Into the Woods
I didn’t anticipate that my summer conservation easement monitoring internship with the Harris Center would take me on a healing journey and rekindle my love for the outdoors, but it did. Shortly before the start of the internship, I was diagnosed with Lyme disease. As the implications of my diagnosis sunk in, I grew leery of being outside and developed a hearty fear of the woods. I began my internship with trepidation, venturing forth with light-colored pants tucked into permethrin-treated socks. After each outing, I performed meticulous tick checks.
I found only one tick. With each property that I monitored, my confidence grew and I relaxed a little further into the natural world. I witnessed the subtle changes inherent in the progressing season: the ripening of forest fruits, the deepening greens and first reds of late summer trees, the gradual shortening of the days. It was glorious.
Glimpses of the Natural World
In my wanderings, I stepped into scenes I never could have imagined. During a warm summer rain, red efts emerged from the leaf litter by the hundreds, dotting the forest floor with tiny splashes of bright color. Ruby-throated hummingbirds materialized around me in the midst of a swamp. A deer repeatedly snorted and stomped at me from the safety of a screen of dense brush, until I conceded the space. Again and again, I was startled by glimpses of birds perched on low branches, silently noting my progress. I tried my best to remain calm when I encountered a bear, who paused long enough in its browsing to glance, nonplussed, in my direction.
Wilderness, Close to Home
A significant portion of my time was spent monitoring large tracts of property under easement with the Harris Center, but owned by other conservation organizations. The size of these properties allowed me to pass entire days without encountering any signs of humans other than survey markers and our ubiquitous New England stone walls. I felt blessed to explore these immense wild areas, so surprisingly close to home.
Connection to the Land
While wandering solo was great, I found even more enjoyment when I began monitoring easements on land owned by individuals and families. All the landowners I met have incredibly strong connections to the land. Each one shared great stories − from tales of moose courtship to the adventures of Francis, the slightly mischievous, and entirely fictional, neighborhood bear. I even received an introduction to mushroom foraging.
Now I’m on assignment as a weather observer for the US Antarctic Program at McMurdo Station, Antarctica, where I’m happy to report − no ticks!
— Katie Koster, Fall 2015
For more information on the Harris Center’s land protection program, please contact Eric Masterson at (603) 525-3394 or by email.