Youth Essay Contest Winner
Joseph Troelsch, Bethlehem, Pa., Ninth grade
Imagine a sunny morning in the middle of fall and walking through woods. You hear the sounds of trees swaying in the gentle breeze. The sounds of animals surround you while slowly walking through on the path in the woods. As you look around you see the white tails of deer disappearinging into the nearby brush, you see rabbits settled in the fallen leaves observing you from afar. The squirrels, only a short distance away from you, riffle through the shrubs in an attempt to hide their nuts for winter.
Continuing along, you approach a stream full of fish that rise to the surface of the water to feast on unseen life. The slow, gentle flow of the stream is relaxing and reminds you of distant memories. As birds diligently work in the trees above, you begin what you came here for – searching. You have arrived to search for two things: the beauties of nature and trash.
Walking down the path in the woods a large black bag is already half full with garbage. The collection of litter is a mandatory practice in order to keep wildlife healthy and their habitat clean. A misplaced piece of trash can cause harm and is, of course, unsightly
Pondering how the bag can be so full already, you come across something unusual, a large black object. A large black rock? A dead animal? When you arrive at the feature, you grab a stick and poke it. You realize that it is not a rock or an animal. It is a black bag nearly identical to the one you carry. Looking around you wonder who would have been crazy enough to drag a large garbage bag out into the middle of a trail.
Behind the bag there is a trail of garbarge. The path of garbage leads to a puddle and in the mud there is a paw pattern. The pattern is too big to be a fox or stray cat, and it is not the pattern that a hoofed animal would have left. One option remains – a bear!
Still following the trail, but now in a more cautious manner, you go on for another 20 minutes picking up debris and soon realize your bag is starting to fill up. But there is more trash and more room in the bag so you continue on.
Arriving at 15-foot cliff it feels like a logical place to turn around, but something catches your eye. Down below is a bear and not just one, but four. The large bear, likely the mother, is just finishing breakfast as her cubs wrestle and play. After observing and admiring the bears for an hour, they wander into a nearby cave.
Retracing your steps throughout the day you think of all of the beauties of nature that must be defended and you think of what else you can find if you only just look.
The experience described here can teach us many things about understanding why outdoor spaces should be a major part of our lives. We can learn that we must all enjoy and thoroughly explore the surrounding environment. The simplest things can be done to both protect and clean the public lands privileged to us. We must all come to understand that experiences in the outdoors are good because they allow us to recognize the full beauty of nature.
Being outdoors teaches us how to respect animals in ways that we never would have thought. We must remember that public lands and green spaces are important in our lives. While many people protect the beauties of nature, those who are not warriors for nature must only knock and the door shall be opened.