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My Vermont: Kerstin Lange

06/06/08 7:50AM
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I came to Vermont for the woods, and oh, what woods I got! And into the bargain I got people who share my love of the land. Ralph Waldo Emerson's words ring true to me here: "In these woods, we return to reason and faith".

My first summer in Vermont - now 13 years ago - was spent almost entirely in the woods, working for the Green Mtn. Club on Mt. Mansfield.

Since then, what had initially looked like a vast expanse of generic forest has unfolded into a treasure trove of balsam firs, wood thrushes, blue-spotted salamanders, and an impressive array of soil and bedrock types which in turn support dozens of distinct forest communities. And even in the deepest woods - legacies of human land use: Stone walls and cellar holes, apple and lilac trees, and big old pasture trees that recall another time when they grew in open land rather than forest.

Vermont's woods have long been as much a cultural landscape as a natural one. And, compared to many other states, Vermont seems to maintain a healthier balance between human impact and ecological processes. Yet even in my short time here, I've noticed rapid changes in the landscape that threaten this balance: We Vermonters fragment the forest with our ever-multiplying houses and roads, we hold national records in commuting miles, and we cover our lawns with pesticides.

We may know better in some corner of our minds, but that knowledge often seems remote, esp. for those of us living in the cities and larger town.

The good news is that the larger communities are actually a very good place to be in order to express our love of the land, esp. if we cut down on car travel.
Riding a bike or even walking to the bus stop allows me to observe much more closely what's around me - like noticing that the red maples in my neighborhood flower about two weeks before the sugar maples each spring.

This kind of learning gives me hope: By getting to know even small components of the landscape, we can begin to understand the complex web that holds it all, and us, together.

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