Poison Parks Journal #1

quaker.cem1_.jpgI’m becoming nocturnal. This morning I was up at 3:30. I rummaged around the foot of the bed in the dark, picking up my clothes and pulling them on, made a thermos for my Sidamo coffee, and set out for the forest in Prospect Park. The woods are closed after dark, and the police shine spotlights into the foliage from their cruisers, but part of the forest is near the fence-line at the street, so I can escape into the trees.

I squint as I walk to avoid twigs in the eye. It is a night with some wind, the clouds sailing over the black swaying branches. I climb a ridge that stretches into the interior of the park. There is a forested Quaker cemetery there. I can just make out the gravestones in the roots and leaves. In a low voice I talk to the peace-makers who are sleeping beneath this forest floor. I am thanking them for their courage. Now we need their guidance.

The choir and I will attempt some activism this week against the socialite New Yorkers who control these parks. They spray Monsanto’s toxic RoundUp, and they have increased the spraying as they replaced park workers who for many years weeded the parks by hand. While the World Health Organization and scores of studies warn that glyphosate is linked to cancers, endocrine disruptions, autism, birth defects – the spraying doesn’t stop, it spreads. And they won’t tell us where and when they do it.

I share all this with the dead heroes in the shadows. I look up at the starry sky up above canopy of old trees. I am wondering how it must have felt to look out across the Pacific Ocean, back in 1958, when a small band of Quakers set out from San Pedro, California in a sailboat called the Golden Rule. The USA and the USSR were testing large atom bombs during the cold war, and radioactive clouds were roaming the atmosphere.

The peace sailors planned something unprecedented. They would sail into the giant sloping waves of the Pacific for weeks and weeks. 5000 miles later they hoped to be floating in the center of a nuclear test site in the Marshall Islands, daring them to kill the witnesses. Pushing away from the dock and raising the canvass to the wind, how did you feel? They got about halfway, but halfway the Golden Rule was boarded twice at their stop in Hawaii, and then the crew of five was quickly charged, convicted and sentenced to six months in prison. An international outcry ensued, and the Greenpeace and Sea Shepherd ships set sail from the
inspiration of the Golden Rule.

We ask for your blessing. The distance that we are facing with our toxins is of a different kind. This is the endless ocean of the life around us that we cannot see. We have the mystery of tens of thousands of invisible gaseous chemicals. The poisons are far away, but it is here in our breath as we take the stuff of the outside city into our bodies. It’s right here.

Mother and father activists! Be with us as we sing in the doorways of the Conservancies of New York City. If and when we are arrested, may some kind of articulate scandal make this hidden world obvious to everyone, so that we can sail into the molecular manipulations of power.