The hawk floats in over the valley with eyes sharply focused for any movement. It’s a ritual performed more out of habit than hoped-for consequence, above this once-teeming feeding ground that is no longer. How does the raptor fathom a clear-cut and soil-stripped landscape? The accipiter’s ancestors have hunted this very ridge and creek for tens of millions of years, but it is now forced to move on by an interloper on a bulldozer. With wings thus clipped, it spirals out of sight and into the past.

Who gave us the right?

Where there were turtles, snakes, foxes, opossums, raccoons; nests with birds of every manner, from titmice to owls; groundhogs, deer, skunks, even kids who waded and swam in the water — they are gone now. Where there was topsoil, rich with earthworms and nutrients, and assorted species of insect and mammalian life — they are gone. Where there was any life in the creek winding through this valley that depended on a healthy ecosystem above its banks, it is gone.

Trees? Gone. Loam, clay, and rock? Gone.

A ridge called by any familiar name? It too is now gone.

Who gave them the right?

Ownership. A quaint term for destruction. That such a right should be asserted by a creature whose lifespan is a mere four-score years, over a wedge of land and ridge formed three-hundred million years in the past — a claim of judge, jury, and executioner for this province nestled between the Cumberland Plateau and the Appalachian Mountains — is pure hubris.

Able to survive and prosper through four million, sixty-two thousand, five hundred lifespans of one single human, this valley, this self-sustaining microcosm, was unable to outlast the machine. It was hobbled and tripped, chewed up and carted away … gone in the blink of a geologic instant.

This right, this wreckage, we leave behind.

 

Teaser photo credit: By MathKnight – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=4103826