by S. Savage, UK
There are multitudes within me. Life is flowing through my liminal spaces like raspberry juice through a muslin cloth. But not all who leave return, and some who return are so changed that I can’t even recognise them.
They have been cutting me and burning me and then picking at the edges of my crumbling scabs: their itch to destroy more intense and cloying than the itch of healing that I yearn for.
The rivers were clear, and the rocks were smooth. Now the streams are brown, and the wrappers are buoyant.
The trees were thick, and the leaves were green. Now the stumps are rotten, and the plastic bags are rustling in the wind.
The hedgerows were long, and the flora were diverse. Now the bushes are soot-stained and invaded by torn rubber.
The soil was moist, and the detritus was nutritious. Now the dirt is barren, and the glass is piercing.
The air was clean, and the wind brought the seasons on time. Now the smog is suffocating, and the climate is unstable.
The stars were bright, and the sun was gentle. Now the night is a dirty brown, and the rays are unfiltered.
The bees were abundant and their honey, sweet. Now their queens are dying, and their homes are being destroyed.
The fieldfares were sprightly, and their songs filled the air. Now their nests are empty, and there are children who may never hear their voices.
The red squirrels were vibrant, and their lives were simple. Now their resources are dwindling, and the competition is increasing.
The salmon were peaceful, and their populations were sustainable. Now they choke in their rivers and starve before they reach adulthood.
I am not just this forest; I am this entire world. Just like there was a ‘before’, and there is a ‘now’, and one day there will be an ‘after’. Even if the forest dies, I will remain. I was a barren rock once, and I will be one again, and even that won’t be the end.
I hope that I will live to see a future, any future, where my children are still alive. So many have been lost already, and not to the natural passage of time… They are dying faster than they can adapt to the new climates and food-chains.
Even the humans who left my den so long ago and came back to it with axes and itchy palms, are precious to me. They are my children, and I am their mother earth. By rebelling against me they think they are showing that they have grown past their roots, that they are independent, that they don’t need their mother anymore. They think they’re showing each other how ‘cool’ and ‘modern’ they are, that their disregard for the consequences of their actions shows that they’re ‘laid back’ and can ‘roll with the punches’. But they’re hurting themselves as much as they are hurting me and their siblings.
I worry that it might already be too late for them, that they might die before they get the chance to grow out of this phase, but at least then their siblings and I might have a chance to live.
After a forest fire, the saplings grow back faster and stronger in the nutrient-rich ash.
I wonder what would grow from the ashes of humanity…
It could be better though!
We could live in harmony again! Be a family again! You don’t even have to apologise, just stop hurting us and we will grow around you and welcome you into our fold with open arms!
You think this doesn’t matter!
You think you’re only hurting me!
You think this won’t ruin your life!
I wish we had more time together…
There are others who share my wish, who work to bring life to my body. Their numbers are growing, but not fast enough.
They tend to my gardens and heal my injured children and clean my oceans and beg the others to stop their violence.
I love them with every beat of every heart I have, and I pray with every breath of every chest that they will succeed.
I find it bizarre that others don’t listen to them!
If you’ve ever fed from my flesh, or breathed my air, or drank my water, which I know you all have, then you need me to survive. If you kill me, you’ll die.
If you’ve ever loved one of my creatures, or admired one of my flowers, or seen the sublime in my landscapes, which I know many of you have, then you need me to thrive. If you dull my colours, you’ll dull your own.
If all life outside of the human race was wiped out, and it was just the two of us, the earth beneath your feet would survive.