Into the Wild – Shelburne Birches

The following essay was written as part of Into the Wild, a nature writing course that was offered at Gorham High School. Each week, students visited a local place of interest and wrote in any format they chose-non-fiction, fiction or poetry. The Berlin Daily Sun printed several of the students pieces. This article was written after students spent time in the Paul Doherty Memorial Forest.

Into the Wild
Shelburne Birches
Krystle Bouchard

Bubbles. A big pool of bubbles is swirling in the middle of a frigid spring stream that courses through the Shelburne Birches. Some of the bubbles are large, and some are small. Some of them are perfect spheres, and some of them kidney-shaped lima beans. Some pop quickly, and some stay a while.

The icy stream is rushing quickly down the mountainside, tumbling over many rocks as it flows. Beneath these rocks, pools of bubbles swirl, caused by the rapid flow of the river, stirring up the gases in the water, and allowing them to float to the top, forming the bubbles.

All of the bubbles are formed in the same place, beneath the same rock in that churning stream. They are jumbled together, massed and confused. Each bubble pushes into others, getting squashed and trampled by others that squeeze them out. The bubbles can’t be distinguished from one another. They are moving too fast, they’re too close together, fighting to be on top.

They push and they shove each other, trying to knock the others down below the surface. The bubbles try to claw their way to the top, squelching others out, suppressing them to make room for themselves. They try to get to the surface and stay there with the rest of the bubbles beneath them, but this is an impossibility because the water is constantly churning, and the tables turning sending the bubbles on top back to the bottom.

A bubble may get its fifteen minutes of fame, but inevitably, it will fal1 back to the bottom of the pool.

The bubbles orbit the pool, spinning and spinning within its boundaries. Most of them never make it to the edge, and very few escape from the pool altogether, but some do. They are the lucky bubbles.

It is not luck, however, that allows these bubbles to escape the endless spinning of the pool, but rather having the strength and the courage to leave the mass behind, and branch out into a world of unknown. These bubbles are more distinguishable, contrasting more with their background, sticking out. When these bubbles pop, their absence is more discernible than that of their counterparts in the whirling pool. They leave more of an imprint in your mind because you have seen them separately, and witnessed their individual characteristics. They leave a void that will never be filled by another bubble taking their place.

These bubbles drift freely down the river, selecting their own paths. Some choose the right trail, the one that carries them far down the river, away from all of the other bubbles. Some take the wrong track, and get sucked into a different pool of bubbles further down the stream. There, they once again become part of a jumbled mass, where their fate is to be snuffed out and suffocated, a victim of the violent battle to the top.

The bubbles that escape the mass are the fortunate bubbles. It may be lonely traveling by yourself, but it’s better than living your whole life in the company of others who only want to slap you down and use you as a stepladder to the top. Your freedom is better than spending your whole life struggling, a prisoner in the race to be noticed, stepping on as many people as you can along the way. All you really need is the courage enough to stand on your own, and be yourself. You must have the strength to flow your own way, and determine your own direction, even though it may not be the same direction as everyone else. It is better to be alone all your life and have someone notice when you are gone, than to have companions all your life who never know whether you are really gone.

No matter how tempting and wonderful the mass may seem, it will take you nowhere, only in circles. There, the only prize is the luck of not being squashed or stepped on too much, and surviving another day. To them, you are just a number or a passing face that someone vaguely remembers, but can’t put a name to. It is better to be set apart from the mass, free from the pushing and shoving. There, the prize is the ability to navigate your own way through the world, and shape your own destiny.