My Adventure in Rain, by Taylor Toy

On Friday January 20th, I made my return journey to my little world. The day before was quite beautiful and slightly warm, so naturally I decided to delay my stroll until today. Too easy would have been to traverse in lovely sunlight. Today was what I, and Winnie the Pooh, would call a “blindery blustery day.” In other words it was a rather miserable. Dark clouds and the promise of rain were evident. At 1pm with a peak temperature of 37 degrees I headed out. By the time I reached the White Clay Creek path, there was a light but relentless shower.

As soon as I entered the forest I could hear the river, unlike the week before; which meant it was flooding. Not a creature in sight. If there were birds singing, I could not hear them over the river and the rain pelting against my hood like the canopy leaves in the rainforest. Again I walked deliberately, trying to listen for any sound. My feet against the gravel. The rain hitting each leaf high up in the trees. The roar of the river beyond my sight. The sounds blended together and were one. Each breath I took sounded like thunder compared to the echos of the forest. Then I heard it. An unnatural screech that cut through the silence and made me flinch. As i listened for it again every inch of my body was still except for my heart pumping faster than a car engine. Again an echoing shrill pierced the air. Had I not heard this same screech years ago in my home of Wilmington Delaware, I would have been convinced that it was indeed a monstrous beast, which is exactly what I thought then. It turned out then that it was nothing but a fox. The only abnormal difference was that years prior, it howled in the middle of the night, normal compared to early afternoon, as most foxes are nocturnal.

Because I detest the sound the fox makes, I decided to put my headphones on to drown out the noise. I also wanted to see how the music affected my perception on the landscape itself, as opposed to my previous trip with silence. First I played “Rock with you” by Michael Jackson as I made my way off the asphalt road onto the dirt path for the river. Although I loved the song that was playing, I have to say that it took me right out of the environment. I realized after about five minutes that my walking pace had become unhurried and leisure. I hardly noticed anything about the landscape around me. It was like looking at an abstract that I did not understand, so i switched music. The second song I played as I went down a path that was much less traversed than the one I took the week prior. This path, compared to the other, was like the congo with untamed shrubs and tree branches lying in the way of the “path.” The song I played was “Swell” by Laake. No singing, just a fiercely paced piano being played. This whimsical yet almost ominous tune actually seemed to enhance the environment around me. The dark sky and rain added to the relatively dark tone of the piano. I felt my pace quicken, but not to the point of ignorance of the scenery. I was exploring this wet dark jungle, as I dodged thorn bushes and fallen trees. As the speed of the song increased so did my pace, so at this point I was practically running. I could have been running after something or away from something else, only the trees and river would know for sure, as it was just them and I in the middle of this thicket.

When the song stopped so did I. I breathed in deeply and looked around 360 degrees. It was still raining hard on me. I looked around at the perfect blend of saturated brown trees. They meshed so well it was hard to distinguish one tree from the other. I exhaled. Along the bank of the river was a tree that had fallen. It fell parallel to the river and precisely into the “V” shape of another tree’s trunk. How chance. I took off my rain jacket, letting the water hit my hair and face. It was cold but refreshing. It made me think of the essay written by Linda Hogan, “What holds the water, what holds the light.” There is the same amount of water on earth than there ever has been. No more, no less. The water that is now raining down upon me has a story, like all other water. It could have made it all the way from the Arctic Ocean, or even just from the river ten feet away. Once it hits the ground here in White Clay, it’s already on its journey to somewhere else entirely.

The Deer at Valley Forge, by Jennifer Kuhn

This Saturday I had the opportunity to visit Valley Forge National Park with a friend of mine. Valley Forge was, of course, a critical military camp for the America’s Revolutionary forces and the park maintains the site as both a historic tribute as well as a wildlife protection area. I was particularly interested in visiting the park considering that this week’s reading, Braiding Sweetgrass, was centered around the juxtaposition between Native Americans’ and American immigrants’ respective relationships with the environment. Author Robin Wall Kimmerer characterizes the Western relationship with the natural world as being historically “abusive.” Therefore, it seemed incredibly ironic that this site, which was arguably one of the most important sites to the success of the Revolution, was also a nature preserve. The American Revolution, which made this portion of the New World an autonomous nation, officially began Americans’ seizure and destruction of this country’s environment under the guise of sovereign right. As we drove into the park, I wondered what Kimmerer would say about this attempt at confluence between nature and American history, the former being viewed as source of all life and beauty to her people and the latter being seen as the source of overwhelming pain and devastation.

