World That Once Was …

I was sitting dozing before the fire when my two great grandchildren rushed into the room …

“Grannie, Grannie … we’re bored!  Will you tell us some stories?  Will you tell us about the cabin in the woods?”

“Yeah, an’ Grannie … will you tell us again ‘bout how you used to play outside … an’ how there was grass an’ you could even see the sky?  Please, Grannie, please?”

Now, I know their mother would not wish me to fill their heads with what once was and can never be again, but … it is all I have left to give them … the world that once was.  And so, I make room for one of them on either side of me, and I begin …

Well, you see, when I was a little girl, so many years ago, I would wake up on Saturday morning, do the few chores assigned to me, and then run outside to play with my friends.  Sometimes we played football in the street, sometimes we rode bicycles, and other days we went out in search of caterpillars that we would keep in canning jars with holes poked in the lids and some grass and water in the bottom.  And then we would wait for them to turn into beautiful butterflies.

“An’ you didn’t even have to wear an oxygen mask to go outside, Grannie?”

“What’s a butterfly?”

No, child, we didn’t need to wear oxygen masks to go outside back then, for the air was fresh and clear, and you could look up and see how blue the sky was … not like today when all you see is murky yellow air.  A butterfly, sweetie … well here … let me draw you a picture …butterfly

They aren’t around anymore … I guess they couldn’t survive in the bad air. We would play outside all day, sit in the grass to eat our sandwiches, and when night fell, we caught lightning bugs.  They aren’t around anymore either, but they were little bugs that had some chemical at the tail end of their body, and as they flew, they lit up a pale yellow or green colour.  It was how they ‘talked’ to the other lightning bugs. When I was a young girl, sometimes there would be hundreds of them in the yard, all lighting up at once.  Oh, it was quite a sight to see and I always looked forward to their arrival in summer.

“What about the parks, Grannie?  Tell us ‘bout the parks … pleeeeease!”

Oh yes, the parks.  Sigh.  Back then, we had national parks … hundreds, maybe even thousands of acres of forests with streams where the water was so clear you could see the fish swimming and the rocks in the very bottom.  And nobody could build a business or a factory or even houses in the national parks, because they were protected land.  The government protected them so that the critters that lived in them could live in safety and so that we would always have beautiful natural land to visit.

“What kind of critters lived there, Grannie?”

Well, it depended on where the park was, but most were home to deer, elk, snakes, squirrels, bears, wolves, coyote, birds and many others.

“Why did the parks go away, Grannie?  Didn’t people want them anymore?”

“What happened to the animals?”

Well, child, I think that most of us wanted the parks, we appreciated them and loved being away from the cities, just enjoying the beauty of nature.  But, there were some people who thought it was more important to use that land to drill for oil and gas, and to build hotels and factories, and the government gave in to the wishes of those people without listening to the rest of us.


Because those people who wanted to get rid of the parks had more money than the rest of us, and people with more money … well, they always get their way.  Now as to what happened to the animals … some of them were taken to other places, but as a rule they didn’t adapt well to their new environments and … well, they … just … died.

“Grannie … why are you crying?  Are you sad because the animals died?”

Oh, child … yes, I am very sad because the animals died, but I’m also sad because … well, because the whole life I once knew has died.  I remember running through open fields, watering flowers and letting a big bumblebee land on my nose.  I remember hiking in the woods with my friend Herb, how green the foliage was, how tall the trees, how clear the water in the streams.  And I am sad, for all of that is gone now.  Did I ever tell you about the great redwood trees on the west coast?  Why, those trees … some were so wide that they even made a road right through the center of the tree!!!  And they got so tall that you could barely see the top … sometimes as tall  as almost 400 feet!!!  I saw them plenty of times when I was a girl, but they were always a sight to behold.

“What happened to the redwoods trees, Gran?”

Well, mostly I think they were chopped down, but I hear the ones that were left just died for lack of oxygen.  They can’t put oxygen masks on trees like they can people, you know.  Same reason there’s no grass left in people’s yards … living things need clean air to breathe, even plants.  I’m tired now, children, and it makes me too sad to remember how life used to be.  Tell you what … bring that book about the bears that you like so much and I’ll read to you.

“Grannie … how come you never go to church with us?”

Because, child, I don’t believe in any of that nonsense they tell there about how some people are better than others because of the colour of their skin or who they choose to love.  It’s a waste of time that I can spend doing better things.

