Though fifteen acres isn’t large by some measures, as an oasis in suburban sprawl it is a welcome and necessary refuge. It is clear this time of year, when the leaves have long fallen from the trees and mud crusted snow from many storms past lines the street, that this refuge is not just for the human dwellers. When the animals who brave our New England winters show themselves in search of scarce food, I am reminded of their dependence on this preserved and vital habitat.
On a recent morning during one of the many snowfalls this season, my daughter Maya and I ventured out for a walk. Big flakes floated down through the lichen laden branches of oaks lining our driveway. Their dark outlines etched a stark contrast to the white-gray stratus stretched overhead. The ground beneath my feet was slick with fresh fallen snow over the thick ice that spends the duration of the winter months preventing all but four wheel-drive from making the decent to our little cottage, and I chose my footing carefully.
It may have been this careful stepping that had so fully consumed my attention; I was startled to a stop when I realized we were not alone. Looking down into the lowland that gives Valley Road its name, a white tailed deer stood still on the ridge, peering through the falling snow flakes. I wondered if this was the same animal that had so thoroughly consumed the tender sprouts of hosta in my garden last spring, and the plump buds of my tulips the year before? But looking at the majestic animal I could hardly fault her. The outline of ribs under her fur was clear and their steady rise and fall with her breath the only movement in the frozen landscape.
I had barely enough time to register these thoughts before a movement behind her caught my eye. Another doe I hadn’t noticed for her silent posture, turned and leapt further into the woods along the ridge. At this movement a third doe, still further into the brush, moved as well and the trio bounded off together likely in search of nourishment among the scarce evergreen flora.
As we trekked back towards our little house I thought about how precious this little oasis of land is. Both for the people who have lived in our caretaker’s house over the years and of course for the animals whose offspring for generations to come will know what it is like to forage through the cold winter months in these little hills of Plymouth.
written by: Leah Servis-caretaker of the David Nelson House Sanctuary-February 2011