We walked up a steep hill to the center of the park. Ahead of us was an ocean of short green grass littered with patches of brown due to the frigid, Janurary temperature. A marble, arch memorial to America’s most heroic loomed over the landscape. We explored a few of the site’s wooden cabins. As I entered the small wooden structures, most of which maintained dirt floors, I could not help but think of the Luther Standing Bear’s piece, ‘Nature.’ I envisioned the Continental solider and wondered if he had saw the dirt of his quarters as the Lakota elders did. Was he able to understand and appreciate the grounding and “life-giving forces” of the earth? It seemed unlikely. I imagined instead that the cabin’s dirt floor was seen as a merely burden to the solider who aspired to fortune and a large, furnished home once the war was over.

We then walked away from the cabins, downhill towards a small body of water. Encircled by trees, I stood amongst the black stones of the small stagnant pond. In preparation for the visit I had read about the park’s “recreational” features on its website and had seen that the area was great for fishing. In looking at the pond I suddenly felt a pang of anxiety, as I was concerned that the park had artificially placed fish in the pond for fishers to catch, essentially creating just a large barrel for these fishers to shoot into. When asked my friend if this was the case, a middle-aged man within earshot of our conversation interjected that fishing was not allowed in this pond. What I relief I thought, until the man continued that my suggestion wouldn’t be a bad idea as due to pollution in the park’s creek, fishing was catch-and-release only. This seemed much worse then the scenario I imagined and served as a truth, which shattered the park’s image as an environmental sanctuary.

I asked my friend to return to the car so that we could drive towards the ‘woodsier’ area of the park in the hopes of seeing some wildlife. The website promised that the park was home to several different, native species. I crossed my fingers that we might see a young red fox. As we walked back, we passed a group of women on a horseback riding tour, most of the women looked awkward atop of the animals as they walked slowly ahead. I wondered if these horses were ever given the chance to run freely in a field or if since birth these animals were limited to these slow, almost mournful processions.

After returning to our car and driving for sometime down a park path, my friend begrudging pulled over and walked with me into the open woods. We walked for roughly a half-hour. I attempted to make as little noise as possible, tiptoeing across the earth, and listening careful for the rustling of cottontail. Sadly, the only wildlife I was destined to see that day came after we returned to the car. As we drove back towards the exit, a medium sized doe blotted across the road ahead of us. “Damn it”, exclaimed my friend when the animal startled him, “I hate when those things are in the road.” I imagined that here, in the place that us humans had supposedly allocated as a protected home for her, the doe was likely thinking the same thing.

As we drove home, I thought to myself how disappointed Kimmerer would be at the park’s paltry attempts as preservation. The park seemed to me to be analogous to the strawberry stand which Kimmerer had worked for as a girl. Like the strawberry stand’s products which were marketed as the freshest fruit of the earth and yet were so incomparable to the sweet gift of the wild strawberries, so too was the park’s preserve only an empty imitation of nature’s true grace.

Do Trees Have Souls? by Taylor Link

As we drove into Pennsylvania to observe White Clay Creek for the second time, fog shrouded the hills and winding roads while cows lazed in pastures. It was a particularly muddy day and it was twenty degrees warmer than last week. Would there be more life this time? My dad assured me that nothing would have changed since the last time we had been there. Somehow, I already knew that wasn’t true and we hadn’t even parked in the parking lot yet.

This time, I wasn’t going to hunt for things to write about. I was going to wonder. Wonder about everything I saw. I was going to be impressed and thrilled and that I was. Six, seven, eight different bird calls had me stopping in my tracks, excited and smiling. A wondrous thick chunky tree that split into two had me prancing around its sturdy trunk. “They’re twins,” I declared and that they were. They were of the same roots, the same soil and the same earth.

Further down, one of the most handsome trees on all of Penndel Trail caught my eye. With an intricate bark pattern, a dewy cobweb nestled at the base and hidden vines running up its body, I was ecstatic. I put my hand on it and I stared up to the gray sky where its arms were stretched, perhaps waiting for visitors. What the Dalai Lama said in the piece he wrote for Moral Ground has been running through my mind ever since I read it. To paraphrase: all things with a mind want the same thing. This tree is living and therefore has a mind. If this tree has a mind, then this tree is just like anything else that has a mind. Which ultimately means, that this tree, just like myself and the people who continuously carved their love declarations into it, wants a peaceful, happy life.