“But mommy says you’re gonna get in trouble with the law and have to go to jail if you don’t go to church …”

Hush child … it matters not anymore … now go get that book like I told you.trees-2.jpg

35 thoughts on “World That Once Was …

  1. Sadly prophetic.

    You know as well as I do Jill, that we can change anything. Humans are clever.

    It is not that we, the people, are not willing to give up our dalliances with materialism in an effort to keep our world healthy, diverse and life supporting; it is that corporations don’t want to give up their control over us.

    The air we breathe is still free… Unlike any other resource that is now sold to us to keep us slaving. But have you noticed that because they can’t bottle it (yet), the corporations are happily poisoning the air so that eventually we will have to pay to live in oxygenated bubble cities in areas that they designate while the planet resources are continually raped!

    Liked by 1 person

    • It may well be that humans are clever and can change things. BUT … they have to want to change things first, and unfortunately, the people with the power and money, those who could make a real difference, are unwilling to make any sacrifice in order to save the planet or help others do so. In fact, they are actively seeking to stop others from making changes for the better. You are correct about the corporations, but … the corporations are a compilation of people, mostly people who enjoy their luxurious life-style and will not change until one day they wake up and realize that the party is over … nothing left but empty booze bottles and a gift left in the corner by the guy who drank too much. How do we get through to them? I’m not sure we can. I strongly suspect that mankind has put itself on a path that will lead to his own extinction, either through nuclear warfare, or allowing the planet to become uninhabitable.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Your “Once upon a time” story, sadly, does not end with “and they all lived happily ever after.” I would hope that it might remain fiction, as opposed to becoming nonfiction. This may not be possible, if humankind continues to travel on its present path. I just read the New York Times Magazine’s issue of August 1, 2018. “Losing Earth : The Decade We Almost Stopped Climate Change” by Nathaniel Rich is, though lengthy, superb. Jake Silverstein, the magazines editor-in-chief, wrote that 1979-1989 was the “decisive decade when humankind first came to a broad understanding of the cause and dangers of climate change.” Mr. Rich starts with these words : “Almost nothing stood in our way – except ourselves.” Nearly 30 years later, with the total disregard for environmental protections and refusal to address climate change, the scenario of your story seems a very perilous possibility. Thank-you!

    Liked by 3 people

    • No, my friend, it didn’t end with a ‘happily ever after’, and for that I am sorry. I wish I could have made it so, but … in my mind, it would have been a lie. Unless we do a dramatic, 180-degree turnaround and soon, I don’t foresee a ‘happily ever after’. However, we will keep trying to wake up our sleeping brothers and sisters and convince them to get off their patooties and try to make a difference, yes?

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Jill, well written. I kept thinking of Joni Mitchell’s chorus, “they paved paradise and put up a parking lot.”

    Reading several books and articles on climate change and environmental degradation, we must invest in replenishing mangroves and wetlands as well as replenishing forests yanked down for flooring, furniture and housing. But, if we do not diminish more our fossil fuel use and use of water to glean such, we are in a heap of hurt. Our dilemma breaks down to the tale of two waters – too much salt water and not enough fresh water. Keith

    Liked by 2 people

    • Thanks Keith. This came to me while I was rolling cigarettes, and it simply wouldn’t leave my mind, much as I tried to banish it. It demanded to be put onto paper … er, keyboard. The song … Big Yellow Taxi … is oddly one that I have had in my head many times of late. Good pairing with this post. Maybe it will be my song of the day soon.


  4. I think I have long understood that I have enjoyed one of the best times to be alive. Things have been slowly getting better for most of my life. And now they are getting worse. But, at my age, I won’t expect to live long enough to see things get really bad. I do worry about the future that my grandchildren will experience.

    Liked by 2 people

    • I can’t imagine 25/50 years from now and I don’t think I want to know. I too feel I lived in the best of times when most people were good and mostly sane and not nearly so greedy and self absorbed and such hate and fanaticism the likes of which I’ve never seen.

      Liked by 2 people

    • I feel much the same, though I might have rather lived in an earlier time, for sometimes today’s world moves much too fast for me. Like you, I am glad I am old and will not have to live to see mankind destroy himself completely. I wish I could leave the world a better place than I found it, but the odds are heavily stacked against it.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Yes, we’re getting there, and much faster than most think, though they all suspect. Living in “blissful” denial is easier, huh? And the kind of change you write about here doesn’t care about borders… It won’t matter where you live.

    Liked by 3 people

    • You are right … at the present rate, humans are on their way to a self-imposed extinction, and half don’t believe or else don’t care. And since there are no plastic bubbles over each country to confine its own garbage, what anyone does will indeed affect the entire globe. Sigh.

      Liked by 1 person

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