Aldo Leopold once proposed a land ethic — that we treat the environment as we would humanity. It’s not a new concept. The Native Tribes of North America have co-existed with the plant, animal, and fish nations. A land ethic calls us to protect resources and maintain wild spaces for the future. There is a balance between what we domesticate and use and what we leave untouched.
Writers resolved to tell stories to protect nature, which is not an easy task. Some turned to the past, others to the future. Most presented moments to pause and understand why we need to heed this call.
The following stories are based on the July 23, 2020, prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less), write a story to show what it is to protect nature around us. It can be set in any era or told in any genre.
Bug Killer by Sascha Darlington
Words never suffice for non-believers. They need to see. They all think they’re suddenly from Missouri saying: show me.
I’d tried to tell them:
“Pesticides kill baby birds.”
“We have no ladybugs since you’ve started spraying.”
“Don’t you care about the environment for your kids?”
Well, sure. They buy organic. They spray their yard, so their kids won’t get all kinds of mosquito-induced diseases because they are very good parents. They are hands-on.
A raised hand, a shake of the head. “Our guy said the spray only kills mosquitoes.”
I offered a nest of dead baby catbirds.
Steward by Frank Hubeny
Jim spent decades getting sick without realizing it. When finally diagnosed with an autoimmune disease he didn’t believe it. Sure he had a belly, but he felt fine. Reality smacked him and he rejected all prescribed medications. He would rewind his life’s bad habits starting with his diet.
That took time, but he lost weight. His biomarkers improved. The diet became habitual. Jim forgot he was even on it.
He stopped thinking about himself. He realized he was consuming less. Perhaps even he, old Jim, could steward the earth rather than want to eat more and more of it.
Prayer to the Nature Spirits by Colleen Chesebro
Tara heaved the last rock into place. Twelve stones twisted in a spiral around the ancient Rowan tree.
“What does the tree mean, Nanna?”
“The tree symbolizes the nature spirits, Maeve. It’s roots sink into the earth, past the Ancestors to the water below while its branches touch the sky, to reach the Shining Ones. We live in the middle realm between the Ancestors below and the realm of the Shining One’s above. It’s up to us to give offerings and thanks, and to protect the land.”
The two knelt down in the earth and said a silent prayer.
Grandpere’s Farm by Saifun Hassam
When Grandpere died, Pierre gifted the family farm to the University. He and Grandpere had discussed the matter some months ago. Pierre was the sole surviving family member. He was a marine scientist and he knew it would be difficult to manage the farm.
The farm’s apple and peach orchards were well known for their distinct delicious varieties, including two heirloom apple varieties.
Grandpere had leaped at the idea of protecting the orchards. He was very open-minded and excited to learn that new varieties of fruits could be developed. The farm would “live on” long after he was gone.
Spirits Within by Jessica E. Larsen
When I was a little girl, my grandfather told me, “Jen, remember there’s a spirit within everything,” he stretched his wrinkled fingers toward the mountains. “Even the grass and the trees got spirits, so be kind toward them. They will never fail you.”
Because grandpa was my favorite, I listened and treated everything with care.
It was during my teens when I got lost in the forest with my sister. I heard a soft voice “this way.”
When we were out, I said “thank you” and smiled to my sister. “Good thing the voice guided us huh?”
Take Me Back by Ann Edall-Robson
Sweet smell of fresh-cut hay
Brown Eyed Susan nods approval
From beyond the fields
Calves hide in back-high grass
Mothers lay nearby
Content, chewing cuds
Silence shattered, momentarily
The crunch of gravel under tires fades
Reflections ripple across the water
Slough grass supporting life
Cattails sway in the breeze
Rustling grasses serenades
Golden dragonfly rests nearby
A blowfly buzzes past, circles back
No hurry to go anywhere
Mauve Harebells dance
Bobbing their heads
Fingers caress sage
Savouring earthy aromas
Cherished moments, gifts
Focus, click, captured
Take me back
When I am far away
Mother Nature’s Fingerprints by Kerry E.B. Black
Biological systems are dynamic and interconnected, she realized. Each aspect leans into the next to build an overall structure. Mother Nature’s fingerprints.
She boosted social consciousness using her amassed science. Mankind, she asserted, needs to question “who speaks, and why?” Sometimes, the loudest voices preserve the wrong things. After all, people can not eat money or gold.
She became a Mother of the Modern Environmental Movement and gave voice to a Silent Spring. Her words acted as harbinger of the dangers of treating plants with pesticides.
Rachel Carson was not only my neighbor. She was a good steward to the world.
Privileged by D. Avery
They swept through like a squall, igniting the canopy, alighting on branches that swayed and bent under their weight, climbed tree trunks like woodpeckers. The actual woodpeckers stopped their work and watched, astounded at this swarm of grackles. The surprised robin watched their feeding frenzy from an uppermost perch of a slender maple before flying off. I bore witness. What appears as pillage must surely be feeding on insects invisible to my eye.
Some people say grackles are useless. Others tell me these trees block the view.
