I was seven when I started walking to and from school with my dad, then my best friend, now I walk alone to the bus stop at my elementary school. When I walked with my friend we used to drop our backpacks onto the ground halfway through the path and race the rest of the way to a red swing at the end of the path. Whoever reached there first got to swing first: he always won.
This walk to and from my elementary school each day has saved my life; the creek I walked through was the beginning of my appreciation for nature; and the water running through the creek has run through my entire life.
The path is right next to flowing water that brave young feet used to glide into. The creek is surrounded by trees of all shades of green. I don’t remember when I started appreciating the color green, but I know I was young. I have always been easily distracted by how beautiful trees are when they are all different shades mixing in the wind. In elementary school, instead of going home right after school, my best friends and I used to go to a part of the creek that we called “the beach.” We made broken glass collections out of the glass we found in the sand, we did homework, we picked up litter, we ate berries off the trees and sucked sweet juice out of flowers on the ground, and we made dams out of twigs and rocks and then broke them when we realized we were disturbing the flow of the creek. This was our way of recuperating after long days of school.
As we progressed through middle and high school the stress only got more intense, and we came to the creek less often, and then not at all. Except when I walked through it on my way to the bus stop.
I never realized how much that creek was getting me through the days until junior year, when everything hit at once. It seemed like every aspect of my life was turning against me: politics, family, friends, school, standardized testing. I was questioning everything and everyone and all of the things I used to think of as constants. The only aspect of my life that stayed true the whole time was my walk through the creek. When one aspect of my life after another disappointed me, I found myself lingering at the creek longer and longer on my walks home.
Eventually I started swinging on the red swing again. I did not race to it anymore as I used to. Instead, I placed my bag down next to it and slowly lifted off the ground. Soon, I started kicking my feet off the ground as a symbol for everything that stressful or enraging. First swing: the quiz I should have earned a better grade on. Second: The english project I don’t have time for. Third: the funeral I don’t have the emotional strength to get through.
In retrospect, I would not have made my through the year, or been successful as I was in it, if it weren’t for my daily walks through that creek and the swinging routine of stress. This is why I am such a freak about picking up litter and “saving the planet.” This is why I am pursuing a degree in environmental science. I have been raised, consoled, and taught by nature and I can’t let it be destroyed.
I want to protect nature so that everyone who comes after me gets to experience the way a soft breeze on a sunny day can make you smile when nothing else can. I want children for generations to come to grow up in nature and be healed by it. I want my kids to walk through a creek everyday and learn more from it than anything school can teach them. And I want to continue to be taught by nature.