I am somewhere between a hippie tree hugger and a demolish-everything-for-a-mall type of person. I wish I did more for the environment, but I’m also super bad at remembering to recycle. In short: I need to do more.
This thought sprang to the forefront of my mind a couple of weeks ago when I was in Dallas on a business trip. I was driving on one of the major highways approaching what I remember my mother calling a “spaghetti bowl,” a ton of intersecting highways swirling and looping around each other, when I saw it. New construction.
My heart sank.
The ground was violently torn up, dirt flung in a large mountain built on the backs of dead trees. Their roots exposed from under the weight of the soil above them. Giant holes were in the ground where giant rocks had been pulled and piled near the giant tree graveyard. Machinery, buckets pointed down, lined the construction site like mourners during a dirge. It was the saddest funeral I had ever passed at 75 mph and the feeling hit me like a ton of bricks.
It felt at once like all the sorrow the Earth was feeling was boiling up inside of me. I drove on thinking about the spaghetti bowl and the road I was on and the many roads I have driven on and would ever drive on and what it took for those roads to exist. I imagined a verdant temperate forest springing up from ground, animals roaming freely, birds singing as they flitted between the trees. Then I remembered I was in Dallas and shook that idea from my mind.
I saw the red-brown clay beneath a vast grassland. Tall gray-green grasses overtook smaller yellow grasses and Black-Eyed Susans burgeoned throughout. In my mind, I was in the middle of the field, the wind blowing the grasses and flowers until they were bent in arcs and I felt it rush around my hair and on my face. I heard Pocahontas singing “Colors of the Wind” and then, just as suddenly as this deeply-connected imagery came on, I saw pickaxes tearing the Earth up and the advent of machinery that created pockmarks on the Earth’s virgin skin.
I saw the grasslands destroyed to make way for concrete and trees violently ripped from the ground and tossed aside like the history we so easily discard in our pursuit for future. Then I saw the same concrete, broken down slightly, but still overtaking the landscape a millennium in the future. The trees and grass and animals still gone as the cold concrete grayed out the variegation of the planet.
It was too heavy for me and I burst into tears. Driving down the Dallas highway, I burst into tears over a dirt pile because I felt the grief of the Earth over our past and our future. When I had sufficiently boxed back up my emotions, I realized I felt a bit of sorrow every time I see construction.
This is an inescapable dichotomy of my humanity: My grief for the destroyed Earth, but the easy ambivalence that comes back so quickly after the realization. And I wondered, Am I Alone? Do you feel the Earth?