Now is a favorite time for family campfires up on our hill. The cricket chirps are slowing, the asters are feeding the last of the bees. Behind us, the woods edge crackles with flutters and hops. Northern flocks are passing through.
We tend the fire and tell stories. Most involve Moogle McFloogle, an incompetent supervillain who has been lurking around the embers since at least my own childhood. His henchdog Fleagle McBeagle is more skilled, but frequently hindered by poor management decisions. In the end, they always lose to squirrels, or snakes, or pileated woodpeckers – and always, to a boy named Turner, who is very brave, and kind, and speaks to owls.
Along the way, these stories fold in bigger things: morals, civics, owl biology.
“Foiled again!” my young son shrieks. For a moment, the crickets stop.
This magazine also serves as a campfire of sorts, where readers gather to share news and affirm community. That connective role is especially evident in October, when a group of a hundred plus people, most of them strangers, choose to spend the weekend together at our annual conference.
My favorite part of this event is not the workshops or talks, enriching as those can be. It’s the conversations over meals. It’s listening to an artist and forester laugh on the porch, as they toss ideas back and forth in the twilight.
This year the conference is once again hosted at the Hulbert Outdoor Center in Fairlee, Vermont. It’s sponsored by the Bailey Charitable Foundation. I encourage you to take a look at the full schedule posted on our website. As usual, the topics are diverse: writing, foraging, art…how about paleoecology, or the politics of conservation in Maine? Bryan Pfeiffer, who wrote a bird column for Northern Woodlands for many years, will give the Saturday morning talk, and there will be presentations by a number of other speakers whose names have appeared in these pages.
That’s the weekend of October 12. Then roughly a month later, on November 3, we’re co-hosting a hands-on forestry workshop with Long View Forest Management. This event is supported by a new speakers’ fund, established in honor of Irwin Post. It will focus on intensive management of young forestland, as described in Irwin’s final article for Northern Woodlands.
Irwin was a special person. Dave Mance wrote an essay describing his legacy as a forest steward and a long-term contributing writer to this magazine. It’s entitled, “A Professor and a Practitioner,” and I recommend you look it up on our website. Then read the comments below that essay for insight into why the man was so beloved. How he helped to build a trail for a child. How he provided wood for a playground, and gamely retrofitted skidder chains for a neighbor’s tractor. As one neighbor commented, “he cared about the woods but he cared about people more.”
Woods and people. How happy we can cherish both.