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A trail, path, walkway, sidewalk, roadway, any access way through trees and brush. All these say forward. I once had a dog who wanted to keep going, snuffing the ground, air, bushes. And I want to follow him forever forward, even now. Especially now.


Prospect Hill Gate

In his book, Walking Towards Walden, John Hanson Mitchell treks — bushwhacks — with two friends through the woods from Westford to Concord. He spoke at the Conservation Trust’s annual meeting three years ago and was a delight. His book is delightful as well with just enough eccentricity to keep the reader’s interest up.

To start the eccentric motor running he and his small band paid a visit to the site of the stone monument to the Westford Knight, a fabled visitor to North America from Europe who in legend explored the area in 1399. According to Mitchell, no archaeologist has even bothered to refute the claims of this predecessor to Columbus, but many locals firmly believe in the Knight.

Mitchel is a believer in the importance of sense of place and told us at our meeting that he wrote Walking Towards Walden about it. He feels that Concord Massachusetts is the most America of all places. It is the place in the US with the most thereness, he feels.

I think that Prospect Hill Wildlife Sanctuary might be the most ‘Westford’ of all of our conservation lands. Its small — ~ eight acres — and humble but full of history and nature, and its right in the very center of town on Hildreth street (one of our most scenic) across from The Salt Box farm, one of the few remaining farms in town. It has Norway Spruce that were planted after the 1938 hurricane, a huge Shagbark hickory and its thickly wooded throughout making it a good habitat for deep forest birds including Wood Thursh and Blue-winged Warbler. To top it all off there is a corn field as if thrown in for good measure. (These details are from the Westford Trails guide book published by the Westford Conservation Trust)

The Sanctuary is also a place of invasive plant species. The is lots of Fire Thorn and other invasives, something that Lenny Palmer of the Conservation Trust is working to mitigate. It is also a haven for Poison Ivy, so wear long pants and boots if you hike through it.

The land was donated in 1999 by Priscilla Elliott and the entrance to the Sanctuary (nice word) is gated. I wonder of the gate was there before she made her generous donation or if it was put up then. It looks timeless so I guess its old.

I’ve been taking photos of the gate and entrance for the 2008 Westford Conservation Trust calendar. The photo above is my best effort so far. It is more of a challenge than I thought it would be. The sun creates hot spots so I arrived earlier today to avoid strong sun light. But then the breeze blows the leaves around making it difficult to have all the foliage in focus. But then why does it all need to be in focus? Maybe so the the image has a restful, peaceful feeling inviting the viewer into the woods beyond the gate. Or maybe I’m being a typically fussy photographer. If I was painting the scene I doubt that I would try to represent each leaf in perfect clarity.

If you care to please let me know how you like the photo. Or better yet, go to the Sanctuary and hike around then let me know what you think about it. Enjoy the birds and trees but — watch the poison ivy!

Late Leaves

On March 5th we had what I am calling our last snow fall. Its was a brief, violent storm and as often happens with March storms, it ended quickly. After the storm the afternoon was beautiful making for a great day for photography. I hope I captured some of the beauty of the day.

Last Snow Fall

The photo above was taken in Westford’s East Boston Camps conservation land. The one below as well. I knew it would be beautiful after the snow fall and it didn’t disappoint.

Last Snow Fall II

Well — that’s it — the end of winter and of my post!


“Vespers” – Cover photo 2007 Westford Conservation Trust Calendar. To see more photos like this go to my smugmug gallery and look for the calendar galleries.

As I said in my last post, last week I gave a little talk  at the photography club I belong to about the Westford Conservation Trust Calendar that I’ve designed and produced for the last two years.

I shared some of my photos as well as photos of other contributors.  Its a wonderful project and helps me focus on Westford conservation land as a subject.

I opened my comments by reading “My Garden” a poem by Ralph Waldo Emerson. It begins this way:

“If I could put my woods in song And tell what’s there enjoyed,  All men would to my garden throng, And leave the cities void.”

The text of the poem is here:  My Garden 

I used this opening stanza as one of the monthly quotes in the 2007 edition of the calendar. The poem captures how some people feel when they walk in Nature, I think. I’d much rather share poetry and photos I love than compete with other photographers. Especially given the criteria and judging methods that are used in photography clubs. If I hear one more rule of thumb given as advice I may scream.

The photo above — used as the cover for the 2007 calendar — was taken at sunset or just after using a Canon 20D digital SLR on a tripod with a 25 second exposure. Very different than the hand held one from last year’s cover — different in technique but not so different in result or impact — or at least that’s what I think. What about you — do you agree?

Edit: John just left a comment (thanks!) and asked where the photo was taken — sorry to have left that out. This is Stony Brook in East Boston Camps open space/conservation land in Westford Massachusetts. Its a beautiful 300 acre wooded area that the town bought a couple of years ago.

Grassy Pond

“In the vaunted works of Art, The master-stroke is Nature’s part.” Ralph Waldo Emerson

The quote and photo above are among the first ones I used in designing a calendar for the Westford Conservation Trust. The photo is one I made with a ‘point and shoot’ digital camera — a Canon G1 — that is rated at 3.2 mega pixels. I love the photo – it was the cover on the 2006 calendar —  and it prints beautifully up to at least 11 X 14 — shows what a little God sent light can do! The quote is a favorite as well.

