Acknowledging Willa (Cather)
As Latour listens to the politician, he tries to push away the paradox he feels growing in his heart.
If they control everything, the weather, the thoughts going into our heads, the value of assets, who lives and dies, and they keep extracting the coal and poisoning the water table, can anything unexplainable exist? Can nothing stop them? Is there no power greater?
But then he sees Manuelito nodding off, indifferent to the words of the politician.
A simple exclusion? Can they not keep Manuelito awake? Who empowers Peabody Coal?
Coming across the high desert, en route to build a new church deep in the land of the Navajo, fresh off his stay at the Vatican, Father Latour feels power and mystery in the downtrodden. He watches them haul water for miles to their homes, the ground water dangerous, filled with coal filings and when he visits the HOPI, he sees they, too, fight for water.
The Navajo and the HOPI in a single fight, he thinks, and Phoenix’s downstream metroplex awash with water and green lawns, golf courses and aquatic parks.
He looks back at the politician, the ex-presidential candidate, the chicken hawk pilot who crashes his plane on the carrier, killing sailors, the one known by his acts in Viet Nam as a traitor, but reveled as a hero, the one demanding water for Peabody, from the Navajo and the Hopi, the one wrapped in garland and the flag on the speaker’s stand, dry wind blowing across his face, and then he looks at Manuelito sleeping, snoring, while the rest of them stand and applaud.
And that is the paradox he senses. With all the power and all the trimmings, all the words, the politician cannot prevent Manuelito from turning him off.
And in that thought, Latour finds peace but not in the god wrapped around his neck, not in the god the politician espouses but still he finds peace. No, he understands that god, the one behind the politician and those behind the politician, has not the power to fend off Manuelito’s indifference.
No, there is another power and that power comes in the dry wind, the hearts of the people and is somehow rooted in the ground, in the air, in the elements and is alive.
Latour loosens his collar, closes his eyes and begins to sink into that power, begins to be carried away by that power and that is when he sees Manuelito waiting for him.
~ Stephen J. Bergstrom
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