Morning Notes

tree blog 6

I never started liking mornings until recently.  In high school they were always something to dread; I guess because there was really nothing too them.  I’d get ready in the dark, eat a rushed breakfast, drive to school every morning as soon as I got my licence (all my friends rode the bus and I didn’t want to walk in the cold alone), and immediately got started with classes I was mainly taking because they were graduation requirements–my high school didn’t have any classes related to my major and minor (sociology and environmental studies), so I didn’t discover my passion for them until well into college.

Even in college when I started taking classes I enjoyed more and didn’t have to wake up at 5:45 to get everything I wanted accomplished, I didn’t start appreciating mornings until I starting working 8:30 shifts at The Peddler, my schools’s coffee cart.  When I first found out that even though I signed up for later classes I’d have to be up before most people at my school, I felt a sense of dread, however after only a week that hour long shift making coffee became the thing I looked forward to the most during my day.  Even if going to sleep and waking up doesn’t magically solve every stressor in my life, I certainly feel revitalized at the start of a new day–maybe it’s just a construct or maybe there actually is something hopeful about a new blue sky, but starting my days doing things I love; making coffee and talking to friends, helps prolong this feeling.

This morning after opening The Peddler and making myself a cup of coffee, I walked over to Kylander.  The morning air was cool and nippy; not freezing to the point that I’d need to drag my coats out of the closet and waste precious time but I also would be miserable without my jacket and cup of coffee.  It’s not a lasting cool though; even over the half hour that I sit I can feel it warming up.  By the middle of the day it could be too uncomfortable to keep on wearing the outfit I picked out when the cold awakened me in my central heating-free house.  Fall can be confusing like this for awhile and I’d prefer it make up its mind.  The more consistent breezes that keep me from taking off my jacket for good though give me hope that there won’t be as many more warm weeks this semester.

On the ground surrounding me, brown leaves are scattered; more like islands in a sea of green grass than the blanket that they will eventually create this fall.  Looking up into the leaves of the taller trees however, I notice none of the traditional fall colors.  The remaining leaves are actually a similar picture as the ground:  large amounts of green with a few branches covered in dead brown leaves.  Missing are the reds, oranges, and yellows of fall; possibly delayed by the warm September or possibly killed by the rain storms a few weeks ago.  A few squirrels run past; carrying acorns from other parts of campus.  Overall, a great morning.

When People Behave Like Squirrels

With fall pause just around the corner, I took the time this afternoon to sit with my sugar maple for about half an hour, so that we might be able to relax and de-stress together. While I walked towards my tree, I couldn’t help but notice that the very tips of the upper leaves had been tinged with a deep red color.

The tree’s neighbors had all begun to change much earlier—as evidenced by the crisp reddish brown leaves strewn all over the ground and pathways that had clearly not come from my specific sugar maple—but my tree was taking its time. There was no rush; when you’re planted in one spot for years and years, time seems to slow down. There is no need to hurry, no need to race the other trees to see who can change colors the quickest. Compared to the other sparse trees around, my tree’s leaves still looked full. The green stood out against the sky full of bare, brown branches.


The bright green leaves seemed out of place among the neighboring trees’ bright oranges and reds.

Like the leaves on the ground, the air was also crisp. There was a slight chill, but when the sun was shining directly on you, the temperature wasn’t overall unpleasant. It was common hour as a sat with my tree, meaning that the academic quad was abuzz with life. Students were rushing to and from classes, broad smiles on their faces reflecting their excitement about the coming fall pause. Professors, too, seemed to be in exceptionally good moods. Even the squirrels, who hopped around through the lush green grass looked to be in good spirits.

The squirrels, with the beginnings of their thick winter coats starting to show, are looking chunkier as they hurry to and from making last minute preparations for their coming hibernations. Every now and then, a cool wind would blow, and a shower of red would fall upon me as leaves from the nearby trees drifted toward the earth. Though I would shiver in response and pull my sweatshirt a little tighter, the squirrels seemed oblivious. Students would shuffle through the fallen leaves, some seeming to admire the splash of color on the pathways, while others seemed to not notice the forgotten leaves. The sound hurried feet shuffling through the fallen leaves was soothing-almost hypnotic in a way.

Modern society has a rhythm that nothing can derail, not even nature. People had places to be; they had no time to stop and admire their natural surroundings literally changing before their eyes. In a way, this realization made me feel a tinge of sadness, perhaps even guilt. I know that I, like the other students around me, definitely become too preoccupied with school work and other worries sometimes that I forget to appreciate my surroundings. Dickinson has a beautiful campus, dotted with many many different species and variations of trees and other foliage. The diverse landscapes never fail to provide visual stimulation as long as one allows them to be noticed.

