And so can a person's thoughts--the innards of the mind. It's not that I've had nothing to say. It's that I've had too much to say. And that I don't know how to compile it in a communicable form. But the thing (or one thing) about winding is that it's a continuous form, not a fragmented one. So here's one place I might begin.
For my reading group, I've just finished a book called The Worst Hard Times, by Timothy Egan. Our group usually reads fiction, but this time the choosers chose nonfiction. And so this choice. It's the story of the Dust Bowl, the environmental disaster of the 1930s on the Great Plains of these United States. It's a horribly disturbing story (unrelentingly repetitive also, but that's another matter) of the human impact on the earth. The Great Plains area was once a perfectly adapted ecosystem--vast tracts of grass with deep taproots that could draw water from the earth during the endless droughts and hold on for dear life in the face of the endless winds. The bison who lived there, too, were perfectly adapted--able to withstand winters with temperatures of 40 below and summers of 110 above. No trees. Blasting sun. Continuous wind and drought. The Indians hunted the buffalo and used every single scrap.
Then the land speculators came, and others looking for a place to settle and a way to earn a living, and they drove the Indians off and plowed up the grass, and train lines were built, and cities grew up--hotels and restaurants and stores and schools and hospitals. People who had lived in little sod houses built real houses--with windows and porches. They bought pianos, and their children took piano lessons. They had a few years of good rains and good crops. And then the drought years began, and with no grass to hold the earth down, it began to blow.
It's easy to point fingers, or say whose fault it was. But the point is that people needed places to live, and they needed work, and they were interested in profits, in thriving, in getting ahead, for themselves and their families. And as we've seen in so many other cases, the means to these ends were shortsighted and disastrous.
This week, WBEZ ran a fascinating story about Canadian oil and the way it is boosting the Midwest economy. Of course, the Midwest economy, including Detroiters, who are benefiting from this Canadian oil industry, need the boost. One man who was interviewed has been out of work for three or four years. But the story also included the voices of people who live near the Kalamazoo River and suffered (and still do) from the oil spill last summer. I have written about these things before--the farmers versus the town folk when it comes to river flooding; the restaurant owner whose business is now doing better because people are eating a full lunch (including dessert) versus the obesity epidemic. It's not really "versus." We're all in it together. What do we do?