Thursday, October 27, 2016
There's a lot of stuff going on in Washington County Ohio, home of the much-vaunted Marcellus Shale, that upsets me right now. Every morning I wake up to the sound of huge industrial chainsaws ripping into a big patch of timber just two miles from our house. Two miles might sound like a long way, far enough, but I assure you it's not. Fifty miles might do it. But not two. For a woman who thinks nothing of running seven miles, two miles is right next door. I hear the saws snarling all day long, through the windows. I can't get away from it. But it won't last long. They'll be done soon, when the forest is completely gone.
That forest had yellow-throated warblers, American redstarts, hooded warblers, common yellowthroats...box turtles, red foxes, and once even a bobcat, that I saw eating on a road-hit deer. It had a newt pond, where the kids and I went a lot in the spring to see the newts floating, mating, swimming. It had everything. And I loved it, as I love all good forest.
Chet's so young he still needs a leash! And the kids...oh my.
The newt pond. Going soon.
Sorry about that, newts.
There was an old farmhouse there, with a porchlight that was always on, and of course I loved it too, out of all reason. I shouldn't have loved it so, because it wasn't mine, but that never stops a true old-house romantic.
I loved all the different coverings, real and faux, that covered its old log-cabin bones. I knew there was a log cabin under there. And there was. I'm told somebody dismantled it and took the logs for his house. Well, that's good. It didn't go completely to waste.
I loved all the greens on the porch. June 22, 2014. Wasn't Chet so beautiful then? 9 1/2 years old, before I gave him Nexgard, thinking I was protecting him from ticks. But that's another story. God, he was beautiful. And so was that house.
So were the outbuildings, with their ragged skirts hanging. That place was never so lovely as it was in a light rain.
The sweet old guy who owned the house, kept it up as best he could, mowed the lawn better than we mow ours, well, he died, as sweet old guys will, and his brothers up and sold the place and in came the oilmen.
Now there's a stoplight on our road. A stoplight!
A temporary one, but still.
There are hundreds of feet of pipe, and bulldozers.
They've torn down the house,
and they're tearing down the outbuildings. They've left this one. I don't know why. Certainly not because it's beautiful. What do they know of beauty?
Beauty's just in their way.
They walk around in their neon shirts and hardhats and I snarl as I roll slowly by.
Here's what the same lot looked like this evening--only three days later. Oil companies work fast.
All that useless beauty--it's just in their way. They've got to put in the drilling rig, get to that oil. Gonna be some cement poured where there once were warblers and box turtles. Gonna be kleig lights on 24 hours a day, and drilling, drilling, drilling. This, the snarling chainsaws, is the good part. This is the quiet part. They'll drill hard and long, around the clock; they'll pump brine with God knows what chemicals in it between the layers of shale (but none of that is going to get in our groundwater, nossir, it's perfectly safe!!) they'll put up a huge stack, and the natural gas they release will shoot up that stack, and it'll burn for months with a ferocious crackling roar that one oilman I spoke with told me that he loved. Because, he cackled, rubbing his fingers together under my nose, "That's the sound of money!!" Well, it's more the sound of profligate waste. They burn off that gas, and it doesn't heat anyone's house or cook anyone's food, because it's under such pressure that it's dangerous, so they just burn it away. They're after the oil, not the gas, though God knows a lot of people could use that gas to heat their homes in winter. Just haven't bothered to figure out how to harvest that wealth from the earth...in too big a rush to suck up that oil.
The flame of utter profligacy will light up the sky all night long, and it will light up my bedroom, two miles away. And I will hear it all night long, two miles away. I'm lucky it's not right next door. Maybe that's coming too. They keep us all on a need-to-know basis. Like, "Hello. We're leveling this forest, and we'll be putting up a drilling rig here, so you might want to move. Or you could stay, and listen to the sound of money. Our money."
My friend in this house right next door to what was once forest knew when to get the hell out of Dodge. I saw him loading the last things from his garage into the back of his truck yesterday. I wanted to stop but he looked so stricken I honestly didn't know what I would say to him, so I kept driving. Now I know I probably won't see him again, and that hurts. They just ran him out. And who's going to buy that nice house? Nobody, that's who.
They've slapped a NO TRESPASSING sign on the little shed. Like they need to tell me to keep away from their moonscape. There's nothing left to trespass for. LONGVIEW ACRES, it says, with a sweet little Christmas tree drawn on the door. View just got a lot longer. No trees in the way now. The newt pond's right below that shed. I pretty much know what's going to happen to it.
I sat down to write a post about the places that heal me, but I had to wade through all the photos I took as I drove out to get there. Being a photojournalist, albeit a bloggy one, I felt compelled to record this, too. Devastation is what's going on in my life right now, so this post is what came out. I know you come here to get your dose of nature and peace, and no matter what has gone on in my personal life, I have provided little else but that for 11 years now. It pains me greatly to have to show you this. If there were something I could do about it, I would have. The greed is too powerful to stop. Everyone around us fell all over themselves to sign away their deep mineral rights to fly-by-night "companies" that blossomed like honeysuckle all over Ohio, promising riches to people who could sure use the money. We didn't sign, but that doesn't matter now. We're surrounded on all sides for miles around by those who did. The ever-changing companies move like amoebas, splitting and coalescing; the person you speak with, or even the company he worked for won't even be there a month later; they don't have to pay us anything now to take the oil right out from under us. They've achieved critical mass, and we're screwed, without the money to compensate us for our sorrow and pain.
I came home tonight in the gloaming, had to come through the fire, and emerge proofed by the flames. And on the other side were the Three Graces, waiting, their fall colors shivering in the last light, one mile from home, and one mile from the moonscape. A fragile bulwark indeed.
Not yet cut down, and may they never be...but one never knows. Sometimes it seems to me that being something Zick loves slates you for destruction.
I came up the sidewalk and looked at this little tableau of maroons and purples and greens that I'd created by our front door
and I thought, well, that sure is beautiful, those 34-year-old bonsai trees putting on a show for me, with the recalcitrant morning glory just beginning to bloom at the end of October, the Thunbergia vine gone wild and throwing little yellow flowers all over the boxwood hedge
and I pressed my nose against the warm lit kitchen window and saw Liam, just home from rowing crew, sticking his nose in a carton of Goldfish, taking a sniff, and deeming them still OK. He tipped the carton to his mouth and caught a glimpse of me standing there, staring in at him with a slightly clownish look on my face
and that scared the bejesus out of him, and he held his hand to his heart and gave me the finger, then started to laugh
and I laughed and laughed. Life goes on, and it is beautiful, but Lord, some of the stuff that happens in between is hard.
UPDATE: There's a move to put parcels within Wayne National Forest, Ohio's only national forest, up for auction to private oil and gas drilling/fracking companies. Now's your time to get on the phone. I just called Regional Forester Kathleen Atkinson, who has full power to take this land off the auction block, and Sen. Sherrod Brown to register my objection to the rape of national forest. In the current maelstrom of dismantling and destruction, cries for sanity must be louder and longer. This link: http://www.acfan.org gives you all you need to know to make two phone calls. Thank you.