As a sat on the weathered bench by my tree, I watched from afar as two squirrels foraged in the coarse mulch around my tree’s base.


The smaller squirrel contemplated where he might have left his belongings.

Perhaps the squirrels were looking for something they had buried there before. The smaller of the two squirrels seemed determined to find what it was he was looking for; his eyes were glued to the ground as he scurried a few steps in one direction, scratched at the mulch to no avail, and then repeated the cycle again a few steps to the left. The larger of the two squirrels seemed to have given up on the hunt for his lost treasure; he seemed bored, distracted. It was as if the smaller squirrel had asked to be accompanied on the forage, and the larger squirrel begrudgingly agreed.

It was only a few minutes before the large squirrel could no longer withstand his ennui, and had begun inching his way closer and closer to the smaller squirrel, as if to get a rise out of him. The smaller squirrel, fed up with the larger squirrel’s insolence, chased the larger squirrel up the trunk of my sugar maple. The bark emitted harsh scraping noises in complaint as the squirrels’ small but sharp claws hurriedly gouged their way up the length of the trunk and into the tangles of leafy branches.

The squirrels, who were now angrily chirping at one another, their tails twitching in annoyance, seemed oblivious to the fact that the tree was its own entity; the squirrels saw the tree as merely a fixture that could be climbed, scratched, hidden in, or ignored as need be. The squirrels were too caught up in their own politics to stop and give thanks to the tree for housing them. In a way, perhaps the squirrels’ way of thinking is not that different from many peoples’ ways of thinking. How unfortunate it is that some people see nature as only something to be used, rather than something to be appreciated and marveled at. Perhaps if more people took the time to relax by a tree and watch the squirrels, they could see the flaws in their own logic.

Mr. Linden’s Library

On one hot summer afternoon, a new relationship was formed. It is a relationship like no other. On September 4, 2015, Mark Scott, Dickinson College’s Arborist, introduced me to my tree—Fagus grandifolia or otherwise known as the American Beech Tree. At first I thought can I really form a lasting relationship with this tree? Can I truly want to visit this tree every day and bask in its shade? Will this tree look beautiful to me rain or shine? Will this tree even provide me shade on a hot summer’s day? These were the questions that circulated through my head when I first met this tree. But then, as I peered into this tree’s soul, I began to realize that there is more than what meets the eye. I saw how the want, the need and the desire this tree had been building up inside of it just waiting to share its wonderful stories with one lucky person. I chose to be that one lucky person.

It all started as my fellow classmates and I were walking around campus with Mark and claiming trees. I just could not find one that I liked after much anticipation. That is until I came across my one true tree, Mr. Linden. He just spoke to me standing 20–35 meters tall with silver-gray colored bark near the flag on the academic quad. Mr. Linden’s species is known to have smooth bark, but his lively silver-gray colored bark had been tampered with by humans. His sturdy, aging, carved trunk tells many stories of love, history, pain and so much more. I visit Mr. Linden quite often and listen to the stories he has to tell. I like to think of it as visiting Mr. Linden’s library where I hear a new story every time.

Mr. Linden’s stories

If you examine all of the trees on Dickinson College’s campus, you will notice that my Mr. Linden is the only tree that has many stories to tell due to human impact; carvings on his trunk. In “A Sand County Almanac,” Aldo Leopold says that “not all trees are created free and equal” (Leopold, 68). Even though the stories Mr. Linden has to share with me are wonderful, showing history through time, he is the only one who can share these kinds of stories. I am a bit biased and the carving process must be painful. There will come a point where he will just have no more space to carve and can no longer tell stories. As Leopold stated, signatures of conservationists differ whether written with an axe or a pen (Leopold, 68).



Work Cited:

Leopold, Aldo. 1949. A Sands County Almanac. Oxford University Press.

Adventures of a City Girl

Coming from New York City, you do not really see many trees or experience the great outdoors. The great outdoors for me is Central Park. Just strolling through the park, no matter what season, shows how beautiful manmade nature can be. However, my relationship with nature changed in December 2014 when I stayed in the Ecuadorian part of the Amazon Rainforest.

During my stay in the Amazon, I went on both day and night hikes, bird watching as the sun rose, saw spiders as big as my face, met a Shaman, became best friends with a monkey, had a boa restrictor dangle one inch above my head, saw caimans and bats at night, came very close to a baby anaconda, took showers in a lagoon and lived in a straw hut. That was quite the adventure that I had no clue I had signed up for. Yet, I seemed to enjoy what I once thought was torture. I mean finding a big hairy spider the size of your face hanging out on your bed just waiting for you is torture but becoming best friends with a monkey was not all that bad. Through this experience, I learned to appreciate nature.

