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Our father,
who grew up on the fringes
of Oklahoma’s Dust Bowl,
built the Big Pond
shortly after World War II,
when he returned to the farm
and, with an Army-surplus bulldozer,
began building terraces
and farm ponds on this farm
and the farms of neighbors.
(All of Oklahoma’s lakes
are human-made—the largest number
of lakes created by dams in the U.S.
In Oklahoma,
part of the Great Plains,
the only natural lakes are at oxbows
and playas in streams;
they are smaller,
intermittent.)
Farm ponds like the Big Pond—
filled by runoff—
have a limited life,
of about 50-60 years.
As rains gather soil from cultivated land
and stream eventually into the human-made ponds,
the ponds fill with silt.
Near the beginning
of the current “extreme drought,”
three years ago,
the Big Pond dried up.
It was dry for four months.

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During that time,
a neighbor did a lot of bulldozing
to strengthen the dam,
enhance the drainage system
and add a deeper, connecting pond on the north end.
Eventually, enough rain fell to fill the pond,
and it looks like a big pond again. But
to only look at its beautiful water
is to be deceived. Looking closer,
the expanding shoreline tells the story.
There is a healthy
amount of water in the newer, deeper end,
but the part that’s visible
and looks so beautiful
in the sunlight,
the moonlight,
is, in vast sections,
only about a foot deep.
Without looking closely,
the pond looks healthy.

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But we know
the water is disappearing.
This summer, with an algae bloom
in the shallow water,
many of the small fish we brought a year ago,
died and floated along the shoreline.
With cooler temperatures,
the algae bloom is finished.
But September rains
did not come.
The water continues to disappear.

This week,
a group of women
came to Turtle Rock Farm
to make the Cosmic Walk. They heard
a “new” story of the beginning
and evolution
of creation. It’s a beautiful story
of this astounding universe,
this wondrous planet. It’s also
a story that takes time
to hear and understand deeply.
It’s a different story
than we’ve been told;
one that we couldn’t have known
until the last 100 or so years. Every time I tell it,
I understand it better. Sometimes,
as it was yesterday,
the beauty and wonder in this story
bring me to tears; tears too—
simultaneously with the joy—
of grief,
for what we have done,
are doing,
to this beautiful home, Earth—
or “Eaarth,”
as Bill McKibben has written:
the Earth we live in now, Eaarth,
which is different than the one
we wanted.

My hope for the future of the human species
lies partly
in hearing this new story,
this story that tells of humans evolving
as part of one living, interdependent system,
rather than the story of Earth
created for humans.
It’s not easy for us to admit
that believing the old story—
of dominion over the planet—
has helped bring us to a point
where life on the planet
is jeopardized.
It’s easier
to simply enjoy the sparkling water
on the Big Pond,
than it is to see
the widening, dry shoreline;
the algae-green in the summer;
to acknowledge that the water
is disappearing. It seems easier
to be deceived
than to look
at the facts. It’s easier to focus
on the water’s beauty
than to look at the fact
that it is disappearing.

When the women arrived,
we were settled in the living room,
ready to begin.
I glanced out the picture window
and saw a large bird dive
into the waters of the Big Pond.
At first, I thought it was a Great Blue Heron,
but I’d never seen a heron do that. All
the women came to the window
and we watched the large bird
splash its wings in the water,
its head seemingly in the water.
When it finally came up out of the water
and flew away
we realized it was some kind of hawk!
Not a Red-tailed Hawk,
our usual neighbor. We couldn’t tell
if this hawk—white and gray—
caught anything.
We were stunned to witness this.
A hawk,
some other kind of hawk,
diving,
fishing.

This morning,
as I relayed this story to Ann,
she reminded me:
the water there,
in the middle of the Big Beautiful Pond…
it’s about a foot deep.
It was then
that I realized
what the hawk knows.