Updating my subscriptions

Distant Hill Gardens and Nature Trails, located in Walpole. (Courtesy of Stephanie White Ferland)

Not too long ago I was a donor in the NH Gives campaign, a 24-hour online fundraiser for nonprofits in the Granite State.

To be honest, I thought to do it only because a reminder about the campaign popped up in a newsletter from Distant Hill Gardens and Nature Trail. Distant Hill, in Walpole, is one of the places I love to visit when I am in the area, and I’ve donated before. Yet, there was something about this NH Gives campaign that made me stop to think about why I waited for a fundraiser to support this magnificent place. 

The beautiful gardens have brightened my day on more than one occasion. I’ve loved watching the extensive trail work being done over the years so that they are accessible to everyone. I thoroughly enjoyed the afternoon I spent there a few years ago, for a tree and shrub identification workshop. It has been the perfect place to meet a college friend for a hike every few months.

A couple of hours on the trails is a perfect way to get some exercise and earn a delicious chocolate treat at L.A. Burdick’s Handmade Chocolates, just a few miles away. Aren’t these 150 lovingly cared-for acres worth more than a passing thought as far as my wallet is concerned?

But, perhaps the biggest question I asked myself was this: How do I spend my time and money these days?

I donate to public television and radio. I have subscriptions to Netflix, Amazon Prime, BritBox, and countless other “entertainment” platforms, and I know I am not alone. Presumably we do this so that we can escape from the burden of the day, laugh for a little while, or get caught up in something that will take us far away from the ordinary lives we lead. But, does it really work? 

Don’t get me wrong, I am an absolute sucker for a good period drama on Masterpiece, and I love trying to solve the case before the series ends in a contemporary British police procedural. I can get swept away by a stark Scandinavian mystery. And, let’s not get started on the utter joy “Ted Lasso” has brought to my life.

“I know my next visit to Distant Hill, and my favorite spot where the stone walls bend, will feel good knowing I am not just reaping the benefit of all it has to offer but contributing in a tiny way to bring a little joy to others as well.” (Courtesy of Stephanie White Ferland)

But I am most at peace among the trees and natural landscape. I find it easiest to shed the weight of the day’s troubles when I am on a hiking trail, perched on the rock face of a mountain, or most recently, paddling across the glasslike surface of a lake deep in the woods. There’s something about disconnecting from the things we think will help us escape that does a body good. 

I am not ready to say goodbye to Acorn TV and the plethora of programs that keep me coming back. And when the Premier League season starts in August, I guarantee I’ll be glued to every match possible. But, I have rethought why I feel justified in spending my money to be entertained or distracted, and I’ve decided to be a bit more mindful about my subscriptions.

I have let some go and added others, Distant Hill Gardens and Nature Trail being one of those. 

In the grand scheme of things, my small monthly donation probably doesn’t go very far. It certainly won’t be able to add another 50 yards of gravel to a wilderness trail to make it wheelchair accessible. It won’t pay to maintain the outbuildings or manage the forest. It won’t be enough to keep the story walks updated for visitors with small children. But, it will put my money directly in a place I know is doing good things for lots of people, not just me. 

I wonder if collectively we could think about the things that matter to us, and ask ourselves how we might better support them, even in the smallest of ways. What if we decided to “subscribe” to something that both matters and makes us feel good?

Maybe the recent storms have you thinking about disaster relief. Or maybe you could turn your occasional visit to a local farm stand into a purchase of CSA shares. Is there a youth theater program that puts on wonderful productions every summer, and a donation from you could provide a scholarship for a child who otherwise couldn’t afford to participate? Is there a refugee population in your area? Perhaps they could use household items or supplies to get them started in their new homes. Do you have time to tutor at an afterschool program? Does your schedule allow for an afternoon a week to read with children in a nearby school? Maybe being in the company of animals brings you the same joy as the wilderness brings me. Consider a donation of time, money, or expertise to a local animal shelter or therapeutic riding program. Foster an animal waiting for its forever home. Whatever brings you a sense of contentment, consider returning the benefit.

I know my next visit to Distant Hill, and my favorite spot where the stone walls bend, will feel good knowing I am not just reaping the benefit of all it has to offer but contributing in a tiny way to bring a little joy to others as well.

I imagine it will leave me feeling a little more responsible for the place and its mission, and that has to be a good thing. 

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Stephanie White Ferland
Stephanie White Ferland

Stephanie White Ferland was born and raised in Cheshire County, and though as an adult she has also lived in Vermont and Maine, she still considers New Hampshire home. She is a public educator who has taught at every level from kindergarten to eighth grade, and has also served as an elementary principal. She likes to write about the natural world, the Granite State, and the memories she continues to make in both.