There was an environmental disaster in north Toronto on the weekend. 12,000 people were evacuated from their homes due to an explosion at a propane plant.
Except that I never heard the words ‘environmental’ or ‘disaster’. I heard ‘evacuation’. I heard the kindly patronizing voices of police and Salvation Army workers.
I heard about a lady in her seventies who woke up to a huge blast outside her window, and shattered glass on her bed.
The poem below, by Ukrainian poet Oksana Zabuzhko may have been inspired by the after-effects of Chernobyl, but it resonates for me in a time of extreme environmental hazard and change.
What does this have to do with food? Does it make it more or less important to buy local organic food? Does it make a difference? How do we make change?
Letter From the Summer House
Translated by Douglas Smith
The land’s rusty again.
Acid rain: our blackened cucumber wines
Jut from the earth like scorched wire.
And I’m not sure about the orchard this year.
It nees a good cleaning up,
But I’m scared of those trees. When I walk
Among them, it feels like I’m going to step
On some carcass rotting in the tall grass,
Something crawling with worms, something smiling
Sickly in the hot sun.
And I get nervous over the sounds:
The day before yesterday, in the thicket, meowing,
The monotonous creaking of a tree,
The suppressed cackling of geese – all constantly
Straining for the same note. Do you remember
The dry elm, the one lightning turned
Into a giant charred bone last summer?
Sometimes I thing it lords
Over the whole garden, infecting everything with rabid madness.
How do mad trees act?
Maybe they run amok like derailed streetcars. Anyway,
I keep an axe by the bed, just in case.
At least the butterflies are mating: we’ll have
Caterpillars soon. Oh yes, the neighbour’s daughter
Gave birth – a boy, a bit overdue. He had hair and teeth
Already, and could be a mutant,
Because yesterday, only nine days old, he shouted,
“Turn off the sky!”, and hasn’t said a word since.
Otherwise, he’s a healthy baby.
So, there it is. If you can get away
For the weekend, bring me something to read,
Preferably in the language I don’t know.
The ones I call mine are exhausted.
Kisses, love, O.