“Do you think this tree has a soul?” I asked my dad. I tried to convince myself that maybe if I got close enough, if I put my body close enough, I could feel its heat or energy or presence. I remembered how I used to hug palm trees at Myrtle Beach when I was just seven years old, and again in Disney World, my freshman year of college. Did they, too, have a soul? Back then, was my love soaking into their wood? My dad looked at me like I was crazy. “Do fairies exist? What about hobbits?” He replied sarcastically. I’m assuming that that would be most people’s response to such an abstract question.

I persisted as we took a different route than last week. “Do you think that if trees had souls we would care for them more?” I pondered aloud. I looked around. The broken twigs on the ground and the fallen branches lining the creek would decompose into the soil under our feet. They would forfeit their nutrients and eventually, be soaked up into hungry roots. If we believed that those things, too, had a soul, was their soul passed into the soil?

“If trees had a soul, what happens when we chop them down and build houses from them?” My dad finally spoke up. I wasn’t sure of the answer to that question. Were their souls living in the walls and floors of my house? My bed frame, my fire place, my dining table? Had they been silently supporting me through my whole life? If so, did I ever show my gratitude or express my appreciation for them. After all, they provided things for my happy life. Did I really think a hug would prove to them that I, in return, support them? Even though I’m sure my lifestyle, just like most American lifestyles, says otherwise. The twigs and trunks of the nonliving were somehow giving more of their love and energy to a tree than my desire to simply just embrace them.

Last week, I described this place as barren, vacant and dismal. Why didn’t I consider the trees as magnificent, note-worthy living beings? Why were they any less special than perhaps some stocked trout floating in the river or a lone deer grazing in the brush? Even the toppled over trees with their underbellies devoured by insects was a prospect for new life to sprout out of the ground once spring arrives. I want to seek ways to make sure, my love, can also seep in and reach their roots. Not through my physical touch but through my choices and actions.

My dad was, in a way, right. Visibly, the landscape hadn’t changed much in only a week’s time. What had changed was my thinking, my curiosity and my wonder. What had changed was my appreciation and my desire to improve myself for something that had been there for me my whole life. Something quietly and gently caring for me and all other creatures who rely on their good, selfless souls.

Becoming a Chickadee, by Becca Ralston

One of the most familiar sounds of the forest is the chickadee-dee-dee of the Carolina chickadee. This tiny bird calls with so much charisma and spirit that the entire species was named for the sound they create, and the name fits well. The black-and-white capped bird often pops up nearby, unexpectedly close, just to speak with the human entering its forest. Humans tend to ignore the call, ignore the warning that the curious bird sends out to the rest of the forest. The rest of the animals listen to the chickadee, listen to the front-line guardian of their world.

Walking through the forest, I heard that characteristic, buzzing chickadee-dee-dee long before I saw the bird making the sound. After a couple calls, a titmouse joined in with a scold, and I finally spotted the mixed flock of chickadees and titmice. Their small silhouettes darted this way and that around the trees, and I stopped to observe them.

The forest life pays attention to the chickadees, and often, a good way to see other birds is to watch a group of chickadees. These chickadees, the altruistic birds that revealed their position to send out a warning if they perceived any danger, are good companions, with eyes and ears ready to find potential threats. If a hawk were to fly by, the first birds to call out about it would be the chickadees, and the warning would help protect all of the birds there.

I was correct to wait near the chickadees, for only moments later, I watched a song sparrow spring across the path and heard the yank-yank of the nuthatch.   A flicker flew high in the air, its white rump and golden shafts visible, and a hairy woodpecker beat a slow pattern onto a tree, like knocking on a door. High above, a flock of grackles past me, followed by some geese.

These birds correlated in this area for a reason, and it wasn’t because there was more food around. All the species around me – the brown creeper hopping up the side of the tree, the cardinal lurking in the thicket – were here because of the chickadees and titmice. This loose, mixed flock of birds knew to listen to their guardians and stay close.

Humans tend towards ignorance. They ignore the chickadees warnings, even when the chickadee speaks their own language. Even when the chickadee, rather than calling out a general warning, speaks of statistics. Even when the chickadees are experts in what they warn us of. The chickadees surround us as humans. We hear chickadees say that flame retardants and chemicals cause disease and death. We hear chickadees say that western ideals threaten our very lives and survival. We hear chickadees say that we have very little time and that immediate action is necessary.

