“And then we emerged to see the stars again“- Dante Alighieri*
I’ve been meaning to write this post for a long time. It’s about a National Grid project nearby that has had a far-reaching, positive impact on my life. And it occurred after nearly a year and a half of having our lives changed dramatically by the Covid pandemic. This will be my final post for the #HomeTime and #pandemiclife category and the first for the #Emerging category, which are posts about emerging (both physically and creatively) from the pandemic.
Shortly before we received our first Covid booster shot at the end of August 2021, we received a letter from National Grid to inform us of some work in our area to improve the transmission passing through our neighboring power line by installing fiber optic cable. The work would include the construction activity of vegetation management and matting to bridge the wetland. The work was slated to begin in September.
Sure enough, by the end of September the matting had been completed across the wetland with an additional stretch leading to the structures on the left that we called “the dogleg”. This construction opened new worlds for us. I had never spent much time along the power line, chiefly because of the ticks there, and now, for the first time, we could walk over the water on the matting AND avoid ticks. There is so much to see there. For instance, I never knew there were water lilies…
…or beavers. This one entertained us for nearly an hour one day as it fixed a hole in the roof of its lodge. The beaver worked steadily carrying sticks through the water to the lodge. We now know first-hand, the appropriateness of the expression “busy as a beaver”.
And there are so many birds who fly about and perch on the power lines. It almost gives credibility to the #BirdsArentReal claims that birds are really drones that recharge on power lines. Almost :).
Throughout the fall and winter we got in the habit of timing our pretty much daily visits to just before sundown in order to watch the Pileated Woodpecker returning to its nest in a telephone pole for the night. She made quite a racket coming in.
And then shimmied between the two poles before disappearing into the waiting cavity.
She did this every day until the work of threading the cable started and there were a lot of trucks and workers around. She then moved to another area and probably found a mate. Below are two of the likely candidates. We hear and see them in our woods quite often.
Early spring brought flocks of trilling Red-Winged Blackbirds and Wood Ducks, among other species:
While we would often see large Crows and Red-Tailed Hawks flying overhead, one time a hawk landed on a structure as if posing for me:
While I’ve enjoyed observing and photographing backyard birds for a long time, some of the birds we saw were new to me and learning about them has turned me into a birder. So much so that my husband and I set aside one day each week to go birding. I have photographed eagles, snowy owls, and so many more species of birds this year. We would often run into our neighbors, Dave and Zoey, on our late afternoon visits to Power Line Park, which is what I started calling it, because it became a playground for us.
Dave is a long time birder (his species list is almost at 600) and so he has became a valuable birding resource for me. Throughout the fall and winter, we met many neighbors at Power Line Park and when friends and family would visit us, we would often take a walk there. Because I knew he’d appreciate it, I took a walk with my son there on Thanksgiving, escaping the after dinner clean up. When my stepson and family visited us around Christmas, we also took a walk. Power Line Park became the place to be. Every day, warm or cold, sunny or cloudy:
With Power Line Park right next door and the pandemic keeping us away from populated spaces, we knew we could walk right out the door and “down in the hole” as we began to refer to it, for a complete change of scenery.
During our late day visits we would often see the moon appear and sometimes we’d stay until it was clear in the darker sky. There’s something about seeing the moon in its various phases that grounds me and makes me feel connected to the earth and the people all over the planet who are looking up at the same moon.
We were also pretty amazed by the number of planes flying over – often 3 or 4 during our hour-long visit:
And one evening we could hear the unmistakable sound of coyotes a little further on up the power line:
Once National Grid had the matting in place in September, we didn’t see them until mid-February, when all of a sudden, there was a rumbling of trucks in the morning and the loud whirring of a cable threading machine. We did not miss this and were glad they worked over the weekend so we could watch.
And a man who controlled it remotely once underway:
And here’s what it looked like in action:
The work only took a few days and when it was done, the bridge was dismantled and the matting was stacked waiting to be picked up.
By mid-March it was all gone and the site was ready to wake up for spring:
We are grateful to have had this experience this year. In years past, we might not have taken the time to explore because we were too busy. God knows we have been home a lot during the pandemic and I am grateful for the daily walk to Power Line Park to look forward to at the end of the day. I’m also grateful for the opportunity to get to know the neighbors and the neighborhood through the space and to have a place to begin to emerge from our home, even in winter. I never got out much in winter and this chance to experience this wide open space right next door was a good incentive.
The experience has changed us, definitely. We have become comfortable together in nature, actively seeking out new spaces and trails to explore. This experience has also impacted my creativity, with several of my winter watercolor paintings inspired by Power Line Park. My next post will share more about my winter paintings, and yet another future post will share about my photographs of birds that were inspired by the birds of Power Line Park.
Finally, and this may be odd, but I’d like to thank National Grid for not only making all these things possible, but for their professionalism and the care they took to protect the natural space within which they were working. Nature is very busy at the site right now with water reeds turning green, berries on the shrubs, and birds everywhere. We look forward to continued growth and burgeoning life there as the weather warms.
*(C.H. Sisson’s translation of The Divine Comedy (1980), Canto XXXIV, line 139)