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It's Nelly's World

This World

alec vanderboom

I had forgotten about them. Until they sent their beams out to my eye, and caught it fast. The wild columbine is blooming at the edges of the woods. One would almost think (would love to believe) that they are there, within easy reach of our too-limited sight, for our surprise: a remembrance that beauty persists. Or so we can only pray.

As Nelly ran on, toward the siren call of a scent hidden at the base of some bushes--the terrible rictus of some dead beast greeted me, sharp teeth smiling from a mat of brown fur, in which my dog was joyfully rolling to daub herself with that inimitable perfume of rottenness--I was thinking about the impossibility of flowers. It suddenly came to me: Do we deserve flowers?

Just as quickly, the other part of my brain (the one that answers dumb rhetorical questions with a sneer) answered, They're not for us, silly. We are merely collateral beneficiaries. Their existence, and all their strange, complex gorgeousness, is for themselves.

As I walked farther down the road, having enticed (ok, pulled her by the collar away) Nelly from her particular Chanel No. 5, I found myself spiraling down into a pretty awful funk. I had recently seen world population projections for 2050, and a flash of angry red blinded me for a moment. It was a selfish anger, of course: I would likely not be around then, to witness the final shovelful of earth hitting the coffin of the world I had known and loved--but my child would be. In fact, he will be the same age I am now. And therefore he will not have the chance to walk down a road, near his own house, so lightly traveled that his dog can run ahead, so lightly used that he might go a mile without the scent of exhaust in his nostrils, and the mean wind whipped by a speeding greedmobile. (I know: yes, I own one. We all do, because we have constructed a society in which it's nearly impossible to live without one. No matter how much one hates them.) He will not have the wild columbine (translucent rose shading to yellow, a gilded crown for wood nymphs to wear in their revels at dusk), because there will be no woods left. Here, a mere two hours from one of the world's greatest metropolises, the fields and streams and forested hills will be stripped of all they are. To become a continuation of a single suburb, wall to wall with us.

Lately I've been dipping into a fascinating book on the science of love and romance, and from it it's clear that we possess one highly complex and powerful apparatus to ensure our survival. The tip of the iceberg is the plumage of the female of our species, done up in bustiers and what are appropriately known as f**k-me shoes. Everything we are drives to one thing, and one thing only. It's highly successful, and it puts to shame the intent of the flowers: pollinate me, they whisper to the birds and the bees, with their come-hither colors and alluring shapes. We will beat those flowers yet.

My hypocrisy knows no bounds other than the one that ends at the tip of my nose. After all, I procreated too, as I was made to do.

I turned to walk back home, after greeting the fuzzy darlings of the Canada geese, waddling yellowly after mom and dad (another success story in the population wars), and then I thought: We are running out of road. (That is in fact the title of the informative environmental website of a friend of mine; it is irredeemably true, but the scary thing is, none of us--from Malthus to Al Gore--knows exactly when. We are somewhere in the middle of a horror movie, but we don't know the moment at which the killer is going to burst through the basement door.) This road, the one I am on. And that road, the one that takes us all to the end.