On Progress (or: I Want to Cry)

I toured progress tonight. I saw squirrels doing their thing; heard birds chirping as the evening turned to dusk; and listened to insects and frogs herald the beginning of the night… and now I want to cry.

A hawk flew from his perch; angry that I had encroached on his hunting grounds. I felt as though I should apologize, but his lonely call told me what I needed to know. I could hear him curse me for giving him this barren wasteland in place of the forest he once lorded over.

As I crested a hill that once contained a path leading down to a natural creek crossing, I felt a lump in my throat. Below me was a mound of black ash with a few small piles of ash still smoking though the fire had been extinguished for weeks.

At the bottom of the hill meandered the remnants of a creek as if trying to scream “I am still here”. It reminded me of a prize fighter in the 10th round. Obvious to everyone that he is done, he still pulls himself up off the mat one last time damned to give up if he can still stand.

Across the newly created valley cavity, on top of the hill north of me was a freshly smoldering fire pit. Smoke slowly drifted from the hole in the ground offering evidence that it had consumed its surroundings. The irony struck me: has the city on the hill now burned out its light and started to consume itself?

As I toured the scene of carnage, I wondered to myself what the people who did this were like. Not the owners of the land that will profit off of the new development, but the guys and gals who ran the equipment and lit the fires. Had they walked the paths that criss-crossed the woods before they tore them down? Did this bother them? Had the lottery of birth landed them in a life where this was the only way they saw to make ends meet, or was this work a conscious choice? … Did they even care?

I feel horrible. I participate in this. I may not run the bulldozer, but I live where forest was just a handful of years ago. How can I condemn what I have benefited from?

My despair was lifted as I made my way back home. I passed a small pond in the development where I live and watched two geese and their younglings paddle away from the side as I approached and was reminded life goes on. No matter what we do, life will preserve itself. We may pass, but the force that started all of this will continue with or without us to observe it. I just wish we could do our part to contribute to it instead of taking so much.