Bookmark and Share

The reality is “out there beyond” is always right here.

I’ve taken a week off to get some long-neglected chores done around my place. Late on the second day I was sitting out on the porch watching the hills and ravines – we call them “coulees” in this part of the country – thrown into sharp, golden relief by the setting sun. The sun sets beyond the bluff my home is nestled against so as the sun sinks the shadowed profile of my hill crawls its way up the hillside across the valley.

 It’s been a beautiful June and the air was cooling as I spotted two large herons gaining altitude and flying in my direction. I assume they were coming off Ray’s Pond, about a mile to the northeast in the valley. The birds had turned a gentle arc and were heading toward the house and due west, for the Mississippi River about four miles to the west. Their long graceful wings moved like oars carrying them westward.

Behind me I could hear the buzz of a ruby-throated hummingbird sneaking the day’s last sip of nectar from the feeder by the kitchen window. I heard the hummer and watched the herons drawing near and felt a sudden bittersweet sadness at the realization that the herons and the hummer and, in fact, all the birds that fill this valley to overflowing with sweet song every spring and summer will be migrating south in a few months to winter along the Gulf Coast. Some, like the ever hungry hummer, will stop over in that area to rest and bulk up before heading off across the broad stretch of the Gulf of Mexico to central and South America.

 This year, of course, as these annual gifts of nature go about raising their young here in the upper Midwest they have no idea of the manmade catastrophe awaiting them in their traditional refuge along the coast.

 There are four major migration routes, or flyways, in North America. The Mississippi Flyway is the largest of these migratory funnels stretching from the Arctic to Patagonia and used by 40% of all migrating waterfowl and shore birds; some 300 species in total.

 As I lost sight of the herons and the hummer zipped off into the forest leaving sudden silence in its wake I contemplated that number for a few moments; 40% of the North American migratory bird population, some one billion birds, will be flying smack dab into the spreading toxic mess of the BP oil rupture.

God only knows how many will be able to fly back in the spring.

As the BP hell hole continues to spew crude and natural gases into the once beautiful Gulf the impact of this disaster – this completely avoidable manmade disaster – spreads ever outward in concentric circles of impact. Tourism tumbles throughout the Gulf and fishing skippers in Key West are facing ruin from cancelations before the oil has even reached them. In New Orleans it recently rained oil ( ).

 Allen “Rookie” Kruse, 55, a fishing boat captain in Gulf Shores, Alabama committed suicide the other day on his boat. He was reportedly heart broken at the damage done to the Gulf and the decimation of a way of life.

 Clean-up workers fall ill as the deadly ballet of complicity between private corporations and a purchased government spins along pretty much unbroken.

Those of us blessed to live in the Driftless Region of southwest Wisconsin can feel a little insulated, immune even, from the nastier realities of the world. Heck, we have the highest concentration of organic farms in the nation and most valleys have trout streams. My friend Todd jokingly refers to this region as the “Shire” with seething “Mordor” churning darkly somewhere out there beyond. Surely, the never-ending BP oil catastrophe is right out of Mordor.

But, as the herons and the little hummer remind me, there is no “out there beyond”; everything that happens, happens here. Separation, distance, space, buffer, refuge and reprieve are but an illusion; we are all in this together. What happens in the Gulf does eventually find its way here to the Romance Valley. Perhaps not today or tomorrow, but unexpected effects will come to roost here as well; perhaps in the form of a disturbingly silent spring morning next year.

Mark L. Taylor

Romance Valley, WI.

July 3, 2010

Mark L. Taylor MA LPC SAC is a Wisconsin licensed counselor who works extensively with adolescents and their families. He also founded the RoundRiver Institute LLC, a learning center near Genoa, WI. Permission is granted for personal use of this material. If you pass it on to other individuals please include a link back to this page. If you wish to use it in a newsletter or publication please contact Mark at:

© Mark L. Taylor and RoundRiver Institute LLC