Saturday, January 23, 2010
Peat and Repeat
I had to travel to Oklahoma City last Wednesday. I greatly dislike traveling to big cities, and the very best thing about it is coming home. I always arrive home with a renewed appreciation of my little corner of the world.
I have been to Oklahoma City several times. I heard once that it was the largest city in the world, based on square miles - a bit of information stuck uselessly in my mind for decades. With the Internet at hand, there honestly is no good excuse to not know if OKC was, or is, the largest city in the world based on area. But then, who cares?
Each time I go there, I fall in love with the red earth of Oklahoma again. In some areas it is orange, other places it is red. There are some spots where the dirt looks almost purple. I have thought it would be fun to bring home the various shades of Oklahoma red earth to make a dirt garden. I do not know how that red dirt would fare in Kansas, though, or what would grow in it. Another useless idea taking up space on my organic hard drive.
I can never travel to another state without remembering the Indians who lived there first. It is as if their tribal memories line up along the highways, hitch a ride, and haunt me with their gentle, forgotten presence. From their vantage point, those old Spirits might not care any more that they were cheated, slaughtered, and brutalized out of their land and lives. But they continually and quietly warn we hasten our own demise with the unmitigated abuse and soulless disregard for the land - the same land we killed most of the Indians to own. Sometimes I think: let the environmental apocalypse roll! We have it coming. If any people ever had a day of reckoning coming, it is us.
Oklahoma was the last stop for so many eastern tribes. They came from forests, mountains, wide rivers. Even the water is different east of the Mississippi. As I drove the I-35 miles last week, I marveled that any of the People survived the forced move to this red earthed place. How would I survive emotionally or spiritually if I were forced out of Kansas, even in modern times? Here, I well know the seasons. I know and understand the plants and animals. I know how to live in the winds of Kansas. I have always loved the rise of the prairie hills against the horizon. I have lived my life hearing coyotes howling and hawks whistling. The limestone dissolved in the water has entered my very bones.
I also sometimes consider my ancestor's travel to this country from Ireland, Scotland, and England. Those early immigrants must have grieved for their homeland until the day they died. So how terrible were the conditions in Scotland that they chanced coming to America? And where will we go when the conditions in America are too terrible?
There are days when the knowledge almost suffocates me that Monsanto and other bio-engineering corporations are slowly strangling the life out of the land while deviously outlawing our individual rights to farm the earth. In 2007 the EPA warned to limit consumption of any locally caught fish to one 8 ounce meal per week for adults - nationwide. Kansas has far more detailed information regarding where to fish, how much to chance eating, and what poisons you are ingesting, depending on where you caught the fish. We live among the pollution. People have careers measuring the poisons. We all apparently think it is alright to live this way. I apparently think it is okay to live this way.
Last week on television I saw the man credited with discovering the giant whirlpool of plastic and trash in the Pacific ocean. A floating mass twice the size of Texas. Unimaginable.
In some distant archaeological epoch, all that will be left of our time on earth will be a toxic layer of peat preserving our poisonous and fatal legacy, and our diseased bones. The genetically engineered plants and animals will fossilize along with the last of the natural genetics, and all those who gathered riches at the expense of the living earth will be so long dead. I wonder if any of the old Indian spirits will welcome us at their fires.
Nez Perce photo from US Historical Archive. Scots photo from Scottish genealogy web site here.