The Snake, view North towards Brownlee Dam. last light . . .
On the road in the Northwest of America.
Nemesis & the Watercourse Way . . .
The Snake River country between present-day Idaho and
Oregon is land of immense spirit and mystery. Space. And
more space. And more space. It is the presence of a power, an
intelligence, a movement of pure, raw, creative energy which is
vastly beyond anything we can ever hope to understand with our
everyday, reasoned, conscious thought. And yet there it is. We
sense it. We breathe it in. And here we are in all our smallness,
standing at the rim of such greatness.
Only the fact of immense dams breaks the spell.
One can only kneel down and ask the goddess Nemesis, whose
charge it is to strike down those self-obsessed with hubris, to
forgive us. For truly we know not what we do. One can only
imagine the utterly petty yet precise science of the engineers
that determined where to draw a ruler's straight line through the
river's serpentine flow. The calculation of how many tons of concrete.
And the horror they must have felt in their heart of hearts—but never
dared voice or give expression to—as they stood at perhaps this
very spot and watched the power of the river humbled and the water
rise. And rise. And rise and rise. O Terrifying thought. Horrifying
thought. O Children of the Earth, the Earth mother cries. And cries.
And cries and cries.
Dams of a scale large enough to wreak havoc with entire watersheds,
are, if anything, the artifacts of what some day will be known as the
Age of Arrogance. So what is right action when confronted with such
sins against nature? Certainly not merely to oppose dams—past,
present or future—directly. Witness the time lost fighting against
political double-speak and well-financed technical obfuscation, as
necessary as a holding strategy that might be. The right course of
action, it seems to me, would be to simply follow the watercourse way
ourselves. The way of water itself, the way of soft overcoming hard. How?
Demonstrate the alternative. I say sun. And more sun. Leave the dam
building to beavers. They are much better at it than we could ever hope
to be, creating landscapes of infinite grace and charm. I say sun, and more
and more sun. We should follow with tremendous energy the way of light,
and when the sun sustains us again, as it does all of the rest of creatura
now, the excesses of this Age of Arrogance will fade as distant memories
of a perhaps well-intentioned, but very much mistaken path of darkness.
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