Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Change and the Abyss

A parking lot is being graded across the road as I write this. No one in my community was aware that a little gravel parking lot was being upgraded by the Maryland State Highway Administration until the construction trailer moved in and the earthwork started. How did this happen?

Well, the State Highway Administration doesn't have to get permission to spend half-a-million dollars for property the State already owns. They just have to come up with the reason and the money.

In this case, the Appalachian Trail Conservancy wanted to upgrade their gravel parking area at the Weverton Cliffs trailhead for "dignitaries." You see, this nice little hike to the overlook of the Potomac River and local mountains and valleys is convenient to the Washington D.C. big shots.

What irks me is that local citizens were not informed. Maybe we don't want the all-night sodium lights in our relatively undeveloped area. Maybe we would have questioned putting a parking lot with blacktop next to Israel Creek that flows into the nearby Potomac River. Maybe we are having enough problems with crime in the area with break-in's and prostitution pick-ups and drug drops since we are so close to Rt 340 and a three-state jurisdiction with relatively little policing going on.

I mourn the possible loss of seeing the Milky Way. Having moved off of our family farm near Frederick, MD, I saw the development encroach with housing and industrial development grow to the point that at night if there was any moisture in the air or snow on the ground, it looked like daylight outside. In our little gap nestled in Pleasant Valley, there are no big box stores nor fast food chains with mega lights.

With a heavy heart I sat in meditation with my little weekly group. What to do? My mind was racing for things to do. Fears about speaking out. Anger about the audacity to require night lights when the "dignitaries" will leave before dark and leave their lights behind.

Someone spoke about mountaintop removal in the Appalachian chain and mineral rights trumping landowners. Once the mountaintop is gone, now what? Anger? Grief? Sadness? Change? The sense of hopeless I was feeling was deepening.

My sense of seeing some Buddhist teacher sitting quietly and smiling, like Thich Nhat Hanh, felt condescending. I had been trying to practice a partial smile during meditation last week. Now it just felt like being constipated. I could imagine some roshi sitting and smiling, waiting for me to spend myself as I my emotions control the show. My hope is that there is a teacher waiting for me.

Meanwhile, I am experiencing loss of control, change, the great abyss. I still communicate with elected officials, neighbors, and the media as I clarify what the issues are. I am grateful that in this dark space, a Raging Granny is forming. I don't know if Buddha could appreciate this, or if Jesus would understand, but it feels like the beginning of hope.