I don’t listen. I know a good thing when I see it.
Leave No Trace by Deborah Dansante
Niela spent two years secretly planning her thru-hike on the Appalachian Trail. Neila’s journey began and ended in Georgia on Springer Mountain. There she met a man who spends his days clearing paths, blazing trees and leaving ‘trail magic’ for eager hikers. Neila now spends her days writing notes of encouragement to tie around protein bars. Charlie, Neila’s husband, spends his days mulling over which cable channel to add to the “line up”. He wonders sometimes as he is shouting out consonants if his wife will ever come to her senses. He wonders if Neila is ever coming home.
Deborah Dansante resides in south Louisiana with Ponder, her golden retriever. In their twilight years they are more often found paddling wild rivers or sleeping in a tent on distant mountaintops.
To Protect and to Serve by Charli Mills
Reba pointed her kayak east and sprinkled a pinch of asemaa into the breeze when the sun’s first light touched the water. Her grandson had grown the tobacco last summer that she dried over winter to fill her pouch. It became an offering to the spirits, a promise. She paddled to shore, singing to Nibi her gratitude and respect. Driving to work at the tribe’s fish hatchery, Reba passed the community gardens and the inlet where rice grew on the water – manoomin. Everywhere she looked, she saw the First Treaty upheld – to protect and to serve the precious gifts.
Bosco Verticale by Jo Hawk
Stefano lifted the heavy portfolio in his hand and swiped his forearm across his sweaty brow. A city bus whooshing past, momentarily offering a welcome breeze followed by the acid aftertaste of hot exhaust. Concrete, glass, and steel, absorbed, intensified, and reflected the summer heat.
As a child, Nonna told tales of long-ago country summers. Tree leaves danced in gentle breezes, birds sang, and the earth cradled soft blue skies.
He featured urban forestation and nature in his architectural designs. Trees, shrubs, and perennials festooned every design, and he proudly wore the title of The Baron in the Trees.
Come into the Garden, Maud! by Anne Goodwin
He showed her his outdoor Jacuzzi. She showed him her wildlife pond. She gave him a tour of her birdfeeders. He commended the pellets that kept his hostas slug free. He presented his PVC decking. She volleyed with her woodpile, a haven for hedgehogs, she hoped. The advantage of lockdown dating: exploring his habitat safely online.
She made a tisane from her herb garden. He poured wine from his well-stocked cellar. Where was his commitment to conservation? Was his profile a lie? “I never buy wine with a plastic stopper. Preserve the cork forests to save eagles and linx.”
Small Steps by E.A. Colquitt
Hoarding began when he researched, on a whim, his favourite childhood holidays. The pair of four-hour flights alone drained nearly all his annual carbon footprint allowance. Each trip itself had lasted a mere fortnight, maximum.
He’d shuddered, then investigated more. The eating would be hardest, meat and dairy being his favourite groups in the food pyramid…
He tried his best. Hopefully, the netting from chocolate coins would twist together, one day, into bird feeders. In good weather, he tended a new vegetable patch. On rainy days, he spent hours with search engines that used ad revenue to plant trees.
And I’m Still Alive To Tell About It by FloridaBorne
The first day I met her, I knew she had my sense of humor.
She’d been a military MP. After retirement, she chose a receptionist job that lacked the stress of policing soldiers.
“It’s hot in here, and you’re wearing a sweater?” she asked me.
“People move here from up north, complain about the environment, and add to the problem by turning on the air conditioning.”
“It’s essential,” she insisted.
“If everyone who couldn’t live without air conditioning fled, true Floridians would be so happy.” Her frown became a scowl. I added with a smirk, “All ten of us.”
If We’d Known by Donna Matthews
“Do you ever wish you could see the future dad?” the small girl asked her father.
“Hmmm, I don’t know, Hunny. What’s on your mind?”
“Well…if we’d known the forest fire was coming, we could have told mom. And we could have told everyone else to watch out.”
Her dad, his hands shaking, knelt in front of his now motherless daughter and answered quietly, “Sweetheart, just because we know something’s coming, and we tell everyone, doesn’t mean they’ll listen.”
Her sad eyes met his sad eyes.
“What do we do, Daddy?”
“I don’t know, baby. I really don’t.”
An Addition to the Family by Liz Husebye Hartmann
A morning breeze tripped through the back garden. Tall cornstalks shivered and shushed one another, delighting in the sleeping baby that had fallen from the sky overnight.
The woman here would find her, not knowing of the fiery, silent dragon battle of the night before. The mother’d died, but not before dropping her egg through suburban power lines to what she sensed was a place of protection.
The children, in a pancake coma, were installed in front of Public TV. Caroline headed to the back garden, to sit with a quiet coffee.
Peace abandoned, she scooped up the egg…
The Vision by Joanne Fisher
The crystal had shown terrible things. The Elder came out her dwelling. She clapped her hands and the entire village looked up at her.
