Sunday Gratitude: To Those Who Show Up

site of Marian Case Nature Classroom, September 2020

In September 2020, the Owl was doing the usual rounds of forest and fields as her day (volunteer) job is stewardship for Weston Forest and Trail Association. About a quarter mile into the woods on Case Estates, at a scraggly-weeded open spot in the forest, a little idea sprang up that would not go away. What if there was a nature classroom there? A place to learn about white pines, white oaks, the sound of a chickadee, while sitting on a woodland stump. The Owl is not the first to have such ideas about that spot–Marian Case created the Hillcrest Boys program more than a century ago. You can read about that here.

Between September and March 27, a lot of stuff happened. The Owl’s English-major mom will be horrified by summarizing it like that– but how to explain months of approvals, buy-in, snags, soil tests, brush-clearing, firewood removing, wood-chip begging, volunteer recruiting, waiting-for-the-snow-to-melt, and finally a core group of helpers wrassling stumps and green plastic fencing? It was long. It was worth it.

What if a Nature Classroom could be built in a forest?

The learnings will be written up, but not today. Today is about gratitude for the ones who step up and show up. The Nature Classroom would not exist without you:

–those who encourage. You know who you are: the ones who listen to the crazy plans and say go for it. Who listen when the plans go awry, and sympathize, then encourage another attempt.

–those who recognize when it’s time to take the baton. When a major snag hit in November, this Owl was about to give it up. Without a Select Board member who cared a whole lot, this might not have happened. This same Select Board member also jumped on the green plastic fence tangled in the woods yesterday. The town is lucky to have you, Laurie.

–those who show up every single time for the forest. And bring tools, and rakes, and stumps and energy and everything. Right time, right person to lead Weston Forest & Trail Association–thank you again and again, Joel.

Vicki, and Junior Rangers Colin and Quinn, clearing firewood and brush, November 2020

–the first one to jump. The one who wields brush cutters, moves firewood, stumps and wrangles two Junior Rangers at the same time. A November day of hard work in the woods, just the four of us. Thank you, Vicki, Colin and Quinn.

–the volunteers who came out just in time, and with the right knowledge, and with chainsaw skills and stumps. It was a small group yesterday, and for those who showed up, the Owl (and the town) is so grateful. And in a stunning moment of showing what is possible, one vounteer and her daughter found an owl pellet and a spontaneous wildlife lesson took place.

–the middle school community service club, five members of which found out on Friday about the project (thank you too to a math teacher and a club leader who got the word out) and showed up for raking, green-plastic-fence pulling and stump placement.

–the landscape company, Weston Landscape, and its owner Phil Jones, who donated massive amounts of wood chips, gracefully dealt with one cancellation in December, came back at least twice, got a truck stuck in mud, then not only left piles of wood chips for the classroom, but spread them out beautifully and much to the volunteer’s surprise and delight.

Thank you, Phil Jones, March 27, 2021

It takes a village, and this Owl is grateful for all who showed up, and continue to show up for nature.

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