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At the end of the trail, there was a boulder covered in lichen. None of the kids knew what it was, but they liked to scrape at it. To pick flakes from the rock’s surface and marvel at the shapes and textures. They absorbed sun from the sky and soaked up the warmth of the rock. They closed their eyes and imagined what the world would look like all green. Nothing but green. Green sky, green skin, green, green, and more green.
There were trees, too. They surrounded the trailhead and they were tall and omniscient. They saw everything in the forest and everything in the forest bowed to them. They were not power-trippers, these trees. They were not malevolent. They were protectors. They watched over the children and the boulder and the lichen and the hundreds of lifeforms that lived in the trail.
Every once in a while an adult, clad in bright spandex, would rocket down the trail on something that looked like a cross between a bike and a piece of sculpture from the museum they went to every fall. Sometimes, an old man with a dog loped down the trail. The bicyclists did not look at the lichen. They did not see the earthworms, pill bugs, earwigs, wonder – they were moving too fast. The old man and his dog moved more slowly.
When they closed the trail, the adults formed committees and wrote petitions. They were aghast. They were outraged. They called their elected officials and railed against the injustice – the destruction of their recreation of the destruction of the natural world. Their cries did no good. The crying of the children achieved nothing either, but there was an honesty in it, and, at the bottom of each of their pockets, they knew there would always be flakes of lichen to study.
The trail is long gone. It is a strip mall. The bikes have rusted. The old man is dead and his dog died before him. The children are adults now, and they move too fast. But every so often, they remember. When they find an old shoe box full of bark and lichen flakes. They remember.