“Humans are coming with axes to destroy our forest. We must protect it! All remaining archers need to go to our northern border. Falnek, take the children to the sacred Bloodwood.” There was sudden activity in the village. “Aalen, when the humans are defeated come back to us.” Aalen nodded and left with her wolf bounding in front of her.
The Elder looked over the village and her people. The crystal had shown terrible things.
That’s It by Simon
Ocean is dying, nature died animals died, it’s only few of us at 2060, how it all started?
It all started with the discovery of plastic, and our pathetic ancestors acted like they cared for environment and none of them truly stopped using plastic. Greedy entrepreneurs in plastic industry never let plastic disappear, now all our natural foods have micro plastics and here we are at the last moment of the world.
That’s it! Earth was destroyed by nature many times, this time it’s us, and we caused this to ourselves.
This is the end?
Plastic by Reena Saxeena
Julie holds my hand, as I’m about to fling the empty water bottle away.
“Let’s walk a little more. There must be a recycling bin somewhere.”
“Bottles are picked up to be refilled and sold again.”
“Crush it as much as you can. Do you remember how my sister could not receive medical help during the floods, and …..” Her voice was choked.
“What does it have to do with this bottle?” My left arm was around her, as I held the empty bottle in the right.
“It is this plastic at the bottom of the sea which causes floods.
Teamwork Rewards by Sue Spitulnik
The youth choir’s annual adopt-a-highway clean-up day dawned sunny and warm. Michael whistled while he inventoried coolers of iced water and boxes of sweet-smelling homemade cookies. He loved escorting the teens. There was a freedom of expression while they were outside working together that didn’t happen at choir practice. Last year they discussed the ills of littering and not showing respect for the natural beauty of their area. Gaylan had written a serious but comical essay about it that ended up in the school newspaper. Today Tessa planned to point out wildflowers and weeds that could be used medicinally.
Freedom by Padmini Krishnan
“Caesar doesn’t belong with us, Sal,” Clare said firmly.
“Don’t do this. He’d never survive the predators.”
“Don’t deer co-exist with lions?”
“Caesar is domesticated.”
“We are forcing him into domestication.”
“But we treat him as an equal…like a human”
“Humans are not chained. We should let him go.”
They had come to the dense part of the jungle. Clare let Caesar down. He licked her hands and wagged his tail.
“Nobody owns you now, Caesar,” Clare said, softly, “You are free.”
Caesar heard a howl from afar. He took a few tentative steps, then ran into the wild.
Human Nature Being What It Is by Bill Engleson
Gilpen was an odd duck.
No two ways about it.
As a child he was gone for hours.
The woods back of his family farm were delightfully wild.
The Terrific Rewards and Unparalleled Motivation for Profit Corporation eventually bought the land.
It was never a question of would they build a swack of monstrous multi-million-dollar mansions: just a matter of when.
Until Gilpen took them to court.
“Not on my watch,” he argued.
“A Nature Preserve?” critics scoffed. “Fool! The wealthy need their palaces.”
“And Mother Earth needs her lungs,” he countered.
It was some battle.
Common Land by R. V. Mitchell
This wasn’t some Seuss Lorax or a Horton saving a clover. No, this was the real deal, the council was trying to sell off the water meadow for development. Had they considered the added run-off and flood risk? Of course not, they were trying to make a quick buck to balance the books.
Many were up in arms over it, as it was one of the few unspoiled places in the entire town, but it looked a done deal, especially when the words “affordable housing” were uttered.
That was until Mary Denning found the Medieval deed to the property.
I Love You and You Are Part of My Life by Eliza Mimski
I am seven years old. There is a large shade tree in front of the roominghouse where we live in St. Louis. It sends down its circle of shade. I sit there to get out of the sun. I name the tree Stella and I talk to it, asking it how it is.
There is a deep lawn. And the hot summer sidewalk. Overhead, the blue sky. At night, the lightning bugs.
Now, I am 73. I live in San Francisco. I water my many plants. I tell them they are beautiful. I tell them, You are my babies.
Commonalities? by JulesPaige
We had weekly meetings to contemplate more than just our navels. Each of us on screen at our own table with our own china cups. It wasn’t safe to meet together. The diversity of our ages, professions and passions we hoped would bring forth some solutions.
We all so wanted to hug a tree; besides each other. Hoping that the youth of the world would know what a tree was… in 2030 or 2040.
the future tea leaves
is anyone’s guess; action, though
speaks louder than words
We would be leaving no footprints. Just possibly a remedy or two.
Pal Speaks by D. Avery
It’s like this Kid: we got jist this one planet thet sustains us. Shush, I ain’t listenin’ ‘bout no Mars. We got jist one. So ever’one’s got ta do their part. Got ta do their part ‘cause we’s all part a the whole. D’ya see, Kid? We’re each a us a part; a piece a it, a component. Not apart. Don’t matter where in the world ya’s at, yer a part a this one world. It’s yer home. It’s yer food an’ shelter. It’s yer Mother.
green and blue Her robes
Love’s elemental colors
we’re threads in Her cloth