[Below is the final result of a semester-long multimedia project that was a part of my required freshman English class. We were to pick a spot in “nature” and use some form of expression — for me, writing and photo — to describe that place to others.]
“God saw everything that he had made, and indeed, it was very good.”
My place is a tiny, insignificant tributary of the Monocacy River (which in turn is a tributary of the much more significant Potomac River) about half a mile from the house I grew up in. It’s a wooded area, next to a footpath that winds along the picture-perfect suburb. The creek is shallow, curves occasionally, and, where I am, is split by an island.
“Look! A trickle of water running through some dirt! I’d say our afternoon just got booked solid!”
It’s an unusual spot. Secluded from, but surrounded by, the real world. At no point along this section of creek would you be entirely unable to see a house if your craned your neck in just the right way. And, no more than a quarter mile away, is US 15, a major highway that stretches from South Carolina to New York.
I’m standing no more than 500 feet from the old farmhouse – the only remnant of the homestead my neighborhood use to be – that we all thought was haunted when we were younger. I’m standing beneath a canopy of bare trees that stretch their limbs and branches like old, wrinkled fingers across the sky. Behind me is a bridge that allows people to cross over the creek; in front of me is that island I mentioned, muddy, and covered in (bare) shrubs and (bare) trees. Directly below my feet is a concrete slab that juts out of the water.
“I like this place and could willingly waste my time in it.”
From where I stand, it’s too cold to touch anything that isn’t my camera or tripod. The ice has sheared the green from plants and left only skeletons in its wake. It’s impossible to smell anything, because there’s nothing left alive to cast a scent into the world.
But cold cannot kill the stream.
The flowing water is the only sound. It’s not rushing, and normally wouldn’t be overpowering. But any other source of noise has been scared off by freezing temperatures, so the sound of the water is dominating.
The land is used, at least directly where I’m standing, for the simple purpose of enjoying nature. Of course, most people don’t wander from the paved footpath, like I have, and often do when I make it down here. Nearby, however, is land used as a community park, and playground, and not too far off is the maze of suburbia.
“Those who contemplate the beauty of the earth find reserves of strength that will endure as long as life lasts. There is something infinitely healing in the repeated refrains of nature — the assurance that dawn comes after night, and spring after winter.”
“It is spring again. The earth is like a child that knows poems by heart.”
What I like about this place is not its grandiosity, for there is none. It is not the large animals, for there are none, and it isn’t any sense of adventure, for there hasn’t been one since I was very young.
“And forget not that the earth delights to feel your bare feet and the winds long to play with your hair”
What I like is the connectedness I feel when I’m balanced on a rock in the middle of the creek. The reminders that this tiny little reserve of nature give me.
The reminder that water that runs through this creek flows into the Monocacy and then Potomac rivers, and then the Chesapeake Bay, and then the Atlantic Ocean – once there it cycles all through the ocean – and if it evaporates, it gets deposited in some other creek, stream, tributary or ocean.
The reminder from some of the seeds on the trees and flowers around the creek remind me of just how tiny life begins. How an acorn turns into an oak, how two single cells become a human, how so little becomes so much.
The reminder that I get when looking up to the sky, whether it be a clear or cloudy day, that we all breathe the same air. That the cycles of weather on this planet touch every single human the same way. That the oxygen filling our lungs right now is the same oxygen that filled the lungs of pharaohs, prophets, runaway slaves, the great philosophers, and revolutionaries, and that it will fill the lungs of every soul fortunate enough to be born on this Earth. That we are all drawing from the same atmosphere.
“Heaven is under our feet as well as over our heads.”
The reminder from the ducks, with their asses up in the air remind me that it’s never good to take life too seriously. That life is messy, entropic, and beautiful – and that we can create order in that chaos, if we remember to laugh once in awhile.
And the reminder from my muddy shoes, as cliché as it sounds, that life, as exciting as it is and as much of an adventure as it is, is also a little messy.
“In the spring, at the end of the day, you should smell like dirt.”
So. To the creeks and forests, the running water, the tiny seeds, the boundless atmosphere, the animals big, small, ugly, cute, smart or dumb, to muddy shoes – to everything on earth – I am grateful.
Coming in to this project, I knew that I had an appreciation for nature. Green is my favorite color, I’ve experimented with vegetarianism, I follow people around and turn lights off after them — hell, I started the semester as an environmental studies major.
But I’m not sure I had ever put to words what it was about our beautiful, natural world that drew me to it. And this project forced me to think about it.
To think about what reason I might have, if any, for why I’m so damn fond of this Earth.
“The earth has music for those who listen.”
And you know what it is? The rhythm. The rhyme. The music. The melody. The harmony. The fact that that I breathe in what a tree breathes out. The fact that our Planet is composing an absolutely mesmerizing, transcendent song, and that each and every one of us is an instrument. The fact that we are inseparably, undoubtedly, and unavoidably connected. That’s what I like about this tiny little rock we call Home.
“The poetry of the earth is never dead.”