We don’t listen. Just as we, as a historic people, ignored and brushed the facts of human genocide under the rug – genocide in the Americas, genocide in Rwanda, genocide is Bosnia, genocide caused by American policies – we ignore the voices that speak out against the death of our very planet, a death that will only lead to more genocides of human lives.

We live on the bones of the slaves, on the bones of native Americans, and soon we will cover them with the bones of our very planet and all those the planet takes with it. It’s time to listen to the chickadees; it’s time to become the chickadees. And hopefully, when people listen, they’ll recognize that the dangers we speak of, the dangers that threaten our very survival are worth listening to, are worth reacting to, and finally, finally, people will begin to care. For just as the flicker cares about the chickadee, so should the people care about those who speak out against the injustices of our society.

In another area of the forest, I stopped to observe what was around me. As I paused and listened, I saw a couple sparrows bouncing in the underbrush. In order to see them more closely, I used a common technique among bird-watchers. I made a loud string of sounds, psch-psch-psch-psch. These sounds were fast and buzzy, strung together in a way that made it similar to a chickadee calling dee-dee-dee-dee. Within moments of me becoming the chickadee, a kingfisher rattled behind me and no less than fifteen white-throated sparrows and song sparrows emerged from the brush in front of me. They looked about for the danger; they called out a high, loud seet, and they watched for a long minute.

The birds listened to me, as I pretended to be a chickadee.

Now time for the people.

Climate and the Brandywine, by Will Feuerhake

It’s been several years since I last remember visiting Brandywine Creek State Park. I know realistically there is nothing much that could have changed, but still I wonder what subtle variations have occurred since my last visit. As a child, Brandywine Creek was one of my favorite weekend destinations. I would go with my dad, or sometimes my mom, to hike the trails, explore the forest, and skip rocks on the creek. The place seemed so grand to me back then, so majestic. But then again so did just about everything in the world. Now, as an adult, the world seems smaller, less magical. I imagine the park will feel that way to me now as well. Although, I can’t help but wonder if now as an adult, with my broadened perspective, if I would begin to notice new elements that eluded me in the past. Perhaps what subtleties unknown to me as a child would reveal themselves to me now as an adult. Despite my lingering curiosity, I decide to put it off for now and focus on my driving. I’m almost there, the river should be coming up soon.

Northern Delaware is situated almost right in the middle of the Eastern Corridor, an area along the East Coast considered by many geographers to be one of the world’s largest emerging megalopolises. Thus, a state park like Brandywine Creek is about as close to wilderness as you can get. As I pull into the park entrance, adjacent to the river, and exit my car, the sounds of “civilization” (the constant sound of traffic from the nearby main road, a helicopter and a few commercial airliners flying overhead, and the knowledge that about a mile to the east is one of the state’s largest shopping strips) remind me that whatever sense of isolation I now have from society is only superficial. But still enough to give a short break from the hustle and bustle of urban/suburban life.

As I begin my stroll through the park, my attention is immediately drawn to the car bridge crossing the river, situated immediately next to the entrance of the park. The bridge has been there as long as I can remember, definitely since I began visiting as a child. It’s sleek design and stone structure give it a contemporary feel that seems to blend in well with the surrounding natural environment. Yet my first thought when seeing this bridge is not about its structure or design, but about what chemicals it is probably depositing into the river from all the cars crossing on a daily basis. Given a moment’s pause, I find myself a bit surprised at this pessimistic thought. Even as an adult I tend not to think this way (at least not about subtle environmental issues), yet I can’t help but recall what I’ve learned from class about road chemicals (leaking oil from cars, wiper fluid, road salt, etc.) that eventually make their way into water sources, like rivers. And if contaminants can leak from roads, then a bridge must be practically a depository for such chemicals. Surprised by the immediacy of these pessimistic thoughts, I wonder if they will continue as I make my way further into the park. After finishing my observations at the bridge I decide to continue onwards.

As I make my way down the river, away from the park entrance, the sounds of “civilization” begin to diminish. I can tell it is Winter, not just by the cold temperatures and fallen leaves, but by the general quiet all around. Besides the gentle breeze and the sounds of water running through the river, I can hear very little; almost as if the entire world is asleep, waiting for spring to come so it can wake up. I notice the river seems to be running at normal level, although the presence of many dry banks leads me to believe that it tends to rise here often. Further down I notice a fallen tree by the river bank that seems to be collecting debris. At one side, a thick dirt-like substance appears to be collecting in several layers. At another, several twigs and branches have built up into a small island. It really is an interesting sight, almost as if the river itself is collecting its ingredients to showcase to passersby, although whether the presentation is meant to be educational or as a warning I can’t quite tell.

