Days of Innocence

       I’m no extreme environmentalist as far as sitting in the middle of a road and holding up a sign, or taking part in a riot. But I agree that mankind has done a terrible job of preserving the natural beauty, the pristine waters, the abundance of natural resources, the glorious landscapes and the clean, healthy air we once breathed. Our Native Americans saw it coming 200 years ago when the European immigrants began coming to America. They were astounded at the waste settlers left behind on their way west, and at the fact that buffalo hunters killed millions of the precious beasts just for their skin, leaving the everything else to rot for what would have been a treasure trove of survival needs to the Indians. Just think of it. One animal provided their clothing, shelter, weapons, tools, cooking and eating implements, medicine, sacred items for worship, jewelry … an endless supply of needs all from one animal. At the same time, everything our Native Americans used for survival came from nature and were things that would naturally return to the earth without causing contamination, things that would disintegrate rather than pile up in ugly trash to hurt our eyes and noses for years to come.

       I came upon these thoughts when I found something I wrote probably a good forty years ago. As a writer, I was always jotting down things that came to me according to my various moods. I must have been having one of those days of melancholy, a day of realizing the fact that I will not live forever, or perhaps just suddenly full of appreciation for mother nature. We own some property on a small lake here in southwest Michigan, and apparently, I was walking around in the woods on a lovely day and wishing we could go back to the days when mankind was not so advanced that he began destroying our precious natural elements just to have all the conveniences we think we must have in today’s time. Heaven knows what more will be destroyed in future quests for modern conveniences we have been convinced are necessary to our well being, when, in fact, we are probably better off without them. 


Following is what I wrote:


       “It is quiet here, except for the rush of the wind through branches that are nearly bare now. Autumn has arrived. The sun is still warm on my skin, but the breeze is chilled, and I am warm and cold both at the same time. A crane swoops over the lake before me … the lake, which sparkles and glitters. All seems crisp and clean and innocent this morning. The air smells fresh. Insects that are hidden in the weeds sing. In the distance I hear the sound of an axe as my husband splits logs for our winter warmth.” (We heated with wood when we lived on the lake.) 


       “What will be left of this in years to come? It could all be gone. Untouched places may no longer exist. I smell the earth. I gaze at the bright blue sky, dotted with puffy autumn clouds. The birds chirp, but many of them are already making their way south. The leaves are brilliant colors of gold, red and orange mixed with green. This kind of beauty man, with all his technology, cannot create. But he can most certainly destroy it. Man is destroying it. What will be left for my grandchildren? My great-grandchildren?


       When I look at the ground and watch the ants, study the twigs, the moss, the shades of the earth, I see true beauty. This unattended woods with its variety of plant life, and its wild colors and fresh smells, is more beautiful than man’s most well-groomed gardens. It is more beautiful because it is real, untouched, natural. How many things are there left in this world like this? 


        When I look at all that is around me … when I see the green grass, the blue sky and gray/blue lake water … when I watch a squirrel scurry up a tree to store its winter food … when I hear the soft chirps of birds that I cannot quite find in the trees … when I hear crickets and the frogs and watch the silent insects going about their business with determination and organized preciseness, I realize that in spite of what happens to this world, Gods creations will go on as always … forever … in spite of man’s ignorant follies that seem destined to destroy it all. 

       Some day man, in his blind idiocy and quest to rule things only God can rule, will probably destroy himself, but the ants will go right on building. The birds will go right on singing. The water will rush and sparkle and eventually run pure again. The wind will sing through the trees no longer cut down for a hundred things man thinks he needs. The sun will warm the earth. The mushrooms will grow. The frogs will belch their awkward songs, and the mountains will still rise to the heavens. And what, after all, will man’s intelligence have done for him? 


       Mankind, it seems, would be better off to be ignorant and innocent, like the animals. The animals have more respect for their environment and for God’s beautiful earth than does man. How sad that we have not used our intelligence to preserve the joyous beauty God has given us for free, rather than using it to destroy the only things that can bring us true happiness.


       The words from a Bon Jovi song always make me think of this … I wish we could go back …


[Back, when we were beautiful, before the world got small, before we knew it all … Am I blessed, or am I cursed? ‘Cause the way we are ain’t the way we were … Back, when we were innocent, I wonder where it went, let’s go back and find it.]”





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