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People (John Hanson Mitchell for one) have walked to Walden. Today we walked around Walden, as millions of others have done. The spirit of Henry David Thoreau was palpable as always. Because of his life and his writings this insignificant pond is one of the world’s famous bodies of water. Amazing! He wrote:

“I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what it had to teach, and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived.”

To live deliberately means to be aware of one’s life each minute, every day I think. Are you? Am I? Probably not but its an idea worth remembering and striving for. Henry started the movement to save the planet when it was not obvious that it was in danger — “In wildness is preservation of the world.” What a concept — one we need more than ever now.

Here is some of what we saw today:

A trail at sunset.

Half way around the pond.

Through the woods.

Riprap to the pond.

Prospect Hill Gate Take 2

Prospect Hill Gate 

This is my latest effort at photographing the entrance to the Prospect Hill Wildlife Sanctuary in Westford Massachusetts.

I returned early this morning ~ 6:45 am – because there was no wind when I woke up at 6:30. I didn’t like the out of focus wind blown leaves in the first attempt, nor did I like the hot spots caused by the sun. I wanted to show how peaceful and inviting a gated woodland can be, so I tried again and worked for a few hours to process a few variations until I got to this one and decided to call it quits. Not because I was sick of working on this image — I am — but because I think this one will work well as the photo for the month of July in the Westford Conservation Trust calendar.

I find taking photos in and of the woods difficult. There is so much detail but its all similar to what’s around each detail. The lighting is tough and many woodland photos tend to look like all the others. New England woods are somewhat humble, having been cut down by the early settlers, they are just coming back in the last 50 — 150 years. So there aren’t too many grand vistas to capture. But as Robert Frost said of another New England wood — “The woods are lovely, dark and deep…” Yes but I find them a little challenging to capture.

Any thoughts? Do you like the latest image above or do you like the first one better? Any ideas about photographing the woods? BTW here is one of my favorite woodland photos.

Trail Marker

Trail Marker 

The light was magic that morning. I think that’s an important element — magical light — for any photo it makes all the difference and especially in the woods.

If you have a moment please let me know what you think and if you like either of the photos.

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!

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