Category Archives: Personal

Walking the Roads of Plainville

At the end of last month, I began a project to cover all of the roads in Plainville on foot (with the exceptions of Route 1 and I-495), thereby filling out my mental map and increasing my knowledge of the landscape. So far, I've covered more than 20 unique miles of roadway, noting natural features along the way.  Now when I look at a map of town, I have a better sense of what lies on the ground.

I found this Widow Skimmer dragonfly along a Plainville road.

Have you walked all the roads of your town? If not, have you at least walked a mile from your home in every direction?  Can you point to the closest stream? How about the nearest cattail patch?  Wild berry patch?  There is much to discover if you are willing to explore.

If you are up for the challenge, I recommend getting a decent map.  Topographic maps are great because they show elevation, waterways, and interesting historical features, but depending on their production dates, they may not include newer roads and developments.  It's probably best to also get a current street atlas.  A local library might have one you could photocopy.  Browse the maps for small ponds, old back roads, and parcels of conservation land.  Then simply start walking.

There is no deadline and there will be no quizzes (aside from my weekly nature quiz!). Just get outside and see what you can find. Unfamiliar roads can lead to unexpected treasures, and your town, like Plainville, is probably home to both.

Finding Plainville on a Map

When I meet someone for the first time and mention that I live in Plainville, Massachusetts, I'm often met with suspicion.

“Right, and I grew up in Smallville,” they might be thinking.

Other times, people seem to follow me but then say, “Oh, that's in western Mass, right?”

“Not exactly, maybe you're thinking of Plainfield. I live in Plainville.”

Yes, Plainville does exist.

Plainville is located between Providence, RI and Boston, MA, and most certainly in the eastern part of the state. Plainville is the southwestern-most town in Norfolk County, bordering Wrentham (north), Foxborough (east), North Attleborough (south), and Cumberland, RI (west).

My Nature-Based Journey

My nature-based journey began during winter break of my first-year of college when someone gifted me The Story of B by Daniel Quinn.  That book was the first of many that would turn my world view on end.  I was introduced to the notion of living as a native -- as someone who truly belongs to a place and is able to interact in ways that enrich, rather than degrade the surrounding environment.  I've been exploring what these ideas mean for me ever since.

After commencement, I landed a job at another college's library.  In my off time, I attended classes on wild food foraging and primitive wilderness survival, read through stacks of field guides and accounts of people living off the grid, and spent time wandering the local woods.

I tracked fishers, coyotes, and deer, and discovered the challenges to moving quietly in the eastern woodlands.

I started to hear the voices of common birds sprinkled throughout the day -- while checking the mail, hanging out clothes, and walking through parking lots.  They had always been speaking, but I'd only just begun to listen.

I began to recognize the diversity of trees and plant life around me, and noticed their many subtle changes throughout the turn of the seasons.

I slept in tents and primitive shelters, rock boiled water in pine bark containers, made bow drill fires, and gathered black raspberries in the hot summer sun.

Bow drill fire kit

And, I came to realize that the richest rewards arrive simply through getting out of my own way, a spiritual lesson I can practice wherever I find myself.

Today, I'm continuing down this beautiful path where I encounter countless mysteries.  Every step I take joins me closer with this place.  My life has become entangled with the lives of the non-humans who share this land with me, and for that, I am thankful.