Nature Journal: Quiet Time with the Best Conversationalist

Finding silence on the Spruce Mountain Trail, Plainfield.

By Angela Hilsman, VLT Communications & Outreach Coordinator

The Spruce Mountain trail in Plainfield is slicked with mud and ice when I start for a late afternoon walk. My boots cluck and crash while the cold gnaws at my cheeks. I pause by the pond and silence sinks in momentarily.

It reminds me of the first time I saw fireflies, how they materialized in the darkness, how I thought they were magic.

Wetland as dusk arrives on Spruce Mountain Trail, Plainfield.

I was 13, and the city of Pawtucket, Rhode Island had built a bike path near the duplex I grew up in. The paved path hugs the Ten Mile River, connecting the city’s largest park and the abutting East Providence. I’d abandon yelling neighbors and stifling humidity for the park. It quickly became my favorite hangout.

After passing the train tracks, I’d climb through the post-and-rail fencing lining the path and escape into the woods to sit along the banks of a pond. During the day, I’d wonder what lived among all those lily pads; and if you found yourself on the greenway after dusk—which you weren’t supposed to do—the trees would twinkle with fireflies. I’d sit in the quiet and marvel at the magic that existed in my city.

While I still find these bioluminescent beetles quite enchanting, I’ve come to understand that they’re not the only magic that emerges in the silence.

Conifer cones in leaf litter.

Continuing through Vermont’s April chill, I don’t have much to say; not much has changed during five weeks of a stay-at-home order, and I am sure Mother Nature recognizes me from my previous trips to this summit. And so she begins, reliving recent visits from dogs, rabbits, and one man with large feet. The pines groan and chickadees laugh. A robin throws leaf litter.

Mother Nature kindly offers me fresh air and warm sunshine before telling of the recent windstorm that took many spruce and birch trees. She adds that the catkins are emerging, and pinkish buds dot the conifers. Mother Nature really is the best conversationalist. I’m humbled by the time she gives me, by her presence, her patience, and her beauty.

Sunlit trees on Spruce Mountain Trail, Plainfield.

The sinking sun gleams through the trees, and a barred owl swoops over my head. It is time to go, but I take my time exiting the woods. I am grounded in both the calm and companionship, and I dread reentering a world so marred with anxiety and isolation.

I take a deep breath, shaking hands with the pines. It’ll be okay, she assures me. We both know that in all this newfound silence, magic exists.



This personal reflection is part of our #StayGroundedVT campaign to help Vermonters stay connected to nature, find tools to teach their kids about nature, and support farms producing local food during coronavirus. Follow us on Facebook and Instagram to get the latest!