Stories From the Heartland (Pt.1)
Every River Tells a Story
The next time you begin a journey or fishing expedition on one of your favorite rivers or streams, take the time to look at the surroundings (I mean REALLY look), and listen closely, as each one has it's own unique story to tell.
As we begin our journey, we may see a typical farmer out in the field plying his trade, doing his best to put food on your table and eke out an existence that was handed down to him over generations.
Coming around the bend, we notice the billowing white smoke of a local power plant churning out electricity to make your life comfortable and secure. As we turn our head to look at something perhaps more aesthetically pleasing on the opposite bank, we notice that elusive red fox we've been hoping to see for the longest time on this particular waterway.
Watching the vixen run back and forth delivering food to the underground shelter of her cubs tells you that they are around 2 weeks old, and you can't help but think to yourself that wildlife go about the business of living not much unlike that of each and every one of us on Earth. Every living thing needs to eat the food and drink the water that this planet provides in order to survive.
Perhaps the hardest facts to consider are those of how we, as humans, go about existing in this environment.
The river provides drinking water to the local residents, who in turn pay for this service by going to work at the plant that treats the water to make it palatable and healthy enough to drink in the first place. Like the fox and her cubs upstream, we too are characters in one long story of life along the river.
Let's take a closer look at a few of the characters involved as our journey continues:
With the sight of the power plant just a blur on the horizon, we come upon a neighbor of ours.
This man (or his predecessor) had long ago cut down his woods opposite mine, and is on his riding mower cutting his grass to within an inch of its life. This lawn exudes a bright green color that can only come from a bucket of chemicals designed for such. His mission for himself on the land, from our perspective, might be expressed as 'clear, drain, mow, spray, control. For him the story of a property owner features an actor at war with his surroundings, which can be beaten and shaped and maintained by constant vigilance. A piece of property such as his can only be described as a great place to practice with a pitching wedge before holing out a 25 footer on the putting green, all the while considering this to be a piece of recreational paradise on earth. The neighbor fully believes in his heart that he has the best that nature provides, and uses it to his full advantage.
Around yet another bend in the river we come upon the work crew that is clearly pouring every ounce of energy they can muster into the project at hand.
Their story says a person can draw a living from nature without harming it. One can move steadily through the workday and through one's life, chopping and digging, sawing and clearing, earning an honest buck and sleeping the good tired sleep of the farmer or stone mason. They wish nature no harm, and believe they have enough knowledge about proper and improper behavior in the field. Like our forefathers, they are forging ahead towards a bright future among fresh new land, only much more efficiently with their expensive trucks, backhoes and graders.
The end of a reflective day is nearing as we tie up the canoe at the modest dock we've fashioned at the edge of our 3 acres of wetlands and natural prairie with a simple pathway made of stone leading up to the house. Our guiding story is that of someone with conservationist knowledge and instincts, who is willing to stand up to his neighbors for those goals. Our aesthetics embrace woods and wildlife. Thoughts turn easily to how we may better protect the species of fish we are after and the quality of our water.
Like a sudden bolt of lightning in the night, a knock comes at the door and we are snapped backed to reality in an instant.
Two men from a local governmental unit have come to explain the details of their latest plan to dredge and straighten the portion of river in front of our house. It is explained that our woods and the neighbor's property get flooded during times of high water, and a very generous consortium has offered to pay for the work to its completion.
They go on to mention something about mosquito control and such, but we're not really paying attention at this point, as our attention is fixed on the sight and sound of some birds working feverishly to build a nest in the tree just beyond the door.
In each case stated above, the actors are guided by personal stories directed by specific attitudes and behaviors.
Attitudes perhaps prescribed to by our own personal environmental heroes: golfers, loggers, naturalists.
Spontaneously and without conscience we go about our life standing by our beliefs and traditions.
I'll leave it to all of you to decide if there is a moral to the story this river has to tell.
I'm certain your favorite stream has one of its own, unique in nature but common in its entirety.
Until next time, I'll leave you with this to ponder:
"The nation behaves well if it treats the natural resources as assets which it must turn over to the next generation increased, and not impaired, in value."~Theodore Roosevelt
By: Mike Clifford