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Zahra Ali

Newark Charter

Web of Wonders          

Tucked away in every little forest, every tree, every pond, is an adventure, a story. A story of life and its joys, its sorrows, and its realities. Everywhere you may go, there is a story, of kids exploring, of teens navigating, of mankind, taking a break from what it has made of itself. For me, that story starts with Ramadan, so many years ago that I do not remember how old I was. A Sudanese grandpa would sit us down, after iftar (the post-fast meal), and tell us stories about deer and fox, both good and bad. Stories which I cannot recall, but I remember the way they made me feel. The excitement, the joy, at that which I did not know. Then the feeling of walking from the grass field, down the rugged dirt stairs, into the forest and into nature. Seeing the graceful deer dash away, hearing sounds in the woods that made my mind think back to the sly foxes,and the stories hidden behind hundreds of trees.

 In that way, my relationship with nature started. From a young age, I connected with it. In little forests, my friends and I would make hideouts in the trees, along a soccer field. Hidden away on the little hill we watched soccer games, and swung like the Tarzans of North America from vines and tree branches. As I grew, my experiences changed and my outlook on life did too. Not long after, I moved to Delaware, far from what I knew as home for most of my life in order to start a new chapter. Although things might have been new and unfamiliar, I still had nature. I discovered another forest, there beside my house, where I would go with friends and siblings. We would find little huts, made with big sticks, which we imagined were inscribed with drawings from hundreds of years ago. Streams with little fish that swam away as soon as you stepped foot in the water, and there, is where I made bright memories. At some point in my life though, these memories became cloudy because of how others polluted them. I left years of memories behind out of fear of those that had stained my past, and for months, rarely chose to leave the house, not to mention go back into a forest or take a hike.

It was not a very good time that year, the year of 8th grade. For a reason I can not pinpoint, I disconnected from the world. Even with the pandemic that happened, I did not disconnect from nature, but at the beginning of 2022 and the second half of 2021, I did, from nearly everything. I connected my experiences with nature to people, and because of that, it was hard to remember the good without remembering the bad. Through a series of events though, I eventually wadded my head above the water. It was through connecting with God that I was able to finally stand up, and wipe the foggy window that is my life. I learned a lot about Islam especially my place and duty on earth, and in that, I came to realize how much good it did me when I stepped into the forest, and stepped away from humanity. 

Nature heals through God, and makes one’s weaknesses strengths. It was through that, I learned to be my own best friend, and learned that company was not always good for me, especially when it left me broken afterward. My fear of loneliness became my ease in my own company. The first time I stepped into a forest after my period of emptiness was out of curiosity, to look for flowers. In fact, it was like the opening scene from Moana reenacted, as I walked further and further into the forest to look for flowers. I did not think of it much but it melted away my stress and troubles.

This is not just an individual case. Millions of people feel this resignation, and thousands of amazing writers write about it. Yet as the planet weeps, we place our desire for convenience and profit on top of our home’s health. Here, and in many developed countries, we barely feel the brunt of the issue, instead, we leave it for developing countries to deal with. We do not have to give up everything, we can take small steps every time, such as choosing to eat less meat to lower carbon and methane emissions or choosing to buy one high-quality pair of shoes over three low-quality ones. Now it is time for us to consider: is a plastic cup worth the health of our oceans, is a burger worth the risk of collapsing our ozone? 

As humans, we often let our current desires blind us from realizing the costs of our actions, but it is not worth it. For every living generation, for our future kids’ generation, and for all that comes after that, we need to preserve our planet and fulfill our duty to it. So with that, here is verse number sixty-four from the Holy Quran: “It is Allah who made the earth a place of settlement and the sky a canopy. He shaped you in the womb, perfecting your form. And he has provided you with what is good and lawful. That is Allah — your Lord. So Blessed is Allah, Lord of all worlds.”