Harpers Ferry, Martin Luther King, Jr. Day
Monday was Martin Luther King, Jr. Day and we were driving back from Wilmington, Delaware. Our route took us through Harper’s Ferry, West Virginia – one of the most spectacular places on Earth. Thomas Jefferson said the view from a high rock in the village was “worth a voyage across the Atlantic”. This is where the Potomac River and the Shenandoah River join forces and grind through the vent they’ve been making through the Blue Ridge Mountains for millennia. The drainage area is huge, thousands of square miles from four states all coming together at Harper’s Ferry. Imagine all the energy in that water.
I always like to stop here and walk across the Potomac River on the people bridge. It’s a religious kind of thing for me – all that water and energy going through the gap in the mountains is an awesome sight. Our farm, a hundred and fifty miles from here is part of the beginning of the Shenandoah.
Harper’s Ferry has a lot of history and natural wonder. It ought to be a United Nation’s World Heritage Site. Indeed this is where our infant American nation built one of its first armories to make weapons. The energy from the water was used to turn lathes that would make barrels for muskets. It became a musket factory. Meriwether Lewis acquired rifles and hardware for the Corps of Discovery here in 1803.
John Brown’s Raid – the spark that began our journey to end slavery
It was also here in 1859 that John Brown made his famous abolitionist raid to capture the federal arsenal and incite rebellion among slaves. Ironically he was captured by Robert E. Lee, a colonel in the U. S. Army at the time. Weeks later John Brown was hung. His raid might have been a failure but what precipitated was our war to end slavery. John Brown wrote in a letter prior to his hanging,
“I, John Brown, am now quite certain that the crimes of this guilty land will never be purged away but with blood”.
We are here on Martin Luther King, Jr. day. Our nation has certainly grown and matured since the days of slavery. The flames of bigotry continue to diminish and maybe someday we will see those embers die.
Sediment-Laden Waters of the Shenandoah
As I gazed downstream from the bridge over the Potomac I could see the sediment-laden Shenandoah joining the Nation’s river. The sediment plume from the Shenandoah flowed downstream as far as I could see. I thought of the precious farmland where that soil came from, I thought of the soil from construction sites and fertilizer from lawns and golf courses, I thought of the people not giving a damn about what they do on their land or who it damages downstream. And I thought of the watermen on the Chesapeake Bay trying to make a living from our polluted waters.
Pay the True Cost of Environmental Services
I wish we could learn as much about soil and water stewardship as we have learned about human rights? What does it take for people to care? As our population continues to demand resources without paying for their true upkeep we will fall deeper into ecological debt. We must change our logic of capitalism to ensure that we pay for the environmental services our resources provide. At that point our rivers will run without sediment, our fisheries will recover and our soils will be more productive.
This is a very eloquent abstraction concerning our stewardship of our values, resources, and ourlives. When we find out what it takes to become interested, caring, involved stewards of the world around us, we will once again become leaders in the world, admired for our ethics and selflessness.
In regards to the last paragraph, I feel that it is so difficult to persuade people to care about things that do not directly affect them, or their pocket. Capitalism and our individualistic culture combine to form a lethal combination for the land. People seem to care about such trivial things, like if their lawn is the greenest in the neighborhood. They seem to worry more about what their neighbors think, than about how their fertilizer pollutes streams and increases algae growth. I think America needs to look back and study the ways of its native peoples. Then maybe we can respect our Earth and cherish our resources.
Excellent article! I am seeing a lot of what we have worked for the last 30 years with SCS/NRCS negated lately due to high commodity prices and ethanol. Much more Fall tillage, terraces in Iowa planted to corn monoculture and filters strips being plowed up to plant more corn and soybeans are happening all around. I think a lot of the runoff we see is also due to urban sources and not just agricultural.
Very well written and from the heart. Thanks for your time and comment.
Thanks for your comment Jim. You are right on.
Wonderful post, Bobby. We all could learn lessons from trees. Stand tall,be strong,establish deep roots, control erosion, clean the air, protect rivers,filter and conserve water, provide shade and shelter and food and even in death, warm someone’s heart and hearth. Thanks for reminding us of the value of trees. May we all strive to be their stewards and in so doing, protect and beautify our special Shenandoah Valley and beyond.
So interesting and so timely. When will we ever learn?
Thanks for stopping in, Gwen.