Thursday, December 4, 2008

The Land Has Its Secrets, and Some of Them Are Ours

There was a small wilderness behind the house and across the coulee (a large ditch) from where we lived when I was a boy; and it was there when I arrived in Louisiana from New York in September. I walked through it four or five times since I have been back--but for the last three weeks or so a bulldozer has been plowing down the trees, clearing the lot. I find it painful and pointless. Apparently, my grandmother's sister wants to leave a clean lot for her daughter, so the daughter can do something with it, easily, if she wants to. I must admit, however, that the land here has seen all kinds of changes. There is another bit of wilderness nearby and walking through it, I realized the ground showed a pattern despite the thicked of trees--it looked like somewhat flattened rows. I asked my mother about it and she said that, Yes, years ago, in the 1930s or 1940s, a woman neighbor had planted a crop there to make money to pay for her own wedding. Riding my bike again to a nearby town, I passed a spot that used to be a garbage dump but is now used for crops, though the dump became known as a poisoner of groundwater: a boy in my class died of cancer as a result, years after I left Louisiana. I wondered if all the poisons had been removed from the soil--and who was growing, selling, and buying the crops from it. An irony, possibly: on my first day back in the area, I remarked to the aunt and uncle who picked me up from the depot that there was so much land here and so much opportunity for development; but, now I am reminded that not all development is good.