Tonight I’m giving a little presentation to the photography club I belong to on the calendar that I’ve designed and produced for the Trust for 2006 and 2007. It should be fun and a chance to discuss some of the adventures I’ve had doing this.

The calendar project, as we came to call it, enabled me to bring my interest in Nature, walking, Emerson and Thoreau, poetry and photography together.

Our calendar includes poetry for each month and information about the Trust and our conservation land and open space. Its been well received selling out 2 printings each year.

I’ll let you know how the presentation goes tomorrow.

Tom Paul Trail, Winter

Photo: Tom Paul Trail, Westford Massachusetts

In a comment re an earlier post, inel wrote:

“I agree with the President of the Royal Society when he said:

“We need both to reduce our emissions of greenhouse gases and to prepare for the impacts of climate change. Those who would claim otherwise can no longer use science as a basis for their argument.”

I am busy doing what I can to combat climate change. Are you?”

The quote by the President above is brilliant.

Also, at the risk of sounding smug, inel asks a challenging question. But is it the right one?

I think not. I believe anything as sweeping as climate change is like a tsunami, not something that can be fought but something that as the President quoted above says, must be prepared for.

But isn’t this s a silly debate? We need to ‘both to reduce our emissions of greenhouse gases and prepare for climate change’ no matter who is right. Yes the evidence is strong that mankind is causing at least some of the change and particularly the rate of said change. But change is the one constant on earth so the cause of this one can be debated for as long as people want to waste time.

Let’s stop debating and wasting time – let’s do as the esteemed President of the Royal Society recommends – with all reasonable speed.

Skunk Cabbage

Last night was particularly beautiful but I was caught without a camera. The sky just after sunset was slate gray, dark blue an silver-gray, in the west was fire. The waxing crescent moon was high having risen in the afternoon. There was enough light for the trees along the powerline access path to glow. As I walked Lad down the trail an owl hooted off in the distance near Nutting Road. I wanted to capture this beauty in a huge square formated photo.

I’ve added the skunk cabbage photo for the benefit of those who are looking for pictures of skunk cabbage — I seem to get hits almost every day looking for that because of my post earlier this moth about the skunk cabbage in January. The photo above is from a day in March a couple of years ago. A more normal skunk cabbage appearance.

Snake Meadow Brook, Winter 2007

I just got back from a walk with Lad on The Snake Meadow Brook trail. It is accessible from Gould road which in turn is off Groton road. The trail follows Snake Meadow Brook and I went in thinking that the brook might be beautiful with ice and snow. It is — please see above.

The trail is short but very interesting and ends at a glacial ledge that over looks the brook and woods. Lots of what look to me like glacial erractics as well. Give the trail a try next time you want a nice short hike in Westford.

(This trail is maintained by the Westford Conservation Trust. Many thanks to Lenny Palmer, Bill Harman and any others who may have helped for clearing the trail.)

Forge Pond Sunset #2
We will miss him. Humanity will miss having one of its very best members on earth. His spirit lives in the mountains and valleys and in the Boston Museum of Science, which he created.

Here is a link to the Boston Globe article in today’s paper: Globe Article

I posted the photo above because its a sunset and because photography is a passion I share with great people. Bradford Washburn took photos of mountains from above them while hanging out of an airplane. I take photos of natural beauty in my town, within steps of my home. (This one is another of Forge Pond/Beaver Brook) Makes me feel very small but the photography we share keeps me feeling just a little closer to the great man.

My wife Aurora and I saw him and his wife Barbara speak at a meeting of the Photographic Historical Society of New England back in 1992 when I was a member. He was 82 and spoke for 2 hours – standing – showing dozens of slides from throughout his long career. He spoke so eloquently and knew so much detail about each slide — it was breath taking.

We still have the signed photo of Brad and Barbara taken on the top of Mount Bertha made during the couple’s assent of that mountain — the first recorded one.

As a man and as a couple these people are without peer. Bradford Washington’s spirit will continue to live in the wild places of earth and the hearts of men and women.

Yesterday I noticed that Brian Sawyer, one of the keepers of bloggingwestford, posted an image from the Westford pool on Flickr. Forge Pond from where Beaver Brook enters it. Shot was taken from the guard rail by the spot for putting boats in the water. Great shot taken with a Fuji E900 digital point and shoot — the E900 is a really good P& S with great low light capabilities and excellent dynamic range. The photo is beautiful. Esops was the photographer and he/she describes the photo op as follows:

“An unreal January day in New England where the temperature was about 70 degrees. Just as we finished kayaking and were putting the kayaks back on the car, it started getting dark and a strong front was moving in. You can see the wind on the water.”

Here is the photo: Please Note — Not my photo — was made by Esops and is on Flickr!

Esops’ photo of Forge Pond

So anyway seeing Esops’ great photo inspired me to go back to Beaver Brook road at sunset and see what I could capture. The photo below is one of my favorite compositions from yesterday. A much colder than 70 degree day but very nice nevertheless.

(Lad waited patiently in the car as I took a number of shots. Then we went for a twilight walk.)

Here is my photo from yesterday.

Forge Pond at Sunset

I need to spend more time exploring Forge pond. Its a beautiful pond and deserves to be featured in next year’s Westford Conservation Trust calendar or on this and other Westford blogs. So — watch this space.

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