Sitting in an easy chair with my laptop desk and computer, I look out over the river on this winter’s day—frozen ground, chunks of ice littering the lawn, an American flag fluttering out the window and four white Adirondack chairs by the water ready for occupants in the spring. The land and the river edged with ice abide as we wait for leaves to fill in the skeletal trees, though the magnolia remains in leafy bloom though without flowers.
Outside this quiet winter scene, the world continues to roil both at home and abroad. In the US, a presidential election is moving nearer as the first primaries have gotten underway, though certain campaigns have been going on relentlessly as if the campaigning never stopped between elections. It is an exhausting dance of our democracy, and this year is especially fraught. America’s politics this time round feels more like that of some other country’s…maybe Italy’s?—though our system assures whoever ascends to power will likely be ensconced for four years. Our door does not revolve so easily to usher leaders in and out.
One friend distressed by this year’s election decamped to New Hampshire, scene of the second primary, to do what I’m not sure, but to be there and work and participate in this every-four-year process of choosing. That these early choices take place in even colder weather with frozen hard ground and the buds of spring even further away perhaps pays homage to the rugged winters that greeted our earliest forefathers.
As I sit comfortably in my chair, I contemplate what role most of us not directly connected have, both at home and in conflicts abroad. Is it enough to watch from afar, to stay informed? For what purpose and what action?
I was always taught that my thought and my voice mattered. I was responsible for how I thought even if it wasn’t recorded or couldn’t be directly acted upon. How I thought was my responsibility to add beneficence to the global stream of thought. Offering as wise and pure a contribution as I could was like dropping a small purification tablet into the much larger pool. Just as one small tablet can purify 25 gallons of water, a single thought can uplift a community.
I live parttime on the Eastern Shore of Maryland where phalanxes of citizens work to keep the rivers clean so they and their children can rely on the rivers for fish and crabs and their children can swim in the waters, but it takes work by the citizenry. One of the facilitators helping purify the waters are the oysters that live in the rivers. A single oyster can filter 50 gallons of water a day, straining out the impurities. In the 1600s when John Smith first sailed down these rivers, the waters of the Chesapeake renewed with fresh water every two or three days. Now it is more like every 600 days, according to the Shore Rivers project which works to clean up and keep clean the rivers of the Chesapeake.
One oyster purifying 50 gallons of water each day! It is a remarkable dynamic. A successful project has been launched to repopulate the rivers with oysters, just one of many methods to clean the rivers. The effort is paying off.
At the risk of stretching the comparison, it is interesting to consider how one’s individual clear, honest, caring, selfless thought might purify a community of thought, dissolving and straining out anger, recrimination, untruths, vitriol, excessive grievances…whatever the issues of polity might be.
In the river I look out on, oysters have been growing on the bottom and are purifying the water daily. I carry hope that we citizens too can clean up the muck in the discourse and fabric of our individual lives, community, and globe one thought, one oyster shell at a time.
Join me on Substack