In this remote lodge– a two hour boat ride and thirty minute bus ride away from a small town, where there is no electricity, cell service, or internet, really seemed to put me in touch with Mother Earth. For the first time in my life I saw stars that completely lit up the sky, to the point that a candle or light bulb was not even needed for a source of light. I used books to identify all of the animals I encountered. I felt as if I was living off the grid with no modern amenities whatsoever.

Seeing and experiencing all of that was remarkable, but my visit to the largest tree in the Ecuadorian part of the Amazon Rainforest just topped everything else. This tree was massive! When I say massive, I mean that you can only get the trunk in a picture. The trunk itself is also so big that it is hard to get in a picture. It is called the Kapok tree and it can reach up to two-hundred feet in height, sometimes growing as much as thirteen feet per year. The trunk can actually expand to nine or ten feet in diameter. The tree produces anywhere between five-hundred and four-thousand fruits at one time, with each fruit containing two-hundred seeds. Inside of these fruits are silky fibers. The kapok tree is found in South America, Central America, Mexico and even in parts of West Africa. The guide told us that it is actually believed that there are Kapok trees in West Africa because the unopened fruit floated its way from Latin America to Africa since the unopened fruit doesn’t sink in water. We all took a fruit from the tree and tried to submerge it in the water but it floated making us believe that the story was true!

Me in front the Kapok tree in the Amazon Rainforest

The guide also told us how the Kapok tree serves many uses to us humans. Its wood is good for making canoes, the silky fibers from the fruit are good for making pillows, and some parts of the tree can be used as medicine. Thinking back to this moment and re-reading Shel Silverstein’s “The Giving Tree” made me think about how humans are continuously taking from the environment until there is nothing left to enjoy, neither beauty nor bounty. After humans exploit the tree of its resources, the tree has nothing left to give. In this story, the tree was not happy.



Work Cited:

Silverstein, Shel. The Giving Tree. New York: Harper & Row, 1964. Print.

Field Notes 1


At 10:00 pm, I sat by my tree to take in the world around us. I notice there aren’t many squirrels are out, and maybe it is because it is only getting colder so they are starting to stock up for the winter. The first thing I hear is the sound of the breeze through the leaves on the trees. It is peaceful and quiet. The sound of the breeze reminds me of something you would put in a soundbox in order to try to fall asleep.

To my surprise, there are colorful leaves sitting underneath KD’s shade, all over the ground. They aren’t her leaves, so they must have been blown by the wind off of a nearby tree.

Usually there are a lot of cars passing by, but because it is not early enough for the morning commute and not late enough for the afternoon one, it leaves me with more opportunity to listen to the natural world surrounding KD.

The first 2 minutes of peace is broken up by the sound of a child crying, across the academic quad with his family.

There are only a few clouds in the sky, and it is just warm enough to wear a long-sleeve shirt and pants, chilly enough to wear a jacket. It’s one of those picture-perfect fall days.

At about 10:15, the human foot traffic begins. Students hustle by Stern, on their way to and from class. It is the day before fall pause, so everyone is super chatty and smiling ear to ear. This is a major disruption in what was just my peaceful start to my morning.

5 minutes later, the area is swarmed with people. 10:20 comes around, and the pathways surrounding Stern and KD are filled with traffic in all directions. It is good to see people happy, but nobody even notices KD.

All throughout this time, my favorite sound has been that of the birds chirping in the trees. While there are none on KD’s branches, I know they are in close proximity.

I won’t see KD again until Tuesday or Wednesday, and I am curious to know if the leaves will change color at all, or if they fall off the branches.

Mari Notes: Part 1

October 15, 2015: 8:30 am.

It is a cool morning as I sit on the rock next to Mariposa. Her leaves are still damp from the morning dew, and the sun is just beginning to warm the earth. A few students run by, almost late to their first class of the day. They glance at me sitting with Mari, a confused expressions on their faces, but they don’t have time to ask. I realize I’ve noticed many confused expressions as people pass by me whenever I sit with Mari. “The Trellis is over there,” their expressions say. “Why are you sitting on a rock?” I suppose unless you’re taking some kind of environmental class, you don’t really spend time just sitting with nature or really recognizing its beauty. I just smile as people walk by.


