Thursday, December 15, 2011

Ghosts

I was watching a PBS show I taped months ago about the fight for wilderness, about the feds designating vanishing landscapes as wilderness and so protecting them. In the west, the "frontier," it's a special issue where ranchers and ATV hounds love their private access and call it freedom, but it can be destructive to wildlife. Yet environmental groups who sit down with ranchers often find that they are not at odds, but want the same thing just in different ways. What is here is almost gone.

I think about the people that have come before, and that I live on a farmer's field, perhaps a pioneer's, on land once traveled by the Pawnee and Cheyenne and Sioux. On bison range. On prairie chicken booming land. On thick stands of bluestem as far as one could see. These voices barely echo anymore. These are the apparitions we willingly slaughtered.

And then it occurs to me--bison and bluestem are not the ghosts, but we today are the ghosts, searching for our place in the world, our meaning, still as hungry to conquer our fears and feed our desires in the landscapes around us. We are the mirages, the apparitions longing for something we lost or never had, wandering the earth, condemned to find our souls in places that can no longer hold them. This is America on the Great Plains.

3 comments:

Elephant's Eye said...

Today I was sitting at our pond, thinking about the space we have made for wildlife. And wondering what was here, before the town, before the farm.

Les said...

We have similar issues going on in this part of the world. The National Park Service is restricting the amount of beach access on the Outer Banks of NC where traditionally people have been allowed to justify their purchase of giant four-wheel drive vehicles by driving on the beach, but not to harvest fish for the family table or to make a living. I want to tell them to get off their lazy butts and walk to the beach. It is very sensitive habitat for a number of birds, turtles and other wildlife. Considering the miles and miles of condos, hotels and houses, I think man has more then taken his share of this enviornment.

Benjamin Vogt said...

And what will come after us? Will some stranger on a blog wax poetic about us? And is waxing romantically ridiculous? Too nostalgic? What we leave behind are ghosts created before their time, and what we become are ghosts ourselves--half empty and translucent because we are not as whole without the natural world we've made extinct. The 6th great extinction is in full swing, and even if we stop now, it's too late for so many. I feel like a ghost. I feel like an echo and my words feel more hollow for it. No one's listening. No one can even hear.