I stood at the edge of the parking area. My dog sniffed the cool autumn air while I looked out over the wide field. Once a dairy farm, Happy Landings looked bright but deserted. Although I’ve lived in Brookfield, Connecticut for nine years, I never bothered to explore the nature preserve on the side of a main road.
“Just park your car and walk,” Nancy said, years ago. “You’ll love it.”
“Isn’t it just a big field?” I preferred the shelter of the deep woods.
“It’s beautiful. Just go,” she said.
We had this same conversation about countless local spots. From the farm store hidden on a country road (the blueberry muffins are worth getting lost for) to a patch of grass by a river where the kids can wade, I initially resisted. Nancy persisted, convinced she knew where to find the best of everything and claiming to be a New England Girl, even though we both grew up in the same New York City suburb. New England had gotten into her blood in a way I didn’t understand.
The dog pulled me onto the grass path that led through the tall grass and up the hill to an antique windmill. She sniffed, tried to chase a chipmunk and wagged her tail incessantly. We continued over the first rolling hill and crossed a small brook into the next field.
I suddenly noticed the quiet. The main road was gone from sight and sound. The fields and distant hills stretched out in front of us and the sky felt close. And then I remembered why I was really standing here in the middle of this field.
“Why don’t you take the dog over to Happy Landings, take some pictures and write up a piece for Saturday?” My editor offered me a story I couldn’t resist, reminding me why I love being a journalist in a town with no need for a crime reporter. “Sure,” I said. “Is there enough there?” I asked.
I started taking pictures, attempting to capture the serenity of the land and mostly falling short. I sighed at the thought of my photos being mediocre, but there was a smile in my sigh. In this field, I felt time had stood still.
Until 50 years ago, Brookfield was dominated by dairy farms like this. Little remnants of history remain here, on the line between suburban and rural Connecticut. A look beyond the strip malls of the main roads, low rock Indian walls can be seen woven through the wooded landscape, restored antique homes are positioned near new developments and Happy Landings Farm sits quietly, as it has for a century.
We continued to walk the winding grass path until it split at the entrance to the dark woods. “Should we head into the woods or stay on the grass, Pup?” She wagged her tail. “Let’s stay on the grass,” I said.
The path wrapped around the fields in a circle, leading over and through the hills and back to where we began. And I realized it had finally happened, like Nancy before me. Along the path in the open fields I carelessly dropped my I’m a New Yorker badge. And I didn’t go back to look for it.