I never misunderstood nature. Living in a home atop a hill, I spent my childhood watching an assortment of wildlife run through bushes into small forests. There were mainly squirrels and other rodents, but occasionally I would spy a much larger four-legged creatures prowl nearby. For example, I had a long night once which was spent staring into the eyes of a predator until dawn.
That was an experience, but not my favourite. What I understood about canines is that staring contests decided who was more ‘alpha’. It would show who was more likely to back down. When it came to wolves they new when this challenge began, but as humans we have no clue. Perhaps we accept the challenge, but other times they will skip that challenge and strike instead. However, patience was a virtue I gained over the years and when this wolf spied me through the window it decided to challenge me and I it.
I was a still as stone, watching it closely, examining it out of the corner of my eye. Big, but not the biggest wolf I had seen. Eventually it lowered its head and sat in place. It groomed itself,it observed bushes, but it no longer paid me any mind. When the sun began to rise I felt the slight rays warm my forehead and feel my eyes adjust to the light. By the time they did I was alone, the wolf having disappeared by way of forest or bush.
Patience gave me that experience, but it gave me more important lessons. I saw many creatures die. Returning from the city, I walked up the hill and spied a squirrel on a branch. I watched it gather various acorns as I walked, but I was paying it too close attention and was witness to it being snatched from the air.
For a moment I thought my eyes had deceived me and it crawled out of sight, but the movement on the branch gave me the answer. An average snake, camouflaging perfectly amongst the bark, had attacked the squirrel. The limp body was disheartening and the snake gave me enough fear to send me home a little faster. However, despite the death of a small, harmless creature, I did not give it any pity. It was part of the life-cycle that governed the world, animals and humans.
Once you get used to the sight of the most innocent creatures being killed you got used to the sight of human death. By the time the war eventually reached my neck of the woods I was in hiding. Soldiers spend a lot of their training learning how to dig trenches, but I perfected it in the sense. I sheltered, some would say like a coward, below my home as army boots trampled on the ground and floor above. I listened as guns were shot, shells fired and agony screamed. I watched was bodies fell, crippled, broken and destroyed. So much blood spilt and young men murdered. Not once did I pity, but not once did I accept what I was seeing was unnatural.
Destruction is sewn into the making of every living creature, but so is life. Years passed in that war, but luckily soldiers were never on that hill long enough for me to spend one underground. I buried the bodies left behind, replanted the greenery and salvaged what was left of my home. Rebuilding was a pain, but I wasn’t that old yet. The walls were up, the roof redone and whatever wasn’t broken I had placed on a new shelf or inside a faulty cabinet. By the time I finished so had the war and I was informed by a passerby who walked into the woods, shocked to discover me.
I found the news only good in the sense that I could stay in my home properly without having to dash into hiding if the situation called for it. The man attempted to say more, but struggled to find the words. Eventually his clenched hand released the pieces of tin he was awarded and he trudged into the forest. I knew what he was about to do, I could spy the gun in the back of his pants easily enough. Perhaps it was because of me or he simply found he still had some humanity left in him, but I saw him return from the forest at sunset with no gun. He lingered at the medals, but shook his head and moved on.
I admire courage in my fellow man, but something told me the guilt inside of him wasn’t fully gun. His face was wet with anxiety, skin quivering with nerves. I believe he came close to ending his life, very closer, but he found that something. Perhaps it was that something I learned. We are made this way, born this way, grown this way. We do what we can and do what we must, even if that means ensuring someone can’t do something or won’t do something at any point in their lives. A harsh realization for that soldier, I am sure, but the war was certainly a crash course on the lesson.
People returned to the city, they rebuilt and managed their lives. There was always a dark cloud hanging over their heads as they counted their losses, but not me. My losses came before this war, you see, but it didn’t stop me from comforting them. There were people I hoped would have survived and seeing their faces brought a bright smile to my face. For the ones that I didn’t see when I looked at their empty homes I only looked down in understanding.
A few more years, a few more leaders and plenty of anxious thoughts in politics passed me by. I returned to the peace I sought and sat at the window of my home, staring at nature. I watched the smoke rise from the fires that still burned, I watched the people gather themselves and their livelihood. I watched predators stalk their prey and prey become predators. I waited...I waited so patiently, for people to realize we are always at peace, because peace for this world does not mean a resolution in all conflicts, peace is the push-and-pull of everyday life. Chaos in our world, in nature, is the lack of conflict and we’re simply not made that way.