I walked on the trail that would lead me to Ch’íiw̓es, wanting to observe the new changes that were being made to make room for this new mega project, Oceanfront Development. A few meters after passing the “Private Property” sign, unexpectedly, the ground underneath me changed from the well known packed down earthen trail to freshly torn up earth. As I looked up, the greenery that I would have expected to border me lay scattered as debris. My eyes fell upon a large clearing and the sight of excavators. My legs stumbled amongst the mud and freshly displaced rocks.
I felt a wave of loss. I thought about the day when I joined my daughter Cedar and her classmates at Ch’íiw̓es for a nature walk. The trees that now lay slaughtered were the same trees that we harvested hemlock tips from so we could make tea. The logs that were pushed into a careless heap next to the ocean were the same logs that we once sat against while we mingled our toes in the sand. Even the sand is no longer. Freshly buried under this man-made pile of land that now extends itself further into the ocean than the last.
All in the name of profit.
As I trudged past with disappointment at the complete disregard for place, I approached and climbed the freshly packed three meters of soil that was scattered with grass seed that they recently laid. As my eyes gazed upon the newly changed surroundings, they fell upon the body of the large tree that once stood tall and strong at the ocean’s entrance. I realized, unless one had some sort of connection to what was here before, it would be hard to fathom what these changes actually mean.
I thought back to that day of picking hemlock tips. It was the same day that we sat on the beach and learned how to fold rose buds out of dried strands of Cedar bark with Char. It was more than a day on the beach. It was a sharing of knowledge, a making of memories. It was building good relations with the land we all shared. Looking upon the recent changes made in the name of “progress and development,” I wondered, how do we be in good relation with the earth if that relationship maybe didn’t exist in the first place? Can it be cultivated and taught? Can we build a new way to be in the world that respects all life and can we do it in time before it’s too late? While the sounds of pile drivers echoed from behind me, I begrudgingly walked away thinking, if we don’t, then unlike the hemlocks that now lay as dismembered reminders of death, perhaps we deserve what’s coming.