Continuing down the river I find the sense of pessimism I had during my time at the bridge slowly fading. I’m reminded of the soothing meditative effect a walk through the woods can really have on a person. Perhaps this is what drew me to this place so much as a child. The peace and tranquility; a sense of calm the seems to elude us in our everyday technology-centered lives. Approaching the end of the riverside trail, and satisfied with my overall experience, I decide it would be a good time to start heading back. As I turn back towards the main trail however, I can’t help but notice a sign tacked to the side of a tree by the river bank. The sign, it turns out, is a warning. It reads: “Warning. It is recommended that no more than 2 eight-ounce meals per year be eaten from these waters.” Although less dire than I expected, it is enough to remind me that although environmental issues and contaminants may leave our minds from time to time, they are always present, even if we don’t notice them.

As I begin my trek back to the park entrance, I realize just how much smaller the park now feels; the forest less grand, the river less majestic. As a child it seemed so disconnected, like it was its own separate world. Now, reminders of “civilization” seem to be everywhere; the sounds of traffic in the distance, planes overhead, the occasional warnings of the contaminated river. Yet while it seems like the park has changed, it also feels much the same. I notice all the familiar landscapes and landmarks as when I was a child, and I still get the same feeling of sublimity. As I reach the park entrance and enter my car, I wonder if, with the acceleration of climate change and other environmental issues, that feeling will last much longer.

Transformation Begins With Us, by Sabrina Jordan

My peripheral vision catches a glimpse of bright red, and my eyes dart to investigate the color. Wedged in between a mound of rocks snuggled in the bank of the creek, the pigment sticks out like a sore thumb. For it is not part of the innate scenery. It is not native to these woods. It has not grown and prospered here. It is unnatural. It is a red solo cup.

I slow my pace and come to a stop, turn around on the bridge, and make my way down the slippery steep slope that brings me to the side of the creek. Are there parties in White Clay now? And how come I have not been invited? No, it is clear that this particular party favor has been through a journey, however, I cannot tell its story just by looking at it. How did you get here, and why was the person who used you so careless? Where did you come from, where did you go, and what kind of effect did you have on the environment that carried you along the way? How many living organisms were exposed to your phthalates and BPA that are now infected with toxins? I remove the cup from the earth and plan to dispose it during the continuation of my walk out of the park.

Before leaving, I rest at this spot and take a pause. Crystalized water sits at my feet, its frozen veins spreading across its sheet of ice like a spider’s web. I have just taken a two hour long walk of meditation, much longer than I originally planned for. This time of the year the trees are bare, and the remains of their fallen leaves still decay into the soil. I look across the creek and admire one particular tree with a thick trunk rooted into the ground that grows tall into the sky. She is a veteran in these woods, experienced and wise. I imagine that each leaf she has let go of, is a negative part of herself she chose to release. An element of worry, of pain, of doubt, of fear, of anger, or of sadness, is released. She chooses to be at peace with herself and with everything that surrounds her.

We should all learn from her, because our world is in desperate need of peace, of acceptance, and of love. Our world may only undergo a positive transformation when we begin with ourselves. Humanity must reconstruct its values, and in this way we will be enlightened culturally and spiritually. This enlightenment will bring us to the realization that humans are a mere speck in the universe, and maybe, this awareness will make us humble. Maybe we will finally understand the importance of treating one another with respect, and maybe, we will then grasp the fundamental consciousness that explains “one another” includes the universe.

It is our home, and we humans have done some damage. By contaminating ourselves with ignorance and greed, we in turn have contaminated this vast ecosystem we exist in. I do not believe that humankind is intrinsically evil; I do believe that there is more good than there is bad in this world. That is why I have hope that the current circumstances of our planet will change, because we are able to empathize with our earth and we are able to nurture her. The question is, when will we start? I will start now, by ridding this creek of the red solo cup, because I know she would let go of it if she could.

