What I have chosen to share with you is a short story that I wrote three years ago. Fundamentally, it is a reflection on my own perspectives and attitudes towards the environment. And I am glad to have written it. Capturing the magical essence of nature in words is impossible, but striving to do so, in my opinion, is a pleasure in itself and a different form of feat.
Yet, more importantly, I sincerely hope that there is something from this story that you find meaningful and can utilize to strengthen your own bond with nature. During the current environmental crisis, this is a personal discovery that is imperative for all of us to undertake.
– – – – –
“You look old,” I chuckled, scratching my graying beard.
Instead of the usual quip, there was a momentary silence. I was not expecting it. I tried to undo the damage that I thought my silly joke had done.
“You do look amazing, though.”
It was still quiet as we sat together on the grass. I was not sure as to what it was that made her look so lively. Perhaps, it was the bright colours she wore. They made her look much more vibrant than the last time I saw her. Nonetheless, what I had said was genuine, but it did not seem to be the case when she finally broke her brief vow of silence.
“I feel so empty.”
We watched the meandering river before us slowly flow, carrying trout, wrappers and minnows in its muddied waters. The sun himself, peaking at us through the clouds, could not bring light to the river. It was a slightly gloomy sight in what was otherwise a beautiful Sunday afternoon. But, it did not seem to bother the boys who were playing with pebbles by the shore. We breathed in the summer air.
“Sometimes,” she coughed. “I wonder why they treat me the way they do.”
I patted her gently on the back and sighed sadly, looking out at the river. A slender man in a grey suit interrupted my view as he strolled past us with his cell phone wedged between his ear and shoulder. Straining from carrying his heavy briefcase and bags, he set his belongings down on the bench nearby and sat down. He wiped the sweat from his brow with the back of his hand and continued talking loudly about jumbles of numbers.
“Maybe they will change,” I said with optimism. “Isn’t it only a matter of time before they all realize the truth?”
“I hope so,” she whispered.
I turned and looked at her, carefully taking in every detail. It was only now that I realized that her seemingly beautiful appearance cleverly concealed her pain. She was tall, radiant, and blossoming despite her old age, but it was all a mask. Directly beneath it, there was nothing but sadness and agony. And, I knew she was much too old, much too weak to hide all that pain forever. It will begin to show. I wanted to believe that they would at least change then.
Yet, the memory of them acting so nonchalantly and indifferently while her friends endured the same suffering was also still fresh in my mind. I shuddered at the thought, but knowing that there were exceptions even within them reassured me. I decided to comfort her.
“You know,” I said. “Some of them have figured out that without you, without your mother, they are no more.”
“Our mother,” she corrected me.
“Yes,” I hastily agreed. “Our mother. They have forgotten her.”
I shuffled around on the ground until my back was against hers. Placing my cane across my lap, I leaned back and looked at the clouds floating overhead. The sun was slowly disappearing. It was probably going to rain soon. I shifted my sight to the distant horizon, where skyscrapers were reaching towards the clouds and smoke was spewing from large pipes. I couldn’t help but smile.
“It is simply a game for them,” I laughed. “To be at the top. To be the best.”
The inherent humor that I perceived in the view was quickly replaced by its explicit misery.
“But they will be betrayed,” I continued. “Not by each other, but rather by this fleeting game that they continue to play. And when everything comes crashing down, they will understand.”
“Do you really think so?” she asked.
I nodded. I was not certain, but it was the only thing I hoped for.
I closed my eyes and opened them again, finally letting them settle on the man in the grey suit. With one last “yessir”, the man finished his call and after gathering his bags and briefcase, started walking back slowly along the way he’d come. He stopped in front of us.
“It’s a fine day, isn’t it?” he asked me.
“Yes, it is,” I answered.
The man did not seem to be in a rush. I wondered if he had some time to spare. I hesitated before asking with a smile, “Would you care to join us in our conversation?”
The man looked around and nervously questioned me, “Our conversation?”
“Of course, she has probably grown bored of me talking to her all day,” I laughed while jokingly nudging her. “We could use a new voice.”
He asked me perhaps even more nervously, “Her? Do you mean the maple tree?”
I nodded enthusiastically, but the excitement was short-lived.
The man regained his composure and smiled professionally, “Unfortunately, I have an important business meeting to attend. But, thank you for the offer. And I do hope you enjoy your conversation.”
He bid me goodbye and walked away rather quickly. I was not shocked, but instead disappointed by his abrupt and obvious excuse. I clutched my cane with trembling fingers and sighed desperately.
After I made sure that no one else could hear me, I murmured, “He thinks that I have gone mad.”
She laughed for a long while.
And only after she tired, she whispered, “You are the sky, the land and the ocean.”
The Water Lily Pond
(Image Source: Claude Monet)
I grinned at her and playfully held out my hand to catch the raindrops that began to drizzle around us.
“I suppose that they do not know yet that they are the mad ones,” I whispered back to her. “It will take time for them to understand that you are as important as they are to our mother.”
I watched curiously as the group of boys scrambled under neighbouring trees. The rain was now starting to pour. The children huddled around the tree and squirmed this way and that to avoid getting wet.
“Some have already understood. Others will eventually do so,” I said. “A small number of them may never even arrive at that conclusion. But, our fate will be changed when those who have escaped the clutches of the game outnumber the few that choose to remain oblivious.”
The boys had their arms wrapped tightly around themselves and the trees. They were clearly pleased with the prospect of not getting drenched. And, in their eyes, the feeling of gratitude was unmistakable.
– – – – –
I wish you all the best in your journey.