Finding Beauty in Darkness
Early Monday morning, in clouded darkness misted by rain, two hundred people gathered at the Port of Tacoma to block the gates to a construction site. Puget Sound Energy, a utility company that is now owned by a profitable group of private equity firms, leased this land to build a huge plant to process and store liquefied natural gas. The land is part of the Puyallup Tribe’s Usual and Accustomed area by treaty.
“The Puyallup Tribe opposes the siting of this facility,” said Puyallup Tribal Council member Annette Bryan, who joined in the action. The tribe was not meaningfully consulted about the project, Bryan said, which the tribe opposes as a threat to its lands, waters and people.
“This is right next to our fish, our waters, our air, and within minutes of where our residents live,” Bryan said. “We were never involved in any meaningful way by the city, the port or the company. We feel like we are back in the 1800s.”
The plant would be an 8 million gallon potential time bomb in an area where hundreds of thousands of people live, work and travel through. Making liquefied natural gas, most of it from fracking, more readily available would contribute significantly to global warming over the course of the proposed 50-year lease. To make matters worse, the area is a Superfund site and sits on the Cascadia earthquake fault. Ugliness on top of ugliness.
The Native people who gathered at the gate and those of us standing and sitting down in support brought beauty to that dark place. Colorful clothing, with red the dominant hue, brightened the grayness. With drumming, songs and sacred words, the leaders invoked the spirits of earth, water, air, fire. Those spirits came alive in the deadened landscape.
Puyallup Tribe members carry in their DNA the memory of a time when this place was part of a vibrant, fertile tideflats that nourished their people in body, mind and soul. The vision of that beauty lives on, inspiring us. The spirits of the land still speak to us.
A few weeks ago, I dreamed:
Martha and I are walking through the woods at night. The trees are painted with beautiful floral designs in many colors. It’s magical and fanciful. I look at the lower branches of a tree and see what looks like a tiny, naked human-like creature, a faerie or elf. Or is it just a space in the branches? I can’t tell. I put my hands on the trees. It feels important and powerful to experience this through touch.
There is beauty in the darkness. We can see it if we look. We can hear it if we open our ears. We can touch it if we reach out our hands.