Quotes from the Ground Beneath Us

“Quotations to follow tonight,” I said. I didn’t expect AT&T to have another network outage, though mercifully this one wasn’t as long as the twelve days (you better believe I counted) of February. But enough telecom griping! On to the quotes!

Intuitively, we might think, Yes, the environment matters, he explains, but the environment has become an abstraction; it’s hard to connect with because we’re not there anymore, and increasingly isolated from it. “The things that we should be concerned with are actually becoming more foreign and more unfamiliar to us,” he says. This, he tells me, is the worst consequence of all the concrete.

“Once, he tells me, a reporter asked him how many archeological sites there are in Mexico, thinking there could be more than a hundred thousand. And Matos told him, ‘Don’t worry, there’s only one, and it’s called Mexico.'”

That transformative power comes from the fact that when we slice and dice the ground with our roads, we weaken the ecological fabric on which life depends. Ecologists call this fragmentation, and its costs are enormous. A recent study led by Nick Haddad of North Carolina State University found that ‘fragmented habitats lose an average of half of their plant and animal species within twenty years, and that some continue to lose species for thirty years or more.‘”

“Diversity isn’t something that exists in the world; diversity makes the world. The things that regulate the populations, the things that keep the pests in check, the things that structure the amounts of the different kinds of fishes in the seas—they’re all based on biodiversity and the ecological interactions between the organisms. So if you lose it, you’re going to reshape the world.”

In fact, simply in terms of numbers, the wilderness below ground blows the world above away.

“But still there is a wildness in the ground that brings the prairie potholes alive each spring, for days or weeks or months at a time. Dry beds in the landscape, shapes to which most of us would be blind, are the shallow basins in which so many lives will form. The ducks that visit our city skies, that flash past in fast Vs over suburban lakes and ponds—those ducks are made of this ground. This is the fountain of energy that Leopold spoke of, rising from soil into sustenance into brown and gray-white bodies, cinnamon and emerald heads. This is that fountain rising into beaks and feet, eyes and wings. ‘What really drives the system is invisible,’ Ray says, turning the Chevy back toward the interstate.”

I stop in the road. To my left are the gathering flocks, to my right a field of wheat. It is like being up close to something back in time. Like a secret still going on. What are we if not a creation of days and experiences, of moments we have stopped to notice the world—the faces of family before us, the beauty of distant mountains, the ground at our feet. I am made from times like these, when I follow whatever voice I heard—who knows where it comes from?—and walk out alone along dirt roads to find a scene like this.

As red-winged blackbirds sing, setting sunlight shines on the cranes’ gray bellies, on the plains, as though the same golden energy that fills their wings fills the ground on which their feet will land. This ground feels akin to that of the West—the dry air, the cottonwoods, the big sky—even though it’s of the plains. What has passed beneath me? A thousand thousand years of animals moving, eating, mating, dying—the bones below us we never will know. This outermost surface of the earth all the while becoming the richest soil.

“There are no unsacred places,” writes Wendell Berry, “only sacred and desecrated places.”

About smellincoffee

Citizen, librarian, reader with a boundless wonder for the world and a curiosity about all the beings inside it.
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1 Response to Quotes from the Ground Beneath Us

  1. Mudpuddle says:

    thought provoking quotes… i like the concept of humanity being intimately connected with the dirt… whether they like it or not…

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