In early October I had the pleasure of being the Artist-in-Residence at Trail Wood, once the home of naturalists Edwin and Nellie Teale. The Teales bequeathed 168 acres of historic farmland and secondary forest to the Connecticut Audubon Society in the early 1980s; this gift established the Edwin Way Teale Memorial Sanctuary, a haven for birds and other wildlife. And with miles of trails cut by the Teales themselves, it’s a haven for walkers and birders too. There’s a beaver pond, butterfly meadows, babbling brooks, Nellie’s summer house, and also Edwin’s writing cabin, built to the exact specifications of Thoreau’s cabin at Walden. The property is also crisscrossed by what must be miles of stunning dry stone walls running through fields and woods, evoking the previous lives that this piece of land has lived.
Since 2012, the society has invited artists and writers to stay in the 1805 farmhouse at the heart of the property. (The retro 1950s wallpaper throughout the house was an unexpected delight). As the society’s website states, “While in residence, artists are encouraged to practice their craft in a way that is inspired both by the site’s natural beauty and its important role in American natural history writing.” And indeed, the natural beauty of the place, its quietness that still hums with life, the unfettered time to simply create: all these were absolutely inspirational.
Accompanying me throughout the week were the words of previous resident artists, gathered together in a journal that I was encouraged to add to. They spoke of experiencing the same things I had: the quiet, for me broken only by birdsong and owl hoots and autumn deer noises. The glimpses of wildlife, like the deer I watched eating windfall pears in the yard. The openness of time spent there, with nothing to do but play and create. That the residency was a gift, and how grateful we were to receive it.
As a poet, and as an artist who uses poetry in my visual art, I was able to engage deeply in both disciplines during my week at Trail Wood. It can take many hours of uninterrupted time for me to write a poem—a very rare commodity now that I have a one-year old. And to be able to reconnect with that essential part of myself for a week was a kind of grace. As I wrote in the resident’s journal, poetry is a craft that you can take with you wherever you go, with no special equipment. All my drafts are written longhand, so for me a pen and notebook and some empty time are all that’s required. And I found that at Trail Wood in spades.
I’ve transcribed my journal entry in full in a separate post. My heartfelt thanks to the Connecticut Audubon Society at Pomfret, and to Edwin and Nellie Teale, whose spirits still linger down those wooded trails.