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Jon Dong

Tower Hill High School

Web of Wonders

 

Pond of Paradise  

Behind the small, quaint restaurant my parents owned for many years laid the entrance to a marvelously enchanting world. 

A world that danced to its own rhythm, and pranced to its own beat. A world so lush and green that your eyes would beg to marvel at its beauty forever, and never want to look at anything else ever again. A world that stood strong even as human society threatened to dull its vibrant complexion. 

As a child, I would often explore that forest behind my parents’ restaurant, treating it as my personal backyard. Eventually – the free-flowing foliage I brushed as I trekked along my way, the towering trees that would peer down on me, even the jagged rocks that I laid my feet upon – they all became familiar to me. I had discovered its pattern, and I too danced in its harmony. 

There was an aquamarine pond, hidden deep within the crest of a hill, encircled by an array of ferns, that fostered a small, but dynamic ecosystem. I would spend hours laying on the grass, taking in every photon of the beaming sun, watching the water striders effortlessly frisk upon the reflecting water or the sparrows loudly chirping their songs for one another. Every year, I would take my seat at the same log and stare as the amber cardinals came back to their nests, celebrating the warmth. One cardinal, whom I named Alvin, came back to the pond year after year; Alvin was bald around the head where other cardinals would possess their iconic triangular feathers pointing at the sky. I would count each tadpole in March, making sure to name each one, then watch intently for months as they spur into full-grown frogs. In August, I would gaze at emerald ducks guiding their children through the rocky terrain, instructing them to walk or swim, and eventually – fly. In December, when the grass turned to white and the leaves bare, I would stick my face just inches above the surface of the icy pond to make sure the fish were still swimming underneath, ready for spring. 

The pond was an extension of my body, of my mind. My brain strung intricate webs connecting each organism to one other, each organism to me. 

Those hours spent there quietly pondering helped me realize that humans and nature need each other. The relationship we forge with nature is not unlike the mutually beneficial partnership of bees and flowers that I had watched before my eyes so many times at the pond. 

One day, I embarked on my usual trip to the pond, but I felt something off in the air. It smelled of construction, which was standard for the shopping center where my parent’s restaurant lay, but never for the pond. As I slowly strode up to the pond, the fear in my deepest crevices surfaced. Gravel was being dumped on the ferns I used to hide in. Workers dug holes in the ground where I had just seen the ducks walk their offspring the day before. Bulldozers intruded the most magical place as if it was nothing to them. 

I realized that every organism has a place in the ecosystem. I suddenly saw so clearly my purpose: I had to stop this. I had to save the pond. 

Vapors of anger steamed from my head as my parents told me that this was a construction project by the shopping center, for another parking lot. My parents said there was nothing I could do. Yet, I still went to the Mexican restaurant next door, I went to the Kroger across the street, and I went to every other establishment in the vicinity, pleading for someone to listen to me, someone to agree, someone to stop this. 

A few months later, I sighed as I took my usual seat at the log. I didn’t want to accept that everyone was right. That I failed. 

I searched for the onyx tadpoles and the emerald ducks and the ruby cardinals and the towering fern, to no avail. I watched helplessly as the pond’s spark diminished, as its light floated away. 

Two years later:  

I pace back and forth, thoughts pulling my brain in every which way. Finally, I stop thinking, pick myself up, and sprint as fast as I can to the clearing I had known so well. I am nervous, this is my first time back in two years. 

I am still mesmerized by the sheer beauty of the water. I am in awe of nature’s strength as I see the area has begun to repair itself after the construction project was abandoned a year ago. 

I realize now that I did not fail. 

I did not lose, because even after 2 years, I still care. I still have hope. No one can be successful every single time, but you must never lose that inner fire, that motivation to advocate for what’s right. You must find your special role in nature, whatever it may be, and hold onto it. I implore every reader to embody the fighting spirit that my nine-year-old self possessed, the spirit that I never lost. 

Even in the dark, you must find light. You must find the courage to keep moving. Because if you don’t, you lose hope. And if you lose hope, you have lost already.  

As I sit in this web of beauty, this leafy paradise, I fully understand my place in nature. I am destined to use my voice to inspire others, to bring about change. 

My eyes find the edge of the water and I see the return of the little dots that will one day turn into young bullfrogs. I look as sprouts of fern branch up to replace those lost two years ago. My gaze falls just in time upon a bald-headed crimson cardinal returning after so long, perching in a nest with three eggs. 

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