Somewhere on Pioneer Trail, in a quiet
and wooded place; somewhere between Mantua and Ravenna, is a spring.
There, at the side of the road, is a face of rock, stained red
beneath from the iron-rich water that flows from a thin metal pipe.
Lush wildflowers grow there: black-eyed Susan, daisies, sweet peas.
Whenever she took Pioneer Trail to
transport her grandchildren to or from the hundred-acre farm she
shared with her husband, my grandmother would pull her white Mustang
to the side of the road. My sisters and I would scoot off the red
vinyl seats and emerge to pick flowers to fashion into jewelry or to
take home to wrap in a vase of wet paper towels and foil. After we
drank our fill of the water, icy and fresh and thick with minerals,
my grandmother would take two or three plastic milk jugs from the
trunk and fill them at the spring.
This was my introduction to bottled
Years ago, my grandmother collected
butterflies. When she trapped one, she would put it in a jar with a
cotton ball soaked in alcohol. When its fluttering had ceased, she
would mount the butterfly upon a board and affix a neat label
Some would say that was cruel.
Some would drink from plastic water
I spent hours studying those
butterflies: The blues and the yellows and the blacks of the wings;
the intricate patterns only nature could design.
My grandmother took us on long walks in
the woods of my grandparents' farm, pointing out wild mushrooms and
fungus and ferns. She took us fishing for crayfish and minnows
beneath the bridge that spanned the west branch of the Mahoning
River. And whenever birds hit one of the kitchen windows, Grandma
would pick it up and put it in a shoebox until it was able to fly
Today, on the rare occasion that life
takes me down Pioneer Trail between Mantua and Ravenna, there's a
sign beside that spring: “Do not take water from the roadside.”
That's OK: Water bottles line the
grocery store shelves.
We no longer need those springs.
We don't need the wildflowers growing
We don't need naturalists in love with
nature teaching the next generation the ways of the earth.
Somewhere on the road between Mantua
and Ravenna, a spring flows quiet and undisturbed.
And empty water bottles ride the stream into a river of regret.
Labels: Creative non-fiction, scriptic.org