Tuesday, May 25, 2010

For the Gulf Coast

I was struck hard yesterday looking at photos of birds, snails, and the general area now being so unnaturally covered with oil along the coast. The friend who had posted the link referred to the photos as gut-wrenching, and they were. My tear ducts were wrenched along with my gut as I saw a small heron dying because of the oil around it.

Wondering how long this will go on, how much can be cleaned up, and how long it will take for the area to recover, was overwhelming.

I had to focus on the possibility of recovery. It seems pointless to me right now for people to try to guess how much oil there is, how much damage it will do, how long it will take to clean it, etc. The one thing that seems clear is that no one knows, and they've just got to do everything possible to manage the mess that's been made. And help the people and animals affected.

And little images came to my mind of green plants growing out of cracks in asphalt or concrete where it seemed impossible, and then the reminder of a piece I'd just read of the way the buffalo are increasing and starting to roam again, and stories I've heard of how quickly an area can be retaken over by wild plants if given a chance.

The sadness at what man's ignorance and greed have done and the thoughts of hope and regeneration reminded me of the words, "for all this, nature is never spent...." When I looked up the poem it was a bit of a shock to remember that Hopkins used oil itself as an image in his first lines. Certainly he wasn't thinking of BP's oil refinery type oil, but still it was strange to find the very word here.

And comforting, very comforting, in that moment to be reminded that this dear, bent earth is not alone in the universe without a Holy Spirit brooding over her with ah! bright wings and doing things we cannot now even imagine, things that will and do continue to charge her with God's grandeur.

I pray for the people of the coast, that they may not despair.

THE WORLD is charged with the grandeur of God.
It will flame out, like shining from shook foil;
It gathers to a greatness, like the ooze of oil
Crushed. Why do men then now not reck his rod?
Generations have trod, have trod, have trod;
And all is seared with trade; bleared, smeared with toil;
And wears man’s smudge and shares man’s smell: the soil
Is bare now, nor can foot feel, being shod.

And for all this, nature is never spent;
There lives the dearest freshness deep down things;
And though the last lights off the black West went
Oh, morning, at the brown brink eastward, springs—
Because the Holy Ghost over the bent
World broods with warm breast and with ah! bright wings.

--G.M. Hopkins


Stephanie said...

Beautiful thoughts, as always, Sheila. Thank you for them. I've been feeling overwhelmed by the pictures, too, and your post comforts me.

I love that GMH poem. In fact, the first critical essay I ever wrote as an undergrad was about that poem. I reread my essay not too long ago, and it's embarrassingly elementary, but how, really, can you analyze a poem like that? You can't; you simply feel the beauty of it, you let it wash over you.

Miriam Bellamy said...

Good Morning Sheila, I have been comforted with the same thought - that the earth and the God behind her is so much bigger than the sum total of all of our mistakes. Thanks and glad you are posting again!

Lucy said...

'There lives the dearest freshness deep down things' has always been one of my favourite Hopkins quotes. I hope to God in can come true here.

And now I shall think of your unshod feet feeling the earth too!