Beyond the Field – Enter
By Nicola McGoff, Jefferson Chapter
You drive by it every day, without notice. It is just a field. An ordinary everyday field. Square shaped or almost anyway, with very defined boundaries. Manmade boundaries stretching back through time. The sedentary, fallow field. Static and uninviting for most. A place where utility trumps esthetic.
Perchance, one day you pause at the gravel entrance. No gate or pillars, no sign to indicate a human stamp of ownership. You cast your glance towards the back slope and decide to take an unplanned adventure across the field. Following some inner whimsy, you enter into this space. This wide-open enclosure without walls.
Perhaps you walk on through and out the far side. Oblivious to all upon which you trample. Or maybe you are one of those special ones that are drawn to such quiet places. Those who can hear the distant echoes of lives passed, of foregone times. Within this “thin place” these almost-sounds draw you into a space and time of your own making.
In that first moment of pause, you feel the breeze ripple off the top of those old warm season grasses. Upon the breeze you smell their oncoming dormancy, their pollen, their seed chaff. Switchgrass mingles with blue stem, underlain by some fescue. Boneset abuts the bee balm, while the non-native lespedeza creeps in.
As you survey the site, you notice the place that repeatedly draws your eye upon the slope. The perfect spot to sit awhile. From this perch, you spy a flat level site up on the hill, where if you had to, you would build your house. To one side of your “new house site” a headwater brook slips past. Bed and banks abound with grasses, the streamlet slides silently downhill. A clear, shallow thing of no consequence to you. Small though it may be, its energy has sliced through the far bank offering you a glimpse back through time. Back through past land uses.
Follow this brook down the slope, to the wondrously broad Sycamore. Its arms spread horizontal and wide. The crown too large for the trunk that carries it. The bark a dappled skeleton, visually unlike all other trees.
From this wet patch your eye travels uphill in all directions. The road and surrounding human places are now obscured from your view. All you see is field as your senses are swallowed. The sounds are only those of the field now and the air feels dense.
A bee zips by in some autumnal search for bygone blooms. A vulture circles overhead wondering if you are worth waiting for. Unseen to most, an army of seeds float by overhead seeking out their forever homes. A rock peeks its head up to your left. Without much inquiry, it is just a gray rock. A cold mass of mineral foundation. An annoyance to the plow.
Turning to continue on your way, the old fence line, separating the field from the forest, presents itself. Not entirely intact, its three wires droop and dangle. The old split cedar wood, upright, still standing at attention on this boundary. Still claiming some human use on this space. Unwilding this land.
On you go, down into the woods. Past the old pond, surrounded now by new trees. Down the hill towards the town.
Coming out of your reverie and back to this modern world with its fast-paced living. You now brazenly walk by the bear scat and the fox’s den. Float above the copperhead snake winding away from your footfall. Passing under the sleeping nocturnes. On back into your own world at full speed. Returning to the surface. Succumbing to your screens and highspeed communications.
Do you understand what it is you walk upon? Whose history? What life? Which ecological wonder?
Slow down awhile and come back to this field. This ordinary mundane field. And allow space and time and the natural world to unfold their arms and perform for you. Theirs is a lengthy tale of fruitful existence. One well worth watching.
Come in for a minute. Come sit and be present. Set aside your busy schedule. The field awaits.
Editor’s Note: This article first appeared in the Winter 2021 Declaration, the newsletter of the Jefferson Chapter of VNPS.
Thanks for the journey, your narration sounds like the voice inside my head when I get lost in the woods.
As I read this I can see it come to life in a beautiful animation. What a lush beautiful place to be still and enjoy the show of nature and the stories of history. Beautifully written.
Beautiful piece of writing. I want to sit under the sycamore and lean my back against it.
It was like walking besides you Nicola. A quiet guided tour (where phones don’t work). Thanks!