Earth Day Honorific: George Handley’s Home Waters

512px-Upper_Provo_River_Utah

We interrupt Spring Runoff for an Earth Day pause, in prose, as a way of remembering that, among its many reasons for being, WIZ is a quiet place of earthen bearing, dressed in soil and water and seed, in sun and winter and stone. We come here to read, “o’er the mountains, by the sides/Of the deep rivers, and the lonely streams./Wherever nature [leads,]” either to hear the “still, sad music of humanity./Nor harsh nor grating, though of ample power/To chasten and subdue” or to feel a “presence that disturbs [us] with the joy/Of elevated thoughts: a sense sublime/Of something far more deeply interfused,/Whose dwelling is the light of setting suns,/And the round ocean and the living air,/And the blue sky, and in the mind of man. . . .”*

Few enough of us hear those things, or see and feel them, but fewer still do something about it. George Handley is one of those precious few, and is regularly in the breech. Handley is a professor of Humanities at BYU in Provo, Utah. He is also an active environmentalist and an avid outdoorsman. His recent (and still running) book, Home Waters: A Year of Recompenses on the Provo River, has made a substantial impression as both memoir and important work of environmental theology. George speaks and writes on the issues he raises in his book–and so much else–often and stirringly and in ways that provoke both humility of spirit and a desire to do a little something to help. He has graciously sent along the following excerpt.

Winter has been defeated, no question. It is a glorious spring day today, and I can’t resist the temptation to get in a run early this morning before the kids’ Saturday soccer games. The impression of an evergreen valley, coated in velvet grass, only lasts a month or two before the piercing sun at these altitudes brings the green into submission. I don’t mind the brown like I used to, which is why I feel all the more guilty for my pleasure, which in Utah feels like the sinful pleasures of the carnal mind. So be it. Today I will be a hedonist and I will stare unapologetically at the viridian velvet of the mountain contours.

I pick a stretch of the Provo River Trail that winds along the banks through the city. I pass under concrete bridges and across streets to keep pace with the water, which flows in a controlled and only slightly meandering line. The water is higher than usual but not by much. Before the Deer Creek Dam was built in the 1940s and before the grid of middle class homes began to spread across the land the way thin sheets of ice claim window panes in a sudden freeze, the water regularly breached the banks, depositing the sediments brought from the mountains, providing fertile spawning ground for fish, and renewing and enriching the soils of riparian life. Continue reading “Earth Day Honorific: George Handley’s Home Waters”