The rock that I sit on next to Mariposa

I check my watch. 8:40 am. How the time passes so quickly as I just sit and think! I get up from my rock and stretch my limbs. I walk around Mari, looking at all of her leaves and her lopsided shape. What makes a tree grow lopsided? I wonder. She is uneven in size, full in some places and bare in others. I wonder if she’ll grow to be fuller once she is mature. I make a mental note to keep an eye on her next year, too. As I’m walking around her, I notice a plaque. How had I never seen this before! I take a closer look.

“In loving memory of
Gretchen L. Franck ’98
‘When you get the choice… I hope you dance’

I wonder who she is and why Mari is dedicated to her. I make another mental note to look her up in the archives and ask my friend who’s in Theta.

image    image

Mari’s lopsidedness; the plaque beneath her

A chipmunk passes by. His cheeks are full of nuts, and I assume he’s running to bury them for the winter. At that moment, a cool wind blows through my hair. I shiver as it’s still slightly wet from my shower this morning.

8:48 am. I check my watch and note I have 12 more minutes until I have to meet my friend for breakfast. I sit back down on my rock and continue my observations.

People chatter over on the Trellis as they eat breakfast from the Quarry. Birds chatter on the telephone lines as they prepare for flight. A car or two passes by, but there’s not too much traffic at this time, at least not on West Louther. The clouds are moving quickly throughout the sky, and the sun is finally reaching my skin, warming me and my damp hair. A few more people walk by, but no one I know or even recognize. The birds fly away, staying together, but each flying his own path.

Another breeze comes by, but this one isn’t as cool, especially with the warmth of the sun. A couple of squirrels run up the trunk of a tree close to Mari, playing, fighting, running up and down. I laugh because they remind me of my brothers, always bothering each other. I check my watch. 8:58 am. I pack up my things and stand up from my rock again, stretching. I see people leaving the Quarry with their coffees and their muffins. I start walking their way to meet my friend where they just left. As I’m walking over, I turn back to look at Mari, standing lopsided, yet tall and proud. “See you tomorrow,” I think to her. The wind catches her leaves, waving goodbye.

Field Notes 1: Gloomy Night

October 15, 2015 8:08pm, I sit here on a very cold night next to a stone sculpture of what looks like two babies holding up a piece of writing that reads, Bosler Memorial Library Hall. I dim my laptop down to movie mode, in order to prevent the bright screen laptops give off.

It is a beautiful cold night. Luckily I am wearing a fleece-lined flannel to keep my body warm. There is a bit of a breeze. The lampposts give off a gloomy sensation.


Sycamo in the distance

I wonder if students can see me as they walk down the pathway that Althouse Hall, Old West, and East College sit near. Either way, there has been numerous students passing by and heading into Stern. Each with a backpack or purse, flocking to this building. Some students had a jacket to keep them warm, some with scarves, and others had just a long sleeve on. I see one of my friend’s on his longboard speeding down the pathway toward Denny Hall.

By 8:22pm, it has now become somewhat silent except for the sound of crickets chirping their night away. You can hear engines growling close by and the sound of metal brakes squeaking as cars come to a complete stop at the intersection. Some cars are louder than other when stationary.

The cold air persists. It is now 8:30pm. A flock of students exit Stern, probably an event that had just taken place ended. They are creating a disturbance to the peaceful night these trees and I were having. Laughing, yelling, and speaking loudly, these students scatter in every direction to their own destination. I am once again left alone, with one or two students walking down the pathway here and there. A gloomy night it seems to be. The streetlamps are the source of light in such a dark place, even with academic buildings around with light. Looking past Sycamo, I see the darkness I speak about. There are no lights within the field itself, aside from the ones on the pathways.

I am starting to feel the cold more and more. I am unsure as to whether or not I would be able to withstand the forces of nature if it were not for this human built environment we have. Side note, some of us get a pleasure out of venturing into wilderness to experience the natural world and to show that we can live in it.

This was a beautiful night to take thick notes.




Me and Mari

 People often tell others to “stop and smell the roses”… But what about the sounds of nature? Too often we hustle and bustle from one place to another, never stopping to appreciate nature’s beauty and all it offers for our senses.

As I was sitting with Mari one day, I decided to pay attention to the sounds of nature. Of course, since Mari isn’t located in the middle of a forest, I also listened to the sounds of mankind.

