Sometimes, not often, but sometimes, a blank page is merciless. Most of the time it is like a voice calling from the ether with an invitation to speak. In other words, generous. Today though, it was purse lipped and guarded.
Finally, after a two hour stare down, I knew the solution: Abram’s bench! The bench I had in mind I’ve named after my oldest son. That is because three times he has happened to call when I was riding by the same bench and sat down to talk. It is on the Cayuga-Seneca canal trail about a mile from the locks at Waterloo.
I knew, I just knew, that if I rode my bike to Abram’s bench I would find what I needed to write about. The muse would rustle the leaves in the trees or soar with an osprey overhead, or appear as a chipmunk and tell me what to write. Fortunately it was a sunny afternoon, eighty-one degrees, and a Monday so few people would be out and about on the trail. Perfect.
The bench and its environs were nearly perfect, too. Butterflies and moths wafted here and there, lighting nervously upon twigs and wild flowers then lifting off just as quickly. I did see an osprey high overhead, and chipmunks too. Gazillions of insects were flying, hopping, crawling, buzzing, and chittering on all sides. It was exactly as I had pictured it would be when I imagined my muse had deposited something there for me to write about.
It does not usually end well when we invest too much hope in a wish for something that is not there. As I looked through tree branches and wild undergrowth toward the straw colored field bordered above by blue, I was touched by a sense of its vulnerability. Birds, insects, squirrels and chipmunks, forest, water — all of it. It has become frighteningly clear just how bad we are as stewards of the earth, and how much it will take for us to stop the carnage to rain forests, rivers, oceans, lakes, and wildlife. Wishing for a better future will do nothing to provide one.
It is difficult to know what to do as an individual to change the course of human history — locally, nationally, or internationally. I have always believed that the accumulation of small acts of kindness, courage, and justice will turn whatever tide needs turning but those tidal forces seem truly monstrous these days. Even here, even those threatening our lake.
On the face of it, it shouldn’t feel so daunting. The dairy farms, vineyards, and lakeside home-owners whose runoff of chemicals, fertilizer, and waste threaten Seneca Lake’s water quality, are our neighbors. They are people we know, not far off corporations with private armies of attorneys and accountants aimed at resistance to reform. We should be able to influence them, right? It is their lake too, so they should be motivated to change, shouldn’t they? One home, one farm, one vineyard at a time we need to protect our lake. If we cannot do it here, the bigger picture is dark.
Well it turns out the muse did have something waiting for me at that bench, just not what I expected. Sometimes what we least expect is what we need to hear most.