Every time I visit the meadow, something is different. The grass is cut, or they’ve trimmed the wild laurel bushes whose bark is smooth like tamarinds. A few winters ago the ivy-choked tree fell, its body colliding with trailing blackberry, buttercups, and clovers. I don’t even know what species it was. I didn’t teach myself to identify the trees or the plants until after it had already fallen. By the time I could knowledgeably survey its carcass, the leaves had already withered back into soil.
This is the meadow where the owls live. Where coyotes occasionally yip and cry. Where deer pass silently through, leaving no trace except piles of hardened pellets. This is where I found a clean, white raccoon skull, fresh enough not to have yellowed. Where I’ve knelt in the dirt, among mole hills and centipedes, and breathed in the warmth of the open air.
I guess most people wouldn’t even call it a meadow. It’s a vacant lot. Weed-ridden, they’d call it. Underutilized. That’s why they’re going to shove three houses onto it.
These, I assume, are the same people who have extinguished all the other open lots in my suburban town. All the fields, dotted in spring with plum trees and flowering goldenrod; all the fragmented forestlands; all the vine-y underbrush; all gone. All houses. Mansions, mostly. Now instead of fields we have rows of matching, lifeless, excessively large squares. I understand that people need houses (although they certainly don’t need to be so large or so full of unnecessary possessions), but we can’t cover up every last inch of living earth.
Don’t they see how profane this threat is? Weeds are weeds, in their minds. Opposums and moles are repulsive, and raccoons are a nuisance. Yet, in my mind, despite the invasiveness of certain “weeds” and urban-adapted animals, and the harm they often cause native species, they are still alive, and, therefore, still beautiful. And, until ecological restoration attempts make more headway, such degraded, patchy ecosystems are all the nature us city-dwellers (human and otherwise) have daily access to.
That is, of course, unless they continue covering up all the open spaces. It seems the future holds nothing but concrete and quiet evenings, when even the owl and the coyote have been pushed away, and no one is there to sing.