fishing for faith

“These pictures just make me cry. So disastrous. God help His creatures.” – M June 9, 2010 12:21 PM*

The image that I can’t really shake is one that could never really happen, where the waters from the gulf flow north up the Mississippi, moving slowing through St. Louis, oozing across Minneapolis. I see the gulf waters flowing west up the Missouri, and then I see them moving eastward up the Ohio, along the Tennessee, across the Appalachians. I’m standing by the French Broad watching while the oil moves south together with what’s left of the river water. We’re all standing there, together, and there’s not a thing we can do to stop it.

“Words cannot express the anger and sadness we all feel for the wild life in the gulf. The only thing we can do is make sure the people who are responsible are held responsible and are punished for their actions. … Is our own greed for wealth, power and oil worth the damage that is being done to our own habitat and the habitats of thousands of plants and animals? We can not afford to let this happen again. we couldn’t afford it the first time. They can not replace the wild life they have already ruined. Any politician that does not move to punish them is just as guilty as they are.”- Mike Sprague June 9, 2010 12:33 PM*

There was an essay in the New York Times a little while ago that suggested, mildly, as if in a kind of whispered aside, that perhaps this time technology won’t fix the mess that has been made. Not that it might take longer than we’d thought, not that it might be more expensive than anyone had budgeted for, but that it just won’t work.

“this is just terrible! these poor birds are sitting there waiting to die and their taking pictures of them. DON’T FOCUS ON TAKING THE PICTURE! HELP THE FREAKING BIRDS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! GRAB THOUSANDS OF TOOTH BRUSHES, THOUSANDS BOTTLES OF DAWN, AND HELP THOSE POOR BIRDS!”- jakaila kearney June 9, 2010 11:06 AM*

I’ve been driving the river road to work for the last couple of weeks while they’re doing that bridge construction on the interstate. It’s a beautiful drive, a winding two-lane blacktop closely banked between the mountain and the river, an old drover’s road for folks driving livestock from the Ohio valley across the Appalachians. There’s a plaque telling me so, an official state marker, a historic site. No one reads it. These hills were covered with footpaths once, and once a two-lane road was thought large. For years, we clear-cut these mountains, sent the timber downstream. No one thought to take pictures of the birds.

I don’t know that anyone could have done any different than was done, and I’m not even suggesting that mistakes imply blame. Our better selves know that recognizing mistakes doesn’t fix a mess, and apologies don’t make amends, but there’s still the irresistible urge to insist upon them as a kind of completion, a finish, a fix. We have faith in culpability, in responsibility; we have faith that running scapegoats out of town covered in our shame grants us, the stone-throwers, some level of moral absolution that we crave. I don’t know that any of all this matters to the people and animals who will never be going home again.

But it matters to us. It matters to me. There is no absolution…

“Life has become too easy. People have long lives, many children, happy families and a life of excess. Our happiness is destroying this planet.” – dacian June 9, 2010 11:00 AM*

…other than that in which we have faith. Will it be technology which brings absolution? Will it be law, the history of cumulative cultural authorities which guides our response? Will it be a flare of temper, or self-pity? Or will we change our lives? A native American teacher whose tribe has lived and fished along the coast of Louisiana for centuries was speaking on the radio this morning: “To have a kindergarten child ask you how to spell oil is heartbreaking.”  The child wanted her daddy to have a job; he works in oil.

This morning a thick mist lays low in the mountain. A heron rises from the riverbed and glides upstream alongside my car. A couple of guys taking an early weekend are fishing out in the shallows, their colored flies flicking yellow as lightning bugs through the dark morning fog. Children wait for buses by the side of the road or with their parents in SUV’s parked and running. For a moment, I see what a photograph would look like, the heron caught by the oil in the water, the songbirds quiet, the fly fishers working with toothbrushes and dish soap. Every now and then, I catch sight of the sun, the sun that shines indiscriminately down upon the earth.

*These are a few rather arbitrarily selected comments, taken from the most recent of 3185 (as of this writing, 8:58 pm, Thursday June 10) comments on the now-famous photos of pelicans captured by AP photographer Charlie Riedel. http://www.boston.com/bigpicture/2010/06/caught_in_the_oil.html

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About Carolyn Ogburn

Writer, hiker, activist and gadfly. #Binder Writes @NumeroCinq555 / Blogs @pshares MFA @VCFA
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2 Responses to fishing for faith

  1. margo solod says:

    xxoo
    as always. captured beautifully in words

  2. im jakaila kearney…and i am so honored to have been included in tis story. thank you. : )

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