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The Man of the Marsh Chapter 2: “He Listens”

Lyell Buttermore, a second year MCRS student, seeks to gain experience using his skills in environmental mitigation strategies and environmental assessment. Lyell’s pull to nature started at a young age while surrounded by dense forest in the Appalachians, and it has grown into a need to protect that source of life that he has always appreciated.

Photo credit: https://scwrp.org/projects/san-joaquin-marsh-enhancement-phase-ii/

He Listens

“Long ago, this Marsh was one unified and Divine Deity, both Human and Nature combined. He ruled over this vast Green Kingdom of marshland and sage scrub. Ancient old rivers cut out into the Newport bay and supported a variety of habitats like earthen dikes, shallow ponds and marshes. In the upland, coastal sage scrub spread over the hills for miles on end, supporting endless valuable habitat for the ancient ones. The ancient ones all lived as happy species with their respective role, and they merrily went about their day committed to that duty. The turtles, the herons, and even the raptors all shared this marsh. This man lived in harmony and balance with each and every internal system.

But one day, an evil witch named Greedith came to visit this coastal sage scrub system and she grew very envious of the deity’s grace. And so she cast a spell on the heart of the deity splitting the deity into two false bodies: One human and one nature. Man and marsh. And now they would have to establish a relationship, while seeing themselves as somehow separate.

But the witch knew that with how balanced the deity was, there could be a possibility of harmony within this relationship. Great Systems have a way of stabilizing and responding to disturbance, it’s called: homeostasis. So, she cast a final spell on the man, filling him with the strongest potion she had: Greed. The man now saw himself as separate from the marsh and from all the ancient ones. He tore through the earth with machines, developing everything he could claim for short-term profit. He piled up stacks of gold and paper in hopes that this would give him fulfillment. The man cleared the marsh and prepared everything for his inevitable development.

The witch saw her acts as final and knew this could not be sustained. She cackled and took off into the night, in selfish delight, congratulating herself for her own role in the system of chaos.”

“And that’s where we are now?” I asked. The water snapped back into its normal flow, and the bright images of deities and witches faded away.

Photo credit: https://www.britannica.com/science/wildfire

“Ah but the story is not over yet!” Peat continued. He spun his finger and the water made the image of a spinning cyclone. “You see, even in nature we see that the destructive forces of chaos are a part of the system. Wildfires burn the landscape clean to make room for succession and new life. We see the witch as this evil force, but perhaps she too was more a part of the system than we realize.”

“What do you mean?” Now I was a bit confused. “How can destruction be a good thing? Look what it has led to!” I grew angrier.

“But there must be a way to break the spell!” Peat said. “What if instead of pursuing in his folly, the man learned from his mistakes and his greed? What if he listened to the marsh and opened himself up to the marsh and began to take on his true role?”

“I would say that’s awfully optimistic.” I was skeptical.

“And what if I told you that I was the man?” Peat stopped.

“…You?” I was confused.

“We all need to see our own spell to take responsibility for it.” He said. “And the marsh is always there to welcome us with open arms. “We just need to admit responsibility and take on our role.” I was fascinated, but still unclear.

“Let me now tell you of the history of this marsh since I have had this realization. You seem to be on the brink of that same realization as well.” Peat continued. “I learned not to see myself as an individual, but as a part of the whole. Ecological restoration focuses upon whole ecosystems and not on individual species. Since I have changed my perspective, I’ve completely rebuilt my relationship with the marsh and now I see this beautiful sanctuary as a leading example for the success we can have in acknowledging our greed and fostering positive ecological relationships.”

“How did you do it?” I asked, desperately wanting to know how he took this place from an invaded plot to the magical scenic reserve that I now stood in.

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