Call for Submissions Featuring The Woods

From hiking up Case Mountain to fishing in Center Springs Pond, from playing basketball at Charter Oak Park to winning the town’s softball league at Carl Silver Field—Better Manchester would like to publish your stories of good times spent in Manchester’s many public parks, community centers and recreation programs. 

Maybe a nearby park became a second home. Maybe a lifelong friend was made at summer camp or on the basketball or tennis court. Maybe you challenged yourself to try a new activity at the community center, and in the process learned something new about yourself. These stories could be from yesterday or long ago; what matters is the value that healthy recreation can bring to our lives. These parks are yours and their programs are for you, and we would love to know what they’ve meant to you through the years.   

With these stories, we aim to highlight the importance of keeping these places and programs for contemplation and recreation intact, as well as inspire others to get outside or get involved—to run or reflect, play or relax. After an especially difficult year, this is needed now more than ever. 

Our first story, The Woods, comes from Ann Duplin Caste, who grew up in Manchester with Center Springs Park as a place of enjoyment and solace right in her own backyard. Though she has since moved away, that park created a love of nature that endures to this day. We hope you enjoy it as much as we did.    

Submissions must be no longer than 750 words and are to be submitted to James Costa at jcosta@manchesterct.gov.

The Woods

By Ann Duplin Caste

Center Springs Park—a beautiful, pristine 56 acres of a heavily wooded forest with a ravine intersected by a cascading waterfall turning into a meandering brook flowing under a quaint wooden bridge and ending up into a huge dammed pond. My house bordered directly on the top of this beautiful park right in the middle of a small town called Manchester, Connecticut. It was not called a forest, it was not called a park, it was not called a playground – it was all of the above –it was simply called the woods.  A wonderland in my own backyard!  The woods and I were in love. I even lived on Hemlock Street!

The endless call of the neighborhood was “Let’s go down the woods!” Spring brought new growth and underbrush and more lush trees as we climbed up every one. Summer was the best, as day after day after day was spent sloshing through every segment of that bubbling brook.  Every curve and turn of the brook was forever etched in my mind. Fall brought endless leaves— not the colorful array of beauty that everyone else sees—but the crisp fallen leaves that were raked up day after day building our dream houses with leaves as our walls. It gets better. Here comes winter, the best time of all. Ice skating on the big pond was the perfect thing to do every single day and night. We couldn’t get enough. Music and ice skating to the music and warming up in front of the giant fire at the old wooden lodge. Our bodies were totally frozen, but who cared! What joy! Pure happiness! And this was the perfect place to pick up boys.  

One year my grandmother became ill and moved in with us. A family meeting was called and my parents told us we were moving because our two-family, two-bedroom home was too small and hoped we would like this new house on Hollister Street. NO, NO NEVER. We cried, begged, screamed, cajoled, pleaded and threw tantrums galore! We cannot leave the woods! Well, we won. After all, my initials are forever etched in cement on the driveway. The pantry was turned into a bedroom for me and my kid brother got the dining room. But we stayed!

The woods were a place for solace.  Every time I was unjustly punished by my parents, I would stomp off into the woods and sit on a moss covered layered seat at the base of my favorite tree and brood.  Every time I was unfairly jilted by the latest boyfriend, off to the woods I went to the favorite tree and cried. Every time I felt left out of any activity, to the woods I ran. What comfort I received from the woods. Who knew I had FOMO way back then!

Well, not all was good in the woods. Each summer I managed to pick up a terrible, horrible case of poison ivy, poison sumac, poison oak and more poisons than I can name. The doctor had to make regular house calls as I was so badly afflicted. One year I sat in poison ivy and couldn’t walk for two weeks. Another time I got in the smoke from a poison sumac fire and I couldn’t eat or see for two weeks. No wonder the doctor knew me personally. But I forgave the woods and went back for more.

Is it any wonder today how the woods affected my life? I met my husband on an ice-skating blind date at college. This is our 60th wedding anniversary year. Is it any wonder why I love hiking every moment to this day? I must check out the woods wherever I go. Each morning I wake up to view my beautiful sylvan back yard and marvel at the new growth of each and every tree.   

When I’m told to “Go take a hike”—I jump! 

 

Ann Duplin Caste
Spring Hill, TN
May 5, 2021

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