In This Issue

Farewell To A Forest Place

Montrose, PA.


THIS IS A LOVE STORY that began 33 years ago, when my husband and I purchased ten tree-covered acres in northeast Pennsylvania. It was a small section of a large forest, with a stream, springs, and beautiful slate rock formations, a hidden refuge with large old hardwood trees and pines. Over time, we cut down a few trees to build a small cabin fashioned after a Japanese teahouse. It took a long time to chisel out the large joints that connected the posts and beams, but it was a labor of love.

9.Montrosecabin-ghidini 10.Montroseproperty-ghidini
CABIN & PROPERTY IN MONTROSE, 2012. Photo by Sheila Ghidini.


The cabin, which had a small footprint on a hill with southern exposure, was secondary to the beauty of the land. Maples, elms, and walnuts, along with the pines, were the gifts of this place. They provided shelter from storms and a place to regenerate the spirit. Nestled under their canopy, you felt as if nothing was as important as exchanging your breath with the breath of the trees. In summer, they kept this small haven cool; in the fall, they burst into intense colors of orange, gold and reds.

When we purchased the property in 1981, my husband, daughter and I lived outside of Philadelphia. My daughter was in high school and my husband and I were teaching in a private school. We spent summers camping on the land while building the cabin. After moving to California in 1988, I visited every summer, staying in the cabin for several weeks. In 2006, I bought my former husband out and became the sole steward of the property. I began renovating the cabin for retirement, continuing to travel there each summer.


In 2010, natural gas companies began to explore the area for sites for gas wells, because part of the Marcellus Shale, the largest natural gas field in the United States, was located directly beneath the land. The development of horizontal drilling enabled these companies to extract huge amounts of gas, but the method of extraction was hydraulic fracturing, or fracking.

33rings_ghidini 33Rings_ghidini3
33 RINGS, a performance by Sheila Ghidini, 2014.

By 2011, I began to see gas wells sprouting up everywhere around the property. The first summer of this invasion was like living on a construction site. The sound of large trucks passing up and down my dirt road replaced the sounds of birdsong. At the top of the hill where I headed for daily hikes, I was dismayed to see that a five-acre concrete pad had been constructed for more wells. Hundreds of trees had once stood on that land, but they had all been cut down.

My protests against fracking went unheard. My few neighbors actually welcomed the arrival of this industry to the area. The gas companies said that jobs and money would follow, and my neighbors opened their arms to that prospect. For me, it meant the end of a long attachment to this home. Because arsenic is one of the chemicals used in the fracking process, and because the gas wells were within 600 feet of my well, I decided that I had no choice but to leave. I believed that it was a matter of time before the aquifer and then my well would be contaminated by the fracking chemicals, despite claims by the gas companies that fracking was safe. I sold this cherished place in 2014.33Rings6_ghidini
33 RINGS, a performance by Sheila Ghidini, 2014.


I miss those trees and the comfort they gave me. The pervasive sweet smell of the trees and the way their leaves shimmered with each passing breeze have left indelible memories. On my departure, I circled one of the oldest maples on the property 33 times with ribbon, representing my 33 years of observing its growth and the 33 rotations the Earth had made around the sun since the trees had been part of my life.

33 Rings from Sheila Ghidini on Vimeo.