This story and photos were contributed by Sydney Giuliano, Kestrel volunteer.
Looking out the window of my small apartment, I’m reminded once again of just how quickly the seasons move in New England. With leaves now bursting along branches, I can’t help but think it was only a few weeks ago that I was admiring newly formed buds. It’s a typical brag here: We get to experience all of the four seasons. What we fail to mention is that it feels like winter lasts half the year, summers are a few fleeting months, and autumn and spring seem to take up, at most, a couple of days.
The New Englander in me rushes out at the first sight of spring, afraid I will miss the sudden warmth before we are thrust into an April snow shower. This spring in particular, with so many cold, rainy days, seemed poised to fall backwards into the gray of winter. However, I can’t ignore the larger trends of climate change, and our momentum into warmer days. I savor the bittersweet transitions to remind myself of what we must protect.
The moment the temperature broke through the 50s on an afternoon in April, I traveled out to one of my favorite spots in all of Western Massachusetts, Puffers Pond. Parking alongside the road, we walked across a small bridge that hovers over the inlet of the pond. Peeper frogs chirped from the muddied waters, their chorus echoing in the afternoon quiet. The sunset was going to be stunning and we are not the only ones who came to see it. A few small families gathered along the beach, sharing the space with somber fisherman and dog walkers.
What sets this trail off from others in the area is the creativity of its placement. Instead of traversing through thick wooden pathways, the dirt walkway snakes alongside the pond. A series of wood retaining walls ensures that visitors can walk as close as possible to the water while maintaining the structural integrity of the trail. On one side of the pond, bridge construction was continuing that day, blocking access to the waterfall that cascades into the Mill River. Another trail follows the stream as it snakes between the tree trunks and undergrowth, bubbling like laughter through the branches. I dipped my fingers beneath the surface, hissing in a breath when met by the icy cool of the water. We decided to turn back to the pond, so as not to be caught in the chill that chased the last rays of the afternoon sun.
Puffer’s Pond offers a unique experience in the Pioneer River Valley, with its sandy beaches and swimming areas. We are far from the ocean, but walking this terrain made me instantly long for summertime. Although the water was still too cold for people, one brown labrador splashed in and out along the edge, trailing a muddy mess behind his owner. The buds still on some trees gave the entire place a transient glow, their red sparks contrasting with blue skies like flames. The pond was as still as I’ve ever seen it, reflecting the beauty of the forest.
It is moments like this when I feel an overwhelming appreciation for our planet and the life that grows here. In the distance, the beach had collected a small crowd all facing across the pond. There is something so awe-inspiring about these daily grand acts of nature that humanity is still moved by the colors of a good sunset.
Unfortunately, these are the moments that we now have to fight for. As climate change worsens, these moments of spring are becoming shorter and shorter. I am thankful to Kestrel Land Trust for helping protect our environment with the same fervor that sights like these inspire in us. The quick change in the seasons is a reminder that time is moving faster than us. The idea of confronting our environmental impact is unquestionably overwhelming, but then again so is a good sunset, and I, for one, am willing to push against our status quo if it means more spring evenings like these.