Earlier this week I made my way into Grandview, IN. I had planned on pushing further downstream, but 15 foot waves and heavy winds forced me to paddle out into flooded corn fields before seeking shelter in town.
While the wind howled I was taken for a ride through the uplands surrounding the town. We drove down miles of gravel roads bordered by mountains of sandstone and coal ash, flooded lowlands, and aging wooden barns. My guide had a story for every intersection–about floods, family relations, crops, change, and mushrooms. He shared the intricacies of his community. The history of his home. Seeing above the banks of the Ohio with him and from my new vantage point above the corn fields on the flooded river showed me how far the river reaches into the lives of those along its banks. Banks that are tied directly to those downstream along the Mississippi and into the Gulf of Mexico.
By switching Indiana fields from pasture and small farms to fertilizer dependent corn fields and coal ash piles toxics and nutrients are carried away by pipes and floodwaters towards the gulf–building up in the environment, inside our bodies, and contributing to ever spreading dead zones. These insults to the river come year after year–punctuated by larger tragedies like the BP oil spill that started one year ago.