The University of Massachusetts Amherst has a huge campus. There are buildings from a hundred years ago, to the most modern and sustainable buildings that can be built today. Between all those buildings, there are little crevices that anyone can discover and adopt as their own. Whether it is the large community that sits on Orchard Hill or the part of the sidewalk that the small group of skateboarders enjoy, there are many special places that UMass provides for its residents. My place? My friends and I call it the Thicket.
The Thicket can be seen from my room on the 21st floor of one of the towers in South West. It is right beside the large commuter parking lot. Although not the most magical place for an escape in my life to be, it is close by. The Thicket consists of several pine trees grouped in a line of about 100 feet long. It is literally just a random group of trees next to the parking lot. However, when and I go to the Thicket we push past the spiky pine and enter the center. As one enters the Thicket, there is a small nest area. At least that is the best way to describe it. It is a space that fits about 4 or 5 people, they can sit or stand, lay down, jump, there is enough room to do whatever. On the floor of the nest are orange pine needles who have taken the long descent from their original home branch. There is a substantial amount of these sad needles on the ground, and they create a light bedding to sit on. This is not the best part of the Thicket however.
The best part of the Thicket is the view of the pine trees from the inside. These trees, which seem to stand so straight up from my window, from the parking, from the outside, seem to curve into a canopy almost hugging the space it hides. This canopy creates an orb of where my friends and I sit, seemingly to protect us from the outside or outside viewers. It is a safe place for us to go. Whenever I feel alone or need to escape from the stress of grades, boys, life or drama I know that the canopy of the Thicket will always welcome me with its strong fresh scented arms.
A beautiful moment the Thicket has (because it is more than just a place, it’s a living thing), is when it is the most beautiful clear day Amherst can provide. The air is crisp, there is a slight breeze, the sun is out and there is not a cloud in the sky. Although the Thicket is an enclosed space that blocks most of the outside world, down the line of these dark green pine trees there is a slight opening to reveal a deciduous tree. This tree is no bigger than a blossom tree in front of someone’s suburban house to give his or her home more “culture”. Because it is fall, all the leaves are falling. These leaves are so bright yellow, they almost glow. As each leaf falls, it is like small golden drops from the sun. The Thicket almost serves as protector to this tree, so delicate and beautiful. If it were in a main part of campus the leaves would be trampled by the passerby’s and cement would contaminate the nature of it. The Thicket is not just a protectorfor me but for this beauty also.
The Thicket is always a safe place to go. It could be a beautiful day of 70 degrees, overcast and humid, or cold at night. Actually, my favorite time to go is at night. I love when my friends suggest we visit late at night because I can bundle up. I put on comfortable sweat pants, a huge sweatshirt, some fuzzy socks, a jacket, and Uggs, and I am ready to go. Sometimes, we take a blanket or a towel, depending on the person who suggests it. There is no light near the Thicket so it can seem sketchy at times. However, because it is our “secret garden” to say, we have never had someone interrupt us or come in randomly into our space, even at night.
The way I feel about the Thicket is not so much love. In fact I can’t really describe it, it’s almost like a strong admiration or deep respect. In fact, greed could be a part of it. One night my friends and I brought a couple of new trustful people into the Thicket to share in our happy escape. They loved it of course. It was at night and all of us were bundled up from head to toes. We sat and talked and enjoyed the privacy of the Thicket in the night and had a great time. It was nice to share a positive place to other people who could respect and admire what the Thicket did for my friends and me. We told these new friends about the Thicket in confidence, implying not to discuss the whereabouts of this sacred place. Now I used greed to describe my feelings toward the Thicket because of the event that ensued next.
Later that week, I ran into one of the trusted friends who we showed the Thicket too. As he was raving about how cool and special it was, he added that later that night after my group of friends left the Thicket to return to concrete homes, he took another person to the Thicket. A stranger. To MY safe place. I felt so betrayed when I heard this story. This pure place in my mind, this place that welcomes me and hugs me when I need it, this place like smells like a fresh beginning, corrupted by some random stranger who did not understand the significance or gravity of the place. I want this place all to myself. Its mine. I feel like toddler, I do not want to share this place with anyone except those who understand it. Not admire, not respect, but understand the beauty and safety it provides to individuals like myself who sometimes feel lost. I was heartbroken when that person told me what he had done.
Although I know the beauty and depth the Thicket provides, if I am going to be quite honest it’s quite ugly. If I were to look at the Thicket from an outside perspective, from someone who did not understand, it really is just a bunch of trees. There is no composition of the position the trees are in, there are no flowers, and it is just trees next to a parking lot that commuters travel up and down the lanes next too. The University of Massachusetts perspective, I think, would be to cut down these trees. I feel like their view of this group of trees is just a waste of space. These trees could be taken down to create something more productive, more useful to the school. Then again, UMass is trying to be friendlier to the environment. They could not just cut these trees down.
Probably a story the sums up the essence of the Thicket, was actually told to me in the Thicket. My friend Catie, the co-founder of the Thicket, told me of a conversation she had with a good friend from home. She and her friend were discussing worse case scenarios that could happen to them. Examples would be their mother dying; failing out of school, breaking all their bones, but the one that stroke a chord with two in the conversation was “all the trees could be cut down”. That would be considered the worst. This saying has a lot of gravity to it. I feel like many people take trees for granted. Trees are these large beings on this planet that help maintain the high quality of life the Earth provides. Though they are not animated or are completely still, trees have a very significant role in everyone’s life. It makes me appreciate the Thicket more because of that saying. Nothing could be worse than all the trees being cut down.
UMass is such a large community that everyone can find a place of their own. While my place provides an escape, safety, and beauty, some places provide others with the things they need in their life. Having a crucial place in your life is actually pretty significant to anyone. I think that something that most people realize. In the media, you can always see someone say, “Go to your happy place”. What is the place that that person goes to? I could say mine is the Thicket. However, this prompt does ask to write about a place that is on campus. I do have multiple happy places. Are some more important than others? No. Are they different from each other? Yes. But that doesn’t make them any less important in my life. It is just so nice to have a sacred place that I can call “happy” at school. The Thicket is a place I truly appreciate.