When I was small, my territory was much larger than it is now.
And not only because I was smaller and it felt bigger.
Growing up in the farmland of the Midwest, I could walk or ride my pony for hours in the woods around my family’s property. I was never quite sure exactly where the property lines were, and I never worried about bumping into people while I was out in the woods. There would be nothing more than a friendly, “Hello.” as we went along our ways.
We had fences around our woods, but still didn’t mind if people walked there. The fences weren’t to keep people out, but to keep our horses in when we turned them loose in the woods to graze.
The properties around us belonged either to neighbours that we knew, who had given permission for us to be there, or to people who didn’t live in the area. Those who didn’t live in the area rented out their farmland, and the wooded parts remained untouched except for during hunting season.
So we made use of the woods.
We always used a “leave no trace” attitude, though we did collect pretty stones and skulls as we went, thinking as children do, that things like that don’t really belong to anyone, regardless of who owns the property.
And no one ever cared.
Some of the property has changed hands, some of it is still owned by the same people, but people look at property differently than they used to.
“No trespassing” signs have started popping up everywhere, blocking large sections of the woods, even though they remain unused as seemingly unwanted.
It isn’t someone trying to protect the woods for their own use.
It isn’t someone fencing off the woods for their animals.
It isn’t even the formation of a “safe zone” for wildlife.
The woods are still unused, but they are now aggressively unused.
And it’s funny, because I know those parts of the woods don’t belong to me, and they never have. But I still feel like someone stole something from me.
They took a huge chunk out of the territory that meant so much to me as a child.
They put up signs saying that being respectful and careful doesn’t matter, people are unwanted.
And I have to wonder, if I ever have kids, where we they explore?
I don’t want them to only be able to explore the worlds of their video games.
Parks and hiking trails are great, but there’s something about having places to explore right out your back door that makes childhood great.
Maybe it’s something about the fact that you don’t have to have a parent drive you there.
Maybe it’s something about knowing that you are free to go there whenever you want.
But it isn’t possible anymore.
The territory of future generations will be so much smaller and sadder than it ever has been in history.
It will partly be because of expansion; cities bleeding out into the countryside, and decreasing the amount of land available.
But it will mostly be because of distrust and a lack of neighbourly spirit, which is a sad thing to see.