Before we knew it the year turned. Society’s distractions obscured it from time to time, yet the facts of days getting shorter, the planting season turning to harvest and second crops, and the humidity of summer are elemental, inescapable.
The construct of a year is artificial only from society’s view. Nature’s evolution in trips around the sun, with its changing angularity of light, formed deep expectations from which cultural patterns sprung. Patterns and culture are coming unhinged from human exploitation of the natural world. There have been unintended consequences for the biosphere just in living our lives.
Yet we go on living.
Today is the American holiday celebrating our independence from England. When I look at my life, the least benefited are descendents of the first people—who saw discovery, that loathsome word, genocide, and the great migrations from Europe, Africa and eventually from every habitable place on the planet.
At my workplace I hear the melodious, and sometimes harsh resonances of a dozen languages every day. We were never a melting pot, another loathsome phrase, but a garden of peoples who migrated and have taken to the land in its post settlement construct.
The name of our township is Big Grove, and what trees may have been here to warrant such appellation were mostly gone before the Civil War. It’s settled now, and to grow crops the soil must be augmented with chemical fertilizers. The rich topsoil, and that natural balance are mostly gone.
There is debate about whether to preserve, or recreate the oak-hickory forests that once dominated the landscape. What may have been here for thousands of years, has been relegated to parks and preserves, and not many of those. There’s no going back.
To say we understand nature is a lie, one I refuse to tell. Yet as the procession of days continues, I can’t help but notice things.
Like the wild blackberries I used to pick this holiday. The season is now finished, my favorite blackberry patches removed for development.
Like the cool damp days that have been good for garden lettuce, which by now had in previous years bolted.
Like the view of countless boats on the Coralville Lake as I crossed over the bridge under construction to North Liberty, despite warnings of underwater debris from the Iowa Department of Natural Resources. “Be careful out there” said one official, knowing little could prevent the overcrowded scene from developing on the high holiday of independence.
Like the nascent hope that despite these patterns, change is possible. Not hope against an inevitable reality, but something tangible, a path to preservation of culture that is eroding like the topsoil that was once so abundant.
One goes on living as best we can, making as light a footprint as possible in the dust of summer days. Our best hope is of crossing over into something more than a new bridge over old habits—to a better way of life clothed in fabric made of our past, over bodies naked and new like this place once was.
This is where I find myself this Independence Day.