Learning to Look, by Alex Luzier


Normally when on a hike or while walking through a park, I observe my surroundings. I take in the trees, the river, and the brush on the ground. I notice the smells, I notice the insects and animals, and I notice the changing colors in correlation to the changing seasons. But this is just observing; this is just recognizing my location and the surrounding environment. What I really need to learn how to do, and what I aspire to do well, is to look. Just like the definition of looking for something, by ‘looking’ I mean that I possess the knowledge to go outdoors and understand what specifically I could find in the area that I’m in. Typically I venture into the woods and just appreciate what I see, however I’d like to venture into the woods and know what I could see; what animals, organisms, trees, plants, and waterways run through that particular area of land. This way, when I see something, it becomes that much more exciting.

This idea struck home with me while on a walk into White Clay Creek State Park this past Thursday. I was walking with my friend when an elderly man approached us. The man was walking his two dogs, so we were already delighted that he decided to talk to us. We immediately bent down to pet the dogs however; he didn’t come over just so that his dogs would get some extra petting time. He says, “Do you know why I’m back in this area today?” Of course I responded, “No” since I had never met this man before, nor did I recognize this particular area of White Clay as anything different than its surrounding areas. He turned on his small digital camera and starts flipping through the photos until he lands on the one he wanted to show me. It’s an extremely clear photo of a large Barred Owl sitting on a tree branch in White Clay. “It was about 40 yards away, right up there in that tree,” he says, “I saw it yesterday on my daily walk with my boys [the dogs].” At this point I’m stunned, no exaggeration. He continues to tell me that this type of owl lives in wooded areas with large trees and near water. Even though we hadn’t meandered that far into the depths of White Clay, the habitat was perfect for Barred Owls. He then tells me that he wishes he had his better camera with him, and that’s when I notice a huge Nikon camera around his neck. All I can think is, “he’s frustrated with his perfectly clear photo because he believes he could’ve gotten a better one, whereas I wouldn’t have even thought to take a picture because I’d be too mesmerized that I saw an actual owl.” He notices my expression of disbelief and replies, “Have you never seen an owl?” And this is when it hit me. No, I’ve never seen an owl in the wild; I’ve only seen them in zoos. And is this normal? Possibly, since owls are nocturnal and sleep in high crevices in trees. But this man knew what type of owl it was, knew that some lived in this area, and used this knowledge every time he walked through this part of White Clay. He didn’t go looking for these owls, but since he knew there was a possibility of some being around, he would stop and look for them whenever he was in that area.

I was dumbfounded because without talking to this man, I never would have known that this beautiful creature lives in the area I walk or run through every week. I observe the area; I perceive the land I’m running through; yet I was missing one of the coolest creatures around, in my opinion. Without talking to this man, I never would have known to look for a Barred Owl. I want to learn what types of organisms and plants live in the areas I walk through, even the organisms that are least expected to see. I want to be able to observe, but also try to look for something that I know could possibly be around.

Stray From the Norm, by Chloe Roberts

Before I even begin to tell of my first experience in the woods of White Clay, I must preface this by saying I put this outing off until the very last minute. The thought of venturing somewhere I am not familiar with by myself, for any period of time, is anxiety inducing. However, I used this experience to my advantage by breaking out my hiking boots that I have not used since the summer. I have never even used these shoes within the US border, as I have used them while volunteering abroad for the past two summers. Just putting them on I noticed the irony of how I yearn to travel the world but I have barely explored the country I call home. Nonetheless, the second I stepped out of my car onto the trail, I was immersed in a beauty that I didn’t even realize was there. I had maybe driven past White Clay a handful of times and I never gave it a second glance. I had no idea what was right in front of me.

Knowing me, I would get lost so sticking to a trail was my first instinct; an instinct I proceeded to stray from within the first ten minutes of my journey. I noticed a sign for Cattail Pond and I couldn’t help to walk over, off of the trail, and take a look. I looked to my left and noticed a large area full of plants. I saw a flash of bright red through the dull brown and beige of the plants and it proceeded to land on one of the nearby trees. The cardinal wasn’t alone; as I looked closer, I noticed up to thirty little birds dancing around in the air above the bush filling the space with their songs. I heard the sound of what I assumed was a smaller woodpecker species and I walked closer to the tree it came from. What popped up from a branch was a small, black and white bird with a red cap on its head, which I later identified as a Downy Woodpecker (thank you Merlin).

