RMSC Cumming Nature Center's annual closure is scheduled from Sunday, November 13 through Tuesday, December 13. Trails and buildings will be closed to the public.

A Panel Discussion with Author David Haskell

A Panel Discussion with Author David Haskell

Thursday, October 6 | 7pm

"We create wonderful places by giving them our attention." - David George Haskell, The Forest Unseen

After reading David George Haskell's book, The Forest Unseen: A Year's Watch in Nature, a group of staff and volunteers were inspired to start a similar year-long project based at Cumming Nature Center that would engage the public in the value of close observation. From March 2021 through February 2022, a group of volunteers spent an hour each week observing a single square meter of the forest along the Helen Gordon Trail at Cumming Nature Center. Each week, one of these volunteers would write a reflection on what they observed during their sojourn. This project was called the Woodland Window Project.

On Thursday, October 6th at 7pm, author David Haskell will join four of the Woodland Window volunteers for an online panel discussion about Haskell's book and the group's shared experiences of visiting the same forest site over and over in all seasons. The panelists will discuss their reflections and discoveries during these periods of observation. 

This program will be held online. Advanced registration is required to receive the link.

Register for this Program


About the Woodland Window Project

Inspired by Haskell's work in The Forest Unseen, a group of staff and volunteers at Cumming Nature Center decided to spend an hour each week observing a single square meter of the forest along the Helen Gorden Trail at Cumming Nature Center. This project was called the Woodland Window Project and took place from March 2021 through February 2022, resulting in 52 observations that followed the seasonal changes in that small section of the forest over the course of a year.

The Woodland Window Project is about how paying attention to a place makes it wonderful; it is about how the smallest section of woodland holds countless processes and lives that often escape our notice; and it is about inspiring the average person to take time to sit down and listen, smell, touch, and observe the intricate wonders of the natural world around us. Explore excerpts of the Woodland Window Project below, and check out all 52 observations next time you visit the Nature Center!

Excerpts from the Woodland Window Project

Spring: Week 6 (April 5 - 11)
Anne's Reflection

It is a warm spring day with sunshine and temperatures in the low 60’s. On my walk to the mandala, I observe coltsfoot and skunk cabbage in bloom. It rained earlier this morning and the mosses are so happy they almost give off a green glow.

At the mandala, there is not much happening yet. The snow is gone and the sedges are just starting to get a little greener but do not have any new growth yet. 

Insects are frequenting the mandala. I observe three different sizes of flies buzzing through. There are chickadees nearby. Apparently, I look dangerous, as they sound their intruder call and keep their distance while they forage. When they land on a branch, they inspect it carefully above and underneath in their search for lunch.

I close my eyes and immerse myself in the sensory pleasures of spring: warm sun on my face and an orchestral performance from the forest. I can hear the chickadees, the whispered rattle of last year’s beech leaves in the breeze, a woodpecker percussionist, a chorus of crows in the distance, geese and red-winged blackbirds at the pond, spring peepers, and the voices of children playing at the nature center. Occasionally, a chipmunk and a red squirrel lend their voices to the performance. The first days of spring are sweet beyond measure!

 
Summer: Week 22 (July 26 - June 1)
Judy's Reflection
At the mandala, my mind wanders.  Today my contemplation is flowers spiders, bees and wasps. Typically, when I think of flowers, I think of them aesthetically. They are beautiful and colorful. They are varied and grow in many diverse ecological areas. But those are thoughts when I look at them from afar. 
My time at the mandala has taught me to get up close and really look. When I do, I realize that flowers are host to a myriad of other living organisms. Each using the flower in a unique way. 

The goldenrod crab spider (Misumena vatia) adeptly uses camouflage as it sits on a white yarrow flower.  It is an ambush spider quietly awaiting a bee or butterfly to visit the flower.  Once near enough, it will jump on its prey. 

The dazzling metallic epauletted-sweat bee (Augochloropsis metallica), on the chicory flower, is certainly doing quite well collecting pollen for its offspring. It is part of the Halictidae family, the second-largest family of bees. 

The Great golden digger wasp (Sphex ichneumoneus) on milkweed is sipping nectar.  The golden digger wasp nests in sand or hard packed soil. Although the species is considered solitary, with only one female tending each nest, the nests are usually clustered in colonies.  The female catches grasshoppers, crickets and katydids to feed her young. I love how much “action” there is when you get up-close to nature.

 

Autumn: Week 33 (October 11 - 17)
Cindy's Reflection

As the length of daylight hours decreases at this time of year, plants are triggered into preparing for the changes ahead. Colder weather will drastically curtail a plant’s ability to function as it has during the summer, so it begins to shut down. As the leaves get ready to fall, the green chlorophyll, which had been making carbohydrates, begins to break down and the nutrients recycled and resorbed within the permanent plant structure. They will be used again next year.

Carotenoids, that also helped make sugars, become unmasked by the departure of chlorophyll, giving a yellow hue to the leaves. Just before the leaves detach, anthocyanins are synthesized that produce reds. The interactions of these 3 pigments – chlorophyll, carotenoids, and anthocyanins - give leaves a range of colors that include the yellow of sassafras and the reds, oranges, & yellows of maples. 

What a glorious show we get in these color changes that accompany the persistent greens in the forest, as we immerse ourselves in the seasonal rhythms of nature! 

 

Winter: Week 52 (February 21 - 27)
Angie's Reflection

End of February 2022, last entry for the #WoodlandWindow.

Already, and too soon, the strengthening daylight of Spring is butting heads with the Musk Ox of Winter. Snow atop the mandala is covered in debris, and peppered in snow fleas, also known as springtails, who rise up through the snow and tree wells like an effervescence, spreading out across the snowpack one springing leap at a time. Springtails are primitive hexapods that live in the soil by the billions. They are part of the recycling system. They come to the surface in winter to eat snow algae and detritus, or maybe just to sun themselves? They remind me of the vast universe in soil; the billions of soil microorganisms who help keep the living mantel of the earth—the soil—alive and working alongside mites, worms, tons of bacteria and abiotic nutrients, preparing the forest for regrowth in spring. Soil is life. And another part of our world we so easily forget. But being here is to try and forget.

It has been such a treasured time for me to practice sitting mindfully, to practice being here, in the moment. David George Haskell, author of The Forest Unseen, for whom this project is modeled after, suggests we use such an experience to “open our senses” and to “borrow from the practice of meditation.” I consider how much this group of naturalists have all discovered in this small patch of ground this past year. I am awed by the fountain of life in and around our tiny mandala, and filled with complete bewilderment when I imagine this one-meter hoop widening over the hilltop, the forest, the region, and beyond. What a precious life force this planet truly is. What an amazing time to be here in, moment by moment.

I place a finger beside a small speck of black. A springtail jumps, and I nearly jump too! And I giggle at myself. As Haskell writes, “Part of what we discover by observing ourselves is an affinity for the world around us.” And, “It is here that we learn that ‘nature’ is not a separate place.” It is not just a woods wide web, but a world wide web. And we are part of it all. I leave the mandala with the gifts of inspiration and peacefulness, connected and smitten again and again.

  

 


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