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Sensing Root Glen

Updated: Apr 28, 2019


Crickets chirp, tapping out their high-pitched rhythm. People talk, joke and laugh beyond the garden hedge. A breeze whispers in the leaves of the trees more than 150 feet above the red shale path. The stream of water rambles over stones, falls over ledges, gurgles and babbles. Squirrels chatter a squeaky warning, “Humans afoot. Watch out for their cameras!”


Bright breath of fresh cool air, autumn approaches. The heavy weight of humid vapor has vanished. Inhale the sweet scent of pink phlox.


My camera and three lenses hang heavy in the bag slung by its strap over my shoulder. Tree bark is rough under my fingers. Gravel rolls under my sneakers. I step slowly.


Pale pink, vivid magenta, deep purple of flowers in the formal garden. Along the path, all is greens and browns in shades of light to dark. Here and there, randomly placed clusters of bright red berries dot the forest floor. Doorways in and under trees lead to cozy homes for mice or chipmunks or other forest creatures. I smile and remember the books I read to my daughters by British authors who imagined intricate architecture and charming lives lived in places like that.


A squirrel bounds through the periwinkle under the trees and stops still. I aim my long lens in his direction. He nibbles an acorn. Delicious! But before I can focus, he darts to a tree. He freezes. I take aim again. He dashes up the tree. He sassily appears, peeking around the trunk. For an instant, I have his face in focus. He seems to grin a challenge. But before I can press the shutter, he’s disappeared up higher into the tree. I aim. He leaps and grabs flimsy twigs, swings like a trapeze artist, shaking the oak leaves. My lens is pointed directly above my head now. All I can see is a blur of green and brown. Will he fall? I step back and lower my camera. There he is! On the tree across the path. How did he get over there? Higher and higher he climbs, nimbly, effortlessly, fearlessly. He’s out of sight. I have tasted defeat.


Root Glen is a garden and arboretum planted by the Root family over the course of three generations beginning in 1850. It’s on the grounds of Hamilton College in Clinton, NY, and is a popular place for students, professors, photographers, and local residents to enjoy the beauty of nature. Much has been written about the glen. So I wanted to do something a little different. What do you think?


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