I remember once as a little girl before seat belts, traveling in the car with my parents and older brother Clark who as you might have imagined, even as a child had been a "talker." He had fallen suddenly silent in sleep. Hearing the silence Daddy simply asked me to take a turn and tell them a story. I bellied up to the back of the front seat standing tall and clearly began, "Once a time...." and then felt speechless. I simply had not had a turn in so long, I no longer knew my story or any story to tell.
Maryann Hurtt has roots in Ottawa County and though a Wisconsin resident has been a constant visitor and I will say a good listener for most of her life. She has captured our voices and our stories and published the finest volume of poetry you will have to hear read aloud to appreciate fully. She will be reading a selection of her work April 5 in the front room at the LEAD Agency and whether you walk in the door to hear her or not you will be able to hear her since your Michael Woodriff will be streaming her presentation. So get ready, set some time and have some snacks ready to watch by Facebook or nest into your reserved seat.
Maryann is not the only writer who will be walking our streets this year, she is not the only one asking you to tell your own story or to give an opinion but she is the vanguard of the league. They in reality started with the group of landscape design students who came not to speak but to listen so as to create the designs for the future we collectively long to have be here for the generations not yet imagined. Then followed by the tall journalist Oliver Franklin-Wallis, a Brit writing a book on what was left behind, our mine waste and how it was stored, used and perhaps has harmed us.
He got hooked on the waste stream with how the China connection broke the stream and the "dream" that plastic can be recycled.
The next journalist coming will want to visit with you about the health issues we live with, or sadly what we are dying of. When you live in a superfund site for a number of years, 5 years was the number Dr. John Neuberger found to be pivotal here, when our unique set of toxins can begin to cause diagnosable diseases.
We are not a unique place, there are hundreds of small cities strung across America, but when you begin to list OUR challenges, the reason this place and our people peaks curiosity and interest of readers starts to make sense. The check list would start with superfund site, stained water, tribes, tornado, floods, buyouts, resilience, Route 66, and hey, what about those spoonbills?
All types of journalists have flocked here over the last few decades and while they are here they discover the Coleman Theater, experience a hometown football game, go to the Ku-Ku, find the Dobson Museum and genuinely get captured by us and the kindness they find here. But because of the distractions, often we are not asked, but how do you feel about this? Is it right or just to have Tar Creek run through this place and not be the joyous and safe playground for the grand kids to go to in the heat of the summer? Or do you worry when it rains that this might be the "big one?" Or more direly, are any of your health conditions linked to the toxic exposures that may linger here?
I see you at Red Cedar Recycling Center, briefly as we deposit our sorted wastes. It can come up in a simple conversation because as an environmental activist, recycling is sort of, get it? "sort" of the gateway to activism.
Get ready, the journalists are coming. Listen also this summer for the knocks on the door. Answer the calls, or the emails and the surveys. Have a turn. Get your story ready. Your story. Your turn is coming. What have you experienced? How have you felt, what will you share? What I have learned by writing these stories, humbly, that they are being read and hopefully instilling in you the understanding you, are part of the story.
You are the change you expect to happen. It begins with you and speaking up and out when you are asked to tell your story. As my son says, "Everybody gets a turn."
Respectfully Submitted ~ Rebecca Jim