I think about the earth every hour I am awake. She is like a lover whose face creeps into the corners of my thoughts, poking her head out around the people and places that make up my moments.
When I left Texas my heart hurt. I’d been thinking about the Tar Sands pipeline and what it would do to my community, our world, and I had been thinking about the feeling that I often call ‘God’, a word that seems wildly inadequate at expressing my experience with a higher power. The natural world is the surest place that I have experienced this feeling of ‘God’ and there is therefore something foundationally unnerving about the damage being done to the earth. This damage prevents me from thinking of God as immutable and requires care and relationship instead of thoughtless worship and surrender. Watching wells dug, pipelines trenched, and factories constructed on my sacred earth is like watching a McDonald’s being constructed in Mecca or Rome or Jerusalem. These events are surely happening today but that does not prevent a feeling of sacrilege. The way that I understand and experience something bigger than myself is being chipped at with the same carelessness in which a woman scrapes away nail polish in line at the grocery store. For these reasons and more, when I left Texas my heart was heavy, heavy, hurting.
It was a grey rainy winter day, the sky the color of slate. As I neared a place where the Keystone pipeline crosses the highway I pulled the car over and got out. Pipelines are visually jarring in East Texas because the ground is red like flesh when the skin is scraped away. And when it rains, which is was, the water flows red too. Carved into by machine and the print of boot the earth stretched before me with a long, lean red wound. A couple of hundred yards away a bulldozer hummed, clearing a pile of trees from one side of the pipeline to the other.
“Hey.” I said, planting my feet wide apart underneath me and gazing out along the pipeline. “I see you. I see this and I am sorry. I’m heading out to California for a while but I will not forget this. I will see this. Every day I will see this. I will see you.”
And I have. Every morning since leaving Texas I have consciously thought of that long lean scar, of the water flowing like blood onto the road as I stood in the East Texas rain and made a promise. The earth is the surest way I understand and experience something bigger than me. There are days that I go to church and days I choose instead to dance but regardless of my where I choose to notice, the feeling of God persists. I am unnerved that we would chip away at this feeling without thought of consequence.
There are many reasons I am opposed to the construction of the Keystone XL pipeline but I think we’ve all mostly heard those reasons and truthfully they aren’t the most important ones for me. The most true reason I oppose this pipeline is that I believe in something bigger than me and I experience this feeling most completely in the natural world and I will not stand by and watch my ‘God’ be chipped away. This is the reason I cannot forget, the reason I write, the reason I’ll go back to Texas eventually. This is the reason I cannot be silent.
I think about the earth every hour I am awake. I’m believing in a miracle.