Editorial: Into our woods
● By Richard Gaw
“It’s not what you look at that matters. It’s what you see.”
Henry David Thoreau (1817-1862)
In 1845, at the age of twenty-five, the author Henry David Thoreau decided to build a waterside hut for reading and contemplation on Walden Pond in Massachusetts. His living quarters was ten-by-fifteen feet in size, and he lived there for the next two years and two months, planting, cultivating, reading, walking and enjoying the quiet solitude of nature. It was a spiritual sojourn and one crucial not only to finding the essential facts of life, but to live his life, in his words, “deliberately.” Consequently, his choice to do so removed Thoreau from the cacophony of useless noise and public discourse that often accompanies news of the day, so that all that remained was nature, which he described as full of genius, “full of the divinity; so that not a snowflake escapes its fashioning hand.” He wrote of his time at Walden, "I never found a companion that was so companionable as solitude."
Over the last year, we have ourselves been bombarded by the screechiness of two volatile campaigns that have masqueraded themselves in the form of political race to determine the next President of the United States. It’s been big and bold and brassy and occasionally profane, and it’s broken down the doors of our privacy and terrorized our time and our patience. Quite frankly, we’re exhausted from it, but we have a choice. We can choose to join the relentless drumbeat of general conversation, disagreement and disillusion. We can continue to be the victim of assault from various forms of media, and do so night after night in a blue screen haze through the Nov. 8 election and beyond...or we can simply Go Thoreau. We can just decide to leave, to the woods, at least for a few hours.
From West Chester to Nottingham, southern Chester County is home to several state, county and township-owned parks, all of whom capture the kaleidoscope of autumn colors, the sounds of a quiet brook or the chorus of birds of a hundred different species, and the sweet brine of soil and trees and wind. For just an hour or two, we ask that you leave all electronic connections to the outside world behind and go completely off the grid. Tuck your children in boots and sweaters and set a course for a manageable adventure. The following places are Chester County’s gifts to the weary of heart, and from now until November 9, we encourage you to visit them. We can only promise that there, nothing – not the trees or fields or the casual bend in the stream – will ever ask for your vote, and the only thing they’ll want from you is your hand, in solitude.
Barkingfield Park, 557 Bayard Road, Kennett Square (Opens in late October)
Goddard Park, 568 Wickerton Road, West Grove
The Land Conservancy for Southern Chester County, 541 Chandler Mill Road, Avondale
Marshall Bridge Preserve, Creek Road, Kennett Square
Natural Lands Trust Peacedale Preserve, Peacedale Road, Landenberg
New Garden Township Park, 8938 Newport-Gap Pike, Landenberg
Nottingham County Park, 150 Park Road, Nottingham
Anson B. Nixon Park, N. Walnut Street, Kennett Square
Shaw’s Bridge Park, 274 S. Creek Road, West Chester
Stateline Woods Preserve, 814 Merrybell Lane, Kennett Square
Stroud Preserve, 454 N. Creek Road, West Chester
West Goshen Community Park, 1023 Fern Hill Road, West Chester
White Clay Creek State Preserve, 404 Sharpless Road, Landenberg
Binky Lee Preserve: https://natlands.org/preserves-to-visit/list-of-preserves/binky-lee-preserve/
Crow’s Nest Preserve: https://natlands.org/preserves-to-visit/list-of-preserves/crows-nest-preserve/
Sadsbury Woods Preserve: https://natlands.org/preserves-to-visit/list-of-preserves/sadsbury-woods-preserve/
Sharp’s Woods Preserve: https://natlands.org/preserves-to-visit/list-of-preserves/sharps-woods-preserve/
Willisbrook Preserve: https://natlands.org/preserves-to-visit/list-of-preserves/willisbrook-preserve/
To learn more about the trails and parks in your community, visit your township’s or municipality’s website.