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Footprints in Nature by Owen Tucker

artwork by Rachel Spicer


When walking through the serene environment that is Westbrook Park, I stumbled upon a cove-like area. I felt the muddied ground under my shoes, but I also noticed that the terrain changed to sand in front of me. Off to my left resided thousand-year-old rocks that had lived many lifetimes, along with trees with odd mushroom growth on them. In front of the sand was water that sat motionless, and the lack of motion resulted in a mirror-like effect where I saw my eyes staring back at me. Not everything was all nature, however, as small clothing items such as socks and swim trunks scattered the shoreline. The other form of human interaction was the train tracks that existed above. A disruption of the natural landscape used for human interaction and economy.

As I stood around I was able to take it all in and my observations felt fulfilled. It reminded me of life at its best, at the times when you can just stand back and observe. The cove I was in held a certain power where time slowed down. Nature has the special ability to remind you of where you stand and it’s good to reflect on that from time to time.

While Westbrook and its cove had so much natural beauty, I was unable to ignore the human marks on the environment. Those pieces of clothing were a stark contrast to the beautiful landscape around them. As I investigated them, I thought of the bigger implications that existed. These laid-out socks and trunks weren’t a lone event, as this type of environmental disruption is a common event around the world. The United Nations Environment Programme says that “the increasing volume of waste associated with the modern economy is posing a serious risk to ecosystems and human health.” These random items that had seemingly no purpose at first now meant a whole lot more. They act as a call to action and remind me of the problems that this world poses. At first, the landscape seemed free of any issues, but after a closer viewpoint, I now know this is false.

As I stood there thinking about the objects on the ground, I looked back up to the one thing that sticks out most in this environment—the train tracks. After a bit of waiting, I eventually heard it. At first, it felt like the Earth was shaking, as if a volcano had erupted somewhere nearby. Then I heard the rumbling of the wheels against the tracks, and the noise was instantly recognizable.

I spotted the train the second it came into view, and my eyes became mesmerized by the quickly moving train cars. The speedy pace of the train heavily contrasted with the quiet stillness of the landscape around me and I once again noticed something. I couldn’t help but notice the disruption that the train brought to this once tranquil cove. It was as if everything changed in a moment, and I could no longer focus on what was going on around me. However, as the train departed, I was left with a sense of contemplation. I recognized the need for the train that had just passed by me in the way that we need trains for connectivity and our economy. Through this however, it made me think of the way that humans haven’t been able to balance ingenuity and nature quite yet, and it made me wonder if we ever will.

In general, the cove at Westbrook reminded me of life itself. It made me remember the importance of stepping back and taking in the natural world around us while noticing the human effects on the world. As our human society continues to evolve and live on, we must learn to strike a balance with nature and to step back once in a while.

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