Many years ago, when I was young, I sought a quiet place where I could think, reflect, breathe. A place where I could dream, allowing the pieces of my life to come together. I loved walking in my grandparents pasture, where there were gentle comforting streams, fragrant wild flowers, and soft breezes. On a day when my soul seemed empty, I walked beyond the borders of the farmland and came upon an old logging road, long abandoned. It was spring and the mountain sides were filled with wild flowers.With the crunch of leaves under my feet, I saw the delicate white blossoms of bloodroot, the tiny pink leaves of spring beauties and soft mosses covering the mountains all around me. The scampering of wild life filtered through the silence of the forest. I could hear the rumbling water of a stream growing closer and closer as I went further down the trail. Outcroppings of stone reminded me that the world I had entered was very old. The fire scarred trees reminded me that time never stood still. Nature had renewed its self in this place, time and time again.
After a while, I reached a place where the pathway crossed the stream. I stopped and listened to the comforting waters as they made their way down the mountainside. Just above this crossing, someone had built a pond many years before. An oak tree had fallen near the waters edge and I found myself sitting on a limb that hovered near the waters edge, bouncing, slowly, rhythmically,as I let my sorrows disappear-if only for a moment-in the tranquility of this forgotten place.
The pond trail became my “thinking place”. A respite from a world that I felt no part of. I could walk and dream, engulfed in nature. I could set my soul free and feel the healing of this place that seemed lost in time. For many years, I ventured to this place and it lifted my spirits and comforted my soul.
Once, I took my children to this place. They scampered on the odd formations of rocks and wiggled their toes in cold mountain water. I told them the names of all the wild flowers, let them smell the bark of the sassafras trees. I showed them the now-decaying oak tree I had bounced on in my youth. “It is returning to earth, to enrich the soil.” I told them.
Not long after this marvelous day, I walked the trail alone and my journey was interrupted by the sound of bulldozers. Horrified, I ran down the old road to the pond. Man had once again found this place and was destroying it. I sat, one last time on the oak tree and cried.
A few months later, with autumns leaves ablaze on the mountain, I drove down the scenic route above the lake. A road had been carved out of the forest and houses were springing up above the place that the pond had been. I parked my car and raced down the slope where giant oaks had once stood and saw the remnants of the pond, still there amidst the ruins of what had been my “thinking place”.
Suddenly, I felt very old. The greed of men who had material wealth but no soul had invaded the forest. I mourned as I thought of the people who had traveled these trails seeking peace for so long and now, could come no more. True, it had happened here before, when the logging roads were built and the trees cut down nearly a hundred years ago. Everywhere I looked, the forest was being destroyed and houses popping up in their place. This time, though, the forest would not be allowed to renew its self.
Many times since that day, I have longed to go back, but could not face the desecration of my precious solace from this evil world. My “thinking place”, where my tears had fallen, and a flower had grown, was gone. My children would have to find another place to heal their youthful souls.
There is a Native American quote that states, “We do not inherit the land from our ancestors, we borrow it from our children.” Sadly, in this selfish time, many do not adhere to this code. Our children will inherit a lesser place. That we have to proclaim an “Earth Day” portrays how far from what “should be” we have traveled. We all deserve a place to cleanse our souls. Let us not forget that only man can destroy or preserve the beauty of our world. Close your eyes and imagine the beauty of the places we have thoughtlessly taken from tomorrows children.
Theodore Roosevelt, John Muir and many others saw the importance of protecting the most magnificent of these special places a century ago. We must be grateful of their foresight while remembering that even the tranquility of a gentle mountainside or the sound of a stream rushing through a lush valley is worth saving. My grandfather, who was born before cars or urban sprawl, used to tell me, “Sister, its was different then.” How sadly profound his statement seems today. What I would give to walk with my grandchildren through the world as it looked to him as a child! We cannot recreate a world that we have destroyed to its same beauty and simplicity. It is far past the time when we should think past our own pleasure.. Our descendants deserve that we treat the earth as our own child. We are not separate from it, we are its keepers.