rivers, roots and passages

by tobias crabtree

there are things happening. some of them seem very important. sometimes i feel like we are witnessing the changes in our earth, our home, that may very well spell out the extinction of our species. i do want to emphasize that, although i am a cynical son of a gun, i’m not a fatalist. i don’t have my “end of the world” sign stapled to a stick so i can stand on the corner and frown at the people as they drive past.  no.  i don’t want that. i don’t like to think about it all. i don’t want to know that chunks of ice the size of rhode island have fallen off the ice cap. i don’t like it when i hear the glacier i know and love in patagonia is now 6 miles from where i used to walk and meet it.  i am sad when i hear about lost migrates.  hummingbirds in the wrong hemispheres and pelicans eating seagull chicks.  things are changing and the decided ignorance of our race is nothing less than a type of denial. i have noted that most of the people who argue that nothing is changing, spend little time out in the wild. temperature controlled office buildings do tend to make the weather seem like very little else but something that fills a slot during the news hour.

but what if it is the big change? i think about my own life and my little march toward the day that i will cease to breathe.  i remember being a child and thinking about death. death was what happened to grandpa. i didn’t hold the death of an ant as significant, but a human, that meant something bigger.  we as people are able to categorize death into levels of importance. the death of someone famous is heavily grieved while some unknown child in mexico or tanzania is a passing note. even on the news small tragedies are mentioned and, in the same breath, some hair-sprayed dude will talk about someone’s dog doing tricks. and all the while smiling and smiling and smiling. weird.

i think we are off.  we hold ourselves above the laws of life in this world.  as if we should be allowed a better chance.  there are feelings of allegiance to our race over other species, to our country over the rest of the world, to our religious affiliation and then down the line to friends and family.  the truth is that the lives are a part of the bigger world. one is not without the other. maybe this is boring and typical, but we cannot expect to live in a world that we continue to disrespect and ravage. if we are watching a big change here, it is a pony we’ve been saddling up for a long time.  i just don’t think we’re ready to ride.

i have a buddy who has the merced river drainage tattooed on his forearm.  he spends his days moving rocks and building trails north of san francisco. when he is free, he goes to where he was raised, down by the river that is rendered on his arm, down in yosemite valley. i’ve gone there with him and surfed on the waves below his house. the river flows and eamon skates like some strange superhero on the glass above a huge reversal. he does it better than anyone else…home court advantage, man.  but the tattoos on his arms look a bit like a root system and they also mysteriously resemble the veins that course in blue and carry the red-salty blood under his skin.  and maybe the three are not so different. roots, rivers, and passageways are simple manifestations of one another. all things moving and flowing. even our own paths as they form organically along the lay of the land are very similar to the streams that are running, will forever try to run, back to the sea.  the end of our being would not spell the end of the world.  when the last of our clocks tick to a stop and time is no longer counted, the animals that are left will do as they have done. the river otters will bounce along river banks. dirt will fill the balconies of the high dollar high rises and the elk will bugle in the city parks. concrete will crack and decay and old rivers will find there way back to their old bellies.  migrations will adjust. whales will swim through silent oceans and speak across the black with their beautiful tongues.  no more jet trails…no burping industries.  all that is radioactive will begin the long journey back to being stable. healing and healing and healing.

i suppose if it can’t happen with us here, it will happen when we aren’t. i don’t want humans to fail at being good to this world. in my life, i’ll do all i can to give it my heart and love. it will take more than me. we all gotta love it. we need to find our roots and wear them like tattoos on our hearts.

while we fight for the rights of our race and argue over the importance of our governments, the world we stand on is trying to get our attention.  we all need to quiet ourselves and take a walk through the woods, or maybe take off our fancy clothes and swim into the ocean. connection is our only hope.