Thursday, June 2, 2011

Residual effects

Your sense of place informs your life. Sometimes a sense of a previous place informs your life, too. In a previous post, I had mentioned how an aroma can take you back in time and space. Earlier this week, I had a tactile experience that took me back in an uncomfortable way.

We were on an ecology class field trip at Robertson Lake Cliffs, which students often describe as the highlight of the class field trips. We climb a high hill in the Algoma Highlands for a spectacular view across a hilly forested landscape with Lake Superior off to the west. The hike up is great, too, crossing streams that tumble down these remnants of ancient mountains and taking in the natural history of the maple forest. It’s about a 1-1/4 mile hike one-way, climbing several hundred feet.

This time, about a third of the way up, I insisted that we turn around. The weather was making me quite nervous. Hot, humid air; swirling winds. I knew the forecast had called for thunderstorms in the evening, but we should have been able to get to the top and back down and on the road back to school before the t-storms struck up. The students thought it was all fine, but just that sensation of the hot, unsettled air mass made me unusually nervous. So we turned around. Within a short time, the cool air won out, the wind settled in to a steady breeze. We would have been fine. Then it occurred to me that the sensation I was feeling was the exact sensation one gets just before the skies open in a great plains thunderstorm. That particular sense of that particular place caught up with me.

My spidey senses weren’t completely failing me, though. There was a large-hail-and-damaging-winds thunderstorm going on to the south of us, just not in our immediate location.

But safety first. I encouraged the students to return on their own and complete the hike. I hope to hear from them later this summer and fall about their great, safe, hike

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