Broken Promises

She spoke softly with a mix of sadness and anger. I couldn’t see her face, but sensed the tears filling her eyes and felt them spill onto the Earth. “You gave me your word; that you would not let harm come to her. You promised to care for and nurture her.”

“I did what I thought was best for me and the others. Sure, we changed things, but I think a lot of it was for the better.”

“Really? You think this is better?” She sighed, discouraged by my pleading. “If you step back and look from a distance, things are beautiful. Things look tranquil and in balance and harmony.” Her voice shifted as she challenged me. “Take a closer look, and tell me what you think is better. Show me.”

I stammered and struggled, trying to find an example. “We have conquered the wilderness and made ourselves a place to call home.”

“And in the process you took land that belonged to others, slaughtered the creatures that lived there because you could, and chopped and slashed in the name of greed.”

“We built ships to sail across the oceans, uniting the world and its people. Surely, that has to be a good thing.”

“Good for whom? Thousands of trees were killed to make your boats.” I listened to her frustrated breathing as chilled gusts of wind. “When you reached those distant shores, did you come in peace, to love, accept, and respect? No, you came to conquer; to impose your will upon them. You had no right to do that.” She sighed a mighty sigh, and I felt it blow across my face. “The oceans. Tell me what you’ve done to the oceans.”

“Not much, really. We swim, sail, and take from them what food we need. They are vast and deep, an endless bounty of riches.”

A thunderous, cruel laugh shook me in the small, wooden chair upon which I sat. “Do you actually believe the words you speak? You cannot be ignorant of what is going on around you. If you are not ignorant, then you are cruel.”

I squirmed in my seat, trying to find a valid argument, something to placate her. “The oceans have plenty for all. We take only what we need.”

“Liar!” she roared. “I see what you do. You kill for money, not food. You use the waters as a dumping ground, pumping toxins where the few with a conscience cannot see. You poison the world of the creatures who live there, and they have nowhere else to go.”

“But the rains come and cleanse the waters, bringing new life and hope.”

“The rains come from skies full of smoke and ash. It spews into the sky and falls back to sicken and kill. Any effort by me to wash and cleanse only makes matters worse; it spreads the devastation you’ve created, but it does not deter you. You ignored my warnings. Instead, you seek to overcome the damage by doing more of the same, on a larger, more deadly scale.”

I rose from my seat and looked up with outstretched arms. “What would you have me do? Things are such a mess that I don’t know where to start.”

“You had more than enough chances to turn things around, or at least show that you cared enough to try. If only you’d met me halfway – it would have restored my faith in you, showed me that you were willing to change. But we’re beyond that now.”

There was a painful silence, but I dared not speak – there was nothing left to say. “You’re right,” I whispered to myself. Then a long, beautiful arm reached down from the clouds and grasped the trunk of the last tree on Earth. The trunk shuddered, and its leaves fluttered free as she pulled it from the Earth.

“That’s the last one! What will we do now?” The roots rained dirt upon my tear-stained face as I watched it lifted up and out of sight.

“Perhaps it’s time to start over.”

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