Sunday, November 6, 2011

Out of Control

The Pleasant Street Bridge and the island below the dam
Nov. 4, 2011
At some point, in days gone by, someone determined that an island below the dam was a good thing. I think this is true because at the upstream end of the island, just a few meters from the cascade, there are large granite boulders acting like the bow of a ship. These protect the vulnerable side of the island from being eroded by the powerful onrushing currents. And so, we have an island.

It is quite small. The only large animals I've seen there are fishermen and the occasional tribe of muddy-sneakered children who will be itching their poison ivy the day after their explorations. The Great Blue heron (who I haven't seen in weeks and don't expect back until 2012) hunts from the pool formed by the rocks. There are flocks of sparrows that infest the tangle of branches and families of ducks have rested in the lee of the island and dabbled in the July and August shallows that form in low-water. I did see a Black Crowned Night Heron once up in the trees there one summer.

Humans have this knowledge, or a set of assumptions that we are responsible for changing the environment. We are polluting the earth and have been for centuries. Now, more than ever before we live with the existential assumption that we are not quite in control of the arc of the Earth's environmental health. Every freak October blizzard or torrid April day is another argument that reinforces theories of climate change due to human activity. I accept these facts and the theories that proceed from them. Always have. Yet, another part of me, the messy cantankerous part that wants to fidget and daydream is drawn to thinking about the trash and the changes I see. I do pick up litter. But some I do not and here's why: that abandoned styrofoam cup is now the home of a slug or a family of millipedes perhaps. The cranky part of me steadfastly asserts that among many things I am not in control of are the emotions and motivations of other life forms. I may feel guilty and angry about that litter but the slug and the millipedes see it is an acceptable place to fulfill part of their genetic imperative to survive.

Some people made an island and my imagination finds rest and inspiration there. From the island, a heron once surveyed the scene and calculated it's next expenditure of precious energy. A riot of sparrow-friendly weedy non-native plants grows there. Humans will need to make many more islands in order to prolong our time of assumed dominion of the Earth. There's something present between the assumption of our power to affect things and our unsettling knowledge that we are placed within something much bigger that we can't ever fully see.

Are we ever outside of Nature: No.
Are we deluded? I think we are… by biological and ecological reality. Is this an argument in favor of a deity? Oh! No! I won't go there!!

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