Hidden in Suburbia 2011 (Part One): Back to the Woods

One of the more popular features in my earlier blogs was a recurring series of summer photo essays called “Hidden in Suburbia.” Every photo in this series was taken within a ~12,500 acre plot, defined as a circle with a five-mile circumference, and my home sitting at its center. As the weather finally grows decent enough for exploration, I think 2011 is a good year to add to the series, seeing what’s new, and what’s changed, back in the woods around my home. For those who are new to this concept, here’s the little essay I wrote to frame it all back around 2005:

I live in a nice area called Latham, New York, middle to upper-middle class for the most part, well-kept homes in properly manicured and landscaped settings, good schools, good investment value in property, all the things one generally expects in the nicer bits of suburbia. If you draw a circle with a radius of about two and half miles around my house, you will also see that there are lots of woods. This makes the neighborhoods look nice, with backdrops of green and nice, tidy (from a distance) wild areas separating one neighborhood from another.

This is good, because I have a deep fascination with woods. Not forests, mind you, but woods. Forests are the untamed, wild places where nature is still, for the most part, in charge, and where urban, exurban and suburban development are still ages, years and/or miles and miles away. Woods, on the other hand, are the bits of forest that are left when development occurs, stands of trees immediately adjacent to suburban civilization, the dark places where all the things that suburban civilization doesn’t want to think about go to die. Or to thrive, depending on what flavor they are.

It’s shocking to find a piece of trash in a pristine forest. In suburban woods, though, you expect to find trash. People dump in there late at night, so they don’t have to drive all the way to the landfill. Kids steal stuff and take it out there to hide it, then forget about it. Teenagers smoke, drink, make out, break bottles and blow things up in the woods, leaving a variety of interesting detritus. The woods are the places where suburbia’s darkness lurks in wait, like something from a David Lynch movie.

But it’s not the specters and spirits of the woods that interest me, really, as much as it the stuff you find back there, and how the community sort of turns its collective consciousness away from it all. It may be right behind your house, but if it’s in the woods, then it’s okay, as long as it stays there and you don’t have to think about it if you don’t want to. But I like thinking about it . . . and so I ride and walk through muck, mud, weeds and woods looking for the things that no one else wants to.

Here are some of those hidden things (click on the photo below to see the pictures with accompanying narrative, or click here for the slide show version) . . .

Inside the Silo (Click to Enter the Woods)

To see other Hidden in Suburbia photo essays, click here.

16 thoughts on “Hidden in Suburbia 2011 (Part One): Back to the Woods

  1. Them there golf clubs belong in the woods. Trying to figure out what kind of car that is. Little voice says Studebaker, but can’t be sure.

  2. It’s interesting how you draw the distinction between “woods” and “forest,” and now (living in a village) I know exactly what you mean from your description. When I was a kid living in a rural town deep in the Catskills, we called our surroundings “woods. ” “Forest” was what city people called our woods.

    • You raise another interesting distinction there . . . wherever kids go to hide from grownups and be kids, those are woods, not forests . . . but where grownups with expensive hiking and camping gear go, those are forests, not woods.

      I guess I never really grew up and became an adult in this particular regard, since I much prefer walking into the woods behind my house to getting in the car to drive an hour to hike into a forest . . .

  3. Pingback: Hidden in Suburbia 2011 (Part Two): Creeks, Gorges, Towers « INDIE ALBANY

  4. Pingback: Hidden in Suburbia 2011 (Part Three): Rains, Trains and Snowmobiles « INDIE ALBANY

  5. Pingback: Hidden in Suburbia 2011 (Part Four): Industry « INDIE ALBANY

  6. Pingback: Hidden in Suburbia 2011 (Part Five): Locks « INDIE ALBANY

  7. Pingback: Hidden in Suburbia 2011 (Part Six): The Mill « INDIE ALBANY

  8. Pingback: Hidden in Suburbia 2011 (Part Seven): Racetracks « INDIE ALBANY

  9. Pingback: Hidden in Suburbia 2011, Part Eight: Secret Meadow « INDIE ALBANY

  10. Pingback: Hidden in Suburbia 2011 (Part Nine): Farewell, Latham « INDIE ALBANY

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