A long stretch of road, running into the distance, curving out of sight. Trees as far as the eye can see, stretching miles in every direction. The trees, some like giants stretching up into the sky, curve out and then up, creating a barrier from the outside world.
In the early mornings, fog lazily shifts over the asphalt, moving through the trees like waves. The area is quiet, nearly silent, save the sound of a lone car engine or the sound of waking birds. During the warm evenings, peepers hop over the road, soaking up moisture from the air on their travels to the marshes and streams in the forest.
The road stretches on for about a mile before any houses come into view. The houses, with driveways so long one cannot see them from the road, unless it is winter, when there are no longer leaves on the trees.
When the nights are long and dark, the road takes on a very different atmosphere. The only light in the area is the light of your own headlights, and with how the road curves, nearly impossible to see deer or other wildlife before they run in front of the car.
Twelve years ago, during the warm summer nights, frogs covered the roads on the drive home. There was no way not to run them over with our car. As the years passed, the number of frogs dwindled. We’re lucky if we see one on the drive, maybe two if we are really lucky, for the entire summer. I never questioned the disappearing frogs till years later. It seemed as though they disappeared in a single year, like a snap of the fingers, they were gone.
Other creatures I had never seen, such as the salmon with which the forest got its name. More creatures I saw less and less: the snakes which ate the voles that dug up our yard, the hawks that ate the snakes. Squirrels. Where did the squirrels go? Even the orioles my mother likes to feed, some years they don’t come by, even when she leaves oranges for them in the bird bath.
The road splits two forests. One on the left, Salmon River State Forest, and the right, a commercial lot that’s been bought, sold and re-sold, so many times it is unclear who owns it anymore, or what they plan on doing with it. Talks of golf courses. Hotels. Mini golf courses. More houses. Another farm or two.
The years pass and there are more cars on the road. It’s rare now that you are the only one on the road. Accidents become more common. More get frustrated when you go the speed limit, passing you on a double yellow line. The town seems, more than ever, to quickly fix the roads when they look worn down. They added a rumble strip to the middle of the road to stop people from passing or maybe just driving in the center of the road (which didn’t work).
Nowadays, it is rare if you don’t see trash on either side of the road. Filled, white, ten gallon plastic trash bags. McDonald’s bags. Empty to-go cups with the top popped off, plastic straw lying two feet away. Lottery tickets in the dozens, thrown out of car window, scattered all over the asphalt.
This place is different, changing. The forest changes as the world changes.
As I got older, the forest became less magical, less mystical than it was before. I learned more about the land, of overfishing which sent the salmon away. Of the drought coming in full force, increasing the number of gypsy moths in the area, changing how the trees look, changing how the summer sounds. This including the history of gypsy moths, the invasive species we failed to eradicate.
Lastly, of the frogs, as they started to disappear, as they continue to disappear. In my freshman year of college I learned about the struggle of the frogs, of species of frogs and bats which are becoming extinct, dying rapidly due to a fungus of some sort, all over the world. As I read about it, it hit me, some ten years after I had seen the frogs last.
From this, the word solastalgia hit me without knowing that the word existed. It was disheartening and tragic, that I had witnessed something that, quite possibly, no one realized what was happening.
The land is changing, moving into something else. Quite possibly ten years from now, there might be a mini golf course or something else across from the place where the road meets the forest.
Or, maybe, as I’ve heard rumors of the salmon returning, maybe something else will happen. Something better, something different. All I know is that the forest has changed because of people. The influence we have placed on this place has changed it. Either through the copious amounts of trash or the disappearing frogs, something much like the anthropocene, however on a smaller scale.