The creek winds through downtown St. Petersburg like turquoise ribbon. Muddied beds with small toe prints of raccoons and birds enclose the laughing water, guiding it towards the horizon. Small silver fish dart in between rocks and water plants, rippling the creek’s surface. It is a haven. The trees reach up like giant sentinels protecting a clouded sky and warning off civilization. A creek is a story. This is the story I want to read; the story I forced upon the creek.  

I’d like it to be read like a cheesy middle-school poem or the beginning of a romance novel. Nature changes into fantasy. I want to cradle the water and hug the trees and dance with the small silver fish. It turns into a fairytale. I hide the litter and idealize the humanity that has turned the crystal waters to a slugging brown. I close my eyes and dream of what this ditch could be; what it should be. I ignore the flaws and the reality and wait for the stale waters to sweep me off my feet.

But Salt Creek is not a beautiful prince.

Nature is not a romance novel.  

I have to put my roses down and look at the swamp grass that clots the banks.

I have to learn to read nature in its own language.  

I have not always been concerned with the environment, but I have always been in love it.  Growing up on a farm instilled a love of the nature and the wild as I raced around broken stalks of dried corn. My grassy yard transformed into a mythical meadow filled with fairy circles. The tree in the front yard was a twisted portal and the Periwinkle vines opened gateways. As I grew, the stories only changed and morphed. Out of muddy waters grows a crystal creek. I painted the landscapes in whatever way I saw fit, effectively killing the nature I loved so much. Nature is a living thing. It tells its own story.

The story of Salt Creek is not ones of noble steeds, towering trees, or mystical enchantments, but systematic abuse of a neighborhood, of people, and of nature. To truly protect the nature I love so much, I must stop trying to change it into what it isn’t. By romanticizing nature, we not only distance ourselves from the now, but also the truth behind why pristine nature turns into a wasteland. We must learn how to protect what’s left.