I was raised in the big city of Atlanta, Georgia. I enjoyed growing up within walking distance of a nice large park where there was a lot of space to run around. Candler park has a soccer field, couple of courts, a pool, meadows, a playground, a big golf course, a sewer pond, a runoff stream, and a small hidden wooded area that served as a place of refuge for homeless people until the evil people of the city removed them. It was fantastically fun over the years but for the next chapter in my life, I wanted to live in a city where I could easily access true isolation within nature. Then I met the Guilford Woods. It was love at first visit.
Guilford College was introduced to me by a friend who described it as a “cool Quaker school.” Being a Quaker myself, I was intrigued but hearing about the woods is what really got me hooked. The college recruiter told me that he would go to the woods with his friends all the time when he went to Guilford. He told me of firepits that students made to have parties around and of the many trails that lie within. I told myself, “I need to see this.” Flash a few months later, and I’m there as an admitted prospective student, for Guilford was the only college I applied to. By complete chance, my childhood Quaker friend Miles was there visiting Guilford at the same time. Miles and I went on a walk to the Underground Railroad tree we had heard about. We followed the sign and hung to the right of the trail not far into the woods. It’s hard to tell with the wooden platform underneath but this tree is massive. Sitting on the platform, we spotted a family of deer making its way through the woods. At that moment, those deer put a huge stamped seal on my decision to go to Guilford College. I felt that this was exactly where I was meant to be, like I was already home in this new place.
Beginning school in August, meant we were nearing the end of the summer. The creatures of Guilford College were still roaming the land. I made a new friend who was very good at spotting and catching toads. I eventually was able to do the same. I remember one toad who didn’t want to leave my hand when I went to set it down. I carried him to a stream in the woods. Centipedes were crawling all over the place. One was eventually was picked up by a military boy who told me he usually wouldn’t think twice about killing “one of these things”, but at that moment he found himself holding it. He even named his new friend. It was a tender sight to see man of this kind to bond with nature. Within the first weeks of my arrival at Guilford, I found a blue butterfly who didn’t fly away as I approached. Testing its boundaries, I reached for it. It crawled onto my finger and chose not to leave. The blue wings slowly opened and closed as I walked it back to my room. As its flaps became slower, I set it on my bouquet of flowers, and there it remained frozen as my flowers dried. I never touched them again until I moved out. Being already in love with the woods and excited about the abundance of wildlife I was experiencing, I was determined to become very familiar with every corner of the woods I could reach.