Writing to Save a Landscape from Ruin

Some things in life have a serendipitous way of happening. Like planning a workshop on nature writing as I am this coming Saturday and at the same time dealing with a mega warehouse proposal in my own backyard. Yes, it is supposedly Amazon and the warehouse is a staggering 1.9 million square feet with over 300 loading docks for tractor-trailers although don’t hold me to that as I’ve lost count. Over 230 acres of farmland are in the developer’s crosshairs. People have rallied holding fundraisers and showing up en masse at township and school board meetings, voicing protest, using their two minutes to express a slice of life journey as to why they bought here, why they love the landscape, why it’s a good place to raise a family.

Bog turtle by U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is licensed under CC-CC0 1.0

Some next to the proposed warehouse site survive on wells, others say bog turtles (an endangered species) live near the high-value creek which meanders near banks of wildflowers and honeysuckle…others, like me, remember driving past the open spaces, breathing in the fresh air as she picked up her small sons from their elementary school not far away.

When I first moved here 35 years ago, beautiful trees graced either side of the two-lane highway above my street. Now the trees are but a sad memory, the highway widened to four lanes—five in some places—and rush hour turns the highway into the Indy 500. School buses that once stopped at the top of the street are now forced to drop off children in front of their houses on our little cul-de-sac.

But here’s the good thing about being a writer. We get a chance to use our skills to voice our opinions, hopefully in a cogent way keeping in mind concern for the reader by crafting something understandable and relatable. Townships hold the key to zoning and school board officials (who sold the property to the developer) will follow their own greedy ineptitude but we have a voice to appeal to the greater humanity in all of us. A platform to try and save a landscape.

The nature writing workshop comes at a time when the countryside where I live is blossoming with greenery, a lesson in nature’s magnificent renewal and forgiveness of us for attempting to pave her over with abominations like that warehouse. I’ve been reading Braiding Sweetgrass by Robin Wall Kimmerer, which author Elizabeth Gilbert calls “a hymn to the world.”

It’s the way Kimmerer captures beauty from the smallest strawberry plant to the towering cedar that inspires how I think about the landscape and my love of nature. I’ve lived pretty much in the same area of Pennsylvania my entire life. As a reporter, I covered the unceasing development of asphalt paving over farmlands. Now, in my retirement, I’m witnessing the current hyper-construction of condos, condos, everywhere where people are jammed in like so many sardines rising to the sky. When is enough enough?

As a child, I grew up next to woods where black snakes swam in the creek in summer and monkey vines glittered in ice-covered splendor in winter. As my friend said recently referring to all the development, traffic, and obnoxious people that seem to come with it, “This is why people move off the grid to Wyoming or Montana.”

Indeed, I have had enough of the traffic, the noise, and the pollution of this once-beautiful place. Still, I hold out hope that a meadow of grass not far down the road from where I live offers respite at least this spring, if not next. But who knows when that place of solitude will surrender to the bulldozer?

Tree stump, Rushock churchyard by Philip Halling is licensed under CC-BY-SA 2.0

At our Saturday writing workshop, I look forward to sharing our reflections on nature, its place in our lives, and how it offers lessons about who we are and what we value. Maybe, too, a little activism will permeate our writing that the gifts of this earth can’t be squandered without a price. And so, I write this, my little cry of protest and testimony of remembrance.

How about you? Have you witnessed a beloved landscape that is no more?

Published by Susan G. Weidener

Join me as I share reflections, always with an eye toward the challenges and struggles we women encounter and embrace in both creative and personal ways. My memoir, Again in a Heartbeat, was selected as a 2011 editor’s pick by Story Circle Network. Its sequel Morning at Wellington Square has also achieved critical acclaim. A Portrait of Love and Honor, a novel based on a true story, is centered around a story of two people, Ava Stuart and Jay Scioli, who are destined to meet and Jay's commitment to honor following his years at West Point. My new novel And the Memory Returns continues the story of Ava Stuart who begins asking herself those questions so many women face as they age. What had it all meant? Where does she go from here? In 1991, I joined the staff of The Philadelphia Inquirer and worked as a reporter covering news and writing feature stories until 2007. A native of the Philadelphia suburbs, I attended the University of Pennsylvania. In 2010, I started the Women's Writing Circle, a critique and support group for writers in suburban Philadelphia, which meets the second Saturday of the month at the Chester Springs Library. I live in Chester Springs, Pennsylvania with my Yellow Lab, Lily.

7 thoughts on “Writing to Save a Landscape from Ruin

  1. Your powerful “cry of protest and testimony of remembrance” has certainly struck a chord with me. As you recall our tiny community fought the encroachment of Walmart over twenty years ago. A tale of the event became a blog post, and a modified chapter even made it into My Checkered Life. Whoever said “the pen is mightier than the sword” (possibly Bulwer-Lytton) got it right.

    You and your neighborhood must persevere, and you will prevail somehow, perhaps in a way you can’t envision right now. I pray your activism will rally the support of many.

    Indeed, I hear the urgency in your words. Meanwhile, you can enjoy the gifts of a Pennsylvania spring. A poignant piece, Susan!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi Shirley, Thank you for stopping by and commenting. “Lament” is a good word for how I feel about what is happening here in Chester County and Lancaster County, which I drove through last week. This monstrosity of a casino with a vast parking lot is now the first thing you see when exiting the Morgantown exit. Don’t get me started! I hope you are enjoying your spring.


  2. Thank you, Marian, for sharing your own experience with Walmart and how we must persevere and do our best to protect the beauty of this land, if not for ourselves, but future generations. Spring here of late has been a bit chilly but, as always, I am grateful to be able to enjoy the beauty of “Penns Woods.” Happy Spring!


  3. Dear Susan, all the best with fighting the conglomerate takeover of your local area. (I won’t name them.) Intrusive construction & often destruction is everywhere, but I’m sure we can speak up. Finally the people will be, must be heard


  4. Susan, I hear your plea and cry! Your words express sorrow, passion, pride of place, and much more. In our small rural areas in the central part of Oregon, the places you enjoyed driving through because of fields of corn, wheat, etc., and wildflowers occasionally, Amazon is striking a deal in Morrow County, population 15,000, very small compared to the Portland area, to install at least five of its enormous data centers.

    These buildings are something you might think of when watching a sci-fi film about storing archives, etc. Windowless concrete structures with absolutely nothing to offer in the way of architecture and art. Lighting exists only to the viewer’s eye when it’s dark and security systems are on. And they are asking for tax exemptions for moving in and building. It’s hard to believe these giants are crushing what remains of our natural world. Included with Amazon, at least in Oregon, are Facebook, Google, Verizon, Apple, and more.

    I know just the feelings you express, but from a different perspective, I’m sure. I love the chance to be so in tune with Mother Nature here in our lovely state. Not only are the homeless and drug-addicted taking over our downtown area, but the dreams of moving to one of the rural areas are now beyond the ability of individuals to purchase land and build away from the city. That’s where we come in. We’re angry and tired of the big corporations and the wealthy taking over what should remain part of the freedoms of the rest of us. I’m sorry to go on so long, but once I get started, I can’t stop!

    Will pray for you and your neighbors over this current situation in your area.


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