The Bodies Gone, the Purchases Made

Part of Parched: The Art of Water in the Southwest, Coconino Center for the Arts, 2020

Materials: Cattail down, steel, ceramic sewer pipes, bowls, cottonwood leaves, water

Suppose we did our work like the snow, quietly, quietly, leaving nothing out. Wendell Berry

The purity of snow softens the forms covering the blemishes of the marks made by humans - the topographies of overburden, the stumps of destruction. Its whiteness blankets the autumnal changes that lead to the symbolic death of winter, in preparation for the resurrection of spring.

But what if that snow still contains "compounds of emerging concern," - pharmaceuticals, personal care products, endocrine disrupters -  compounds that may be safe for human health and consumption, but not for the smaller soft bodies emerging from spring's thawed earth? Like the germ-laden blankets given to Aztecs in Cortez's conquest or the smallpox-laced blankets issued to the Lenape in order to "inoculate the bastards," is there a difference between the knowing way we pipe effluent up onto the slopes of the San Francisco Peaks and the Lebensraum of the Third Reich?

Each religion, mythology and culture has a system of beliefs that lead us to where the human species originated - the dust of our planet - Earth. We all have emerged from the womb of the Earth. She is our Mother, our axis. We are all sustained by her. We are part of a great family, all humans, plants, animals spiritually and physically connected.

As we go about our daily affairs, we are constantly and consistently faced with a set of dilemmas, choices to make, actions to pursue. Each of these decisions has the potential to affect the greater good of our society and the ecosystems we inhabit. Our choices reverberate over time.

In Flagstaff, we see selfish desires being played out on a sacred landscape. Reclaimed effluent waste water is siphoned back onto the San Francisco Peaks to satisfy a human desire to recreate. Our waste will, over time, enter the bodies of Other creatures: frogs, toads, and salamanders.

Fait accompli, for us and for these species? Or are we willing to change our own individual desires for the good of the whole familial circle of life?