Today, over and through the conversations of my students making meaning of literature I heard the harsh sounds of the excavators knocking down the old school building on the other side of the belt of trees. We were reading a book about a clash of cultures-the animist beliefs of the Indians of the west coast of Canada and the Anglican British priests sent to save the Indians from damnation.
I walked over to see the progress.
I had hoped that the school would be turned into open fields; the new school has replaced old, overgrown hay fields with concrete and asphalt. But, hey! We got a green roof-that counts, right?. The school and the community benefited from a land swap. Nature lost both ways-less habitat, less room, and more land altered beyond all original shape.
I remember when I started working in this once rural spot, over a decade ago, the killdeer swooped over the wide open fields behind the school with their cheerful little cries. I would take my students outside in May, allowing them room to practice acting Shakespeare. I would track the killdeer and the hawks. Somebody had to; may as well be me. They (the birds, not my students) were sometimes difficult to see when they entered into the old trees that lined the field-it did take some work to follow them so I wasn’t goofing off or slacking at completing a very important part of my job. .
With the development of the homes across the street, the killdeer vanished. Like so many things, you first notice the quiet and the emptiness. Then you puzzle over what is missing. And then you realize that another part of the world just got lonelier, emptier, more hollow. I hope they found some other, quieter fields. Perhaps on the old farms outside of town.
I drive around this town, beginning to choke on its gluttony of development, and scope out each woodlot, each little postage stamp of open space, the large fields on the edges and obsess over when they too will be swallowed in the gaping maw of the excavators and the bulldozers. I search for the signs that celebrate another development that morbidly use the name of the farm in its name. “Glen” is my favorite. Ah! The visions of leafy green grasses and trees carpeting gently undulating earth. The irony is enough to make you gag-homes put on billiard table flatness, trees the thickness of pencils, and grass from a roll off a truck.
I will keeping listening, hoping, once again, to hear the killdeer.