Seabirds walk along the pier. The beach is rocky or you’d be barefoot. I’m stuck here working in a chilly room. Temperatures falling. I’ve borrowed a blanket and put on gloves. I’m looking forward to your return, your warmth and optimism. My friend, you watch waves under a bright white sun, the sky for once not the usual grey.
“May your trails be crooked, winding, lonesome, dangerous, leading to the most amazing view. May your mountains rise into and above the clouds.” ~Edward Abbey
I noticed on BBC World news last week the story of thousands of Snow Geese in Montana. Just a small story at the bottom of the U.S. section. It’s said, “Thousands of Snow Geese Dead.” It’s been 3 days, and no further news. CNN reports the story a day later as “hundreds” of geese. I am waiting for a public outcry. I am waiting for more stories. I’m waiting for the final count. Will there be a follow up report? Likely not. The local Montana newspaper said there were about 10,000 birds. Imagine it.
With a storm behind them, 10,000 snow geese fly fast seeking a large body of water for sanctuary. They find themselves at the Berkeley Pitt mine near Butte, Montana, a former copper mine, a Superfund site. They lock wings, gliding down and down onto the surface of the shimmering water. They swim in the quiet, they clean their dusty feathers. They stick their long necks into the murky water and drink deeply. A few perish immediately. The crew at the SuperFund site fire shots to try to scare the birds away. They blast noise cannons. But there are too many birds. The workers are frightened that there are so many birds. They know what will happen. Nothing survives the lake. They have seen the birds die before, but they have never seen this many land before. One man, runs, runs for the rifles to try and stop them. Nothing stops them. Many begin to wash up on shore. After the first onslaught of birds, only a few of the geese remain swimming on the lake. They manage to stay alive for several days. How long before they, too, perish?
So far, we don’t know just how many just fell into the lake and won’t be counted, and how many flocks flew to the wilderness and fell out of the sky, never to be found. Their carcasses eaten by coyotes, coyotes who in turn die from their poisoned throats. The water is so acidic, it’s been reported that it would dissolve the steel rotor of a boat. I’m feeling waves of nausea at the thought of thousands of dead snow geese. They are beautiful snow white birds with black-tipped wings. People have made the point that these birds are not endangered. I would like to shout that this is no way for thousands of living beings to die. Imagine them as puppies. Facebook puppies. Thousands of puppies who drink Drano. Would this be acceptable to the masses? Would they not be horrified? 10,000 puppies would bring how many “views”? 10,000 snow geese bring very few.
“Nature may reach the same result in many ways. Like a wave in the physical world, in the infinite ocean of the medium which pervades all, so in the world of organisms, in life, an impulse started proceeds onward, at times, may be, with the speed of light, at times, again, so slowly that for ages and ages it seems to stay, passing through processes of a complexity inconceivable to men, but in all its forms, in all its stages, its energy ever and ever integrally present. A single ray of light from a distant star falling upon the eye of a tyrant in bygone times may have altered the course of his life, may have changed the destiny of nations, may have transformed the surface of the globe, so intricate, so inconceivably complex are the processes in Nature. In no way can we get such an overwhelming idea of the grandeur of Nature than when we consider, that in accordance with the law of the conservation of energy, throughout the Infinite, the forces are in a perfect balance, and hence the energy of a single thought may determine the motion of a universe.” ― Nikola Tesla
These are dark times, troubled times. The BBC reports the news of the decline of the giraffe, that elephants too are in danger. There are massive die offs of the coral reefs. The reefs are white with death. Hundreds of whales and crabs have beached themselves. The bees are dying. The frogs are in decline. Is it all true, are we entering a time of mass extinctions?
“You may live to see man-made horrors beyond your comprehension.” ― Nikola Tesla
The waves of the tide are tied to the gravity of the moon. The migration of birds to the proximity of the sun. Up to Canada they fly, and then back again South, year after year like waves across time. But we can see the world changing. In my backyard, fewer birds roost in the trees. The scientists report that the seas warm, ice caps melt. The coral dies, turns dirty white. The salmon do not make it all the way home. The moon is very close and very large, as if to say, “I cannot be ignored. I will light the sky, brighter than you have seen for a century. Look at me, lunatics, watch me! You’re tied to me the way the stars are tied to night.”
Everyone I know is on edge since the election. Our President-elect is an unknown. I’ve always believed the best thing to do when the world is going wrong is to go outside, listen to the wind in the trees, become aware of the moon. But I’m starting to wonder: how long will we hear frogs croaking, bees buzzing, the songs of the meadow birds? We may soon genetically modify the mosquito. (good, doubt it. I mean, how do you control a mosquito if it gets screwed up?)
“To stand at the edge of the sea, to sense the ebb and the flow of the tides, to feel the breath of a mist moving over a great salt marsh, to watch the flight of shore birds that have swept up and down the surf lines of the continents for untold thousands of years, to see the running of the old eels and the young shad to the sea, is to have knowledge of things that are as nearly eternal as any earthly life can be.” ~Rachel Carson
Light and pain seem to travel in waves, like alternating current. Sleep and dreams are interrupted. Nature doesn’t give us many straight lines, but circles or patterns. Fibonacci spirals. Even pain comes in waves, see: childbirth or toothache, we are given a reprieve before the next spasm. Sometimes there are rogue waves. Sometimes there are hopeful deviations. Sometimes there are terrifying tsunamis. Light waves and seismic waves flow soundlessly across the earth. Real earthquakes are attributed to real fracking. Our children can’t afford college, our college adjuncts can’t afford health care, our health care workers can’t afford prescriptions.
In Phoenix, where we grew up, we braced for monsoons, giant dust storms from the Superstition mountains raising up dark in the sky and visible from a great distance, followed by torrential rain. It was a crazy desert landscape where we could see for miles into the distance. Sometimes the storms weren’t so bad, they traveled the city outskirts and veered away. I feel this strange stagnation in our country right now…like nothing can be done, like everyone is holding their breath. We can’t see anything in the distance. The calm before the storm is a misnomer, it’s more like the feeling of running in place, or screaming without sound. Shutter the windows, get out the battery powered radio. Find the candles. Brace yourself, stock up on water and ramen…pay your bills. It’s an eerie quiet. Instead of a view of the mountains, we seem to be in a ravine, a slot canyon, further away a flash flood may bring raging waters to our feet.
“Certain periods in history suddenly lift humanity to an observation point where a clear light falls upon a world previously dark.” ~Anne Sullivan
Unlike the sweet arctic geese, let’s fly safely through the present and beyond the reach of any storm, avoiding the lethal waste that humanity has created, into a figurative refuge anyway. Remember the Snow geese and be careful. It seems that no one cares about the slightly winged, the distant deaths. Thankfully we’re not in Flint Michigan drinking lead-contaminated water. There’s got to be a way through this mess.
My conundrum, I promise, my next post will be funny and happy. I can’t wait. Actually, I can’t wait for yours.