At first, it’s fairly quiet. The wind flows through Mari’s leaves and those of the surrounding foliage, which creates a peaceful rustling sound. Soon after though, a car passes by on West Louther. The purr of the engine gets louder as it gets closer and quickly peaks and then quiets until I can no longer hear it. When classes let out, I hear the busy footsteps of students running to their next class and the chit-chatter between friends about how they did on their exams, what they did over the weekend, and the countdown to Fall Pause. A squirrel runs past in the grass, its footsteps inaudible, but making a little rustling as he runs through the tall grass. A garbage truck comes by to pick up the waste from the Quarry. The steady beeping meaning it’s in reverse overpower the sound of the wind brushing my arms and Mari’s branches. Once the truck finishes making a commotion (picking up the dumpster, emptying it, putting it back down…), it revs its engine and drives down the road. I try to focus back on nature. The breeze is soft and makes only the faintest sound as the last few students rush to class, running, pounding their feet on the ground so as not to be late. The items in their backpacks slosh around as they run up and down. And soon, it’s just me and nature again. The wind carries fallen leaves around me and I realize all I can hear now is the sounds of the breeze and of my breath, and if I really focus, I can even hear my heart beating.

Spending this quiet time with Mari, simply observing the world’s music, was calming and interesting. I never really take the time to listen to the world around me, so it was nice to take a break and do so. The contrast between the quietness of nature and the loudness of the man-made fascinated me, and I realized that humans were somewhere in the middle. We are a part of nature and we can be soft, but too often we are more like the garbage truck, causing commotion and not taking the time to stop and be quiet.

Spider Friend

tree 6tree 7Now that I’ve looked at my tree in the morning and in the afternoon, I figureed I could spend some time with sandy at night. So in the dark I left my warm room and crossed the street to sit with Sandy. I again pulled over a red chair because sitting in the wet dirty did nothing for me. This time it was quitter on campus. Less cars, less noise, and no people.

Under the tree my red chair sat very close to the truck. A spider had made a bridge between the chair and the tree. I watched it crawl back and forth. I used the flash light on my phone to watch him maneuver. I looked up, and then felt extremely self-conscious, as group of students walked by and saw me sitting alone under a tree at 9:30 on a Wednesday night using my phone to look at a spider. But they soon passed and all was quite again.

The tree’s cover made it really dark. I mean siting under this tree made it hard to see anything. The dark leaves where thick overhead and hung low around me. I felt like I was in a cave. The bright lights on the path ways were dulled, and so were the lights form all the buildings. This tree is some serous shelter for small

I heard car again. Every time I’ve come to my tree to observe and reflect I’ve heard cars. When I try and quite my mind and really think about the task at hand, sandy, all I can hear is cars whizzing by, on high street of in this distance. It makes me kind of sad. The noise population is truly an indicator of the CO2 omissions that are also consistently whizzing in to the air.

I sit her and wonder what all that must be doing to my tree?

I know trees take in CO2 but all of the pollution can’t be good for her growth and life? And now that I think about it, it’s probably not good for me either.

-Maggie Dougherty

Sounds of the Night

As I sit under my tree, facing Althouse, I get a sense of how nature interacts with human activity everyday. Buildings over there, here, and over on the other side, nature cannot escape humans built environment. Sycamo’s branches appear to be bold and fierce with how they extend outward. A gust of wind cuts through the trees and building on the academic quads. Sycamo’s rustling of leaves in the wind is overshadowed by the sounds of loud engines and exhausts.

Time passes and student activity increases with the beeping and clicking of doors as students enter academic buildings. A friend approaches me as she notices I am sitting under a tree. It is interesting how people question as to why one would interact with nature in such way. Is it weird to sit under a tree? She seemed puzzled as to why I was writing a blog about a random tree, to which I replied that this is not a random tree, but a Sycamore Tree within a human built environment. The conversation ended on a positive note, as she left with a better understanding of why nature should be recognized and appreciated more for its beauty and contribution to our good health. More often than not, we as students disregard the presence of nature within our campus, unless it is a picture to post on social media.

I am amazed at the beauty of trees at night. Each with their own personality, distinct looks, and purpose. Leaves rustling. Cars driving by. Students going in and out of buildings. The sound of crickets chirping begins to sound off. The chirping sounds make me think of the relationships nature has with all the insects, animals, and plants. It provides an array of important functions that humans cannot meet as they are constantly modifying the environment to their liking.

Sycamo and I looking on

Sycamo and I looking on

The smell is that of soil, grass, and manure that facilities may have spread earlier in the day. Cold air sends chills down my body. As I sit with Sycamo and look on, I realize he is lost in his own world. He works within his surroundings (as far as his roots go). He doesn’t have the ability to think critically or express emotion, yet he has the gift to nurture others. I look on and think to myself, what a beautiful campus.