Saturday, March 5, 2016

Change in the air

Yesterday it snowed about an inch or two where we are. The day before we had the year's first sighting of Canada geese returning. That's a pattern we've experienced in years past but it's a couple of weeks or so early for the geese. The snow will be gone tomorrow. The geese will hang around for months, starting and raising a family. The ice is letting go it's Winter grip on the St. Croix and its feeders. Minnesota keeps practicing Spring but all too rarely gets it right as a steady progression toward Summer. It's usually a herky, jerky, spastic lurching forward and back, as if Minnesota Spring were a drunk stumbling toward a season of drying out.

cairn beside a northern Minnesota road
cairn beside a northern Minnesota road
Photo by J. Harrington

There's been a lot of shouting this political season about the growing (grown) inequity in our country (and, though not mentioned as much, in the world). I recently came across a thought-provoking essay about some of the implications of economic deprivation. Please take make some time this weekend to read and think about the essay On Poverty by Alison Stine. It reminds me of a lot of the social, economic and educational issues Minnesota's Iron Range has to keep confronting. No doubt such issues are particular constraints, along with numerous others, for many of our Native American communities, and those who choose to live outside urban areas.

Capital seems to forget its reliance on labor. No industrialist built, by him or herself, roads on which a business depends to get employees and materials in and finished products to market. [Check Scott Russell Sanders essays "Getting There and "Cutting Road" in Wilderness Plots to understand what I'm talking about.] Levitt towns and company towns should become historical relics. Too many of us seem to forget our reliance on a functioning environment. We're no longer trying to "settle" this country. Those days are gone. We have truly "gone forth and multiplied and subdued the earth." Now it's time to help her recover. Paul Wellstone had it right. "We all do better when we all do better." That "all" has to include the only home we've got as well as our other current and future neighbors, distant and near. We all depend on each other.

Empty Pitchforks

By Thomas Lux

“There was poverty before money.”

There was debtors’ prison before inmates,   
there was hunger prefossil,

there was pain before a nervous system   
to convey it to the brain, there existed

poverty before intelligence, or accountants,   
before narration; there was bankruptcy aswirl

in nowhere, it was palpable
where nothing was palpable, there was repossession

in the gasses forming so many billion ... ;
there was poverty—it had a tongue—in cooling

ash, in marl, and coming loam,
thirst in the few strands of hay slipping

between a pitchfork’s wide tines,   
in the reptile and the first birds,

poverty aloof and no mystery like God   
its maker; there was surely want

in one steamed and sagging onion,   
there was poverty in the shard of bread

sopped in the final drop of gravy
you snatched from your brother’s mouth.


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