In late summer, I would swim and stream-walk a small section of the Raccoon River. While sedimented for decades now, the water was clear in the shallows. For a few years now, the water is pea-green from edge-to-edge. For decades and worse now, this water has strongly contributed to a vast hypoxia zone in the Gulf.

In the 1980s, I wrote about the wisdom of the river, focusing on the Des Moines River as a living, very open metaphor for the essential streaming dynamic of the universe that is within us as well in the streaming of our body metabolism and thought.

Saturday, October 15, 2016

Indigenous Grass As Urban Class


a short grass “rainscape” that develops deep roots and retains water.  Doesn’t need mowing as it stays low.  Does not easily let other flora in.  Likely appears “tacky” to most, but not to a very few.   Not a good playground, but largely self-caring.  Note: This grass can be mowed at a slightly higher setting for a very  plush, "even" effect if desired. Perhaps if people became aware of rainscaping as  a design option, a new aesthetic might open for more than a few?  That which is appreciated changes across time and is subject to whims.  Now home interiors rip out carpet in favor of hardwood floors, and stainless steel and granite counters and, please, no colored bathroom toilets and tubs.


Indigenous grass and water:  

I grew up in Fort Dodge, Iowa.  I lived on the northeast edge of the city that opened to lorn pasture and woodland and cropland.  You could actually play hide-and-seek in cornfields but not without scratches from rough corn leaves (but dangerous in summer heat.  

In the pioneer era, there was a massive bog just to the West of Fort Dodge, Iowa.  It was referenced at the time as “Big Hell” because of its impassability.  Everything was to be used as a commodity.  Between 1866--84, an eighteen-year flash, 12 million buffalo were exterminated in the American heartlands.  And so. too, this bog and a vast prairie pothole bioregion. that was shaped by glaciation.  I only know about the bog as a historical footnote.   It was gone before I lived in Fort Dodge and there was not a clue as to its having been there.  Flat dry cropland and drainage ditches splayed out in all directions, and they sped water and soil and nutrients rapidly southbound, resulting in soil loss, contaminated water as well as contributing to downstream flooding. 

Nasty old “Big Hell” retained water, soil, and built soil fertility that now goes down the drain--used not nurtured and balanced.  Authentic stewardship would have altered the terrain but not raped it.  And so now, big costs to even partially mitigate loss and declining soil fertility and eco-diversity issues and public health issues in the local place and elsewhere.

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