a literary journal published by the Black Earth Institute dedicated to re-forging the links between art and spirit, earth and society
A couple of days ago a public water line broke in front of my neighbor’s house, right here in the middle of Kansas City. The line might be nearly a hundred years old. A good deal of water was pouring out of the street. “Could be a lot worse!” I was told by a city water guy yesterday. The water had formed a little stream along the curb, a rill, one might say. I like the sound of that, a rill—slightly archaic, Britishy. The stream running cold and clear was like a spring branch in the Ozarks, the kind I love to put my feet in. The flow of the water looks just the way a natural stream would look—fluid dynamics-wise—with riffles, Vs, and zigzags in the main current, dams, slow pools, drops, eddies even. From my porch, I saw a glint, a bubble perhaps, heading upstream in what no doubt was one of these eddies. At first I did not believe it. But there it was nudging backward. It was like having a brook in front of my house.
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And that same day, a picture of a swallow-tailed kite was on the front page of The Kansas City Star. It showed up over in Prairie Village, Kansas, just across the state line from here, a thousand miles from its normal range in the southeastern United States. Birders gathered with scopes and field glasses to get a glimpse at this bright, showy surprise, this ornithological epic win, this xeno-gift.
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We live for surprises.
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When no cars were going by my house and everything was quiet, I heard the rill gurgling, a sound that wrinkles in the ear. And that’s when my pleasure at this temporary, not-creek, this spill, this utter waste of potable water, was greatest and the water most beautiful and my guilt at enjoying it most ambivalent. I expected the crew would show up with its back hoe and dump truck tomorrow or the day after, to dig a hole and fix the leak, but I wished hard that it were a natural spring and would go on running forever.
Daniel J. Martin lives in Kansas City, Missouri and writes essays, often focused on nature and the environment. His work has appeared in various journals, including North Dakota Quarterly, Kairos, Ascent, and Animal: A Beast of a Journal. He teaches literature and nonfiction writing at Rockhurst University, when he is not gardening, cooking, drinking wine, playing soccer, or walking Natty the dog. Writers who have recently knocked his socks off: Catherine Venable Moore, Alysia Abbot.