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Thu Apr 18, 2013, 12:32 PM

Ride a Lama [View all]

“Man sometimes thinks he’s been elevated to be the controller, the ruler. But he’s not. He’s only part of the whole. Man’s job is not to exploit, but to oversee, to be a steward. Man has responsibilities, not power. …

“One of the Natural Laws is that you’ve got to keep things pure. Especially the water. Keeping water pure is one of the first laws of life. If you destroy water, you destroy life.”
-- Onondaga Chief Oren Lyons

My friend was surprised when I knocked on his door. We’ve been friends since grade school, but had not seen one another for over a decade. He had introduced me to the Super Fund Site in Sidney Center in 1980, and now I was handing him the health survey that is part of the epidemiological study of the village of Sidney. Though time is a straight line, life is a series of circles.

He said that three years ago, my name had come up in a discussion he had among friends. One of them told him that I had died a few years back. I told him that he was the third person who has told me that, but that I was convinced it was merely a false rumor. He laughed and said that after hearing it, he had contacted my sister, to say how sorry he was. She said that I hadn’t died, which seems to confirm my suspicions about the nature of this particular rumor.

My friend resides in one of the nicer neighborhoods, at least by appearances’ sake. Attractive middle class houses with well-kept lawns and gardens on quiet village streets. But there were numerous people who invited me into their homes, to discuss the reality of living on the edge of a toxic industrial waste dump site. Some told me stories about a family member fighting cancer; others told me that they were fighting it now.

One was an old acquaintance from decades past. He recognized me, but could not place me in context from our previous interactions. As we talked, I could see that he had difficulty with his mind. Fighting cancer does that sometimes. We spoke for about half an hour, until he became too tired. He wanted me to stay, though, and so I said that I’d come back to visit him sometime soon, when I’m not going door-to-door.

As I approached a house on the next block, I could hear a man listing some chores to a teenaged boy. Although it was finally a warm spring day in upstate New York, the man’s tone struck me as grumpy. He asked me what I wanted, in a less than chipper tone. When I told him, he responded, “Well, you better hurry the fuck up, before everyone is dead.”

At first, he thought that I was working for the town. I explained that I wasn’t, and that I doubted that I was likely to win an outstanding citizen award from those “community leaders” that he did not trust. But the more I told him about the study, the friendlier he became. Eventually, he invited me into his house, explaining that he wanted to introduce me to his wife.

She was on a cot in their living room, watching television. She has been fighting cancer, and is nearing the end. Although she was too weak to talk, as her husband told her who I was and what I am doing, she raised her head slightly and smiled. The fellow asked me to sit down, and if I wanted anything to drink or eat? I said that I should get back to my duties, and he followed me back outside. He asked me if I could assist people who wanted to sue the industry that poisoned their homes and properties? He said it wasn’t about money, so much as being able to move to a safe environment. I told him that I would stop back with some information, including legal contacts, for him and others he knew.

In the last week of February, two of my friends died of cancer. Both had worked at the industry that polluted in Sidney. The brother of one, who I’ve been close friends with for many years, is fighting the same type of cancer. Add in two siblings, and a couple of extended family members, and it seems like cancer is everywhere I look.

I try not to let one issue saturate my mind. I stay busy with school board responsibilities, especially now that it is “budget time.” Also, a citizens group from another town in another county has asked me to assist them in planning a law suit against the state; I did some research, and provided them with two good legal firms. They contacted both, and both firms expressed interest in their case.

Still, I found my mind getting as tired as my old and aching bones. I needed a vacation. For me, a “good” vacation -- in which I can relax and rest -- is more often in time than in distance. So I decided to take some time and walk in an area rich in human history. It’s an area where Mohawk leader Joseph Brant had a camp site during the Revolutionary War.

Among other things, I found a Madison point -- a triangular flint arrowhead, dating to about 1,500 ad. Then a Lamoka javelin point, which had been made some 4,000 + years ago. But mainly, I found things like pottery shards, knives, and scrappers, which would have been used by women. Also, a unique stone bowl, with sections ground into the underside for one’s fingers, to hold it securely. My afternoon vacation had taken me to another place in time.

Upon returning home, I decided to check my e-mail -- sure evidence that I had arrived at the present of modern society. One message was from a professor of environmental studies at a Ivy League school in another northeastern state. She wants to interview me, as part of a project to “energize” the grass roots. I am honored that this lady, who I’ve never met (or heard of before) thinks I’m worth talking to.

Another message came from Onondaga, through a couple of Clan Mothers.I’ve got to call to schedule a meeting there in the near future, to discuss grass roots environmental advocacy. We need to add a “new” concept (actually, to update an old one) in the struggle to keep the water supply as pure as possible.

Time moves in a straight line; life goes in cycles.

H2O Man

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H2O Man Apr 2013 OP
Gregorian Apr 2013 #1
H2O Man Apr 2013 #3
Cleita Apr 2013 #2
H2O Man Apr 2013 #4
CaliforniaPeggy Apr 2013 #5
annabanana Apr 2013 #6
H2O Man Apr 2013 #10
H2O Man Apr 2013 #9
CaliforniaPeggy Apr 2013 #12
H2O Man Apr 2013 #14
cbrer Apr 2013 #7
H2O Man Apr 2013 #11
Zorra Apr 2013 #8
H2O Man Apr 2013 #13