Monday, October 17, 2005

Home again, home again (Monday morning This and That)

The Meridians have returned from another weekend idyll in dangerously-relaxing Topeka, and the work-week again confronts us. Actually, for me today is officially a day off, but all that relaxing (and other stuff, too, as you'll see) kept me from getting done some needed work. So: to the office I will go this morning.

I am thinking about springs this morning. Mrs. Meridian's parents moved to a place just north of Topeka this summer. Its general location is in some fairly recent farmland whose owners are selling off to be subdivided into large lots with no trees. The in-laws' place, though, is a 3-acre lot, some of which has been xeriscaped very nicely by the previous owners, but most of which has lots of trees and low bushes that have been growing, basically, wild (the previous owners planted some pines and either firs or spruces on the fringes of the native growth). Allowing for differences in geography and flora, it is a whole lot like the place I grew up on just west of Austin (except for the pretty-nice house and the xeriscaping). Anyway, I spent much of Saturday helping my father-in-law clearing out some dead trees that were either too close to a fenceline or were blocking the growth of smaller trees, and during that time he told me that his neighbor had told him that about 30 years ago his sons used to play around a spring that was just on our side of the fence line. Long story short, I think we found where it was/is. It is a small circular area with a low-growing plant growing thickly in it that grows nowhere else on the property--at least, not in such profusion, and certainly not in a circle.

This winter, we're going to begin work to see if we can't get it flowing again. It may work. So far as my father-in-law knows, everyone in the immediate area is on municipal water, and the farmers who irrigate are miles away and get their water from the Kansas River; that, and the fact of the plants tells me that the water should be pretty close to the surface. Even better: the site is on a high point of the property, and it appears that once upon a time it ran strong enough to dig itself a shallow channel that, if it were to run again, would flow right into a small pond that the previous owners built. It holds water (and large koi and catfish) but no fresh water flows into it, so the water can't circulate except when it rains hard enough to cause the pond to overflow.

So: the chief positives of this little project will be 1) its practicality (restoring some circulation to the water in the pond); 2) its role in reclaiming something of the original appearance of the land; 3) its cost (my father-in-law already owns a little tractor with a back-hoe on it; the slope and needed rocks are already there . . . it should just cost us fuel and time and our labor); 4) the sheer beauty of seeing fresh water bubbling up from the ground and then flowing down the slope into the pond. There's also the not-inconsiderable benefit of getting to know my father-in-law better.

This is the sort of thing I grew up reading about: ranchers in the Texas Hill Country and points west would clear out their mesquite and cedar and, in a couple of months, springs would start flowing that they either hadn't known were there or had stopped flowing long before. I've always admired that hard work that resulted in both making the land better for the cattle and sheep AND nudging the land back in the direction of a pre-ranching state, even as, child that I was, I, um, didn't like the brush-clearing I did with my father on our own place. I wish my father were alive so that I could tell him that I finally, really understand the value of that kind of work now that I so rarely get the chance to do it. My father-in-law doesn't run cattle and doesn't farm, so there's no economic payoff for the work of restoring the spring. It will simply be a Good Thing to do--the best reason of all.

While I was away, fellow native Texan Sine Qua Non was kind enough to post this most flattering review of good old Blog Meridian. The best I can do to return the favor is to say that Sine Qua Non is a marvelous clearinghouse of news stories and information for those of you interested in progressive politics; they'll point the reader in directions s/he might not have known s/he needed to be pointed in. While you're there, have a look as well at Robert Dowling's artwork.


Ariel said...

I envy the organic, hands-on beauty of such a project. Makes me smile, just thinking about it. By the way, I couldn't help thinking about the excellent film, Jean de Florette in connection with "springs." Have you seen it?

Sine.Qua.Non said...

John - very nice of you, but that check bounced bucko! Robert Dowling will be pleased with the reference. I swear, if I continue to buy his paintings I will not have one inch of wall space left! He says he should just move in and paint my walls! I do love their dissolutionment and ethereal otherworldly beauty paired with the story line and amazing detail. Robert landed an art show in Atlanta the first week in November!

Sounds like you had a great outdoor meet the earth project. That can be so very satisfying.