An Ode to Persistence

Posted by Micah Berman on 28th Nov 2017

[This blog is from a mid-November – newer updates coming soon!]

Skip to paragraph six if you prefer poetry!

Since I last wrote on my travels and our expedition progress, a lot has changed. Yes – I’ve explored and discovered countless life-changing areas, but what’s developed most extensively is my mindset and appreciation for the desert and its beings.

There’s a fortitude affixed to the creatures here – humans included – that displays itself abundantly in how livelihoods are maintained. Nothing is easily accomplished in the desert (water collection, food) and takes persistent, hard work to carry out. With this effort put into survival also comes a simplicity in the way creatures interact with and respect their environment. What’s taken from the land is only what’s needed and often given back in full. The effort put into maintaining resources is proportional to the value extracted from them.

The past couple weeks have been filled with new desert experiences and understandings. We found ancient ecosystems hidden deep within the extent of Lake Powell’s Canyons, giving insight into what existed readily before the dam. We discovered areas buried by half a century of water regaining traction in their respective environments. We hiked out of canyons into untouched sandstone bluffs and happened upon thousand-year-old dwellings immaculately intact with pottery shards and arrowhead chippings. What we saw physically in the landscape came without words.

What stood out to me most, however, was the significance of a gathering we attended with the Grand Canyon Trust and Native Peoples of Arizona/Utah. The meeting focused on water rights, the closing of a coal powerplant and future economic development in the Navajo Nation. We spent the weekend visiting businesses on the reservation, exploring native art exhibits and discussing how Native Peoples can move forward to develop their economy while being more fairly represented in land and water rights.

In part, we talked about the unfair allocation of water taken from the Colorado River and how it calls for more appropriate allotment in the future. What impacted me heavily was hearing the accounts of injustices faced on the Navajo Nation as they apply to the environment. Before starting this project, I’d approached the film from a more scientific perspective – thinking of the environmental implications of Glen Canyon Dam, less the human aspect. Being with these people and seeing their connections – feeling them – lit a fire under me. I could comprehend better what was really being fought for. I now had not only an environmental, ethical responsibility to care about our public lands, but also gained a personal connection to this part of the country previously foreign to me. It upheld my purpose in creating a film about Glen Canyon and furthered my dedication to the issue of western water rights. It’s a humbling feeling to perpetually discover more reasons for fighting and creating.

I find myself often – especially in my journal – better able to relate my feelings and convictions through poetry. I don’t usually share these writings publicly, but in this case I feel they’re appropriate. As I’ve said all along, the more I learn out here about water, people and the environment, the less I seem to know. The only thing to do is keep listening and keep researching. To do this most effectively though, I believe, begins first with appreciating the subject matter.

An Ode to Persistence

There’s respect that is due

A kind bold and unique

To the creatures found low

Or up high on a peak

To the life that sustains

Throughout unlikely places

Where refuge is found

Inside wide open spaces

With roots stemming east

Saturated in green

Where the soil is rich

And the water is clean

I knew not of a world

That lay just ‘cross the land

Existing in callous

Bearing grit in its sand

Upon first arrival

To this scape far and wide

I saw more of a bareness

Than place to reside

A shrub here and there

But no bounty of living

Just seemingly stagnant

No taking or giving

Yet as with all views

Perspectives will change

When the far off horizon’s

Now home on the range

Impressions distorted

By only what’s seen

Not felt and not heard

Or explored in between

There I went unconstrained

Just to find what I would

Let the land do the talking

Respect understood

All ears to the ground

For what it might say

Both day into night

And night into day

Quiet came first

Just wind and the rocks

Inanimate chatter

Insentient talks

But as time compounded

Turning days into weeks

My surroundings grew louder

Their voices to speak

As I lived and existed

Drinking water avail

The patterns of weather

Directing my trail

I began to discover

All the unseen connections

With textures of life

Bearing different complexions

And as I kept tune

With the world ‘neath my feet

I took further notice

Where ends made their meet

The shrubs I had seen

Each one not much taller

Stood abundant with shade

For the creatures much smaller

The scarceness of water

Not deterring its follow

Just appreciated value

Enhanced by each swallow

Made respect for what was

And what’s hard to obtain

Understood by these beings

Alive on the plain

So as merely a guest

To this quaint habitation

I’d assumed much too quickly

Its hard-earned foundation

For in rock was sought shelter

And warmth in the sand

While sustenance came

From observing the land

What at first was alike

Just a sign of resilience

In the flora and fauna

Evolution of brilliance

For the concept of desert

Means not a lack of

But a life well-deserved

With a bit tougher love

Cause nature persists

Even where least-expected

And wherever you go

You will find it connected

So take care to respect

No matter the case

The life you may find

In an unlikely place