Protecting the Land

Sometimes I forget I’m vulnerable, that I have no brawling or martial arts skills, and that I’m not very strong, and yet…  It’s in those times that other people find out I’m stronger and tougher than I seem.  Tonight while I was taking a lovely walk through “my backyard” (it’s not really MY backyard but I consider it such because I live right next to a nature reserve), I confronted two young men who were shooting a paint gun at a muskrat.  Even the lowliest of creatures in the nature reserve (in my eyes NO creatures are lowly here) are all protected by the city and local university.  It is illegal to take anything out of the woods, but shooting at an innocent who is just swimming along the surface of the lake minding her own business is just down right cruel.  I couldn’t stand by and observe, I stormed at these men with no concern for my safety, and screamed: “THIS IS A FUCKING NATURE RESERVE! DON’T HURT THE ANIMALS!” 

If you can imagine for a moment…  it’s just before dusk and I was relaxing on a rock hidden by trees.  I was in the shadows taking a break in the middle of a walk.  I sprained my ankle last week and needed to take a little rest before moving on.  I am wearing black with just a splash of wine red in my hair.  The leaves all around me are just turning red, so I’m blending in.  As I sigh happily while I watch a large muskrat make her way across the water, inching close enough near me that I can see the whites of her eyes, something pops loudly from nearby.  I hear ducks crying out, water splashes, muskrat dives back under the surface of the lake.  I hear the laughter of idiots, two men whom I can’t see.  Muskrat resurfaces, racing to get closer to the little island in the middle of the lake.  Pops ring out again followed by a string of splashes in the water.  The muskrat just barely misses getting hit.  She lets out a little cry before diving back down into the depths.  Before someone can try to shoot at her again, I run into the direction of the noise.

They stop laughing and say, “What the hell is that?”  I storm through the leaves and burrs, apparently making enough noise that they think I’m maybe a deer or something else…  when I jump out one of the guys recognizes me.  He’s one of the neighborhood’s troublemakers, a guy who usually respects me downtown.  He’s with another large guy armed with a paint gun.  Both men are over six feet tall and could easily knock me out or break my neck.  Yet I wasn’t afraid to confront them. What part of “THIS IS A NATURE RESERVE” did they NOT understand?

I’ve been told that when I’m angry, I can be scary.  I don’t know if that’s exactly what they thought, I didn’t care what they thought, as long as I could convince them to stop what they were doing.  Then they started to run away.  I noticed that they were carrying a small plastic tub with them.  I saw the shadows of frogs writhing inside.  WHAT?  I had to save those babies.  I’m not very fast, I’m short, squat, and chubby, but the motivation to save the frogs had me catching up to those guys quickly.  “WHAT ARE YOU DOING?!”  I cried and demanded, “PUT THEM DOWN!”

The guy who knew me stopped and held up a hand, as if trying to wave away my anger.  He seemed to think I was over-reacting, but then if they thought they weren’t doing anything wrong, why were they running?  “Oh, these are just some frogs we caught,” he tried to explain, “I have a boa snake at home and he likes to eat frogs.”  I got even angrier, told them both that the frogs and other creatures in the reserve are protected, that what they were doing was illegal.  “Really?  We didn’t know,” they both start opening the plastic tub to let out the frogs.

"If you want to feed your snake right GO TO PETCO!" I suggest strongly, further explaining that my neighbor has a ball python and she goes there to purchase frozen mice for him to consume.  But these idiots tell me that they like to watch their boa constrictor "go for the live kill" and I’m SO disgusted with them, I want to cut them.  

Just then a couple joggers and a guy who was sport fishing close by stop to see why I’m screaming at these guys.  They were pissed off, too.  Even the people who fish here know to not take out any creatures.  The tree frogs seem plentiful in the woods here, and I go to sleep each night to their singing, but their numbers have greatly been lowered over the years.  The toads also aren’t as plentiful as they were ten years ago.  I remember when the frogs and toads were so numerous that they covered sidewalks.  The city even put up a frog crossing sign so drivers don’t run over them.  We love our frogs and toads here.  Every little creature is part of this delicate eco-system that is the pride of the city and university.  People really care about the environment here and work hard to preserve our natural resources.

When I see people assume that no one cares about the land and they think that no one is going to stop them from making harm, it really gets my goat!  I’ve heard horror stories of people getting assaulted or killed when they stand up to trespassers, but those stories exit out of my awareness when I get on a mission.  I forget often that my little hometown is deceptively safe and comfortable.  Crimes do get committed here.  People get raped here.  It makes the news more than it ever does in bigger cities.  The crimes against nature here are sometimes over looked or ignored.  People like to stay stupid and hurt living creatures for fun.  When individuals hurt animals and destroy property it’s a danger sign.  They can graduate from hurting animals to hurting people.  The guy I thought usually respects me may actually not respect me at all.  Getting caught in an act of senseless destruction in public (luckily I wasn’t alone for long) I hope got their attention and made them realize people DO care what happens around here.  WE’re not going to let them make this their own personal stomping grounds.  I was NOT going to let them get away with anything!  

Local police and university security were alerted. I accomplished something good tonight and gave a report.  After I left the reserve, the guys tried to disregard me but once authorities showed up they knew they were really in trouble.  I thank the Gods for protecting me when I’m too distracted by my own anger to have the sense to be careful.  This story could’ve had a much worse ending.

A mother muskrat and about a dozen frogs can rest easy tonight.  I will go to bed happily reassured that I did something to protect what I love.  I love my neighborhood.  I love all the animals here.  I delight at the trees and weep when they fall.  I know the land around my home so well that I recognize certain deer and birds who like to step into view from my living room window.  I gain comfort and emotional stability here knowing the creatures are free from being man-handled.  I know I’m not alone.  Most of my neighbors are college students who also have a healthy respect for the land.

It’s not just Witches who are stewards of the land.  As a Witch I do what I can to be a protector and comforter in my community.  I feel it is my duty to be a responsible human being, witch or not, too.  I may not be able to change the world all by my lonesome, but just doing my part is significant to keep this place I love from harm.


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