, a feeling of goodwill and welcome. The upset I had just felt melted away. This spot had not been devastated. It was a sheltered valley with a wide stream meandering through it, with bright green mossy rocks strewn throughout. It was practically asking me to have a seat. So, I did, on a large tree that crossed the stream (which had fallen long ago, smoothed and bleached by the sun), and I listened to the water rush by, gurgling melodically. It was warm and sunny, and just a soft breeze barely stirred the air.

That’s when it hit me that land has feelings. There is consciousness everywhere you go. Every time I go for a walk, it’s different. When I go on a regular route, at a regular spot, it’s like we are friends, and we are together again. I know this space, and it knows me, weather permitting, of course. We all have our moods. When I visit a new spot there are feelings to deal with—does this place feel bleak? Tortured? Sad? Pleasant? Welcoming? Friendly? When I am in a special spot, I can feel it right away, it just feels right. That day, sitting on that log, I felt like I had made a new friend. I knew right away that I wanted to see it again some day soon.

Other Thoughts and Notes:

I have Biocentrism on order from the library. I’m fascinated by the thought that consciousness might be what we are made of, not matter.

Have you ever read anything by Robert MacFarlane? I love his book The Wild Places. Highly recommended.

Here’s a great post from Eve at The Garden of Eating on what you can do to prepare yourself for this inevitably bad tick season.

Random writing link: I loved finding this article this week ab0ut unfinished stories, and why you shouldn’t worry about them being unfinished.

More mysteries in the woods.


  1. I’m not sure if the land has feelings, but it definitely evokes feelings in us. If it does have a kind of consciousness, it is one of total enlightenment. Thank you for sharing your remarkable sensitivity.

    1. Maybe the way I wrote it was too facile–land having feelings sounds a bit kooky. But certainly there is consciousness in the trees, the mycelia below, the latent plants about to burst forth. I know you get me though!

  2. again, love your posts! Your writing is great and we are just in tune. Our woods have recently been devastated by the windstorm and I just feel crappy every time I look around. Gotta get out and do a lot of clean up and try to get some of those rootballs back in the ground.

    On Fri, Mar 10, 2017 at 9:31 AM, The Preserved Life wrote:

    > Julia Sforza posted: ” Late winter is my favorite time to go off trail. > It’s the only (snowless) time of year when the poison ivy doesn’t rule the > landscape, and the ticks aren’t too active. I went for a wandering hike the > other day, and, after falling twice in the leaves, I ” >

  3. Hi Julia. This “Living Earth” feeling reflects what I recall as The Gaia Hypothesis (James Lovelock.) Do you know of it? Dates from the 60’s and is currently enjoying a resurgence.

  4. Great tick article recommendation! We just ordered two dozen guinea keats, as our population has dwindled. Hoping that and our barberry eradication keeps helping. Love the other tips, too!

  5. I am thinking of a piece from John O’Donohue’s book, Beauty, about how the land senses us. It’s a lovely passage but I can’t bring it to hand.

    Thinking of you, I just got Robert McFarlane’s book, The Old Ways, on CD from the library. I have a quilt here I’m working on and it’s nice to have something good to listen to while doing hand work. I’m looking forward to it.

    1. I’ll have to get O’donahue’s book out and look for it! I have only read bits of The Old Ways. I should get it out again. Listening to it while quilting sounds so satisfying.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s