I live in a forest. At least that’s what the sign states on the road leading into my housing development. Years ago the area was all forest. Then when development began, the trees were left standing and the houses built among them. Cul-de-sacs and loops are now surrounded by nature trails for hiking and cross-country skiing and more recently trails for bicycling. It was an innovative living area at the time it was constructed with an association fee for upkeep and a park with a playground and picnic area.
Within the past few years, a technology park (a true oxymoron) was added to the area. An enormous building is under construction within a few miles of my house where a chip manufacturing plant will soon open. It will bring in jobs and contribute to the economy no doubt, but the impact on the nature that drew us to the area in the first place is unknown.
Last fall I looked out at the woods behind our house, something I do many times in the course of a day, to a wonderful sight. A family of turkeys was strutting out of the woods toward the house. In front was the female followed by three little ones and brought up in the rear by the male. The adults were enormous, the offspring all in a line in the middle, and they seemed totally unaware of any danger at first. Then the cat next door sprang to life out of the bushes and they turned around, steps now faster but not truly at a run, and made their way back into the woods. Further along they slowed their steps and majestically continued their walk.
A few winters ago I was on medical leave from my job as a teacher. I was in the process of completing daily radiation treatments for breast cancer and was coping with an overwhelming fatigue and a little dose of self-pity when a glance out the living room window into the back yard took my breath away. Standing at the bird feeders about twenty feet from the window was a doe and two fawns. It had been a particularly harsh winter, and I wondered if bird seed was really part of their diet. The doe’s white tail stood upright, such a bright contrast to the soft brown of her body. While she fed, her eyes darted around her, looking for danger. Squirrels scampered around them as the fawns followed the actions of their mother. They remained within my view for about ten minutes, then the mother turned, followed by the fawns, and ran back into the woods.
I treasure these connections to nature. They heal in today’s challenging times of bad economic news, changing weather patterns, and increased violence, but I wonder if these changes have increased the danger to animals as they are forced to come closer to humans.
Construction on the tech park continues with the goal of changing this small community around us which we love into a small city. Five-story buildings go up for retail and condos and small businesses to support the influx of workers for the chip plant. Even though I know change is necessary, I wonder every day if I will continue to see wild turkeys walk into my back yard or be awed by deer wandering out of the woods looking for food. These moments stop the hectic, often anxious pace of my life, slow me down, help me focus on the joy of living, and are all the more important to me as I fear that progress may take them out of my life.