Strolling Through a Barren World

Ryan Groza, Guest Columnist

As menacing clouds stole all light from the sky on this cold winter afternoon, I discovered a secret world reminiscent of death and loneliness. Apart from the birds fleeing the upcoming storm, no life existed at the back entrance to Creasey Mahan Nature Preserve. A worn-down platform marked the beginning of a treacherous path to the right, and empty houses with once-living flowers formed a neat line on its left.

Just beyond the platform stood a silent lake overlooked by cozy, wooden homes and guarded by the skeletons of dandelions. While the opposite end of the colorless water curved far beyond my vision, I directed my focus towards the peeling, black paint and broken, red graffiti on the platform; people from previous generations must have known about this isolated entrance now carpeted with leftover plastic litter and dead leaves. The storm increased in power, and the tempo of cold raindrops sped up on my umbrella as I began my stroll into the lifeless forest.

Monstrous boulders strangled in vines and invaded by vibrant green moss descended into the forest like the passageway to hell. As I hesitantly moved from stone to stone, a coat of liquid mud patiently waited to entrap my shoes and send me falling down the rock wall. Upon reaching the bottom of the forest, a new danger revealed itself: an army of dead trees, waterways, and trash.

Monstrous boulders strangled in vines and invaded by vibrant, green moss descended into the forest like the passageway to hell.”

All around me, tree trunks rested gray and lifeless, with flaky white moss inhabiting the former home of leaves. Waterfalls ran dry, revealing the sandy sediment underneath and the hairy, dangling roots that lined the banks of the stream. Even trash found its own niche in this environment; a McDonald’s bag clogged a narrow waterway in the stream, half-full plastic water bottles sat permanently among the rocks, and little scraps of paper nested in the hairlike shrubs.

Other than a melancholy requiem created by the beat of the raindrops, no sound resonated throughout the forest. The once-animated forest now resembled a desolate graveyard, with thousands of pale trees standing tall and alone like old, forgotten tombstones.

Walking deeper into the woods, unusual features whispered tales of former glory and revealed the true beauty of this world. In the middle of an uncrossable moat stood a towering brick monument with clumpy fungi of every shade of green coloring its many cracks. It’s ordered, neat design contrasted with the bleakness of its surroundings, creating a sense of curiosity that lures victims.

Further down the trail, a wooden bridge resembling a checkerboard traversed a pool of rainwater that danced in thousands of growing concentric circles as raindrops penetrated the surface. The small bridge curved sharply upwards, so high that standing at the peak was to stand on top of Mount Everest, looking down on the world below.

On the opposite end of the bridge, a graceful young tree stood alone in an opening in the forest with a mesh barrier protecting the only fragment of life left remaining on it: a smiling Batman ornament hanging by a royal blue pipe cleaner. This tree is a memorial.

Heading back, the rain pounded my umbrella harder than before, yet the atmosphere around me grew more peaceful and familiar; I no longer felt alone. Rich, earthy aromas wafted in the air as the refreshing rainfall created pores in the soil, and the upbeat tune of newly activated waterfalls harmonized with the melody of the showers. The bleak forest pulsated with the energy and emotion of a newborn baby during its first moments on earth.

By the time I reached the entrance, thick layers of wet mud tattooed my skin and served as memories of my moments in the woods. With one final glance at the gray forest from atop the old platform, I caught sight of a new development that hinted at this barren world’s future: tiny green sprouts.