I proceeded to the pond and stood for a bit taking everything in when I noticed a sign that more or less said to not leave any trash behind. Then I started to think. White Clay, along with any other state or national park, does not tolerate waste being left on the grounds. I couldn’t help but realize that, while White Clay, Yellowstone, Yosemite, and the Grand Tetons are all protected for their immense beauty, why are we not acting like this for the rest of the land that we actually live in? On my drive up to the park, all I could see was piles of garbage left on the sides of roads on the edges of forest. We are forced to live in these conditions every day and little is being done to help keep those areas clean and safe for us to use. National and State Parks are one thing, but we are forced to leave those virtually pristine conditions and go back to the thousands of acres of unprotected lands that are suffering because of the lack of proper enforcement and regulations. We are living in these conditions and no one seems to bat an eye when someone chucks a candy wrapper into a wide open natural area.

I kept this thought in my mind as I departed from the pond and went further into the woods. I followed a secondary path, something I was hesitant about but I figured I would find my way out somehow. I then proceeded to get lost. In the midst of my mini panic attack, I stumbled upon what objectively looked like a sad sight. A curve in the trail constructed by large pines that were stripped to just their branches. It was mesmerizing to look at as the branches seemed to abruptly grow out from the trunk of the tree and lacked any needles or cones. I figured that, since they are evergreen, they were declining in health. Then, I looked up. The trees towered over me, but that wasn’t what I was fascinated about. The top halves of the trees were full of needles and pine cones. This became my favorite part of my journey. It gave me a glimmer of hope in a way. The tree was still living a prosperous life, producing cones that could one day grow into pines as large as those, despite appearing to be on the brink of deterioration. All you have to do is look closer to see the beauty and strength that is right in front of you.

Lums Pond: Beautiful Wasteland, by Mike Palillo

I felt the warm breeze caress my face as I stared off into the distance. Hues of red, orange, blue, and purple painted the evening sky, leaving me with a feeling of awe. As I began to scan the rest of my surroundings, I saw leafless trees, and the reflection of those trees on a pond devoid of any ripples, giving the large body of water the appearance of an elegant mirror. Fifty yards away from me was a stunning Great Blue Heron standing so motionless in the water that I mistook it for a piece of driftwood. Within two minutes of noticing the bird, it quickly extended its long white neck into the water and came up with a medium sized yellow perch. Short of a thin coat of snow covering the landscape, this was the most beautiful scene I could imagine for a mid-January afternoon.

That was my original response to Lums Pond State Park. I was awestruck and at peace, as I usually am when I go for a hike in an area that I have never explored before. This hike was different than any of the other’s I had ever gone on, however, because it was tainted with the fact that this land is polluted.

During the walk I began noticing trash everywhere we went. Near the shade of the sycamore trees were old Ziploc bags. Sitting in the water near the pier was old fishing line. Even next to the sign that said “Keep our parks clean” was old, crumpled newspaper. At first I was pensive, I wondered how much trash there really must be throughout the entire park, but that pensiveness quickly transformed into disgust. Assuming there were large amounts of hidden trash in the park, I could only imagine the amount of unknown chemicals that have leached into the park’s soil and water. Delaware is, and has been, the hub of chemical and manufacturing plants for an upwards of 60 years. Up until recently, no one cared about the effects of chemical contaminates in the environment, which is why it would make sense that this beautiful state park is likely poisoned with chemical runoff.

As I have been learning in class, nearly everything on this earth has been affected by human waste and chemicals, whether intentional or not. I decided to investigate if there was any recorded contamination in Lums Pond. Through a quick Google search I found the eBook, US 301 Corridor Improvement Between MD/DE State Line, New Castle County: Environmental Impact Statement, written in 1993. It stated that Lums Pond was so contaminated with fecal coliform and nuisance algae that it had to be closed down several times in the 1990’s. The eBook stated that, “Pollutant sources contributing to Lums Pond include failing septic systems, road runoff and contaminated groundwater.” I then found out that “fecal coliform” is a bacteria found in mammalian lower intestines. It is essentially poop. This beautiful landscape was so contaminated with feces that it had to be closed down multiple times in the short span of a decade.

What I also learned was that Lums Pond was originally built as a settling basin. A setting basin is a man-made pond that has the sole purpose of removing visible contaminants and settleable matter from wastewater. The Lums Pond State Park surrounds a body of water that was intentionally built to essentially be the garbage dump of wastewater for the New Castle area. On the Delaware State Parks website, the history of Lums pond claims that it was a dammed creek “used to fill the locks of the canals and power a small mill,” which presents a much less menacing history of this state park than its reality. People are expecting nothing other than a pleasant and natural getaway from life, but are unsuspectingly given a literal wasteland.