Echo of Falling Water on Rocks . . .   Spring—on te road in North America.

The sound of rushing water!

This week, on the Picture/Poems Links Page, I've put together a number
of websites that mark the 50th anniversary of the destruction of Celilo Falls.
The word Celilo, I'm told, means 'echo of falling water on rocks.'
What a wonderful, beautiful image!

But Celilo Falls was destroyed 50 years years as engineers lowered
the great floodgates of the new Dalles Dam and—amazingly—momentarily
halted the flow of the entire Columbia River. Native American witnesses
were horrified when they saw right before their very eyes the dam create
a lake of rising water which within a day had erased all trace of the rocks,
falls, and rushing waters. Archeologists say that Celilo was the oldest
continuously inhabited area of Oregon, some 10,000 years of cultural
heritage. Many called it the Niagara Falls of the Pacific Northwest.

And now it was gone. But is it to be gone forever?

If there is something like a poetry of change—a single symbolic act which
need happen but once to transform an aspect of a culture's reservoir of shared
meaning forever, this was it. But then this is change in its most destructive and
demonic aspect, going straight for the metaphorical heart of a culture and
driving a stake right through it. Like dropping a 5,000-pound bomb on the
center of the Sistine Chapel; or the Pyramids; or of Jerusalem.

Remarkably, witnesses all seem to recall the surreal moment when the
river went mute. Most say that they are still haunted by echoes of the sound
which come back to them at the most unexpected and inexplicable moments.
And then there are the stories of the centuries long sustained harvest of
the salmon, many weighing as much as 20 kilos a piece. Also, now, largely
gone. And to give this sad story a strange contemporary twist, the Google search
engine empire is building a vast multi-billion dollar server farm project near this
same Celilo Falls site [The Dalles], and, of course, intends to use the power
produced by the same dam.... Bad karma, indeed.

There is, however, also a poetry of change in its generative, profoundly
positive aspect. Like a single image, so strong and clear and powerful that
it at a single glance changes a person and his or her world forever. It would
be hard not to think of the photograph made of the whole Earth by Apollo 8
astronaut Bill Anders:
"We came all this way to explore the moon, and the
most important thing is that we discovered the Earth."
Most striking as possibility
of this positive poetry of change is for me the proposed Hetch-Hetchy dam removal
and watershed restoration project.(Environmental Defence) I feel very strongly
that this project, and others like it, must go ahead with all due speed. To show
the world that America, or at least the young people of America, has had a change
of heart. If the inherent intelligence of Nature is most clearly made manifest to
human spirit in the winding watercourse way of a great natural river, or in the
intense rushing sound of its water pounding against hard rock—as I think it is—
then taking down Hetch-Hetch and the Dalles Dams would be exemplary deeds
to demonstrate our collective resolve to end our decades-old war
against it.

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Photograph by Cliff Crego © 2007
(created: IV.26.2006)