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Monday, April 1, 2013

Passaic River: Cycles and politics


Ducks and Geese roll over head in an endless flight out, leaving the river and the drought, the rocky surface of brown puddles where water used to flow.
The water stinks of chemicals, as if the summer sun has boiled down the liquid to the most vile in time for fall.
The leaves of the trees have turned too soon, hinting of an early winter, lessening the demand for water the river cannot give.
This year will be a thin line on the cross-section of the trees when future woodsman cut them down, a tiny tight circle that marks in their living history a bad year.
Forget the newspapers and the politics on TV, the river trees know best, and last longest, having suffered most.
Those ducks brave enough to stay peck along the water side for catfish eggs, moving forward among the reeds like an invading army, pushing everything out of their way. They feed now in hurried desperation, knowing bad summers lead to bad winters, a winter they might not survive.
While newspapers moan and groan over hyper inflation, a slow deflation starts here, wilting leaves, fallen trees, roots torn up by the wind.
Two stiff-neck cranes drop out of the sky, spying some movement in the thin water, one snatching up something silver while the other crane cries foul!
Everything is hungry, even the carp that crawl along the river bottom in search of food, their web-patterned backs visible to me fifty feet away, each struggling to keep deep in water than had shrunken into wading pools. Children throw rocks at them, and hit.
Someone's radio stirs up news, quotes by Reagan or Anderson or Carter over the hostages in Iran.
"It's sunk pretty low," a red-faced over-headed business man says, stepping up beside me as I stand near the Service Diner drinking my coffee.
I am not sure if he talks about the recession or the river, and whether or not he blames the Democratic president for the drought.
A rat rushes along the stony side, stopping and sniffing, aware that we are standing in its path to the trash, and disturbed over it, squeaking as if to tell us to move along, its small paws gripping the moist green stones, its shiny gaze turning this way and that way for signs of danger.
There is always danger. There are always cycles. The river rises and falls, then rises again, sometimes going too far one way or the other, and we, the rat, the businessman, the gulls and geese, all struggle to make sense of it, as if we could predict it, as if we could do anything about it if we saw it coming, with none of us better off despite our ability to vote.

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