Eco-Fiction | The magic of our lands

Sunlight shines through a misty and lush forest.

(Sebastian Unrau/Unsplash License)

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Storyfest 2023

This story is about a girl who grows up and witness’s climate change and environmental destruction. As she learns and grows, she is empowered to find her own voice and determination. This story is inspired by my own life and my own feeling of helplessness in the face of climate change. I think many readers will be able to relate to this feeling and this character’s journey throughout the story.

Read the full story below:

There once was a young girl named Ella. She loved playing in the woods and streams around her home. Ella knew the land. She knew each tree and animal that she met on her adventures. Ella learned the songs of the birds, so she could sing with them. Then, in the fall she collected apples from the wild apple trees in the woods, and in wintertime she followed the tracks of deer and rabbit through the snow. Ella used to run through the old maple forest that encircled her home every chance she had. When she was young, the world was a beautiful place to be explored and loved. She never thought that the forest, and her animal friends might someday be lost…

One warm summer night, many years ago, Ella sat on her porch to listen to her grandmother tell a story. Ella loved hearing her grandmother’s stories, and tonight was no exception. The air was still warm, and the fireflies had only started their dance when Ella’s grandmother began.

“Many people say that magic is not real, but they do not know what I do. I have heard the whispers of the wind in the maples. I have learned the songs of the river flowing over mossy stones. I know that this life we are living is full of magic. It is not just the stuff of fairytales. Magic is found in the small things that go unnoticed, like the first blossom of spring, and the sparkle of the snowflakes in January. When I was young, my mother taught me the magic of our land. We learned to savor, and care for the nature all around us. We were grateful for the sun and the rain, the wind, and the snow. My mother taught me to respect all that nature was, and to be grateful for all that it provided. Now that I am older, I will teach my grandchildren to do the same.”

Ella continued to listen to her grandmother’s tales of adventures and history until the moon was high in the sky. That night she went to bed dreaming of the wondrous adventures that she might come to have in her lifetime. She awoke the next day, and every day after, bright and excited. Ella was ready to live fully enveloped in the magic of the land. So, Ella spent her early childhood exploring, learning, and experiencing the wonders of our planet. She met each changing season with open arms and excitement. She studied the ways of the animals and the trees. She learned to listen to the whispers of the wind in the maples. She learned the songs of the river as well, but soon, too soon, the magic began to die. Ella was nearly 12 when she started to see it disappear.

People had been irresponsible and disrespectful with the land they all shared. They polluted, exploited, and destroyed. On the news each day Ella heard of floods, storms, fires, droughts, and one word that seemed to connect it all, climate change. Climate change was the reason why she didn’t see the snowflakes in December anymore. Climate change was the reason why her animal friends were disappearing, and her trees were sick. The newscasters explained the disasters that would continue if climate change wasn’t mitigated.

Ella even learned about climate change in school, and she heard about it from other adults. They all seemed to argue about the predicted impacts, and the reality of it all. Ella didn’t understand why people kept debating the reality of climate change, when she could see its impacts everywhere. Why did they claim it wasn’t real? Why did they do nothing to stop it all of these years until now? Why, now that everything was falling apart, after years of warning from scientists, was there still not action to fix it? Ella was young, so she did not yet understand the complexity of the problem. She did the only thing she always did when she was faced with a complicated problem; she spoke to her mother.

Ella asked, “Why is climate change happening?”

“Because, the Earth is sick. Mother Nature is not happy with us for all the years which we have been unkind to her. That is why there are so many natural disasters now, and the living things are struggling, because it’s Mother Nature’s way of telling us to stop,” responded her mother. Ella thought about that, and she remembered her grandmother’s stories of magic, and her teachings of kindness. It made sense that nature would be mad at people for not being kind. Ella decided then that she wanted to teach people to change and to be kind to nature. She needed to teach people about the magic of our land, so that they would understand why they needed to stop polluting and destroying it.

Then, Ella grew up. She decided to study sustainability in college, and the world around her changed. The forest she once played in as a child was cleared and developed into a neighborhood of uniform modular houses. Ella mourned the loss of the forest, as one would mourn the loss of a friend. The beautiful emerald green sanctuary was replaced by stark white walled houses with manicured lawns. The wildness was simply gouged out and replaced with “civility”. It required a lot of effort for Ella to not hate the people who lived in those houses, but they didn’t know the true cost of their homes. They didn’t understand all that was lost, and Ella didn’t know how to make them understand.

So, Ella continued to grow, and study. She kept looking for ways to teach others about sustainability. However, the more she learned, the more complex the issue became. She was discouraged by the constant pollution, degradation, and exploitation that was happening all around her. She had felt so silenced, for so long. She wanted to scream to the world, and demand that they stop, but she didn’t know how. Her world was dying, and Ella felt like the only one who mourned its loss.

A stump of a tree against a forest of felled and dead trees. The magic of the forest has gone.
(Roya Ann Miller/Unsplash License)

On the day that Ella graduated college, the last old maple tree fell. Ella returned home from college, to see the tree fall. The tree had stood and lived long before Ella’s people even inhabited the land, yet there was no respect given to it. The sacrilegious sounds of a chainsaw filled the air as workers cleared away the felled bones of the maple. Ella thought that tree must’ve felt the same way she did, witnessing the senseless destruction that was happening all around it. The tree must’ve wanted to scream to the world to stop, but none would listen. Ella thought of her grandmother then, how she had once listened to the whispers of the wind in the maples. She wondered what the whispers would tell her now. Ella closed her eyes then, to shut out the sight of the tree, as tears slid down her face.

Ella knew where she needed to go, and she ran. Ella ran through her backyard, and across the pristine streets of the housing development. She continued running through other people’s yards and across sidewalks until she reached the other side, the edge of the development. She climbed over the chain link fence, and nearly stumbled down the sheer hillside to the creek, which the developers decided would not be profitable to remove.

Across the creek was the last acre or two of maples left in the town. This bit of forest was all that was left of the vast wood that had once existed. It was here, in her dwindling sanctuary that Ella finally stopped running. She climbed into a tree, and she cried. She told the maples what was happening, and she told them how futile it all seemed to try to change the world. Everything she loved, all that was good and magic in the world was being stamped out, and Ella felt there was nothing she could do to stop it. Then Ella paused, and she listened. She listened for the whispers of the wind in the maples, but all she heard was the light sounds of traffic and the distant drone of a saw.

 That was it, that was all Ella could take. She screamed then, yelled to the whole world. She couldn’t be silent one moment longer. Her home, her life, her future, and her world were being destroyed by ignorance and disrespect. She had to change this, she had to. There was no way she could live if she did not. She returned to her house, and she wrote. She poured her knowledge, her will, and her soul into letters and articles, all with the purpose of teaching and pleading with people to understand. She would tell her story, and the stories of her ancestors, to convince people to cease their destruction. She wrote to any and all who would listen. She needed the world to see, to understand all that was being lost. She would not, could not, be silent again. Never again would she allow nature to stand alone. Ella was going to stand with nature from now until forever. Even if nobody else stands with her, because Ella knows that the magic is worth protecting.

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climate change, Deforestation, fiction, loss of nature

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