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Living On the (Is)land—Nettle and Jewelweed

Stephen Shellard
Flickr Creative Commons

This year WYSO and Tecumseh Land Trust sponsored Living on the Land, an essay contest inviting writers of all ages to reflect on what home and land mean to them.  Enon resident Maggie Yowler won honorable mention in the adult category.

I used to pluck shells from the earthen banks of the Mad River at Turtle Island before the property owner littered the shore with concrete chaos—a gray, gnarled jumble of old bridge remnants dropped there in an attempt to stop the river from easing into his property. These unending strips of stark stone slabs, maliciously laced with jagged pieces of rusty rebar, are killing the ancient island.

By pushing the flow of the water back toward the opposite shore, the man’s quick fix will slowly sink this green island, lush with a canopy of whispering trees and warm pebble floor. I’d pull my kayak upon this island’s shore, gazing upon the unobstructed panorama and relishing its serenity while secretly pretending this place was my home—protected by the river on either side.

Here on this island I first felt the sting of nettles on my shins, and only later learned that in its shady tree line lay the antidote—the vibrant orange and yellow gems of jewelweed. Named for its value among bare-limbed explorers, juice of its stalks will instantly cool the fire of the nettles’ sting—rendering them more prized than jewels.

Here on this island I learned that nature, when left unfettered, will work itself out, with irritants and arbitrators found within one’s reach.

As this island grows smaller by the year, I must compare its imperiled state to that of nature’s role in the modern world—slowly, yet strenuously, falling victim to unending strips of stark stone slabs.

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