Sunday, March 23, 2014
The Storm Clouds of Present Time
Photo of oncoming storm in Lee County by Richard Hayes
The Storm Clouds of Present Time
For Elaine Chiosso, Haw Riverkeeper
In recent weeks, we here in Southeast Chatham and Lee County in central North Carolina have learned of a terrible coal ash pollution problem stemming from our only public utilities corporation in the state, Duke Energy, pumping sixty-one million gallons of coal ash wastewater into the Cape Fear River from the closed Cape Fear coal-burning plant in Moncure. Earlier a huge coal-ash spill occurred near Edenton, North Carolina on the Dan River. The signs of trouble were obvious for months, but state officials let it slide–colluded with Duke Energy.
This time our Department of Environment and Natural Resources is citing Duke Energy for the Moncure spill. The water intake for Sanford is not far below this pumping in of dirty coal ash water, and Southeast Chatham County gets its water from Sanford. It’s very scary to think that the water coming through the pipes which I drink, bathe in, water my garden with, may have mercury and other heavy metals in it. This, in addition to the worries related to fracking, which our governor and state legislature seem determined to impose on Lee, Moore, and Chatham Counties by early in 2015, is truly scary. With fracking, too, our water is threatened and pollution to air, earth, and water is inevitable.
It’s easy to become discouraged. Thank goodness for people like Elaine Chiosso, who is the Haw Riverkeeper, and for the state-wide organization of Riverkeepers, who caught on quickly to what Duke Energy was doing, and fight all the time for our rivers, our drinking water, our lives. It’s important for all of us to hang on and do our best with all we do, including working to make our communal lives better. The phrase that is bound to kill us all off? “What does it matter?” It always matters.
Sometimes we simply keep holding our place in our small universe. Other people notice we’re there even if we don’t notice them noticing us. They count on us being there and being ourselves even if they say nothing and don’t call or email. They want us to go on being ourselves and holding our place. The days can seem ordinary and mundane, but if we are holding our place and doing our best, those days will never be wasted. Here’s a poem that helps me hold on, written last September 1.
Judy's figs last September.
A THREAD OF LIGHT V. September 1, 2013
Human light is such a changeable thing.
Like clouds that pass the sea and make it
dark, we also have our days of the
unfathomable dark water moving toward land
relentlessly, with no set aim in view.
And then way out, or closer in, depending
on the ever restless clouds, will come
a pale green patch looking almost like
a hillside brightly lit after a rain, its green
bearing all the burden and the pain of light.
I admit I carry light, at times unwilling.
It makes me love too many people,
see across too many fences, see the place
in the hedge where a path has been made
by animals scuttling through. What seems
impenetrable to others, looks porous to me.
–Light Food XVII, August 8, 1985, Gower, pp. 40-41
Judy's hens January 2013, Photo by John Ewing, after molting.
Living in the present is never easy.
The storm clouds of present time can
put you off balance for weeks.
Yet the resulting rain may save
your livelihood. The fig trees will
let their hard green fruit swell
to succulent ripeness. The hens will
delight in the insects and worms that
rise to the surface when the soil
is once again soft and friable.
Present time teaches us patience as
nothing else, and if we look away,
we’ll miss that first ripe pear
on the tree that died and only barely
lived again. We won’t find
the cucumbers the vines exhausted
and stymied by too much rain
finally produced. We won’t notice
that under its huge umbrella leaves
okra pods were lengthening,
nor will we see the bumblebee
resting on a broad leaf to scrape
the excess pollen from its legs.
No matter what news it delivers,
every day brings something good
and unexpected. A neighbor suddenly
speaks in the post office lobby:
“I admire you so much.” Her words
stumble, then rush out: “Your books,
your teaching, your work against fracking.”
So many things I wasted time and sleep
worrying over have turned out better
than I dared hope. The farm recovered
its resilience when cool, rainy days
gave way once again to hot August
sun. The writing class I doubted
would have enough students has eight.
The money I feared wouldn’t come in,
came early. I slipped through several
crises, recovered my spirits, made
better peace with the stigmata of aging.
No time like now to enjoy this life,
here, today. We have to believe in
the future in order to ward it off
when the sky darkens and omens
fall all around us. Only the patient
serenity of our spirits, allowing each
day’s exuberance, will do it, will keep
us upright, well-balanced, firmly
rooted in the miracle of present time.
Cosmos on Judy's dining table, September 2011.