In the shadow of grace

Elaine Reardon

A pipeline intended to carry fracked gas made an appearance in the local newspaper, and we were all surprised. This pipeline would snake its way north from Pennsylvania and New York, tunnel west to east across Massachusetts, then hang left to crawl north up the length of Maine before ending along the Nova Scotia coast, where distribution into Europe would likely happen.

That was the plan. Nova Scotia geared up to begin building, and Maine worked on shooting the fracked gas through their state via a pre-existing pipeline by reversing the flow from North to South. The gas company’s public relations department contacted many of the small towns to set up meetings. Montague’s select board planned to discuss the pipeline cutting close to their water supply, and this brought the story to the local newspaper.

The pipeline company wanted to bring the huge pipe and a compression station through our town, too. The compression station wold be set in the pristine wildness of the forest, and it would continually be making noise and light, similar to an airport. This would be in a large tract of wilderness area replete with clean water sources. Suddenly the fracked gas industry was getting ready to (literally) roll into New England.

This essay isn’t to convince anyone of the rights and wrongs of this; I only tell my own small part of the story. There was enough clear documentation to show that New England did not need additional gas – in fact, Massachusetts strongly supports solar. I became alarmed when company representatives explained how they would tunnel and blast under local swamps and bodies of water, including under the Connecticut River.

Blasting and tunnelling would happen under – or close to – our local aquifers, under our brooks, through the wildness of the state forests that border homes tucked into their edges. We live with pre-WWII phone lines and electric lines that come to us in several helter-skelter directions – storms sometimes take down branches, and we are left without electricity. We live here together to hear the streams running, to hear eagles and barred owls call, and to bump into bears, moose, foxes, and coyotes as we all go about our business.

We share the land with Seen and Unseen beings as well as the presence of those that lived herebefore we did, as neighbours. Some see ghostly forms now and then, as well as the Old Ones that lived here before us. We care for the same piece of land, just in different time streams. I fancy we are part of a clan that transcends time and species.

When it looked highly likely that this pipeline would go ahead, despite environmental concerns and documented lack of need, people began to meet, town by town, to gather and share information, before beginning to work together all across the region. Soon after, a coalition of people from small towns from Albany New York to North of Boston began to grow. We began to recognise each other, and then started to meet and share information and support. We met with a variety of state officials, and I went to the state house several times, just to walk through the halls, introduce myself to workers, and tell them about the pipeline. Most people working there didn’t know about it.

We also met in our own town; one time, about a dozen folks met in my yard. We welcomed non-humans into our circle of prayer, the trees, the spirits of land, water and soil, the Genus Loci – and anyone else who was interested – to join our circle to work with us to protect the land, air, and water together. I wanted the soil, rocks and water to know we would work together to protect it from being blasted; the stream to know we didn’t want her waters sullied. We also needed their help.

Our town hall sits in the shadow of Mount Grace, a local landmark. The pipeline company met with our elected officials and interested towns people in our town hall. At the meeting, the pipeline workers appeared confident that they’d be able to lay pipe though our town. Much discussion and gavel banging ensued. The townspeople weren’t allowed to speak about concerns, but were told we could send messages up to the front, would be read by the select board. This felt uncomfortable; we’ve always been allowed to speak and ask questions. As we sat through a meeting that grew tenser moment by moment, gavel bang by gavel bang, I had an idea.

I quickly imagined myself leaving my seat, sailing up the hill , and imploring all the folks buried in the cemetery to come join us at the meeting. I explained the situation, and asked for their help. A few minutes later I felt a small breeze pass at me at the door of the town hall. The Select Chair banged the gavel then to recognize the first townsperson allowed to speak, and Michael was allowed to voice his concerns.

Our cemetery goes back to the 1700s, and continues to be used. This town has historically stood up for itself since the Boston Tea Party, and still does so now. Many men and women buried here in Warwick love the land, and worked to seek freedom from England. It seemed natural to call them at a time of such need. The tide began to turn.

I learned how unexpectedly love can cross barriers when we are open to possibility. Love has no need of boundaries.

black n white
Elaine Reardon is a poet, herbalist, and educator. Her 2016 chapbook, The Heart is a Nursery For Hope,  won first honours from Flutter Press.She’s recently been heard reading at Brattleboro Literary Festival, The Garlic and Arts Fair, Brattleboro Gallery Walk, and Great Falls Spoken Words Festival. You can discover more of her work at http://elainereardon.wordpress.com

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