The Writers Voice
The World's Favourite Literary Website

Rx for Urban Sprawl


Gregory J. Rummo

My office is located in northern Bergen County. Sixteen years ago when I started working here, farms and orchards lined with neat rows of apple and peach trees covered the landscape. They served as backdrops for farmer’s markets with names like Tice’s and Van Riper’s. Like huge cornucopias, they toed up to the highway, luring passersby with their luscious displays of ripe fruits and vegetables during the late spring and summer.

Each was a short walk from my office and I often spent my lunch hour there, eating outside on one of the picnic tables while fighting off the persistent yellow jackets that never tired of harassing me.

They have gone the way of urban sprawl, their owners seizing upon the lucrative offers to sell their land to developers who have built the office buildings and shopping malls that now line the county road through Montvale and Woodcliff Lake.

But we’re not all buried under concrete and macadam. Miraculously, there is still a swath of wilderness here and there that hasn’t been paved over or otherwise disturbed.

My office is situated next to one of them—a forested buffer zone of oaks, maples and other hardwoods approximately 200 yards wide. It extends the length of the building, a sprawling two-story marble monstrosity set back from the main road on several acres of what was once all forest or farmland.

All sorts of animals wander through these woods; a flock of wild turkey stopped by to gorge themselves on acorns last autumn. A red-tailed hawk frequently surveys the area from high atop a towering tulip tree, on occasion silently dropping from her perch, wings folded, stealthily swooping down on top of some poor unsuspecting mouse or mole or small bird. And just the other day, three whitetail deer cautiously meandered through the trees, picking at whatever tender branches were left among the deadfall on the snow-covered forest floor.

The five large windows in my office allow me to survey everything going on outside. All I have to do is look up from my desk to enjoy the equivalent of an all-day marathon on the Nature Channel.

But the real center of attraction in the midst of all this faunal ubiquity stands a mere five feet away. On the other side of the window glass, two bird feeders; one filled with niger seed and the other with a standard mix of millet and sunflower gets more traffic than midtown Manhattan during the holidays.

As I write there are eight goldfinches enjoying a snack from the niger tube while two raspberry-colored house finches, perched comfortably on the second feeder, deftly crack sunflower seeds in their beaks. Several slate-colored juncos scurry around on the ground below, scrounging for the seeds the other birds spill.

It’s a never-ending mini WWF tag team match as they fly back and forth all day from the trees to the feeders; as one leaves, another takes its place.

The German physicist G. C. Lichtenberg said, “We cannot remember too often that when we observe nature, and especially the ordering of nature, it is always ourselves alone we are observing.”

We all need breaks from the daily routine and nature provides the perfect distraction. If you are not as fortunate as I to have a room with a view, perhaps you can get out during lunch and go for a brief walk in a park.

Quiet introspection is often just the thing we need in the midst of the cacophony of modern life to help put things in their proper perspective.


Gregory J. Rummo is a syndicated columnist. Contact him through his website at


Critique this work

Click on the book to leave a comment about this work

All Authors (hi-speed)    All Authors (dialup)    Children    Columnists    Contact    Drama    Fiction    Grammar    Guest Book    Home    Humour    Links    Narratives    Novels    Poems    Published Authors    Reviews    September 11    Short Stories    Teen Writings    Submission Guidelines

Be sure to have a look at our Discussion Forum today to see what's
happening on The World's Favourite Literary Website.