Who REALLY owns the woods?
|As I passed the sign along the Eastern Trail that read, "Private Property, No Trespassing, Residents Only", I smiled with satisfaction, knowing that I belonged. The owners of the community in which I live had posted the sign to keep runners, bikers and walkers from cutting through the yards of the residents when they realized they had gone too far and looked for an easy way out.
For a fleeting moment I thought, "What if someone else had put up that sign, maybe someone not human?" Before long it came back to haunt me. As I walked along the trail, I allowed myself the luxury of fantasy and imagined that the sign was put up by whatever animal lurked about.
That would mean that as I walked, something was on the lookout for me. Something checking to see if I belonged--if I had fur, or wings, or stripes or spots. And if not, was I something that would attack innocent creatures enjoying their environment? From that moment on, every crackle and breeze made the hair on my arms stand up.
As I looked around to see if I was being watched, I noticed, for the first time, their environment. This was, after all, theirs before it was ours. Walking on this trail at least three times a week, I suddenly realized I had only seen brown and green: nothing really specific. Complacency had set in. But now I looked beyond the trees lining the path and grew saddened by what I saw. Recent rainstorms had damaged much of the shrubbery. Trees uprooted, branches twisted, occasional trash strewn about. "No wonder these creatures don't want trespassers", I muttered.
On my return trip, I passed the sign again. This time I stopped and looked at it. I noticed that there was nothing on the other side of the sign. Immediately, the words of Woody Guthrie's song, "This Land Is Your Land" came to mind:
As I went walking, I saw a sign there
And on the sign it said "No Trespassing"
But on the other side it didn't say nothing.
That side was made for you and me.
No, it wasn't