A couple of months ago, Nature Speaks announced a competition for nature writers. All eco-ventriloquists, insect whisperers, megafauna-fanatics, plant-people, biomimics, and mycologically-minded poets and language-artists were invited to participate. I do not see myself in any of these category but I felt challenged to participate in it.
I submitted my entry and my entry did not win any position. Here I thought of sharing it here on my blog.
A leaf in Ukraine
On another day, I could have inspired a poet to write a few lines. As a dry leaf sitting on the ground, I fancied my chances like that tennis ball boy hoping that I could shake hands with Roger Federer one day.
February 2022. They threw a live shell and within moments, I was part of a huge pile of debris. Half burnt, I was still burning somewhere in a corner. Nobody noticed me because the soldiers are soldiers and not the poets.
From where I was lying, I could not see anyone. Smoke. Puffs of dust. Within minutes, the wind picked me and it took me somewhere. My original home was uprooted. The noise was deafening. The wind grew stronger and I crossed a border. I saw more confidence on the other side.
I felt as if my destiny was in the direction of the wind. I settled on the land. Here, the silence was equally deafening.
I found myself sitting on a burrow. A rodent traveled somewhere from inside it and knocked me off gently. It saw something around, went back inside the burrow, and quietly placed me back on its opening.
I could save a life? I was part of its intelligence.
I saw the dust, ash, and a few traces of lipstick in the air. The mixture settled on me, and suddenly I felt more energy inside. I was dressed better now. Better than any Russian soldier.
I could taste the lipstick, I felt like a male. I felt more neutral—for the uniform, gender, and for my role.
My owner who had planted my native tree would have been more proud today because once I saw them hosting a workshop on DE&I under the same tree. It shows that we had common roots somewhere.
A group of soldiers were passing by me. One of them took out a water bottle and started washing his eyes. The splashed water fell on me, and soon my makeup was draining off. The lipstick was also gone. I was clean now. I thought I was even more neutral now.
The soldier was looking at me; he actually stared at me for a long time. He studied me. He lifted me in his hand, took out a pen from his pocket, and drew something on my lungs. Around my lungs.
“I think there is a map.”—he murmured.
I saw the same rodent in the soldier—for the intelligence, and for the intent.
He called their leaders. A jeep rushed to us and their bosses came out. They all looked at me, and I was preserved in a bookcase whose cover had some holes. I could breathe, see, and smell. They scanned me on a digital screen and I could see my own body X-ray.
They saw the map of Ukraine on my lamina.
A zoomed-in view on my lamina gave them a ground to find new veins. They smiled.
Soon, I was in a war jeep with them, we were followed by tens of trucks loaded with civilians.
My lungs guided them to safety. Their leader said to me—”You are to us what crude oil will be to the earth in hundreds of years from today.”
I was speechless. I was so tired that I slept, and I had a dream. Many years ago on one fine morning on 05 August 2011, my tree owner watered us more. He had planned a special treatment of the tree and I remember that our lungs behaved differently from that day onwards. He called us VOZ that day and now I know why VOZ.
The rodent might be safe somewhere. We are all part of the same food chain—they, we, them, you, us.
I was a semi-burnt leaf but even then I was their fuel. I was their hope. I might undergo the natural decaying process of either being converted to a manure—yet another form of fuel, or into the crude oil. By that time, the world might not have any cars or live shells, there may not even any boundaries and borders of the countries. But the oil had already done its job millions of years ago, today, in 2022.
I felt like a certain Mr. President who could save even when semi-burnt. They called me VOZ.
My lungs have that map to support it.
Years ago, I wrote a few very small fiction in a Medium publication.